Payoff! January report

My total payment in December: $1,115.48

It was another very good payoff month, due to something called “Christmas.” In my family, we make or buy a small token for each person (my gift this year: potato focaccia bread and a calendar magnet) and then take the rest of the money we would have spent on presents, throw it in together, divide it up and then each buy ourselves one big present. This year, my present to myself was another chunk of debt paid off.

This month I paid $1,107.68 toward the principal and $7.80 toward the interest. The money for the extra payments came from $393.16 originally budgeted, $37.00 I didn’t use on my gym dues because my gym was closed the last week and I opted to skip the second-to-last week and not pay until the new year. I also had $15.18 left over in dining out, almost $60 left over in my Christmas budget. My Christmas gift this year totaled $460 (that’s $360 from the pot-splitting and $100 because Santa still brings me money.)

I don’t have anything down on my list of things not bought, so it was another good month of not wanting things.  I’m not having any roadblocks right now. It’s getting very exciting to get that much closer to the end of this goal.

I’m also pretty excited that my original budgeted amount was so high.($103.67 for the regular payment plus $393.16 for the goal for a total of $496.83. It bodes well for my accelerated savings plan that I will begin once I get this debt paid off.


Sunrise for the new year

I had some problems with my helmet, which meant I didn’t ride my bike to work today as planned. But that meant that I got to walk over the Steel Bridge and see this glorious sunrise.


There was a train stopped on the bridge, and I thought, “I should take a picture of the sunrise through the windows of the train.”  And then I did nothing with that thought, which was unfortunate, because when I did decide I wanted to try that, the trains that came by were moving and thus I got blurry photos.  These two were my best.  You can see where the good photo could have been.

If 50% of 2018 can equal this sunrise, it’s going to be a very good year.

(There was another good one the next day, too!)

Thrift Food Plan report December 2017

I’m feeling rather conflicted about this month’s data.  I’ve got December down for five weeks, per the rules (December 30 and 31 fall in the fifth weekend, thus five weeks). However, when it came time to go shopping that weekend, I’d already spent my allotted $220 dollars, so I did an accounting trick and made it as if the purchase happened on 1/1/18.

I spent a lot of time deciding if I should do this or not.  Much more than was probably necessary.  In the end, I justified it thusly: nearly all groceries bought will be used to make food eaten in January.  I was shopping for two weeks, not one, so how to account for that? And finally, I wanted to “win.”

I didn’t, though I came close.  It’s a hollow victory through, because I know I skimmed off the Christmas budget this month.  For example, I hosted Christmas Eve Eve (celebrated on 12/13 this year) and made two kinds of soup, plus bread and dessert.  There was a lot of leftover soup.  It fed me breakfast for most of the rest of December. It’s not reflected in my groceries budget because years ago I made the decision to wrap holiday cooking into the Christmas budget.
One of the problems with December’s shopping, and the reason I essentially spent five weeks worth of groceries in four weeks, is cheese.  I’m a great lover of cheese and good cheese at WinCo is incredibly affordable. Thus, at the beginning of December I bought Parmesan. And feta. And goat cheese. And blue cheese. And mizithra.  As of December 31, I still have half the goat cheese and feta left and I haven’t even cracked open the blue and mizithra. I also impulse bought lunch meat (ham AND turkey) and had to work to get that eaten up before it went bad.

Not a good use of my grocery dollars.

I’m going to continue the Thrift Food Challenge into next year.  I’ve decided to cease this pantry-type shopping at WinCo, as it leads to cheese and other excesses.  Instead, I’m going to shop twice a month a WinCo having planned already what I will cook for the next two (or three) weeks.  I’ve been meal planning all along, but never with the intention of buying the majority of meal fixins at WinCo.

We shall see if that makes a difference.

2017 Photos of the Year

This mobile bartender, the most rock-and-roll guy at the concert.

One of our many crippling snows.

Container ship in fog over from the Steel Bridge

Blue sky and the White Dove of the Desert

Tourists at White Dove of the Desert

Pride 2017. Portland.

Portland Actors Ensemble

Total eclipse 2017. (No filter)

Seaside sunset

Minnesota State Fair

Paul at the Minnesota State Fair

SkyGlider, Minnesota State Fair

Spoonbridge and Cherry, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Our “white” Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve morning, and I’m getting some last few baking things done.  The DJ comes on the radio and says, “Thank goodness, we missed all the terrible weather forecast for today.”  I look outside where it’s dark and threatening.  On her next break she says, “I just had a call from Boring and it’s snowing there.  And in Gresham, there is freezing rain.”  And then every break after that she had more bad news about the weather.

Sometimes it’s best not to speak too soon.

What we got at the Orange Door: ice pellets and freezing rain-type stuff.  It was never really snow, just a pain to drive in.  But the fact I drove in it (twice: on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) means it wasn’t too terrible.  By Boxing Day it had faded to an icy sheen, captured here.

Under those tarps are piles of sand leftover from the side yard, which will be used for the back yard.

Payoff! December report

In November, I paid my usual monthly payment of $103.67, plus an additional payment of $691.67, for a total of $795.34.  That additional payment is a new high point for a non-birthday month.

Of my nearly eight-hundred dollars, $12.51 was applied to interest, while $782.83 was applied to the principal. I did contact my company to see if I could have extra payments go only to the principal, and the answer was a lot of sentences that distilled down to: no.

I have a nice long list of this and that that added up to nearly seven-hundred dollars. There was extra money coming into my life: Matt paid me twice for food, I cashed in Fred Meyer Rewards, I found a dollar.  That added up to $155.96.  My original budget was $180 for this goal. To that I added the $185.34 that was left over after things had been budgeted for.  Plus another $30.00 for biking and walking to work. Then, at the end of the month I swept unused money from budget categories: groceries, joint bills, dining out.

I didn’t add anything to the list of things not bought in service of this goal.  It was a happily frugal month.  My only roadblock right now is being caught up in the idea that I will get a bonus from work.  We didn’t get bonuses last year, but because I pay the bills at work, I could see the profit and loss wasn’t going to support bonuses. This year is much healthier, P&L-wise, and so I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about something that might not happen. And I think at this writing (12/13) it’s not going to happen.  I think if we were getting bonuses, they would have announced it at the holiday party.  So I need to stop thinking about it.
Onward to December!

The first time the Orange Door purchased a TV

This has been our TV for some years now.  We inherited it from my mother when she got a flat screen.  It’s 36″ and has served us well.  It’s our second TV.  The first one, Matt borrowed from a friend.  She declined to have it back.

We didn’t set out to get a new TV. The current one works just fine.  But our DVD player was on the fritz, and Matt bought a new one and it wasn’t compatible with the TV, so we ended up with a TV and a soundbar.

Here is our new TV. It’s 55 inches.  We bought it online, and I learned that while it’s good to do the research online, it’s also probably good to go and look at the TV before buying. Because if I had seen this TV live and in person?  No way, Jose.  Too big.
It was so big we had to take it out of the box in the store parking lot to fit it in the car.   Aside from it’s large size, it’s a very nice TV. It does the wi-fi thing (the previous TV did not) so now we have Netflix on a big screen. And access to other things too.

Changing of the photos

Each year when I order my Christmas cards (and, increasingly, Christmas presents) via Shutterfly, I also have some photos printed. When they arrive, there is a changing of the guard.

I first print a “fun” set of things that happened the previous year.  This goes in my photo mobile. It’s tricky to get an even number of portrait and landscape photos, but I persist until I find a good combination.

I also have a photo collage frame in my bedroom, where I feature 10 “good” photos I took the previous year.  You’ll see these photos again in a “best photos” post at the end of the year.

It’s tradition to have at least one concert photo per year featured in the photo collage.  This year, I’m proud to say the guy selling water is my concert photo.  I also apparently ordered 13 photos, not 10, so the three on the right didn’t make the cut.

Stickers on my guitar case

Back when I got the Forty Dollar Guitar, I also got this case. I immediately set out to cover it in stickers, because that was the cool thing to do.  Here’s a retrospective.  (To simulate the full effect, I didn’t rotate any of the photos, so some of them are upside down.)

One of my favorite Edward Hopper paintings, also featured in the movie Singles as a title card. (Alas, blurry picture.) Internet research for said title card has turned up nothing. Instead, I found this really great Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe which told me that Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament got a job in the art department for the movie, and it was his handwriting that was featured on the title cards.

College part II

I do not remember the origin of this sticker.

My roommate Erin Feldman made these in college.  I had one on my sewing machine, and when I took it in for repair, the scrubbed it off without asking.  Not cool.  This is the surviving sticker.

Gotta have V. Mars.

Boise band.  Also fond memories.  I still have the t-shirt.

From our first visit.

TriMet swag.

My first Public Radio Station

More TriMet swag.

This bumper sticker is often seen in the Boston area.  When I climbed Mt. Monadnock, I made sure to buy the sticker.

This cracked me up when I saw it on a car, so Matt bought me my own copy for my birthday.

My first without-parents vacation.

I’ve been several times.  This might be from my visit with Jan and Kelly.

He wasn’t my guy, but I admired him.  And I liked the alliteration.

Rebuilding Center.

One of the more recent, from my February visit to Arizona.

My mom brought me this from a Massachusetts trip.

More V. Mars.  These are from the movie kickstarter.

This came from College part I, I think.

If you live in Oregon, it’s good to have this sticker.

College part I

Also from College Part I, this was a song that we sang a lot my second year there.  I’ve never heard it in its original form, but we had our own tune.  (This was before you could find ALL THE SONGS on the internet.  If you had no recording and no sheet music, you were out of luck, or made up your own tune.)

From an “insider” tour.

My brief foray into thinking this computer manufacturer was for me.

I think this was another NOW sticker. Sorry feminist sticker, you didn’t hold fast.

Restaurant in Fort Collins?

When I was selling the guitar, one of the store employees laughed at this one.

College part I, back when the focus was on girls.

Overall views.

The Orange Door: Guitarless


In the spring or summer of 1989 my mother drove us to a music shop on Chinden Boulevard, where she paid $40.00 for an acoustic guitar.  (It may have been $60, but for years I’ve called that guitar the Forty Dollar Guitar.)

She bought me the guitar–and also lessons–so that I could be in ninth grade Jazz Band, playing jazz guitar. When it came time to pick who was going to be in Jazz Band, there was another guy who was very good at the guitar and would have made a great addition to the West Junior High Jazz Band. But he refused to take both Concert Band and Jazz Band. I said I would take both, and thus I became the jazz guitarist. This was a terrible idea, as I’m not the kind of person who can go from no knowledge of an instrument to jazz-level competence over a few months.  We placed last at the 1990 Lionel Hampton Chevron Jazz Festival, though I like to think I wasn’t the only cause.

After that failure, I picked up the guitar intermittently.  My musical talent includes learning new instruments quickly, progressing to a certain point of mediocrity, and then going no further.  I played a lot in 1995, when the transition between College Part I and II didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted.  And I made a full push to really learn this guitar, dammit, in 2006, even taking lessons and practicing regularly.  That’s when I bought the current guitar.  That push ended when we bought the house in 2007.

I have fond memories including guitars. There was my introduction to Rise Up Singing, that day at Cottey when Jennifer Comeau got out her guitar and we sang together in the parlor.  The year my boss turned 50, we had a summer plan to assemble a songbook for her 50th birthday party.  Daily, we got out our guitars and worked through songs, getting the song in the best key for singing and the chords in the right place for people to play along with. We used the forty dollar guitar for a couple of years when we sang every day at 10am.  She would play and we both would sing.

And that’s the problem.  I never really took to the guitar.  I think I’m a horizontal musician, not a vertical one.  When you learn chords on the piano, there is a straight line of keys laid out before you, and it’s easy to see how they are formed, and easy to move up or down an octave.  On the guitar, you first learn the pattern your fingers take, then maybe eventually the notes that make up the chord.

Also, with a guitar, when you want to play you have to remove your instrument from a box (or hook, or stand) and fiddle with it to make sure it’s in tune.  When you go to play piano, you just sit down.  For some reason, those extra steps were more of a barrier to practice.

I never got good enough at the guitar so I could play and sing at the same time.  And since I love singing more than guitar playing, it made sense to let the guitar go. Even knowing that, it was hard to do.  I still have the fantasy of an impromptu jam session breaking out in the living room. But it’s been 10 years, and that hasn’t happened yet, so it’s time to let the guitar go.

Here’s to admitting something isn’t going to become my thing.