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Archive for September, 2012

September Spending/October Budget

September 30th, 2012 at 09:50 pm



Overall I didn't do too badly in September. I did not curb the eating out too much, except for not getting any Blimpie subs - instead I only got egg salad sandwiches, which I can get a sandwich, chips and drink for the same cost as a foot long sub. So ...

I bought a plane ticket home for Christmas, which I was refunded by soon to be stepdad. I wish I could've waited til October to buy it, because then there'd be the 5% back deal on Chase ... but it may have cost more by then too. Who knows.

In the medical category I had two fillings and my regular subscription.

In technology I bought a phone to try out the Ting service here (using a $25 discount from Lucky Robin Big Grin )

I earned two $5 AGCs from Swagbucks, as well as $30 doing a babysitting job.

I upped my ROTH contribution to $200 this month, and still was able to put 41% of my income into my car replacement fund. So those two combined equal approximately a 47% savings rate. Not bad, but I'd like it to be higher.

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Going into October .. I am going into it with the mindset of keeping my grocery budget to $100 or less, and also keeping my gas/fuel to less than $50. In September I did manage to lower my food/grocery spending slightly (a good bit actually, considering I included my egg salad stops in it and not in fun money ...) So, I think I may be able to do it.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to cancel my cell phone plan by the end of October - so it wouldn't be a savings this month, but it would be a definite savings by November!! (which of course will go towards the car fund!)

I'm really hoping to get on the ball and get some books listed on half.com or perhaps Amazon and see if I can get anything for them. (books I bought with my money for the library/summer school which ended up not being used, so in brand new condition - multiple copies...)

So anyway ... onwards to October!

Ting?

September 30th, 2012 at 09:58 am

I talked with AL yesterday and found out that there IS service from Sprint here. So I think what I'm going to do is buy a $79 phone from Ting and use whatever number they give me with it. Then I'll test it out for a couple weeks to see what reception is like in the places I'm at most often. If it seems to work well, then I'll find out if I can port my current phone number to my new phone, and be done with AT&T!!

I figure that my bill with Ting would be around $40/mo or less - especially if I'm careful to use FaceTime or Skype to talk to those who have that capability (once I get my iPad of course!)

This way I'll still be able to use GPS when I need it, but otherwise I'll pretty much only use the phone for calls and texting.

So ... I'd like to help out whoever is the first person to send/post their referral link for Ting. It'll help me out too. Smile

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Last night I did my first babysitting gig in many years. It was a blast! The two little girls have a wonderland to play in (all nature!) and fantastic imaginations. I was there roughly 4 hours and was paid $30 - not great money, but still more than what I would've gotten sitting at home. Smile

Before they went to bed we ended up playing with one of the apps on my phone called Puppet Pals. Oh boy, did they ever love that! I almost couldn't make them go to bed because they kept wanting to do another story video. Big Grin

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Tomorrow I am going to a meeting in big G to learn how to access a computer program for the district. It has nothing to do with me, but our counselor feels computer illiterate and asked me to go and learn it and then teach her when I come back. I was more than happy to do it - especially since it means that I'll more than likely miss the majority of Monday (especially that one particular class!)

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I only need to do lesson plans for two days this week really (plus the late afternoon Monday class.) On Thursday we are having Pet Day (St. Francis) and a half-day, and then Friday we're having a teacher in-service day.

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Only three more weeks til our Book Fair! Having it in the fall sure makes it come quite a bit more quickly. It kind of snuck up on me. I was hoping to have it in the gym this year, but the last two days of it is when the gym will be going into "prepare for Halloween Festival" mode. So ... I guess I'll just have to figure out how to make better use of the space in the library.

I'd thought that doing it in the fall would be better timing, but I'm beginning to think that there really isn't a best/great time for it. It just has to be done when it is done! Smile

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Almost forgot! On my way to the babysitting gig last night, I passed by a sign advertising a riding stable! So ... I may just know what my treat will be whenever I manage to get into the 220's and stay there for a month!! Big Grin

Pondering ..

September 28th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Gulp... I'm actually considering changing my phone plan. Gulp.

As far as I've been able to tell, AT&T has the best cell phone coverage in this area. I already own an ATT enabled iPhone (3Gs). I'm trying to figure out if there is a way I can switch my current phone to a prepaid type plan ...

I generally average around 150 minutes a month and less than 1 gig of data, and around 100 texts. I have TONS of rollover minutes. On Vacation I average around 3-400 minutes, 100 texts, and 3 - 5 gigs of data.

My school supposedly may be getting Wi-Fi soon. If so, then my data usage would lessen even more.

I suppose I could switch to a Go Phone for actual talking away from home/school, and keep my iPhone/iPad for talking at home/school. Although I'd really miss the GPS ... but maybe I could buy a GPS device within a few months with the savings from not paying the monthly fee (currently pay $75/mo for 450 anytime minutes w/rollover, 200 texts/mo, unlimited data (grandfathered in.)

When I go on trips I can always just buy/download movies to watch. I'll have to see if Go Phones have texting capability - they probably do, just not as easy as on the iPhone (which is why I even text now...)

I wonder if there's a way to turn on data for the iPhone a month at a time? So then when I go on a trip (like during the summer) I can have the data plan for that month???

(The iPad I'm getting is WiFi only as far as I know.)

The two things that make me most reluctant to let go is 1. being grandfathered in to the $25/mo unlimited plan; and 2. Although a very rare texter before the iPhone invaded my life, I do now find it *very* convenient .... Ok... 3. I really do enjoy the GPS function - not just for maps/directions, but for when I go out exercising/walking - I can decide at a moment's whim to venture off the regular path, and still know exactly when I've reached a predetermined turn around point (judging by distance rather than place) ...

If I jump off the deep end and cancel my plan with ATT,there is no going back. (i.e. no return to unlimited data plan)

If I thought Sprint would work out here reasonably well, then even going with their cheapest unlimited data/voice/texting plan would bring me a savings (if I could somehow unlock my phone to work on their plan??)

Looking at this practically, my phone costs me approximately $900/yr. If I could even cut that in half, and somehow have close to the same functionality...

This and That

September 27th, 2012 at 07:28 pm

I received my new Citi card in the mail yesterday and so went online to register it. I'd had a different Citi card that I got when going to grad school for some sign on bonus or the other. I didn't remember it being a Citi Forward card, but that is what it's called on my account page. So ... I'm not sure if I count as a new card holder or not. I'm going to an experiment of one month of Netflix and see if they reimburse or not.

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Yesterday my teacher friend and I walked nearly 5 miles. It was great! Although I definitely was feeling it today. Smile

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I stopped at the Family Dollar and picked up cat litter yesterday. If I could've held out another two days, it would've been cheaper. But it is what it is.

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While my friend and I were walking yesterday, we started talking about hogans and how they'd be a nice simple way to live. It got me thinking, that maybe I *could* afford to retire by the time I'm 50 if I bought a small piece of land and built a hogan or yurt type of dwelling on it (with electricity, water and internet of course!!) I really don't require a lot of space .. it'd almost be like a studio apartment, only be a single family dwelling. Well... I guess it depends a lot on what I'm able to save/invest in the next 13 years ...

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Like Mondays are my least favorite day (due to one class), I think Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9 - 9:30 are my most favorite time of the week - when I have the 3 and 4 year olds. Big Grin Today as the 4 year olds were leaving, nearly half of them spontaneously gave me a hug. So sweet. Smile

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We got more details on the Zumba class that will be at the community center. The first class is Oct 1, and will cost $5 per class. I think I'm going to try one class, and then if I *really* like it, might go two times a month. I'll use part of my fun money for it. I just can't see spending for fitness when I can go walking or jogging for free. But I am interested in the Zumba class (as long as people with two left feet and little coordination can follow along ...)

Maybe some extra income?? :)

September 26th, 2012 at 09:30 pm

Yes! I just got an email from the parent who'd I'd been in contact with since last June about watching her daughters for a weekend .. but with everything that happened this summer, it never happened. We'd also talked about maybe doing this right before school started, but again, it didn't work out.

So this weekend some friends are coming from out of town and they want to take them out on the town so to speak ... hence, 4 hours of babysitting needed. Big Grin Sweet addition to Car fund! Big Grin (Plus 4 hours of spending time with two of the sweetest girls on the planet. Big Grin )

Inexpensive Halloween Costume idea?

September 25th, 2012 at 07:23 pm

Last year I dressed up as static electricity (black pants/shirt, then safety pinned bits of cloth all over.) I think I got that idea from one of Amy D's books. So now it's getting to be a bit more than a month away from the next dress up occasion, and I'm at a loss as to what would be inexpensive, easy and adult/school appropriate.

I'd love any ideas. Smile

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Can I just say that I think Monday's are going to be my least favorite day of the week this school year? All because of one class. Ugh.

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Still in the process of reading through M Mustache's blogs. I used it today as an example of what a blog was to my 7th graders - they were giving FB as an example of a blog. Smile

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No money has been spent since Thursday. I will probably have to get more cat litter before the week is out though - the people taking care of Kari this summer were much more generous/liberal with the cat litter than I generally am. So what would have probably lasted me til December, is now completely gone (except for barely enough left in the box to last another day or two - tops.) Oh well, I can't complain. Smile

I was planning on making an appointment for Kari's claws to be clipped next Thursday. But that is Pet Day - we have a half-day of school, but it is a more than full day for us staff. Some required OSHA meeting starting at 2 pm ... so very likely it will be a 4pm or later ending of the day. Ugh. So, I'll make the appointment for the following Thursday.

Other than the cat litter though, I don't forsee any spending for the remainder of September.

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My stock fell another $3 today, thanks to the whole market falling 100 pts. I guess I need to find my acct# and pw info for this account, and then figure out how to sell stocks. Then decide if I should move the money to an IRA at TROWE (where I have a ROTH and a Traditional), or open one at Scottrade where the stocks are right now. Can you buy and sell individual stocks in a ROTH? I need to research that I guess.

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My teacher friend and I went on our 4+ mile walk yesterday. Along the way we saw two different herds of wild horses. They are so beautiful. We also went by the local public high school where we'd been told we could walk on their track. We chickened out on trying to find it (still lots of kids, etc. around) but on our way out we ran into one of my 8th grade boys from last year with a group of his friends. (He was the *cool* kid in our 8th grade group. I got him hooked on reading, and he in turn infected the rest of the class. Big Grin ) He actually acknowledged me, which impressed me quite a bit - considering he was with a group of high-school buddies and not by himself. Big Grin

We skipped our walk today due to intermittent and sudden violent downpours throughout the day and evening. Tomorrow no rain in the forecast, so we should be walking again. Big Grin

Pondering the Mustache and Taxes

September 23rd, 2012 at 11:18 am

So ... I ended up not going anywhere at all yesterday and spent most of the day reading Mr. Money Mustache. I barely got through two months worth of blog entries/comments. Yikes.

I've mentioned previously that some of what I've read there has gotten me to do some hard thinking. My reading yesterday just increased the hard thinking triply.

I've been pondering the possibility of riding my bike to big G for grocery/errand trips. It's 35+ miles one-way, and the majority of that distance is a major freeway with very few exits and little population - but LOTS of semi-trucks. It is definitely not something I'm physically capable of doing right now - it is something I would need to work up to doing.

So ... what can I do in the meantime? Try to limit my car trips into town. I've already been trying to do that, but I think I may be able to do even better. I think I will start going to church purposefully only 3 x a month. That would eliminate 1 - 2 trips. Then I think I will also talk to the other staff here and see if any of them are interested in doing a rotating carpool to town for grocery shopping 2x a month. I would then limit my grocery shopping to those trips. Depending on how many people I can get to do this - it would mean that I might only drive my car 1x every other month for a shopping trip.

Also, I need to check into getting my monthly prescription through mail-order. That would eliminate my Wal-greens stop, and possibly save a few dollars on the prescription.

All of the above I think would make it possible for me to only fill up my gas 1x a month. Some months I'm already able to come pretty close to that - but if I reduce my driving, I definitely will.

Also, I think I'm going to ask the 8th grade homeroom teacher who is really into biking to teach me the basic maintenance/care of my bike and how to shift gears properly. Then I may start riding my bike to school and back each day. The school is less than a mile from my house, so I could technically walk it easily - but there are a lot of stray/loose dogs - I'd feel safer (somewhat) on a bike.

*I'm really debating on the above though - I don't have a raincoat or rain pants, so if it was raining I'd be a mess by the time I got to school. I could just do it on days when it is not raining or wet/muddy out. Of course that eliminates a lot of days ..

My grocery category .. although I have managed to reduce it from where it was most of last year, it is still way too high. Part of the problem is that I'm still buying convenience type items, as well as buying things that I think I should buy, but end up going to rot. By reducing my grocery budget to $100/mo (from it's current $160) as well as reducing my Fun Money budget to $20 (from $40), and then putting that money directly into my Car Replacement fund, it grows exponentially faster.

My first step towards reducing the grocery budget is that I'm going to eat ONLY what I already have in the house for the remainder of September. No stops for Blimpies or for egg salad sandwiches at the local grocers/gas station. No more soda. I have lots of food in my pantry and freezer - it's just not food that is easy peasy heat and eat - which is why it has sat in the freezer/pantry.

My second step will be getting my slow cooker cleaned up and making sure it is still in good working condition. (If you remember, it was on the floor of my storage unit in TX which got partially flooded.)
If I'm able to get that working, then I will be able to use it to cook up a big batch of pinto beans - and make up a bunch of burritos to freeze, and also make refried beans - which I could use on my salads/lunch.
If I can't get it to work, then I do have a pressure cooker you can use in the microwave - so I would need to figure out how to use that.

I think sticking with canned or frozen veggies for the most part is most cost effective for me. The salad bar at school has started to have spinach as well as lettuce - so as long as that holds true, I have no need to purchase my own salad greens.

I need to make sure I take a copy of the breakfast/lunch menu for each month home with me so I can see what free foods from there I can make work for me.
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I'm reducing my fun money to an amount where I can still go to a movie/out to eat once a month, if I really want to. Or I can use it for something else I might really want.
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By reducing my grocery, auto fuel, and fun money categories, I will have an approximate 55% net savings of my income. In the savings categories of course is Car Replacement, ROTH, Vacation, and EF. The largest percentage going to Car Replacement right now.

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Taxes

The stock fund which I have a sizable amount of in a non-tax sheltered account has again swung near the point it was on June 6. I am thinking that I would like to set a sell option if it reaches $.50 less than that price point - enough to get $3,000. Then I would put that money in my brokerage IRA account, and when the price point reached $.25 less than my selling point, I would purchase as much as I could. (With the way this stock has been going up and down within a few dollars, I think it is highly likely this could happen.)

If I understand how this all works correctly ...
a. I would be able to claim a capital gains loss of $.50/per stock from my initial sale.

b. Then, because I place $3,000 into a brokerage/traditional IRA account, I would get a portion of that back in taxes.

c. Plus, since my income is well below the level for receiving a tax savers credit for contributing to any IRA fund, I would get a portion of the money contributed to both my ROTH and Traditional back as a refund.

Or, would b and c be essentially the same thing? I'm just remembering what happened in 1998 when I put $2k in a Traditional IRA (a bank CD really, but I didn't know what I was doing back then ...) I got a refund of $500 *just* from that. My income that year was quite a bit higher as well.

I don't plan on *really* selling any of the stocks I own right now anytime soon, but I'm just thinking that I should take advantage of selling some at a small loss and moving them into a tax-sheltered vehicle - which will at the same time help me to actually have my IRA fully funded this year.

Does this all make sense, or am I missing something really big? (The taxable stock account is an inherited account if that makes any difference. This is also why I want to repurchase the same stock with the funds - to keep the money invested the same way, but just moved into a place that is more tax advantaged.)

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I earned another $5 AGC from SBs yesterday. That makes 2 for September.

1,000 :)

September 21st, 2012 at 07:10 pm

I've been here blogging since 2005, 7 1/2 years, and today I have finally reached my 1,000th post! Took me long enough. Smile

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Today was a pretty good day. My favorite class of the day though I think was my 4th grade Fri PM section. There were only 4 still at school by the time class started. We got their books all checked out and then went to the computer lab where we began our lesson on cyberbullying. I learned from how I did the same lesson with the boys on Monday, and changed part of it. We truly had a fantastic discussion - they were SO much more willing to open up and discuss than the 4th boys, or ... the 8th graders when we had a similar discussion! I had to cut the lesson off before we were totally finished to get them out to the buses, which they all seemed disappointed about.

As we were walking out, one of the girls asked me if I had ever been cyberbullied. I told her that no, I hadn't ever really experienced that. I've experienced a few spelling/grammar fanatics, but neither time bothered me too much (although on the one board where I had a spelling fanatic go after me, I just pretty much stopped posting - not that I'd posted much before anyway.)

Then tonight, as I was walking to the thrift shop to meet the 3rd grade teacher to go on our 4 mile walk, the same girl walked with me part of the way and asked me what I was doing. I told her, and she said she wished she go with me, but knew she couldn't. Then she gave me a little side hug. It was so sweet and innocent. (This girls grandparents live in the trailer next to mine, so I often see her, as well as her sister and brother - who are also students at our school.)

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I got an email from Amazon today telling me that I needed to verify my student status - apparently I've had it for 4 years now! So I took out some information from the invoice which was sent to me for my program, and explained the program I'm part of. Less than an hour later I had an email saying that I'd been reinstated for 4 more years. Smile I'd been debating on whether I was going to keep it or not, but overall, I really do think it is a good bargain - at $39 - not $70+.

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I am glad it is the weekend. It was a long week, and I am looking forward to sleeping in a bit the next two days.

Tomorrow afternoon from 1 - 4 there is an exhibition/opening of our students art in little G. I feel like I should try to make at least an appearance there, but I'll be in big G until at least 2, or longer if I stay for potluck. Then it would be a minimum of an hour's drive to get to the art gallery in little G. So ... more than likely I probably won't end up going.

Otherwise, no big plans for this weekend. Church on Sabbath, and working in the library on Sunday. Hopefully no spending money too (none planned for at least!)

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Oh, I almost forgot. Tonight I was looking at Kari in her cat castle, and thought it was hanging a bit funny. Sure enough, the top section is coming loose. This new one has been in use maybe 6 weeks. I guess I'll take it back to Wal-mart again and see if I can do an even exchange again. I hope they still carry them! Either way, I think I need to start setting aside money to purchase a proper cat castle for her - one that won't start tearing with normal usage. One that would be of similar height probably would cost in the low to mid hundreds ... What I loved about the one I have now is that it cost $20 and that it is completely collapsible - i.e. easily transported.
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So ... here's to the next 1,000. Big Grin

Good Money News :)

September 20th, 2012 at 08:23 pm

This afternoon I went to the dentist for my second of two fillings. It went quickly, and when I went up front to pay, I got a nice surprise. I was fully expecting to pay upwards of $90. I was charged only $35! When I asked about it, I was told that I actually had a credit from my first filling. So .. I guess the new dental plan (which our school switched to this year) is pretty good for fillings. Smile

I moved the extra money from my Medical category to groceries and to car repayment. After the dentist, I went grocery shopping - I spent $38.xx. Some of what I got was stocking up type things - such as 3 cartons of Rice Dream (Enriched), which my other Walmart in big G had been completely out of last week - and 2 boxes of my after school snack granola bars, which for whatever odd reason were $.25 cheaper in small G's Walmart. I forgot to get more hummus (which I've been using in my salads this week - makes salad SO much more palatable!) and orange juice. I'm going to try to make what I have just last til next Friday.

I also did my first fill-up today for September - $3.65/gallon - total of $32.88 (not a full tank's worth ~8 gallons.)

I signed up for the Citi Forward Netflix deal. I had planned on cancelling Netflix at the end of September because I didn't think I'd use it enough to justify the expense in the next 6 months. But if I am getting it essentially for free ... well then it sure will be nice to still have available for when I need a break from studying. Plus, once my course is finished, it will equal roughly $51 extra to my savings (6 months @ $8.53.) Every little bit helps. (I noticed that their 5% rewards are geared towards restaurants - since I don't eat out very often, that probably won't be much use for me.)

**I just have to make sure I don't start ANY tv series on Netflix until my course is over. Movies are a one-time thing, tv series I have this obsessive need to watch episode after episode to see *everything* in as short a time as possible ...)

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When I decided to *not* upgrade my iPhone 3GS, I moved the majority of the tech fund money to my car replacement fund. (I left enough to get a good case/cover for the iPad.) I also decided to up my ROTH savings to $200/mo, and reduce my Fun Money fund to $20/mo (for most months, except my birthday month. Big Grin )

I also realized today that even though my ed award money (which is paying for my 6 month course/iPad) is taxable income, I *may* qualify for the Hope tax credit (I think that's the one.) So .. it may not be such a big bite after all. Smile

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Ok, off to watch more episodes of Ocean Girl. Big Grin (about 6 left I think)

September's Going Fast

September 19th, 2012 at 07:15 pm

Hard to believe September is nearly 3/4 over.

Our weather has been bi-polar - cold mornings and hot evenings. Maybe the snow is a bit further off than I thought.

The last few nights I've been going walking with the 3rd grade teacher. She was amenable to the idea of going further than the larger group had been going .. so we did 3.5 miles instead of 2. Tomorrow we're planning on doing a roughly 4 mile round trip trek. Smile The best thing is, she and I walk at roughly the same pace, so I'm not walking way ahead of her.

My mom's birthday was yesterday. I called her and caught her just before she left for dinner (where her now fiance proposed.) Judging from what she posted on FB, I'm assuming she accepted.

We had a motivational speaker guy come today and talk with the kids. He was pretty good - had the kids excited. The only qualm I had was that he asked the kids to write a testimonial on his website - name, age, email, school name included. Something I've been drilling into them the past month is about information that you *don't* share on the internet - especially if there is a chance of it being posted on something like a testimonial page!!! I used it for a teachable moment today after he interrupted my 5th grade group (which was already running way behind) to show his website and where to put their info at.

I got a bill from my doctor's office today for $35 from when I went in to have my thyroid checked. I'd thought it was strange they didn't ask for a co-pay when I was there ... It'll have to wait til October though, because my medical fund is slated for the second filling I'll be getting tomorrow.

I made a smoothie tonight for supper. I just can not say how much I love my Ninja blender. I don't have to worry about it leaking like my old blender (or the brand new one which I never used thanks to the rubber ring not fitting properly!)

I finally heard from the lady in charge of financial stuff for the 6 month program. I figured out how to give her the documents/info she needed, and am now officially registered. I should be getting more info within a few days. Class starts the first week of October, so I have about 10 more days of leisurely evenings. Smile

Today I had numerous requests for books in series and topics which we don't have. Some of the topics qualify as non-fiction, so I can easily justify getting some like that (my focus plan states that I'll spend 40% of library funds on non-fiction to make our collection closer to Common Core standards.) The books in the series though, are fiction. I *really* want to get those remaining books because the person asking for them is someone who generally is hard to please. I was sorely tempted to just jump on Amazon and buy them with my pocket budget so I wouldn't have to include them as coming out of the overall "real" library budget... but I restrained myself. Barely. (We have the first ten books in the series - which were actually a donation last year. The student saw that there are 8 more books in the series ... and salivated.)

We got a box of brand new donated books from a publisher on Monday. All but 3 of the books were ones we had a minimum of 1 copy already ... so I emailed the publisher to see if I could return those books for a credit or refund without the donor finding out .. They told me how I could do that, so I'm going to look in their catalog and see what other books might fit our student population better. This same person sent a box of books around 4 or 5 times last year - in all but one of them there were at least two books that were exactly the same. So I'm glad my principal gave me this idea (of contacting the publisher) - I was going to do it with the box that came the beginning of June .. but life intervened.

I have about ten episodes left of Ocean Girl on Netflix. Once I finish it, I plan on sticking with only movies. I don't want to get wrapped up in a tv series before canceling my service. (I plan to cancel it on Oct 1 before a new month is charged - this way I have few means of being too distracted from doing my school work.)

My asst has been out sick for the last three days. Although most of what I've had her doing is long term project type things, I have definitely felt her absence. Especially in preparing for Clifford's birthday (Kinder, first and second) and prepping for the pre-school storytimes. My book cart is getting pretty full of returned books ..

Next week we're doing a lot with Johnny Appleseed for the lower grades. So .. I'm really hoping she'll be back by Friday. Smile