Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tuesday's Happenings

Today, I worked from home, after calling and checking in with my supervisor.

Around noon, my cousin who is visiting from Australia called to ask if I'll be home tomorrow evening and, if so, she'd like to visit me and bring dinner!  She said she'll make a chicken curry and a vegetable, if I could cook the rice.  Afterwards, she will go over to another cousin's house to stay the night with her.  I do feel guilty about her having to cook  me dinner, but she assured me she wanted to.  I will make a fruit salad for dessert and serve it with the ice cream I bought yesterday.   

Later, in the afternoon, I went to bring in the trash cans and collect the mail.  I heard someone call my name and it was my neighbor, who was waiting for a ride to go to her doctor's appointment.  We spoke for a bit and then, I took the trash cans in and checked my mail.

My ultrasound referral had arrived in the mail!  So, I called the hospital to schedule the two procedures - abdominal ultrasound and breast ultrasound.  The person I spoke to said they needed an additional report from the doctor's office.  So, I called the cancer clinic and spoke to the office staff; the girl I spoke with said she will fax the papers over immediately and to give it about 15 minutes and then, call the hospital again.  I waited maybe 30 minutes and called.  The good news is, I was able to schedule the ultrasound for the abdomen for this coming Thursday, June 1.  At 9:00 a.m., because I have to be fasting (not even water). 

The bad news is, apparently there is some mistake about the breast ultrasound request.  The lady scheduling the appointment asked me if I have done a diagnostic mammogram first, as they normally don't do an ultrasound without a diagnostic mammogram.  I said no, I can't do a mammogram due to the swelling and inflammation.  Apparently, the doctor's office hadn't specified I was not to have a diagnostic mammogram, first.   The lady called the doctor's office and apparently, they have to re-do the referral.  Aarrgh!
So, more waiting.  I would have preferred it was the other way round and they did the breast ultrasound first and waited on the abdomen one.  I wasn't so worried about the cyst in the stomach; it was the breast lump I was worried about!  I didn't think to call the doctor's office right away. I shall do that tomorrow morning.  Just to make sure they know what is happening.

Once I was done with my office work for the day, I went to the library to return my library books. 

After I came home, I tidied and cleaned the house.  I cleared the horizontal surfaces, dusted, and vacuumed.  That took some time, but I was able to get it done and the house looks presentable.   Even picked some fresh roses for the altar and the living room and fresh lemons to fill the fruit bowl on the dining table. 

Bowl of Fresh Lemons

Ideally, this is how the dining table should always be - with nothing on it other than a table cloth and a bowl of fresh fruit.  Reality, however, is it is usually cluttered with books and papers, my latest sewing project, etc., etc., etc.  I am going to make it a mini-goal for June:  Keep the dining table cleared!

Tomorrow, I need to put away the washed dishes and tidy the kitchen counters, a bit.  And make the fruit salad.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Receiving my referral, even if half of it needs to be redone
- Being able to schedule one of the ultrasounds
- Being able to work from home
- Cousin calling and saying she'll bring dinner, tomorrow
- Being able to tidy and clean the house 

Wednesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Call the doctor's office
- Call regarding the property tax bill
- Tidy the kitchen/clear the counters
- Make a fruit salad
- Enjoy dinner with cousin 
- Cook sausage meat I put to thaw
How was your Tuesday?  What is usually on your dining table in between meals?  Do you keep it cleared?  Or, are yours more like mine with stuff being dumped on it all the time?  Anyone else wants to join me in June with a mini goal of keeping the dining table clear?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Monday: Memorial Day

Monday was Memorial Day, here, in the US.   A day to remember those who died in service to the country during its wars and a holiday.  It is also considered as the unofficial first day of summer and barbecue season.  Many towns and cities have ceremonies to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Some people decorate the grave sites of service men and women with flags, some have family gatherings, some go shopping.  Some suggest ways to celebrate the day, such as making champagne popsicles, but I shan't go there.
I had a fairly productive day on Monday; once I woke up, that is!  (I slept in!)
I hand washed a couple of garments and hung them to dry.  One of them is a dress my mother had sewn for me, which I had held on to for the past 20+ years, initially hoping to be able to fit into it again, and later, keeping it just because she had sewn it for me and I couldn't bear to give it away.  Now, after having lost all that weight during cancer treatment, I am able to fit into it, again!
I also tried on a dress a cousin had given me for Christmas several years ago which had been too tight at the time and which I had given to my daughter to wear.  She wore it a few times, but left it down here as it was a summer dress and it rarely gets that warm up in Berkeley for her to wear it.  It fits me now, but it is not exactly my style.  However, when my cousin gave the dress to me, she had said she wanted to see me wear it, so I might wear it to one of the rosary prayer gatherings this summer so she can see me wearing it!
In the early evening, I went shopping.  I had initially intended to shop for a pair of pants.  Instead, I decided to go to the fabric store to buy elastic for waist bands, so I could alter some skirts I already had.  I bought two packages of 1 1/4 inch wide elastic for $4.99 per package (three yards in each; so approximately $1.66/yard).
Elastic for Waist Bands
They weren't on sale and I didn't have a coupon, so I paid full price.  I am not very happy about that, but that's my own fault for not going prepared with a coupon and for not waiting for a sale, etc.  With sales tax, it came to $10.85.
However, each package should be enough for three waist bands, for approximately $1.80 per waist band.  It will enable me to wear what I already have in my closet for awhile longer.
They also had elastics in big rolls, for sale by the yard, but they didn't have the 1 1/4 inch wide ones.  The 1 1/2 inch wide elastic was selling for $2.49/yard, but that was wider than what I needed.
While I was at the fabric store, I looked around for a bit as they were having a Memorial Day sale.  Lots of fabric on sale for up to 50% off and yarn on sale for up to 40% off.  I was tempted to buy some of each, but I have promised myself that I will not buy either without a specific project in mind until I use up my stash (that's how I had built up my current stash in the first place, by buying fabric and yarn on sale, without a project in mind, simply because they were on sale!)  So I only bought the elastic, which is what I had gone to buy!  Yay me for staying on target and buying only what I intended to buy!  LOL.
On the way home from the fabric store, I made a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few items: 1/2 gal. milk ($1.89), 1 dozen eggs ($.99), a bottle of salad dressing ($1.77), a container of ice cream ($2.77),  and two bars of chocolate ($1.50@).  I didn't take a picture, but the total came to $10.42.
Grocery Receipt
The ice cream and chocolates were impulse buys, but turns out it was a good thing, because, today, I received a call from my cousin who is visiting from Australia, asking if I'd be home tomorrow evening and, when I said yes, saying she is coming to see me and will bring dinner!  I will be able to offer ice cream for dessert, with a fresh fruit salad. 
Later in the evening, after a cup of coffee and a sandwich, I cleaned the bathrooms, did the dishes, watered the garden, both front and back (I have a zucchini bud!), took the trash cans out, and unpicked the waistband of a skirt so I could insert new elastic.  
Zucchini Bud
It was too dark to take a picture of the zucchini bud, yesterday evening, so I took a picture this morning.  It appears to be a male flower, but I see a female flower forming on the other side of the plant!  Hopefully, there will be another male flower blossoming at the same time and it will get pollinated and become a fruit!  Yes, botanically speaking, the zucchini, like the tomato, is a fruit. 

A couple of my nieces had posted news about the severe floods in Sri Lanka.  I inquired about the families and one niece replied that so far, they were all OK.  I also called one of my friends who is here to ask if her daughters who are in Sri Lanka were affected by the floods, but she said they weren't.  Later, when the monks from the temple called to check on me, I told them that if the temple is doing something to help the flood victims, I will make a donation through them.  

Two of my aunts called, too, and inquired about my health.  I told them I was still waiting to hear about the referral.  Later, I exchanged emails with a friend and video chatted with my daughter.

On Monday, I was grateful for:
- The service men and women who died in service
- Their families who have also served
- Family and friends in Sri Lanka are safe
- Zucchini buds!
- Calls and emails from family and friends

How was your Monday?  Did you observe or celebrate Memorial Day? 

Monday, May 29, 2017

New Shoes

Today, I bought myself a pair of shoes.  Nothing fancy or special.  Just a pair of black sneakers because my current pair (bought in 2014, I think) is starting to rip at the seams.  I remember wanting to buy a new pair of shoes at the end of 2015 because my shoes were already looking shabby by then (I wear these sneakers to the office, most days, for comfort, and don't want to look too shabby!).  But I didn't get around to it and I managed to get another year of wear out of them.  When I wore through the inner soles, for example, I inserted a pair of foam liners.  Today, after I picked up my medications at the pharmacy, I walked across the parking lot to the shoe stores (there are two shoe stores, located side by side!) and bought a pair of black sneakers:

New Shoes

They are supposed to have a slip-resistant sole.  They cost $29.99.  They weren't on sale and I paid full price for them, because my other pair was looking too shabby for me to wait for a sale on these particular type of shoes.  With our 8.75% sales tax, they came to $32.61.  That put the final cost of the shoes slightly above what I had budgeted for shoes ($30), but that's OK.

I still need to buy a pair of pants to wear to the office, so, hopefully, that will be my next purchase.  One of these days, when I next feel like going shopping for clothes!   LOL.

Today, I am grateful for:
- New shoes!
- Feeling up to shopping for them.
- Finding a pair in my size.
- Not feeling guilty about paying full price for them because it's what I had budgeted for.
- Having a little bit of leeway in the budget to accommodate the sales tax.

Every time I buy a pair of black shoes, I am reminded of a story my mother had once told me.  As a child, I never had a pair of black shoes.  I had several pairs of shoes in all the colors of the rainbow, but not a single pair of black shoes.  And I longed to have a pair of black shoes.  Finally, after I begged and begged, my mother relented and bought me a pair of black patent leather shoes for my 9th birthday.

Several years later, when I asked her why she wouldn't let me wear black shoes as a child, she told me it was because, when she was growing up, all her mother would buy for her and her sisters were black shoes since they were so serviceable and could be worn with any outfit!  She said her mother would take her to the shoe store and say to the salesperson, "A pair of black shoes for this child, a pair of black shoes" (and mother would drag out the word "black" so it sounded more like "blaaack").  Mother, obviously didn't like her black shoes!

My mother was one of 4 daughters (and one of 9 children, altogether).  She said her mother had a method when it came to buying shoes for the girls.  One year, the two older girls (my mother's older sisters) would get new shoes (black, of course) and their old shoes would be handed down to the two younger girls (my mother and her younger sister).  The following year, the two younger girls would have new shoes bought for them, while the older girls had to manage with last year's shoes.  Mother didn't say (and I didn't think to ask) what would have happened if the older girls' feet out-grew their shoes during that period!  I also don't know if Grandmother had a similar method for shoes for her sons, as well.

By the time the younger girls received their older sisters' shoes, those shoes would have been worn for two years, already.  And, I suppose, if the shoes were still in good condition after being worn by the younger girls, they would have been passed down to a cousin or two.  Mother had several cousins as her mother had been the oldest of 14 children.

My mother continued this tradition of passing down shoes, as I remember her giving my outgrown shoes to one of my cousins.  And, at least one of my cousins has given her daughter's shoes to my daughter!  So, we are keeping the hand-me-down shoes tradition going!  LOL! 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Clothing Allowances

Once upon a time, my mother sewed all my clothes and there wasn't a clothing allowance as such, just what we'd spend on fabric, thread, buttons, etc.  I didn't budget for my clothes, or the items needed to make them, at all.  Later, when she found it difficult to sew for me, I'd go on a shopping spree and buy some items and I'd spend about $100, maybe once or twice a year.

As a result, when I started budgeting, I had no idea how much I actually spent on clothes, so I estimated and allowed myself $25 per month for clothing, which amounted to $300 per year.  I figured that was a reasonable amount to spend on clothes for me.  At the time, my mother sewed for my daughter, so I didn't budget for her clothes.  Later, when my mother was no longer able to sew, I allocated another $25 per month for my daughter's clothing, as well.

Initially, I did all the clothes shopping for my daughter; for the most part, she was a child who was quite happy to wear what was picked out for her.    Once she became a teenager, however, I took her shopping with me for her clothes and allowed her to pick what she wanted, within reason, and, always, subject to my approval (her schools had dress codes, but, in general, my dress codes were stricter than the ones the schools imposed).

We'd do a "back to school" shopping trip at the end of summer, and I'd tell her she had $200 to spend on clothes and a pair of shoes for school (the balance $100 was  kept for a winter jacket, a second pair of shoes if needed, other items such as socks, undies, etc.)  I'd tell her what I expected her to buy for that amount of money - 1 pair of shoes for $25, 5 pairs of pants (or a combination of skirts and pants) for $15 each, and 10 tops (had to include at least one sweatshirt or sweater) for $10 each.    If she was able to find those necessary items for less, then, she could spend the remaining portion of the budget  on additional items or extras such as hair bows, etc.  She soon learned to seek out the sales racks at the back of the stores!  LOL.

In addition to these back to school clothes, she'd often receive clothing as gifts for Christmas and her birthday (in March), so she had new clothes every 3 months or so, during the school year, and at summer, we might buy a new pair of shorts if needed.

When I needed to cut back on my budget, during the recession, I reduced daughter's clothing allowance to $20/month and mine to $10/month.  Once daughter started university and working part time, she told me she didn't want an allowance, as I was paying for tuition, etc.

My clothing budget (which includes shoes as well as clothes) has continued to be $10/month or $120/year.  It is a good thing I am not at all interested in designer clothes or high fashion!  LOL.    For the past several years, I have been wearing what I had and replacing items as needed, so this amount of money for clothes and shoes has worked out well.  I budget $20 for a pair of pants, $30 for a dress or a jacket, $10 for a blouse, $30 for a pair of shoes.  Obviously, I am not someone who feels the need to buy something new to wear for every social occasion.

The last time I went shopping for clothes and actually bought something was in August/September 2015.  I needed a couple of loose fitting blouses with the opening in front to wear after my surgery in October of that year, and I bought two blouses on clearance for $1.99 and $2.99; a packet of socks and a packet of undies, and a knit hat from the dollar store to wear when I lost my hair (later, I knitted two hats for myself).

I didn't buy any clothes or shoes during 2016.  So I carried over that $120 clothing allowance to this year.  Then, earlier this year, just before I returned to the office, I went shopping for a pair of pants, but didn't actually buy any.  As a result, I have $50 accumulated in my clothing budget for this year (in addition to the $120 from 2016).

I have managed with what I have in my closet (especially with access to daughter's closet, as well!)  But, I am thinking, it might be time to go shopping for clothes. 

Do you have a budget for clothing?  If not, how do you decide how much to spend on your clothing?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Let Them Eat Cake!

Chocolate-Strawberry-Kiwi Cake

This month's prayer gathering will be followed by a potluck dinner.  I volunteered to bring a dessert.  I wanted to make something that was easy, using ingredients I had on hand for the most part.  So, I decided to make a cake using a cake mix I had on hand.  I baked the cake in a Bundt pan, last night and kept it in the fridge overnight.

This morning, I warmed up half a jar of my homemade lemon marmalade in the microwave until it became a pourable consistency and spread it over the cake:

Glazing the Cake with Lemon Marmalade
I think it gives the chocolate cake an interesting, slightly tangy, flavor which cuts down on the sweetness. 

Later in the afternoon, I went to the grocery store and bought a container of ready-made chocolate frosting (for $1.79).  I scooped out half of the frosting into a small bowl and microwaved it for 30 seconds, until it melted and then, spooned the melted frosting on the top of the cake so that it flowed down the sides.  Then, kept it in the fridge for the frosting to cool down and set.

After that, I sliced some strawberries and kiwi fruit that I had on hand and arranged them on the cake to decorate it.  The strawberry slices are put on with a dab of frosting, which I hope will keep them in place.  I tried putting additional kiwi slices under the strawberry "flower" to look like leaves, but they kept sliding down the frosting, so, I picked them off and ate them, with the rest of the fruit trimmings!  LOL! 

I don't know how the fruit slices will fare on the 35+ mile journey to the prayer gathering!  Maybe I should stick some toothpicks to hold them in place and take them out when we get there!  Now I have to find a container in which to transport the cake.  I don't have a round cake carrier.  But I do have a disposable salad bowl with cover; maybe that will work!  Hm, maybe this cake wasn't such a good idea, after all!  LOL.  Maybe I should have made a bread pudding, instead!

What is your favorite dessert to take to a potluck dinner?

Another Relaxed Friday

I was going to write another budget-related post, today, but I think I will leave it until tomorrow.

Thursday, I went to the office.  During my lunch break, I went to the farmers market, but didn't buy anything, after all.  A colleague was retiring so there was a retirement reception for him in the afternoon and after that, we had a birthday celebration for one of the supervisors!  In between partying, I actually finished one assignment and started on another!   Some of my colleagues were going out, after work, for a "happy hour" type of social gathering to celebrate our supervisor's birthday a bit more, but I chose to come home, instead.  You know you are getting old when your colleagues are out celebrating and you are home taking a nap on the sofa!  LOL.

As a result of the nap, however, I stayed up till very late, Thursday night, reading and didn't actually get to bed until 4:00 a.m.!   I didn't worry too much about it, though, because I had taken Friday off from work.  As a result, I slept in till quite late, this morning.  

It was another over-cast and cool day; cool enough for me to turn on the heater till mid-afternoon.   As I told one of my friends, there were plenty of things I could have done.  Instead, I chose to have another relaxed day!  I played on the computer, read, renewed a library book on-line, walked around my garden and admired the roses that are blooming, had a long chat on the phone with one of my aunts, and video chatted with my daughter.  I did do the dishes and I baked a cake to take to Saturday night's prayer meeting dinner.  So, I was somewhat productive, I guess.

Oh, and I found the inspiration for my Halloween costume, this year!  I shall invest $10 on fabric flowers from the dollar store for it and I already have a jacket I could use!

Today, I am grateful for:
- A day off from work to relax
- Being able to renew library books on-line
- Roses blooming in the garden
- Phone call from aunt
- Halloween costume inspiration

Tomorrow, I should do all those things I could have done today, but didn't!  I need to also do a little grocery shopping to buy some ingredients for the frosting for the cake.  I don't have powdered sugar and I don't feel like grinding sugar to make my own!  In the evening, I will attend the monthly prayer gathering.  I have asked my cousin for a ride, if she's going, but she said her daughter might be busy.  Most probably, I shall be driving us to the prayer gathering.  I had better put gas to the car, then.

Saturday's To Do List:
- Put gas to the car
- Grocery shop for frosting ingredients
- Frost and decorate the cake
- Tidy the house
- Dust
- Vacuum
- Attend the prayer gathering

How was your Friday?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Budgets and Budgeting

Recently, I have been thinking more about budgets and budgeting, as I have been helping a friend with setting up a budget. 

I haven't always budgeted.  I had always been very careful with my spending, but I never actually allocated $X towards this and $Y towards that.  I became interested in budgeting only after I read several budgeting related articles in magazines.  They had enticing titles, such as: "How We Saved $50,000 in One Year", or "Paid off $80,000 Debt", or "Slashed Grocery Bills in Half", etc.  I was intrigued and wanted to see how I compared.

At the time, I had a fairly good idea of how much I spent on various things, but didn't know for sure.  I knew what I paid each month on mortgage and on childcare, for example, but how much did I really spend on groceries and eating out?  Or gas for the car?  Or clothing for myself?

So, I kept a spending log for 3 months, recording each and every penny spent.  Next, I went through my check book for those once or twice a year type of expenses and figured out a monthly amount for those expenses.   Then, I came up with a very preliminary budget, based on what my spending had indicated. 

I decided I would base my budget on my net, or "take home" pay, after deductions for taxes, etc. that were deducted directly from my paycheck.  Mainly because this is the actual disposable income I had and it made it easier for me to not to keep track of the direct deductions.  Based on my spending habits as indicated by my spending logs, I decided that I would save 30% of my net income and live on 70%.
For me, as a single parent and sole income earner, having a sizeable savings account/emergency fund was important.  At the time, in the early 90s, people were encouraged to have at least 3 months worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, but single parents were urged to have 6 months worth of living expenses saved.  Later, when the recession hit, a 3-6 months worth of living expenses savings were found to be insufficient as people found it harder to find another job; it took a longer time to find a job, or they had to settle for lower paying jobs. We were urged to have one year's worth of living expenses saved.
I think I initially had about 10 or 15 categories in my budget, and they were very broad and general: House, Utilities, Car, Daughter, Groceries, etc.  But then, I discovered my inner accountant!  LOL.  My categories were too broad for my liking!  I wanted more details!  So I broke down the bigger categories into sub-categories.  For example, under House, I had mortgage, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, garden; under Car, I had insurance, maintenance, gas, etc.  This level of detail has actually worked out quite well for me.
Over the years, I have adjusted my budget and categories as needed, such as during the recession, when I had to accommodate a 25% pay cut!  I revised my budget, cutting back where I could, including decreasing the amount going into savings. 

Cutting back on a budget that is fairly lean to begin with is an interesting exercise!  One can't eliminate the cable bill, for example, when one doesn't have a cable bill to begin with.  No eliminating buying lunch/coffee/muffins/soda, etc., daily, when one doesn't buy lunch or any of the other items (both daughter and I took our lunches and snacks to school and work).  No stretching out the times between visits to the hair salon for cuts and coloring when one didn't cut ones hair or color it.  So where does one cut back?  I reduced the Christmas/holiday gifts budget from $25/month (or $300/year) to $10/month (or $120/year).  I decreased the grocery and eating out budgets, my clothing allowance, household supplies and gardening budget, eliminated the books and crafts supplies budget, and made many such tiny adjustments where I could.
I even worked out what I called a "bare bones/no frills" budget, in case of layoffs at my work place and I had to live on savings or on a minimum wage job.  I discovered that even with a bare bones budget, I'd still need to work two full-time jobs at minimum wage to make ends meet, as I still had a mortgage to pay.  

Then, daughter went to university (undergrad) and we had her tuition and fees to pay and expensive text books to buy (even second hand, they amounted to several hundred dollars each quarter).  I revised my budget, again; this time, I was living on practically 100% of my net pay and very little, if anything, was being saved.  But that was OK.  I was determined she wouldn't have to take out a student loan.  We cut costs where we could.  Daughter lived and commuted from home in order to save $15,000 a year on the room and board she'd have had to pay if she lived on campus.  I stopped giving her an allowance and money for clothes.  She worked part time at 3 jobs in order to earn some spending money. 

When she went to grad-school, however, and needed to live away from home, I had a budget shortfall and had to withdraw from savings to pay for her tuition and rent.  And, again, it was OK.  I had just finished paying off my mortgage, so I had that amount available towards her tuition.  Plus, I had been frugal and saved for this purpose.  Again, she worked part time to pay for her groceries, utilities, and other items she needed, and I helped her set up her first budgetOnce daughter graduated and started working full time, she assumed paying for her rent and most of her other expenses (I still have her on my cell phone plan and pay her share of the bill and I pay for her tickets when she flies down to visit me).  Her rent is going up in July when the new lease starts, and she doesn't have a corresponding increase in her pay, so she's needing to review her budget and make adjustments where she can.  
This past year, since I no longer had to pay for daughter's tuition and rent, etc., I have been saving a larger percentage of my pay check.  I'm in  what I call savings replenishment mode!  But I will be taking another look at the budget in June.  It maybe time to bump up a few spending categories, again, to pre-recession levels!   
How do you budget?  How do you decide how much to save, how much to spend, etc.?  Do you save off the top, before spending, and then, budget with what you have or do you save what is left after spending?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wednesday's Happenings

Just a quick post tonight.  It is already quite late (1:30 a.m.) and I should be going to bed!

Haven't heard anything from the insurance or the clinic about the referral for the ultrasound, yet.  I will give them time until Wednesday and, if I haven't heard by then, I'll call to find out what's happening.

Today, I went to the office and had a fairly productive day.  One of the ladies at work brought some tangerines from her tree to share with her friends.  She works in another division and I've only spoken with her a couple of times, but when she saw me today, she offered a tangerine to me, too, which I thought was very sweet of her.  I saved the seeds to see if they will grow.

In the morning, before I left for the office, one of my friends called and invited me to come over to her place in the evening (the same friend who called me on Sunday morning to invite me to come over to have manioc and I declined).  I didn't want to decline a second invitation as that would have been seen as being rude.  So, after work, I came home and picked a bag of curry leaves from my garden and some lemons to take for her, along with a Pokemon-themed Monopoly game I had bought earlier for her daughter.  Then, I drove over and visited my friend.  She gave me dinner and served a plate to bring home with me for tomorrow's dinner!  She has been such a kind friend to me.

Later in the evening, I video chatted with my daughter, exchanged emails with a friend, and spoke with a cousin who called.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Friends who call and invite me to dinner and give me more food to bring home.
- Coworker giving me a tangerine from her garden
- A productive day at the office
- A safe commute to the office and back (passed three accidents, one which involved several cars)
- Keeping in touch with family and friends

Thursday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Visit the farmers market
- Wish upon a star

How was your Wednesday?  What have you planned for Thursday?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May Grocery Shopping Budget Update

I had set my May grocery budget at $75.00, as usual.  The month started out fine.

In Week 1, I went grocery shopping twice and spent: $2.60 + $11.47 = $14.07
Amount left in the budget at the end of Week 1: $75 - $14.07 = $60.93

In Week 2, I went grocery shopping twice, again and spent: $21.44* + $24.67 = $46.11

* The $21.44 includes $10.48 for two bags of coffee for daughter.  If I take the coffee out of the grocery budget (and pay for it from the gifts budget, for example), the groceries would have amounted to $10.96 for that particular shopping trip and Week 2 grocery totals would have amounted to $35.63

Total spent after Week 2 = $14.07 + $46.11 = $60.18 (with purchase of coffee included); $49.70 (without purchase of coffee included).

Amount left in the budget: $75 - $60.18 = $14.82 (with coffee); $25.30 (without coffee)
In Week 3, I spent $1.51 for bananas (just over 2 lbs. @ $.69/lb) and $13.47 for three additional bags of coffee.    The coffee was $5.99 minus $1.50 coupon = $4.49, each (=$13.47).  My total came to $14.98.
Total spent after Week 3 = $14.82 - $14.98 = - $0.16 (with coffee);  $25.30-1.51 = 23.79 (without coffee).

Week 4 grocery shopping is what I bought on Monday, May 22.  Milk ($1.99 for 1/2 gal.), flavored coffee creamer ($1.99), strawberries (2 lbs. @ $.88/lb), cold cuts ($2.50) for sandwiches, and some cans of juice drinks (8 @ $.25 + deposit).  My total came to $10.64.

Total spent after Week 4 = - $.16 - $10.64 = - $10.80 (with coffee); $23.79-$10.64 = $13.15 (without coffee).

Total spent on 5 bags of coffee for daughter = $10.48 + $13.47 = $23.95. 

Obviously, if ones monthly budget is $75, then, spending almost $24 or nearly 1/3 of the budget on coffee for daughter is not a very wise thing to do!  LOL!  If I keep the cost of the coffee in my grocery budget, then, I am $10.80 over budget, this month (and there is another week left in this month?!)

If I take the coffee out, then, I still have $13.15 in the budget. 

This is the closet "bean counter" in me, coming out to account for the budget to the last penny!  LOL.  I guess it really doesn't matter, in the long run.  I have plenty of room elsewhere in my monthly budget to absorb this cost, if I want it to. 

Or, maybe I should just adjust the budget and increase it to $100 for May to accommodate the purchase of the coffee?

The weekly grocery ads came in the mail, today.   There is very little that I need to buy; I need to finish what I have in the fridge and freezer, instead!  I have chicken breasts and shrimp, the frozen meatballs I bought earlier, and still some vegetables and fruit.  

How is your May grocery budget coming along?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday: Oncology Appointment

Today, I went to see the oncologist to have whatever it was that I had felt checked out.  I actually met with the nurse practitioner since the oncologist was out due to some emergency, but she consulted with him on the phone while I was there, so that was fine.

My pressure was good and my weight was fine.  The nurse practitioner was very busy with both her patients and the doctor's patients, since he was out!  As a result, although my appointment was for 10:15 a.m., I didn't get called in to see the nurse practitioner until after 11:30 a.m.  And even then, I had to wait for another 15 minutes or so before she came into the examining room to see me.

She examined me and she could feel it too.  A palpable nodule is what she called it.  She checked the cyst I had on the stomach, as well.  She said the nodule on the breast could be a stitch (it is just above the incision, but I doubt it is a stitch because the surgeon used a type of glue and not stitches; maybe some scar tissue, though), or a cyst; beyond that, she wouldn't say without further tests.  She didn't dismiss it out of hand, however, as I haven't had a follow-up mammogram after the treatment, yet.  She then called the oncologist to consult with him and that she was going to put in a request for an ultrasound, as a mammogram couldn't be done due to the inflammation.  He agreed with her.

So, she has put in the request and now we wait for insurance to approve and schedule.  She also ordered additional blood work and they will check for cancer markers (the last blood test which I did in April said the cancer markers were good).  I have a follow-up appointment with her in July, but if results come in before that which warrant a visit sooner, someone will call from the clinic to schedule an earlier appointment.  She also wanted me to call the radiation oncologist and tell him what happened, so I called and spoke to the nurse and updated her.

I didn't leave the clinic until 12:30 p.m. and then, I went to the office.  Today, someone had brought in mochi ice cream, which are Japanese rice cakes filled with ice cream!  Again, no particular reason for a treat - other than it being a Monday!

After work, I put gas ($22.82) to the car and did a little bit of grocery shopping.  Milk ($1.99 for 1/2 gal.), flavored coffee creamer ($1.99), strawberries (2 lbs. @ $.88/lb), cold cuts ($2.50) for sandwiches, and some cans of juice drinks (8 @ $.25 + deposit).  My total came to $10.64.

May 22 Groceries

May 22 Grocery Receipt

I kept wanting a treat when I was at the grocery store - I was tempted by the apple pies ($2.99), the ice cream ($3.49), ready made flan (small single serve cups for $.99), cook & serve chocolate pudding mixes ($1.00; I don't like the instant mixes), even frozen cheesecake ($5.99) although the last time I had frozen cheesecake, I didn't like it.   Sigh.  I know I am an emotional eater and the treats I wanted were to make me feel better, but I didn't buy any.  I treated myself to one of the cans of juice drinks, though, after I came home.

Came home and took the trash cans to the curb, called a cousin and spoke with an aunt who called.  Another cousin texted me and said she's saying a special prayer for me to Our Lady of Lourdes as she has great faith in Her.

I didn't do anything much, tonight.  I should have put away the dried laundry and the dishes, and washed the few dishes that are sitting in the sink, and cooked some of those vegetables I bought last week, but I didn't feel like doing any of it.  I had a sandwich for dinner (and a can of the juice drink) and spent the evening video chatting with daughter.  I do need to clean the litter box before I go to bed, though.

So now, we wait for the ultrasound to find out what is going on.  I am telling myself not to anticipate and worry until we get the ultrasound results.  Easier said than done, of course.  I am already second guessing what we've done.  Maybe the lumpectomy wasn't enough?  Maybe I should have had a mastectomy?  The oncologist had told me, when I first went to see him and he outlined the recommended treatments, that if the cancer returned, they automatically consider it as stage 4.   I am hoping and praying that it is something benign and not a return of the cancer. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to see the nurse practitioner
- Knowing the necessary diagnostic tests will be done
- Having medical insurance
- The staff at the clinic who always inquire after my daughter
- Prayers of family and friends on my behalf

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Go to the office
- Bring the trash cans in
- Do the dishes
- Cook the vegetables

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Homemade Tomato Cage

When my gardener friend trimmed the bottle brush tree (the top branches had got singed from the neighbor's garage fire a couple of weeks ago), I asked him to save some of the longer, straighter branches for me.   I was going to try and make myself a tomato cage, using them!  I had seen some on-line and I wanted to try making one, since I was loathe to spend actual money on a pre-made tomato cage!  (We all know that I am frugal, don't we?)

On Saturday, I selected four of the branches:

Four Branches to Use as Poles

Three might have been enough, too, to make a sort of tripod, but I thought a box-shaped one would be better, sturdier.

I also selected some shorter lengths to add as cross pieces.

The examples I saw, and the instructions I read, all used twine.  Well, I didn't have twine and I didn't want to go out and buy any, either (what? and spend money!  OK, so now everyone knows that, sometimes, I go beyond frugal into "cheap" territory!  LOL!).  Instead, I chose something I had plenty of on hand - fabric from the stash, cut into strips (actually, I just made the initial cut and then, tore the fabric into strips).

Dancer helped:

Helpful Kitty

The first step probably should have been to make the holes for the poles and set them in place.  Instead, I chose to tie the first two cross pieces to the poles, using strips of fabric: 

The first cross pieces tied in place

Then, I set the poles in place and tied the other two cross pieces to make the first rung.  So far, so good.

The first rung is complete.
I continued to tie cross pieces and formed a passable tomato cage.  I finished making it Saturday evening, but, by then, it was getting dark and the photos I took were too dark to show anything properly.

I took these pictures this morning:

Completed Tomato Cage
It's the leaning tower of Bless!  Oh, dear!  I really should have sunk the poles in deeper as the whole structure seems a bit lop-sided!  Bricks and stones to the rescue!  I am telling myself it is good enough.  It doesn't look too bad from this angle, but here's another look from a different angle:

I have a feeling it is too big!  I can hear the little tomato plant saying, "Lady, just how big do you think I'll grow?!"  LOL!  Dream big, little tomato plant, and grow!  I've high expectations of you!

My gardener friend is taking the Memorial Day weekend off, but when he next visits, I might ask him to help dig deeper holes and set the structure in a little more.  If necessary, I can cut the strips of fabric and retie the whole thing.  Or, add additional cross pieces.

I have more poles and smaller branches, if I feel like making another trellis type thing.

But, for what it's worth, I have a tomato cage that didn't cost me a penny!  That is frugal, organic, environmentally friendly, reusing and recycling material I have, plus, it was a fun crafts project to do!  What more can one ask?

What do you think?  Have you made a tomato cage?  Did you use wire?  Would you make a twig cage using branches you've pruned off a tree in your garden?

Sleeping in on Saturday

Today, I slept in.  For the first time in weeks, I slept for almost eleven hours!  I kept waking up, but kept going back to sleep, each time, and finally woke up after noon!  I guess I must have been tired.

The down side of sleeping till so late is half the day is already gone by the time you wake up!  I texted my daughter and messaged a friend, made myself a cup of coffee, went on-line for a bit, boiled manioc (cassava/yuca) for breakfast, and did the dishes.

Later in the afternoon, I started working on a project; I had some help, as you can see:

Helpful Kitty
 He's always there to help me when I work on a project, especially if it involved fabric!

Dancer Keeping the Fabric Under Control

Always ready to lend a helping paw!

Mummy's Little Helper!
Later in the evening, I watered the front garden. 

The vegetable seedlings are coming along quite well:

Tomato Plant
The tomato plant has some flowers, already!

Zucchini Plant 1
The zucchini plants are alive and growing!

Zucchini Plant 2
 And the lone patty pan squash plant:

Patty Pan Squash Plant
It was the only one that survived being transplanted, but, if it grows and produces, then, I should have all the patty pan squash I'd want to eat, I'm sure!

One of my cousins phoned and I had a nice chat with her.  She keeps in touch with many others and always fills me in on what's happening with family and friends.  

Dinner was pasta, to which I added the last of the salmon, flaked.  The tomato and onions in the salmon dish made up a sort of sauce for the pasta.  Snacks were the last of the cherries and some crackers with peanut butter and a bit of my apple/pomegranate jam. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to sleep in and catch up on my sleep
- Vegetable plants are coming up nicely
- A nice chat with my cousin
- A helpful kitty!
- Water for my garden

Saturday's To Do List:
- Water the front garden - DONE
- Do dishes/run dishwasher - DONE
- Plant the uprooted succulents
- Weed
- Housework (dust/vacuum)
- Laundry

Guess who didn't do her housework, today!

Sunday's To Do List:
- Grocery shop for sale items
- Plant the uprooted succulents
- Weed
- Housework (dust/vacuum)
- Laundry

 How was your Saturday?  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Finally Friday

I am always happy when Friday arrives and the work week ends!  It doesn't matter that I had taken vacation time off from work on Monday and Tuesday of this week; it still felt like a long work week!  Probably because I've been busy with a project and there were one or two hiccups that had to be taken care of before I could say that the project was completed.

Today, I went to the office in the morning and had a very busy and productive day. As soon as I went in, one of the clerical staff informed me that there were strawberry doughnuts for breakfast - they are glazed doughnuts with a filling of fresh strawberries.  I took half of one, which was plenty for me.  I should have taken a picture, but I forgot! 

During my afternoon break, I walked to the nearby post office to buy a stamp and mail a payment.  They were just closing up when I went in, but the cashier sold me my stamp, anyway, which was very nice of her.  I used to carry a book of stamps tucked into the pocket of my checkbook cover, but I had taken it out and kept it on my desk at home during the time I was working from home.  I need to put it back in the checkbook so I have it handy every time I write a check to pay a bill.  Yes, I am one of the holdouts who pays bills by check and mails them; it's my way of supporting the postal service! 

Today, I asked my gardener friend to prune the bottle brush tree, especially the branches at the top which got singed from the neighbor's garage fire.  I asked him to set aside 3 or 4 of the branches for me as I have a project in mind.  He brought me two amaryllis bulbs from his garden to plant in mine!

I'm afraid I wasn't very productive once I got home in the evening.  One of my friends phoned and I spoke with her for a bit.  Another friend emailed and I replied to her email.  I put away the dried laundry from yesterday and I video chatted with my daughter.  

Today, I am grateful for:

- A sunny, warm day
- Strawberry filled doughnuts
- Getting my project completed at work
- Helpful co-workers
- The amaryllis bulbs my gardener friend gave me

Friday's To Do List:
- Leave a note for my gardener friend - DONE
- Go to the office - DONE
- Put away the dried laundry - DONE
- Do a load of dishes in the dishwasher
- Water the front garden
- Post office to mail payment - DONE

I didn't do the dishes, so that will be done tomorrow; watering the garden, too, is being postponed.

Saturday's To Do List:
- Water the front garden
- Do dishes/run dishwasher
- Plant the uprooted succulents
- Weed
- Housework (dust/vacuum)
- Laundry

How was your Friday?  What have you planned for the weekend?

Friday, May 19, 2017

Thursday's Activities

Today, I went to the office, in the morning.  During my lunch break, I went to the weekly farmers market and bought two crusty bread rolls.  I had taken butter and sandwich fillings with me, so I made myself a sandwich with half of one bread roll for lunch.  I ate the other half for my dinner.

In the afternoon, I had an appointment with the podiatrist.  He examined my feet, said they looked good and to come back for a follow-up visit in three months' time.

I had parked my car on the 3rd level of the parking structure, which is located across the street from the medical building where my podiatrist's office is located.  The elevators are not working, so I walked down the stairs, which was not a problem.  Going back, I was debating whether to walk up the parking ramp or take the stairs.  Just as I was getting ready to cross the street to the parking structure, one of those motorized carts (they look a bit like golf carts), driven by one of the parking lot attendants was starting to pull away from the curb, giving a ride to another patient to the parking lot.  The driver asked me if I was going to the parking lot and when I said yes, told me he could give me a ride too!  Since the other person was seated in the front, I sat in the rear-facing back seat.  It was a bit of a thrill-ride, as the seat was slippery plastic, I was wearing a skirt with a slippery nylon underskirt, and there was no railing in front of me!  I held on to the pole by my side and tried hard not to slide off the seat!  Especially when we were going up the parking ramp and over the speed bumps!  I told the driver it was like a ride at an amusement park!  LOL.

After I came home, I did a load of laundry and some office work I had brought home with me.  Then, I took a nap!

Later in the evening, I fertilized the vegetable seedlings and watered the back garden.  One of my aunts phoned and later, I video chatted with my daughter. 

I also called the oncology clinic, today, and made an appointment to see the nurse.  I felt a little something a couple of days ago, which is probably nothing to be concerned about, but it is in the same breast where I had the tumor and I thought it was best to have it checked.  Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I would have just shrugged and ignored it.  But now, I am afraid I am becoming a bit of a hypochondriac!  But peace of mind is important, at this stage, so, I called for an appointment and will go in on Monday to have it checked.  Hopefully, it is some scar tissue or a benign cyst and not the cancer returning.

Today was a fairly low-key day, but that feels just about right for now. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- A safe drive to the office, the doctor's office and home.
- Crusty bread rolls from my favorite bakery stall at the farmers market.
- Being greeted with hugs by one of my colleagues whom I saw for the first time since I returned to the office on a regular basis.
- A good visit with the podiatrist
- Keeping in touch with family and friends (Phone call from aunt, card from a friend, email from another friend, video chatting with daughter)

Friday's To Do List:
- Leave a note for my gardener friend
- Go to the office
- Put away the dried laundry
- Do a load of dishes in the dishwasher
- Water the front garden

How was your Thursday?  What are you planning for Friday? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Parkways in the Block

Today, on my evening walk around the block, I took some pictures of some of the parkways on my block.

Parkways are the strips of land in front of our residences, located between the curb and the sidewalk.  They maybe called by another name in other areas.  The City owns the land and plant street trees on them, but the homeowners are responsible for maintaining them.  The homeowners are also liable for any accidents or mishaps anyone might have while walking on the parkway to access their vehicles, etc., especially if non-permitted materials have been used!

Our city has a document called "Residential Parkway Landscaping Guidelines" and I downloaded a copy from the city's website, today.  According to the Guidelines, one is supposed to get a permit before doing any landscaping, unless one qualifies for an exemption as a homeowner planting  drought resistant turf or drought resistant turf substitutes (and there is a list of which plants qualify) or edible plants!  That last item was added after a law suit was filed and the city permitted the planting of edible landscaping in the parkway.  Landscaping with non-living material such as paving stones, pebbles, bark mulch, etc., require a permit.  Permit fees vary, starting at $450 for very basic landscaping and going up to $2,000 for more complicated work, depending on what is involved.

Traditionally, parkways are supposed to be planted with grass, with or without a city planted street tree.  On my block, only one neighbor has maintained the grass with regular watering:

Green, Grassy Parkway
Many others used to have grass, but have allowed the grass to die:

Parkway with Dead Grass
Some have paved over with bricks or paving stones:

Paved Parkway

Others have cemented over theirs:

Cemented Over Parkway

At least one has grown a hedge of succulents:

Succulents in Parkway
(According to the Parkway Landscaping Guidelines, plants can't be over a certain height (36") and there needs to be a minimum of 18" between the curb and the plants for ease of exiting and entering parked vehicles.)

At least one neighbor recently landscaped her parkway:

Landscaped Parkway
I meant to take a close up, but didn't, for some reason or another.  I love how it looks, though.  A lot of the parkways in the block look like the parkway in the foreground of this picture!

In the next block, there is one parkway that has artificial turf!  It did look nice and green, especially from a distance!  Another has cemented over the parkway with an inlaid design of a flower pot and three flowers set in bricks!  People are creative!

According to an article I read on-line, though, the City is bemoaning the resulting "patchwork" of parkways that have sprung up due to the drought and incentives to replace grass with drought tolerant landscaping.  The original idea was to provide long vistas of green belts along suburban streets, suggestive of parkland and country estates.

I also did an on-line search for pictures of parkway landscaping and found much which I liked.  I will spend a little more time contemplating what I want to do.  In the meantime, I'll find another spot in the garden for the uprooted succulents.

Do you have a parkway in front of your residence?  If so, what do you have growing there?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Seeking the Silver Lining on Tuesday

The Parkway Tuesday Morning

Someone, or something, has uprooted all the succulents I had planted in the parkway!

Uprooted Succulents

The plants were all in place on Saturday evening when I watered them.  They had been uprooted by Monday night, when I took the trash cans out.  Every single one of the newly planted succulents has been pulled up and left in place.  Who, or what, could have done it?

I am hoping that it was some raccoons, looking for some yummy yams or something.  But if they were dug up by an animal, would they have uprooted each plant?  And wouldn't there be some paw marks or signs of digging?  But there are no paw marks or signs of digging.

If someone pulled them up, then, obviously who ever it was wasn't trying to steal the plants, because all seem to have been left in place.

Sigh.  I am hoping it wasn't one of my neighbors, or, in particular, not the one who tossed a piece of trash (an empty plastic cup) from her car on to my parkway, last week.  These are some of the neighbors whose garage caught fire (there are several families living at the house, some related and some not),  who planted a tree in my parkway, who play very loud, amplified music well past midnight when they have parties, and who are known to throw trash all over the neighborhood.   I happened to be looking out my window when she tossed her cup on to my parkway and called out to say, "Excuse me, you dropped something".   Her husband (I presume) picked it up, and another piece of trashed paper, while she replied, "Yeah, I got it".  But, I didn't actually see who uprooted my succulents, so I can't say for sure who might have done it.

I picked up the plants, this morning, and put them aside to be replanted, elsewhere, later.  It leaves my parkway looking sad and neglected, once again.  At first, it made me feel very sad and the initial title for this post was "Sad on Tuesday".

But then, I thought, "Oh, well, nothing is permanent", as we are taught in my religion.  All things are transient and subject to change. That includes my landscaping efforts!  And I remembered what my mother used to say - that change was good!

So, I started to look for the blessings, the silver lining! 

There are blessings to be found.  For one thing, the plants were given freely to me by my supervisor.  It's not like I paid a lot of money to purchase them.  There is no monetary loss.  For another, they are hardy succulents and they will survive being uprooted and transplanted.  And, best of all, apparently, I've been given the opportunity to redo my parkway!  I will come up with a different treatment for the parkway.  My gardener friend had suggested paving stones, some time ago.  It'll have the advantage of being a water saving landscaping solution, as well. 

In other news, daughter worked remotely from home in the morning, while I relaxed (I had taken the day off from work).  In the afternoon, I drove daughter to her focus group workshop.  It took me one hour to drive her there and it took me one and a half hours to drive home, afterwards, due to traffic.  It reminded me of the days when I used to drive her to campus and back when she was going to UCLA!  After I came home, I had a cup of coffee and a snack, and then, it was time to go to pick her up, again!  I was home for just over one hour!  Traffic was lighter on my second trip there and back.

We had dinner after we got home: sauted salmon steaks with rice and sauted bok choy.    

Today, I was grateful for:
- Being able to seek and find a silver lining
- The opportunity to re-landscape the parkway
- Spending most of the day in daughter's company
- Safe drives to the focus group workshop and back
- Phone call from an aunt

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Bring trash cans in - DONE
- Drive daughter to her focus group/workshop (and come back) - DONE
- Pick up daughter from her focus group/workshop (and come back) - DONE
- Fertilize the vegetable seedlings and water them
- Do some weeding - DONE

Wednesday's To Do List:

- Take daughter to the airport
- Go to the office
- Fertilize and water the vegetable seedlings
- Do more weeding
- Look up parkway landscape ideas

How was your Tuesday?  Do you have a parkway?  How have you landscaped it?