* * * * *
Notice: To the cat people and other non-dog-fanatics, I apologize if this post is a little too dog-friendly. Her presence is a huge change to our life, so this is what I'm thinking most about these days. I'm sure future posts will be less canine-obsessive.
* * * * *
* I bought seedlings at a little road-side stand in the country while on a hiking trip. I paid $.50 each for really nice seedlings that have taken off. I got several types of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes and lots of peppers (lunchbox, California wonder, hungarian hot wax, cayenee, Ghost, Carolina reaper, jalapeno). I've only sparsely planted other things. There is way too much going on to have an intense garden, but I definitely wanted to grow something.
* The farm stand was giving away extra starts. I got 5 sunflowers, 3 cucumbers and about 15 Swiss chard plants.
* I started basil and kale from seed. I picked out some of the bigger basil plants from my microgreens to plant in the garden. I planted radishes and carrots in the garden.
* I harvest lots of green onions, thyme (perennial in the garden) and oregano (perennial) a few times a week. I need to get more herbs growing in the garden for future use. This is a game-changer.
* Trucker planted grass in several patchy areas of the yard and it grew in great.
* I have been living off of hummus sandwiches. I have a selection of various jarred veggies (pickled peppers, olives, pepper relish, sun dried tomatoes, chow chow, kraut, tipsy onions, etc) that I put on bread with hummus from the grocer (premade; $2/container on manager's special) and sometimes tzatziki ($1.50/container on manager's special). I do this because I have barely any free time these days. Between when I leave home and return, I am gone 12 hours most days. I don't feel like cooking very often. This is a healthy and affordable fast food.
* I bought a pre-cooked 10 lb turkey for $10 at Kroger on manager's special. We used this for many, many meals, froze some for the future and are set to make stock from the carcass.
* We enjoyed baked potatoes with all the fixins frequently. Super easy and cheap.
* We are still occasionally cooking up a big batch of meat (ground beef, chicken, pork shoulder/butt) and freezing everything we don't use for that night's dinner in meal-sized portions for quick heat-and-eat meals. Convenience food doesn't have to be unhealthy or expensive.
* Every second with the dog is fun.
* We hit a couple community yard sales. We were very picky about anything we bought.
* We went to a festival near my hometown. There were 1800s camps set up with the "Mountain Men" showing period-authentic skills. We didn't spend a penny but enjoyed a couple hours walking around.
* We went to my parents house for dinner one day. They bought pizza and we brought everything for salad as well a decadent peanut butter pie that we got on manager's special the night before ($10, marked down to $4). Afterwards, I went for a walk with my sister and bro-in-law while everyone else played Frisbee golf.
* We used the library for movies, books, music and audiobooks.
* We went to a couple gallery hop events, including one that we've never been to before.
* We took a free art class at the Urban Arts League. We made 3D knitted pieces. I made a pair of giant sunglasses.
* Trucker went fishing with my dad, bro-in-law and future bro-in-law while the rest of us went to my sister's bridal shower. Clarisse loved hanging out and exploring the area.
* Clarisse and I went out for a 9-mile hike in the Appalachian foothills. Trucker had to work that day but I had the day off. We enjoyed all of it: the smells, the sounds of the waterfalls and birds and the feel of the earth beneath our feet. Despite the fact that she couldn't see the views, we were both mesmerized by the beauty around us.
* Clarisse has helped me grow to appreciate taking time to enjoy nature. Now that the weather is nice, potty breaks involve less potty and more enjoying being outside. Rather than get frustrated about this, I use this as a reminder to pull up a chair and enjoy the yard. We have so many birds in the area, so there is constant music. Clarisse loves to just lay around and contentedly sniff the air.
* I bought my first brand-new car. I never thought I would, but we had an interesting string of events. My car broke down on the way to work (making me burn vacation time that I had to borrow from next year). I was in the left lane of the interstate during rush hour. My insurance labelled me as low-priority, so I was left sitting there for an hour and a half. My cousin has stopped working on cars, so I no longer have an affordable option for excessive maintenance and repair needs that accompany commuting 500 miles a week. My employer has a program that gets us insane discounts on certain new cars. I got a brand new, fuel-efficient car with 3-year/36k mile warranty and roadside assistance (saving money on my car insurance). I was able to roll in the tiny amount I still owed on my other car for $10/month, and was then able to save the $120/month on that payment and drop full-coverage insurance. Including insurance, the extra vehicle costs me an extra $200/month, but saves me, at current gas prices, over $100/month. I can get oil changes half as often with this vehicle and won't have to have the repairs that were becoming common on the older car. New car purchases can be foolish or prudent. The main thing is to know your financial situation and run the math. In this case, I will likely have this awful commute for another 3 years or so, regardless of the vehicle purchase. This car will be running great as long as we are here and by the time it starts to run into repairs, we will be moved closer, thus slowing the rate, and I will be making much more money (my raise schedule speeds up the longer I go to hit max-out pay in 7 years) making the repairs less of an issue.
* I made changes to our car insurance, dropping coverage that was no longer necessary. For example, we had a high medical coverage before we had health insurance. We have a very low out-of-pocket maximum on our medical insurance through work, so this insurance no longer made sense and hadn't really helped any when Trucker had his accident awhile back. We also didn't need uninsured motorist coverage on the van which is worth $500. Our insurance went up considerably when we added the brand new car, but once I made these changes, it is $5/month more than it was previously. Total savings from these reductions is $800/year. We are actively building savings, so there will be money there in case of emergencies. We have only once used uninsured motorist coverage and it was an odd situation where it would only have been a couple hundred out of pocket to do the repairs ourselves. So for the small chance of benefit, it would cost us a certain large amount each year. Better to save $8k in a decade to have on hand for car as well as other emergencies.
* We cancelled Netflix since Trucker finished the show he got it for and we use the library excessively.
* I donated a box of clothing I no longer use.
House and Home:
* We are working together on decluttering and organizing.
* Trucker has been doing little jobs around the house.
* I love my vet. They are affordable and our babies both respond well to them (they don't love going to the vet, but they are fine while there and have no effects afterwards, which is especially impressive for our anxious, loner cat). I call them constantly to ask about health issues and they are quick to give advice and information. They have only once suggested I bring her in (she had a cough and was sneezing so we got her some antibiotics, but they said to watch her for other signs to decide if we should get additional medication. They made a note in our file that if we needed additional meds, they would sell them to us without a second visit). As far as I can tell, a good vet is never going to be annoyed with you for asking too many questions rather than delaying treatment until it is too late. We are so thankful for them.
* We got the cat all up-to-date on shots. She is in great health.
* I bought a grooming set for our poodle. So far I have only used the scissors to trim in between her toes and to clean up her face (the hair in her eye socket grows in funny). Those two areas were the reason that I needed to get her groomed at 5 weeks instead of at 8 weeks. Being able to trim them, reduces my cost by well over $200/year. I do hope that I can learn to groom her entirely myself eventually. Fingers crossed. Fortunately she is blind so she can't be horrified by looking into the mirror if I mess up.
* We got Clarisse some toys at yard sales ($.10/cat toy and a free baby toy). These rattle instead of squeaking as she is terrified of squeak-toys. She seemed pretty interested in the cat toy. We will get her out playing with it more.
* We take Clarisse most places with us. She loves to go on walks and hikes. We took her to a community yard sale day. My friend let me borrow her pet carrier, but Clarisse is too big for it. Instead, I got my shopping cart and put the clothes hamper in it. It fit perfectly and with a blanket in the bottom, she was happy as could be. She ran sometimes and rode other times. Towards the end she wanted me to carry her some. She did great. I look forward to taking her out for more adventures.
* I give Clarisse some homemade chicken stock several times a week. Most store-bought stuff is high in sodium and has onions and garlic in it, neither of which is safe for dogs. By making my own, I control what goes into it (a lovely thing when pet food recalls are the norm), it is made from all human-grade ingredients and it is practically free since I use bones leftover from cooking. She loves it and starts pacing when it is in the microwave. When I make a batch, I save what we will use for our consumption. The rest is ladled into ice cube trays and frozen. 4 cubes is about the perfect dosage for our little one. For bigger dogs, you can always save yogurt tubs or sour cream containers.
* I am about to get another raise at work.
* Trucker got a big role in a TV show. It hasn't been picked up yet, but he is doing well and enjoying it. The director left him a voicemail thanking him for the great job he is doing. I am so proud of him.
* I have had the option to take some days out without pay or penalty. I have enjoyed doing so. The 12 hour days (commute included) are getting old, so I needed the break. Now we are facing some overtime in the coming months, so I'll make up the money eventually.
* I put wet wipes, a blanket and water in each vehicle.
* We are starting another business now that the antiques thing has gotten old. We set up our online shop and listed a few products. We are having fun with this one. Starting your own business can be scary and frustrating, especially when something doesn't go perfectly. However, we keep trying and know that eventually something will be a good fit: it will be something the market wants and something that we enjoy doing.
* We are both fairly active. The dog helps with daily walks and Trucker continues to play in a softball league.
* We gave my sister and future bro-in-law the rest of their Brown Drip dish set. We put together a complete set of dishes, bread plates, bowls, saucers and tea cups, coffee mugs, creamer and sugar set, storage vessels and serving dishes for around $50. It was a great gift (they loved it) that took time and a moderate cost. When I found the first part of the set, I texted a pic to my sister to find out if she liked it (I knew that they didn't have a dish set yet) and got approval before I started shopping. I think that pre-approval is the key to getting an enthusiastic response to a used gift.
* I gave them a couple of books I thought they would love: The New Square Foot Gardener-Mel Bartholomew and The Complete Tightwad Gazette - Amy Dacyzyn. They are both just starting out on their own, and gardening and frugality are two areas that they are excited to learn thoroughly. I got these books at a library book sale for $.50 each.
* Our dear friend got married. It was a magical evening. It was so beautiful to see two such wonderful people find so much happiness together.We lucked out and got sat with Daisy and hubs as well as a few of our other friends, so we had fun laughing and talking. The food was amazing; they even had a mashed potato bar! We enjoyed a dance and got our caricature done. It didn't look like us, but it was still fun!
* I went to my other sister's baby shower. It was a fun day and nice to see the outpouring of her coworkers and community in getting her all set up.