Archive for December, 2008

In This Economy, Who Spends $35 for a Cheese Grater?

As I was walking out of Williams-Sonoma this afternoon I stopped to look a display full of cheese graters. An employee, who was stationed by the door, informed me that there were other graters in the back of the store and suggested that I take a look there. I thanked the woman and asked her how business had been this season. While I was inside the store I noticed only a handful of shoppers. She told me the store had been extremely busy the day after Christmas but other than that it had been slow season.

I looked back down at the grater and said, “I can’t imagine too many people are willing to pay $35 for a cheese grater in this economy.” She laughed and said, “This is Williams-Sonoma. People that come into this store know they are going to pay a lot for a quality item.” Although I completely understand paying more for a quality item I cannot imagine too many people are shelling out $35 for a cheese grater these days. I’m sure there is a food connoisseur out there somewhere that can tell me why a $35 cheese grater works better than a $10 cheese grater, but for my purposes the $10 model will serve it’s purpose just fine.

The employee, who probably cannot afford to buy a $35 cheese grater herself, quietly pulled me aside, and recommended that I try a less expensive store in the mall. She admitted that it a select clientele was shopping in Williams-Sonoma these days and then quietly provided me with the name and location of the other store. I thanked her for her time and wished her a happy new year. Upstairs in the store she recommended, cheese graters were selling for less than the half of the Williams-Sonoma price.

December 31, 2008 at 4:00 PM 7 comments

Putting Our Kitty to Sleep

Yesterday we put one of our 8 1/2 year old cats to sleep. My husband adopted the cat and his brother from a shelter when they were just a few months old. We gave both cats love, attention, toys, scratching posts, good food and a warm home, but within a few months one of the cats began spraying all over our home. Neither cat is de-clawed and both cats were neutered at the appropriate age, so we took the cat immediately to the vet to find out what was wrong. The vet put our cat on pills for a urinary infection, but the spraying never stopped from that point forward. We took him back to the vet multiple times but they could never find anything wrong.

Our poor cat has always been anxious and high-strung, so we tried a few types of anti-anxiety medications. I read all sorts of cat behavior websites and provided that cat with extra love and attention, but nothing seemed to calm him. I spent hundreds of dollars on Feliway plug-in pheromones and all sorts of deterring devices, but none of them did the trick. During those eight years he sprayed just about every corner and piece of furniture in our home. We threw out four living room chairs, stereo equipment, books, book shelves, sheets, tablecloths and even demolished a bar in the basement. We used Nature’s Miracle and all sorts of other cleaners, but the more we cleaned the more he seemed determined to spray elsewhere.

After over eight years of trying to stop the spraying we finally called it quits. We certainly gave it our best effort, but clearly we still failed. It’s amazing how much you can love an animal, even while it continually destroys your home. I didn’t have the heart to put him up for adoption or put him to sleep, I know that spraying is an ingrained behavior and I didn’t want to punish him for something he was born to do, but after eight and a half years we knew something had to be done.

So my husband called the vet yesterday morning and asked her what to do. Based on our cat’s temperament, age and our concerns about placing a frightened cat in an unfamiliar shelter with strangers she advised us to put the little one to sleep. It is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. We miss him so much already.

December 30, 2008 at 5:10 PM 8 comments

What is the Definition of Living Beyond Your Means?

In a recent episode of the Suze Orman show a caller asked Suze for her definition of living beyond your means. Suze responded with the following, “If you have credit card debt of any kind that you cannot afford to pay in full at the end of the month you are NOT living within your means.” Suze clarified the definition by including specific purchases like vacation, clothes, manicures and spa services, which cannot be paid off in full. She also excluded all debt from medical illnesses from the definition.

I would also add food and recurring monthly entertainment expenses to Suze’s list. Expenses such as going out to eat, cable TV, and the latest and greatest cell phones and cell phone plans should not be overlooked. If you are paying off this month’s meal three months from now you are probably living beyond your means. Similarly, if you can’t pay off your grocery bill each month, because you have an unlimited calling plan you are probably living beyond your means.

Investopedia expanded on the definition with the following five signs that you are living beyond your means:

  1. Your credit score is below 600. (Typically low credit scores are caused by having too much outstanding debt, failing to pay your debts on time and having balances that are too close to your credit limit.)
  2. You are saving less than 5%. (“A savings rate below 5% means you could be in real danger of financial ruin if someone in your family were to have a medical emergency, or your family home were to burn to the ground. With savings this low, it likely means you wouldn’t even have the money to pay the necessary insurance deductibles.”)
  3. Your credit card balances are rising. (This matches Suze’s sentiment. If you can’t pay off your credit card balance in full each month than the balance will rise as you pay minimum balances and incur outrageous interest and/or fees.)
  4. More than 28% of your income goes to your house. (“Why is 28% the magic number? Historically, conservative lenders have used the 28% threshold because their experience has told them that this is the rate at which the average person can get by, make their mortgage payments and still enjoy a reasonable standard of living.” The world has certainly seen the repercussions of high housing prices on today’s homeowners.)
  5. Your bills are spiraling out of control. (Small monthly bills like cable, cell phone, Internet and utilities can add up to a large sum of money. In order to pay these bills in full each month you may be putting other expenses like food and groceries on your credit card. If you can’t pay off your credit card each month than you may be living beyond your means.)

What do you think of the definition?

December 28, 2008 at 3:00 AM 9 comments

Merry Christmas!

I have a few more things to do before the festivities begin tomorrow, but I’m sleepy and heading for bed. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

December 25, 2008 at 5:50 AM 1 comment

Preparations for Christmas Are Nearly Complete

I can’t believe tomorrow night will be Christmas Eve. The weeks always fly by between November and December, but this year Christmas seemed to come particularly fast. I spent this evening picking up a few last minute gifts and spent another hour or so wrapping them.

I feel pretty good about my Christmas purchases this year. Although I haven’t tallied the costs, I’m pretty certain that I stayed well within my target budget for everyone except my husband. I would’ve stayed on target for him too, but I decided to purchase an item that will make both of our lives just a little bit easier.

Oddly enough that gift never arrived and with only one day until Christmas I’m pretty certain it won’t show up in time. I called the company I ordered from and they couldn’t seem to track my package. They had a UPS tracking number, but UPS had no knowledge of my package. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. Actually I’ve had problems with the US Post Office but never with UPS.

I also have a special delivery scheduled for my husband on January 7th. I came up with the idea way too late to receive it in time for Christmas, so I’ll have to wrap a photo and present that to him instead. Or I might just tell him a package is arriving on the 7th and see if he can guess what it is. Although I know he’ll never guess.

I’ll post more about my gifts after Christmas. For now I’m heading to bed. I’ve been staying up way too late these last few weeks. My New Year’s resolution must be going to bed at a decent hour. The next two days will be full of places and people and I really need a good night’s rest.

December 24, 2008 at 4:59 AM Leave a comment

Tonight’s Dinner: Chicken Curry

My husband has been begging me to make chicken curry for ages. I’ve tried once or twice before and failed miserably. The first time the flavor was too pungent. The second time the flavor was too bland. Tonight I tried a thirty minute recipe that was just perfect. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 pound chicken
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

  1. Slice onions, garlic and ginger.
  2. Chop chicken into bite size pieces.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onion, curry powder, and salt.
  5. Cook until onion is soft.
  6. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook another minute.
  7. Add chicken stock, chicken and peas.
  8. Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is thoroughly cooked through.
  9. Take off heat and add yogurt.
  10. Serve over warm white rice.

December 22, 2008 at 4:45 AM 3 comments

Layoffs are Looming

My primary job has been quite stressful these past few months. My development team is rapidly shrinking and my teammates and I are required to perform much more work with much fewer hands. When layoff rumors began circulating this fall I decided to pick up a temporary second job.

As time goes on I am less and less worried about losing my job, but I figured it certainly couldn’t hurt to plump up our emergency fund. In fact, as rumors swirl I find myself checking out more and more from my full-time job. When layoffs occur at my company employees are immediately escorted from the building. They don’t have time to box up their belongings or collect their things. I think that’s a horrible way to end a career at the company, but I’m sure upper management doesn’t care to hear my thoughts on the matter.

If I am fired I will not step back into the building. I packed up and took home my personal belongings long ago. This week I noticed other folks bringing in boxes and packing up their cubes. I guess everyone wants to be ready in case the axe falls. I would imagine no one wants to step back into the building to clean out their cubes.

Tomorrow will be my last day of work at job #1 until the new year. During my two week vacation from job #1 I plan to work between 30 and 40 hours at job #2. Since job #2 pays me an hourly wage it probably makes sense to squeeze in as many hours as possible, but I look forward to my year-end vacation and still plan to spend at least a few days reading and relaxing at home.

I think I’m being proactive enough for the time being. Of course, I’m also hoping for a decent severance package if I am let go.

December 19, 2008 at 4:30 AM 2 comments

Buying Christmas Gifts for Myself

Every year I find it nearly impossible to go Christmas shopping without purchasing at least one or two items for myself. I always find unbeatable sales on a whole host of items I want but don’t need. Throughout the rest of the year I can suppress the urge to buy, but during the holiday season I typically succumb at least once.

Rather than feeling guilty about purchasing gifts for myself this holiday season, I decided to work a little extra money in my Christmas budget. Alongside my mom, dad, husband, brother, niece, nephew, etc. I created a little line item for myself.

Yesterday I headed over to Ann Taylor Loft and purchased two new blouses and a beautiful pair of earrings. The blouses were 80% off of their original retail price and the earrings were 60% off. I bought all three items without feeling guilty and I didn’t blow my budget. In fact, so far this season I’ve managed to stay within a few dollars of the limits I imposed for all of my family members. This may be the first year that I actually stick to my budget.

December 17, 2008 at 4:59 AM 5 comments

Two Tasty Holiday Recipes that Also Make Great Gifts

After years of preparing the same food over and over for dinner, I finally decided to venture out into new territory. Each week I’ve chosen two or three new recipes to make and so far I have not been disappointed. I think my meals have dramatically improved in these last few months. I seem to have a better idea of how much spice to add and what flavors mesh together.

From time to time my husband helps in the kitchen and it’s nice to have him chop and stir beside me. In fact, my husband has been enjoying our meals so much that he revised his Christmas wish list this year, rather than asking for a bunch of things, he simply asked me to continue cooking.

Here are two very tasty dessert recipes that I made during the Thanksgiving holiday and plan to make again for Christmas. I also plan to bake extra batches as gifts.

Cheesecake Bars

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


  1. Melt chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler.
  2. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs.
  3. Press crumbs into an ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese until smooth.
  5. Gradually beat in milk, egg and vanilla.
  6. Pour over crust.
  7. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Refrigerate 3 hours or until completely chilled.
  9. Cut into bars.
  10. Store in the refrigerator.

Five Layer Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl.
  3. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle pecans and chips on top.
  5. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the mixture.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Cool completely and cut into bars.

December 16, 2008 at 4:35 AM Leave a comment

One More Cyber Monday Ebates Sale

Ebates is holding one more Cyber Monday sale with double cash back from now until midnight. This the third Ebates double cash back sale this holiday season. If you haven’t signed up for Ebates yet, sign up now and get an extra $10 in cash back savings when you use this link and make a purchase by December 31st. I have one or two additional online purchases to make, so I will definitely be taking advantage of this sale. I’m also urging my husband to make the last of his online purchases today.

December 15, 2008 at 2:15 PM Leave a comment

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