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Archive for November, 2013

$10 Credit When U Use Your AmEx

November 25th, 2013 at 08:20 pm

Small Business Saturday.
Shop a participating small business with your registered American Express card this Saturday (11/30) and get a $10 account credit.

Details here:

Text is https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/ and Link is

Cost of the Plumber. Dry Fall Weather.

November 24th, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I realized I never finished recounting our plumbing tale.

The plumber came on Tuesday evening. (During our only rainstorm we've had in two months.)
He had to get on the roof to rotor through the vent. He didn't find any major clogs - guess the Drano had done all the work by that point. He did clear out a few small roots and discussed with DH some sort of relief pipe that would prevent backups into the house. We paid $150.

So, yes, we ended up getting a bit of rain last week. It was very nice. We really need more - so dry here!

The majority of days in the past 6-9 weeks have been sunny and mild.
It is hard to think of December when it feels like spring.
Cold overnight and in the mornings so the furnace has been running.

We've had a few nights with a fire in the fireplace. Burning chunks of the old shed from the backyard makes the house cozy with free heat. Big Grin

I took this picture two weeks ago of the trees by my parking lot at work. Gorgeous fall colors.
However, after the rain we had big wind for two days. These trees are totally naked now.

Vacation Planning

November 23rd, 2013 at 01:30 pm

Next month we will be taking a road trip. We are all looking forward to our trip; me and DH especially!

After discussing where and what we wanted for our trip we settled on a few days at Disneyland and a few days in Las Vegas.

DL is seven hours of easy freeway travel for us. The park admission is the most expensive aspect of the trip, but this was what we all really wanted. This is our Christmas gifts for eachother and all comes from the Christmas budget. I can't be frugal with the tickets, but I can with everything else. Smile

I booked a package with Costco after doing a lot of price shopping. With their package we get character dining as a perk. The dining vouchers add $145 of value for no added cost and can be used at face value anywhere in the parks. Also a Cars collector pin for each of us (DD trades pins), a free ride photo and a $20 gift card for use in the shops.

With much searching different dates and websites I didn't find a lower price than the package I booked.
(I found booking the same hotel room and purchasing tickets separately cost almost $200 more!)
Naturally I'm going to go with the option that gives me far more goodies for less dough. Smile

The strip hotel in Vegas is $35/night! Love that!
We are looking forward to showing DS the NASCAR car at the M&M store and DD the Bellagio indoor garden and fountains.

I booked directly with the hotel and got a $20 food & beverage credit. Not much, but we can make that cover most of a meal for us.

Speaking of food, our spending will be low. In addition to the high value vouchers for DL and $20 credit in LV, I am very pleased to say I have cc reward points I am redeeming for restaurant gift cards.

The one I am most excited about is for the Rainforest Cafe - one of their locations is in Downtown Disney - SCORE!

I also have a Cheesecake Factory card to use at Caesar's Palace in Vegas.
And California Pizza Kitchen gift card with locations near both hotels we'll be using.

We will take other food items with us. Snacks, soup (easy to heat in a hotel microwave), sandwich stuff, etc..

DH and I have discussed how blessed we are to be able to enjoy time like this without creating debt.

Getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred

November 21st, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Last night MonkeyMama posted a link to a link for 50,000 points on a Chase Sapphire Preferred once you reach $3k spending in three months.

I went right ahead and applied and was approved last night.

Some thoughts on how to meet the spending requirement:
Our car insurance is due next month. I have been paying it once yearly and have the cash in savings, so that will go on the card.
Utilities like cable, water, garbage.
Vacation spending.
Motorcycle registration renewal w/DMV.
AAA membership in January.
If need be, DS's monthly preschool tuition (2% fee).

All spending was/is planned spending. Nothing is being charged that can't be paid in full.
(I need to copy & paste CCFree's wonderful "disclaimer" outlining CC rewards here Big Grin)

Christmas Cards Look Cute

November 20th, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Okay, first I got to look through our pictures again when I picked them up yesterday afternoon. And, actually, I didn't look *that* bad in the family shots. Embarrassment (Thank you for the supportive comments there.)
I feel better about them. Not so good that I will be getting a print for the wall, but I do have a small print and did use one of them on our card.

I whipped our cards up online using Costco again this year. The hardest part is choosing which template I like best. I end up making two or three cards and then choose between them.
I think this is the sixth year I have made the cards there.

Made them early this year so that I could take advantage of their $5 off coupon that ended today. This really works well - I can address them next Sunday while I watch football and mail them out Monday 12/2.

$9.99 for 50 cards and envelopes.

Never a Dull Moment - Plumbing Issues

November 18th, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Picture a cozy Sunday evening at Looking Forward's house. Dinner all done. Fire blazing in the fireplace. Dishwasher washing. Load of clothes in the washer. DS in the bathtub. Shower running.
And then... the shower isn't draining. Neither is the bathtub. The kitchen sink is filling up...


Thankfully DH is handy. He opened the "cleanout" and flushed it with the garden hose with some success.

I ran to Target in my PJs and picked up two big jugs of Drano. Laughing a bit to myself that I might look like someone trying to cover up a crime.
(Maybe I watch too much violent TV??)

After DH's flushing and the Drano treatment things are better - functional. Smile

Since DH is in the trades he is having a plumber he is familiar with come tomorrow afternoon to do a more through cleanout. Like a rooter service. I think we might have an issue with tree roots, but we'll see what the plumber says.

It is very likely he will give us a discount, but it still could be $100 to $200.

Thankful for an EF at times like this.

Family Photo Flop

November 17th, 2013 at 02:23 pm

Yesterday morning we went to JCPenny photo to redeem the Groupon I purchased weeks back.

My plan was a nice family shot to use on our Christmas cards and to frame for our home.
Maybe even as gifts for MIL and my mom.

Unfortunately, I looked *scary* in every group shot.
Like scary, grinning-too-wide, deer-in-the-headlights type look. Ugh!

I can kinda laugh it off now, but yesterday I was in a disappointed funk the whole day. Frown

The downside is:
1. I will have to herd my less than willing family back in for another try in a few months.
(Not even going to go through the hassle of it again so soon!)
2. No family pic for Christmas cards.

Silver lining is:
1. SUPER cute pictures of DD and DS together. Also really nice individual ones.
That made the money spent on the deal more than worth it. Smile
2. The only money spent was $25 for the Groupon.

I know people who spend a small fortune on having professional portraits done.
A girlfriend and her family recently had photos done. It was a 2.5 hour sitting with like 600 pictures. They got some really nice shots, but I didn't even ask how much it was. I'd guess $200 - $400?? Maybe more??

I am sure we (me) would get better results by going to a private photographer who would devote that much personalized time, but at what cost? In theory we could get photos done *all the time* if I only pay $25 each visit.

Just still a little down that the picture didn't turn out like I hoped.
Oh well, it'll just be the kids on the card AGAIN this year.

Time Change. Clothes Shopping.

November 14th, 2013 at 07:20 am

Still not adjusted to the time change. It is actually a good thing for me because I am awake and out of bed early these days.
It is very relaxing to have the house to yourself in the morning. Smile

On the flip side, I am frequently falling asleep on the couch at 9pm. We call our couch "The Life Sucking Couch". Even without the time change if you lay down on it you fall asleep. It literally happens to everyone.

Stopped into Old Navy to see if I could find anything good on clearance. Also wanted a pair of jeans and thought I'd see what they had there. Last time I bought any jeans was about four years ago - maternity jeans. And before that? I can't recall. Six years maybe?

I ended up with five tops and a pair of jeans for $46.
The checkout gal was very nice and she helped me decide between two different tank tops to wear under a blouse. When I left and looked more closely at my receipt and saw she entered a code that gave me 10% off everything. That was a very nice surprise.
That made the tank top less than $3 and these two clearance shirts $4/each.

OMG! $1,000 Tip!

November 12th, 2013 at 06:12 pm

DH came home from work with a thousand dollar tip from a client! She gave him and his boss each $1k when they completed their job.

DH works in heating and air contracting. Sometimes he gets tips. Usually $20 or so for "lunch" or "beers after work". He has gotten as much as $100 a few times. But this tops them all! Wow!

It is his *extra* money so he chooses how it gets spent. He is spending some on a project he is working on, a little for vacation spending and the rest to remove a tree in the backyard (or something else the family/house needs).

I am still shocked by the amount... Amazingly Cool!

Financial This 'n That

November 9th, 2013 at 07:51 am

Called our cable provider for a lower rate. We have TV, internet and home phone bundled with Comcast.
I was all set for a tough negotiation and threats of leaving. Didn't need that at all! The CSR was super nice and I was all set less than 15 minutes later. Smile
Kept our same package and services for $120/month for two years.
A savings of $55/month compared to their *regular* rate! ($16/month less than the *low* rate we had been paying.)

DD lost/forgot her debit card. (While walking home with a friend she stopped for a fast food snack.)
An hour later our bank called - her card had been brought in by a good citizen. Big Grin
A good lesson learned.

Our gas and electric bill last month was the lowest it has been all year (I think?) $80. Such mild days and nights in September/October we didn't need the heat or the AC.

Had to reorder checks. Totally ran out right before the first of the month. Rolleyes
Last time I bought them was March 2012.

It has been slow at work, so this past Tuesday my boss reduced my schedule back to a half day on Tuesdays again. (He is a total dork, but that's a different post.)
Darn it - I was liking that bit of extra income.
The silver lining is that I work in the morning, pick up DS from preschool in the afternoon and get home well before dark.
My work schd is pretty sweet: full day, half day, full day, half day, full day, weekend.

Might be able to switch DH's iPhone to Ting at the end of this month.
(Shhh..I got an email about beta testing..)
That could save us an easy $40 to $60 each month! Very excited!

Had a 0% balance transfer offer come up. A bit of quick math and I figured the upfront transfer fee would "pay for itself" after 3.5 months. We would not have the balance paid off by then. Prepaying a bit of interest now to reap long term 0% benefit will pay off in the long run.

I am continuing to earn $80/week with my quick, 30 minute, twice weekly trip to give an old cat fluids.
I also earned $140 by pet sitting some other cats five days last week.
This extra cash has been so awesome! Big Grin

Easy Cheese Stuffed Meatball Recipe

November 3rd, 2013 at 12:36 pm

My DD learned this recipe in her 4H cooking group last year. We have made them several times since and I have been meaning to share. They are easy and yummy! It is a very versatile recipe. You could add ground up mushrooms, spinach, carrots, squash etc. to increase the veggies in your diet.

Made them last night.
Dinner on the table in 30 minutes.

I like to make them a little larger and make a dozen.
I have only used turkey so far because I really like the fine texture and less fat; they don't shrink much while baking.



Cheese Stuffed Meatballs
1.5 pounds ground turkey (or pork, beef, etc.)
2 eggs
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs (maybe a little more)
String cheese or Mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4" chunks
Spices of choice can be added - such as salt and pepper to taste, garlic salt, paprika, parsley, curry, Tabasco, Italian seasoning, Seasoning salt, etc. (Whatever your family likes)

In a large bowl, mix together uncooked turkey, eggs, bread crumbs and seasonings.
Mix together until uniform (hands work great).
Take a small handful of meat and roll into a ball. Make a dent in the meatball and put the chunk of cheese in the center. Wrap the meat around the cheese.
Place meatballs on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray or use foil.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes (22 min for the larger meatballs I make).
Serve immediately.

Great recipe to make ahead for a busy week.
Leftovers can be used to top a pizza, or wrap in a crescent roll with some marinara sauce and more cheese or meatball sandwiches.

October Spending

November 2nd, 2013 at 11:04 am

One of the reasons I love my Quicken is the pretty colored pie charts. Smile

Home: Mortgage interest, taxes, insurance.
Kids: Childcare.
Food: Groceries, eating out, lunches, etc..
Utilities: Gas, electric, cell phones, water, sewer, garbage, cable, internet, home phone.
Interest Expenses: Higher than usual - did a balance transfer to get 0%.
Health: Dentist bill, Health insurance.
Home Loan: Mortgage principle.
Auto: Gas, new headlight bulbs, oil change.
Travel: Deposits on upcoming vacation.
Shopping: Household supplies, costumes, hobbies, DH's nicotine (Copenhagen) habit.
Retirement: ROTH IRAs
Pets: Horse board.