Saturday, September 19, 2020

Fall Is Too Early!!!

 I love the change of the seasons.  Don't get me wrong - Fall is probably one of my favorite seasons.  But where I live we don't usually experience Fall weather until around mid-late October.  As soon as September hit we've had most days in the mid-70s and today its only 62 degrees.  I'm not ready for this.  My garden isn't either.  This is prime pepper time here and if it gets too cold I won't get near the bounty.

Also, we live in a city that provides leaf pick up.  But it doesn't start until Mid-October.  There are very strict laws here that don't allow leaf burning or putting them in the garbage.  They get picked up and brought to a communal mulch pile.   Leaves are falling already and we can't do anything with them.

On the plus side I was able to harvest 3 pumpkins from my garden this year.  I hope they don't rot before Halloween!! 

The LoML has been traveling a lot for work so I've been doing some cooking.  Earlier this week I saw a Jamie Oliver show about eating more veggies and he made a Cauliflower Cheese Pizza.  I had half a giant cauliflower in the fridge so decided to give it a try.  So yummy!

Last week LoML hit the farm stand for some veggies and he picked up a yellow watermelon, a bunch of bananas and a huge bag of gorgeous blueberries.  The LoML is not a big fruit eater so I'm not sure what he was thinking.  No way I could eat all of that before it went bad. So I cut up half of the watermelon and gave the other half to my kids to take home.  Then today I made a blueberry banana bread.  

It smells fantastic.  That will be our treat for the week.

In financial news, I am really trying to figure out how to get this house paid off as fast as possible so I can retire.  This job is killing me and I really don't want to do it for another 3 years.  So today I bit the bullet and we applied to refinance.  My interest rate will drop more that 1%, though I will have to pay around $3,500 in fees.  My monthly payment will drop by around $240 which I will add right back to the the extra principle I'm already paying to get this sucker gone.

Well that is all I have for today.  I hope your September is going well!!

Monday, September 7, 2020

August Month-End Financials and Life Planning

Happy September everyone!!  Its been a busy last couple of weeks and I am late getting my financials updated.  Last week we celebrated the LoML's birthday and this weekend we celebrated D#1's birthday as well as Labor Day.  In between it was work and yard work/gardening.

Retirement Savings Update:
I don't have updates for our outside retirement accounts or LoML's 401(k) yet so the new number only reflects an increase in my 401(k).  The new current total, not including my pension is about $925,000, an increase of about $19,300 from what I reported last month.   I continue to contribute a little more then the max plus max catch-up per month which means I'll hit my maximum annual contribution limits before the end of the year.  When that occurs I'll dump that extra take home pay into my extra mortgage payment.

Mortgage Pay-Down Update:
With my September mortgage payment I again paid an extra 3 principal payments:

January Balance:        $96,555.69 - 3.5 principal payments
February Balance:      $94,242.49 - 4.75 principal payments
March Balance:          $92,429.89 - 3.6 principal payments
April Balance:            $90,429.93 - 4 principal payments
May Balance:             $88,397.84 - 4 principal payments
June Balance:            $86,326.50 - 4 principal payments
July Balance:             $84,215.12 - 4 principal payments
August Balance:        $82,068.40 - 4 principal payments
September Balance:   $79,887.34 - 4 principal payments

So far this year we've paid $18,334 in principal - we are almost meeting our 2020 goal of paying off $20,000 by year-end.  We've knocked off almost 3 years from the mortgage in just 8 months.

Regular Savings:
I continue to sock away about $2,700 a month into our savings account.  This past month had a lot of outgoing due to vacation, my D#1 buying her first house, 4 cars needing inspections, 2 birthdays and LoML's annual life insurance premium.  September should have almost no major expenses so that is good.

I mentioned my 2020 goals and I have to say this is the first time I've really thought about them since I posted them back at the beginning of the year.  So I need to revisit them.  COVID and work totally derailed me right out of the gate. So stay tuned for a 2020 goals assessment and adjustment.

I've also been spending a lot of time thinking about my life as it relates to my job.  I am very, very grateful to have this job with great benefits and really good pay.  I've been working for this company for just about 28 years and survived multiple mergers.  Like everyone's career, mine has been full of ups and downs, but this last year and a half has been particularly frustrating and draining on me mentally, emotionally and physically.  What's worse is the next 9 months is probably going to be the busiest and most stressful.  My boss and our Director knows this.  We had a meeting last week to try to map out the work load so we can plan for the pain points and prepare for extra resources when necessary.  We've never had to do that before.  I do A LOT.  I have been complimented many times on the volume of work I can do.  I am the type of person who just wants to get it done so I can move on to the next task or make room for more work to come.  This means I will just keep working into the evenings to get ahead.  I've done this my entire career.  But with working remotely it is even easier for me to just login when I pour my first cup of coffee at 7 a.m. and just keep working well into the evening, every evening, and it is taking a toll on my health and happiness.

I need to figure out a way to manage how I deal with my job.  And I need to think hard about how long I want to do this job at this increased pace and intensity.  I'm just not into it at this point in my life but I'm not sure we are ready for me to execute a career change or possibly an early retirement that might result in less income.   I'm just beginning this thought process so more to come.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Big Expenses to Fit into the Budget, Weekend Plans and My Health

Happy Saturday all!  I have some large expenses from the last couple of weeks that I need to figure out how to pay.  I say that because I hate taking money out of savings once I squirrel it away. 

So before we left for vacation we had both our cars serviced.  LoML's car was around $400 but mine was $1,500.  D#2's car doesn't have working a/c or radio so they are taking my car and we will take LoML's car.  All of us drive 13-14 year old cars.  We bought 2 of them new and 2 used but all have been well taken car of.  We never got the a/c fixed in D#2's car because the quote we got to fix it is about the same as the actual value of the car.  LOL!  D#2 doesn't care, though.  She loves her car and neither kid has a car payment to start their independent life.    But now I've got to try and cash flow the costs without impacting my plan for extra payments on the mortgage.

We also need to buy a new queen sized bed.  D#1 and her BF moved into their new house last weekend and in our family when you move out you get to take your bed with you.  She has been moved out since she graduated but while in college she bought a $50 queen bed from the college "free & for sale" facebook page one Spring and has been using that.  Now they have a 3 bedroom house so she put the $50 bed in the guest room and took the nice expensive bed for their master.  We have left over bunk beds from when they were young that we can put in as twins, but I'd rather make it a proper guest room.  We have time, since based on some of our extended family's behavior during this pandemic (as seen on social media) we won't be hosting everyone for our traditional Christmas Eve Seven Fish Dinner. So I  will have at least until the new year to address this.

Earlier this month I did pay LoML's life insurance, which makes me choke every year.  I'm covered thru work and it is also a retiree benefit so we cancelled my purchased one last year.  Our kids are no longer in college, our mortgage is no longer huge and we both make decent money and have plenty saved so we felt safe cancelling it.

All of that combined with the chunk of money we gave D#1 as a gift for her new house has made this August the most expensive month since D#2's graduated.

It's all good though.  We are blessed with good jobs, great kids and savings to support all of it.  I have no complaints but I do like the challenge of trying to cash flow this stuff and maintaining my savings goals and mortgage pay down plan.  Not sure if we can do it but it's worth the effort!

This weekend I have to mow the lawn, continue cleaning up my gardens, plan my fall garden and plant the seed starts that I have for the fall, And I have some decluttering to do.  I also really need to focus on my health going forward.  My work is so busy and stressful.  This week every day I started at 7 or 7:30 a.m. and finished around 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. every day and barely got off my butt to do anything else.  I can't sustain that for another 6 months so this weekend I need to make a plan on how to live this life and focus more on me and my health.  Probably the biggest challenge I have out of all of them.


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Vacation Pics, Garden Update and Other Things of Note

I thought I'd share some from the last couple of weeks.  Starting with our vacation, we literally drove to my sister's and didn't leave the the property once.  We all quarantined for two weeks beforehand, which isn't hard since we all work from home except D#2 but she works in a lab so always has a respirator/mask on.  Sis and BIL also quarantined so we all felt comfortable being together.

The first picture is the view from the upper deck of my girls in floaty chairs tied to the dock.  This was the afternoon after Isaias rolled thru so it was still a little grey.  My sister and I took a spin in those chairs too.  Hard to get into but an awesome place to relax and stay cool.

This is my youngest and her BF kayaking.

This is the seagull my BIL named George.  He showed up after the storm with stripped flight feathers, extremely hungry and thirsty.  Definitely was beat up by the storm.  We caught minnows and fed him and gave him water all week.  Surprisingly intelligent.  He is still hanging out on their dock and they are still feeding him but after consulting with a local bird rescue they are attempting to catch him to bring him to the rescue place because they told them it will take months for him to molt and grow new flight feathers, poor thing.

Next are a couple of pictures from our bedroom of the shrimp boats at night.  

And finally the summer sunset.  

Moving on to the post storm, post vacation garden.

Here is what we picked as soon as we got home. Lots of tomatoes, 2 regular cukes, 3 lemon cukes, 2 over-sized patty pan squash (but delicious none-the-less) and some padron peppers.  Sent the kids home with a bunch and shared with our elderly neighbors.  

My beat up garden.  Not the best pictures. I'm not sure how or why but 4 of my tomato plants are dead.  I still have a green zebra, a yellow brandywine and 2.5 bumble bee cherry tomatoes left.  I say 2.5 because of the 3 cherry plants one seems to be having issues but is still producing so hopefully it will recover.

On the work front I am beyond busy (over-whelmed) and it will ramp up through the fall and winter.  It's going to be a rough year.  This Friday on our weekly all-company COVID call we were told that our remote work will continue until at least January 1, and since I'm in the 3rd group of the re-entry plan I won't be going back (if at all) until April or May of 2021.  I work in a critical industry and they are taking this pandemic and our health very seriously.  They view this whole thing as a paradigm shift of how we will work going forward and they are re-configuring our offices/cubicles, limiting elevator and conference room capacities, looking into the HVAC system and other processes and tactics to make sure we all stay safe and able to do our jobs into the future.  That will also involve alternative work options, like permanent work from home, and other flexible plans.  Crazy times.

And finally, to end on a fun, cute, happy note, here are pictures of Mrs. and Ms. Kravitz on duty.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend.  I have to cut the lawn, clean-up my gardens, finish the laundry, bake some bread and also a bake sweet for the week.  I think I'll make a lemon blueberry upside down cake. 

What's on your agenda for the weekend?  How is your garden doing? 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

July Month End Financials

My monthly financial update is late this month because we were away on vacation.  We were visiting my sister and BIL on the coast.  It was a fantastically relaxing time with good food, drink, fishing, crabbing, drinking, relaxing, reading, swimming, and taking care of a friendly storm battered seagull who couldn't fly due to having his flight feathers somewhat stripped from riding out Isaias, poor thing.

We arrived the night the storm hit and it was gone by the next morning.  The rest of the week was perfect weather and we are all refreshed, replenished and ready to tackle work again.

Retirement Savings Update:

Having received most of the 2nd quarter statements for our retirement accounts I think we are fairly up to date on the numbers.  The new current all-in total of all of our retirement accounts, minus my pension is about $905,700, an increase of about $52,800 from what I reported last month.  

I continue to contribute a little more then the max plus max catch-up for the month which means I'll hit my maximum annual contribution limits before the end of the year, which is just fine.  When that occurs I'll dump that extra take home pay into my extra mortgage payment.

Mortgage Pay-Down Update:
With my August mortgage payment I again paid an extra 3 principal payments:

January Balance:        $96,555.69 - 3.5 principal payments
February Balance:      $94,242.49 - 4.75 principal payments
March Balance:          $92,429.89 - 3.6 principal payments
April Balance:            $90,429.93 - 4 principal payments
May Balance:             $88,397.84 - 4 principal payments
June Balance:            $86,326.50 - 4 principal payments
July Balance:             $84,215.12 - 4 principal payments
August Balance:        $82,068.40 - 4 principal payments

Of the amount I am currently paying every month 85% is going to principal and only 15% is going to interest.  I'm digging that!  If I keep up this average extra payment amount I should now have this paid off by August of 2023.  If I throw my bonus and tax refunds at it I can get it paid off sooner, but we have some work to do on the house and I have other savings targets, like a new car/maintenance fund, emergency fund, and insurances sinking fund. And if this COVID situation continues I'm not sure I'll even receive a bonus next year.  We shall see.

Regular Savings:
I continue to sock away about $2,700 a month into our savings account.  I've completed my savings goals for our vacation fund and home maintenance fund.  Now I'm beefing up the the emergency, new car and home improvement funds.

I did take out a small chunk of money from my Emergency Fund to help D#1 and her BF buy their first home.  They have their own money saved and have already been approved for their mortgage, but they want to put as much down as possible in order to not have PMI for very long.  Smart kids!!!  

Neither of my kids have received their COVID Stimulus money yet, so we fronted that to them.  If they eventually get their payment they will pay us back and then we will donate it.  Gotta love this government who can't effectively pay out promised stimulus to its legitimately eligible tax payers.  They can't even pay the regular tax refunds correctly.  D#2 got her Federal refund electronically deposited, and then received a check from them for. . . are your ready for it?  She received a check for ONE DOLLAR. WTF???!!!  Why?  Our tax dollars hard at work people!!!  Can someone out their please explain to me what real benefit ANYONE but the wealthy has received or experienced PERSONALLY, that is a result of this Administration.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

So how did your July go?  Did you and your eligible young adult kids all receive their COVID stimulus money?  Was your IRS refund properly conveyed to you?  Anyone else able to get away and relax?  

I hope you all have a peaceful Sunday.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Goings On At the Working Towards the Final Beginning! Household

July has been a fairly ho-hum month.  Work is work.  Filed the last two regulatory filings on time and now in the discovery process.  I was assigned another large filing that has a September 25th filing date.  I've begun the project planning and I'll start those process meetings in the beginning of August.  Then we'll have hearings and a decision on those other two matters I manage with a final decision by the end of September.  Then I start work on those same two projects again for a November 1 filing date.  Ugh!  It is a grind.  I don't like working on these two filings.  The one lead project manager I work with on one of the filings is great.  The lead project manager on the other filing is a problem.  There is always conflict between my department and him and it drains me.  I have to work on the filing with the good project manager until June of 2022 and the bad one's program ends June 2023.  Not looking forward to three more years of his crap.

D#1 and her BF (24 and 25 years old respectively) have done the craziest thing that someone can do during these crazy times, especially at their age.  They put an offer on a house!!  I am beyond proud of them but I've gotta say it took me by surprise.  They hope to close by mid-August so we shall see how smoothly things go.  Deep down I am thrilled since they are putting some more permanent roots down near us.  That can change but for at least the next five years they will be here.  Since college they'd been talking about moving to another state and traveling Europe or Latin America dreaming of their future together somewhere else, so this very much caught us (gleefully) off guard.

Anyway, things are going relatively smoothly, all things considered.  

The garden is cranking out produce: zucchini, cucumbers, green beans (green, purple & yellow), herbs, the last of the lettuce and the beginning of the TOMATOES!!!!  So excited for tomatoes.  This week I started picking the cherry tomatoes (Bumblebee assortment variety) and I picked a red and a yellow Brandywine.  D#2 and her BF are coming for dinner tonight and we are making home made pizza so I think one of the pizza's will be a margarita with slices of fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and basil.  YUM! 

Here is a picture of the giant random sunflower in the middle of my tomato bed.  Yesterday I found a huge bumble bee asleep in the middle of it.  LOL!

How is your summer going?   If you garden have you been getting tomatoes yet?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

July Garden Update

The gardens are doing fabulously!  It is so great working from home because I am definitely spending more time tending, weeding, watering and feeding than I otherwise would.  Between not having the commute, not being stressed and tired from dealing with people and being able to take 10-15 minute breaks outside with the dogs and weed a patch or prune or whatever, I am able to pay better attention to them.

I've harvested tons of lettuce, sugar snap peas, radishes, arugula and herbs.  My beets were a bust.  They started to bolt so I picked them.  The roots were lame but we ate the greens, which are yummy.  Always eat the greens of your root veggies if you can.  They are delicious and actually the healthiest part of the plant.  I also pickled the stems which taste like a cross between celery and beet.  Very crunchy, earthy and tasty as a pickle.
Lame beets.
Lettuces, spinach & chard.

Now I'm getting herbs, zucchini, cucumbers, some peppers and the the last of the peas. 
Lime green scallop zucchini, Anaheim pepper, cuke, sugar snaps & regular zukes.

Now onto new pictures of the garden.  The weather has been great for growing and yesterday Fay came thru and dropped a ton of rain so the plants will explode with produce in the next two weeks.  I am beyond excited!
Tomatoes, cucumber to the right in a random mammoth sunflower growing in the center.

Herbs, lettuces, chard, green onions, two sad eggplants being
 eaten by flea beetles and spent sugar snap pea vines.

Green beans, arugula, basil, garlic chives, green onions and some other herbs. 

Lemon cucumber, a variety of edible flowers and herbs and 
another random small sunflower.

Other side of the above garden showing the strawberries
and a couple of the lemon cukes growing.

Peppers, green beans, and zucchini.

Purple cone flower, bee balm, lemon balm, lavender hyssop,
chamomile, honeynut winter squash and blueberry bushes.
Wildflowers, milkweed, edible flowers, shiso, sunflower
that I actually planted, and runaway pumpkins steam rolling
over my flowering quince shrubs.

Happy pumpkins (red warty variety) and green beans somewhere back there.

More of the runaway pumpkins , flowering quince and two more sunflowers that I actually planted.

That whole side garden.  I actually planted sunflowers all along the
back edge, but only 3 survived the birds and bugs.

Baby pumkpin!!!!!

Now on to the pots of plants.  

Catnip - kitties and bees LOVE it!

Sad looking but productive little potted fig tree.

Bay leaf tree that I've had for probably 15 years.   
This comes inside in the winter. Fresh bay leaf cannot be beat. 
Highly recommend.

Bee balm, tomato, basil (can you tell I love basil) and lavender.

Lettuces, and yes, more basil.

What are you growing this year?  Are you successfully battling the slugs, birds, beetles and caterpillars?

I hope you enjoyed the tour and that your garden's are doing well. 🌿🌻🌿🌼

Fall Is Too Early!!!

 I love the change of the seasons.  Don't get me wrong - Fall is probably one of my favorite seasons.  But where I live we don't usu...