Monday, November 30, 2009

WINDY today!

I've lived in some howlingly windy places, but thank goodness, this isn't one of them. We've had story weather for a couple of days though and now I'm remembering what wind is all about.

This picture out my office doesn't really show the wind though!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving American Style


Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce (two varieties, one homemade)
Homemade rolls
Pie (three varieties, one homemade)

It's 5:20 am and my oven is baking three pies. Much more great baking to come . . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stop Acting Rich . . . and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire."

I've read a couple of reviews of this book and it looks like a winner.
By Liz Pulliam Weston
The neighborhood you choose can have a powerful impact on how rich you become and how wealthy your children will be.

The richest neighborhoods in the US
But the link between where you live and how much you're worth may be different than you expect.

So says wealth myth buster Thomas J. Stanley in his new book, "Stop Acting Rich . . . and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire." Stanley is on a mission to change how Americans view money, starting with the blockbuster he co-authored in 1996, "The Millionaire Next Door."

Too many Americans are what Stanley calls "aspirational spenders" -- people who spend money to make themselves look richer or more successful than they are.

But their "hyperconsumption" effectively torpedoes any chances they would have at accumulating real wealth, which typically requires spending significantly less than you earn and investing the difference.

In his latest survey of millionaire and nonmillionaire households, Stanley ranked more than 200,000 U.S. neighborhoods for wealth, then followed up by surveying select households, more than half of which were millionaires, which Stanley defines as having $1 million in investments, excluding their homes.

Here's what Stanley found:

The neighborhood in which we live influences a lot of our spending. The more expensive the house, the bigger the mortgage tends to be, and the more we'll spend on heating, cooling, insuring and maintaining the place.

But we also feel pressure to match our neighbors' spending on cars, vacations, furnishings and other trappings.

The "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality means the fancier the neighborhood, the less wealth we may accumulate, Stanley said. The opposite is also true: When our surroundings are more modest, we tend to spend less, regardless of our incomes.

"The propensity to spend," Stanley said, "is directly related to the typical home price in that neighborhood and to the price you paid for the house."

Interestingly, most of the people Stanley surveyed who lived in $1 million-plus homes weren't millionaires.

"They may have a big mortgage," Stanley said. "They don't have a lot of money."

In fact, Stanley found that three times as many millionaires live in homes worth $300,000 or less than live in homes worth $1 million or more.

"People who have a tendency to accumulate wealth live in neighborhoods that are easy to live in," Stanley said. "That's a hallmark of an accumulator."

Whom you hang out with matters. The ideal neighborhood, Stanley said, would be populated with engineers and teachers, two professions he found were associated with higher-than-expected levels of wealth accumulation.

Educators were especially good at turning sometimes below-average incomes into above-average wealth, something Stanley -- a university professor for 20 years -- credited to the culture in which they work. Frugality and saving for the future are valued in many teaching settings, he said, and that culture can have a profound effect.

"Work with frugal people, and you may become frugal," he writes. "Associate with colleagues who are astute investors, and you may become wealthy one day."

Our neighborhoods influence our kids' future wealth accumulation, too. Stanley asked his survey respondents a simple question: Growing up, were they better off or worse off financially than most of their neighbors?

People who perceived their childhood family's income as below the average for their neighborhood tended to become aspirational spenders and below-average wealth accumulators, Stanley said. They spent more to compensate for childhood feelings of somehow being "less than" their neighbors.

"They said things like, 'I went to high school with kids who had a lot more money,'" Stanley said. "They're making up for that scar."

By contrast, those who felt their families were in the upper half of their neighborhood's wealth hierarchy were more likely to be accumulators, rather than spenders.

"They're not looking for ways to consume to make up for the past," Stanley said.

Most millionaires have just one house. Many people associate a second or vacation home with having arrived. In Stanley's surveys, though, 64% of millionaires had never owned a second home. The net worth of second-home buyers at the height of the real-estate boom was actually considerably lower: a median of about $380,000, Stanley estimated.

Houses cost a lot to run and maintain. Stanley postulates that money-savvy millionaires find one home to be enough and prefer not to pour money into a property they may not use often -- or might feel pressured to use more often than they want to.

A mere recession won't change Americans' spending habits. Actually, this wasn't a survey finding but is Stanley's own assessment of the long-term impact of the Great Recession on our likelihood of accumulating wealth.

Yes, people have cut back their spending because of job losses, less access to credit and the desire to build up savings, Stanley said. But that cutback is likely to be reversed as the economy improves, he said.

The richest neighborhoods in the US
"It's not going to change the fabric of people," Stanley said. "Our whole (economic) structure is based on hyperconsumption."

Liz Pulliam Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "Your Credit Score: Your Money & What's at Stake." Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. She also answers reader questions on the Your Money message board and helps middle-class families cope at Building a Brighter Future.

One of the teachers I knew in our last town probably was the "richest" in terms of savings and plans for the future. Her husband had a good job as well, but wasn't extremely well-paid. However, they lived modestly and other than having several children in college, there wasn't an obvious sign of wealth. Dh and I both admired them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Through the magic of YouTube . . .

I decided to watch some old movies I remember watching a number of times in grade school. Two innocuous ones:

The Red Balloon
Paddle to the Sea

and one I can't imagine showing to grade school children today:

An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge

A little baking day

We're running out of bread plus I don't like the way my last batch turned out anyway. It came out like the bread your mother made back in the 70s (right after she made a batch of homemade granola). You know--only half raised and pretty crumbly. The problem last time was I used more whole wheat than usual (I usually use 70% ww and 30% white) and I didn't knead it the extra time I should have. Then when I went to get out my two long baking pans I couldn't find one and I ended up substituting two smaller pans for that one and it was just too much pan for the amount of dough I had. It all tasted fine, but the texture and size wasn't what I'm capable of. I make very good homemade bread.

Today I ground about 6-7 lbs of wheat into flour and used the proper amounts of my ingredients. Well, I looked at the leftover rice on the stove and thought, "What the heck?" and threw that in as well. You never know what might be in my bread, but I promise it is always delicious!

If my batteries hadn't died as I was getting ready to take pictures, I'd have some pics of the operation. Maybe later if I can get them to recharge.

In a little while I'm going to make some chocolate chip walnut banana bread. I'm probably the only one who will eat it so I might as well make it the way I like it.

Last baking project for the day will be some pizza crust dough. We're having the LDS missionaries over to join us for our usual Friday night pizza dinner, so I'll multiply the batch a bit to accomodate them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

John Allen Mohammed is dead

The Washington DC sniper is dead. The adult one, at least. He was put to death by lethal injection last night in Virginia, USA. He got off very easy and I support the United States's/Virginia's decision to punish him by death.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guess what I can do?

I can access my email account from my cell phone! I know, I know, this is such a yawner for techies, but understand I have a standard flip cell phone and while I do have "web access" on my account, I've never been able to access anything without buying an app. Um, no. But today dh had a company picnic and while I was watching the girls play I started noodling around on my phone. Lo and behold, I was able to (eventually) read my email! I don't think I can respond from my phone, but just accessing it will be great. Don't need no stinkin' Blackberry.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to have a cheap Thanksgiving

Haha, I think my only two readers are Australian and Canadian (and an occasional Korean for good measure) but I thought I'd post this anyway. I'm enjoying this blog which is called $5 Dinners. I haven't tried any of her recipes yet, but am getting ideas . . . .

Thanksgiving – Your Plan Ahead Guide
by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on November 4, 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the whole year. I love every part of it…

the colors of the trees outside
the piles of leaves in the street that await the leaf sucker-upper
the rock bottom prices in the grocery stores
the insane number of coupons that are released during November
the fantastic Thanksgiving deals that can be found matching up coupons with sale prices
the many fragrances that fill the house as the oven roasts the turkey and bakes the pies

It will be a bit different for us this year. With a very small newborn, I couldn’t imagine preparing the whole feast, as I’ve done in years past! So we’ll be feasting with family. And if I can manage to whip up a side dish, I will!

I wanted to share a few reminders on how to reduce the overall cost of your Thanksgiving meal.

1. Plan. Rework the plan. Finalize the plan.

Make a plan. Dig through those recipe cards, browse the magazines. Make your plan. But only pencil it in!

Then rework your plan as time gets closer and you see things on sale, or another recipe you’d like to experiment with.

On Sunday before Thanksgiving, finalize the plan and get to work! By then, you’ll have seen all the products that are on sale, what the lowest prices are and you’ll be able to carve the plan into stone.

2. Prices.

From my experience in years past, the LOWEST prices on all the Thanksgiving favorites…like green beans, sweet potatoes, pecans and walnuts, cranberry sauces, etc…are found during Thanksgiving week. And possibly the week before.

It’s a tricky game to play, but if you have a plan and you see something on your list for 60-75% less than regular retail price the week before Thanksgiving, go ahead and get it. Or wait and hope it’s still on sale for Thanksgiving week. But if you wait, it might not be on sale the next week. Trust your instincts.

3. Coupons. Coupons. Coupons.

Over the next few weeks, there will be an insane number of coupons released both online and in the newspapers. Many of which are for the most popular products used during the Thanksgiving meal.

Clip them. Use them. Match them with the products on sale!

4. Turkey Prices.

Watch those circulars. I already see whole turkeys advertised in my store for $1.49/lb. But I know it will be half that price come Turkey Day!

Shop around. Pay close attention to all the store’s prices in your area.

How big of a turkey should I get? Rule of thumb: 1 lb. per person attending your feast. Depending on how much meat you need/want for leftovers!

And don’t forget…this is a great time to get an extra turkey, perhaps a smaller turkey breast, that you can cook up in the slow cooker and use the meat for multiple meals. Prices won’t be this low until Thanksgiving 2010!

Enjoy your feast! And revel in the fact that you spent as little as you could on your Turkey Day Feast!!!

What other tips do you have to share for saving $$$ on the Thanksgiving meal???

I laugh when I see the pre-made dinners the grocery stores offer, or more expensively, the restaurants. What the under-$50 dinners offer is so easy to make at home, and so cheap, that I shake my head that anyone would bother with them. I'd say if you were arriving in town on Thanksgiving Eve or Day to visit your aged parents, or if you had had lots of illness in your home, it might be a good idea. Otherwise . . . pfffftttt. I can make those kinds of dinners for about $15-18 and not even break a sweat. Anyone can. I do not make fancy Thanksgiving dinners, although I'd like to some time. NO appreciation for "special" meals here, so I seldom bother. Well, dh appreciates something a little special, but he is highly suspicious of anything new so it's hardly worth it.

So far I think our guest list includes my mom (of course, since she is staying here with us :-) ) and a young mom and her little dd. Her dh works for the Border Patrol and will be working. American Thanksgiving guest lists tend to be fluid with additions and subtractions up until we sit down to eat, so let's see who we actually end up with!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I have only a couple of pictures of our Halloween celebration due to camera battery problems. The whole celebration was really drawn out and started with a "Fall Fiesta" at the girls' school a week ago Friday. It was a PTO fundraiser carnival and was well done. I volunteered for a half-hour shift to man one of the booths and that was fun. I'll do it again next year. My favorite booth was the "fortune teller" with her little "plant" out talking to everyone in line to find out all about them. I wondered if the girls realized how the fortune teller knew everything and sure enough, after the party C said, "You know how that fortune teller knew everything about me? That girl asked me and she told the fortune teller!" The girl was actually very cute and self-assured and it was fun to hear her grill the people waiting in line.

Next was a Trunk or Treat put on by our ward. It was at a fabulous estate not too far from our house, but worlds away from us, if you know what I mean. It was put on by the ward Activity Committee and I think they did a bang up job.There was a pumpkin carving contest so I had C draw her design on our pumpkin and I cut it out. We roasted the seeds and I was surprised at how good they were.

Friday S was sick and stayed home from school so we made cookie dough. After school I rolled it out and the girls did the cutting out and we baked a bunch of cookies.

They were very tasty.

Saturday night was finally the big event. Our neighbor asked us to come over and go around the neighborhood with her and her 6 y/o son. She had really nice gift bags waiting for each girl when we got there. She likes to decorate and shop and has treated my girls to nice little gifts in the past.

An aside, and I should label this, "Oh, my virgin lips!" The neighbor asked me if I wanted some apple juice to carry around while the kids Trick or Treated. I said sure so she gave me a plastic Halloween goblet of juice and ice. It tasted good and she gave me a refill. I set it down on a side table and her son immediately knocked it over. I got it cleaned up and saw she had refilled my glass. I took a sip . . . and thought I was drinking cough syrup! Nasty, nasty tequila and Diet Coke and it was hers, not mine!! Blech. How could anyone WANT to drink alcohol? It really tasted awful! Honestly, that is the first time I've ever had a sip of an alcoholic drink and I hope I never do again.

So in my drunken state we set off (JK, it was probably no more than a teaspoon of drink). We walked around the neighborhood for about an hour and fifteen minutes, until the girls said they were tired. Hey--when your kids say they're tired of collecting CANDY, it's time to head home.

Halloween lasted a very long time for us this year and we enjoyed it all. Lookin' forward to next year.