April 27, 2017

Just a little (link) love: hunting orcas edition

LinkLove

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

Women need to be talking more about money and the Lola Retreat is the perfect place to do it! Too many pieces have to come together for me (travel, budget, childcare, Seamus care, scheduling) so I doubt I can make it this year but I hope many of you do!

I want to road trip across the States, and also across Europe, someday. Not ’til we have way more of the new mortgage paid off and we can take a loooonnnng vacation, though. Justin at Root of Good’s doing a 9 week Europe trip and his itinerary covers a bit more territory than I’d like to in a short period, though. It’s helpful to see the time constraints if we wanted to see as many as 8 countries in 2 months.

I hate cable companies too. How do you deal with negotiating better internet rates?

HAPPY THINGS

While I’m furious with Marvel Editorial and Publishing for their adoption of Hydra/Nazis, the upcoming Black Panther looks to be AMAZING. I am quite torn.

THIS DOG! He must have missed his owner so much.

THINKING THINGS

The Upright Citizens Brigade

Who knew that foreign accent syndrome was a real thing?

Columbine was just about around my time of teen years / young adulthood. I had no idea it spawned an obsession with martyrdom for Christian teens.

Residents of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington will have to use alternate ID forms (passport, military ID, or permanent resident card) to pass TSA security checkpoints—even for domestic travel.

Orcas are beautiful

but getting caught in the middle of a hunting pod would be terrifying. No wonder that sea lion made its way to the boats!

April 26, 2017

Seamus: the dog who’s practically perfect 

Veterinary issues aside, and we have had MANY, Seamus is as near to perfect a dog as we could ask for. He often tricks me into thinking we could have another dog – if only we could duplicate what makes him so perfect!

This month has been a roller coaster of trying to treat an eye problem that stubbornly refuses to respond to the normal medication regimen. If he doesn’t improve by the end of this week, we may have to take him to an eye specialist. This doesn’t come at a good time for our money, of course, nor is it a good thing for him because if it gets worse, it gets a lot worse.  I don’t think he or I could take any more misery – he’s sad enough that he won’t even destroy his new plush toy! As a canary in the mine goes, the canary is mostly dead.

I spent days on Seamus Don’t-Rub-Your-Eyes!-Watch until I found this KONG Cloud E-Collar. It’s the first version of an e-collar that hasn’t made Seamus go gorilla-mode and rip it to pieces. Apparently the Cone of Shame is one humiliation too many for the otherwise perfect pupper.

Don’t get me wrong – this looks ridiculous too, enough so that JuggerBaby insists that we take it off for his walks: “No pee-yo!” But it’s soft and he doesn’t hate it with every fiber of his being. It also doesn’t catch on things and serves as a useful bumper when he veers too close to walls and furniture with his rheumy eyes. When the Velcro is loose, he knows that he can take it off and use it for a pillow if I’m sure he won’t rub his eyes. All in all, the best $14 spent this month. In addition to the $450 in exams and medications. :/

Meanwhile! Rather than fret myself to pieces waiting for healing to happen all week, I’m choosing to focus on why I adore him.

Endless patience, plus boundaries

He allows JuggerBaby to festoon him with necklaces, or blankets, or lean on him affectionately. He puts up with a certain amount of rudeness, that ze is immediately reprimanded for by the adults, without more than a blink or two. But in all of his tolerance, he doesn’t stick around long enough for zir push him to the point of being angry, or even irritated. When it’s clear that his fur might be ruffled, he simply and calmly gets up and leaves.

Snap your fingers obedience…

If he understands your command or intent, he obeys immediately. Try shouting stop to him at his most focused on something else moments. I field tested this the other day when he threw his own ball into the middle of the street, as I held back a flailing JuggerBaby from chasing it too. I hollered STOP NOW and boy if that dog didn’t skid to a stop like he hit an invisible brick wall! It was better than a crash test dummy situation, and for my blood pressure. I’ve seen dogs chase their balls into the street and right under the wheels of an oncoming vehicle, it’s the worst sound in the world.

You can trust him with your food at all times – he doesn’t touch your food when he’s told to “leave it.” I’ve literally put his food in front of him, told him to wait and stay, left the room, and come back later to find him standing in the exact same position, gently wagging his tail with a smile. Just waiting, as told! This is

… and helpful to boot

When I was pregnant and half mobile, he learned to come over to lend me the strength of his steady back, so I could lever myself up. The habit’s stuck with him. When he thinks I’m too sick to get up, he comes over, sniffs my head and offers his back for me to get up.

Sweetest of dispositions…

There’s not a thing that could make Seamus do more than rumble at me when he’s grouchy that I refuse to feed him three meals in an hour. I’ve clipped his nails, cleaned his ears, wiped his bum, examined every inch of his body right side up and upside down, bathed him 4 times a week battling his allergies, and brought home a surprise infant. He’s never fazed or anything but loving and loyal.

In the course of his tenure here, he deferred to Doggle with the greatest respect, and never ventured to do more than snuggle by his side since Doggle didn’t know how to dog.

Despite constant little provocations, Seamus has never reacted poorly to any of JuggerBaby’s pokes, prods, or licking. The most he’s done is rolled his eyes at me in a mute appeal for help, with his ears slightly flattened. Part of this is because he knows I’m alpha and will intervene so he doesn’t have to lash out but really, getting my toes pinched or my ear tweaked would irritate me more than he’s ever shown. It DOES, in fact, since ze does that to me too.

… and protective as anything

Don’t come near his sibling, though, being loud or raucous. Ze might be an obnoxious little twerp sibling but ze is HIS sibling.

And don’t come to our house being rowdy, banging on the door, that’s completely unacceptable behavior and his booming barks let you know without a doubt that he doesn’t tolerate that nonsense. His booms surprise me, even, it’s rare to hear them!

I love my dog.

:: Regale me with tales of your favorite beloved pets, would you?

April 24, 2017

Real Estate Investing: rental increases

Real estate investing: handling rent increases gracefully It’s been a while since my last rental property update!

I’ve identified a new property manager that I will likely change over to later in the year. It will cost me $150 to make the change and transfer, so I decided not to do it until after June for a couple reasons.

First, the pain of working with the current property manager is low right now, so I can afford to leave this alone for a few months while I focus on our more pressing needs. Don’t get me wrong, she’s used up my good will. It just doesn’t make sense to try to do everything at the same time, and do them all badly, because each project needs a minimum amount of care.

Second, my rent to expenses ratio was pretty low. It was time to reassess the rent against market rates, and we found that we were something like 20% below market.

Aside from that long-running HOA violations debacle, though, they’ve been good tenants with two years of consistently paying rent. I have to make sure that my expenses, now and upcoming, are covered but also didn’t want to hit them with a huge increase so we decided to make it a 6% rate increase with an explanation that we are choosing to give them a lower rent than we might because they’ve been good tenants.

Besides, I wasn’t about to repeat the same mistake that Dad’s landlord pulled. Small regular increases over the years are easier to swallow unless you can afford to leave the rent low for years. I can’t, unfortunately, but it’d be nice to be in that position!

:: What’s the biggest increase in housing cost that you’ve experienced? Was it as a renter or an owner? 

Swagbucks: April Swago

The Swagbucks version of Bingo is back for April. Sign up now, your board is active from April 24 at 9AM PT through May 1 at 12PM PT.

The concept is simple: you fill out squares when you earn points on their site. Fill out the board in a pattern, and submit your board pattern to redeem your points. If you can fill in the whole board, I never can but you might, you get a 700 SB ($7) bonus.

If you sign up through my link and earn 300 SB before May 1st, you’ll also get a bonus 300 SB.

Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join Swagbucks and earn. I track my earnings here.

April 21, 2017

Finally Friday: my brownie bites recipe

My very own brownie bites! This recipe happening at all was the ultimate in exciting for me – I haven’t had the energy to bake a dessert in years!

When I do scrape together enough energy, it first going toward getting all my work done, then for making dinner, and getting JuggerBaby fed and settled into bed.

Last summer, well, last strawberry season more accurately, I managed to bake something tasty that’s nearly dessert-like (strawberry bread!) once every couple of weeks thanks to simplifying the recipe to the least possible required motion. There was no great reward for being efficient.

This one, though, was purely for me. Also for PiC, because I share with him, but mostly me.

It was both time intensive and energy intensive – I almost junked the plan altogether because of the very first step that seemed like way too much trouble. PiC was shocked when I hauled out the butter anyway and got cracking. There’s something to be said for being motivated by your cravings.

I’d share a photo but is anyone surprised that they were all devoured before I remembered to take one?

Ingredients

1/2 pound unsalted butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, unless you want an extra dose of chocolatey goodness, in which case, add 6 ounces of chocolate chips
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 + 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, chocolate chips, and peanut butter in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir (no beating) together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar.

Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature. Take a half hour break, I’d say.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, add 6 ounces of chocolate chips here if you want this to be sweeter, then add them to the chocolate batter.

Pour into the muffin tin.

Bake for 20 minutes, rap the tin, then bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool thoroughly before digging one out and chowing down, with a glass of milk.

Afterthoughts

This recipe was adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe. In keeping with my cooking style, these actually aren’t outrageous at all because we’re old fuddy duddies who don’t want diabetes. But they’re delicious!

I cut the original recipe in half to make a dozen muffin-brownies, and replaced the sugar with peanut butter to reduce the straight sugar a little bit, so they’re not truly bite-size either but who’s complaining? Not I, said the brownie for breakfast eater.

I buttered the muffin tin but I forgot to flour it. BIG mistake. Never mind, these weren’t for show anyway, they were for eating!

I left out the coffee, 6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. It might have been a mistake but we weren’t missing anything. Next time I’d increase the peanut butter, though, that flavor would be awesome.

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