Saturday, January 31, 2015

Productive Saturday

Last night, before I went to sleep, I wrote out my weekend do to list.  Sometimes, just writing everything down is a big help. 

I had a good night's sleep and slept in a bit, this morning.  As a result, I had 9 hours of sleep instead of my usual 5-6 hours.  I had a relaxed morning, posting on-line, watching some crafts and cooking shows on TV, video chatting with daughter, playing on-line games, etc.

In the afternoon, I did some cleaning.  I decided to tidy my bedroom since I had stuff piled on both my desk and my dressing table and the mess was getting to me.  I tidied the desk and the dressing table, dusted all the furniture and the window sill, changed my bed sheets, and cleaned the ceiling fan and light fixture.  There's one burnt out bulb, but I need to buy more bulbs before I can replace it.    I still need to vacuum the room and tidy my closet, but that can be done later.  I put some of the stuff that was on my desk in the 3rd bedroom, which functions as both a guest room and crafts room, so that room needs to be cleaned, but that, too, will be done later.

I came across a bunch of lace doilies my mother had crocheted, so I hand washed some of them.  The rest will be washed tomorrow.  I also did a load of laundry (the bed sheets that were on my bed).  And I washed a sinkful of dishes and wiped down the kitchen counters.  Also cleaned the litter box and swept the bathroom floor.   

In between, I video chatted with my daughter, spoke on the phone with a friend and an aunt (both had called to check on me since they knew I had felt tired earlier in the week), and played a few games of mahjong on the computer.

I am happy with what I have been able to accomplish today.  There was a nice balance between rest and relaxation on one hand and cleaning and productivity on the other hand.  Tomorrow, I shall carry on with the rest of the weekend to do list.

How was your Saturday?  Did you have a good day?

January In Review

Today is the last day of January!  One month of the new year is already coming to a close!  It was a good month for me in many ways.  The holidays continued well into the first week; daughter was home until mid-month; there were several family gatherings to attend and visits with friends; time for prayers and contemplation; productivity mixed with rest and relaxation.

Here's a quick review of my January Balance Wheel:

Spirituality:  Attended the monthly prayer meeting during the 2nd weekend of the month and I continue with daily devotions;  I consider this segment to be well plumped.

Daughter:  Having daughter home for the winter break and being off from work meant plenty of time for being together.  I was able to spend time with my daughter until after the middle of the month because I went back to Berkeley with her, when she returned to campus after her holiday break, and spent a few extra days with her.  Since then, we've video chatted every evening and there have been a few "Good Morning" phone calls (usually from me to her to wake her up) and at least one, "I can't wait to tell you my good news of the day!" call from her!   Another well plumped segment of my life. 

Environment: As always, there's much that needs to be done in this segment, but I am going to focus on the positives!  Not going all out with holiday decorating meant easy undecorating and putting away afterwards.  I have begun the first round of going through and cleaning the rooms; I need to start implementing routines.  This segment needs additional plumping.

Family:  Attended a cousin's birthday celebration one weekend and an aunt's birthday celebration another weekend, plus phone calls and social media.  Another well plumped segment. 

Friends: Had a friend over to lunch once, met other friends at the prayer meeting and family birthday celebrations; stayed in touch over social media and exchanged phone calls and emails.  This segment, too, is well plumped.

Career:  Going well.  Work can be stressful at times, but, on the whole, I enjoy my work. 

Finances:  This has been a very "spendy" month!  Daughter's spring semester tuition and fees had to be paid in early January.  There was the expense of our plane tickets to Berkeley (and mine back, as well).   And the regular monthly expenses and daughter's February rent has to be paid at the end of this month.  On the positive side, the money for the tuition and fees was already there in savings and everything else has been budgeted for in the monthly budget.

I went over on some of the budget categories (e.g. Pet Care: allocated $50, but spent $59.54 because I bought 2 buckets of litter, at once, to take advantage of it being on sale at $9.99 per refill bucket instead of the usual $11.99; Garden Care: allocated $125, but spent $161 because I purchased a peach tree to plant, however, the cost of the peach tree can be deducted from the Miscellaneous category).  On the other hand, I stayed under budget on some of the categories (e.g. Car Gas: allocated $300, but spent $51.64 because I didn't drive to Berkeley; Personal Allowance: allocated $20 and spent $6.74; Miscellaneous: allocated $50 and spent $36 for the peach tree and bag of soil amendment).   On the whole, I stayed within the overall budget.       

Health:  I was still recovering from December's period of illness when I had a relapse in early January.  Then, just this past week, I felt very tired and not quite 100%.  So, this month has not been the best where health was concerned.  However, on the positive side, no major illnesses, just minor ailments, for which I am very grateful.  This is definitely a segment that needs improvement, though.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies:  I was able to take some vacation time at the beginning of the month and, again, a couple of days mid-month.  I've relaxed playing computer games during the evenings, I read a couple of library books during the month, and I did some knitting.  So, I am pretty pleased with this segment and feel it was well plumped.

Productivity and Time Management:  I got most things done in a timely manner.  I still feel I am not making the maximum use of available time, but maybe I have unrealistic expectations.  This is another segment that needs more attention.

Goals and Achievements:  I was able to get one item crossed off my Master List!  One item I had listed in my Master List was planting a peach tree to replace the one that died a couple of years ago.  That replacement peach tree was planted, yesterday!

All in all, I think January was a good month.  Mostly balanced with one or two rather important areas needing more attention.   There's always room for improvement, isn't there?

How was your January?  Have you had an opportunity to look over the month and see how things were?   

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday, At Last!

It's Friday, at last!  This week felt like a long drawn-out week, for some reason.  But now, the work week is over and the weekend is here! Time to relax!

Today was another rainy day.  There were light showers in the morning, during my commute to work and there was more rain in the late afternoon.  But the rain had stopped by the time I set out on my evening commute home.  On rainy mornings like today, I am especially thankful that I have covered parking in the underground garage at the office building. 

I had a busy day at the office, but it made the day go by fast.  I was glad to come home and relax, though.

I haven't made a lot of plans for the weekend.  I guess I should make a to do list for the weekend: I need to do some housework, I want to do some cooking and baking, and I'd like to do some crafting and gardening.

How has your Friday been?  What are your plans for the weekend?   

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Balanced Thursday

Today has been a nicely balanced day.  I woke up feeling a lot better than yesterday.  I went to the office and had a productive day.  I listened to music and relaxed on the drive home.  I didn't make myself a long to do list, but put away the laundry from yesterday, put away the dishes that were air drying in the dish drainer, and paid a bill.  I still need to do today's dishes, but that will be the extent of today's housework.  On the relaxation side, I read my library book, sewed up one side of the blouse I knitted (have to sew the other side and tidy the yarn ends to finish it), enjoyed a phone call from one of my aunts, wrote to a friend and video chatted with my daughter.  I guess you can say that I am learning to pace myself.

Are you able to balance the must do's and should do's with the want to do's?  Are you able to balance work and play?  Did you have a balanced day, today?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Listless/List Less Wednesday

Today, I woke up feeling rather listless.  I fought the urge to try to push myself to do things and decided to take it easy, today.  As a result, I didn't make any to do lists (and was 'list less' in that sense, too!) and really didn't do too much.  I put away the laundry from yesterday, did another load of laundry and hung it up to dry, knitted a bit, finally got around to giving the cat his flea repellant medication, called and chatted to a friend and video chatted with my daughter.  Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better, more energetic, day.

Do you have low energy days at times?  Do you try and push yourself to do things on such days?  Or do you take it easy? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday's Doings

I didn't make a new To Do list today, but rather, just carried forward yesterday's list.  Wonder if it would be better to just make a weekly to do list, rather than a daily one.

Anyway, I went to the office this morning, even though I would have much rather stayed home and slept in!  During my lunch break, I walked to the nearby library.  It was a nice, sunny day after yesterday's rain and it was a very pleasant walk.

There was quite a bit of traffic on the commute home and I didn't get home until almost 7:00 p.m.  I took a short tea break and then, put the washed and dried 2nd slip cover back on the family room sofa and covered that with bed sheets!  The cat likes to nap on the sofas and he sheds!  It's easier to wash the sheets than the slip covers.

After that, I did a load of regular laundry and hung it up to dry overnight.

I also watched a couple of programs on TV while I did the laundry and I video chatted with daughter.  And now, it's past 11:30 p.m., so I had better say goodnight and get ready for bed.  Morning (and the 6:00 a.m. alarm) comes too quickly!   

Hope you had a good day, today.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rainy Monday

Yay, the weather forecast was accurate and we received some much needed rain today!  Not a lot, but any rain is welcome!  Besides, it means I don't have to water the garden this week!  So, it's frugal, as well.  I like rainy days, even when it's on a Monday, unlike in the song, "Rainy Days and Mondays".

The morning was fine; a bit cloudy, but no rain.  I went to the office and there was no rain during most of the day.  But it was raining on the drive home and it rained most of the evening.

I accomplished several of my To Do's for today: I went to the office, came home and cleaned the fridge, took the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up tomorrow, washed the other sofa slip covers and I put the washed slip cover back on the sofa.  I decided to put off cleaning the sliding glass door tracks for the weekend.  Tomorrow's To Do's include bringing in the trash cans, putting the 2nd washed slip covers back on the other sofa, and doing a load of regular laundry.

Does anyone else remember the song, "Rainy Days and Mondays"?  I'll give you a hint:  it was popular in the early 70s!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Productive Sunday, Too

I started off with a relaxed Sunday morning, today.  Slept in a bit, played on the computer, posted on-line, video chatted with daughter, etc.  Then, made pancakes for brunch.

In the afternoon, I started on my To Do list.  I had prioritized it by having three categories of Must Do, Should Do, and Want To Do, with 3 items in the Must Do (Clean Kitchen, Dust/Tidy Family Room, Water Indoor Plants); 4 items in the Should Do (Launder sofa slip covers, clean fridge, cook beans, clean sliding glass door tracks and spray with WD40); 3 items in the Want To Do (Knit, Sew, Card making).

 I removed the slip covers on one of the family room sofas and laundered them.  They are now hanging up to dry - they'll dry overnight and during the day tomorrow and I'll put them back on the sofa in the evening.  In the meantime, I've covered the sofa with two bed sheets to keep the cat fur off the cushions.   I'll launder the 2nd sofa's slip covers tomorrow.  Then, I dusted the family room furniture and tidied up the room.  And I watered all the indoor plants.

I also cleaned the kitchen: cleared and washed the counters, wiped down the appliances, scrubbed the sink, and mopped the floor.

That took care of all 3 "must do" items on my list and half of one "should do" item.  I started on cleaning the fridge, but didn't finish it.  It will be moved to tomorrow's Must Do list.  And, instead of cooking the beans, I made a pot of chicken and vegetable soup (all ingredients from freezer and fridge); beans will be cooked tomorrow.  I am happy with what I was able to accomplish today.

Tomorrow's To Do List:

Must Do:
  • Go to the office
  • Clean the fridge
  • Take trash cans to the curb for trash pick up on Tuesday
  • Cook the beans
  • Give Dancer Kitty his medicines
Should Do:
  • Wash the other sofa slip covers
  • Put washed slip cover back on 1st sofa
  • Clean sliding glass door tracks and spray with WD40 (might be pushed back to later in the week) 
The Want To Do's remain the same - knit, sew, card making.

Dinner tonight was some of the soup I made, followed by an orange for dessert.  

How was your Sunday?  Were you able to accomplish all what you wanted?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Productive Saturday

I've had a productive day, today.  But it wasn't all work and no play, either.

I had a restful morning.  I slept in, had a cup of coffee, went on-line, played a computer game, and relaxed.  It was a nice way to start a Saturday, I think.

Then I had a productive afternoon.  I went to the pet supplies store and bought kitty litter.  Then, did some grocery shopping.  I bought cat food as well as a few groceries for me: 

1 gal. milk =  $2.99
3 boxes rice/wild rice mix; @$1 =  $3.00
1 box pudding mix =  $1.25
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen green peas =  $1.00
1 can pasta sauce =  $.49
1.21 lb. bananas (4 bananas), @$.69/lb = $.83 

Total spent: $9.56

I spent more on cat food ($13.56) than I did on food for myself!

After I came home, I had brunch (a banana, some cheese and crackers, spicy peanuts, apple juice) and watched a TV show.

Then, I spent a couple of hours doing housework: I dusted the living room and dining area, deep cleaned both bathrooms, vacuumed the house, emptied waste bins and took out the trash, and washed the dishes. 

Later in the evening, I relaxed by going on-line, emailing a friend and video chatting with daughter.  I made and ate my dinner: sauted chicken breast, rice/wild rice mix, green peas.  Dessert is warm chocolate pudding!

Tomorrow, I plan to clean the kitchen and tidy the family room.  I'd also like to do some knitting or sewing, as well. 

How was your Saturday?  Was it a productive day?  What have you planned for Sunday?



Friday Night In

I know lots of people go out on Friday nights, dinner out with friends or family, dinner and dancing with loved ones, or to the movies, etc.  For several years, I used to take a dance class on Friday nights and that was a lot of fun. 

But these days, I tend to stay home on Friday nights.  Which is probably a good thing because it seems I am often too tired by the end of the work week to do anything, anyway.

This Friday night was no different.  I came home from work, fed the cats, had a cup of coffee, had a snack, watched news and one TV program, called a friend and my cousin's daughter, wrote to another friend, and then, because I was feeling tired, I decided to give myself the evening off from doing any housework!

I made myself a nice dinner of sauted chicken breast served with a boxed rice/wild rice mix and had chocolates for dessert.  And then, I spent the rest of the evening video chatting with my daughter.

Actually, it was a very nice way to spend a Friday evening, I think.  :)  Of course, I would have liked it if I had felt more energetic, but it's OK to spend an evening relaxing at the end of the work week, isn't it? 
How did you spend your Friday evening?    


Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday's Wisdom

I was still fretting, this morning, about how I felt yesterday, because I couldn't finish the last two items on my to do list.  I did not like the fact that, in spite of all the things I did, I still felt unproductive because I hadn't done two items.  This is not the first time that has happened.  I've felt like that on prior occasions, too.

Yesterday, I made a list of 10 things to do, and did all but 2 of them.  You'd think I'd see that as having accomplished 8 tasks. But no. The 2 tasks that were left undone loomed large and overshadowed the rest.  They weren't urgent tasks. No dire consequences for leaving them undone for another day or two.

But when I looked at my list, I didn't see all the tasks I had accomplished. I saw only the 2 I didn't accomplish. And I felt I hadn't done enough.  Whereas, if I had focused on the crossed off items on my list, I'd have known I did a lot.  Especially on a work day.

So, today, I decided I needed to change my expectations of myself.  I have decided that I will limit myself to a maximum of 1 hour of housework on a work day.  That means 4-6 housework-related tasks a day.  That seems more reasonable.  The rest of the time, I will do other tasks that are more conducive to rest and relaxation, such as crafting and posting on-line.

So, today's to do's:

- Laundry (bath mats) - DONE
- Tidy dining room - DONE
- Sweep under the bed - DONE
- Write note of instructions to gardener - DONE
- Clean the cat litter box
- Sweep the bathroom

The last two items will be done as soon as I finish this blog post.

Fun tasks:
- Write to a friend - DONE
- Video chat with daughter - DONE

 I feel this way of doing things will be better for me; more balanced.  Let's see how it will work out.

Do you tend to look at your to do list and see all the items you've crossed off or do you tend to see only those that are still remaining?  If you had accomplished 8 out of 10 tasks in a given day, would you see that as having done a lot?  Or would you, like me, say, "I should have done more, I should have done the other 2 items as well and finished my list?"  What would your perception be?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wednesday's Productivity

Here's today's to do list:

- Go to the office - DONE
- Attend colleague's retirement function - DONE
- Bank - DONE
- Pharmacy - DONE
- Water the front garden - DONE
- Call neighbor - DONE
- Tidy/clean the living room (DONE) & dining room
- Put away laundry from yesterday - DONE
- Do another load of laundry
- Go through today's mail & weekly grocery ads - DONE

At first, I felt I hadn't been as productive as I had planned to be, but now that I have listed every thing I did do, I see that it is not too shabby.  I didn't do the dining room and I didn't do a load of laundry, but that's OK.  I'll just put them on tomorrow's list.  I don't have as much time and energy on work days.  They are long enough as it is, since I am at the office for 9 hours plus an hour long commute each way.  I need to learn to pace myself!

How did your day go?  Were you able to accomplish all what you had planned for today?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's To Do List

I had another day off from work, today, which was lovely.  I woke up early enough so I could call daughter to wake her up on her first day of classes, but she was up, already.  Then, I had a cup of coffee and went on-line for awhile.  Then, I made my to do list for today:
- Call the pharmacy to request a medication refill - DONE
- Put away last night's laundry - DONE
- Clean the bathtub - DONE
- Fix the back door handle - DONE
- Go to the library to exchange books - DONE
- Put gas to the car - DONE
- Go to the hardware store to buy WD40 - DONE
- Look at fruit trees while I was at the hardware store (in their garden supplies section - I want to buy a replacement peach tree) - DONE
- Pick oranges from the garden - DONE
- Change my bed sheets - DONE
- Wash another load of laundry - DONE
- Do some filing - DONE
- Watch President Obama's State of the Union address - DONE
- Call my friend - DONE 
- Video chat with daughter - DONE
I even managed to get a short nap in the afternoon!
On the To Do list for tomorrow:
- Go to the office
- Water the front garden
- Tidy/clean the living room & dining room
- Put away laundry from today
- Do another load of laundry
How was your day?  Did you have a productive day?  Were you able to get most of your to do list done?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Coming Home

Today, I came back home after accompanying daughter back to Berkeley and spending the extended weekend with her.

  We flew up to Berkeley together on Thursday and I flew back home, today.  Of course, she could have flown back up by herself, but going up with her was a way to spend a little more time together and an opportunity for a mini vacation of sorts for me.  For when I am up there with her, I don't have the pressure to do anything other than a little cooking for her and doing the dishes (which she doesn't like doing, but I don't mind doing).  Whereas, when I am home, it's hard for me to relax without feeling guilty that I am not doing the 101 things I should be doing, or could be doing!  Like cleaning, tidying, laundry, filing, etc.

Daughter accompanied me to the airport and I admit, it was hard for us to say goodbye.  But she had lined up a few pleasant tasks to do after she left me at the airport, including picking up her Christmas/New Year gift from me, so her return to her apartment alone was not too sad for her.

I had an extra long wait at the airport due to my flight being delayed due to mechanical problems, but I'd rather wait 3 hours in the airport until the plane was fixed than fly in a defective plane!  The flight, it self, was uneventful.

A friend of mine came with her daughters to pick me up from the airport and brought me home.  They also brought me dinner, which was very thoughtful and kind of them.  I am blessed by such lovely friends! 

I was tired by the time I got home, but I checked the mail, cleaned the litter boxes, fed the cats, took the trash cans to the curb for trash collection tomorrow, started the car since it hadn't been started for 4 days, aired the house, and called a friend to check on her (she had been sick over the weekend).  I still need to unpack and put things away, do laundry, etc. 

All too soon it will be time to return to work, but I'm grateful for my mini vacation.

Do you take mini vacations?  Do you go away for an extended weekend?  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Penny Saved...

Is a penny earned, according to the old saying.  Saving money is not always easy and sometimes, all we can save are pennies.  But each penny saved is one less penny being spent and, over time, those saved pennies add up.

I have lived fairly frugally most of my life and, as such, I do many frugal things as a matter of course over the week, each week, which save money.  Some things have become such habits that I don't even think about them, but they all contribute towards saving money on a weekly basis.  I think a periodic review will be helpful to see what I already do and what else I can do.

So, here is a review of my penny saving activities this past week:

- I had my morning coffee and evening tea at home; I know some of my office colleagues buy a daily coffee or tea which, at minimum, costs $1a cup.
- I took breakfasts from home; some colleagues buy muffins or bagels for breakfast, which cost $2 or more.  
- I took lunch from home every day to the office; again, some colleagues buy lunch daily, which usually costs around $7.

Just those 3 things save me $10 per day, or $50 per work week.

- I used coupons to get good bargains when I grocery shopped, including two cans of tuna for $.02 per can, a box of free cereal, and a dozen free eggs.

- I picked oranges and lemons from the garden, which I shared with a friend, as well.

- I hung up all laundry to air dry, instead of using the dryer.

- I used material I had on hand to make a thank you card, instead of buying a card.
- I took my reusable bags when I went shopping for groceries, etc., and avoided paying $.10 per bag for paper bags.
- I stayed behind in daughter's apartment, instead of accompanying daughter when she went grocery shopping, and saved $2.10 bus fare each way (she has a bus pass, the cost of which is included in her tuition and fees).

Of course, I had quite a few expenses, too, last week.  But what is important is to remember that my expenses would have been greater if I hadn't saved a few pennies by doing a few frugal things during the week.  A penny saved is a penny gained.

Do you regularly do things that save you money?  Did you do any penny saving things last week?  Please share what you did.


A Relaxed Saturday

Usually, Saturdays are busy days for me.  It's when I run errands, do the weekly grocery shopping, clean the house, do laundry, etc.

This weekend, however, I've spent a relaxed Saturday.  I slept in, spent a lot of time playing on the computer and going on-line, and watched some favorite cooking programs on TV.  I made a flan, cooked a shrimp curry, cooked a meatball curry and did the dishes.  In the afternoon, I did a bit of shopping at the dollar store and in the evening, I wrote to a friend.  But, for the most part, I had a very relaxed day.  It felt wonderful to have a day when I could relax and recharge my batteries.

How was your Saturday?  Was it busy with housework, etc.?  Or did you have the opportunity to relax?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Daughter's Grocery Shopping

My daughter went grocery shopping today, after returning to Berkeley.  Afterwards, she was excited to show her receipt to me.  Back in July and August, when she was getting ready to start living on her own, she had asked me to help set a price bookgrocery budget, household budgets, etc.  She has done well with keeping to a budget, so far.

Today, she bought:
1 gallon milk, reg. price $4.99; sale price = $2.79
64 oz. apple juice, reg. price $3.99; sale price $1.67; with $1 off coupon = $.67
1 box cold cereal, reg. price $4.29; sale price = $1.88
1 box cold cereal, reg. price $4.49; sale price = $1.67
1 box of instant oatmeal variety packets, reg. price $4.99; sale price = $1.67
1 box cookies, reg. price $3.49; sale price $1.67; with $.50 off coupon = $1.17
1 bottle ginger ale; reg. price $2.67, with $1.79 coupon = $.88 + $.10 redemption value
4 frozen pot pies; reg. price $8.99; sale price = $6.99
1 yogurt; reg. price $1.19; sale price = $1
1 loaf bread = $1.99
1 8-oz. pkg. cold cuts = $2.99
bananas, reg. price $1.45/lb, on sale @ $.61/lb = $1.12
1 cucumber, reg. price $1; on sale = $.89
1 avocado, reg. price $1.50; on sale = $.95

Total spent = $26.85

According to the receipt, with sales and coupons, she saved a total of $21.36 or 44%

Some of the items she bought (like the cereal) are stock up items bought because they were on sale or she had coupons; some will be for easy lunches during the week; the frozen pot pies will be for those nights when she doesn't want to cook dinner.

But I think she's doing well, with her grocery shopping and budget, don't you?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Midway Through January

It's January 15th already!  Already halfway through the month!

Since I didn't get around to doing a month-end balance wheel review for December, I think I shall do a mid-month review for January.   

Spirituality: 10; Well plumped; stayed the same since November's review; attended December's monthly prayer meeting and held my annual year-end almsgiving; attended the January monthly prayer meeting last weekend.

Environment: 7; Needs plumping!  I got the house cleaned and tidied in time for the almsgiving, but then, since I got ill, didn't keep it maintained.  Need to continue with decluttering and cleaning.

DD: 10; Nicely plumped! She was home for over one month over the holidays and we've both enjoyed spending time together.

Family: 9;  Also well plumped. Had several opportunities for family interaction over the holidays. 

Friends: 9; Again, well plumped, with many get togethers with friends over the holidays.

Career: 9; Had been rather stressful, but I met all my deadlines and my supervisors are happy with my productivity. 

Finances: 8; I managed to keep to my budgeted amounts over the holidays and I paid one or two major bills (home and earthquake insurance at the end of December; daughter's spring semester tuition and fees in January) as well as regular monthly expenses.  I am continuing to keep an eye over finances to minimize expenses.

Health: 4; it went down since November's review because I fell ill in December and I've had a relapse in January.  This is definitely a spoke that needs improvement.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: 7; I was able to take some vacation time over the holidays and I've relaxed playing computer games during the evenings.

Time Management: 6; I get things done in a timely manner, but I feel I am not managing my time as well as I should.

So, that's my mid-January review of my Balance Wheel.  It's a little wobbly with some spokes being well plumped and others, such as Health and Time Management, needing lots of plumping.

Have you tried doing a Balance Wheel?  How balanced would you say your life is?  

Wednesday, January 14: Meeting Deadlines and Bulk Cooking

There are some days when one feels like pulling the covers over ones head and sleeping in.  Today was one of those days.  I was still achy and not quite back to normal.  I would have dearly loved to have ignored the alarm clock and gone back to sleep.  Unfortunately, I had a project deadline to meet at the office, so, I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and went to work. Once there, I was able to focus on what needed to be done and got it done.  The all important deadline was met.

Spent a quiet evening at home.  My friend called and we chatted for a bit.

Later, I cooked the chicken breasts I had bought on Saturday.  The two trays of chicken breasts yielded 10 halves.  I sauted them in a little oil with some salt, ground pepper, and teriyaki sauce.  I kept 2 pieces for our dinner and packaged the rest, 2 pieces per zippered freezer bag, and froze them.  I will take out one bag at a time and slice the cooked chicken and use in a variety of ways - with a salad for a quick lunch to take to the office, stir-fried with vegetables and served over rice for dinner, etc.

For our dinner, tonight, I cooked a boxed rice and wild rice mix, to eat with the sauted chicken breasts.  A bit of a special dinner on daughter's last night at home before she returns to university, tomorrow.

How was your Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday, January 13

Still not feeling 100%.  But went to the office, anyway, and managed to have a productive day.  By afternoon, however, I felt I couldn't carry on, so, took 3 hours of sick leave and came home.  Not planning to do much, this evening.  A cousin called and invited me to dinner to meet the visiting son of another cousin living overseas, but I made my excuses as I'm not feeling too well.

How has your day been?

Monday, January 12, 2015

More Grocery Shopping, Sunday's Doings and Monday

On Sunday, I made a quick stop at the ethnic grocery store on my way to pick up my friend who came over to lunch.  I purchased:

1 cauliflower, @$.89/lb = $1.18
green beans, @$.89/lb = $.75
1 lettuce = $1.39
1 cucumber = $.50

Total = $3.82

Add to Saturday's grocery spending of $36.81 = $40.63 spent so far in January.

I cooked the cauliflower to have with lunch: rice, chicken curry, cauliflower sauted with garlic and turmeric, leafy greens shredded and sauted with grated coconut, cucumber salad, and some of my homemade tomato chutney.  It was a good Sunday lunch to share with my daughter and our friend.

The rest of Sunday was spent visiting with our friend, doing a little shopping together, coming back home for tea, dropping off my friend, having two of daughter's friends visit in the evening, and doing a load of laundry.

Today, Monday, I went to the office and had a productive work day.  But started feeling ill in the afternoon.  So, after I came home, I took a long, 3 hour nap!  I'm feeling better now.  Hopefully, I'll be back to feeling 100% after a good night's sleep.

How was your day?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grocery Shopping

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping for the first time this year (had been eating from the fridge, freezer, and pantry up to that point).

My grocery budget doesn't include pet food, toiletries, household products, etc.  Those items are budgeted separately; mainly because I like to know exactly how much I spend on various categories.  The grocery budget is only for food items for my daughter and myself.

When my daughter was living at home full time, I set the grocery budget at $150 per month.  Now that she's away at university, I am budgeting $75 for myself for the month, although, very often, I share what I've bought with her.

Yesterday, I shopped at one of the regular chain supermarkets (as opposed to the ethnic market).  In addition to the groceries, I bought pet food and household products (3 air fresheners); if I include everything I bought, I spent a total of $65.97.  Of which, $24.20 was for pet food, $2.40 was for household products, and $2.60 was sales tax on the pet food and household products (no taxes on food).  So, the non-food items came to $29.20.  Deduct $29.20 from the $65.97 I spent and it means I spent $36.77 on food items, which included soda and bottled coffee drinks which are treats.

Here's what I bought and spent:

1 gallon milk: $2.99
2 pkg. skinless/boneless chicken breasts @ $1.99/lb.; $4.30 + $4.94 = $9.24
2 pkg. sausages, @ $1.79 minus $.50 coupon = $1.29@ = $2.58
1 doz. large eggs ($2.99; free with coupon) = $0
3 jars peanut butter, $.99@ = $2.97
2 4-pack bottled coffee drinks, $4.99 + $.20 redemption value@ minus $1 coupon = $3.99+$.20@ = $7.98 + $.40 = $8.38
1 64-fl.oz apple juice, $2.99 minus $1 coupon = $1.99
2 boxes rice/wild rice mixes, $1@ = $2.00
2 cans fruit (peaches), $1.25@ minus $.20 coupon = $1.05@ = $2.10
1.45 lb bananas, $.69/lb = $1.00 
3 2-liter soda, @ $.98 (includes $.10 redemption value) = $2.94
1 2-liter soda @$.98 minus $.40 coupon = $.58
1 17-oz. box cereal ($3.99; free with coupon) = $0

= $36.77

$75 - $36.77 = $38.23 balance left in this month's grocery budget.

Oops!  I forgot to include the $0.04 I spent on 2 cans of tuna at the drug store, the other day!  Yes, that's right, I spent all of 4 cents to buy 2 cans of tuna!  They were on sale for $.77 each and I had a "bonus cash"-type coupon for $1.50, so my final cost came to $.04!

So, total spent on groceries in January, so far:  $36.77 + $.04 = $36.81 and I have $38.19 left in my grocery budget.

The boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a convenience food of sorts for me; I usually try to pay no more than $.99/lb for chicken, which usually means whole chickens or legs or, occasionally, chicken breast halves with skin and bones.  But $1.99/lb. is the best price for b/s chicken breasts in my area and an occasional splurge for me.

I might send some of the peanut butter with daughter when she returns to university this week, along with the free box of cereal (her favorite kind).

The canned fruit will go in the pantry as part of the emergency food store (I live in earthquake country).  I only bought bananas as fresh fruit because I have fresh oranges from the garden and apples and grapes and pomegranates (also from the garden) in the fridge.

I do need to buy some fresh vegetables for the week, because I only have carrots and tomatoes on hand.  But fresh vegetables tend to be on the expensive side at the chain supermarket; I will be passing by the ethnic store on my way to pick up my friend, today, so I will stop by and get some vegetables from there.

How is your grocery budget set up?  Do you include pet food and household/toiletry items in your grocery budget?  Or do you separate them out the way I do?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bountiful Abundance

Oranges and Lemons

In these times of budgeting and post-holiday financial belt tightenings, it is easy to focus on what we are having to give up and do without; it is easy to develop a general feeling of lack and to feel deprived.  In the process, we tend to lose sight of the blessings of bountiful abundance in our lives.

I used to keep a daily gratitude journal in which I'd write down 5 things for which I am grateful.  Now, I have decided to make a conscious effort to daily seek out and acknowledge the blessings of bountiful abundance in my life.  I think it will be beneficial to focus more on the abundance and less on the lack.

This week's bountiful abundance is fruit from the garden.  The oranges and the lemons on the trees in my backyard are ripening. Nothing can be a better example of bountiful abundance than a fruit tree so laden with fruit that the branches hang low to the ground (last year, the weight of the fruit actually broke a few of the branches on my orange tree).

Every week, since the middle of December, I've been picking several oranges and sharing them with daughter.  It is hard to feel deprived when one is indulging in organically grown oranges, picked straight from the tree, fresh and sweet and juicy. 

What are some of the examples of blessed abundance in your lives?


There are some people who like empty spaces and minimal possessions cluttering their homes and there are some who like holding on to items.  I definitely belong to the "if there is room to store it, keep it" camp.  However, with January and the New Year and the promise of new beginnings, I am feeling motivated to start decluttering and organizing my spaces. 

Stuff is beginning to accumulate and pile up because all my storage spaces are full!

It used to be that, whenever I didn't have sufficient storage space, I'd try to increase storage space with additional shelves and boxes.  These days,  I try to limit the amount of stuff I have to the amount of storage space available. 

For some, motivation to declutter might come from a life change. I know of people who declutter after the death of a spouse, when moving to a smaller home, because they are forming new relationships and combining two households, etc.  I just want to declutter because I am running out of space to store things!

Once, I decluttered 10 items a day - either donated them, recycled, or simply tossed (although I tried to keep that to a minimum, preferring to donate and recycle as much as I could).  Over time, my decluttering slowed down to a trickle.  It's time to increase it, if not to 10 items a day, then 10 items a week.  It should be doable.  

What motivates you to declutter?  What motivates you to start going through the cabinets and closets and pull out things to donate or toss?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bacon & Egg Rolls

Bacon & Egg Rolls

One of the items I usually keep in my freezer is frozen puff pastry dough.  Packets of eight 5" x 5" frozen puff pastry dough squares sell for $2.50 a packet at the ethnic grocery store and I usually pick up a couple of packets when I shop there.  I do know how to make puff pastry from scratch, and I suppose I could make a batch and keep in the freezer, but the store bought frozen puff pastry is an affordable convenience.

Today, I took two of the packets of frozen puff pastry, some leftover hard boiled eggs and the last few rashers of bacon from a packet of bacon I had in the fridge and, with daughter's help, made bacon and egg rolls for dinner.  We quartered the eggs, cut the rashers of bacon into thirds and cut each square of puff pastry in half.  Wrapped each piece of egg in a piece of bacon and encased the bacon-wrapped piece of egg in the pastry; sealed the edges with the tines of a fork, brushed the tops with milk and sprinkled with a bit of ground pepper and baked at 350F until the pastry was puffed and brown.

Daughter and I enjoyed some for our dinner and there's more for tomorrow night's dinner, as well.  They'd make a good breakfast or tea time treat, as well.

Do you keep any frozen pastry dough on hand?  What do you make with it? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One Week Into the New Year

Already the New Year is one week old!  The days do go by fast, don't they?  I had another busy day at the office and came home tired.  So, a quiet evening, resting and enjoying being with daughter. 

Daughter will be home one more week and then she'll return to university.  Neither of us is looking forward to her going away again.  We've both become too accustomed to her being home.

I am keeping track of my spending and today I logged in my spending for the first week in January.  So far, I have paid for the gardener, a new pair of boots for me, some candy and a box of cinnamon buns, December's gas bill, for my medications, a birthday gift, and daughter's spring semester tuition.  All expenses are planned expenses, but I want to closely monitor this month's spending.

How was your first week of the New Year?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On the Eleventh and Twelfth Days of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas, daughter and I went shopping and I bought myself a pair of ankle boots, redeemed a gift certificate for a box of chocolates (with our favorite marzipan filling!) and bought some yummy cinnamon buns!  Then, we took a short nap to recover from all that shopping.  Later, I watered the front garden, took the trash cans to the curb, and ran the dish washer.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I returned to the office after being off since Christmas!  Daughter went out to dinner with two of her neighborhood friends who came over to exchange gifts and I took down the holiday decorations.   It probably took no more than 10 seconds!  What a change from other years!

And so, Christmas is finally come to an end.  It's been a lovely 12 days of holidays for me.  Hope it was a good holiday season for you, too. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

On the Ninth and Tenth Days of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas (Saturday, January 3), daughter celebrated the day by going out with friends she's known from childhood.  I did some much needed paperwork and caught up on my filing during the day and then, celebrated in the evening by going to a cousin's birthday dinner party. 

On the tenth day of Christmas (Sunday, January 4), more long-time friends of my daughter came over to have their annual holiday potluck lunch, something they've been doing since high school.  I did a bit of housework before they came and cleaned out some of my files while they were here.  Later in the evening, I enjoyed a phone call with a friend and I did two loads of laundry, which are hanging up to dry overnight, inside the house. As mentioned earlier, in previous posts, hanging laundry to air dry is both frugal and environmentally friendly. 

The weekend went by quickly, but it was a fun, relaxed weekend on one hand and a productive one, too.  I am happy since there was a nice balance between housework and relaxing, between family and friends and alone time.

How was your weekend?  Did you enjoy the first weekend of 2015?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Financial Goals and Budget

One of my New Year's Goals is to continue to manage my finances in a manner that allows me to remain debt-free, while putting daughter through university.

How will I achieve my financial goals?  I set myself a budget or "spending plan". I base my budget on my take-home pay, after deductions.  Ideally, one's expenses should be less than one's income. Or, at least, equal it. If the expenses are greater, then, one can try to increase the income or decrease the expenses (or both).  For several years, I tried to limit my spending to 70% of my take-home income (not always successful) in order to save the remaining 30% (again, with varying degrees of success).  Now, however, because I am paying for daughter's tuition and rent, my monthly expenses amount to more than my monthly income and those savings are proving to be a blessing.

One can't set up a budget without knowing the current expenses.  When I set up my initial budget, several years ago, I kept a spending log for 1 month and kept track of all my expenses and I went through my check book and statements for the past year to get an idea of one-time yearly payments and monthly averages for things like utilities. 

When setting up my budget, I started with the fixed expenses.  These are the expenses that remain the same from month to month - such as mortgage, property taxes, car payments, auto insurance, etc.  One can always try to reduce them by refinancing, switching insurance companies or making changes to policies, etc., but usually, these are one time changes.

Then, I deducted all the fixed expenses from the income and that is what I had to spend on all the other, "discretionary", expenses, such as food, clothing, utilities, savings, etc. As I said earlier, ideally, this amount should be sufficient to meet all other expenses.  If it wasn't sufficient, then, I needed to make some adjustments to make sure that they do come out even.

I allocate a set amount each month for my utilities: water, gas, electricity, phone, etc. Even though my gas (heating, cooking) varies from nearly $300 in the coldest of winter months (Jan/Feb for us) to under $20 in the heat of summer, I average it out and keep what I don't spend during the summer in the account to help pay the higher bills in winter.  For items that are paid quarterly, yearly, etc., I take the cost and divide by 3 or 12 and put aside that money monthly, either in my checking account or in my savings account until needed.

When I look at my budget with an eye towards trimming costs, all my variable expenses are fair game. I analyze each and every expense to see what can be eliminated and what can be reduced to cover only the bare essentials.  One might say, "But I've already cut out all the extras". Maybe. Maybe not. Depends what one considers to be extras and what one considers to be essentials. But each expense ought to be examined and considered.

I think of it as a challenge!

For me, my budget is truly a spending plan for it gives me the boundaries within which I am free to spend! For me, that is a truly liberating concept. I don't have to worry if I spent too much or feel guilty about how much I spent - it was no more than what I had planned to spend.

My current budget consists of nearly 30 categories (some are sub-categories; for example, under the category of "Utilities", I have subcategories of water/electricity, gas, telephones, internet, etc.)  This works for me, because I like this level of detail.

My categories include House & Garden (sub-categories: Property Taxes, Home/Earthquake Insurance, Home Maintenance, Garden Care, Household Products),  Utilities (sub-categories: Water & Power, Gas, Telephones, Internet/Cable, Car (Gas, Insurance, Maintenance, Registration), Daughter (Tuition/Fees, Text Books,Rent & Utilities, Health Care), Self (Health Care, Personal), Groceries, Pet Care, Entertainment, Donations, Holiday/Gifts, Taxes & Dues,  and the all important "Miscellaneous"!

What are your financial goals for 2015?  How are you planning to meet those goals?

Friday, January 2, 2015

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

And the second day of the new's time to get a few things done around the house!

I spent the day relaxing, yesterday, savoring the pleasure of being able to do so.   I did tidy up one kitchen cabinet, which is a project I had been meaning to do for some time.  Later, I spent the evening knitting a sweater which is one of many "works-in-progress".  I finished knitting the front, last night, and started on one of the sleeves.  I'm making it with yarn leftover from knitting this sweater for daughter:

Quite possibly, it might end up being a short-sleeved top, instead of a full sweater, depending how much yarn I have left!

Today, I am expecting a friend to lunch, so the holiday celebrations continue.  But I also want to get some stuff done, so I've made myself a "to do" list:

- Do dishes
- cook chicken
- clean out fridge
- clear kitchen counters
- have gardener take window a/c to garage (I was able to take it down from the window, but too heavy to carry it out to the garage)

What are your plans for the day?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Master Lists

A "master list" is a list of items one wants to get done during the course of the year.  It's a way to accomplish those New Year's goals.  One takes a few items from the master list and incorporates them into the monthly goals and works on them throughout the year, until they are done or, occasionally, changed, if necessary.

I am putting together a "master list" of tasks I wish to accomplish for the new year.  I was able to get quite a bit checked off my master list in 2014, but others are going to be carried over to next year. The list is not complete, and I am sure to be adding and subtracting as I go, but here's the list as it stands now:

- Landscape the front garden, with drought tolerant & edible plants
- Trim the eucalyptus tree
- Plant a replacement peach tree
- Beautify back garden
- Landscape side yard

- Replace window screens, throughout
- New drapery rods and/or drapes (living room, dining area)
- Replace fire place screen
- Kitchen floor refinishing
- Fix water damaged wall and ceiling
- Paint hallway, kitchen, family room, bathrooms
- Get clothes dryer repaired/replaced
- Electrical repairs (door bell, front porch light, ceiling fans, closet light, bathroom space heater)
- Get closet and laundry room doors repaired or replaced
- Get sliding glass door repaired or replaced
- Get bathroom cabinet door hinge fixed
- Clean out garage
- Clean out shed

Will start chipping away at the list in the new year.   Some of it is stuff I can do, myself.  But a lot of it is stuff that I need to get others to do for me.  Just the thought of finding people to do the work, getting estimates, etc., tends to be overwhelming.  But if I take just one or two items each month and work on them, then, perhaps the list will get whittled down as the year progresses.

How about  you? Do you have a master list? Will you be making a new one for the new year? Is it as long as mine?

Happy New Year and New Year's Goals

Happy New Year!  May 2015 be a blessed year of good health, prosperity, joy, and peace.

Daughter and I celebrated New Year's Eve in the company of long-time friends.  Today, we had been invited to a family friend's annual open house, but we chose to stay home and just relax.  

As for New Year's Goals, I have several goals I'd like to accomplish this year.  Attaining better health is one of them; I've several long-term health conditions which can be better managed through better diet and more exercise.  Less procrastination is another; I've a serious tendency to procrastinate which leads to bigger problems - my goal is to stop putting things off and just do them.  To that end, I started off the year well with tidying one kitchen cabinet that I had been intending to tidy for several weeks now!  Other goals include continuing to manage finances in a manner that allows me to remain debt-free, even while putting daughter through university.

Have you made any New Year's goals?