Friday, October 31, 2008

Reading but Not Posting

I feel like a slacker! I've been working full-time all week and I've gotten so totally wrapped up in reading blogs the past couple of evenings that I haven't really come up for air. Trent recently answered a reader's question about reading challenging material and I've been sort of thinking about that in some little corner of my brain.

I was looking for something online and ended up going off on a tangent (ADD, moi?) and reading a lot of both blog posts and comments I would never have stumbled across otherwise. What I was reading about isn't important. But what I found, was. I learned a lot, not all of it pleasant. I found ignorant, biased people intent on forcing their viewpoint on the rest of society under a wide variety of banners. Of those, I think I found the intolerant liberals the most amusing. I mean, shouldn't "intolerant liberal" be an oxymoron? I learned a lot about a couple of groups of people, one of which I didn't really know existed.

I also found intelligent, caring people who have made tremendously different choices than I have in my life but who are very like me in a number of other ways. I found some people with excellent writing skills, people who have an ability with words that I will never have. I've seen how those skills can be used to support and encourage and I've seen how those skills can be used to condescend and isolate.

Much of what I've read has no connection to anything in my "real" life but it's true that reading things far different from your normal fare can shake things up. It's not that what I've read is causing me to question my beliefs and values. Rather I'm seeing more. More connections. More things I want to know more about.

But it's left me a little off-balance and feeling unprepared to write. My usual posts seem so banal, so trivial. My writing skills, skills I've been praised for at school and at work, seem sadly undeveloped.

My feelings of inadequacy are increased by the lack of progress in paying bills. I don't want to post on here and say that I'm still waiting to do x or y.

So, let me just close for today by telling you to go out and read. Look for things that are opposite to your usual inclinations. Read the comments. Follow links. Learn something new this weekend. It may shock you, enlighten you, anger you or amuse you but it will keep you growing.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I'm looking forward to having my paycheque in the bank in the morning. The cheque itself won't be huge, but it won't be terrible (especially when you consider it's my 3rd one this month). I need to mail a cheque to the plumber and make payments on a couple of other things. I should also transfer $100 into my chequing account from my vacation pay account at ING because I took 2 days of vacation time that fall out during this pay period. Oops, and I have my other benefit cheque to deposit as well. I have a number of items that come out at either the end of the month or in the first week of the next month that have to be covered and that money will do that.

I also want my hubby to give me $100 from his month end cheque to put towards groceries. Dear Child's school sells Safeway gift cards and I want to buy one. I do a lot of our regular grocery shopping there anyway (it's directly on my way home from work) and for every $100 card you buy the school gets something like $8. Even if I only buy 2 or 3 cards per month I could potentially make a couple of hundred dollars for the school. That may not be a fortune for the school but it doesn't cost me a penny! Why wouldn't I do it?

What else do I need to pay? Well, I'm going to order DC's school pictures. The proofs came home yesterday and they're gorgeous. They're much better than most of the school pictures my grown kids had (well, with the exception of Eldest Daughter's grad pictures, but they cost a fortune). I don't know if the photographers are better or if it has something to do with digital technology, but I was really impressed.

My only problem is that I prefer one pose and hubby and ED prefer a different one. I really don't want to order a 2nd package to get 2 poses since the package I want costs about $32 (additional packages are half price). I suppose I could add 4 pictures of a 2nd pose for $16 ($8 really). That brings the total up to $40 but we have to give pics to the in-laws, DC's siblings and other family members, and we want to have a couple ourselves to display and to carry around in our wallets. I also really love the idea having a collection of pictures taken about the same time every year to capture how she changes and matures.

So, it's an expense, but it's one that I care about. This year was the first time that I didn't buy anything from the wrapping paper/chocolate fundraiser the school does every year. I love gift bags but I didn't let myself get tempted. By not spending at least $14 on a set of gift bags I have a little more money to get the pictures. Photos I can keep forever. Gift bags, not so much.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Busy Week & Some November Goals

School starts again tomorrow (for Dear Child) and I'm also going to be working full-time for the week, while my co-worker is off. My third payday of the month will be Wednesday and I plan to do a little catching up on paying bills. Then my payday 2 weeks after that will be an extra-large one, so I'll do a little more catching up.

I really want to get things back under control after our expensive car repair. Things have all been piling up for a while and now I finally feel that I can get us back on track. As I mentioned the other day, gas prices have been coming down somewhat and that, combined with not going to our rural home between now and Hanukkah (late December), will mean some reduction in our spending.

One of the ways things have been piling up is that we've been using our credit cards (we each have one major card, plus Home Depot and IKEA) far too much and for some troubling items. When the economic climate is tight and you find you're charging gas and groceries that should be a wake-up call. Last month I charged $230.95 in groceries (for the various holidays, including our family Rosh Hashana dinner) and $155.60 in gas for a trip to the house, which includes filling the tank on the way back (leaving 3/4 of a tank to drive on for the following week). We have no more holidays until December and no long car trips until then, so I don't expect to need to charge anything over the next while.

That's good, because putting half of the car repair on my hubby's card was very upsetting. My financial goals for November are:
1. Not to charge anything during the month.
2. To pay off IKEA.
3. To start paying down my MasterCard.

Microgoals Revisited

I put up a sidebar with my microgoals some time ago in an attempt to keep myself on track. So, how am I doing?

In some categories I'm getting some things done. In others, I'm seeing things sit there for an embarrassingly long period of time. (Notice that I haven't caught up on the classwork I missed the first couple of weeks of class? Or, how about the bill I still haven't paid?) But that's the point. I'm supposed to be embarrassed by things like that so I get off my tushy and actually do them! (My excuse is that there have been a lot of holiday days this past month or so, where we can't write or handle money, but that excuse won't fly any more.)

Other things aren't really moving forward, but that's because I have some kind of decision to make. I haven't opened the ING sub-account for the wine course because I'm looking at the new Tax Free Savings Account that is coming in at the beginning of January and wondering about the value of rolling all my subaccounts over into that.

Basically, the TFSA is an account that you can put $5,000 into per year and the interest is tax-free. The nifty thing about it is that you can withdraw the money at any time and for apparently any purpose without incurring a penalty! And, any money you take out this year gets added to your $5,000 contribution room for next year. For example, if you have the maximum in your TFSA for 2009 and you withdraw $2,000 of that in November 2009 you can turn around and put $7,000 in during 2010! You can also roll over any unused contribution room to a later year. So, if you put in $5,000 in 2009 and then had a bad year in 2010, where you couldn't contribute at all, you could put in up to $10,000 in 2011.

I need to get a little more information about how it works if you deposit monthly (instead of putting the maximum in at the beginning of the year) and take out money some months later. Can you continue with your monthly deposits this year or not? I think you can, so long as the money you deposit doesn't exceed $5,000 (including the initial deposit of the money that was later withdrawn) in that calendar year. But I still want to confirm that.

A lot of people have been talking about the TFSA as an additional type of retirement plan, but I don't see why I can't toss my emergency fund, my vacation pay and my other set-aside money into a TFSA and then just pull out the money as I need it. The only drawback would seem to be that I'd then have to keep track of just how much of the money belonged to which category. Right now, with sub-accounts, I just log on and can see how much I have in my emergency fund at a glance. I don't have to do math.

As I say, I'm still deciding.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gas Prices Still Too High

Gas prices have been coming down but they haven't dropped to the levels most people would expect, given the current price of crude oil.

Over the past year or so, gas prices rose about 50%, while the cost of a barrel of oil rose about 50%. Now, oil has dropped 50% and gas prices have only dropped by about 20%. Also, it seems just a little interesting that the price stayed high (around $1.50 per litre) through the summer when people are more likely to be taking car trips and only drops now that everybody is back to their normal commute.

And how about the way the price fluctuates depending on what time it is? Wednesday morning I saw gas advertised at $1.159. Later it was $1.139 and then $1.109. Well after dark I saw it advertised at $1.099. This morning it was $1.170 during the morning rush hour. This isn't an unusual pattern, at least in the Lower Mainland. You can't tell me that gas stations are reacting to the changing price for crude oil on an almost hourly basis. If they were truly that sensitive to the market, the price of gas would be back down below $1.00 per litre, down around $0.75 or so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Now Return to Everyday Life

The holidays are over. Simchat Torah was great. We finished reading the last verses of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and start the annual cycle over again with Bereshit (Genesis). We danced with the Torah Scrolls and all the men took turns carrying one around while reciting from the prayer book. The really big partying took place last night, with a somewhat more subdued version taking place today in the shul proper.

In our shul (synagogue) the nighttime dancing always spills out into the street and the procession of Torahs and dancing, singing men wends its way from corner to corner until they make it back to where they started. Dear Child had a wonderful time, carried on her father's back. I stood just outside the shul, waving her stuffed Torah, as cars honked cheerfully at everybody.

But now life returns to normal. No more 2 day holidays in the middle of the week. In fact, no more holidays until Hanukkah, which will be late in December this year. In some ways this is good. It's hard to get much work done when you're only in the office for one or 2 days, then off again for a couple of days over and over. Meals can go back to being more simple. In our house we generally don't eat meat or drink wine except on the Sabbath and on festivals, so that will reduce our food expenses. My Dear Child will finally go back to school (next week) and learning can really commence seriously for the year.

But I have to say I'll miss the increased spiritual focus of the past few weeks. Yes, now that we start reading Torah from the beginning again, I'll begin again studying the parsha (portion) of the week with DC. This year she's starting to read and I think that will be exciting. I'll get back to doing my daily learning, Chitas (a portion daily from the Tanya, the Book of Psalms and the weekly portion with commentary). I've tried to keep up but the parsha part of it has suffered the most. Perhaps not surprisingly, I know the opening chapters of Bereshit (Genesis) the best. I'm always on my best behavior, the most motivated, etc. as we start the cycle. And there are no holidays for a while to break my concentration.

The other thing is that, with all these holidays on Wednesdays, I haven't had the opportunity to do my It Won't Wait Wednesday projects over the past month or so. And I've been way too busy to get around to a lot of the things that I've been meaning to do. I've got to get back to that.

And the exercise. What can I say about it? We walk a lot during the High Holy Days. Three weeks out of four we have a 2 day holiday when we have to walk to and from services at least once a day, sometimes twice. Plus the Sabbath keeps rolling around where we do the same. If you live close to your synagogue it's not too big a deal. But we walk an hour and 20 minutes each way! The exercise has probably been good for me, although I don't think I've lost any weight (the walking is counteracted by all the holiday food). But, boy, am I tired!

What happens next? I get up bright and early tomorrow morning and go to work for the whole day. I have to deposit my BC Benefit cheque into the bank and update my passbook, then do a bit of grocery shopping. Welcome back to my (everyday) miscellaneous life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Home Again

We're home again and I'm better able to post. For anyone who noticed the unusual brevity of the two previous posts, they were done on my beloved BlackBerry. I'm still working on becoming comfortable with typing lengthy posts because I'm not used to using the small, abbreviated keyboard. It's fine for short texts or cruising the web, but I'm used to a full QWERTY keyboard and to typing as I think.

The holiday has been great so far. Tomorrow night the two final festival days begin and Tuesday lunch is the last meal that we eat in the sukkah. In the meantime, we have an interesting time managing to eat, given that we didn't put up a sukkah here in Vancouver.

We ate a big meal before we left (the last of the brisket and some fried potatoes, yum!) but Dear Child and I wanted something when we got back to the city. So we put some stuff together and went out to a sukkah beside where I work. I'm switching vehicles with my son-in-law tomorrow so I can take all the girls to the Community Centre for lunch. It'll be my granddaughters' first meal in the sukkah this year so it'll be fun. Monday night we go to the rabbi's house and again for lunch on Tuesday. So, we're covered but it certainly eliminates snacking!

The trip was good for a variety of reasons. We had a nice time having our neighbours over for dinner in the sukkah and getting to spend a whole week at the house was great.

We had a guy in to service the furnace on Friday. It cost just under $150 but was well worth it. Our oil furnace is 40 years old and was working well when we first bought our place but we started having problems last winter after we ran out of oil. We were concerned that the furnace might be coming to the end of its life but it turned out that running out of oil had caused a deposit of crud on a microfilter and that seems to be what was causing it to not come on every couple of days. When it didn't come on by itself, we would just hit the reset button and it would start again but that's not very useful when it's the middle of winter and we're not there. Luckily, our neighbour was checking it out every couple of days but I don't want to rely on that or put that burden on him.

The other important thing I did on Friday was to go into town and pay my overdue property taxes!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Having Fun

We're into the intermediate days of Sukkot so I can post again. So far it's going very well.

It did rain the first night, so we ate our turkey in the rain but all the rest of the time has been clear. It's been below freezing at night so we dress warmly to eat and we have a heater in there on a timer, so the space is a little warmer in the evening for a couple of hours.

Still, I've davened [prayed] in the sukkah both days. I just haven't hung out in there long enough to sit and learn.

Tomorrow night we're having our neighbours over for a spaghetti dinner with salad and garlic bread. Yes, in the sukkah. We did it last year too and they seemed to enjoy it.

I'll have to go to town tomorrow for a few things but my paycheque should have been deposited today, so I should have a bit of money.

The time is going fast but I've really been enjoying it. I'll be sorry to go home on Sunday.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving and Sukkot

The sukkah is up and we're just playing with the skach (the bamboo that makes up the roof) to make sure it's going to stay up. It's supposed to be a temporary structure but it's better if it doesn't come down on our heads if the wind blows!

I'm really looking forward to eating in there tonight. So I guess I'd better get back to cooking. Turkey legs, potatoes, peas and yam with honey tonight. Brisket tomorrow night with potatoes and mushrooms. Cole slaw and salad both days. Yum! I'll probably be posting again Wednesday night.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tiny Change in Plan

We're actually leaving in the morning. If we'd left tonight we'd be getting there about now. Instead, I've read all the blogs I follow, made some comments, tried to make a change on my blog that isn't working and am now posting.

I did set up a furnace guy for Friday and left a message for the plumber, who didn't call me back. I got food at the deli but they were really out of cheese (for the 2nd time recently) and I don't have the mozzarella I wanted to make lasagne with. Again. last time I ended up using cheddar. This time there wasn't even any cheddar. It'll be in some time next week (i.e. Thursday or Friday, the only days they'll be open) but that's too late for me.

The big thing I missed doing on Friday (partly because I ended up working until 3:30 pm and partly because I forgot) was to pick up the lulav and etrog. Since I didn't want to wait until noon tomorrow to be able to leave I arranged to get it tonight after Shabbat. I can't believe I almost messed up such an essential thing. Brain freeze. Senior moments. They're getting the better of me and I don't like it.

Anyway, we still have to get the sukkah up tomorrow and we may have to mow the lawn first, so I hope we really do get an early start.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Whoa, I'm Leaving When?

Somehow in all the activity over the past week or so something has fallen through the cracks. That would be the fact that we're leaving for our rural home after Shabbat (i.e. Saturday night) and we're going to be gone for just over a week.

I have tons of things I need to do in preparation and Friday's a short day! I have to work until 3 pm, pick up our lulav and etrog, go to the deli for all the challah, cheese and meat we'll need to eat during our time away, pick up DC at 4, come home and make both Friday night dinner and Shabbos lunch. Before sundown.

Plus, I was supposed to set up a furnace guy to service our oil furnace and the plumber to finish the job he started in July, plus find out if I need a separate electrician to install a programmable thermostat or if the furnace guy can do it. We're there so seldom during the work week that we need to take advantage of that and we're probably not going to go back until winter break, so we really need to be sure the place is winterized okay. We were fine last year but, having had that water leak underneath, I want to be sure the pipes are still fully insulated etc.

I'm just freaking out a little. Yom Kippur went very well but it's still a loooonnng fast and I have a headache. Now my brain is whirling with all these things I need to do tomorrow and I don't know if I can do it all in the time I've got.

Once we get there we'll be really busy. We've got Sunday and Monday (which is a statutory holiday) to get our sukkah up and buy anything we need for it. The holiday of Sukkot starts Monday night and the first 2 days are holiday days (fancy food, no TV, no blogging, no shopping) so I basically have Sunday for anything I need to buy in town. We really loved spending Sukkot there last year but we were way better prepared! And we had a lot more spare cash.

I expect to blog on Sunday, at least. Monday is iffy. Then I'm off for 2 days and will probably post again Thursday because I'm sure I'll be going into town then. We're coming home Sunday evening, leaving after dinner. Because we only eat in the sukkah during Sukkot that just leaves Monday to deal with and there's a sukkah at the community centre that I can use for breakfast and lunch (though I'll need the van that day to take everybody there for lunch). Then the last 2 days start and they're also holiday days. There's a big meal and dancing at the rabbi's house (he has a sukkah that holds literally hundreds of people) Monday night and we're invited there for Tuesday lunch, which is the last meal we eat in the sukkah.

Now, all we need is good weather. There's nothing I love more than eating outside when the weather's good. There's nothing more miserable than sitting in the sukkah all bundled up as the rain drips off the skach (plant material we use for a "roof") into your soup. But it will be what it will be. And the Okanagan does average 300 days of sunshine per year! We should make sure we have a couple of logs for the firepit too. We can only use it certain days, but it's really nice to have it in there when we can use it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The $2K Car Repair

The good news is we finally have the car back. The bad news is that it cost just over $2000.

We paid for half of it and charged the other half. It just kills me. But I don't know what we could have done differently in this case. Well, maybe we could have done the tie rod end a month or 6 weeks ago because that's when I first heard it. That was about $250 out of the bill. But the cooling system problem? There hadn't been any sign of the car overheating prior to a week ago when it just about redlined on a 15 minute drive.

The toughest thing is that we just can't function without a car. DC has to be taken to and picked up from school 5 days per week. I go back & forth to work, a total of 8 round trips to the office per week because of my split schedule. Hubby's been biking since his office moved but I'm still waiting to see how that works when the weather turns really nasty. That's not even counting groceries because I usually get them on the way home from work. And then there are our trips to our rural home. I've taken the Greyhound (the driver actually let me out across the highway from our back gate) but it's not even cheaper than the cost of gas when only one person goes and it would be crazy for us all to bus there.

I'm relieved that the car is fixed, but there's still an unresolved problem that will be at least another $600 and I'm worried that there will be more repairs in the future. The car is 7 years old, after all, and we put a lot of mileage on it.

Tomorrow night is Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur and the fast ends Thursday night after dark. This is an intense day coming up and all I can pray is that what happened with the car will somehow turn out to be for the good.

I may or may not post tomorrow before sundown, but then won't be back until Thursday night. G'mar chatimah tova! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year (in the Book of Life).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Let's Have an Upbeat Post

I could write lots of doom and gloom stuff right now. The world financial markets seem to be melting down and things aren't any too hot at my house right now either. The car won't be ready until tomorrow because they found something else wrong that has to do with the water pump (more money!) and they had to order the part. I've been doing some financial work in Excel and our money situation is worse than I'd thought. (Denial, it ain't just a river in Egypt....)

But I thought I'd like to write about something a little happier.

Let's talk about smoked turkey instead. I bought half a smoked turkey for Rosh Hashana dinner. It was literally cut down the middle so it included a wing, a leg and half a breast. Since it was already cooked all I had to do was heat it up in the oven and it fed 7 adults and 3 kids (along with half a salmon and a bunch of other food). My youngest son took a plate home as well.

The 3 of us (me, Hubby and DC) had grilled turkey sandwiches after the Fast of Gedaliah (the day after the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana) and they were great. I cut a round challah into slices, we put in heated smoked turkey (my hubby just sauteed it in a little olive oil) and used margarine on the outside of the bread. We grilled them in the frypan (the way you'd do a grilled cheese sandwich) and when they were toasty I opened them up and added mayo and jellied cranberry sauce. Yum! Hubby & I had 2 sandwiches each and Dear Child had one.

For Shabbos lunch I took the carcass, broke it to fit in the crockpot, added a whole onion, about 3 potatoes cut in chunks, 6 to 10 baby carrots, and a little rosemary. I covered the carcass with water and left it in the crockpot overnight on low. It was the best soup. Ever. DC had a 2nd bowl. She has never done that. With anything, especially anything containing meat. I had a 2nd bowl too.

The turkey wasn't cheap. It cost $46 but it gave us 17 servings of food, which works out to $2.71 per serving. I think that's pretty darn good!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Financial Good News Too

Okay, so things aren't all bad (although they really seem that way right now). On Thursday I sat in my bank discussing my RRSP's with one of their financial services reps. It was actually a bit surreal because I knew about the cost we were incurring for the car and yet I was sitting there discussing moving thousands of dollars around.

It's not like I could access the money anyway. I'd have to pay taxes on anything I took out and I'm not allowed to because I took out money a little over a decade ago to use as a downpayment on my condo and I'm still repaying it. (The Canadian government allows you to take it out without penalty for that purpose so long as you replace it within 15 years. I'm almost done with that but still have a couple of years to go.)

I've mentioned before that I have the bulk of my RRSPs in GICs. I may not be making a fortune in interest, but I haven't lost any money yet (and my deposits are guaranteed by CDIC). Mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc. aren't!

So, I had a GIC mature a couple of weeks ago and it's been sitting in my money market account making an atrocious .05% (yes, that's 5 one hundredths of one percent per annum!) ever since. I just didn't have time to go in earlier and I knew that I had another one maturing any time. So, at this moment, I have 2 of them sitting there and a 3rd one maturing early next week! The 4th one also matures in October, but not for another year.

Now, there are a couple of ways to handle GICs and maturity dates. Trent was just talking about laddering his CDs as a higher interest (but still very accessible) emergency fund. I'm actually doing the opposite. I'm combining the 3 of them and putting them into a 2 year GIC paying 4% because I don't want to have to worry about a bunch of different maturity dates. Next year I'll probably take that last one and put it into a 1 year GIC even though the rate won't be terrific (they're currently 1.9% to 2.5%) so that I can finally put them all together in late 2010.

Will I change them to a laddered format later? Possibly, as we get close to actually retiring. But, for now, it's more important that they be as simple as possible. And that they get the best guaranteed rate possible.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Car Problems Cost Big Money

I mentioned the other day that I was having a problem with the car. What happened is that I drove to the deli, to Safeway, to the liquor store (all within half a dozen blocks of each other and about 10 minutes from home) and started to drive home when I heard a bubbling noise. I looked at the dashboard and the temperature gauge was just about to redline! Hello!? I drive to our rural home through 2 mountain passes and the car never even tries to overheat. How can it be overheating doing the drive I do pretty well every day (all this was just a few blocks from work)?

I turned off the air conditioning and turned on the heater and kept driving home, while keeping an eagle eye on the temperature. (This pulls heat from the engine away from the core and into the interior of the car, reducing the load on the cooling system.) I made it without boiling over but I was pretty freaked out. We didn't use the car over Rosh Hashana of course, but I was determined that it had to go in today.

The news is not good. There are 2 leaks (water pump and thermostat), it needs new timing, alternator and a/c belts and there's a loose tie rod end. That's the stuff we're actually having done now because it's either a safety issue or the car won't keep working without it. There's another job we're going to hold off on for now because all that I already mentioned, plus an oil change and winter check up is going to cost in excess of $1,600! It'll be ready on Monday, so that's how long we have to pull the money together.

Bottom line. We don't have it and we don't have enough room on our credit cards to charge it all. This is a real wake up call. I knew the cards had been creeping up (mostly for things like food, gas, DC's school clothes and rain gear for my hubby so he could cycle to work in the rain) but it hadn't really clicked as to how serious it was getting. It's one thing to say that you need gas but payday isn't for a few days, so you charge the gas and tell yourself you'll make a payment on the card that covers that fillup when you get paid, but what happens when payday rolls around and there are 4 or 5 other things more "urgent" than paying back that $30 to $100? Right. You know what they say about good intentions.

We have a couple of options that don't involve hitting up family for money or selling our possessions. One, my hubby can get an advance on commissions that will be coming to him at the end of October or, two, he could request an increase in his card limit (an option I'm not crazy about but he does have a lower limit than I do). I have some money in ING, but it's pretty well all already accounted for. I'll use the money in our emergency fund either towards the car or towards paying the plumber for fixing the leak at our rural home (we finally got the bill last time we were there and it was just under $300).

But, beyond paying for the repairs and the rental car the dealership arranged, what do I need to do? I have to get back into entering everything in Excel. I need to see exactly where a bunch of the money is going because we should be roughly breaking even on a month to month basis and it doesn't look like we are. Once I do that, we have to really sit down and talk about where the leaks are and how to handle them. Then we have to start working hard to get the debt back down. At the very least, we have to be vigilant about not increasing it.

But we can't stop spending money either. I'm not going to get caught being penny wise and pound foolish. We need to get a programmable thermostat and to have the furnace at our rural place serviced before winter because we aren't going to be there much once the snow starts in the mountains and I don't want to have the pipes freeze or some such nonsense just because we didn't spend a couple of hundred dollars on preventative maintenance. Also, last year we spent about $600 to $700 in fuel oil to heat the place over the winter and we should be able to save about 2/3 or more of that if we spend $100 on the programmable thermostat. So, yes, we're going to have to spend some money in the short term but it will save us money over the next 6 months or so.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It Was a Lovely Holiday

Everything went really well. The weather was gorgeous, sunny and warm enough that we didn't need jackets but not boiling hot.

Dinner the first night was great. The food was really good. I'm glad I did the salmon at the last minute. I put it in at 6 pm and took it out just before candlelighting and it was perfect! There was enough of everything but I don't have huge amounts of leftovers. A little smoked turkey and a little jellied cranberry sauce (mmm, turkey sandwiches for dinner tomorrow I think).

We took all 3 girls to synagogue both days, pushing a double stroller and a single one. (On Yom Tov the rules are similar to those of the Sabbath but you're allowed to cook on an existing flame and to carry, which includes pushing a stroller.) It took an hour and 20 minutes to get to synagogue (and about another 20 minutes to get to the rabbi's house for lunch and 2 hours to get home). That's a lot of walking!

You want to know the most amazing thing? I was just commenting to Abby (from i pick up pennies) the other day that my 3 1/2 year old granddaughter loves to go but can't go on Shabbat because she can't walk all that way. I mean, really, my 5 year old has only recently managed to walk both ways. Today my granddaughter insisted that she wanted to walk and she did! All the way to synagogue, all the way to the rabbi's house and (basically) all the way home! (We started home with her in the single stroller but she loudly insisted on getting out within about a block and walked the rest of the way.) I am, as the British say, gobsmacked!

I guess she can start coming with us on Shabbat now (though it'll still be a while for her little sister). Oh, and my daughter? She walked all the way home today but was happy to ride otherwise.

The baby graciously slept through most of the shofar service yesterday, allowing me to read all the prayers and take part fully. Today, not so much. I spent a lot of the service in another room with her, just dashing to hear each time they blew shofar. But it was still good.

Lunch both days at the rabbi's was as good as always (the food is always tremendous) and the girls enjoyed playing in the back yard on the trampoline and with a bunch of Little Tikes toys.

Tomorrow is a "short" fast, from 5:41 am to 7:20 pm but it's the easiest fast of the year. After 2 days of eating huge meals we could probably use the break. I'm going to eat (including having my protein drink) just before I go to sleep and then I'll be able to make it through okay until dinner. Sometimes I get up early to eat before it starts, but I'm pretty tired so I'll pass on that this time, especially as it's a regular day in all other respects. So we go to work and Dear Child goes to school (not that children fast anyway). The real fast doesn't come until next Thursday when it will be Yom Kippur.