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Heating Up

August 27th, 2018 at 07:45 pm

Oof--we had big crashing storms last night. No real damage here, but hours and hours of thunder, lightning, and torrential rain. A community just north of us had 10" of rain. And it's like the jungle out there again tonight with its hot and humid temps.

I spent half the day at a class on our new digital learning platform. It seems simple enough to use, but the transition will be difficult for lots of people. We have a choice of starting now, spring semester, or next fall. I've chosen to start with it in the spring after some kinks are worked out.

My DH has another phone interview tomorrow, and his ear surgery is a week from Thursday. I've canceled class that day--not my favorite thing, especially during Week One, but he'll need me there.

We had a lovely day Saturday in Chicago with a tour of the University of Chicago for our daughter, the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie house for all of us, lunch in Hyde Park, and a short field trip to Navy Pier for our ongoing history project. We came home exhausted, but rallied to go out for cheeseburgers. We needed a getaway, and it was good for all of us. Three of us in the house all day every day lately has given us summer cabin fever as the heat and mosquitoes have made the patio and neighborhood not as pleasant as I'd like.

Today's spending was $2 for coffee to get me through that three-hour tutorial. Seemingly hundreds of meetings for the next few weeks will require more.

I've cashed $25 out of Swagbucks which will continue to go to my big goal.

Unemployment Mood Lifters

August 24th, 2018 at 05:30 pm

My DH is a moody soul sometimes, and unemployment has not helped him. He's still finishing up his summer independent study, and he's put WAY more into it than need be, but it's good for him to have something to focus on--especially since he really has to wait out the ear surgery before he can start anything.

And I'm busy with my back-to-school prep and our daughter's stuff too. He's been very reluctant to go into uberfrugal mode, and while I was a bit ticked off at him at first, now I see he's a person that needs a few creature comforts to help him through this. I've loosened the grocery budget, started to make a bit better meals, and started looking at UJK airfares for Christmas. He needs something other than the pre-surgery wait and the job wait. He did the presurgical physical today, and the doc filled in all the details for his annual wellness rebate. I'm in the middle of the "wellness activity" now mandated to earn the rebate of $150. The guided meditation option has almost put me to sleep the last couple days. But heck, it's $150.

We're off on a little field trip tomorrow. I'll fill in the details when we return.

Back to Bad News

August 7th, 2018 at 03:08 pm

Despite many too-long driving days, DD and I enjoyed our road trip, particularly lots of hiking and friend time on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We were not especially frugal, but managed a tour of the University of Minnesota, an overnight with my brother, my aunt's funeral, three days of lovely hiking, West Side Story at the Guthrie Theater before we arrived just in time for me to teach my evening class last night. My DH met us in the parking lot, ready to take the cooler and DD home. But then the not-so-good news: he got laid off without warning yesterday afternoon as part of a corporate reorganization. They gave him two weeks of severance pay, and out the door he (and three others) went.

He was pretty shook up, and I can't say last night was my most successful class ever after that news. But onward, right? He's been there 18 months, and the stress has been pretty awful. Tomorrow he'll start the unemployment process, and we'll do a financial review. But he's on my health insurance, so no worries there. Honestly, as worrying as it may become, I'm sort of relieved. He could use some time off, and his ear surgery is in a month. As usual, my first impulses are all about a fridge inventory, a review of the bills, and then a renewed focus on my job. I've got a full schedule of teaching in addition to adjunct classes through the end of the year. With some minor belt tightening, we should be fine. Remind me of that, please, should this drag on.

Not Quite the Road Trip I Had in Mind

July 30th, 2018 at 07:10 am

Well, I was longing for a road trip for the summer, but be careful what you wish for? We got the news Thursday that my 100-year-old aunt had died. We were very close when I was kid, and I took the train to visit them in Montana a couple of times. We saw her last fall for her 100th birthday party in Fargo, ND. This is also the week that DD and I were headed to northeastern MN with my Minneapolis girlfriends to spend time on the North Shore of Lake Superior. DD and I were also planning on a stop in Minneapolis for her tour of the University of Minnesota, an evening with friends with dinner and the theater.

It means a lot to all my family that we make the trek, so our revamped plans include leaving tonight after my class (ugh), stopping tomorrow morning at the U of M, driving to my brother's lake home in central MN, then the next morning to Fargo for the funeral. That afternoon we will drive across Minnesota to the North Shore where I will drink lots of wine and collapse in a heap. I hope we'll have great weather, can hike, reconnect with friends, and just enjoy life and being outside. We've tacked another day onto the end of the trip so we can use our theater tickets, but that means we will probably arrive back to Cheeseland just in time for me to teach next week's class.

As the North Shore part of this was planned as a girls' trip, and the logistics for DH to accompany us were headache-inducing, DD and I are on our own. We headed to the library Saturday, got an armful of audio books, and I'll pick up maps and other stuff today at AAA. I got an oil change and refilled my tires yesterday.

I was planning on leaving my car in the Twin Cities and driving up north with my girlfriends, but I can't see a way for that to happen. Glad I was able to rearrange the theater, but not looking forward to the drive. I probably should not have totaled the miles and times on Google maps. It's 23 hours and 46 minutes of driving and 1452 miles.

Lots of issues at work too. Hope to get those settled before I leave tonight.

The UFM Begins and a Fun June Ends

July 2nd, 2018 at 09:55 am

We spent the weekend in Madison so DH and I could work on his history project and DD could tour UW Madison. Great hotel with some nice dinners out, but it was sweltering which put a damper on some plans. We met up with a former student, swam in the hotel pool, and enjoyed their lovely free breakfasts as well as the huge Farmers' Market. As an employee of UW Madison poorer sister campus, I was blown away by their fabulous facilities and beautiful setting. I go there at least once a year, but am always impressed--as was DD. Their offerings tick a lot of her "want" boxes.

We came home to a very warm day, but managed to unpack and get some laundry in before our power blew out with a strong rainstorm about 4. No electricity until midnight, but everything appears to have survived in the freezer and fridge.


Today's plans include a trip to the gymn, DD's French lessons, some meal prep for the week, and perhaps dinner with friends. Thankfully I have a gift card just waiting to be redeemed for dinner. My dear friend is headed back to AZ on the 5th, and I'm eager to see her again before she goes.

Back From California

June 4th, 2018 at 02:43 pm

Back from my little five-day jaunt to Bodega Bay with my Minnesota girlfriends. Man, we had fun. We got a VRBO right up from the beach, walked through Armstrong Redwoods, drank wine, hiked to a lighthouse and all around. It wasn't extremely cheap as it was a friend's birthday, but it was a lovely trip and really helped clear the mind and get me ready for summer. I used airmiles for the flight, and that always feels so good.

We had an interesting talk about retirement goals and our next travel plans.

Back to reality later today.

Updating interest on UK House Fund

Making Christmas Plans?

May 23rd, 2018 at 08:20 am

I feel a little wacky, but last night we finalized out Christmas plans. Unusual for me as frequently I don't know what we're having for dinner until 3 some days. But I love to plan travel.

We've decided to go to England for Christmas--a week in London in an airbnb and another week with friends in my DH's home island,also an airbnb. The last few years at my brother's home in the Twin Cities have been fun, but it's a precarious icy drive with lots of planning and a hotel stay since they've downsized. This is in lieu of our summer UK trip, and we're looking forward to a lovely London Christmas. We miss our UK friends too.

We still haven't figured out summer vacations here. Tonight perhaps. I also need to do some budget adjusting as I'm still in the "just our of school" mode. But I've got a load of laundry on the line, one more in the washer, and actually have thawed some chicken for tonight!

Soup Weather

October 11th, 2017 at 01:25 pm

We had more than an inch of rain overnight, and it's cold and blustery. I came home from school, googled a recipe for kale and potato soup, and found my inspiration with the Pioneer Woman Olive garden potato soup knockoff. Luckily i had Italian sausage in the freezer. I added a few leeks from last week's CSA box, and it looks delicious. I subbed fat-free evaporated milk for the cream to cut the fat.
Cleaning out the fridge is one goals for the week--mostly in preparation for the French girls' arrival on Tuesday. We had an info meeting last night, and I certainly hope we don't get the ones who smoke and drink! But before then, I need to get ready for our road trip to Fargo for my aunt's 100th birthday. It's been so busy at school, I haven't had a moment to think about anything. Eeek! Lots to do. I'd better get on it!

Holding the Line

September 28th, 2017 at 03:57 pm

I've had a bunch of financial decisions to make lately, and this may be the month of saying no to many things. My fabulous girlfriends are going to NYC in December, and oh how I'd like to go. But airfare, hotel, Nutcracker tickets, dinners out--it would be 1K at least. My aunt's 100th birthday is coming up, and it's 570 miles from here. How I'd love for all three of us to fly. But I said no to that too--and we're driving. Airfares were almost $500/each. We'll get an audio book, take turns, and just do it. With my class, I could've covered all those extras, but heck, I have plenty to do here.

Payday can't come soon enough though it's going to take us some time to dig out. I did do some Swagbucks, cashed out, and added $100 to the big goal. And now that fall weather seems to have arrived, I've been cooking up a storm--including a fridge clearing veggie soup for DH's lunches.

The good news is HOORAY the bathroom should be done early next week. Pictures to follow! My only spending is that $2 cup of coffee to push through my morning classes.

More Juggling In Store

September 26th, 2017 at 08:10 pm

Last night at my adjunct class I learned my next session which would start in late October has been canceled due to low enrollment. I think they're going through some tough times there, and I'm not all that surprised. It's not-for-profit, but it is private. So that income--always headed for my big goal-- is gone until my next scheduled session in March. I have mixed feelings, I guess. My regular classes keep me plenty busy, but I like the demographic and the extra cash certainly helps. But I also like being home weeknights to work on house stuff, spend time with my family, and do extra school work. I didn't say anything yet about their security issues, but will still voice my concerns.

In happier news I had a lovely weekend in Chicago with my BFF. We played hipster in Logan Square, ate at great places, drank good beer and fun cocktails, and in last weekend's heat went back downtown for a boat ride on the river and lake. It was a very fun weekend, and my BFF always makes me feel so much better. Not too spendy with a great airbnb and the just the train ticket.

The forecast is for cooler weather tomorrow so I'll roast more tomatoes when I get home from the university--and maybe even do some ironing.

A Little England Review

August 16th, 2017 at 09:52 am

Back from the UK and sorely missing it already. DH and I always sit down after trips and figure out what went right and wrong. Apart from our first-day mishap and a few rainy days without much done on the Isle of Wight, everything went very well. The car was a perfect size for the four of us, my daughter’s buddy was a great traveler if a bit overwhelmed sometimes, we saw LOTS of old friends, ate plenty of great food, and I had a glorious day to myself in London. We went to the theatre three times—the Globe, a participatory Alice through the Looking Glass, and the Bob Dylan play I so much wanted to see. I reconnected with my old colleagues and had a wonderful lunch with them.
Our best “new” thing was the great airbnbs—all so different and so fun. The London flat was convenient, in my favorite neighborhood, and large enough for all four of us comfortably. The a bit-too-small cottage on the Isle of Wight overlooked the river and sea, offered great views of fireworks and the Red Arrows, and was right next to a “floating bridge” aka small ferry connecting both sides of the river. The girls rode that free half a dozen times a day just for fun. We had a beach BBQ with friends too. The final airbnb was in a small village inside the London commuter belt but close to our friends in Windsor. The granny annex was in a gated home with spectacular views from the adorable leaded glass windows over the village church steeple and all the way to Windsor Castle. It was gorgeous and made me feel like I was living in a British novel seeing that church steeple outside the windows. Every airbnb left us coffee, tea, a pint of milk, and bread.
Now to gather myself together to take the next steps towards paying some bills, readying the bathroom for the Monday remodeling, prepping us all for school, and figuring out where to go from here. August is a nasty month for us with the next bathroom installment due along with the annual home insurance, DH’s tuition, school supplies, car insurance, and life insurance. In other financial news, DH’s siblings have sold the UK house to his brother. We’re working out payment schedules now. That cash will go into the UK savings for our home there. The village airbnb gave me a lot to think through about the costs in somewhere not quite in central London, but charming and cheaper.

How I Made $75 on a Bad Day in London

July 29th, 2017 at 03:04 pm

Hello from London! Everything's great now, but we had a bad first day. Our flight was late in Heathrow, so I started texting the airbnb host to say we'd be late. When we arrived about 90 minutes than planned, there was no one there. No answer to our texts. no response to the emergency line call at airbnb. My daughter wasn't feeling well, and I was upset. We waited and texted her for another two hours as it started to rain with us outside the flat, our huge suitcases, and two tired girls. I called some British friends, my husband called airbnb, and together we all decided the only thing to do was try to get a hotel. Happily this was my old neighborhood in London so I knew the nearby spots, and managed to wangle a room for the three of us about a mile away. We even managed to take the bus there. Later that night I got a almost panicked, very apologetic call from the host who was relying on a friend to let us in--and didn't get our texts until much later. The girls and I crashed, ate great ramen, saw the Changing of the Guard in the morning and still managed to meet someone who let us into the flat, grab a bus with the suitcases, haul them up four flights of stairs, and meet my DH on time. So where did the $75 come from? The host is reimbursing us (without my asking) for the first night. The $75 is the difference between our airbnb and the hotel cost. And we had a nice free breakfast at the hotel. Annoying--but when we got in the flat, it was great, and found a big box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco waiting for us. We went off to the Globe last night for an absolutely spectacular performance of 12th Night. We went to a wacky Alice in Wonderland thing today and up the London Eye--which my family did a decade ago. My DH and I took a photo at Waterloo Station where we first
met. Lots of fun already. But London is expensive, so as they say--every little bit helps.

Drawdown Days

July 19th, 2017 at 10:04 am

We're at T-minus six days until London, and I seem to be drawing down everything. I've moved some items from the fridge/freezer to the downstairs freezer to ensure they stay super cold while the dog sitter is here. It can be a tricky upstairs freezer drawer if you're not used to it. I'm trying hard to use up all the fresh food and excess around here--and still working our way through DH's huge purchase of six packages of sliced cheese. Luckily everyone likes a grilled cheese sandwich around here. I'm moving our clean clothes that will be packed out of the closets and drawers into the guest room to start packing tomorrow. The gift cupboard is being drawn down as I have several gifts for friends and family to pack.
I've listed "return all library books" on the calendar for the weekend. I arranged haircuts for both DD and me for Tuesday and finalized our airport transportation. Tomorrow will be an errand day as I have stuff to donate and buy. I have another colleague lunch today. Tonight I also need to doublecheck I've made printouts of all our papers, tickets, reservations, etc. I'm fretting that I didn't rent a large enough car for our countryside time. Anyone have a Jetta station wagon or know anything about their size? There will be 4 of us and four large suitcases. Do you think we need a bigger car? The rates go up quite dramatically for larger rentals, but we'll be driving to Cambridge, then to Southhampton as well as around the Isle of Wight.

Random London Tips for Monkey Mama

June 12th, 2017 at 08:22 am

OK, Monkey Mama, here we go:
TRANSPORTATION
First, get an Oyster card for transportation at Heathrow or Gatwick. The tube station at Heathrow has them, and you will be happy you did. They can be used on the bus, tube, and various other places. ‘ You’re probably planning on walking a lot, but your feet will get tired. And people walk VERY fast except for tourists who stop at the bottom of the escalator and in other inopportune places. When they say stand on the right on the escalator, they mean it.
The tube is easy, but crowded and you don’t see much except people’s armpits. I much prefer the bus when you have time. The site tfl.gov.uk is your friend for all transportation planning. Black cabs are expensive and don’t get in the non-licensed minicabs. Uber is around, but the bus in non-rush hour is great. I’d skip the tourist buses and try one of these. http://www.londonforfree.net/bus-tour/ or http://londonist.com/2016/02/london-s-10-best-bus-routes. That “Londonist” site is great for daily things happening.
SITES
The biggies for me are
• Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament—come out of the Westminster tube station for maximum (AH!) effect. Then walk along the river after that.
• Trafalgar Square. It’s the geographical epicenter of London. Best bus there is the #24 or Charing Cross tube. The steps to the National Gallery are “my spot.” Look down across the square and you can see the river and Big Ben. I saw them filming Wonder Woman there last year. Go to the National Gallery if art is your thing and say hi to my Caravaggio. Free tours frequently—check out their site. Next door is the fun National Portrait Gallery, also free. Everything from authors, to rock stars, royalty, and a beautiful portrait of David Beckham  Both have cafes and fancier restaurants—including a rooftop one. Expensive for my budget so I eat at Pret a Manger across the street or at St Martin’s for lunch. They often have a free lunchtime concert too. The Chandos pub has lunch upstairs and nice beer as does the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland Avenue.
• The Eye is worth it, I think, but book ahead. For views I’d skip the Shard and book ahead at the Skygarden. They have a normal priced coffee shop in the morning and it’s got a nice vibe in the evening for cocktails. But you have to book. It’s near the Bank of England, and the morning rush hour in Bank station is my idea of hell. But I think you’re staying close by? Walk over. It’s also close to Leadenhall Market—Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
• It’s probably worth watching the Changing of the Guard once at Buckingham Palace. Watch your wallets etc in those crowded spots and on the tube. I have never had a problem, but summer is full of tourists and offers more chances for pickpockets.
• I love the Southbank—the Globe Theatre (tours!), the National Theater—heaven—and they all have food available. Sit outside, walk, have a beer. I also like the George—from the book Shakespeare’s Local. It’s not far from Borough Market and Southwark Bridge. Despite the recent tragedy, I’d still go to Borough Market. It’s fun.
• The British Museum and all those Museums. They can be overwhelming. Go to the tours at the British Museum. My favorite wine place is just around the corner.
• The Green Spaces—London is justifiably proud of its parks. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are lovely. I also like Regents Park and you can walk along the canals.
• I like Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms, but we are history geeks. I spent two years at the imperial War Museum and they’ve done an excellent job remodeling it. Good-ish café there too and Lambeth is different.
• Do go to the Museum of London in the Barbican. Free and very interesting.
• I like London Walks company for guided walks, or just buy a book on walks. Also good wlaking podcasts.
• I know this is strange, but I love St Pancras station. Good bookstore and good architecture. It’s just atmospheric. I also like Lambs Conduit—good places to eat and my favorite feminist bookstore.
• For more out of the way things, I’d recommend Greenwich or Hampstead for Sunday lunch. When I win the lottery, that’s my new home.
FOOD
Breakfast where you live. Take advantage of your own tea and coffee. Lunch can be economically done with the supermarket takeaways. There are great options at all the central grocery stores. I like Waitrose (too expensive though) and dream of the M and S bean salad. All of them have sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, crisps, to take away. And do take away from Eat, Pret, and all those places saving yourself the steep 18-20% VAT and eating in the park.
I’m not a fancy eater, especially in London, but do have favorite pubs out aways or off the beaten tourist track. Non-touristy pubs have the best food options. Especially ones with outside seating. Or eat at the theater cafeterias. There are lots of good dinner places by Charlotte Street off Tottenham Court Road. Don’t eat Mexican, just don’t.
This is a big restaurant area: http://www.stchristophersplace.com/

Not sure what else you’re particularly interested in. We do lots of history and literary things, but happy to help in any way I can.

UK Planning and Spending

May 29th, 2017 at 06:56 pm

We had our planning meeting with our daughter's BFF's family on Saturday night to talk through England planning. I think her mom really wants to join us! But it's all systems go--and I booked flights Sunday, and after looking at hotel prices in London, booked a two-bedroom airbnb for six nights instead. The airbnb also gives us plenty of options for breakfasts in, access to laundry facilities, and other meal options. It's a self-contained flat with a full kitchen etc. And--it's in my old neighborhood in London so I know the shops and transport very well. I thought about exploring a new part of the city, but finding a two-bedroom with three beds for under $200/night was a triumph. Now, of course, the girls want a day trip to Paris. DH would prefer to have a day to himself in London, maybe with his brother or BFF, so we'll trade off who has the girls so I can have the following day with my London colleagues.

Real life also progresses here. I spent more than I wanted to at the garden center, as usual. We spent Saturday clearing the raised beds and doing lots of weeding and chopping. I also drove DD to Half Price Books where happily we bought nothing and got $12 for her outgrown books. I'm making several boxes for the upcoming garage sale. Lots of things can go. Plenty to do!

Back from Door County

May 23rd, 2017 at 03:13 pm

I had a lovely five days with BFF in Door County. We used the airbnb where the family stayed last fall. The weather was not fabulous, but the cherry trees, forget-me-nots, and trilliums (trillia?) were all in bloom. We hiked a lot, took the ferry to Washington Island, ate delicious food, drank wine, watched movies, shopped, and talked and talked. My BFF is the best traveling buddy. We made lots of long-term plans and had a wonderful time.
My regular spring classes are done, graded, and projects headed for the shredder. Either students pick them up or off they go. I went to the university today and ran into pre-med students I'd had in my fall classes. They're lovely folks, and I told them I'd help with application materials. It's above and beyond, but I sure like them all. One young man has Syrian parents and is taking two years between now and med school to work in refugee camps. How can you say no to someone like that? Another young woman has been accepted to Kings College London and wants to sit down and talk London. Can you see why I like them?

My evening class continues with the other side of the socio-economic scale. I've got a student who is just out after 10 years in prison. Man alive, the stories.

So, I've spent a lot on Door County, our upcoming anniversary, and various things. We need to do a little belt tightening soon. I do have a few things listed on FB, but am traveling to Minneapolis in a few weeks for a friend's birthday which coincides with her neighborhood garage sale. We're all bringing things to sell so I plan on spending much of tomorrow gathering and pricing. I deposited two small rebate checks into the 100K fund. It needs a funds infusion. I need to make some lists.

Three Weeks and One Day

April 19th, 2017 at 12:40 pm

until the blasted semester ends. I'm hanging on, not spending much, but fueled by caffeine and sugar. I seem to have legions of students who need help, are tired too, have lost the plot, or something else dire. Despite some major grocery spending last weekend, I seem to have spent nothing for days.

Tomorrow I'm driving with a friend to a teaching conference and meeting some other colleagues there. I am so excited, but so tired at the same time. I have a short presentation to do, and miracle of miracles, the university is paying for our lodging. It's over at noon on Friday, so we hope to have some time to hike Friday night. If you want an indication of how boring I currently am, I'm planning on holing up in the hotel room and grading papers all Thursday night. And worst of all--I'm looking forward to it.

DH is also busy at work and I need a couple hours tonight to pull things together around here.

Weekend Away

March 21st, 2017 at 02:30 pm

I spent the weekend in Minneapolis with my girlfriends. One of these women has been my friend since second grade--a million or so years ago. And the others--I've know them all through first, and sometimes second marriages. They're my traveling buddies too.

It's about a 5-6 hour drive, but I had Bill Bryson on audio book, and the weather was ok. We had a dinner and a lunch out--and theatre tickets at the Guthrie. Considering how constrained my spending has been, I think we did well. I stayed with one of them, and we ate breakfasts and had cocktails there. I splashed out on a $25 Eddie Bauer sweater, but packed a sandwich to eat at the rest stop rather than giving in to my Culver's temptation. It was a lovely start to spring break.

Although it's break, my evening class continued last night, but I spent nothing. DD and I are headed for $5 Tuesdays to see Beauty and the Beast tonight.

And DH got paid! Isn't that nice? He's been paid for a week and got his back unemployment. I haven't really relaxed about money yet, but I will.

My women friends and I had lots of talk about retirement and how to do what we'd like to do. Mostly we want to travel, read, and do some volunteer work. Aiming for all of that I have a meeting scheduled with my 403b advisor tomorrow morning. Hoping for some reassuring news. Our fall teaching schedules have been published, and thankfully I have a full load.

Joy in Packerland

January 16th, 2017 at 09:19 am

Sorry,NJDebbie,but there is lots of joy in Wisconsin this morning after that amazing Packer game. And we didn't even eat all the game time snacks because we were too nervous during that last quarter. But, they will be out for next Sunday's Atlanta game.

Except for the church offering, it was a NS day with new movie titles from the library and several new books--including--to my delight, the Colson Whitehead book that has received such raves. I love the library, especially now as we're being uberfrugal.

Speaking of uberfrugality, I may need to have one day with a little leeway. We're planning to head to western Wisconsin this weekend to watch the eagles feed on the river. It will be a good day for a lunch out. Maybe I can use the cash from the boot/skate sales.

Meal plan for the week is done. It's going to be a meatless Monday with a quiche for dinner--leftovers to DD's lunch this week. Taco Tuesday and spaghetti Wednesday as per usual.

We finally got the Christmas tree down, and I've chosen some unloved ornaments to go in the donation bag. I'm also making granola bags for my buddies without full teaching loads. I have lots of oats and dried fruit, so no outlays there. In other exciting plans, DH and I will clean the carpets, and I have meetings at school beginning tomorrow.

Happy MLK day! We're spending some time today to act on his words: "The time is always right to do what's right."

Home Again

December 27th, 2016 at 12:22 pm

After a lovely four days in the Twin Cities for Christmas, we're home. My brother and his wife are the best. Their house is on the market so we talked about staying in a motel to keep out of their hair, but we managed well. I cut back a bit on the vast amounts of wine, champagne, and brandy I usually bring them, but I hope we were still generous enough. I made a mint grasshopper ice cream tart which was great and a spinach pear salad for Christmas Eve. Lots of Wisconsin cheese as well. We made some time yesterday to go to the Martin Luther and Art show at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and then headed home.

That and some road food and a breakfast with friends meant the financial outlay was minimal, but real frugality cranks up now. We've decided to do our usual pizza and movie NY, but I've already started crockpot soup for the next few days. I see a couple days of digging out of Christmas--some returns, etc, but mostly small errands. Off to the library for some DVDs and books!

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Lovely Purchases

February 14th, 2016 at 06:18 am

I set out yesterday to buy a birthday gift. It's been cold, and of course, it started to rain minutes from the flat. I'm SO happy I put on my quilted vest under my raincoat. Folks here are always saying, "You're used to cold weather," but I never spend five or six hours outside in my daily routine. Here I'm always walking, walking to the tube, or walking and waiting for the bus. My fitbit is happy, but my feet get cold.

I haven't been to that great tourist trap Portobello Road for a while, so thought perhaps I'd find a small piece of jewelry for my BFF's birthday. I almost bought a small amber necklace, but wasn't completely sold. So I decided to head off to my old haunts in Muswell Hill as I've always had fun at their many charity shops. Two of my favorite tops were from one of them, so I headed there first. By this time, I'd been on the bus seemingly forever as there's no tube service there. And it started to sleet the moment I exited the bus. But my Air Ambulance Charity shop did it again. I bought the BFF a very pretty heart amulet for (wait for it) 2GBP, then found a gorgeous purplely grey shirt for 3.95GBP (less than $6). It was a great brand, Marks and Spencer's Per Una line, and I love love love it. You know, one of those things you put on and go "Yes!"

Fueled by my success I hit all the other charity shops there and even a couple (gasp) full retail. I bought another really cute shirt for 3.75GBP that I also love, then tried to figure the best way home. I think I was dizzied by my retail success, and I didn't pay much attention to the bus route. I'd read the numbered route, but got on the bus going the wrong way. I can't believe I did that, but blame the rain and cold. At least it wasn't going somewhere awful, so I got off again in Central London, grabbed a tube, bought some lovely food, got another bus home within minutes.

Refueled by tea and a cherry tart, I bought DD and DH's airfare. Everything that worked with their dates was in the high $1200s, but I found one with a stop in Manchester for under $1000. So--a lovely $600+ savings there. Skyped with them both, and we're all looking forward to us being together. All in all, horrible weather but great shopping. I'm going out for a stroll, but then will be home to prep for the week's teaching.

Sticking My Toe In from London

February 1st, 2016 at 06:44 am

I've been in London just over a week now;mostly things have gone very well. A student lost her passport and other minor calamities too, but all is well and I've been in the classroom for a week. DH and DD came over for his dad's birthday and left yesterday. It's been a bit of a whirlwind. They stayed in five places in six nights, and the hotel stays and meals out have added up as has the transportation.

They flew Aer Lingus to London via Dublin while I flew with students. We ended up in a London hotel the first night as my flat had tenants, then we were off to his hometown for the birthday. The coach fares were half the price of the train fares, but the ferry was pricey. And DH has a habit of treating his whole family to meals as a gesture of his affection, which I would not, but I figure that's not my business. His dad has moved to a care facility, so we thought we could stay at his house, but because the family was there from all corners of Europe, we stayed in a hotel two nights, had the party and various celebrations, then I returned to London while they stayed with DH's brother.

They came back to London midweek, and we toured Parliament with the students, had various meals with friends, and went to the George, a pub in Southwark because we'd read a book (Shakespeare's Local) on it over the summer, and I'd had fun times with colleagues before at the same pub. So, although we ate in a couple of nights, it's gotten bit expensive. This leads to my budget decisions. I'm trying to sort out how much an ordinary weekly expenditure would be for me. Meals out are very expensive as there's that nasty 20% VAT, so I've bought food for breakfasts and some lunch supplies, and have leftovers. We had a lovely proper tea at the British Museum with students, and I ended up taking mini quiches and some scones home--all of which are in my freezer now. So I'm thinking with most meals in, I can probably get by with 50 GBP a week. Although I can hear Scotish Girl laughing at my indulgent budget, I' hoping to fit theatre tickets and all meals out of that.

I have a few more things to buy: another pillow, a wall poster, computer cable, and some sofa pillows, The flat is lovely, but it's all black and white, and I need some color. It's eleven more weeks after all! This week has a day trip to Bath which is paid for, but I'll need to buy lunch that day. And it's too busy for the theatre this week, so if I can find some nice cheap seats either at Leicester Square or day tickets at the National, I'll spring for that next week.

I've also had to buy a phone as our UK old phone is pretty knackered and we find we need two. In previous years the university and our partners here have lent us phones, but that's not happened. I spent 65 GBP (about 90$) on a cheap pay as you go smart phone. It has some frugal apps, so I'll be trying those, especially the special offers on free coffee and 1 pd Monday lunches. Today I came home for lunch after classes, but am headed out tonight for faculty wine evening--my favorite night at a fancy wine bar with free nibbles for dinner. It looks like a no-spend day in London. How's that for a good start? I'll post photos on Thursday when things settle down. Happy February to all of you!

Counting Down

January 11th, 2016 at 08:26 pm

It's 10 days until we leave for London, so I'm in big countdown mode. Lots of things to eat up, lots of things to get done.

We've got a dog sitter lined up, I've hauled the suitcase up from the basement, and I'm going to officially start packing tomorrow.

I've been talking with a colleague about my willingness to take on extra work. The university situation is tenuous, and she's just had a class cut, cutting her income by 25% for spring. I mutter and curse the extra work, but I think she's right, it's fear motivated. So I'm hooked on work, hooked on saving money where possible, and realize it will probably always be this way. I will be happy when this Winterim class is done, Only eight days left of it and 8,000 papers.

In happier news, my MN friends are joining me in France at the end of February. My students go on a rather raucous bus tour of Scotland, and we're headed back to Nice. We got a triple room, a great rate at the hotel, and free breakfast (at 17Euros) for booking online. I'm flying British Air, and I actually am using my Avios points, so the flight from Heathrow cost under $100. I want to do some more traveling too, but will hold off on that until I get the semester sorted out.

It's so cold here. Ugh.


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