A lot of little things…

…that don’t add up to any more than a lot of little things.

We’re getting a refund. I can’t believe it, since I didn’t even pay the full estimated quarterly taxes our accountant recommended (because I just couldn’t afford to). I was afraid I’d be penalized for not paying enough. So, I guess there’s an upside to having your income cut in half from one year to the next. Although I hope it doesn’t happen again this year.

We’re trying not to spend it in 15 minutes. Nothing like a little unexpected cash coming in to set all kinds of spending gears in motion. So far the plan is to make a hefty contribution to my IRA (since I couldn’t contribute anything last year) and stick the rest of it in the bank. Although this morning Mike mentioned something about setting a little aside for a vacation this year, since we didn’t go anywhere last year. I grunted and frowned (though inside I was screaming “YES YES YES” as I watched the commercial for Disney World on The Weather Channel).

I’m feeling a teensy bit optimistic. So far, business this year is looking up (crossing fingers, legs, and eyes, throwing salt over shoulder, knocking on wood, spitting à la My Big Fat Greek Wedding). I have several projects in the pipeline and the hint of a few more on the horizon. Amazing, given the sorry state of things in ’09. If it holds, I have to be diligent about setting extra aside to pay this year’s taxes, since I won’t be paying enough each quarter to cover having a normal year.

People (like me) are tired of being frugal. You can just feel it. Everywhere I go, people are out and about, shopping, eating, driving through Starbucks. We stopped being a frugal nation a long time ago, and trying to pick it up again, even in a terrible economy, is tough. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Our economy depends on people spending money (responsibly, not stupidly). Mike and I are pretty good about not frittering money away on little things, but we have been picking up a few unnecessaries here and there — like a very nice garden flag and holder (an American flag — with stitched stars and everything, made in China of course) for $9.99 at Home Depot and the watering can I’ve coveted for a few years, in orange, for $10 less than this at Marshall’s (I passed on it when they had a couple last year and wanted to kick myself. This year, I bought one when I saw it — they only had two.) I’m sure the money experts would say we shouldn’t buy what we don’t need (especially given my statement above about not putting anything in my IRA last year). I have no good answer. Sometimes my soul needs it, even if my brain doesn’t. Life is short — except for that part about being old and infirm with no one to care for us and no money for health insurance. I’m betting that part will seem far too long, whether or not I spend $25 on stupid stuff now.

I’m having a little fun dieting. As hard as it is to stick to a diet and exercise regimen (right now I should be doing Callanetics — more on that in a bit), I’m enjoying trying out new recipes. Like this amazing vegetable broth from The Splendid Table — no salt, tons of flavor. I used up 3 quarts in no time and just made another batch over the weekend. I’m using it in soups like this peppery Butternut-Parsnip Soup from Southern Living (my copy is an older one that omits the crockpot step, as the first commenter notes — not sure why that was added) and this Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens from Better Homes & Gardens. Part of my diet involves avoiding wheat and most dairy (I still cheat and have cheese now and then, but not milk, yogurt, or sour cream), so I’m experimenting with not using those ingredients (I’ve used soy milk for years, but now I even have Mike drinking vanilla soy with his cereal!). Eating out is the hardest — bar food just doesn’t lend itself to this kind of eating. My biggest cheat — still having a beer at our local hangout once a week. I tried their red wine once — it came ice cold, straight out of the fridge. YUCK!

I love my immersion blender. I had a banner year this past Christmas and scored 3 items on my wish list — 2 from the person who had my name in our family exchange (microplane graters and a pizza peel), and another — the blender — in the random grabbag. It’s great for making soups because it eliminates that annoying step where you have to process it in batches in a blender or food processor. Just stick the immersion blender in the pot and have at it. I love it. It also has a whip attachment that I’ve yet to try (I imagine you can’t make whipped cream from soy milk).

Callanetics works for me like nothing else does. Do you remember Callanetics? It was a hot exercise program in the ’80s and early ’90s. My sister had the book and I had (and still have) the video that promised “10 years younger in 10 hours.” It’s similar to Pilates and is the hardest exercise program I’ve ever done. My legs shake for a while after. But it’s also the only thing I’ve ever done (including NordicTrack, aerobics, step aerobics, walking, Pilates, yoga) that I can actually see results from in the mirror. I’ve done it off and on for years (the original program and the advanced version, Super Callanetics, when I work up to it). The ’80s workout clothes are a hoot (and I’m embarrassed to say I still have my own leotards, etc., from that era), but the results are anything but laughable. I love this program as much as I hate doing it. I should be doing it right now.

I just want to powder my nose already. We are still being kicked in the butt by our roughly 3′ x 4′ powder room project. It’s so close, I’m reaching for my compact, but not Mike. He has no impatience whatsoever. I just had to put 3 coats of stain (waiting a day in between) on the last bits of wood trim (I would have stopped at 1), and then he will spend 3 days putting on 3 coats of shellac. We started painting (of course, a special paint treatment instead of something normal), but it has all the makings of a disaster — more on that in a future post. Don’t be surprise if the room ends up being wallpapered instead of painted. I’m so tired of it. I’m sure it being finished will coincide with spring and the need to move outside again without accomplishing anything more indoors until next winter.

I bought a book. I’m embarrassed by my business Web site. I did it myself years ago in FrontPage — a program Microsoft doesn’t even sell anymore — and it desperately needs updating (or “updated” as I and everyone else in Pittsburgh would normally say). I can’t afford to pay someone to do it, so I’m going to attempt to learn CSS (how Web sites are properly constructed these days) by reading this book and doing it myself. I’m not very good at learning this way, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m only mentioning it because maybe committing the idea to virtual paper will force me to do it. I’ve always been more of a stick person than a carrot person.

That’s entirely enough little things for one day. Four hundred crunches and 400 leg lifts (for starters) aren’t going to happen while I’m sitting here typing.

My formula for living is quite simple.
I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.
In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
~ Cary Grant