Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Kind of Rewards

I could start off by telling yow how crappy my ten-mile training run went yesterday but I'll spare you the mundane details surrounding my sand-bagged legs and instead talk about my bonus cash. Let me just preface this with the fact that no one is paying me to plug them, I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart for Discover Card.

Here is an example of why I love them (a snapshot of my "cashback" rewards statement this past month):

Opening Balance $ 64.06
New Cashback Bonus This Period
5% Cashback Bonus + $ 0.00
ShopDiscover & Promotional
  • SHOPDISCOVER 10% - MUSICIAN'S
+ $ 11.49
  • 10% LOWE'S CASHBACK BONUS
+ $ 19.70
  • DOUBLE HOLIDAY
+ $ 7.14
Everywhere Else + $ 0.25
Redeemed This Period
  • Discover CashbackBonus ElectronicDeposit
– $ 50.00
Cashback Bonus Balance = $ 52.64

If you play your cards right with Discover and use it for specific purchases yielding rewards, you can get decent cash back. Not much effort required other than thinking about which card to use when making your purchase (or booking travel - January through March is 5% on travel type stuff so I just booked a hotel room I was already going to get with Discover). Now that I'm over $50, I can get it electronically deposited into my savings account. Cha-ching! This is the second $50 reward chunk I have gotten since Thanksgiving.

Discover and American Express are my go-to cards. I just redeemed 10,000 Amex points for $100 Home Depot card. Love them too. One point for one dollar. They are not paying me to mention them, either. Though if either Discover or Amex wants to pay me, that would be Just Dandy. I am like June, trying to guilt Fedex into an endorsement. Seeing as she has a bazillion more readers than I do I think she has a better shot, albeit still long.

I pay these guys off each month, so I don't carry a balance (which probably aggravates the credit card companies a bit since I'm sure they'd love to make some interest money off me). This is sort of where I deviate from a lot of personal finance celebrities (i.e. what's his nuts... I can't remember his name, the one that has the radio show and the debt ladder of lowest to highest... [brain fart]) - I choose to use credit cards rather than cash or debit cards because I can use them responsibly and don't think they are the root of debt evil.

Anyway, here's to lower credit card bills now that the holidays are over!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How I Am Spending My Vacation Time

Or rather, how I am maximizing my holiday vacation time because, really, unless I actually leave the area, I can't not do something useful and just sit around and relax. Relaxing is for wusses! Ha! I kid.

I had planned on this project to take just one day, but it bled into two, which is not a surprise. Most projects go over on time, plus, I totally underestimated the time spent painting MDF. Holy moly, does that stuff soak up paint. I even primed it but it didn't really help. Three coats minimum. Two coats primer, two coats paint seemed to be ideal.

The office is the first room I'd like to finish as far as baseboard and tile sealing and such. I had the closet cleared out to do the sealing and baseboard and figured, now was the time to build some better shelving in there.

Here is what is looked like before (this pic is actually from June of 2008, note the crappy carpet is still there):


Here is what is looks like now with much better storage (I have 2/3rds of a shelf open, and more, if I organized it better):

(you can see the lovely dust on the filing cabinet that is sitting in the middle of the room. The office is now only 50% disaster area, as opposed to the 80% mess it was two days ago).

The total price was only the cost of two 4' x 8' sheets of 5/8" thick unprimed MDF: $60. I guess I could throw in the 4" roller and roller pads ($5) though I'll be using that to paint the new doors whenever we get around to replace the crappy plain slab doors we have now. I had the primer, paint, screws, tools, etc, from previous projects. And can I tell you how much I love my RAV4? Seriously. We strapped the two sheets with tie-downs (got two of them at Harbor Freight tools for like $5 a piece - this place is great for cheap, decent tools. I highly recommend them - they are all over the country - more than 20 locations in Texas for all you Texans that are reading). I think I may only buy RAV4s for the rest of my life. Unless someone comes out with a good SUV hybrid other than the Ford Escape. I have hauled so much stuff in that car, it's ridiculous (12 ft baseboard contractor packs, 8' pine boards, door casing, windows, etc).

Hopefully, I will be done with the baseboards and tile sealing in the office this week!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fireplace Redo - Bottom Line

Before:

IMG_0636


After:


What it cost:

Demo: $5
We borrowed a demo hammer from a friend and also truck to haul all the bricks to the dump, so maybe $5. Otherwise, you could rent a demo hammer from Home Depot as well as the truck to haul your debris.

Prep: $10
One piece of 3' x 5' durock - $10
Hand-full of concrete backboard screws - $0, I had a box leftover from 2004 when I re-tiled the bathroom in my condo.
Scoring tool for concrete board - $0, had the tool from 2004 remodeling

Stone work: $200
90 lb back of tinted mortar (bought from same place that sold the stone) and 2 boxes of El Dorado stone veneer (about 10-12 sf in each box from what I remember, I had quite a bit left over) - $185, includes a 10% coupon I found in one of those coupon magazines they send every month.

One pointing trowel, and one standard small square trowel - $15

Drywall mud and clear caulk for patching up the wall near the stone - $0 (again, had the stuff left over from other projects).

Firebox clean-up: $19
One can of black high heat paint - $13
Two new handles - $3 each

Mantel: $36
Two 8 foot lengths of 1"x8" select pine - $30
One can of stain - $6
Polyurethane coat - $0, have a can from a previous project
2" x 4" to mount to studs - $0, left over lumber in the garage
Nails, screws - $0, we have plenty of this stuff from other projects


Total Cost: $270

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Holiday Complaining Not Really Related to the Actual Holidays

How's it hangin', good folks of the internet-web? I am currently cursing my overzealous pre-bedtime stretching with cold muscles. If you haven't yet figured out, I'm the type of person that if she's going to do something, it's going to be 153% of where it really should me. I woke up at 4am with my legs, particularly my IT bands, screaming bloody murder. I should know better. Stretching cold is not the greatest idea, nevermind foam rolling your IT bands cold. My shins aren't too happy either but that I expect since I'm prone to shin splints with my Fred Flintstone feet. Can't I just train for this daggone half-marathon without feeling like I am falling apart?

Feh.

I have a "tempo" run scheduled for this evening (where you run easy for 10-15 minutes, gradually build up to 10K pace for 10-20 minutes, and then cool down with an easy pace 10-ish minutes) and you are probably thinking that I should take a rest and not run. I'll probably make that decision tonight. I'm feeling much better now after taking ibuprofen and spending an hour on the couch at 6:15am icing my legs. It's really no fun icing when the house is like 62 degrees. Should I decide to run this evening you may hear screaming around 7:45pm Pacific time when I immerse the lower-half of my body in an ice-bath to nip any of this inflammation business in the bud. Sounds fun right? Right?? God. Why.

All in the name of breaking 2 hours for this half-marathon is why. Stupid goal-driven, type A personality.

Anyway, I've noticed that blogland has gotten less chatty in the last couple weeks. No doubt because everyone is out dealing with presents, holidays parties, etc, etc. This is the first year I don't have a single Christmas party to attend. Kind of sad in a way, but my company saves money by having the holiday party in January. It's strange, no doubt, I've never heard any company having the holiday party after the new year, but I'm all for being thrifty and I'd rather have a kick-ass party in January than a mediocre, lukewarm party in December.

And also, since this post is mostly my complaining and such, can we talk about how I'm 6 months from 32 years old and still have acne as bad if not worse than when I was a teenager? I hardly ever wear makeup and I've had to the last two days because my chin has a cyst that can be seen from space. This morning while I was icing the lower half of my body, I was also applying a warm compress to my chin at the same time. Nice. Maybe I will only be free of this acne business when I hit the Great Change. Twenty more years of acne. All I can say is I am so looking forward to 11 days off; sure two of the days we don't get paid because the company is technically "shut down" (unless we want to use vacation for the furloughed days), but it's just going to be nice not to have to commute to work, think about work, etc, etc. I can just caulk and paint baseboard to my heart's content.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Tree is Up!

I have joined the Christmas decorating masses, or at least the less competitive decorators I am certainly ahead of schedule compared to last year. I am happy to have a new topper that I grabbed at Target on the 26th of December last year. So much better than my previous star that didn't want to stay upright very well and totally got swallowed up by the tree. The tree is another 50% off score from Target in 2004. As you can see the baseboards are still not done in that area, or really any of the living room. Eh.

What is done, though, is... (drumroll)... the mantel!


It started as two 8 foot length of 1"x 8" select pine boards. Each was around $15. We mitered each side at 45 degrees so that the part of the "box" that was visible wouldn't have glaring seams.


We nailed everything together with Elmer's glue and 1 1/4" brad nails using the compressor and nail gun that we had from when I remodeled my first townhouse in LA. I remember I got the kit from Amazon - compressor and two nail guns. Seriously one of the best home purchases ever. I think I paid like $200 or something, I can't remember anymore, it's been more than 6 years. The top and bottom of the box you can see the seam but I am not going to sweat that. We used wood filler for any nail holes and small gaps - should you use filler for anything you plan to stain, try to me as sparing as possible just because it doesn't have any wood grain and you'll be able to see it a little too easily.

To mount it we put a 2" x 4", screwed into the studs, and then we nailed the top into that. Ideally we would have screwed the top of the mantel into the 2x4 but the angle was a bit tight and the nails are less visible.

As far as beating it up to get it to look distressed (and I hope it looks distressed considering I threw anything I could find in the garage at it), I used an orbital sander to get an uneven appearance, a hammer, the back end of the hammer, nail set (the little metal tool that you use to countersink nails), the metal hook of a tie-down (just swung it at it), and then I also twisted up two small nails with pliers and hammered into the wood, then sanded some more. There was no rhyme or reason to it.


Here is the mantel proudly showing off our stockings.



An the other bit of holiday decor - a custom runner thing my "nona" made me. She is always sewing something - a lifetime seamstress.

Now I don't feel like such a Christmas deadbeat. December 12th ain't bad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Never A Dull Moment With Craigslist

I'm selling my guitar on Craiglist, the little guy, because I recently bought a larger one and can't really afford to keep both. I moved up from the 3/4 size just so I can start to play a real-sized guitar, rather than a travel/child's size guitar. I would keep it but I'd rather offset the new guitar cost with selling the old one at this point.

Anyway, so I listed it and I get the usual flake (dude who apparently didn't understand that it's called "baby" because it's a smaller guitar), one legitimate dude that is coming to see it today at lunch, and then one last night at 1:30am. Well, two emails within 10 minutes of each other from the same person. The name signed in the email was not the name on the email address, which was interesting. In the first one she says she wished I had put my number down because she would have called me to get it right away. Called me at 1:24am? Really? I would have been pretty irked. Another good reason not to list my number on the ad. And the second email was another "I'm really interested, call me at this number." I caught the drift that she was interested in the first email.

All seeming a little strange to me, I took her number and stuck it in Google. A whole slew of weirdness popped up, mostly hits indicating that she is -- this is good one -- a hooker. Swedish massage, escort, and what-not. Seriously. Now, it's not to say that prostitutes don't want to play the guitar. She may legitimately want to buy my guitar and not sell me sexual favors, but I'm thinking I'm not responding to this person. I mean, I'm all for non-discrimination based on one's "occupation" but I'd rather not have my address, email, and/or phone number in the hands of what appears to be a prostitute. Right?

I hope that guy buys the guitar today so I can just be done with this already. When did Craigslist get so skeevy?

Monday, December 7, 2009

One Hour and Fourty Seven Minutes

That is how long my commute was this morning. Yes, 1 hours plus another 47 minutes. When it rains in Southern California, you can expect your commute to double or triple. Meanwhile, for the last 47 minutes, I had to pee. In bumper to bumper traffic. In the rain. By the time I got to work, I was ready to strangle someone. Anyone. We need rain, of course, everyone knows California needs water/rain, but at this price? Holy Jesus, it was my worst commute day ever, in 10 years including the 4 years I drove to downtown Los Angeles on the 110 freeway. Got on the road on 8:11am, arrived 9:48am. How many miles? 32.5. Average of 18 miles per hour. Enough to drive you certifiably nuts. And guess what? In about 2 hours, I have to repeat it and it's unlikely to be much better given that the morning commute is 90% of the time better than the evening commute.

I may need a crown on several molars one I get home from the tooth grinding. I will probably be drinking at least two pints from the 'ol kegerator when I get home to unwind. And ice on my knee from having to drive stick shift in parking lot traffic for nearly 2 hours.