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Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Deco Website

I found a website that I’ll be using a lot soon ---  lets me digitally clip pictures (instead of ripping them out of magazines like some kind of crazy clipping woman).  Then I can use a 3-D room arranger to try out furniture, colors, art, curtains, etc in the digital version of my room before I go dragging heavy furniture around or painting walls.  Best part?? I can upload photos of of the stuff I already own and use that in my virtual re-arranging.  How great is that??

Monday, April 26, 2010

Camera Learning

I’m trying hard to learn to use a digital camera that I’ve inherited.  This new camera has a whole bunch of pre-sets that I’m learning to love.  Portrait gives me this fuzzy focus on just the subject in the center of my frame.  Everything else goes soft and slightly blurry --- beautiful.  Aquarium is my favorite setting right now --- and no, I’m not using it at an aquarium.  I am using it when I need to take a photo through a pane of glass (like a car window) --- the aquarium setting lets the camera “see through” the glass and take the picture I want – not a picture of the glass and the reflections on it.  Love it. 
Can’t wait to find out what some of the other settings will do (beyond their obvious named function – like “fireworks”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gauging Your Middle-Class-ness

I saw an article recently about “How to Gauge Your Middle-Class Status”.  I found the whole thing very interesting.  In some ways, we measure up --- in some we don’t --- and in some we over-achieve. 
We’re big fans of Dave Ramsey at our house – and, like him, we don’t strive to be “normal”.  Normal in America is broke, living on the edge, paycheck to paycheck.  We have no desire to live like that.  So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me when I look at an article like that and we’re not normal. 
Here’s a brief run-down of what they looked at:
Income:  $51,000 - $123,000 --- yeah, we’re in there somewhere
Housing Cost:  House worth $231,000 --- yep, we’re in that range too
Mortgage = $17,600 --- Are you kidding me??? Nope – we’re way under that --- and we’ve only got about 7 years left on our mortgage.  No, we didn’t take out this mortgage eons ago.  We followed Dave’s advice and only took a 15 year mortgage. 
Home Size:  2,300 sq ft --- we’re smaller than that --- but we’re only a two person household.  How much space do two people need??
Medical Expenses:  $5,100 annually --- we are fortunate – we have excellent insurance, and although we pay a portion of the premium, we’re significantly under on this one too.
Cars:  $12,400 annually shelled out.  Baby, we are way under that.  Mostly because of Dave again.  We have no car payment.  None.  Average value NEW of the car:  $45,000.  I don’t know what to do with that part.  Yeah, sure, when the car was new, it was $45,000 – but 15 minutes after you drive it off of the lot, its value starts dropping like a stone.  I don’t know how that figures into anything, really.
College Savings:  $4,100 per child.  Who are these people kidding?? Really?? I don’t think you can attend community college for a year on that.  We’re past that season of life, so we don’t stash money away for this- -- so I really have no comparison point on this one. 
Vacations:  One week at the beach or other tourist destination --- yeah we take a week  -- and then some…  Cost:  $3,000 ---- What???  On one week at the beach?? What are these people doing??
Retirement Savings:  3.2% of income or $2,600 annually.  Nope – we are so not normal on this one either.  We save like squirrels.  We’re not quite at the 15% that Dave recommends, but we’re creeping up on it quickly. 
Everyday Spending:  $14,200 for clothes, food, utilities, entertainment, etc.  Again, we are way under this one --- probably how we’re able to be so far over on the savings item??
Number of Earners:  2 --- yeah, that’s us.
Hours Worked:  3,747 annually  --- Geez, divided by 2 workers in the family – divided again by 50 or so weeks --- that’s about 37 hours a week.  Yeah, that’s us, most of the time.
Education:  High School diplomas and about 2 years of college.  Nope --- we both have degrees that provide us with our jobs/income.  We value education and continue our own learning every chance we get.
Household Net Worth:  $84,000 --- wow – gotta wonder about this one --- especially if you go back and run the numbers about the value of the house, the college savings, retirement savings, etc.  We’re not at all normal on this one --- good thing.
Debt:  18% of disposable income goes toward debt in the “normal” middle class family.   They do include the mortgage in that --- which confuses me --- run the numbers again --- average income (take the mean) and the average mortgage payment annually --- it doesn’t come out mathematically.  Unless you’re telling me that everyone in America is now listening to Dave Ramsey and has no debt other than their mortgage??   Nah, that wouldn’t be normal. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu Planning: Week of 4/18

Okay, I'm really trying to get back on the good-girl bandwagon.  Really, menu planning helped -- it helped alot, but somehow it got lost in the holiday--school vacation shuffle.  But I'm back, I'm committed and I'm really going to do this.

Breakfasts this week:

  • smoothies (we got a Magic Bullet and I'm in love!!)  We have all kinds of fruit and juice and milk and yogurt -- smoothie heaven, look out.
  • banana bread and cream cheese sandwiches
  • peanut butter and waffle sandwiches
  • egg and ham cups
  • smoothies again (I told you I was in love)
  • fruit and cheese kebabs
  • pancakes for the weekend??
Lunches for this week:
  • fried rice with veggies and eggs
  • leftover macaroni and cheese
  • leftover meatloaf sandwiches
  • butternut squash soup and cheese bites
  • ramen noodles with poached egg and leftover ham strips
  • salad with ham strips and other yummies
  • fruit salad and yogurt
  • cauliflower pancakes and salad
  • meatloaf, rice and beets
  • macaroni and cheese with broccoli
  • broccoli and beef chinese style over rice
  • pasta with marinara sauce and salad
  • sesame noodles with veggies
  • dinner out at the annual Black Tie (fancy-fancy!!)