Saturday, August 29, 2009

George is George - No Monkeying Around

For some time now, Lori has been reading to James every night at bedtime. James insists on Mommy reading two books specifically - "Llama Llama Misses Momma" and any one of three Curious George books. James has come to know Curious George is the mischievious monkey and always points him out as Mommy reads to him.

James' acknowledgement of Curious George is cute, but today it was more hilarious. As we were preparing for our day and a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house, we were watching the memorial service for Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The telecast focused on the area where the Obamas, the Bushes, and the Clintons were sitting. As we discussed the presence of the the three presidential families, Lori commented on how former president George W. Bush was joking around and laughing with everyone, except President Obama. The former president took a more serious tone when conversing with the President Obama. As we were discussing this, James overheard us talking about former president George W. Bush and decided to join our conversation.

"George Bush? George Bush?"

Yes. According to James, the former president George W. Bush and the michievious monkey Curious George are one in the same.


Friday, August 28, 2009

More Wasted Money

A few days ago, I wrote on our blog about wasting money on items that we ended up never using. The list was relatively short and really didn't amount to much money wasted (still a penny spent is a penny unsaved). My list, however, was primarily confined to items found in a 1 1/2 foot wide by 9 inch deep closet. Yesterday and today while continuing to pack, I came across several other items that we bought with good intentions, but never seemed to find the time to use. These items were a bit more expensive than my first list making this list a little more disheartening than the first. Below is the list of the newly discovered unused items.

  1. Two sets of Pyrex® baking dishes. We bought these seven years ago when we were putting them on our wedding registry at Kohl's. It so happened that as we were putting them on the registry, they were being put on clearance for $5.00 each set. We purchased the last three sets in the store, but we have only used one set. (They are all the same, so unless something in one of the sets breaks, we won't likely need the other two.) We had said that we would give the other two sets away as wedding gifts. We have been invited to several weddings since then and yet the two sets still sit on the shelf in the closet of our spare bedroom. We will take these with us when we move just in case we are invited to another wedding and need a gift.

  2. Two party style games. Over the past couple of years, we had hosted a monthly game night attended by several friends. Each month we would try to have different games, so for a while, we were buying a new game once a month. Each game typically costs $15 - $25. The two games we have never used are Loaded Questions and Scattergories. We never used these games because we had bought the same games for our friends as Christmas presents. When our monthly game night rolled around, our friends brought their new games with them and we played using their games instead of our own. We will take these with us when we move. Maybe someday we will open them up and play them.

  3. Two sets of landscaping lights. We bought these a few years ago during one of Ace Hardware’s holiday rebate sales. (I think it was the Memorial Day sale, but they have similar sales on the 4th of July and Labor Day.) I had intended to line our driveway with the lights, but after purchasing them, I decided to wait until we put in landscaping (railroad ties and gravel) along the driveway to avoid the lights getting damaged by the lawn mower. I never seemed to find the time to start the project, let alone finish it. The lights cost $19.99 per set and if I remember correctly the rebate was $5.00 per set for a total loss of $30.00. We have decided to give these to our good friends Jennifer and Patrick who will hopefully get more use out of them than we did.

  4. A bag of soil starter. Last fall, we had to have the drainage system for our house replaced. The contractors dug up our entire backyard and when they were done, they planted grass seed. I watered the grass seed for two weeks as the contractor had instructed me, but it turned too cold shortly thereafter. When the spring came, the grass had come in very spotty. I attempted to patch the yard by mixing some grass seed with three bags of soil starter and then spreading the mixture over the areas that needed it. I ended up with one extra bag of soil starter and never got around to returning it. Unfortunately, the grass seed that I spread never came in and the yard is still as patchy as it was before.

  5. An exercise ball. I purchased this on clearance shortly after my back surgery. i had intended to do back strengthening exercises and stretches with the exercise ball, but I never seem to find the motivation. Something else always seemed to take priority. Life just got in the way. We will take this with us in hopes that I will use it now that I will have more time.

Well, that’s it for this list. I am sure I will find more as I continue to pack. Hopefully, it is not too much more. This list alone totals about $100 in money wasted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

This week's Change Pot was not very successful, even with a weekend in Baltimore. I guess we had too many other things going on to really look. What I did find was in Baltimore at my brother-in-law's house. I found a dime lying on the floor behind the bed in their guest bedroom. Chances are it was our dime to begin with as we have made their guest bedroom our home several times over the past month. I will still donate the dime to the Change Pot.

Weekly Total: $0.10
YTD Total: $6.76

Wasting Money

As everyone knows, Lori and I are not ones to waste a lot of money. We are frugal to a point and do our best to balance our budget with a happy and enjoyable lifestyle. We watch every penny closely and do not indulge in friviolous spending. So you can imagine how disheartening it is to find out how much money we have wasted over the past couple of years.

Let me back up a step. I have been packing up the house for the past two days in preparation of our move. During that time, I have come across several items that we had purchased with good intentions, but have never even opened. Imagine how much money we could get if we could return all of those items. Unfortunately, we have had them for too long and it would take too much time to find the receipts. Here are a few of the items I discovered just today.

  1. A solid brass eyehole. We had intended to install this on our front door. We bought the eyehole when when bought the door two years ago, but just never got around to installing it.

  2. A tube of concrete sealer/silicone. I don't remember when or why we bought it, but chances are the sealant is no longer any good. Even unopened, it will only last so long.

  3. A 15 foot indoor extension cord. We could take this with us, and probably will, but if we haven't used it yet, it is not likely that we ever will.

  4. A twin pack of Woolite® Carpet Spot and Stain remover. Maybe we will use this as we clean the house before we go.

  5. A six outlet surge protector. If I remember right, we got this free after rebate, so maybe we didn't waste any money on it. We will pack this up and take it with us.

All of this was found in a small 2 foot wide by 9 inch deep closet. Imagine what I will find in other rooms of the house that are much larger. Not much we can do about it now, I just hope we don't find much more.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Finding a Home

After two weekends in Baltimore, we finally found a home. It was not our first choice, but it was probably the best choice. Our home will be in Towson, just five mintues from Lori's brother Mike and his wife Kathy. We have secured an apartment at Versailles. Sounds a bit luxurious and exotic, and in some ways it is compared to the other places we looked, but in general it is a pretty standard place.

The community is gated. The only access is through the leasing office or a resident. Our apartment is a two bedroom, 1300 sq ft ground level unit. This will be great for James as he will have lots of room to play and won't be distrubing the neighbors below us. The apartment is a short 20 minute commute to Lori's new job and to my classes at UMBC. It is near a major shopping center and several daycare centers. The area is also one of the safest in Baltimore, rating 92 out of 100.

We do not have our physical address as of yet. We will get that when we sign our lease on September 12. For more about our new home, please visit Versailles Apartment Homes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

Saturday - $0.01. I found a single penny outside of the Sheetz in Star City while getting fuel and something to drink for our drive to Pittsburgh.

Monday - $0.10. I found a dime at the Sheetz near Chestnut Ridge while getting breakfast on the way to work.

Tuesday - $0.02 total. I found a penny near the parking meters at the corner of Spruce and Walnut Street in Downtown Morgantown. We had stopped by the realtors office to sign some papers and came across it on our way into the office. I found a second penny at the Chick-Fil-A near the WVU Colesium while having dinner with James' friend Morgan and her parents. The penny was in the bottom of the mint basket at the counter. I wonder if someone thought the basket was one of those "leave a penny, take a penny" holders since it was on the counter.

Weekly Total: $0.13
YTD Total: $6.66


After being on the market for 14 days, we received an offer on our house today. We countered, they countered, we countered again, they countered again, we countered a final time and they accepted. We will sign the contract tonight or tomorrow. As long as everything goes well, we should close around the middle to end of October. Please keep your fingers crossed and pray that everything continues to work out.

Our move to Baltimore is tentatively scheduled for the weekend after Labor Day. Lori is suppose to start her new job in Baltimore on September 23rd and her last day at work in WV will be September 18. Therefore, we will move 90% of the stuff the weekend after Labor Day, leaving the bare necessities. I will commute to Baltimore for school for the first couple of weeks of class.

Now all we have to do is find a place to live.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Showings, showings and more showings

Let's hope we are on a roll. We have had three showings on the house since last Friday and one scheduled for tomorrow morning. While we are not unrealistic enough to think the house will sell in less than two weeks, we are glad to see some activity and interest in realtors and potential buyers. I buried St. Joseph's statue in the yard the other night and we have been praying faithfully in hopes for a quick sale. For those of you who do not know, St. Joseph is the patron of a happy home, safeguard of families and protector of children. The tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph's dates back to ancient Catholic times when people would bury blessed metals in the ground, invoking God's blessing in the area. It was not the metal but the blessing that brings God's power. Please include us in your prayers as we try to sell our house and look for new housing in Baltimore.

In the mean time, we are taking a breather this weekend with a trip to Pittsburgh to visit Lori's parents and to attend the Keelin Family Picnic (our sister-in-law's family). It will be a nice break from all the craziness and gear us up for another trip to Baltimore next weekend to find housing and daycare.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Friends Don't Let Friends Buy DirecTV!

Update: After months of fighting with DirecTV, we finally received one of our Refer-a-Friend credits. Unfortunately, we are moving in a few weeks and will not be able to have DirecTV in our new apartment home. When it is all said and done, we will see $10 of the $100 worth of credits we were suppose to receive. Fortunately for us, the two friends we referred to DirecTV are still our friends.

You've heard the ads before "Friends don't let friends watch cable" by DirecTV. Well, they seem to have gotten it wrong. Friends don't let friends watch DirecTV! And friends definitely don't refer friends to DirecTV. But wait, don't they give you and your friend $50 for referrals? That's what they want you to think. It is actually a scam to get more customers. DirecTV does not pay the referral bonus as they promise and after talking with customer service this evening, they never intended to pay it!

Here's the deal. I signed up for DirecTV almost two years ago because the customer serivce at Comcast was horrible right after the took over for Adelphia. At the time DirecTV had an offer that if you referred your friends, you and your friend received a $50 credit on you bill. The credit was promised to be paid $10/month for 5 months.

This past November, a good friend of ours moved into a house they had just finished building. Because the development was brand new, Comcast was taking their own sweet time installing the necessary equipment. I recommended to my friend that he should get DirecTV. I told him about the referral plan and after several days of thinking it over, he decided to have DirecTV installed. When he called to have his new service installed, he gave them my account number as he was suppose to and the installer told him that we would both receive the $50 credit in about 4 - 6 weeks. Here it has been FOUR MONTHS and neither of us have recieved our credit. My friend called at eight weeks to find out why we weren't receiving the credit and he was told by customer service that they did not have record of the referral. They said we would not be getting the credit.

About that same time, another friend of ours asked me about DirecTV because they knew we had gotten it some time ago. Figuring that the referral bonus from my first friend was a simple problem that would be resolved quickly, I referred my second friend to DirecTV. They had their DirecTV installed in February and like our first friend, they provided my account number when they called for the initial installation of their service. They were told the same 4 - 6 weeks before the credit would appear. It has been TWO MONTHS since our second friend signed up and again, neither of us has received the referral credit.

This evening, I called to see what was going on and I was told by customer service that they had no record of me referring either friend and that none of us would be getting any referral credits.

It is obvious to me that they do not care about their customers and I would like to apologize to our two friends. If I had known that DirecTV would treat its customers this way, I never would have gotten my friends mixed up with a company like this. Unlike DirecTV, I value and respect my friends. I would never knowing turn them onto a scam. Because of the economy, both of our friends switched because they were going to be saving money. Like us, they need every little bit of help stretching the budget as far as they can.

To that I say, it is DirecTV's loss. Not only will they lose me as a customer when my comittment is up next month, but studies have shown that scorned customers tell more people about their bad experiences than satisfied customers tell about theirs. This blog post is my second negative review of DirecTV in less than an hour. I have already posted a review of DirecTV on and I plan to post others. I may not be able to do much, but with the world wide web, the audience has definitely gotten bigger.

So for all those DirecTV subscribers, please don't jeopordize your friendships by referring your friends to satellite. Friends don't let friends watch DirecTV!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Apartment Hunting

This past weekend, the Risk family made a trip to Baltimore to scope out an apartment. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of apartments in a big city. Every where you turn, you could find an apartment complex. What there is a shortage of is an affordable apartment in a safe area. We were amazed at how little you get for your money in the Baltimore rental market.

Here were our criteria:

3 BR or 2 BR w/Den
Safe secure neighborhood
Pets (we have two cats)
Washer and dryer in unit (with James, an outside laundry is not an option)
First floor (so that James does not disturb the Neighbors below us)

We did not feel that these were unreasonable. Of course we also wanted maximum space for the least money, but hey doesn't everybody???

On Friday, we looked at five complexes, one of which we didn't even stop and get out to look at because the area was that bad. On Saturday, we looked at at least a dozen complexes and finally decided on one of the last ones we viewed. It was perfect. Everything we asked for at a price we could afford and space that was larger than our house. Still not as nice as the apartment we looked at in Greenville, NC for about $900.00.

The apartment we chose was at Cascades Overlook in Owings Mills, a Baltimore suburb. 2 BR with a bonus family room that could serve as our den, first floor, with washer/dryer, pet friendly, semi-gated community and all the normal amenities - pool, clubhouse, playground, etc. 1500 sq foot, all for the great price of $1,275. The remainder of August's rent was free and according to the leasing agent, September's rent was also free with a 13 month lease. This would give us a chance to move and have the house sell before having to pay rent and a mortgage. The complex was a short commute to work and school and within a mile of the grocery store and the local mall. Perfect.

On Sunday, we turned in our application and waited for the reference check. That afternoon, we returned home to Morgantown knowing that another piece of the puzzle was about to be put in place.

On Monday, we received a call from the apartments that we had been approved for the apartment, but that the apartment would have to be a different one than was offered on Saturday. Apparently, the leasing agent on Saturday had given us som bad information and because we had pets, we would have to take an apartment in another building. The new apartment was $1,330 per month and on the second floor. It was a newer apartment and had a fireplace - two things that were very low on list of priorities. (So low that neither actually made the list.)

I called on Tuesday to find out what was going on, and told the apartments that I felt they were pulling a "bait and switch" on us. The agent assured me that they were not and seemed very sincere in offering this new apartment at the lower price of the original apartment. While the price was part of the issue, a bigger part was the new apartment was on the second floor. This was the sticking point. We would never have applied for the apartment had we known the apartment was on the second floor. Therefore, we asked to have our non-refundable application fee of $70 returned. We have not heard whether the company plans to return the fee. I have to call the company's regional manager tomorrow to see what we can do.

So we are back to square one. We will be making another trip to Baltimore in two weeks to try again. We researched about a dozen other apartments today and hope that things will work out.

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

The Change Pot bounced back this week with several good finds for a total of $0.34 cents. The Change Pot was aided by three days in the heavily popoulated area of Baltimore, Maryland. On Wednesday, I found a penny when getting out of the car at the Wal-Mart on Grafton Road in Morgantown. On Friday, I found a second penny at the Royal Farms convenience store on Providence Road in Towson, Maryland. Saturday was the big day finding two dimes. Both dimes were found in stairwells of apartment complexes while touring the apartments for the possibility of finding our future home. The first apartment was St. Charles at Old Court in Pikesville, Maryland. The second was at Red Run Apartments in Owings Mills, Maryland. On Sunday, I found two pennies at the Sheetz convenience store in Hagerstown, Maryland on the way home and another dime at the Kroger on Route 7 in Sabraton (Morgantown) when getting milk for James after returning home.

Weekly Total: $0.34
YTD Total: $6.53

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

Another disappointing week for the Change Pot. This week's finds were limited to two pennies. The first penny came on Wednesday at the All Star / Dairy Mart in Westover. I had stopped there to grab a drink after a doctor's appointment and found the penny as I got out of the car. The second penny came on Sunday. After working all day on getting the house backing in showing condition for the realtors, we all went to IHOP for dinner. When we entered, I scanned the floor around the cashier's counter and saw nothing. Yet, when I went to pay the bill after dinner, I found the penny on the floor. Did I miss it when we came in or did someone drop it in the time between our arrival and departure? Of course I want to say the latter, but after not finding a single penny the week before, it may be that I missed it and that I am slipping in my responsibilities to the Change Pot.

Weekly Total: $0.02
YTD Total: $6.19

Monday, August 3, 2009

Baltimore Bound?????

For those that have been following the saga of the Risk family this past summer, you know it has been a very stressful time for us. In some instances, that stress has finally found a resolution, but in others, the stress has just begun.

On Friday, Lori received a verbal job offer from Harbor Hospital in Baltimore. Today, the official Letter of Intent was mailed out. Lori has decided to accept the offer and we have decided to move to Baltimore. Fall classes start September 1 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We are going this coming Friday to enroll in classes as a non-degree seeking student (program deadlines have long since passed). I will then apply for admission for the Spring semester and if accepted, the classes I take this fall will be applied to my degree.

What this means is that we have a lot of work to do over the next three - six weeks as we attempt to move. Our house will officially go back on the market tomorrow (Tuesday) and this weekend while in Baltimore, we hope to find a new home. We also have to look at daycare options for James, and I will need to find a part-time job. All within this three - six week time frame. We don't expect the house to sell before we move, but we are hopeful that we might have an offer.

We ask that all of our family and friends help us pray so that we may be able to make this move and continue to work for what is best for our family and our future.

We would also like to let all of our friends here in Morgantown know that we will miss them and once we are settled, they are more than welcome to come visit us. We will make sure we keep in touch. So easy to do these days with Facebook, blogs, email, and instant messengers. We will do our best to keep everyone updated on our progress, but if we get behind, rest assured that we will catch up once we are settled in our new home.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Here's Your Sign

Nothing irritates me more than stupidity and stupid people. Especially after I have had a hard and tiring day. If you have ever listened to comedian Bill Engvall, then you know about "the sign". Unfortunately, demand outstrips my supply.

Earlier today, Lori and I worked to get the house ready to go back on the market and after working extemely hard all day (I had to shower twice!) Lori and I were both tired and hungry. Neither of us felt like cooking, so we decided to go to IHOP for dinner. We had to stop by Lowe's for a new furnace filter and IHOP was right there, so it made a good choice. Besides, we had a 20% off coupon. What I didn't know was that by using the coupon, you also got 20% less waitress, most of it taken from the brain.

Now , I really shouldn't be surprised by this, service at our IHOP in Morgantown has always left something to be desired ever since it opened. That is why we don't go there very often. I will give our waitress a break and say that she had as long and exhausting day as we had. Still, I will never pass up an opportunity to hand out a sign.

I should have realized I needed to hand out a sign as soon as our the waitress began taking our order. I asked for one of IHOP's flavored lemonade / lemon-lime sodas. IHOP calls them Splashers. They have three:

  • Sparkling Cherry Lemonade - with lemonade, lemon-lime soda, and a sweet cherry flavored syrup

  • Tropical Island Twist - with lemonade, lemon-lime soda, and a tropical mango flavored syrup


  • Splashberry - with strawberries, lemonade, and orange juice.

I ordered the Splashberry. After ordering, the waitress asked "That's the one with the strawberries in it right?" No, it is the one with the mangoes. DUH! Of course it is the one with the strawberries, hence the word "berry" in the name. Maybe I am wrong, I can only go by what the menu said.

After the waitress brought our drinks, (and yes, she brought the correct one with strawberries) we placed our order. I asked for the Bacon Temptation Omelette which comes with a side of pancakes. For the side of pancakes, I ordered the pineapple upside down pancakes which are a limited-time special for IHOP's Hawaiiam promotion. Our waitress then asked me, "How do you want your eggs cooked?" Hmmmmmm, let's see, I would like my omelette hard boiled please. DUH! How else would you make an omelette? Poached, over-easy, sunnyside up -- they just don't make for very good omelettes. At least not in my experience. What's worse is that this IS NOT the first time I have been asked that question when ordering an omelette at this very same IHOP.

Do I give the sign to the manager for hiring these people or to the waitress for just not having a clue. Oh, wait, she had as long and hard of a day as I did, but I bet I could still tell you how you want your eggs cooked when you order an omelette.

Here's your sign!