Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Oscars

This year I actually watched the Oscar ceremony. The whole thing. All three hours and twenty minutes of it. Not too bad in the overall scheme of things. I was impressed by the winners’ ability to give short and sweet versions of acceptance speeches. I only remember two or three people who ended up getting played off by the orchestra. I was also impressed that every winner was in attendance. And, as far as I could tell, every nominee (with, perhaps, the exception of categories like sound editing) was there as well. This is a far cry from some years where the presenter would pause for a second and then accept the statue in place of the winner. I don’t know if this means the Oscar has taken on a renewed importance or if everyone was just so happy to be having the ceremony at all that they went all out.

The show itself was surprisingly quite watchable. There weren’t long stretches of boring filler and it moved at a good pace with no obvious blunders or distractions. Jon Stewart was quirky and used his time well, dividing his wit among various celebrities in attendance (and some who were not) and the required political satire he is known for. Speaking of which, given that pretty much all of the documentary nominees were politically motivated, I was pleased to see that the winner went with the gracious route rather than the spewing of political opinions as has happened in the past. Iraq was definitely mentioned, but the point was not belabored. It was nice to see the community of movie making professionals get together and celebrate what the awards show was meant to celebrate.

I didn’t really have any vested interest in most of the categories. This year’s nominees all tended to swing toward the serious, depressing, and violent genres which I am likely to avoid watching. I did have high hopes for Juno, but those were dashed pretty early on. I found it interesting that although Alan Menken had snatched up three of the five song nominations he still lost to the virtually unknown independent film musicians. Let’s hear it for the little guys. I enjoyed the ridiculous production numbers for Enchanted’s songs though. I love Kristin Chenowith and could watch her all day.

I question some wardrobe choices and was surprised at how nervous and robotic some of the presenters were. I wonder what the deal is with Miley Cyrus. I just don’t get it. Nicole Kidman is pregnant? Really? I wish the Italian lady who won for set design would have shaved her pits before waving her arms in the air onstage. Anyway, it was a late night, I’m kind of tired this morning, but I think it was worth it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Finances...

Both our federal and state refunds were directly deposited this morning. Yay for e-filing! This will allow us to pay down a bit on the credit cards. Adam expects to be getting his bonus from the previous quarter within the next two paychecks so that will help as well. With so many variables I don’t know if it’s realistic, but it looks as though perhaps we can have everything paid off by next June. And that’s without including any additional bonuses Adam might get for the rest of the year. Taking that possibility into account might allow us to be done with it all by the end of the year. We’ll see. Aah, to be debt-free…

Then it will be time to start building up our savings both as emergency funds and home improvement funds. Adam’s already got a list of things he wants to do to the house and while we will have the Lowe’s card available, I’d rather accumulate the money before-hand this time. Jumping into home ownership a year earlier than anticipated kind of threw my financial planning all out of whack, but it’s starting to right itself again. And in my mind there’s a number. It’s the number I’d need to see us have in savings before I’d even consider diving into other life-changing events, if you get my drift. I know if it came down to it, there are a lot of areas where we could slash spending to come up with extra money. But I’d rather take the logical approach and try to prepare for the financial havoc that comes with LCEs. We’re in no hurry. Or at least I’m not. Plus, I need to work on my physical self a little before I get to that. And on a more morbid note, we also have to kind of wait for some rodent friends to start kicking it so we have more room… Heh.

Back on the bright side, in 19 days I will make my final car payment and the Toyota will be mine! Yay! Three years seemed to fly by and it still runs just fine. I did have to replace the battery a few weeks ago but I think that the cold weather may have had something to do with it. Other than routine maintenance and a serpentine belt replacement, it’s been a hassle-free car. Here’s to at least another 3 hassle-free years!

Anyway, enough of that. I’m off to hunt for a decent M&M cookie recipe that I can try this weekend. The one on the M&Ms site totally sucked so I need to find something else.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Vote Experienced

I performed my civic duty on Tuesday morning, stopping at the polls at 7am to cast my vote in the increasingly important Wisconsin primary. Once again, both Adam and I had to register in our new ward. It seems that every time I vote, I’m re-registering because I’ve moved. This time I would have had to register again regardless since I’ve had a name change. I still managed to make it to work (almost) on time. I would have been early if the election volunteer filling out the voter registration change forms wasn’t deaf as a doornail. Now everyone in Ward 15 knows how to spell “Dodds”. Yes, they’re all Ds. *sigh* Anywho, it was a pretty short ballot – just the two party presidential primaries and a school board position (that I didn’t vote on since I knew nothing about any of the people on the ballot. Yay for informed voting!) I forgot to pick up my “I voted” sticker though. :(

On the weather front, it’s not pretty. Monday night I arrived home to find that the plows had completely blocked our driveway. I pulled to the side of the road, called Adam to inform him that I couldn’t get into the house, and asked him what I should do. He told me he was leaving work and would come home to dig us out. So I drove to Copps and sat in the parking lot for 45 minutes while Adam navigated his way home on the messy highway and blew the snow out of the way. I’m glad I didn’t try to just pummel my way into the driveway. Adam tells me he tried that and got stuck. That would have sucked. In any case, a good 4 or 5 more inches Monday, more overnight, and now we’re stuck with sub-zero temperatures again (15 below this morning! without the windchill!) Handbells was cancelled again this week and luckily things stayed relatively calm for IMA on Tuesday. The weekend looks to be a bit nicer. It might even get up to 30 degrees on Sunday! Woo! That's almost swimsuit weather! You know it's bad when 15 degrees ABOVE zero sounds pretty good.

If we get much more snow I don’t know where we’re going to put it. The snowblower can only shoot it so high and it’s also not safe to not be able to see over the piles while backing out of the driveway. I know Adam hacked some of it down over the weekend, but it seems like it just piled right back up. How many more days until spring?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On Snow...

Yesterday was bright and sunny. From indoors it looked like it was a nice day. And I suppose it was. But then you’d get outside and realize it was 2 degrees out. Stupid clear blue skies… I much prefer cloudy, dreary, comfortable 25 degree weather to the bright, sunny, freakin’ cold weather. Grrr. This whole winter thing is getting old. It’s been an especially rough season this year. Heaps of snow (that never seems to melt so it just keeps piling up), unnecessarily cold temperatures, harsh winds. Oh yeah, and there was even some tornados back a month or two ago. If that’s not the recipe for fun I don’t know what is. Enjoy some more fun-filled pictures:

And even though we get snow every single year (it’s not like this is Florida or something) people still haven’t figured out how to drive in it. It starts to snow and suddenly everyone turns into a 15-year-old punk. I don’t drive like a grandma. I drive cautiously, but not to the point of overdoing it. Sometimes I think it’s more dangerous to be driving too slowly than it is to be driving too fast. I try to drive so I use my brakes as little as possible, thereby eliminating the risk of skidding into another car or off the road. So I get peeved when some idiot drives erratically, varying speeds constantly. It’s terribly hard to follow a car like that and not want to send “drive into the ditch” vibes their way. But I’m also annoyed when the big pickup truck rushes up behind me and drives too closely for even the best of roadway conditions.

In an ideal world, everyone would drive like me. My driving history should support this stance. I’ve only been in one accident (and that was actually before I had my license, so perhaps that doesn’t even count) and it wasn’t even my fault. A guy ran a red light. The only times I’ve been pulled over (and I’ve only been pulled over three times) have been for burned out lights (two headlights, well, one headlight, two pullings-over two days in a row, and one taillight.) I did drive into a ditch on 23 once on my way back to school about five or six years ago but it was really shitty out and I probably should have stayed in Sheboygan. Plus I was able to drive back up onto the road and get back to Oshkosh. So, in conclusion, I am a good driver. Everyone else is not.

I'll end this post with a random cute and cuddly cat picture:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

So, about those bagpipes...

Ok, perhaps our brains weren’t totally functioning when we saw the random bagpipers last Saturday while out at dinner. Why do I think this, you might ask. Well, last night we went to see the Band of the Coldstream Guards along with the pipes, drums, and dancers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard at the PAC. And guess what? The pipes of the Scots Dragoon Guard are bagpipes. Duh… It was an entertaining evening. Since these are military musicians, it was no surprise to see how disciplined they were. The conductor would turn toward the audience after each selection and salute. The band members remained motionless behind him until he put his hand down. Then as he turned back toward them, everyone would scurry to change their music. I also found it interesting that the bagpipers all stood in perfect 1st position form throughout their entire performance (well, when they weren’t marching back and forth across the stage, anyway.) They also kept their mouthpiece in their mouth the whole time. I am a little fuzzy on how the bagpipe thing works, but perhaps it’s like a reed they need to keep wet? It was a little thrilling to hear bagpipes play in harmony.

The band and bagpipers marched back and forth, up and down, and it was neat to hear the acoustics of the hall change the sound depending on which direction the instruments were going. They did some interesting formations and even did a figure eight during a march. There were a few times I was afraid someone was going to crash or get harpooned by the director’s huge baton, but, of course, everyone made it out just fine. The cymbalist did cut it close once and a trombone had to haul ass a little to make it through his allotted space. And while I suppose ones choices are kind of limited by the bagpipe’s range and base drone, it was still a good variety of music. Although, is it wrong of me that when they played their final piece (the one that everyone probably associates with bagpipes), I immediately thought of Charlotte’s (first) wedding in season three of “Sex in the City”? I mean, it’s what is played as she walks down the aisle with her father, right after she announces Trey’s impotence, and right before Carrie and Aiden break up. Hmm, maybe I need to not watch that show so much…

A little bit of everything

As birthdays go, this one was pretty uneventful. As previously mentioned, Adam’s mother and sisters took me out for dinner last Friday night. It was a good time and we all agreed we should ditch the men more often. Saturday morning I did the grocery shopping and picked up some bedding so I could clean the various critter cages. Then I tried to do some cleaning but managed to clog the vacuum cleaner. I looked in the hose, flipped it upside down, but I couldn’t figure out what its problem was so I just gave up. I continued going through the closet in the cat room and I’d say I’m about 2/3rds of the way done. I also watched a few episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” to pass the time. Adam’s flights were all on time going this direction and I picked him up at the airport around 4pm. We went home where he proceeded to unpack. He picked up a few things for me while at the Universal Studios gift shop. They included a replica of an Oscar for “Best Accountant”. He also got me a huge Spongebob mug. Both these items are currently on my desk at work. We caught up on this week’s “Project Runway” and then headed out to dinner. We had a good time over at The Ground Round and were even treated to some bagpipe serenading (if that’s not a strange concept, I don’t know what is…) from a troupe of bagpipers who were staying at the hotel. Then we went back home where we proceeded to fall asleep. So sad.

Anywho, Sunday morning I spent some more time cleaning, took care of all the cage cleaning, did some laundry. Adam went into work for a while and then stopped to get some wood for our bed. Yeah, so the cats had started climbing up into the boxspring and tearing out the lining between the springs. Since Ted had previously gotten himself stuck in it and we’d had to tear the fabric off in order to get him out it was readily accessible to them all. They were making a huge mess and there were little poofs of gray all over the floor. The solution? Staple wood to the bottom of the boxspring to keep them out of it. Works for me. So Adam borrowed his dad’s staple gun and air compressor and got it done. I supervised. After lunch we caught up on some more DVR shows. Adam figured out what was wrong with the vacuum and I finished up the cleaning I had started the day before while he vacuumed the rest of the house with the other vacuum cleaner. Then he mopped the floor. He mopped me into the bedroom area and he ended up out in the living room to catch up on some wrestling. Luckily the floor dried fast enough that I could feed the cats on time. They had been shut in their room whilst Adam mopped and were quick to express their displeasure. I made dinner, we both had some homemade frozen custard, and then headed to bed to watch some TV.

I find it interesting that while Adam was gone, JC completely ignored me at night. The first night I left the bedroom door open and he was nowhere to be found all night. The other nights he annoyed me so much with playing with cords and attacking things under the bed that I had to shut him out. Saturday night things were back to normal. He slept on the foot of the bed, crawled up in between us, chewed on my arm, bit me, and was generally obnoxious. I wonder why he was completely uninterested in chomping on me when Adam wasn’t here.

Anyway, another bit of nasty weather headed our direction and we got a good 6-8 inches of snow today. Woo. We all know how much I like snow.

No, seriously. It can stop now.

So today is Valentine's Day. We kind of did our celebration yesterday. We went to dinner before our PAC show. Tonight I made a carbonara frittata that was pretty good. I managed to burn my arm though... Speaking of Valentine’s Day and all things lovey and mushy, I got an email yesterday from Catherine (my former college roommate and the maid of honor at my wedding, not the sister) telling me that Tony and she are (finally!) engaged. Congratulations guys!

And with another abrupt non sequituresque subject change I bring you the news that Adam and I filed our federal taxes last night. I originally filled everything out on H&R Block’s taxcut software. I know the IRS has all these free file partners and they say the limits are $54,000 for individuals. I figured the limits would be higher for married filing jointly. Nope. So I got everything done and was told I couldn’t free file. (Apparently we make too much money. Our AGI surprised me, but also made me wonder where the hell it all went…) I could pay $14.95 and then they’d file it for me. Grrr. So I printed out the forms and had just finished re-doing our taxes by hand when Adam found a discount through his employer to file through Turbo Tax for free. So, after doing our taxes for a third time (luckily we got the same result each time. Yay!) we finally submitted them to the IRS. Geesh. I finished up our state return last night as well but I want to check it over once more before I submit it. That’s on my list for tomorrow night. We should be able to use the state’s free file service so that will be nice. Total refunds from both federal and state came out to just over $2,000. Add to that the $1,200 rebate we’ll supposedly have in a few months and we should be able to make some decent payments towards the lingering house-buying bills. Yes, I’m aware this is exactly the opposite of what this “economic stimulus package” is meant to do. Mr. Bush will just have to deal with it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Martha, the Poet?

So, as promised, I was going through all the stuff my mom had brought over that had ended up in the closet. There's an entire bag full of papers and what looks like school-related stuff and I came across a notebook. "Martha's Notebook" to be exact. In it are all kinds of poems written by yours truly. While I'm definitely not destined to win any awards, perhaps I'll share one from time to time because they're hilarious.

Most of them are untitled, but if I had to name this one I'd call it, "Will Make You Laugh Hysterically For No Apparent Reason." Enjoy the genius that was me at what I'm guessing to be age 7 or so...

Oh the poor little apple,
It was going to be in Snapple.
It had to get out
but apples can't shout,
so it simply rolled away.

It rolled through jungles,
it rolled through forests,
it rolled through weevily wheat.
It rolled and rolled and
rolled and rolled because
it had no feet.

Finally its fate caught it.
It caused the apple to sit.
To sit on the ground
turning brown
'cause someone had stomped on it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Staying Alive

Aaagh! Falling behind on blogging again. I’m getting really bad at this. Perhaps it’s because I spend my whole day working at a computer so by the time I get home I really don’t want to sit in front of one again to post blog entries. Or it could be that every time I open my laptop JC decides it’s time to play and walks back and forth on top of the keyboard, hitting function keys, and batting at the mouse movement on the screen. No matter what he was doing previously if he sees me sit down at the computer he scampers over to be obnoxious. And it’s not as though I can shut him out of the room. The computer is in the cat room. Grr.

Anyway, despite the unnecessarily lengthy lull in activity here, not much has been going on. The weather has been ridiculously crappy with snow, more snow, and, oh yeah, a couple days of -40 degree thrown in for fun. Gah. This has hampered my going out and about a little perhaps. It seems that every weekend it snows and is generally icky outside so I do my best to get my shopping done and over with as fast as I can. During the week I have my Monday handbell practice (which has been cancelled two of the last three weeks) and that’s about it.

This week was a little abnormal since Adam is out in California (on business, the lucky guy) until tomorrow afternoon. It’s weird being alone in the house and, if it’s possible, the cats seem to be even more obnoxious than usual. I’ve been keeping myself busy by watching the stupid stuff on TV that I can’t watch when Adam’s around - mostly a lot of E! and VH1. And I get a reprieve from all the men in spandex groping at each other (aka – the various forms of wrestling and ultimate fighting that seem to be on every single night) that Adam likes to watch. Of course I also have constant worst case scenarios running through my head of all the stuff that could go wrong while he’s not here. I think my favorite was the mental picture of me pulling too hard on the shower knob and pulling it out of the wall completely. Nothing like flooding the house in the middle of winter… I figure the solution to that would be to turn the water off, but I have to admit I’m not quite sure where that is. In the basement somewhere, right?

Aside from picturing the groundless household catastrophes, I’ve been intending to do some cleaning. Way back in August my mom brought a trunkful (as in “car trunkful”) of my stuff along with her on her cross-country road trip for our wedding. I kind of threw it all in the cat room closet and haven’t dealt with it yet. Yeah, it’s in there with my wedding dress, my dried bouquet, and a host of other stuff I’m not sure what to do with yet. So with Adam out of town I figure this is my opportunity to make a huge mess of the house with the intention of actually making it cleaner. Right. I also still have some items on my Dodds to Paalman transformation that I haven’t gotten around to. I just haven’t had the motivation to sit on hold for half an hour to talk to someone at the electric company. And they’re still getting paid, so does it really even matter? *sigh* I mean, Adam finally got his butt to the DMV to change his address (ahem, 8 months post-move…) so do I get some extra time to finish up my name-change stuff too?

Tonight I had dinner with the in-laws (Adam’s mom and sisters invited me out) so that was fun. Tomorrow I plan to sleep late, although I’m pretty sure that plan will be foiled by something with four paws and a tail. I don’t remember when Adam’s plane gets in but I think it’s sometime early afternoon and he should give me a call when they land anyway. I’m not sure what the plans are after he gets back. Grocery shopping and laundry will probably get pushed to Sunday, but we’ll see.

The rest of the month has some points of interest, I suppose. We have tickets at the PAC next Wednesday for the Scots Dragoon Guards. We’ll go out to Good Company beforehand thanks to my Dad and Cheryl’s Christmas gift. This will also probably be our Valentine’s Day celebration. The next Tuesday is this month’s IMA meeting. The topic is Fraud and Identity Theft so it could be a good time. This year, of course, is a leap year so all my month-end schedules will be thrown off. Gah. But it also means I get an extra day to prepare for inventory.

I plan to do some updating over at my cooking blog this weekend as well so maybe keep an eye out for that. Other than that I'm just trying to keep warm and not go stir crazy with cabin fever.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Life Insurance?

I don’t remember whether it was on one of the shows I watch or something I read online, but I recall reading recently that if you’re married and you live off both incomes, you should have life insurance in case something happens. Now, I hadn’t anticipated looking into life insurance until we decided to start having kids. But with the new year comes my yearly review and raise at work. Once again, apparently raises are stuck at 3% company-wide so that’s what I got. Not really what I was looking for since I took on so much in the past year. Oh well. Add to that the fact that Adam recently became salaried and his pay structure is totally screwed up right now. We really don't have a good idea what his actual pay will be until they get everything worked out.

So while I put together a budget for the year, it was full of lots of wild guesses. I know our escrow payments will increase in March when they rebalance the tax account since our tax bill was about $250 more than we had in the account. My calculations tell me it will go up about $50 a month. Fine. Our auto insurance may also change in both April and October since we’re on a 6-month policy. Everything else I’ve got a pretty good idea of where it will end up for the year.

Taking a look at our numbers, it appears we’re spending 37% of our take-home income on housing costs. This includes mortgage, insurance, taxes, and utilities. But take away Adam’s pay and it’s eating up 60% of my net income. Scary. This might be a little skewed since I don’t include any bonuses in Adam’s income and he tends to bring home something nice every quarter. But still. Wow. Houses are expensive.

Anyway, back to the original point of this post. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a look at life insurance before I had intended to do so. Both Adam and I have life insurance options through work but they're nothing significant. No one wants to think about dying or losing someone. But as we know too well, and with people too close to us experiencing this in the recent past, it’s a reality some have to face. I know we also have to get some other legalities out of the way eventually – power of attorney, living wills, etc. Meh.

And just to get it out there so there’s no big hoopla if this should ever happen: if I become a vegetable, just pull the damn plug and let someone else get to use my organs, ok? Thanks.