Saturday, May 18, 2019

Downtown House - Remodel Post 2

Our front door is a mess.  The only logical solution would be to replace the door and framework to match the rest of the house, but we've already used up our house improvement budget for this month, and the backyard fence is more urgent due to holes and that it's a big summer job, so I decided to patch and paint.  Some holes can be filled with wood putty, small nail holes with spackle - I'm so confused at the number of nail holes in this door.  There have been several different locks installed over the years, each with a different hole made.  There is some serious wood damage in some areas but the overall door is solid and secure, so here goes my attempt to make it better for the interim.  

This small wedge was placed here when the wall next to it was fixed.  I used putty to smooth the two pieces of wood together.

For this hole, I couldn't think of a way to fit putty into it as there was no base, so I elected to just paint over it.

The large hole at the top of this photo was filled with putty, each nail hole filled with spackle and additional hardware removed.

Extra nail removed, nail holes filled and extra hardware removed.

This is where you can see prior lock systems and severely damaged wood, I can't fill all of this in, but I'll do my best to make it look better.

Extra hardware.


This is the entire door which taken in normal lighting doesn't show all the damage seen in close up photos.

Here is the door after I've painted the trim with three coats of white and filled the hole at the top window, painted the door one coat and added a curtain.  

There is a 1" hole where I removed some old hardware, we plan to fill it with a cut dial rod.  The hole below the handle is filled with putty and will take a week to dry then I can paint it.  The door needs about 2 more coats of paint and I plan to remove it from the hinges and paint it really well.  I hope when I'm done it looks nice enough to not see the damaged parts easily.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

What will my final words be?

Recent deaths in my orbit have shocked me.

A blogger who I've followed since 2008 lost her husband to cancer, he was a dad to three teenage daughters.  Having lost my dad at 32, I feel even more sad and devastated for this family because at least I had mine until my early 30's.  I can't stop thinking about them. 

A co-worker lost her dad to a fast moving cancer recently.  They had only 2 or 3 weeks with him before he passed away suddenly.  I was able to use my personal experience from losing my dad 15 years ago to help my co-worker by encouraging her when he was alive and then suggesting she stay an extra week after he passed away.  She was set to come back to work right after the funeral, I know people don't think clearly when they are grieving, so I gently suggested it would be perfectly fine if she stayed an extra week, I'm glad I could be helpful in her time of need. 

Our neighbor passed away last Friday.  A few days before dying, she was screaming profane language at her grand kids.  Her voice carried across the street and into my yard when I was hard at work in the garden, making it hard to enjoy the spring weather.  Usually I would head back into the house when she'd start screaming as it had become a regular occurrence.  Then suddenly on Friday the street was filled with ambulances and fire trucks as her son and family sat outside crying.  All the little kids she had screamed at were outside playing, all under 5 and oblivious to what was going on.  I should also say at this point she was wheel chair bound, and being home alone with that many little kids who don't listen well would be incredibly stressful.  I deeply regret not going over and offering to help.  I didn't expect her to die suddenly.  It is shockingly sad.

The next day Rachel Held Evans died.  I have no connection to her other than we shared the same first name.  When she first came on the Christian scene I took interest in her writing until she pivoted so far left that I had difficulty relating but I always admired her ability to ask tough questions even when I didn't agree with her theology.  I'm completely devastated that she left this world at 37 with two small children left behind. 

Tomorrow will be 15 years since my dad took his last breath.  Being surrounded by death and coming up on this anniversary has not made me melancholy, I've just been feeling a more urgent need to do more for people. 

I don't know how much time I have left, but I'd like to use it for good.  I'm trying to send out encouraging messages to those in my orbit and I hope to be remembered as someone who reached out when people needed encouragement. 

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Downtown House - Remodel Post 1

After writing my very grumpy post about our downtown house in spring, I felt galvanized to do something about it.  First we dug up the back yard weeds, then reorganized the stone pathway on a 50 degree day, which was fortunate timing because it was hard work resetting the pathway.  Next we planted grass seed; directions suggest 45-60 degree weather is best so I guess our timing is spot on.

Indoors, I began repainting the banisters and entry to front room.  Our predecessors had left the house I would say 90% re-modeled but there are many small tasks that need done.  The sell price was adjusted accordingly so it's fine.  I just needed to get myself from winter hibernation to spring over-achiever mode. 

I started by painting the banisters at the bottom of the stairs - one area that's hard to pick up from is another persons vision for the house.  So we have conversations like - what do you think he had in mind for this area with a bunch of over spray on old wood?  Our conclusion - he had planned to paint over everything.  So I began the thriftiest way possible - using up paint left in the basement.  First baseboards around the entrance, that was an easy choice.  Next banisters in Cyberpunk to match other parts of the house.  I like it, but the kids hate it.  Who knew kids could be so opinionated.

I moved onto the wooden entrance to the front room that had a hurried white coat of paint applied.  Husband suggested gray for the center and white on top and bottom.  I'm still not sure I like the white on top but I'll leave it for a few weeks to see if it still bothers me later. 

I forgot to take before photos so here's the after:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Frugal Living ~ Earth Day 2019

Isn't it wonderful how living a frugal life often goes hand in hand with environmental goals?  By making many foods from scratch, you save money and buy less metal and plastic containers!

Here are some of our frugal/environmental habits:

  • Make homemade yogurt 
  • Make homemade iced coffee
  • Use dried beans to make multiple meals, I've written about black beans and pinto's
  • Plant a garden from seeds, not starter plants that come with plastic pots but if you really must buy a starter tomato plant, then at least keep the plastic pot and reuse it for as long as possible
  • Wash and reuse zip lock bags, I can't bring myself to stop buying them completely but I can and will make myself wash and reuse them.
  • Cut out paper plates - sure they are convenient but wouldn't you rather have that money in the stock market gaining compound interest until retirement?  Oh yeah, I've been reading Millennial Money's Financial Freedom book.  Side note - I've even tried buying what are called compostable paper plates but we know from personal experience they take forever to break down and we end up throwing them in the trash which is just very sad.  It's a completely unnecessary cost so we've banned buying paper plates this year.
  • Compost all degradable food wastes, we live in the city with a very small backyard and we are still committed to this habit.  How does this save money?  We don't have to buy dirt for our garden!  My butternut squash are a testament to how big and happy food can be when it's given composted dirt.
  • Shop at Aldi - it will force you to bring your own bags and not use plastic shopping bags just because they are there and convenient.  Aldi is cheaper than Walmart so it's kinda a no brainer in the frugal world.  
I'm not a hard core "no plastic" kind-of-girl, but I do want to do my part in cutting back on our trash contribution to the planet.  I love that it goes hand in hand with our frugal goals.  

Other areas we are looking for savings in both cost and environmental:

I'm psyching myself up for canceling our Prime membership to Amazon $119.  It's set to renew in June or July.  I keep thinking about the cost to the environment to ship often times one item I have to wonder if it's worth it to me to continue.  I also am not sure it's really saving us that much money and we never watch anything on Prime streaming or use the Prime reading options.

We are also considering consolidating our Costco runs to every two months.  We love Costco, but it's a 30 minute trip and we currently go once a month.  Next month we are going to see how it goes to buy for two months.  

In summary, we would like to wish all a Happy Earth Day and Happy Savings Day!  :)

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Homemade ~ Vanilla Chia Avocado Smoothie

Husband and I used to work for Smoothie King in Florida, and a short stint with our friend in Pittsburgh when she owned "The Juice Shop" so we've got some mad smoothie making skills, lol.

This is a green smoothie, without the horror of spirulina - if you like it then just disregard this entire recipe because this is for those who want a green smoothie without puke inducing spirulina.


  • 5 cubes of ice
  • 1/4 avocado ripe enough that you can press a finger gently into it and cut easily with a knife, if it's too hard then wait a few days, hard avocado is never a good thing
  • 1/2 banana - fresh or frozen (although frozen will help make your smoothie colder)
  • 1 Tablespoon Nesquik Vanilla powder - I only specify this brand because other vanilla powders are very expensive, this can be found at CVS (oddly enough not found on Amazon).
  • 1/3 cup Oregon Chai Tea sugar free, I've found this at my local Walmart or homemade Chai
  • 2/3 cup Milk (I use 2% but use whatever milk you prefer)
  • 1 handful of spinach 
Blend until smooth.

I don't taste the spinach and since I'm not big on salads, it gives me a dose of greens.  I have a cheap blender and it manages to blend the spinach so well there are no chunks.  This is a 16oz smoothie.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Downtown House - 1st Spring

We're getting comfortable here, having survived one winter - that makes it sound so dreary doesn't it?  Like as if we had to work hard to survive.  It's not Laura Ingalls Wilder's world, sorry to be so dramatic.  It's just that a new house brings surprises that are not always easy to work through - there were the surprise mice that moved in late fall, the vast number of windows in our bedroom that should have gotten some sort of plastic film to keep the winter at bay, the shockingly high electric bill for lack of any other heat source, and the stupid bugs who just won't take a hint and stop inhabiting our dishwasher (I swear they scoff at our attempts to poison them).  Oh, and the unfinished stairs that continually caused kids to get splinters until we finally finished covering them in carpet.  And the cat, who is 19 years old and no longer wants to use her litter box.

New homes, they bring so many surprises and make old pets a little loopy.  Is it any wonder that it's spring and I already feel like house hunting again - that and the shockingly horrific increase in Maryland taxes.  I know I just need to work harder at making this home more comfortable.  Right now there are no spring flowers in the yard, I guess we didn't get to them in the fall.  We were so caught up with mom's move right after ours, then a trip to Asia that was 17 days long that nothing got done around here for several months.  I complained about lack of curtains for so long that a friend just recently asked if I'd finally managed to cover all seven windows in our master bedroom and closet area.  We did, I had to go to 3 Walmarts and shop online to find enough.  I guess they consistently didn't stock more than 1 or 2 of the same curtain at each store.  So weird.

On a positive note, my amaryllises are blooming and gorgeous as always.  So here are my lovely indoor spring flowers:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Frugal Living - Taxes (Rewrite - after initial freak out)

As a work-from-home consultant, I try to be very conscience of all the factors affecting our tax bill.  I pay quarterly and base those payments on prior years.  I'm careful and meticulous about receipt documentation, charity records, travel mileage, home office costs, etc.  For five years this has worked well for me, some years I owe, then I adjust my quarterly filings to compensate, occasionally I'll get a minor refund and that is the goal - to pay enough into the system that I don't owe anything.

This new tax code worked out okay on the federal side, I got a very minor return, but something happened with Maryland.  They saw the federal government was making big changes so they made their own changes that caused a $1200 increase!  I made a mistake last year and didn't carry over one 1K in tax so we ended up with a bill for 2,227.

I must have missed a memo, news article, something - where was the notification to pay 25% more for the same salary?!?

Thankfully I believe in hyper savings so we are able to pay this bill, but it doesn't help that I left taxes to the last minute, filed on the deadline and had to frantically move money around hoping it would enter my account and leave it without causing further mayhem.

I'm thankful tax season is over but I plan to spend more time each quarter updating my chart of deductibles so that I have less work to do next year when tax season rolls around.

Here is a breakdown of the new tax form as I understand it:

We qualified for the standard 24K deduction, this means we can no longer claim mortgage interest and charitable donations.  Bummer, I liked writing off tithe, Compassion and other miscellaneous charities but I used to spend a lot of time analyzing the donation value of household items and clothing that we donate to the Hope Center and I'm kinda happy I can just drop off and skip the paper work now.

I can still write off office supplies, 50% business meals, vehicle miles, mobile phone, internet, and business travel expenses.  Our IRA's are an adjustment to income and we could start a 401K to drop our tax level further.

I think by next year I might like the new tax code for federal as they did make it simpler and easier to fill out.  The 24K deductible covers our charity and mortgage interest so those are just two less things to deal with, although I wonder how many people will cut back on charitable donations now that it's no longer an easy deductible.

I'm still peeved with Maryland for increasing our taxes 25% but I'll get over it.  Taxes are inevitable - right?