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Archive for December, 2007

Adventures in Cinnamon Rolls

December 23rd, 2007 at 06:43 pm

I've had a hankerin' for cinnamon rolls lately, so I looked up a nice recipe online:

Doesn't look too hard, does it? I've never made cinnamon rolls before, so I thought this one, with nice step by step instructions, would be a good starting point.

Here is my version of these cinnamon rolls:

4 cups (1 quart) whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil. that is all I had. Hope it will work!)
1 cup sugar

I was supposed to mix these together and scald and then let cool for an hour. Scalding means heat until just before the boiling point. Except, I didn't catch it. And it boiled. Over. Oily, sweet milk all over the burners, and I didn't know how much I lost (it looked like a LOT!) so I threw that out and started over Smile

Ok, 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk, 1 cup olive oil and 1 cup sugar. Thought, "I'll clean the mess up after I scald the milk. I have to wait an hour anyway." So, put the pot back on the same burner and started seeing smoke. Ok, turn that burner off, move to another one. Started to see smoke AND fire. Eek. Got the fire was just a small one. (I'm not kidding by the way Smile ) Finally got one that I could use, scalded it and moved off to cool.

Opened some windows to get the smoke out of the kitchen.

Waited an hour and transferred the oily, sweet milk to a bigger bowl. Should have started out with that one. Added 8 cups flour, mixed and waited another hour.

Then added 1 more cup flour, 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder, 1 scant teaspoon baking soda, and 1 heaping tablespoon salt. Mixed that together, floured countertop and worked with half of the dough.

Here is when I realized I don't have a rolling pin. So, I patted it out and stretched it and pounded it until it looked big enough. It was not thin enough or long enough, but I didn't realize that until I finished the next few steps.

Melted 2 cups of butter and drizzled on top. No, really I poured it on top and because the dough wasn't rolled out big enough, a bunch of it ended up on the countertop. Then, I poured on 1 cup sugar and covered the top with cinnamon. It was such a mess!

I rolled the dough into rolls and cut them into 1" pieces. I put the butter I had left over in the bottom of a 9X13" pan. Then I put all the rolls into the pan. Then I realized there was too much butter, so I tried to hold the rolls in the pan and pour off some of the butter. Didn't work extremely well, but at least I didn't drop any of the rolls.

Waited 30 minutes, and the rolls expanded to fill the 9X13" pan. Baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

Made the yummy frosting. It is SO RICH, but it really tastes good. The coffee adds a nice touch.
1/2 bag powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt

That is my kind of recipe. Dump ingredients in a bowl and mix it up.

The rolls came out of the oven and I poured the frosting on. It looks DIVINE! I can't wait to go to fiance's side Christmas tonight so we can tear into them!

Just me being bitter and petty

December 21st, 2007 at 07:25 am

I was born on Christmas. It kinda sucks.

Throughout the year, my boss brings cakes and cookies and stuff in for people's birthdays, and usually goes out to lunch with them, but not for me. Today was most people's last day for the rest of the year, and no mention.

We used to have a snack day once a month at the place where I worked before, and it was for the birthdays in that month. Except December. It was cancelled during that month because there were already so many Christmas parties everyone was going to.

When I was in school, same thing. Kids got cupcakes on their birthday. I never got any. Kids got sleep overs for their birthday. I never got one. People suggest to celebrate on half birthdays, but hey, that is June 25, and we aren't in school then either, dummy. But the summer kids still got a party just for them.

Throughout the year, people ask me to help out with birthday stuff for other people, and I usually say no. They think it is strange. "I mean, everyone has a birthday, right? Everyone gets the same kind of party, right? We'll do it for you when it is your birthday! Oh wait, its on Christmas, isn't it? We don't work that whole week. Well, we'll remember and go out for you the week before." No you won't. Never happened before, and its not going to happen.

What the heck is wrong with me? I'm damned near 30 (you know, on Christmas) and I shouldn't get worked up over no one celebrating my birthday. I guess that is not true. My family does celebrate my birthday. After we open presents in the morning, and have lunch, I get sang to, a present, and a bunch of my sisters rolling their eyes because I'm taking the attention away from their kids. I've had a birthday pie before because we had so much cake for Christmas. And I don't even particularly like pie!

Another Balance Transfer

December 11th, 2007 at 04:19 am

The first balance transfer is working out fine (I made $110 in interest last month!) so I decided to do another one. I got a 0% offer in the mail with no balance transfer fee, the 0% good until 01/01/09.

I called in and applied, and asked for $20,000 to be transferred to my FNBO card (which has $0 balance right now). I know in one of my previous posts I said that I would only do up to my credit limit so FNBO would transfer the money to me sooner, but I can cover the first month with the balance transfer from AmEx, so I won't be out any pocket money.

The number was 1-800-694-9261. I need to follow up on this in the next week.

How do I budget?

December 6th, 2007 at 05:43 am

More specifically, how do I budget for a business that is VERY cyclical? If you haven't read my blog at all, you might not first some background.

I'm 29, work as a software engineer at an airplane company, and live a very comfortable life at this salary. I think I've made smart money choices (except that darn NEW pickup I bought 4 years ago and have 2 years left to pay on it. Oh, and it already has 104,000 miles on it. Grrrr, darn ex-boyfriend that convinced me to buy it.) Over the past 6 years I've bought a house and sold it for a $15,000 profit, bought another house that I owe ~$70,000 on, (it is worth ~$90,000), I have ~$125,000 invested in 401(k)'s, IRA's, Roth IRA's and taxable accounts. I own ~80 cows in a partnership where I don't have to do any work on them but get 1/3 of the money from selling the calves (My dad - my business partner - gets 2/3 of that money for doing all the work). The cows are worth about $60,000 + probably $20,000 for my share of the calves about ready to be sold at the beginning of January. I was maxing out my 401(K) and maxing out a Roth IRA every year, plus investing in the taxable mutual fund around $50 every month. I've got a very workable budget for a steady income and steady expenses.

I am getting married to a farmer. Right now, at least before we were engaged, he was more of a "farm hand" than a farmer because even though he had 80 acres of farm ground he was buying, most of the work he did was for other people. He got paid from the guy he worked for, traded some welding and other work for another guy, and gave his labor away to his dad (that is another story).

When we got engaged, we decided that we wanted him to continue to farm and me to continue to work as a software engineer, at least until the 2.5 hour commute did me in and/or we had some kids. My off-the-farm job would be a HUGE help to getting going on farming for us instead of him killing himself for someone else. We decided I would only invest 4% in my 401(k), which is the company match, and take the difference and put it in a high-yield savings account (getting 6% interest) until we could save up enough to buy some land.

We decided that we wanted to get bigger in cattle instead of farming right now, and that would be our focus.

The first thing we did was invest in a tractor and baler. We got a loan from the bank, $12,500, over 3 years at 8.75% interest. About $5000 every year for 3 years in payments. I financed that through my bank, in my name, and the tractor/baler belongs to me (until we get married...then all of it belongs to both of us), because I am in a higher tax bracket than he is. Next year that won't matter, but this year it does. I can write that investment and all the expenses off associated with this endeavor off. He swathed and baled a lot of feed, prairie hay, and brome grass this summer; some of it I will get paid for and some of it I will get shares of the crop to feed my cattle. For this year, he is my employee. He kept track of hours he worked and money he spent on fuel, parts, etc., and I paid him an hourly wage of what he was getting paid by the other guy and reimbursed him for what he spent. I've spent about $4200 in parts and labor so far this year. Because we bought this so late in the season, we won't make that back this year, but we should make that back plus what we owe next November on the loan by the end of next summer.

Next, he had people asking him to cut sunflowers, soybeans and milo, but he didn't have a row head for his combine. (don't ask...just a special piece of equipment you need to cut sunflowers, soybeans, and sometimes milo). He found one for $800, and the first guy he cut for is going to pay around $850 for cutting his crops, so we bought that too. This deal was a little different than the baling business...I just floated him the $800 so he could buy it, and he is getting paid for all the work he does for the other farmers. He owns the combine already, so I couldn't come up with a fair way to determine how much of the paycheck the row head vs. the combine was worth, and there is not much depreciation in $800, so not worth the effort of figuring that out. He'll pay me back when he gets paid from them.

Finally, we were able to find enough winter grazing and summer pasture to take over 36 head of my cows from my dad. This way, we can keep all of the money from selling the calves instead of only getting 1/3. But, we took over the cows in November/December of this year, and they won't have their calves until Feb-April. We will grow em up and then sell them January 2009. Lots of expenses here...we had to buy fencing material, we have to pay rent on the winter and summer grazing, we have to buy mineral and other supplements to help them get through the winter. We are going to buy panels in case one of them has trouble calving, so he can get them in and help them (soooo worth it. If we save just 5 calves because of this, it will pay for itself. This is something that will last 20 years or more). We are going to by a hay feeder and a wagon so we can feed them during the winter. I'm going to guess $8500 this winter/early spring in expenses, plus his salary until we are married. These are all start up expenses...the expenses next year and after won't be as much.

Lots of expenses at the start up, but great potential down the road. He is really good at finding good deals, making due with old equipment, fixing things if they break, fabricating things instead of buying them (if he has time), etc. He has also been very good at explaining what we need, what his goals are, big expenses coming up, etc. I've really been hammering hard that if we NEED to buy something that will make us money in the end, then let's buy it. But if we don't NEED it, then we won't buy it. And he agrees with that.

Apparently, I'm good at writing checks, cause I've done A LOT of that lately Smile.

I am going to be the accountant for our household and the farm. I can figure out the household stuff, as I've done that for myself for a long time, and we'll just need to compromise (as all married couples do) on that money.

But, how do we budget for the farm? My job will pay steady, but unless my boss lets me telecommute some, I will have the same expenses I have now. If I get rid of all the wedding expenses I'm paying for now, I'll free up some money to pay the bills at the other house (yes, at first, we will have two houses, one by where I work and the other by where he works).

I can see big chunks of farm income coming in when we sell calves in January, get paid for baling either when the people we bale for sell their calves or sell their wheat, when we sell wheat in July, and for custom harvesting in July and September. I've always been one to keep just enough on hand to pay my bills and send all extra money to loans to get them paid off and not pay so much interest. I had a $3000 emergency fund, but with the above expenses, I drained that plus cut into some other money I had set aside for other things.

How much should I save up? Should I have a goal of trying to figure up what the expenses will be for 6 months (both the household expenses and the farm expenses) and save that, and then put extra money towards loans? Or consider the household expenses as being paid for out of a salary and just try to save up for the next 6 months of farm expenses? I guess I'm asking, how do I switch from thinking "I'll get paid in two weeks (or less)" to "we'll get paid for this 6 months from now"? And how do I plan for things like that?