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That Rumbling Sound

September 4th, 2016 at 11:26 am

Yep, it's the dull roar of classes to be taught very soon. But coupled with that comes the fun of some new students, and the fabulous nearing of a regular paycheck. I have, of course, been teaching since June, but this is the "real" job.

Did I tell y'all this? My DH has decided to enroll part time for a master's in history. He'll still work full time, and I'm not sure he'll ever do anything with that degree, but it is a joy to him. Of course, grad classes are $1000 more than undergrad classes, so while I've been planning for this, it seems to have just occurred to him. He asked me this morning what budget arrangements would have to be made. I think he could cut down on buying books and wine, but wisely asked him to try to brainstorm a bit to see what he comes up with.

We all went out for pizza and to see Ghostbusters last night. It was at the cheap movies, I had a coupon for pizza, and while it was sort of "meh," DD enjoyed it a lot. I think we're becoming quite conscious that we'll likely only have her living with us full time for a four more years, so we better treasure that time.

In other monetary news, I seem to again have a fridge full of veggies, so am off to make salad and soup for the week soon. Did I also tell you that my trivia team won second in the state last month? How excited was i? We split $750 between the four of us. I think I should send NPR another donation for teaching me about the Gotthard tunnel that moved us into second place!

One Big Chunk

August 22nd, 2016 at 12:46 pm

To deal with DH's upcoming pay cut, I have been nosing around for more bargains. Here's what I've done, starting with the minor.
A large pot of soup for lunches and tonight's dinner successfully using some wilting veggies.
Less expensive back-to-school shopping than anticipated. DD is fine with much of what she has. We can buy more to supplement as the school year progresses.
A Costco trip that filled in some gaps
A cheap Hotwire motel for next week's Minneapolis trip.
and my large triumph--a truly bargain flight for DH's trip to his nephew's wedding in October. He's going alone as mid-semester trips are impossible for DD and me. I'd been looking for weeks for a good fare between Chicago and Heathrow and struggling to find anything in the strict timeframe under $1000. We'd used consolidators before without any problems, and since he's flying alone, I thought, "why not?" The ticket has gone through, he's flying AA for under $600. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. If you have a consolidator horror story, please don't tell me. Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

And on the income side, my grades are in for my summer class, learning platform and assignments ready for tonight's new eight-week class, freelance project bill ready to be submitted. I still have loads of freelance work, but it can wait a few days.

DD and I are off to visit my brother and fam in MN tomorrow. Hanging out at the lake seems like a good way to wind up the summer.


Challenges and Successes

August 19th, 2016 at 11:40 am

My DH's employer called yesterday and asked for a meeting. He's an IT contractor, so meetings are rarely good as they know he'll be off the clock to meet. The company where he's been working is facing their usual sporadic financial challenges, and they want him to take a $1/hr pay cut. There is really no choice, and frankly, the $1 didn't sound awful--but it does add up to almost $2000 a year.

At the dog's physical therapy appt this morning, I realized again how much we pay for her anti-inflamatory. I did a quick check and found I can buy it online for $55 cheaper.

Now for a place to find that other $1945! I don't think I can work more. My full time 4/4 teaching load is plenty, and I'll have an adjunct class until mid-December. I'll try to crunch the grocery budget a bit.

The CSA really keeps us fed through the summer. We had the most brilliant panzanella salad last night using some drying up Italian bread and a load of veggies. Maybe we'll try a credit card offer or two?

Study Abroad Changes

August 18th, 2016 at 10:37 am

I spent yesterday with our Center for Intl Education. They've received the bad news that our academic department is no longer willing to pay faculty salaries when they teach studies abroad. This comes from all the budget cuts we've been faced with at the university. So, they'll need to raise costs to students, even though we teach courses in our subject area abroad, just as we would at home.

I spent some time brainstorming with them about how to cut costs. The drop in the exchange rate will help for now. But mostly I came away sad--sad that I can't go again for another fours years, sad that fewer students will be able to afford this, sad at the devaluing of university education into some sort of trade school.

I also came away determined to really stockpile cash and cut back--smarter spending on everything. My overflowing closets and cupboards are testimony to impulse buying. I've become so much better, but we still have so much excess.

My Friends and Money

August 12th, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I was having lunch with some friends last week. They're all hard-working teachers, all married with kids. One of the usual moans from all of us is our broke summers. As you may recall, I'm teaching one class, doing some freelance editing, and trying to recover from spending on funeral airfare, my summer trip to Canada, Tree removal, and dog surgery and PT.

The hoarder of the bunch has had major surgery this summer which has brought her issues again to everyone's attention. You might also remember that friends raised (gulp) over 5K for her. Then it came to light that an employee was embezzling from her husband's business to the tune of $25,000. Now the money from the fundraising is gone to help the husband's business, and she is swamped by medical bills.

In the midst of this lunch, another friend--who rolls her eyes at my carefulness with money-- said they we should all go to the hoarder's and help--me especially--because I'm "good with money." Happily for me, I was busy the day they went to her house to help. Two of them spent four hours there. Two hours of it was opening unopened mail. They had to argue about throwing out all the return envelopes since so many of the bills were second and third notices for the same procedures. There were two giant garbage bags full of mail and one room they weren't allowed in. People brought them gifts when she was in the hospital and they're all piled in the entry way.

Is there a point here? I'm not sure, but I needed to vent to someone who is not my child or husband. I have plenty of chaos in my life--not everything is always under control, but I really can't understand how people can live like that. It makes my head want to explode, and perhaps the Swedish work ethic part of me finds their constant (years' worth) need of all sorts of help really trying.

No Spend Day

July 28th, 2016 at 09:36 pm

After yesterday's spending, it was nice to have a no-spend day. It was also CSA day so the bounty just rolled in. After weeks with the A/C on, the temps have dropped dramatically, so we have the windows open and are really enjoying it. Those CSA veggies actually made their way into minestrone instead of the usual huge salad.

I'm counting the days until payday. It's been a long stretch without any income from me!

Some In, but More Out

July 27th, 2016 at 10:24 pm

We started out the day with some more vet spending. The round of vaccinations, heart worm treatment, etc ran a cool $225. I came home to a $200 rebate from our health insurance for our CSA membership which just made it into the checking before we headed to the graveyard of no-spending: Target. DD needed a new phone, and we slightly upgraded her current pre-paid phone. It's mostly from her birthday cash, and she's v excited. As current phones go, it was cheap--well under $100. I'm a bit shocked at how many of her friends have $500 phones. But she understands our attitude towards things like that, and never complains.
While there, we also bought the graphing calculator required by her school which was on sale for $89.

On the way home we stopped at grocery as it's double coupon day, and I needed a few things for dinner. Our local grocery chain has been purchased by Kroger, and it appears they're eliminating all their own brand organics. I was WAY too excited to find most of those items tucked away around the store for 75% off. Oh my word, I got $4 granola for 75 cents, cans of chili beans for 35 cents, organic applesauce for 75 cents--it was pure delight. I loaded up the cart. We checked all the expiration dates and bought a few extra things for food shelf donations. We spend $65 and the register tape (never completely fair) said we saved $98.

It's been an interesting day; I'm sure enjoying having DD home. We spent part of the evening watching the convention and the rest reading her required book for Honors English in the fall.

Ima Saver, Where Are You?

July 25th, 2016 at 06:44 am

Many of us are thinking about you. You ok?

Checking In

July 24th, 2016 at 07:22 pm

It's been a busy few weeks. I drove DD to French camp--about 12 hours each way, except for the mammoth storm on the way home. Ah, there's nothing quite like a terrifying Midwestern thunderstorm. I pulled off the road six times between Bemidji and the Twin Cities; each time there were reports of tornadoes, or I was hit by hail or blinded by incredible rain. At one point I was n a gas station with two dozen people who all decided we should shelter in their cooler if the siren went off. But I made it, albeit in three days of solid driving. Two days later I was off to Montreal with my BFF. We had a spectacular time in that gorgeous city and did all sorts of wacky things from rooftop cocktails to ziplining and paddleboating. We rented bikes, took a bus to Quebec City, saw a beautiful waterfall, and just enjoyed our time.

Last night at midnight DD returned from camp, so I've been immersed in laundry and staying inside away from the oppressive heat and humidity. The specter of August looms, so I've been back in the saddle for a bit. I've finished about one quarter of my text editing, and my weekly class is half done. DD and I have formulated plans for the rest of the summer. More on that tomorrow.

I've been sorry to hear about Patient Saver's and Dido's job losses. Wishing them both the best.

Scavenging Payoffs

July 7th, 2016 at 07:06 pm

Much to my delight, the prepaid Visas earned for our health assessments arrived this week. It was a nice $300. However, my DH seems to feel he should be able to blow that $300. I, of course, disagree. We agreed that we both could have $25 from our cards to spend on whatever. And I spent all but $5 of mine today on the dog's post-operative therapy. Bleah. But I guess it's paid for and not on the credit card.
Our CSA box is keeping us jam-packed full of veggies. I made a big pan of stuffed shells with spinach filling tonight, and we still have loads of things. Last week's box had brilliant strawberries and garlic scapes which I've had lots of fun with. Pole beans will be the challenge of the weekend.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with Vanguard today, and am again very impressed with their customer service. I still had some stocks rolling around in an old IRA, and we got that all transferred. Looking at the statements led me into doing some retirement calculations. Thanks to some major years of contributions when I was younger, I think I can do 100% income replacement right now. That's with Social Security and that's just me--not my DH who has been lax. He's been a contractor for years without a 401K match, I nag him all the time about restarting IRA contributions, but he HATES finances. I'm going tot have to take over his as well as mine. There's UK money, but not a ton, and there's been no progress on his dad's estate. We actually sat down and talked this through tonight--which is tremendously satisfying for me and boring as heck for him.

Other things accomplished this week has been some minor decluttering and the opening of a new savings account purely for the $200 bonus in 90 days. But all of that is done.

A Little Bonus

June 27th, 2016 at 02:46 pm

A couple more things occurred to me as I continue scavenging for cash to boost the balances. I had a meeting at the university this morning and dropped a few things off at my office beforehand. Ah--much to my delight I found the $44 I'd won with my trivia folks in May. I spent $3 on iced coffee, but the additional $40 went into checking. We also have a couple offers from Chase Bank and BMO Harris for $200 bonus on $10,000 for 90 days. I can transfer some cash from long-term savings to cover that, and we'll use the cash when it rolls in later. It won't ease any current crunch, but it something we should do. I've also encouraged my paid-by-the hour DH to work an extra hour or two for the next few weeks. He usually works 38 or 39, and they don't want him working over 40, but I'd like him to hit that upper limit.

I've yet to file the claim for the CSA rebate with my health insurance folks, but that's on my list next. Still thinking...

All the Low-Hanging Fruit

June 25th, 2016 at 12:21 pm

My scavenging has paid off, but I'd dearly like to find another $500, so the scavenging will continue. Except for a massive five-item grocery list, everything this week will be from the cupboard or freezer. Maybe I can do this in $25 increments and get some decluttering done at the same time.

My daughter learned a valuable lesson yesterday at Starbucks with some friends. Her drink didn't come and in her adolescent shyness, she was a bit scared to speak up--something she never is around here. but she texted me (isn't this odd?), and I gave her a script of what to say to the cashier. She got her drink, a free cookie, and a $5 gift card. Lesson learned; speak up for yourself.

Still Scavenging

June 23rd, 2016 at 06:35 pm

Bless the flex folks; the first $400 came today with another $100 on the way. I returned my husband's Father's Day fitbit as he was not at all thrilled. I checked my gift closet and found a birthday gift that I'd bought in London for a friend's birthday and returned the other gift I just bought. I sold an outgrown dress of DD's for $3 (not too impressive, but still), and realized that I hadn't swept the Chase cash back rebates onto the bill for a while. I had $65, and DH is checking his now. The editing contract came today. I cashed another $25 out of Swagbucks and now have $250-ish ready to transfer to checking.

We're watching the Brexit votes come in; it should be an exciting evening.

Money Scavenger Hunt

June 22nd, 2016 at 01:50 pm

Readers may recall that several weeks ago the dog tore her CCL, and we were investigating non-surgical therapy. Alas, she completely tore it and is now one week post surgery. It does seem my checking account could use some surgical enhancement as well. Yes, it's my usual summer money angst, but now that DH has come home from his dad's funeral, we still have the airfare, the tree removal, the French camp, and now the dog surgery on the credit card bill. On top of that, DH had another job scare, but it appears all is well-ish, at least on that front.

So, where to find some cash without moving it from savings? I am indeed on a money scavenger hunt. Yesterday I discovered the ortho bills are being paid from my credit card, not my flex card. Ortho's financial people have NO idea why. So, today I've filed for reimbursement from the flex folks Count that as $500 when it appears. My health insurance promises $200 reimbursement for CSA membership. That's next on my to-do list. A textbook publisher has contacted me about some freelance editing, but that won't pay until October. Hmm. I've got about $200 rattling around in paypal, mostly from Swagbucks. I also have a few items to return. My summer teaching gig that starts next week doesn't pay until August/ September. I'll do what I can now and hope inspiration lands on my head.

June? Really?

June 1st, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I spent yesterday cooking for my recently hospitalized friend--making pulled pork and coleslaw and baking brownies and banana bread. We ate the same for dinner, and besides returning some library books and doing some laundry, didn't do much else. Happily it was a no-spending day as I hope today will also be.

I can't quite believe it's June 1. June always sneaks up on me as February or March never seem to do.

Today is office cleaning day, a bit more laundry, and packing for my weekend trip to the Twin Cities. I'd be a very happy gal if I can get the office straightened out, some pictures hung, and everything cleaned up in there.

Things are winding down for DD's last days at middle school, and DH is starting to prep for the trip to the UK. On the financial front, I've been in contact with the Education PhD candidate whose dissertation I've been editing. He's ready to go ahead, and although I think it's pretty weak, I'll just be doing the language edits and citation issues. The student's first language is not English which always complicates things. But I need the cash, and it's interesting work. I've also been offered a fall composition course at my adjunct university. I don't much like teaching composition, but again, we need the cash. If our five-year plan is to move to the UK, get the kiddo through the university, and have a two-continent retirement, there's lots of savings to be done.

Spendfest Sadly Continues

May 30th, 2016 at 11:39 am

Yep, we're just racking it up here. Yesterday the dog tore her CCL (like a human ACL), and we spent three hours and $285 at the emergency vet. While we're going to get a surgical consult, I think we're going the non-surgical route this time. Everything I've read indicates small dogs do as well without surgery as with. All of this after I took DD and a friend to Chocolate Fest and dropped $50.

I think I'm going to go clean and finish the garden work to make myself feel better about the spending. Between funeral airfare, French camp, tree cutting, various school graduation expenses, and now the dog we're near the $5000 mark.

Your Opinions, Please

May 26th, 2016 at 03:11 pm

I hang out with a bunch of women at my university. There's a group of about 6-7 of us who celebrate each others' birthdays, go out for drinks, and generally try to support each other. As, I suppose, with any group, there are some of them that are much better friends of mine than others.
One of the women I've known for 20+ years--since we were in grad school together. We are not close friends, but I see her often, and I respect her work, if not how she lives her personal life. She has lots of issues--hoarding, irresponsibility with things like parking fines thus getting her car towed,overdrafts, having her power disconnected for nonpayment etc. She and her husband and small boys live a very chaotic life. That said, I also think I harbor some resentment toward the chaos as she'll let people "help" her which doesn't help at all.

Before her boys were born we were all concerned about the state of her house as they are quite serious hoarders. Six of us spent the day cleaning and hauling and shredding--and it was awful. Their cats had used that room as their litter box--and several of us were ill afterwards. I swore I'd never do that again as it's pretty nasty still. Yet other friends spent days cleaning their kitchen last year--because she "needs" the help. They too were ill after removing moldy food, tons of dishes, overflowing recycling--and were a little upset that I wouldn't help. I've helped people with hoarding issues before, and I've been nothing but frustrated--but they thought as she was seeing a hoarding counselor(?!) it would take this time. Of course it's horrible yet again.

But here's the current issue: this woman has just had a fairly serious health issue and major surgery. She's also revealed all of this on FB and welcomed an outpouring of love and support. Another friend has started a "take them dinner" site, and I've happily signed up for several meals. And now another friend has secretly circulated a plea for donations for them although the medical part is completely covered, and she has the summer off from teaching. Something similar happened five years ago when they had their twins.

I find myself really torn. I honestly like this woman, but find so much of her behavior and her husband's behavior really egregious. I'm trying to figure out if I'm being petty and nasty or if I should just pony up $20 and consider it an effort toward good feelings and best wishes. I wish I had a generous heart toward this situation, but I just don't. Advice please?

Spending Spending Spending

May 24th, 2016 at 05:44 pm

In stark contrast to last week, this has been both an expensive and a sad week. We lost my father-in-law on Friday, and we're all dealing with it. The fuel pump went on my husband's car on Friday morning. My daughter was confirmed on Saturday so that was happy, but also a bit expensive with a new dress, dinners, and a gift. So, all these bits of life have added up to lots of spending. Although we'd all like to fly to the UK for the funeral, that's probably not practical. After hours of searching I've found my DH a flight for $1250 through BA. But he'll need to take a week off work, so that will all add up. The fuel pump was $500, and yes, the French camp payment is rapidly approaching. My daughter's outgrown all her summer shoes, I spent $150 at Costco on various necessities, and we had a tree taken down for $900. I think I'd better stop adding it up as it's making me a bit ill.

Cheap Weekend

May 16th, 2016 at 08:16 am

One way to have a cheap weekend? Tackle house tasks you've been putting off? My Dh is done with his spring class, so he's now available for many chores. He's started cleaning the basement, I spent some time dejunking various spots and we had a fabulous time yesterday digging out creeping bell flower. If you want to know exactly how fun that was, google it.

Our big evening out consisted of $5 tickets to DD's school musical. She ran the stage crew. We have several more evenings of that kind of fun ahead of us as the band concert and spring sing are happening soon. And there's plenty more garden work to keep us busy--despite the SNOW flurries we saw Saturday.

We've been getting by remarkably well on freezer and cupboard stores with just a few trips for milk and fruit and veg. Our Meatless Monday menu looks like it'll be a Southwestern bowl burrito.

Happy weeks to you all!

More Montreal Planning

May 9th, 2016 at 11:21 am

My BFF has booked her airfare to Montreal with ai rmiles. We don't have enough, so I guess I'm going to have to bite the bullet and pay mine. But we did find an airbnb that is cheaper than the hotel, has good reviews, and lots of space. This will be our first time in airbnb, and I'm sort of glad we're doing it together. Between the shared expense of that, I hope now that it can come in with airfare under $850.

Among other considerations are DD's French camp arrangements. I've told her friend's mom that I'd drive up there, and she said she'd pick them up. This is a long drive--maybe between 9 and 10 hours. But the thing is they have a program on the final morning, and I'd like to see it. But it means 20 hours total driving and at least one overnight motel. And I hate to drive that far by myself. DH would happily come, but he'd have to take a day off work, meaning about $500 in lost wages. I think I'll get over my desire to see the program, three tanks of gas, a motel stay and several meals out. Gees, when I add it up it's pretty nasty. Let's save that money to camp next year or college.

We had a nice Mother's day brunch yesterday--simple but fun-at a local place. I dug up the raised beds, seeded some chard and radishes, and look forward to the bounty. Over the weekend I sold some clutter on FB too.

Summer Planning

May 6th, 2016 at 07:53 am

I spent a good chunk of yesterday planning a friend's "milestone" birthday. She lives in Minneapolis, so I'll drive up there in June. With my BFF, we got the invitations e-mailed, the menu sorted, and I have a gift already--happily from my overflowing gift closet.

I also went through photos trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the party. We're just doing some potted annuals dressed up with raffia and candles in mason jars for decorations--both inexpensive reusable items. Beside the gas to get there, I plan on spending about $75-100 on throwing the party. It's at her house so I'll stay with her.

The more expensive item yesterday was paying the deposit for DD's French camp. I charged $300, but we still have (ugh) $1685 to go. I'm driving both her and her friend to Northern MN, so that also will have to be budgeted for.

And then there's Montreal. I'm hoping to slide in with airfare and shared hotel under $1000. The meals will be extra, but most of the hotels provide breakfast. We're also very good at buying and bringing snacks and water.

Good thing that except for the French camp deposit I only spent $1.75 yesterday on a gallon of milk.

Missionettes Accomplished

May 4th, 2016 at 07:45 am

Surprisingly everything went according to plan yesterday. I got my new purse for $8, and I like it. DH and I got to our wellness assessment, completed it in record time, and found we're about the same as last year. We both need to lose 10 lbs and eat somewhat better. We've been walking after dinner for a while, so I hope that will help. And we're looking forward to the $300 incentive sometime this summer. After I deposited him back at work, I went out to my adjunct job to drop off some UK gifties for my friends there. I just brought home some tea and canvas bags from Primark for their teenagers who like them much more than the 1.50GBP I paid. And I got the travel authorization process moving. DH's car repair came in under $900, so the car lives on.

Along the way though, I heard several stories of how tough things are in higher ed right now. Our director of Intl Ed has deserted the floundering ship that our state university system now is. She's taken a job in California after 20+ years here. She's originally from our English Department so I've known her for years, and we're all sad--as is she--to see her go. And I met a colleague who is thinking of early retirement before our massive cuts take place next year. She doesn't want to leave, and will be a big loss to us as we have no one with her expertise--and won't be allowed to hire anyone either. And my adjunct job looks bleak too. I have a summer class in late June, but they're ready to let go of some of their classroom space as enrollments suffer. It made my $8 purse seem like a very wise buy.

Slightly Larger Potatoes

May 3rd, 2016 at 07:57 am

Here are our major financial matters for today:
DH's car is currently at the shop under investigation. Again, hoping it's something minor. In related news, while I was away we found a new Volvo mechanic for my car. He's unbelievably close to us and half the price we were quoted for most repairs. But he just does Volvos, so that leaves my husband's clunker ineligible.

I'm selling a book today, and buying a purse. How's that for excitement? My black purse has started to look really tatty after four winters of hard London use. The lining is ripped, the strap is fraying, it needs to go. I am not a designer purse fan, but I want something reasonable, attractive, and workable. Voila--the local FB list offered a brand new Franco Sarto bag for $8. So that's on my list for this morning.

I also need to go to the university to drop off my expense reports--and best of all--go to the annual health screening. I'm picking up DH and we'll both eventually net $150 each for doing this.

My MN girlfriends are thinking about a trip to Montreal this summer, and I'm eager to go. We'll see how it pans out.

I've been fasting because of the health screening and am now REALLY hungry. Maybe I should pack some fruit for after the blood work.

Sunshine

May 2nd, 2016 at 11:21 am

After a very rainy weekend, we have some sunshine today.

Despite the rain, we had a nice time. The child had a confirmation retreat so we went to dinner and saw "Eye in the Sky." Both were very good. And we caught up on sleep which had been eluding both of us this week.

In financial news I'm thrilled to report that our trivia team (I play twice a year!) won second place in the local tournament and sixth place in the state. That means $48 each. Very exciting. And I sold some of DD's clothes for $10. I'm adding both to my junk money fund.

We're a bit concerned about my husband's car which seem to be leaking everything lately. I hadn't planned on a car purchase this year, but he drives it very minimally--mostly to the bus and back, and it would just mean another banger car. If the repairs run more than $1000 we've agreed it will go. Cross your fingers that it's something simple.

Small Potatoes

April 28th, 2016 at 12:28 pm

My first blog entry since coming back to the grey,cold Midwest is indeed full of small potatoes. I'm digging out from a mountain of unopened mail, events and a house that both need some organizing.

In budgetary matters, I'm working our way through a mountain of food that is the usual response to my DH's trips to Costco. We just happen to have 20 sleeves of Oreos, 36 containers of applesauce, and enough Mandarin oranges (?) to feed most Mandarin speakers. While I'm happy to use up the applesauce and oranges in DD's lunches, some of those Oreos are going to the university tomorrow. Our learning platform has been down half this week, and many of my colleagues need a cookie.

I've made a swift $25 off Swagbucks that is assigned to DD's French camp fund, listed some things on FB lists, and taken a couple of textbook surveys totaling $30 in Amazon gift cards.

This weekend's fun includes taxes. I've filed for an extension, but need to face the music soon. Yes, real life is grand.

Busy Life, Quiet Blog

April 9th, 2016 at 04:45 am

So, it's been still a very busy and very fun time here in Fantasyland. DH and DD were here for Easter week, and we had loads of fun. I talked DH into spending the bulk of the week in his hometown to max out his time with his 90-year-old dad, and DD and I had a grand time in London--walking everywhere. She requested a trip to Forbidden Planet, a couple of fun walks, a trip to Kew, and she got to sit in on my increasingly raucous classes (spring fever!). We went up to the 35th floor of a London skyscraper for breakfast, saw a stately home (for free!) and rode the bus all over. We ended this trip by meeting friends who traveled to Normandy with us via the overnight ferry.

We got a room on the ferry both ways and spent two jam-packed days in Bayeux, Caen, Arromanches, and the D-Day landing sites and museums. We splurged a bit on a tour guide, but divided it between us, and agreed it was well worth it for all we learned. We saw the Bayueux tapestry, the cathedral, had a gorgeous hotel, and just plain enjoyed ourselves. DD spoke French to the waiters and was very pleased she was understood. Very fun for all of us.

Yesterday I went on the student trip to Brighton which was also fabulous. I'll close with a photo from Omaha Beach and count on your support when I'm back to real life in a week. And snow. And taxes.

A Good Week In Londontown

March 23rd, 2016 at 02:57 pm

It's been another fun week with really good classes, not much spending, and lots of adventures. I had my hair cut and colored last week, and got an unexpected e-mail later from the salon about the colorist wanting to re-do the color. I thought it looked great, but if she wants to re-do it for free in two weeks, I'm all for it. It'll stretch the next appointment a bit.

Another highlight was a fun coffee date with a former colleague.

And today I took my British Life and Culture class to the Sky Garden in the heart of the "City," London's financial hub. It's has an amazing garden and beautiful view spot on the 35th floor of an office building they call the Walky-Talky. We always go for coffee on Wednesdays, and although you have to book , it's just a normal casual coffee shop in the morning. It was a cloudy day, but fabulous anyway. Lots of fun and lots of memories for them and me.

Magic Continues

March 10th, 2016 at 03:15 am

Yep, another wonderful week here. I was getting a little restless last weekend, but this week has been great. Monday saw my British Lit class on a little walking tour of literary sites. Tuesday the British Women Writers class was on fire with a fabulous discussion and then all students (and me) went to see The Lion King. I think they loved it more than me, but the spectacle was very good. I couldn't sleep after all that, but classes went fine. The best part, however, was the surprise invitation from a colleague to the British Antiques Dealer Show. He'd bought things there before and had free tickets--complete with a champagne reception. So, I got to rub shoulders with the fancy antique types, look at some fantastic paintings, silver, ceramics (oh the Art Nouveau bowl), and furniture, have a lovely (and cheap) dinner, and several glasses of free Taittinger champagne. I spent 12 GBP on dinner; my colleague wouldn't let me buy him dinner, had a magnificent crab salad and a wonderful evening. Someone remind me of this when I'm decluttering and selling crud from my basement this summer.

Lovely Evening

March 5th, 2016 at 07:28 am

I managed to rouse myself out of my semi-illness to go to a poetry reading at the National Theatre last night. It was a benefit for Amnesty International and cost me a whopping 4 GBP (about $6). For that I heard ten writers, actresses, and reporters read "Poems That Make Grown Women Cry." It was a geek-heaven experience for me as half the poems they read are poems I teach. And some of these women are legends--Edna O'Brien, Juliet Stevenson, Maureen Lipman, and Vanessa Redgrave. I swooned.
I had a small dinner there and walked for 30 minutes--just across the river Thames and up Charing Cross Road, through Leicester Square, and up to Tottenham Court Road to catch the tube. I stopped several times to etch the silhouette of St. Pauls in my brain as I stood on the Jubilee Bridge. But I was exhausted when I got home, took a hot bath and slept for 12 hours.

I especially appreciate snafu's advice (as always) about Rome. I'm going to rethink it for my last full weekend here. The weather may be slightly better in April, and hopefully I'll be at 100% then.

I've got a full slate this week as I've asked my students for dinner, am going to the theatre on Tuesday, and I need to be at full strength.

What I've Been Up To

March 4th, 2016 at 04:46 am

It's been a lovely few weeks in Londontown, punctuated by a trip to Nice with my girlfriends. I'm really trying to relish every single moment. It's going to be tough to go back to real life in six weeks.

Amazingly Nice didn't cost too much. It's off season, and I shared a room with my Minnesota girlfriends who flew over to join me. Six nights with breakfast and a balcony overlooking the Med cost less than $300 each. With the flight under $100 (thanks to my BA Avios), and the wonderful bus system there, it was just dinners and some misc. spending. We went back to Eze on a day trip, also Villefranche and the fabulous Rothschild villa and gardens, and Antibes and Vence all on the bus. A seven-day bus pass cost 15 Euros (less than $20), and with the enormous breakfast buffet, we rarely ate lunch--just coffee or wine and pastry.

I've had two no-spend days since coming home Sunday, but am off to the National Theatre tonight and will have dinner there too. Next week my students are coming here for dinner ( I think), so there will be a little more grocery spending. They are such super-nice girls; my best group ever.

They were in Scotland while I was in France, and one of the California students slipped at a castle and had a compound leg fracture. She's still in the hospital there. Ugh.

In my very charmed life, I'm trying to decide whether to go to Rome next weekend with a friend. Hotel and airfare is about $500, but I came home with a cold and I'm kind of tired. I'm also fretting a little about money--though I don't think I've spend much--certainly less than in previous years. May all decisions be so nice. I'll post a photo from Eze--a hilltown outside of Nice.


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