Friday, August 9, 2013

The great insurance switch.

We've talked for years about how we were terribly dissatisfied with how our current insurance handled our hailing of 7 years ago.  We had to fight tooth and nail to have the house re-roofed, but they were fine to continue to hand out checks to fix my 9 year old car-- $4300 in total for that alone.  (I should add that it was the same RAV that was totaled 6 months later.)  We were suspect to think that we would be able to save money.  We had that thought, but then the thought of slogging through insurance garbage didn't appeal to me.  We had insurance.  It did cover our damages-- with arguments-- but it worked.

When we bought Barbie (the Yaris) in December (the 20th, K's birthday and why not buy a new car RIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS?), I called the insurance company right before we left.  While I was told the car would be covered and it wouldn't be an issue, we would be the people buying a car 45 minutes away from home that would be hit, squashed or something awful happen and the insurance would say-- sorry!

I phoned and to switch from the 1997 Toyota Tercel to the 2013 Toyota Yaris, it increased our premium by $65 per month.

Per. month.

I told the lady that I found that to be extremely dissatisfying as we had been customers for so long, had no record of accidents or tickets and always made timely payments.  I told her that I would need to check around.  I didn't mean it as an idol threat.  It was what it was.  I was done.

A few years prior to that, I called to see why the insurance rate on our cars went up and at the time, they told me that both cars were considered to be old.  "My RAV is only 3 years old."  She babbled something on about age and replacement and where I agreed with the Tercel, old and no longer made, I couldn't get why the RAV, a vehicle that is seen on the road all the time.

She continued on talking about insurance and extreme amount of claims and so forth.

"So, because there are people out there who don't pay their insurance and those who commit insurance fraud, I am being punished for their actions."

"Pretty much."

So back to the insurance at hand.  My cousin was talking about her insurance.  She gave me the contact information and we started talking back and forth.  Hurricane Sandy reports were coming through with big bad stuff about insurance and so forth.  I had seen some things about insurance company "b" and told them I needed to ask them about it.

Then I dropped the ball.  That was January.

Seeing that bills are going up and finances are staying stagnant, I decided to go back to the insurance company and work with them.  They were able to answer my questions about Hurricane Sandy claims, which is exactly what I thought was the issue.  We've been working back and forth and in the end, on car insurance alone, they are saving us $73.00/month for the same exact coverage.


Our homeowners policy is less as well and I added a water back-up policy.

Our fine, fine city decided to ignore EPA mandates starting far back in the 1970's in regard to sewer and water upgrades.  They had the money then to handle such things.  They kept putting it off and putting it off.  Now, they have 30 years to get upgrades handled (though I'm told that the city wants it done in 18) with $900 million in costs and no federal or state money to handle it.  Our water and sewer bill is estimated to go from $80/month to over $200 or more a month.  I'm looking at needing to cough up at least $120 more per month and I'm trying to squeeze a bit in order to find it.

Never mind that the savings account wants fed, college fund and general bills.

Trimming a bit here and a bit there.  In this case, I was able to trim a lot.  Hooray!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To all brides everywhere: Wedding gift registries and things to keep in mind.

Our wedding day. 

Today I had a customer come in to purchase a gift certificate.  She had me gift wrap it and while she was waiting for me to get it all wrapped up, she told me about the shower.  She said that the invite to the shower mentioned something to the effect of, "To save you time shopping, we'll be having a money tree at the shower instead."
Oh, I wish that someone took a picture of my face.

I waited for the customer to come back with a response and it was that the mother said she was purchasing a gift, too.  When I got her gift all finished, I wished her a good day and referred to her as "you rebel you."  She snickered.

What I did discuss with her was about the fact that I consider a gift registry to be a suggestion and not a list of demands.


I said it.
To all of the gift registrants out there, I will repeat--               a wedding registry is NOT a list of demands.
When you are getting married, you register because that is what is expected of you.  (Most people, though there are always exceptions.)  You go around.  You get starry-eyed.  You are in control of the scan gun.  You are wielding the gift registry power!  You think of how awesome this, that or the other will be.  You cringe at things that won't perfectly match.  I understand that you will get wonky gifts that were not on the registry.  Oddballs that we received were:

1.  Beautiful Victoria's Secret lingerie and silk robe from people who knew my parents well but didn't know me that well at all.  Despite that, I (er, hmm-- we) still have both.  They are delightful.
2.  A cheese hatchet.  I swear that's what it was called.  Even more, it was old and used.  We still have it.  We found it hilarious.
3.  A telephone.  A wall phone.  With a cord.  Honestly, that was in and very usable then.  We still returned it since we didn't need it.

Still, I shared with her the shower invite and following wedding invitation of many years ago.  When we went to the first Baptist church that we attended-- my childhood church-- there was a family that attended.  The children weren't my age and the family was a bit different than us.  We were cordial, but not buddy-buddy.  I was invited to the shower.  At the time, I had lost my job so a friend and I went together and made a gift basket.  I admit that my friend carried most of the financial weight, but we were very low cost.  She knew our financial state at the time.  Soon after, the wedding invitation came. Now, up until the shower, I hadn't see this girl in years.  She was living in Virginia and all.  When I opened the invitation, a slip of paper flew out that stated, "Because everyone was so very generous with our shower, we're set for everything we need, so we're requesting cash gifts to start our marriage out."  (I should add that the wedding was in Virginia and obviously she knew that all of the folks from the years of church directories were not going to be in attendance.)

I sent a card giving our congratulations.  I sent no money, no cash, no check.

This is where I'm very tacky in suggesting that people have:

1.  A wedding that you can afford.
2.  It is not a fundraiser.
3.  It is not the guest's responsibility to give you cash enough to cover your expenses of inviting them.  Not all guests are able to give a gift.  Especially in these financial times, some people bring a card.  I received a few with no money and I appreciated the card.  We loved that the people who attended came.  Their being with us was present enough.  We knew that they couldn't afford anything and that was fine with us.  Have a wedding that you can afford so that the marriage doesn't start eyeball deep in debt for the great party that you threw.  Then you don't have to race to open the envelopes and lose sleep over whether you raised enough cash.
4.  It is not up to the guests to pay for your honeymoon.  (See number 1.)  There was a bride who was telling me (while attending her shower) that if people didn't give enough cash, they wouldn't be able to go on a honeymoon.  This was a bride who, with the groom, scheduled to have a rather grand affair and one that was -- we'll be polite -- a lot more than they could given their financial state and was more of a "keeping up with the Jones'" type of event.  She and the groom did go on a honeymoon-- to Grand Cayman.  She must have spoken to enough people in attendance of her shower.  (I gave a gift and no cash.)  It was very awkward. However, I can understand the flip side that sometimes a couple has everything.  How do you handle that request tactfully?  I just have never seen someone do that successfully.

While I'm on a bit of a bridal tangent, could y'all please address your own envelopes and write thank yous?  Yes, a handwritten thank you is necessary.  I know it takes time that you might not have but please keep the following in mind:
-  The guest probably attended a shower for you.
-  The guest attended your wedding and took time out of their life to celebrate with you.
-  You obviously have their address to send them an invite, so you have it for the envelope.  I admit that I went to a "write your own envelope" party and I didn't fill out an envelope as a bit of a test.  (I know, people are busy and I probably shouldn't have done it, but I wondered.)  As I suspected, all who wrote an envelope received a thank you.  Those who didn't write out an envelope did not.
-  They gave you gifts that, most of the time, they carefully chose and spent their hard earned money on.
-  If a photo thank you is something you want to do, super.  Please feel free to write a handwritten thank you and include that in the envelope.  It is necessary to recognize those gifts from your wedding with more than a photo or an e-mail or -- worse-- nothing.  A pre-printed thank you only for your wedding is tacky.  Don't go there.  Personalize the darned thing!

I was the assistant manager of a wedding boutique for a few years.  Stories of brides and finances were enough to curl my already curly hair.

Be nice.

Be appreciative.

Be affording the affair that you throw.   It is the marriage that is the ultimate gift of this party that you are throwing.  Please keep that in mind.

*  Our photographer gave us proofs then took off, so this is a copy of a copy.  I do have the original of this photo, but I didn't feel like digging it out of the closet.  I took the copy off of the refrigerator.  Most important thing?  We both said I DO and have stayed married for 16 1/2 years-- and counting!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Pinterest recipe that worked: Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Color me shocked.  After the poundage of quinoa incident with the breakfast thing I made, I was a little shy with Pinterest recipes.  I'll tell you the original recipe, then I'll tell you my modifications.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies 

2 large bananas
1 cup quick rolled oats
chocolate chips, coconut or some other type of mix-in

Mix ingredients and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

When Hubs read over the original recipe with me, he requested a touch of sugar.  "I think if there's absolutely no sugar, they are going to be gross."  Since I was making a treat that all of us can enjoy, I thought that I could tweak a bit here and there and see how it goes.  I have a very hard time just sticking to recipes anyhow.  Most of the time I need to alter something.  Call it the rebellious artist in me.  ;)
Amy's version of Banana Oatmeal Cookies 
2 large bananas
1 cup rolled oats/rolled wheat flakes
1/2 bag mini chocolate chips (with mini, you get better chip dispersal!)
2 T vanilla extract
2 heaping T Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter (the kind you mix, but we drain the oil off)
2 T honey
1/4 cup turbinado sugar 
Mix ingredients and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  
They were absolutely wonderful!

Yesterday was homemade garden burger and black bean nacho burger day.   I admit that my garden burger was a combo of things until it looked right.  I can't give you a recipe because I don't have one.  I can tell you that it has shredded yellow squash, mini red sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes from the garden.  There were also peas, corn, carrots and broccoli with a handful of herb garden chives, cooked lentils, shredded cheese and (because it seemed a little dry) some spaghetti sauce I had in the refrigerator.  I ground some pizza spice and sprinkled that in along with some salt and pepper.  I had my garden burger patty cold with a pasta salad at lunch today and it was great!  For $5.00 or a little less, I made 28 patties total.  I made them fresh and at $3.69 for a box of 4, I saved a lot of money.  It did take me a good amount of time to make all of the patties, but if I do it once a month or so, it isn't that big of a deal.  They were small enough to place one patty in a ziplock snack bag.  I have them individually frozen and labeled so all I need to do is to grab a pre-cooked patty and drop it in my lunch bag.  Hooray!  Next time, Hubs asked that I consider using his safe cheese so that he can eat them.

I shall take my domestic goddess apron off and scoodle to bed.  K is in pre-fall for the next two weeks and 6:30 AM comes around very quickly!

Have a great night!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A hike and a lesson.

K and I went on a butterfly hike and ran into the White Pine forest.

So pretty!

Your lesson for the day- what is this butterfly? (I'll say that this was a distance away, so it isn't real crisp.)  Can you see the semi-circle line on the wings?  That line is what will tell you that it is not . . .

. . . a monarch.  (A better picture of a monarch is on the blog header.) Hubs taught me to remember that a viceroy smiles back at you.  Besides, this monarch is on milkweed and the look-a-like is definitely not.  (Not that monarchs exclusively stay on milkweed.  It is their host plant, though.) Viceroys are often identified as a monarch and a monarch they are not.

Chicory.  Oh how I want some of this for my yard.  Yes, it is the stuff that grows along the roadside.

While we were hiking, I looked down a long mowed path and there were what looked like two huge bowling pins looking back at me.  TURKEYS!  One ducked into the woods before the camera snapped the picture.

K carefully pulling a butterfly from the net.

An orange sulfur.  K loved the pink antennae.

A red spotted purple in our backyard.  It's an edge-of-forest butterfly and we are not edge-of-forest.  Looks like he was snacked upon.

Another snacking victim.  A fully tail-less tiger swallowtail.

Shhh!  They'll never see me here.

A slice of butterfly!

This bad boy is going to go into the black bean nacho burgers I'm about to make.

K asked that I wear it as a mustache.  :)
Have a great weekend!