December 9, 2016

Finally Friday: spinach and turkey pasta bake edition

Honestly this feels a bit like cheating because who doesn’t know how to make pasta? You just cook the pasta al dente and add interesting things. For some reason this particular pasta bake was a huge hit.

JuggerBaby decided that this was the night ze didn’t want spinach and picked it out occasionally but ze got more than ze avoided. PiC, on the other hand, had four servings and ate all HIS spinach, so on balance, I’d call it a success.


garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1 lb of pasta,
1 lb of ground turkey
1-2 bunches of spinach
4 slices of cheddar cheese
1/2 Tbsp garlic salt
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1.5 cups tomato-based pasta sauce
Optional: 1/2 cup of mixed cheeses (romano, parmesan, etc)


We’ve been eating a lot of veggie penne and whole wheat penne lately, and it works really well for this recipe.

Mince the garlic, and dice the onions, toss both in the heated, oiled Dutch oven set to medium-low heat. Boil salted water for the pasta, which takes about 9-10 minutes while washing and chopping up your spinach – just a rough chop to discard the stems and cut down the leaves to 1/6th or 1/8th a large leaf size.

Toss the chopped spinach into the Dutch oven, and stir until the leaves settle down into nice green, add the ground turkey, onion powder and garlic salt, cook til done. Add the pasta sauce and sliced cheeses, stir to distribute evenly. Your pasta should be cooked through by now, add it to the pot and stir til it’s mixed in well. Top with a generous sprinkle of cheese on top, bake uncovered at 350 degrees for ten minutes.

Total time from prep to serving: 35 minutes.

December 8, 2016

Just a little (link) love: polar bear and dog edition


Hiding $400M – more and more I’m reminded that people with an obscene amount of wealth are bizarre and trend towards being not really good people. This piece was fascinating from a money systems point of view.

We were just visited by the book fair mobile at daycare and I was pondering how we would handle it when JuggerBaby is old enough to care. I love Chief Mom Officer’s philosophy.

Negotiating tactic: Having a ridiculous reason is just as good as as a good reason? Weird.


I recently watched Netflix’s Jessica Jones and it was really well done. Looks like Brian Michael Bendis is coming back for another round.

I really like burros. Add goat and you’ve got a winner.

Our photographer friend, Maryam, is just the absolute best. And her daughter’s Totoro camping pajamas are, too.


Cloud is taking real actions on the political front and I sincerely appreciate her taking the time to write this all out so I can borrow some actions.

Mmmhmm, Asian patriarchy can go right to hell. This is why I reacted so strongly to Dad’s “you should have a boy” nonsense when I was pregnant.

Childhood amnesia

Also thanks to Cloud, this New Yorker article on how Italian women dealt with their version of PEOTUS, Berlusconi, was somewhat heartening.

On the other hand, the war against drug dealing in the Philippines is really just government sanctioned death squads for the citizens and this is horrific. People wonder why we fear the depths to which America can sink and assume this can’t happen here. It sure can.

Polar bear says hi, dog

December 7, 2016

Tradition and mourning rituals

Visiting the graves of our loved ones, and honoring their memoryThere’s something about the cold, real cold for a Californian, the kind where you can see your breath, and stop feeling fingers and nose. Whenever that winter feels truly here, my bone deep memories surface.

It’s 40 degrees outside, and I needed socks inside, so I’m remembering other nippy mornings, going way back to when I ventured out into that cold because adults made me. Some memories are of junior high, 50 cent cups of hot chocolate to ward off the chill, shivering in too thin jackets. 

Some are about recalling my ancestors.

My entire extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, lived by the Lunar calendar. I myself had no idea how it worked. All I knew was that when the cold settled down in California, it would be time. The one day a year that was designated for families to go to the graves of our family with food, symbolic money and clothes.  Each family would bring a dish made potluck-style, and we’d light incense in remembrance of our loved ones, burning paper money and clothing for their use in the afterlife. We’d have one-sided chats with our deceased loved ones, telling Grandma about what we’d been up to that year, who was sick, who was doing well, who had grown three inches. We’d ask them to remember us, too, and send us their blessings.

After the incense burned out, indicating the end of the spirits’ meal, we would eat the meal together as a family, picnic-style.

This was part of the Buddhist culture I was raised in, though it wasn’t really shared as a religion or a belief system. It was a familial custom to honor and respect our loved ones’ memory, much as others might leave flowers at the cemetery, keeping them alive in our hearts and teaching the next generation the wisdom that would have been passed down from the deceased elders.

I remember this from when I was very young, too young to know that running around the graveyard playing wasn’t respectful, and I remember a cousin jokingly restraining us by saying that if we ran over people’s resting places, they would reach up and grab our ankles to make us stop. It was effective. To this day I still instinctively walk in very specific lines above headstones. He’d probably think that was funny.

We were exposed to the idea of death very early on, making it a normal part of life, without making it rule our daily lives. That distance I learned to be comfortable with became so ingrained that it’s difficult to follow any mourning rituals that dictate weekly and monthly visits to graves or temples or churches. More frequently than once a year is overwhelming.

I think my cousins still carry on the tradition because they’re still local to the graves, but we’re not, and so I can’t share it with JuggerBaby as I would like to. As a poor alternative, I started a journal after ze was born where I share memories of my mom and others whom I would have honored on that day and why I remember and grieve their loss.

:: When did you learn about death? Do you have any family traditions to handle loss?

December 5, 2016

Net Worth & Life Report: November 2016

On Money


Our normal income is two full time day job salaries. We experiment with earning money on the side, including minimal cash flow that we don’t touch from an investment property. The goal is to replace our day job income before my health gives out and prevents me from working. Any purchases you make going through my Amazon links keep these blog lights on!

Our incomes which I am exceedingly grateful for remain the same. This is good from a stability standpoint. There have been too many nights lying awake after working a 100 hour week for the overtime and wondering how long it was before I fell apart completely and could I get us to a safe place before then? So I’m grateful for what we have.

I’m also aware that the clock could run out on my particular job, whether it be my patience or my professional stagnation, so there is some internal buttkicking going on in trying to nail down the important things I need to address when crafting my next step.

We received an unusual gift in the form of money quite unexpectedly. I must have experienced some kind of spiritual growth (or maybe I’m just a bit numb to Big Things this month) because I didn’t react quite badly to it. The biggest reason is likely that there were no discernible strings attached. Generally there are always some kinds of strings or obligations attached to those sorts of gifts so I find that whole idea abhorrent but in this case the gift was more about the giver than the recipients so I found a way to be not adamantly against accepting it. Sometimes I can’t shake the thought that it’s not my money, since I’m so accustomed to having earned every penny I hold. Not sure if that’ll ever pass. 

A question and Swagbucks: I asked last month but no one commented whether the Swagbucks posts bothered them so I’m guessing that it was ok?  (I use Swagbucks. Here’s a handy tutorial if you’d like to join and earn.) This month’s Swagbucks earnings were good. I made enough to cash out for $100 Paypal dollars just in time to help a friend in dire need of assistance.


Our normal spending includes the living expenses for two households so this update ignores those ordinary living expenses.

Groceries and eating out:  I spent $250 hosting friends earlier this month, feeding 18 people rather well, then 4 people for about a week thereafter. Friends also pitched in for drinks, alcohol and non-alcohol, and desserts which would probably have added another $150 to the bill. This was a grand plan months in the planning and it went off without a hitch. Pretty awesome.

Then there was another $100 on groceries the weekend before Thanksgiving. One of my favorite people came to spend a week with us and so we laid on more supplies than usual for the week, and we also ate out a few more times especially to treat her to delicious local foods. We discovered an amazing brunch spot that serves fantastic beignets (4 for $15 after tax and tip because I feel awkward not tipping for take out) and a perfect sandwich shop around the corner that borders on too generous with the pate which I didn’t think was possible and priced like back home in 1997 (4 for $16).

I might normally feel quite guilty over the indulgences but not when it involves feeding a favorite person. That brings me joy. And also great food. It took 8 days to run out of all the good food. Glory and bliss!

Christmas preparation: I splurged on a tree this year (on sale at Target, with cash back, paid using a gift card). It’s JuggerBaby’s first tree and I hope it survives zir early years of sowing destruction. We run very light on decorations, we have two strings of lights, because we have so little storage so it’ll be a minimalist tree. I’m a bit excited about this, especially the part where we put a few gifts under there and hope JuggerBaby leaves them alone. We all know Seamus is too good a dog to bother them. 

Saving and investing

We max out a 401(k) and IRA every year and save another 20% of cash of our net salaries.

Discovery! I had 2500 Citi Thank You points to redeem and nothing good to redeem it for. Normally I redeem for gift cards to stores we frequent but that list gets shorter every year. We pretty much shop for food and a handful of gifts, but the redeem for cash option is terrible, at 2 points per dollar. But I poked around some more and found that I can get them to cut a check toward the mortgage. Sure it’s a drop in the bucket but whatever, $25 toward principal is way more useful to me than maybe $20 worth of cash should I get a gift card and turn around to sell it. Much less effort, too! The catches are: they will cut a check addressed to the lender, mail it to you, then you have to mail it out, so it’ll cost a stamp. Good enough for me!

I’m always on the lookout for ways to increase our savings and investing.
I had intended to pick up some i-bonds this month but I hate hate hate using the Treasury Direct site and didn’t bake in enough time to log in, much less actually buy the bonds. I’ll have to tackle that in December or January, perhaps.

Our net worth: increased 3.9% from last month, and 33% from January.

After a few down months, our total holdings have perked up a little. I’m holding on to cash a bit more than I had intended earlier this year, but will likely move a bunch of it into less liquid investments once I have a moment to set up the account.

11-16-asset-allocation 11-16-total-assetsLinks from this month

On Life

On Stress: This was a tough month for me personally. My work hours have been barely tolerable. I was logging 15 hour work days and the work is still piled up ceiling high. Metaphorically speaking. Combine that with the current political climate and actual Nazis getting airtime to spew hatefulness like “are Jews people” and I find myself wound extra-tight. I’ve been wrapped in Thermacare and Salonpas patches to force my muscles to relax.

On food: I pulled off a glorious victory this month. I ambushed PiC with the perfect day. It’s a good thing he takes some direction well or he would have ruined everything but since his instructions were fun and a nice break from his usual duties, I was confident he’d follow through. Plus after 8 months of planning, does anyone for a minute doubt that if he tried to back out I would have hogtied him and delivered him to his friends? You betcha I would have.

But it didn’t come to that.

So he had a great morning with his buddies, then came home to a luncheon feast and cake and more friends. It was a ton of work and, thanks to some fantastic friends helping out, worked beautifully. I’ll be smug for at least another month over how well it went off.

On weird neighbors: One embittered, bizarre neighbor wasn’t enough, we acquired another strange set recently. They are oh-so-unfortunately much closer to us, they can easily see our front door, and their lack of boundaries has led to a lot of quick entrances and exits so as not to be caught on the sidewalk with them.

When we met, they seemed so nice! Just a young couple starting a new chapter of their lives here. We were friendly to them, that was our first mistake. Usually it takes me a year to do more than a nod and a hello. Four years to organically develop a chatty relationship that’s not awkward if they’re our kind of people. And by our kind, I mean: respects boundaries!

When we first met, they claimed to love both dogs and children but every other time Seamus and I rounded the corner on a dash home and came face to face with them the Wife, who made it such a point to pet him when meeting him and expressing her love of all dogs, would jump back with alarm and dismay. What kind of dog lover ARE you?? Then the Husband would repeatedly catch us outside at the end of a weekday and, without asking us if it was ok, invite JuggerBaby inside. People, this is a toddler with no self determination. Ze goes into no one’s home without us. Leaving aside the assumption you seem like you’re trying to abduct my child, has it never occurred to you that it’s 6 pm on a work night and we’re just getting home? Every single time we have to remind them that Ze needs dinner NOW and isn’t a young adult who can stop to play for an hour.

The nights when Ze is having a meltdown, not often, thankfully, they’d open their door and watch. CAN WE HELP YOU?

The last straw was when they had family visiting. They’d told their parents about “the adorable neighbor kid”. When they heard us coming home from work, they all came out to say hello and AGAIN invite zir to come play. Again, what makes them think this is appropriate to just ask a sub-2-year-old to come play? That wasn’t enough forced socializing, the parents heard us leaving for work the next morning and ran out in their pajamas, calling out to JuggerBaby to come over while we were herding zir to the car. Who does that?? What possesses four grown adults to have zero presence of mind to think that maybe you shouldn’t call a stranger’s child over to you when they are clearly going somewhere?? Anyway, in a very short space of time, it’s become clear there are more neighbors to avoid now.

After every encounter, I go hop onto Zillow or Trulia, looking for a new home. Preferably with tall walls and a moat.

:: How was your November money? Do you have more good or weird neighbor stories? Are you uncomfortable receiving monetary gifts? 

Swagbucks: December $5 Sign up Bonus

If you missed it in November, Swagbucks is offering a $5 bonus to people who sign up through me this month. Thanks, Swagbucks! I track my earnings here.

Bonus Getting:

  1. Earn 300 SB total before 11/1. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus. Here’s a handy tutorial to start earning those SBs.
  2. Make one of your holiday shopping stop at the Swagbucks Shop. Shop early enough to receive your shopping SB before February 1st, it usually takes about 32-34 days to credit a purchase, and you’ll get another 200 SB bonus in addition to the Shop & Earn cashback.

Obviously I’m not eligible for this bonus but being an active Swagbucks user means I got a neat little Shop & Earn offer so I picked up $14 pajamas for JuggerBaby from Amazon, earning 47 SBs, which gave me a 1000 SB bonus. $4 pjs, score!

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