No Longer Alone But Technologically Stranded

Can anybody hear me out there?My cable has been down since early this morning and it feels like I’m all alone without phone, internet, and TV. It’s a good excuse to do some chores though.

We now have one house next door and yesterday it looked like the new neighbors were moving in. When I opened the blinds this morning I noticed they had a cable guy setting up service for them. Apparently, whatever he did to set them up killed our connection and there’s no telling when it will be up again.

I have an “emergency” call in and it could take until 9pm to get someone out here again. Nice. Thank goodness I have a cell phone or I couldn’t have even notified the cable company!

We haven’t met the new neighbors yet but I spent some time making my homemade butter cookies with cream cheese icing for a housewarming gift. Eric and I are hoping to stop by tonight to deliver them and welcome them to the neighborhood. They are our first (and only) neighbors so I think it is important to formally introduce ourselves. Word is that the builder sold all the lots around us so it won’t be long before I’m making more cookies and repeating the ritual.

Do people bring over homemade goodies to new neighbors these days? I’ve never done it myself but I’ve also never owned a home before. When we moved in, nobody at the far end of the street came over to welcome us as the newcomers. Perhaps the meet-and-greet obligation only applies to the neighbors in close proximity, if at all?

Maybe people just don’t interact with their neighbors the way they used to in the old days. Who knows? Either way, it doesn’t bother me too much. I tend to be pretty quiet and keep to myself but I think it would be nice for us to welcome the neighborhood newbies.

Anyway, if the cable isn’t up for 6 hours at a time they will credit you a day. I’m at hour 4 already. If you have extended outages in your service, make sure to call and request that they credit your account. You shouldn’t pay for the time you didn’t have service, especially when it is their fault the outage occurred in the first place.

UPDATE: I now have my connection back! They also credited me for the day. Turns out the cable guy from this morning cut my line (no telling why) and a new guy had a run another one on top of the grass to fix it. Tomorrow they will send out a crew to bury it and hopefully that will be the last of it. I hope the dig crew doesn’t do too much damage to the lawn but I’m glad to be up and running again!

Do you bring goodies over to new neighbors? Do you feel that it’s a dying tradition?

Image Source: C.P. Storm

Make Valentine’s Day Special Without It Being Special

there’s no forgetting the HOFFWhen Eric and I first started dating he definitely worked to impress me, especially on Valentine’s Day. He would buy me flowers, take me to a nice restaurant, and get me gifts. That kind of Valentine’s date is practically a requirement for new relationships. I loved it back then and thought he might be the kindest, sweetest man I’d ever met.

Now that our relationship has matured beyond the dating stage (and I know that he is the kindest, sweetest man I’ve ever met) we have settled into a different routine when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

This Valentine’s Day, like the past few, we are going to enjoy a dinner in. Eric gets to decide the entrée and it can be anything (within reason – no caviar, etc). Not surprisingly, he tends to choose one of his favorite recipes from my weeknight staples. This works out beautifully for the budget because most of my recipes can be made inexpensively without sacrificing anything.

This year he chose my Orange Rosemary Porkchops. I’ll pair them with creamy mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables with herbed butter. Add a little cheese course, a little wine, and a little dessert and we will have a fantastic (and cheap) meal for the two of us.

Eating a budget-friendly home cooked meal for Valentine’s Day may be thought of as routine or incredibly un-romantic to some but to us it is romantic. What’s more romantic than putting time and effort into creating something from scratch for someone you love? So what that cooking frugal dinners are an everyday occurrence and not something “special” or unique. Valentine’s Day just places emphasis on showing someone you love them, which is something we do everyday in the little things.

Love is found in those little things – he takes the trash out without me asking, she makes sure the kids get to school on time, he makes sure the car has plenty of gas, she cooks us dinner after her long day…

I’ve found that I feel the most loved from those little “ordinary” things rather than the grand gestures we have come to associate with romantic love. Why not celebrate the “every day” dinner as a valid expression of love on Valentine’s Day?

Cooking at home is a wonderful couples activity. It’s not just me in the kitchen slaving away while Eric sits on the couch drinking a beer. We cook together. We share a glass of wine, talk, and prepare the meal as a couple. The chronically common becomes something special. It reminds us that the mundane things we do for each other are so meaningful.

Try it some time, maybe even tonight. Let your someone special choose a meal and cook it together over a glass of wine. Or if cooking dinner has no significance to you choose an activity that does. Emphasize that love is something that happens every day.

In my opinion, Valentine’s Day isn’t just an excuse to blow some cash on expensive gifts and fancy dinners; it’s a reminder to give and to recognize love in its most common yet most significant form. Celebrate the little things that make you feel loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Image Source: pink hats, red shoes

Embarrassed By Your Accomplishments?

THAT’S your new house??I find myself in a strange dilemma these days. I often get asked how I like the new house and to tell them all about it. I consider getting the new home to be a huge accomplishment for us. It took effort, sacrifice, and hard work to manage to “move up”.

But with many significant accomplishments – like getting a nice home, a hefty promotion at work, or an upscale item – you have to figure out how to handle it gracefully with others.

How do you remain humble about your accomplishments without others thinking you are dissatisfied, embarrassed, or even rude?

Here are two scenarios I have encountered recently:

Does she even like the house?

I’m a humble person by nature. I just don’t want to “toot my own horn” around others. When people ask me about the house I usually reply that I really like it and that it works well for us. Recently, some friends thought my lack of exuberance on the subject meant that I must be unhappy with it for some reason. They asked Eric if I even liked the home. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

I absolutely love my new home. It’s perfect. I simply feel uncomfortable gushing on and on about how awesome my new house is to other people. I feel like its bragging.

I suppose they were looking forward to me telling them all about my house and were disappointed when I spoke in general terms and not of specifics. If someone asks me questions about the home (how big is it, what kind of countertops, etc) I’m happy to answer them but I’m not inclined to spend a lot of time talking about all the upgrades without being prompted. It feels like showing off to me.

Nobody likes that guy at the party who talks about how cool his brand new yacht is and how it has the best of everything. I don’t really want to listen to that guy and I certainly don’t want to become that guy. I feel a discreet reply is the appropriate way to show my happiness with the home without shoving my accomplishment in everyone’s faces.

When can we come over?

Our last house was in a modest neighborhood and we have a friendly relationship with one of our neighbors there. We talk and help each other out but we never have dinner together or anything like that. You can say that we’re cordial but not close.

When we run into them while at the old house they say that they want to come see the new home. We say we will invite them when we are more settled. Just yesterday, I got a phone call from her saying she was driving around in our new neighborhood trying to find our home. She wanted to stop by unannounced. Thank goodness I had plans already because I have been avoiding this situation.

The neighbors are wonderful people but I’m reluctant to ask them over. We don’t know them very well so I wonder if they will view us differently or if it could make them feel bad in some way. Let me explain.

When we talked this week she told me that the cable guy had just stopped by their house because they were so late on their payments. She had to write them a check right then to keep service going. She explained how terrible they were with money and how they just never figured it all out. She even said: “I’m 20 years older than you; you would think we would have learned this by now.”

Bringing her to this house, which is considered an upgrade from our old neighborhood, makes me feel immodest and a little insensitive - especially after she told me of their money issues this week. I know we worked hard and sacrificed a lot for our new home, and that their financial problems aren’t my fault, but it still doesn’t make me feel better about the situation.

In the same way that people may hesitate having “rich” friends in their home due to embarrassment or fear of judgment, I’m having the same sort of concerns. I think it goes both ways. To me, it’s kind of like talking about having a fully funded emergency fund to your friends who are living paycheck to paycheck.

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I know many people would say that I’m crazy to feel funny in these situations. I should be proud to show off my successes to everyone, right? It isn’t that I’m not proud of how far we have come – I absolutely am. Maybe part of it is because I understand how it can feel being on the other side.

I can admit that I’ve seen my friend’s new Lexus or Sub-Zero fridge and felt that pang of jealousy. Hell, I’ve been jealous of my sister’s gorgeous kitchen for a long time now. Now that I finally have a kitchen I’m proud of, I just can’t help but be humble about it to others.

Have you ever felt embarrassed to talk about an accomplishment to others? How did you deal with it? Leave a comment and let us know!

On My Own (For A While)

My husband left me!Yesterday, before the sun even came up, Eric was on his way to the airport for an extended trip. 2 weeks. He doesn’t even get to come home over the weekend. It’s the longest we have been apart since we have known each other.

It’s going to be a lonely few weeks while I hold down the fort.

When Eric goes on business trips, I find that my “alone self” faces several challenges that have the potential to affect my budget. I think we all have little things we do (or don’t do) when our partners leave town. The changes in your behavior when you’re on your own can be subtle or obvious. Maybe you leave the dishes in the sink or rent lots of movies when you are alone. Maybe you enjoy shopping sprees or rounds of golf at the country club.

Eric’s typical business trips are about 3-4 days long and the slight changes in my habits don’t usually cause any issues. But what about 2 weeks worth of that same behavior? That could cause budgetary distress.

This time, I decided to come up with a way to battle my quirky “on my own” habits before they add up to a problem.

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Problem #1: The allure of the quick and easy
For me, it’s the evenings that are the worst. While I’m normally busy preparing for dinner, I now find myself no longer cooking for my usual audience. I love to cook, but mainly for other people’s pleasure. If it’s just for me I lean more towards making something quick and easy or getting take-out. Without an audience I won’t be in my normal dinner routine and making my typical economical dinners.

Solution: Keep on cookin’
I will invite several of my friends to come over in the evenings for dinner. By cooking for them I will maintain my normal cooking routine and keep my food costs down. I can also microwave the leftovers the next day to make quick heat-and-go meals. In order to resist the temptation to order out I will go to the store and get a few cheap and easy meals (like mini pizzas) for when I really want something bad. I expect the prepackaged food will raise my costs but not nearly as much as dining out would.

Problem #2: Fear of the boogeyman
I tend to be a little nervous at night when I’m home alone. I was afraid of the dark as a child and that same fear still affects me when I’m by myself sometimes. Because of that I find myself keeping way too many lights on. Eric tells me that there is no reason to be afraid of the dark and while I understand that, it doesn’t seem to help when he leaves on trips. At least I don’t need to keep lights on all the time (it could be worse).

Solution: Make it cheaper to be irrational
This weekend we made sure to change out all the light bulbs for CFLs in the key places that I would want to leave on if I’m spooked (front door, back door, living room, kitchen). I will also make sure that I turn off any extra lights as soon as I’m up in the morning. I expect that I’ll be able to wean myself off the extra lights over the course of the 2 week period but if not, at least I’m only using a fraction of the energy I would have been with the regular light bulbs.

Problem #3: Staying connected
We like to stay in touch when one of us is out of town but to keep our cell phone costs at a minimum we keep our minutes at a minimum as well. One trip out of town and the whole month’s minutes can be used up if we aren’t careful.

Solution: Chat it up online
After work, we talk on the phone briefly to say “hi” and touch base. Then we both get on our computers and continue to talk about our day using instant messenger. This helps us to be able to chat for longer periods of time without blowing all our minutes. We already have unlimited online access so it works for us. As a bonus we can still get other work done on the computer while we chat. I love multitasking!

So, do you have any little habits that pop up when your partner goes out of town? Please share!

Image Source: malias

Don’t Save The Worst For Your Family

No crusty end pieces for me!This is a little off topic but I thought it was still worth posting. 

I was feeling crabby after a particularly stressful day last week and I noticed that I was being a little short with Eric.  We were doing our normal routine of chatting while I prepare dinner.  It was a subtle change and he didn’t mention it but I knew I wasn’t being as nice as I could have been.  He had done nothing wrong – I was simply allowing my frustration from earlier to affect my attitude that evening. 

Whatever ticked me off that day was distracting me and stealing my time with my husband.  I just had to let it go so we could enjoy our evening.  I look forward to our conversations in the kitchen every night (it’s our time to connect and bond as a couple) and it would have been sad to let something trivial interfere with that.  Now that I write this I don’t even remember what even irritated me that day.  I guess that shows how important it was in the scheme of things, right?

Are you striving to give your very best at work only to end up giving your family the worst of you afterwards?

Do you exceed at your job only to come home and sit on the couch at night, too exhausted to interact meaningfully with your kids?  Maybe you work so hard to keep the household and kids in order that you find yourself missing out on bonding time with your family?  Are you known as “the nice one” in the office yet you rarely remember to say nice things to your spouse?

Pardon the horrible example, but it’s like giving your work the best part of the prime rib and giving your family the crusty little end pieces.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our work and our problems that we forget what’s most important.  Isn’t our family the reason we work so hard for in the first place?  Shouldn’t we try to save a little of the best of us for the people that matter most in our lives? 

I’m not trying to imply that you should do a less than stellar job at work.  It’s only to remind you to show the ones at home some stellar treatment, too.  The people who love you deserve it and the effort you put into those relationships will be worth more than anything you can achieve at work.

Image Source: VirtualErn

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