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Archive for June, 2009

I am good!

June 30th, 2009 at 08:38 pm

I've apparently worked my budget down to an "exact science."

I hesitate to use the word "budget" because I am not really into the whole tradiitonal budget thing. I would drive myself nuts accounting for all those overages/underages every month. & you might be surprised, but I do not care for a strict budget. I like that if I spent no money on gas or food, that I can go splurge on something else. I do not carry things over month to month. I guess I like flexibility and ease, over rigidity and complication.

So anyway, we had a good month and for whatever reason it popped into my mind that we really could save another $50/month. I just felt it would be very reasonable.

I opened my "budget" spreadsheet on a whim and looked it over.

Lo and behold - when LM started his new preschool I guess I rounded way up and allocated $200/month to that. Thing is, most months it's barely $150.

So subconsciously I am thinking I have $50 per month to spare, and in reality - I really do.

My goal for maxing out first ROTH was to put away $350/month and "wing it" on the rest - scrounge it up somehow.

This officially puts me to $5k per year, just based on $400 monthly contributions (well, the additional $200 will be easy to scrounge).

So, I am very pleased.

I would like to build up more cash savings, but I also think it's important to contribute heavily to retirement in this market. So I am kind of doing $400/month to each, for now. I certainly am tempted to put my spare $50 to cash, but I know we have had a good year and with a little patience will probably reach my cash goals within the year. So I will stay the course!

I whipped this up sometime when we were in preschool limbo and we had a few hundred dollars to spare every month. It's worked out well:



As a recap:

short-term "savings" are to be spent within the year (vacation, car repairs, property taxes, insurance, dental, swim lessoms, misc., etc. - everything that is not a regular monthly expense).

mid-term savings - larger expenses expected in more than one year - car replacement and house maintenance, orthodontia, etc. Car repairs for more than I "budgeted" would fall here too, as well as unexpected large bills, etc.

medical savings - we switched to a HDHP and save $250/month on premiums. We save the difference for deductibles and future rate increases.

I've kind of been honing this system for a while, and I am very pleased with it. Once honed, it's been a rather simple and effective savings system. Though we are saving much less than when we both worked, there is much more thought to the big picture. I think the thought makes up for the decrease in savings, in many regards.

Anyway, yes, I already increased my automatic ROTH contributions - starting with July!

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ETA: I do put everything possible on the credit card (for rewards, etc.). It is paid monthly, of course!

Everything not on the card can not be paid with credit cards - bah.

BUT I also worked on this spreadsheet to get an idea what my monthly credit card bills should be - since we recently switched some utilities over to the card, etc. IT can get kind of confusing though since I can put a lot of short-term expenses on the card. It usually runs closer to $2k, BUT I can simply subtract all the short-term items (they tend to be larger/obvious items) and just make sure the rest never tops $1500.

Net Worth

June 30th, 2009 at 02:11 pm

Net Worth is up $17k for the year, give or take maybe $1k, depending on stock performance today.

Cash is up about $7k. & is my main concern right now!

Retirement is up $8k (about $6k contributions and $2k gains).

Paid almost $2k off mortgage, this year.

That about sums it up.

Interestingly, our cash and investments passed the $100k mark. Not sure if they have before. That's a nice milestone! Big Grin Depends on the day, but as of this moment, we are at about $100,500!

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Swim lessons - OMG. I bought goggles for the kids over the weekend. Apparently, LM Was not scared to swim - only scared to get water in his eyes. ????? Dh said he jumped in the pool and swam like a fish, during his lesson. (What a relief. When I was a kid I had to be pushed in and I was worried he would be the same way).

He told me his googles were "AWE-SOME!"

So, 4 lessons later, and LM can SWIM! He did so amazingly well. He has a second week of lessons in mid-July and I just asked if she had any more time in August. Hoping I can get him a 3rd week.

In fact, I am so amazed I am going to buy the kids' teacher a nice treat or pay her a little extra. She DESERVES it! ($50 for a week of private lessons was a steal!)

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Piano lessons have took a turn for the better. If I remember today anyway - to give lesson on such a busy day. BUT BM is LOVING it. I simply asked him to practice 5 minutes a day, but he has declared he would like to practice 1/2 hour - twice a day. Hopefully I don't kill his enthusiasm. Wink Which is a big reason usually why parent don't teach their kids. I try to butt out of his practicing too. Practicing is for him and his parent - he doesn't need his teacher there too. Dh may learn something...

Life is Good!

June 29th, 2009 at 04:15 pm

I had the BEST weekend. Just one of those weekends where I am so happy where my life has landed.

I also posted the other day about our relative who paid $600k+ for their home. I have mentioned before, but we know so many people who truly believe it is worth having a $500k+ mortgage to simply live in the Bay Area. After moving away about 8 years ago, dh and havn't quite *gotten* it in a LONG time. This was one of those weekends where I feel extra bad for those people. You think they are happy with those massive mortgages? We don't know any of them who are happy.

Anyway, it was literally 110 degrees yesterday. Obviously, I have acclimated.

So what was so great about yesterday?

BM and I went on a bike ride. We got a later start than I preferred. I Was kind of antsy to drive to some more of the bike paths, etc., but decided on its virgin run, to just stay in the neighborhood. Not sure how much I trusted the quality of the Wal Mart assembly of the bike. Wink We checked it over real good and checked the tire pressure, and off we went.

First, LOVED the bike.

Second, it was probably already 80+ when we went outside to ride, but it wasn't so bad.

We had a blast. The bad side is I am wondering if I should get BM a bike with gears now. I felt bad him working so hard on his bike, and mine was a breeze (I have 21 working gears now). Well, thoughts for another time.

Next time we will probably ride earlier (or later) in cooler weather. Wink

After the bike ride we went down to the pool. We didn't get there until 11. Again, later than I preferred. Not a lot of shade there. But knew it would feel refreshing. So we swam for about an hour.

I "sunbathed" in the shade and it wasn't too bad. We were lazy and drove over. Hell if I Walking in that weather. Wink

But yeah, while I Was relaxing in the shade I noticed all but one or 2 adults (many people) were sunbathing in the sun. I was thinking they were completely out of their minds. You know, it was only 100 degrees or so at that hour. ????? Crazy people.

After that we holed up inside the rest of the day, as the temps did climb to 110. But, no complaints. I was pleased we were able to enjoy so much outdoor time and it wasn't that bad at all.

If nothing else I LOVE my bike. Did I mention that I love my bike?

I come to work today glad I don't have a $500k mortgage. Life is good! Big Grin

I truly feel with our LCOL moved that we have made life so much simpler and better, all around. Whereas most of our friends and relatives would NEVER consider moving because the Bay Area "is the place to be." It's just so different from the outside looking in.

On the other hand, if those people stop moving up here, life is even better. So maybe I should just keep mum and enjoy it. Wink

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Anyway, pics from my weekend.

Sunflower field we passed on the way to our playdate Saturday. Picture doesn't do it justice:



& you can see downtown in the distance. Not sure I can ever get across how "best of both worlds we have." Easy to pretend we live in the middle of nowhere, though downtown is a 5-minute drive.



Our current favorite bike ride destination. That lovely desolate park I have posted pics of before - we love to picnic there (it's surrounded by abandoned home lots).

Um, I have never really noticed this "statue" before. It's pretty neat.



& a glimpe of our pool (& the crazy people). IT's like a giant puzzle piece - a kiddie pool circle - attached to a rectangular, deeper lap pool.

IF we get there before 11, any day, it's all ours. We got a late start and this was closer to noon. Frankly, never seen it so crowded at noon, but wasn't surprised with the high temps. (It usually gets PACKED after 5 on weekdays, etc. & weekend afternoons).



Yes, somehow we survive all this un-desirableness. Wink

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Hmmm, did I also mention I am loving my new camera phone?

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I made the peach mango smoothie again and came out better (thicker and less sweet):

Updated Smoothie recipe:

Peach-Orange-Mango Smoothie

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen mango pieces
1 frozen banana (peel and chop before freezing)

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I work 2 days this week, but feels like vacation. I am in such vacation mode...

Finally Bought a Bike!

June 28th, 2009 at 03:03 pm

With the hot summer days, I hadn't been so motivated on the bike front.

BUT we actually had a little extra money this month. Certainly could have used it for other things (massive car repair, donate, save, etc.). BUT I decided to think about buying a bike again.

I had settled on a bike in the $400 range, BUT lately we seem to talk more of little bike rides around the neighborhood - BM likes to ride his bike to school (with us), and we talk about riding more to the store and to the local farms for produce, etc. & I was thinking, I do not need to ride around on a fancy bike for that, and I certainly wouldn't leave it in front of a store!!!!!

So I had been leaning towards just getting a cheapie at Target or something. Seemed like a good idea, since I could always use a "cheapie" around the neighborhood and then, if I stick with it and get in better shape, I can shell out $400 or so for a nice bike. If I know I will actually ride it!

& believe me, I have perused Craigslist. Economy or what, but really there is nothing there.

I've been extra motivated because my Craigslist cheapie ($20 range) has pretty much bit the dust. The tire got a little flat, which may be it, but it had a lot of other issues and I rode it anyway out of desperation the other day (had to pick up BM from school). Yeah - didn't sound good. Could just be the flat - but seemed like something else was wrong. Will probably give it away. (Only a couple of gears work and it is missing a break pad - yeah).

So yeah, my super-cheapie has been better than NO BIKE, but that's about it. LOL. I have been eyeing a newer bike for a while.

So, yesterday I decided to do some research. I didn't necessarily intend to buy it yesterday, but found a nice Schwinn with excellent reviews - a different model at each of the big stores. Target had free shipping and was a good deal, but I found one for the same price at Toys R Us (considering sales tax and everything).

We went to check it out and it was a nicer bike than I really expected in that price range. IT was rather heavy, but last I was looking at super light bikes.

What I did not like at all about it was the short handlebars. Ugh.

I figured I would survive, but I had seen a bike in the 32-pound range at Wal-MArt. We decided to check it out. I do not hate Wal-Mart as a giant corporation. I think they take the fall for what most giant corporations do, and I don't think places like Target are inherently better than places like Wal-MArt - corporate wise. I kind of am anti-giant-corporation all around, personally. But what I hate about Wal Mart is their store sucks. LOL. & it's in the WORST shopping center - the one we avoid like the plague. So I wasn't thrilled to go over there on a busy Saturday, nor thrilled to give Wal Mart my business, but alas, we did.

I think the Toys R Us bike was a little nicer on some level, BUT the Wal Mart one was pretty nice. It was much lighter and had nicer breaks. It cost about $20 more, BUT all Wal Mart bikes apparently come pre-assembled. We figured dh would spend the weekend assembling it, so that was a nice touch!

There were lines out the wazoo, but we were able to sneak out the no-wait "5 items or less" line. So in the end, it wasn't SO bad.

When we got home I re-checked the reviews on the bike I ended up with, and found some other reviews I had missed. I am REALLY pleased with the purchase. In general, the tires are crap but if replaced with better tires, can hold it's own against much more expensive bikes (I assume the lightweight is its biggest edge).

SO, I will work on riding it more and getting in shape. I have a bike buff friend who was interested in doing some rides when I got a nice bike. Wasn't sure it that would work since I settled on something much lesser, but I am starting to think if I get new tires, that maybe it will work. Will just have to try. She is in awesome shape and I have a ways to go, so it is all up to her.

More immediately, I would like to get a nicer seat (cheap enough).

Eventually I will need a bike lock and a helmet.

For the long run I would like to get nicer tires. I don't feel any rush on that though. I have no inclination to do any long bike rides with the weather this hot. Wink

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So much for my low-spend weekend!

Today I don't have much planned. Still need to clean house a bit.

On my week off I got addicted to that "How Clean is your house" show on BBC. I think it was bad because it made me feel like my house wasn't half bad. So I didn't clean much after all. LOL. BUT, I had this weird brown/grey discoloration on the linoleum on the laundry room floor. I could not for the life of me figure out what it was or how to get it out. I was resigned to permanent "dirty looking" floors.

But this guy had FILTHY floors and the SAME linoleum. They recommended hot soapy water, some comet, and an abrasive sponge. I figured what the heck. So yesterday I gave it a try.

Wouldn't you know, it worked???? My floor is nice and sparkly again.

Reminds me, the same linoleum, around the toilets, has discolored a bit (BOYS!!!). So I will have to try on that area too - maybe will remove the pee discoloration...

Anyway, I am feeling more pressure to clean up a bit since we apparently are now hosting an impromptu 4th of the July shindig the DAY we get back from camping. Yeesh.

Beyond that, will probably take the kids swimming before it gets too hot (no shade to speak of at the pool) and though I would like to try out the bike, not sure I will make it. Depends how cool it gets tonight. I need dh's help checking it over and he will wake up too late. It's already 75 degrees and it's only 8am. Another scorcher - ugh.

I do like that my workouts are getting so varied - it is easier to stick to. A bike ride, a workout video, a trip to the gym, or aerobics class. I certainly am losing excuses not to work out. I will probably start bike riding a lot more.

Our GPS has a bike mode, which will be interesting to try. On one hand. Not sure exactly what it does. BUT, speaking of not wanting to be mugged for my bike, it's unfortunate that I probably won't want to use it much.

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Anyway, I don't remember the last time I spent so much money on myself. Big Grin It feels nice to buy something nice for myself - it is so rare.

Peach Mango Smoothie & Simple Pleasures

June 27th, 2009 at 08:16 pm

I have mostly been sticking to my usual strawberry smoothies - some variation of yogurt, OJ, and frozen strawberries. The thicker the better!

Today I finally decided to try something new, since dh had stocked up on yogurt. We had picked up frozen mangos and some orange-mango juice concentrate since they had been on sale. Dh had also bought a giant tub of peach yogurt this week.

I am not much of a chef, but it's hard to mess up a smoothie I guess. I figured peach and mango sounded good (what do I know).

Um, YUM!!!!!

I was concerned about the juice concentrate being too strong - so used water to water it down a bit. As such, it was very thin, but one taste, and it was DIVINE!

The recipe:

Thin/sweet (juice) version:

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
8 oz water
1 cup frozen mango pieces
handful of ice cubes

Thick/less sweet version:

8 oz peach yogurt
1/2 can mango-orange concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen mango pieces
1 frozen banana (peel and chop before freezing)

Sure was tasty!

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Kids were invited to a playdate today - someone we met through tee ball. Mostly, the little kids got along really well and though they seemed very nice, hadn't talked much to them.

Um, how freaky was this. I swear this women and I led completely parallel lives. It was the most bizarre experience I have had in a while. Even down to the whole monkey thing. The girl likes monkeys!

I wouldn't even know where to begin.

This could get interesting.

Little Updates

June 26th, 2009 at 02:24 pm

Kids made a little puppet show. PAinted a box green to test out the paint color. Came out pretty good - much better than the old "green sheet" trick. Not sure when they will get to painting the wall.

I was wondering if the HOA would complain if we had a green wall in our garage. Probably would. They have nothing better else to do. But do I care? Nah. I think we have the right to a green wall! (They nagged a neighbor once for keeping the garage open too much - apparently we are not allowed to open our garage doors. Well, um, I don't remember that one being in the rules. So sue me!)

The garage isn't exactly beautiful to start with, you know? The walls aren't even painted. Looks rather "unfinished" as is.

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Piano lessons have gotten to a rocky start. I think the biggest issue with teaching your own child is taking it seriously. Thus, I put BM's lesson time on the calendar for the next 2 months. If I could save like $1k in the first year, I could take this seriously.

AND? Promptly forgot his last lesson (didn't look at the calendar, forgot, then went out of town so no real time to make it up).

This week wasn't much better. I forgot kids had swim lessons 4-5. SO, I came home about 5 and they were just switching on a video game. Didn't quite realize. I said something like, "Time for piano lesson. & a walk after dinner."

The kids were playing their game and I plopped down on the couch for a while.

Big mistake. I am such a morning person that I just deflate in the afternoon. So, I Was pretty much done. Once I sit down, in a comfy spot, it's over.

By the time they were done with their game, I was exhausted. I passed on piano. BAD, I know.

YEsterday I came home about the same time and a video game was getting popped in. I was SO annoyed yesterday why they had all day and were just ignoring me when I got home. I finally realized why - because they had just gotten home too. So I barked at them - "No video games!!!!!!!!!!!" MAde them turn it off and BM had his piano lesson. Enough is enough.

I don't think he practiced much, and his first lesson wasn't particularly grand, BUT he did AWESOME! I was pretty impressed.

I gave dh strict instructions to have him practice. 5 minutes a day would suffice at this point. I showed dh everything he needs to practice.

I was searching through my old music files for something and came across some exercises I used to always give to younger students. I barely remembered them and was glad it had written instructions on precisely how to do them. LOL. I am completely disturbed by how little I remember from my teaching days. This may be harder than I thought, BUT, it will be a good refresher. IT was a skill I knew I could always fall back on, so good to keep it fresh.

My sister is visiting this month and so I will have to pick her brain a bit. She taught, has taught more recently, and is currently teaching a student, I hear. If nothing else, I just need to remember what we do the first year, outside the book.

I am pleased to say BM is a natural though. Big Grin I didn't think so first lesson, but he is doing really well. AND next week he will learn a couple of nursery rhymes, so I think it will get more interesting, rather quickly. (This is why it's so much easier to teach kids. They are pleased as punch to learn "Mary had a little lamb.")

I'd start with LM if he was open to it. (Maybe give it 6 months to really get into playing - but can start teaching him basics and note reading). He was not interested yesterday. No rush there.

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Not much plans for the weekend. I should clean the house. IT's such a disaster!

Updated Totals

June 24th, 2009 at 02:11 pm

Not much to report, but I paid all the July bills (er, set them to pay on due dates) and updated my savings totals, to the left.

This year we have saved just about $7950. So, only $50 shy of my original $8k savings goal. Woohoo!

My goal has since been revised to $10k, but saving $400/month + interest, will get us there easily, by December.

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Our cash total is hovering around $22k-$23k, currently.

My goal is $30k cash (solid 6 months of income) before we will consider putting more into our IRAs. One maxed IRA is fine, for now. I expect by 2011 we will be maxing out both our IRAs. (Or likely, be able to max out 2010 during 2011).

So, definitely making some nice progress.

No plans to prepay a dime to the mortgage, until our ROTHs are maxed. Since our retirement is doing well, as is, I am excited to move on to mortgage pre-payments, etc. BUT, can't pass up the awesome tax benefits of the ROTH. I guess my big pie in the sky goal, for now, is getting to mortgage prepayments once again. Something we haven't particularly achieved on one income (of course, neither have we achieved maxing out IRAs, etc.). I guess it's ALL exciting.

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I guess, as a review, our goals are to:

1)Get cash savings back up to snuff
2)Max out ROTHs
3)Resume mortgage prepayments

In that order, yes.

Annual Renewals & Other Tidbits

June 24th, 2009 at 12:27 am

I had an interesting surprise today. I had put off paying the newspaper subscription, hoping I could talk dh out of it. (No such luck!)

It is due in a couple of days so I figured I might as well pay it. I just pay annually since it is the cheapest option (as with everything, really).

I was in Quicken, scrolling through last June, trying to figure out how much the price had gone up. I tend to just set things to pay on the due date. But I couldn't find the payment in our checking account though I was SURE we paid with online bill pay. Checked the credit card in case - still couldn't find it. Finally sorted by "name" and found a payment in August. & the few Augusts prior.

Um, okay?

I went to dig out the last bill, and sure enough, we had last paid for August 2008 - August 2009.

Guess what this bill was for...

June 2009 - June 2010.

Hello????

I am not sure I would have noticed but for Quicken. I have said a million times Quicken recoups its cost very quickly. This is just another example.

What was the markup for this year? 35%. $111 to $150. Plus they tried to double bill us for TWO MONTHS.

Dh will call them and take care of it. I am not so concerned about the due date any more. Since we are paid through AUGUST!

I am making a mental note to check the date on last payment for all annual renewals. Tricky!!!!!!!

& this is why I love having a stay at home spouse. I swear he spends half his time on the phone anymore. Ugh!

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The weight loss is sort of going.

My pants waist has not shrunk a mili-inch, nor have I lost a mili-pound. (It's been about TWO weeks, and admittedly, for vacation we probably ate too much). BUT yesterday I scored progress.

I had been wearing a sweater (AC freezing me out at work) and took it off when I rushed home briefly before carting kids around in the evening. The shirt I had on underneath, lord knows the last time I felt comfortable wearing it alone.

As my clothes have been getting a little tight, I had no idea what I Would wear. I refuse on many levels to buy bigger clothes. So I am stuck with an extremely limited wardrobe for now. How's that for motivation?

I threw on my jeans while I pondered what the heck I would wear out in the heat. & I caught a glimpse in the mirror and thought, "Huh - I look damn good." Good enough for me - I was in a hurry. (I was sure it was just my mood or something).

Dh sealed the deal because when I got home he looked at me and asked if I had lost weight. "Not even half a pound," I replied. "These are my fat jeans. But I did think I looked good today, in this outfit." Apparently he agreed.

This morning I got the tape measure out on a whim. I lost an inch around my ribs (pretty much the skinniest part of my body as is - figures. Like, did I really have fat there?). & apparently 2-3 inches around my hips since I last measured. Holy Cow!

I am not used to my middle holding up my jeans, but probably the case for now. My issue is with this post-baby, stubborn, belly fat. Bah to it. But I think at this rate it stands little chance - muahahaha.

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LM did SO awesome on his swim lesson yesterday. No complaints and he showed no fear. Mommy was so proud. (Although thinking, who is this kid???? Glad we took the plunge and signed him up).

I think the magic factor is "wanting to be like big brother." Though that doesn't seem to work much with trying new things, usually...

BM did pretty awesome as well. He is learning the breast stroke. Dog paddling is gone (apparently, he just needed goggles). So yeah, I need to buy him some goggles.

Manic Monday

June 22nd, 2009 at 08:46 pm

Actually, it's not so manic.

BM is done with school, so no manic there.

When I left for vacation I Felt "caught up" at work. For the first time all year - phew.

I daresay I expected a huge pileup on my return, but apparently last week was pretty slow. Yay!

We are camping next week though, and July is busy, so it works out. I also have TONS of non-deadline/less important stuff to do, but I am also wondering what the heck I will do in November, and September. That stuff can wait! I think I will have just enough to do before I go on vacation again. Big Grin

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That being said, the kids start swim lessons today. Just occured to me I probably need to pay another $100 today. AND I have an excuse to leave work early. Have to pick up BM and take him to karate class. Well, I volunteered. Since LM will still be having his swim lesson. So the afternoon will be a little manic.

Oh, crossing my fingers LM is in an agreeable mood today! For his swim lesson.

BM has been progressing on his own, all summer. BUT still will only mostly dog paddle. Will be nice to see him SWIMMING again.

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Anyway, I checked exactly where we are camping next week and it is closer to Tahoe than I realized. Weather this week is mostly 100 degrees here - UGH. BUT 70 degrees where we are camping.

Woohoo! It was a little hot in Yosemite last year. 70 degrees, I'll take!

Will see... No forecast for next week yet - I guess I should have looked up the averages.

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I've got a rough add up of our "Staycation costs."

$90 Campout (Pricey Indeed! But it was more of a non-profit fundraiser)
$120 Gilroy Gardens 1 day
$ 10 parking @ GG
$160 Water Park 1 day (season pass though)
$ 10 parking @ WP
$ 70 Dinner on the river (major splurge)
$ 60 Treated dad to lunch for F-Day
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$520
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Adds up to $520.

We drove to the Bay Area twice, but I didn't even count the gas since I didn't work/drive all week AND because we probably would have made both trips anyway.

We were invited to 2 BBQs in there, and treated to a Thai feast Friday night - so no complaints there. We ate at home, frugally, the rest of the week.

We saved $20+ since our minor league ballgame trip was canceled.

We did not spend a dime once in the Water Park.

We did buy food, etc. at Gilroy Gardens. BUT dh's parents and grandma gave him about $40 (for Father's Day). Covered food for the day. Maybe some gas. I consider that a wash.

We spent about $600 on "toys" since MIL ended up paying for our camping trip next week. (GPS & tent were vacation expenses in a sense. & used saved cash for blu ray player).

We spent $150 on our San Francisco weekend in January.

SO, only leaves about $230 of our annual $1500 vacation budget. (We should not need to spend any money for our trip next week - all paid for - but for maybe $20 gas which will easily come from gas budget).

WE had been talking about a weekend away (no kids) in Pismo Beach this fall. I could hardly think of anything more divine. BUT I think we may save the $$ for Florida or for HAwaii next year. Will see. If we are going to Hawaii, Pismo can certainly wait.

Florida is currently up in the air. FIL's job is still up in the air. So depends on that.

We have also toyed with the idea of visiting my Grandma in Colorado again. Airfare can't be beat. If so, if we pay for that on our own, may blow our budget to pieces. But Hawaii next year isn't exactly set anyway.

Florida and Colorado are kind of unique beasts. Though I wouldn't go bankrupt visiting family, we can put a little more money to visit our grandparents. They are certainly not getting any younger. Neither trip would be a consideration if not for our grandparents.

I really only think we will consider Hawaii next year, if we can get to our cash savings goal by next summer ($30k). We are in "Wait and see" mode. Though I rather go to Hawaii, we have discussed Florida instead. We honymooned there and could be nice to have our 10-year anniversary there as well. Probably cheaper. Would be 4 of us, but in-laws would probably help pay. Plus we could always get away for a couple of nights on our own. We still have a couple of Disney World passes left from our 2000 honeymoon, too. (We were so smart to snatch those up while we had way more income and way less expenses!)

Recovering...

June 21st, 2009 at 04:56 pm

I am so... exhausted...

So much for a relaxing staycation. LOL.

It turned out to be 96 degrees the day we went to the water park.

We had drama because, lord knows why, I took my favorite bag there. I actually left it sitting out in the open on a chair by a walking path - and as I walked away I thought to myself, I should have covered it with a towel - or put it on a chair further from the path at least. BUT, as I mentioned, their lockers were insane and we brought our water wallet. I was not stupid enough to leave anything valuable in there so I didn't really think much about it.

It wasn't until the end of the day that I realized my bag was gone. & of course I felt REALLY stupid for leaving it out. Duh! & I was of course really upset about this because it is my favorite bag! (Not valuable - just a fave I guess - I got it for like $5!).

Anyway, I then realized my CLOTHES were in the bag. Yeesh. This really upset me so I started looking around the ground and checking the trash cans. I figured it couldn't have gone far since there was nothing valuable in it.

I didn't expect much but was glad to see a security guard rounding up stray purses, etc. I thought there was a chance we would find it that day before we left. So we went in search of lost and found, and found it. Someone had rifled through it and tossed it aside, right nearby. If I had noticed sooner I might have just found it myself.

The security was very excited about this and wanted to know about everything I lost, etc. I looked in the bag and said, "Well, I didn't leave anything valuable in there. Everything is still there."

They almost seem disappointed - yeesh. I guess they are used to lecturing people about leaving their purses lying around.

IT was annoying though. If they are really that concerned about it, why do they charge $20 for lockers? (YES, $20 for FAMILY lockers. Teeny tiny lockers were $8). I remember griping when lockers were like $1.50. Now, I wish. I mean they are so concerned that you don't leave your valuables out, but they want to completely rip you off in the process.

Anyway, I felt very lucky to get all my stuff back. Yay! Could have really put a damper on the day. Next time I will leave my clothes in the car - yeesh. I was so concerned about our "valuables" that I didn't think much about how valuable my clothes and my bag were to ME. & my sunscreen. Easily $50+ to replace it all. Phew!!!!

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The good side is this water park seemed to have little for either of the kids. The San Jose one has WAY more rides for their height range, etc.

BUT, they were rather lenient and BM was able to ride MOST of the rides. HE got measured quite a few times, but they always let him through. Except for some of the more extreme rides (he tried one - thankfully the said no - mommy was happy!!!). Yeah, he is Mr. No Fear. Anyway, he was about 1/2-inch shy, so he was lucky to get on as many slides as he did.

Which reminds me - was plenty of people there, but really not much line for any slide. We spent about 3 hours and it was perfect. LM, very fearful, was losing patience with the place. HE enjoyed the wave pool but got bored after a while, etc.

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We went to Gilroy Gardens Friday. The place was EMPTY, which was kind of sad. I know it has struggled much. It made me relieved that we made it there - I am not sure how long that place will really stay open. I am sure the economy is not helping!

They were unfortunately, much more strict on the height there - shoes and all. BM really wanted to ride the mushroom swing, and they wouldn't let him on.

Maybe next year!

Though he could pretty much ride everything else - it is more of a little kid park.

Anyway, it was SO HOT there. Weather predicted 80 and I was looking forward to our good fortune.

Between the hours of 1-4 I felt like I was melting. I kept commenting it felt more like 100. I wasn't surprised to see it had been 92 degrees. Ugh! We had tried to avoid a HOT day there. Just our luck I guess.

So the weather was not so nice to us.

& I don't think I have been this tan since I was 16. LOL. I kept getting comments from family when we visited them yesterday. I have always had a dark skin tone, but with age I have lightened up. I guess give me a week outside in 90 degree+ heat, and this is what happens.

Well, here are some pictures from Gilroy Gardens.





Oh yeah - and this one is at the river by our house - we splurged on dinner on the river to start my staycation, last Friday.



Well, today I am RECOVERING. & doing laundry, etc., etc.

We are trying to be nice to dh but we have no food in the house and he is grocery shopping. No, I didn't volunteer! We will let him relax the rest of the day. Wink

It Pays to be Multi Regional...

June 18th, 2009 at 06:19 pm

I was just ordering our season passes, online, for the water park, when I decided to check the San Jose location to see if their season passes were priced differently. On a whim.

Wouldn't you know - they were far more expensive.

It will pay to buy them in Sacramento, though we will probably actually frequent the San Jose one more (his parents live right by the park and they can watch LM so we can do more big slides, etc. Plus we could literally walk over and avoid parking fees, etc).

In general, Sacramento tickets are cheaper for everything, since it is a MUCH LOWER cost of living area. Often we buy tickets here and are able to enjoy a lot of things in the Bay Area. For example, our zoo membership gets us into many Bay Area zoos. But we always check around which zoo membership is the best deal, etc.

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Anyway, today I completed a long put off chore. We opened a trust savings account so we could deposit our property tax refund.

It took about an hour.

What a way to spend a vacation day - blech. But could use the $$ for all the activity this month. Yay!

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Now I have to go buy tickets for tomorrow - another $100+. Ouch. It hurts to buy them all at once. But cheaper to buy online, and we have saved up the cash.

I am not opposed to spending the money, but it still hurts to drop $300 on TWO DAYS of activity. The decision was easy - paying the bill is hard! Oh yeah - well the water ones are season passes. We will have to get our use out of them. That makes it easier.

Got Ladybugs?

June 18th, 2009 at 02:11 pm

My dad took this picture in the Bay Area somewhere, BUT it looks like our neighborhood 1 month ago or thereabouts:



There seemed to be ladybugs everywhere, and we saw them congregating in a few areas like this. Not sure what it was about this year - or if we were just outside more than usual - during the day (due to school and tee ball).

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I checked the weather. Predicting 100 degrees today. UGH. We were going to walk to BM's school at noon for a BBQ. (We may whimp out and drive over).

Good weather for the water park, I guess. Worried we will fry - will remember sunblock.

Anyway, the website for the San Jose location says water is okay to bring in, but not for Sacramento. Seriously??????? Since it is only 10-20 degrees hotter here. I guess they make a lot of $$ selling water. It's pretty obnoxious. I was double checking since I was putting water on my list, considering the heat.

Their lockers are also something like $8.

Last we were in hawaii we purchased a water-proof wallet type thing you can wear around your waist. We bought it for snorkeling. & I tell you - we got our money's worth with that thing. We will probably just bring some cash and a credit card/ID. We will wear that and save our $8 - yeesh.

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The weather looks about 85 tomorrow for our amusement park visit. I am not thrilled, but could be worse. Hopefully it will be quite pleasant with all the water features there, etc. & I believe they have plenty of shade.

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Saturday and Sunday we don't have any plans. But to collapse perhaps!

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Oh yes, yesterday I took the kids swimming in the afternoon. I tried to wean LM off the floaties (per his swim instructor) but he wasn't going much for it. The pool was very crowded (a birthday party was going on - otherwise it would have been much more quiet) and I was nervous supervising both kids alone. So I whimped out and brought out the floaties.

Anyway, while we were there - and thankfully after LM was done swimming and the floaties were away (LOL) I noticed the swim teacher arrived and was giving lessons.

I saw her with a screaming kid, and later when we left he was laughing and having fun. Also, I did get LM to get out of his comfort zone and he practiced putting his face in the water and practiced proper swimming technique, with his floaties anyway. So I was glad I got anywhere with him (he can be pretty stubborn) and relieved to see his teacher deal so well with a little difficult kid. I left feeling that he is truly ready for swim lessons next week. Last year was just too soon - and this year for whatever reason he seems a little more up to it. If nothing else, he wants to be like his big brother.

I don't expect much, but I do expect him to at least be more comfortable in the water. & I am crossing my fingers that this teacher comes back for one more year. (She wasn't going to come back this year - but for the economy and a lost job!!). Anyway, she gives very reasonably priced private lessons at the pool down the street for our house. AWE-SOME!

Will see. It will REALLY depend on his mood comes actual lessons.

Free Summer Activities

June 17th, 2009 at 03:01 pm

I just marked up my calendar with free summer activities.

Unfortunately, most the library activities coincide with swim lessons and vacation, etc. We might make ONE event. But the kids will get free tickets to a pro basketball game - so that will be fun. (Though it will cost us money to go with them! Will see how much it costs).

I put all the free movies (@ theater) on the calendar. Not sure how I feel about spoiling the kids with a trip to the movie theater every week - hehe. I doubt they will go to them all though. (Just don't want them to expect it / get used to it).

Beyond that, we will probably spend a lot of time at the pool.

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Yesterday, our ROCK BAND arrived.

I probably sound like a broken record, but this is a perfect example of our style. We have friends who think we are very deprived because we don't run out and grab all the newest games, etc.

I remember literally, when Rock Band first came out, everyone was going on and on and on about it. & I said I was "saving my pennies for it" since it looked fun. & they just looked at me like I was crazy. LOL.

Yeah, that one really stands out in my mind. Particularly since of course, these are the same people who are always broke and have no money. Which is why they can't comprehend how "Monkey Mama with all the money is too cheap to buy Rock Band."

It felt like that was ages ago, but it appears it first came out in late 2007. So we have maybe only waited 18 months or 2 years (feels longer).

I don't see what's deprived about waiting 2 years, and paying 25% full price. Big Grin We will have just as much fun with it. While everyone else is playing Rock Band 2. We will get that one in a couple of years I guess.

Dh found it new online for $50, with shipping and all. This was one we could never find a good deal used. Too popular. Anyway, I know the price was "close" to $200 when it first came out. We got all the instruments, and the game, for $50. Woohoo.

& yes, it is FUN! Too much for the kids, but fun for us adults. We will have to play it when they are asleep or something.

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Yesterday was pretty exhausting. I felt like "Mr. Mom."

If I have to hear one more time - "That is not how Daddy does it!!!" & I didn't think to bring video games to occupy LM during BM's karate class. Oh well!

But yeah, this afternoon preschool sucks. Eat lunch early, drive to preschool. Come home for 1.5 hours (which was NICE and quiet), then pick up BM. Come home for 1/2 hour. Pick up LM. Went straight to karate because I was sick of coming home for short periods of time. We played at the park there and walked through the rose garden - before class - I will share pictures later.

Dh showed up mid-way through karate so I could go to aerobics.

That was sort of my last hectic day. Maybe not. Today I have to run to work to get my paycheck. Will eat lunch early so we can check out the science museum. It doesn't open until 12, but will have to leave at 2 to run to the bank and pick up BM, etc. We are more going just to check it out, since LM is free. See if we all should go sometime.

In the afternoon/evening we have nothing planned. Will probably go swimming - it's getting hotter. Which is fine for all our water activities planned the next 2 days. I really appreciated the first half of the week being much more mild. & even now we are only looking at 80/90 degrees, which I can deal with. Phew.

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Yesterday I was domestic and we had french toast for breakfast. French toast and watermelon (courtesy of Grandma).

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Yesterday, I quickly cleaned my car (not very well - in the daylight I saw I missed some spots with the vacuum!). But at least it looks better. In the past my car can get pretty filthy, but there really wasn't much to clean up. Vacuuming and dusting was all.

I cleaned up my bedroom. I just find either I don't have a lot of energy, or I am way more behind than I realized on house cleaning. I picked up all the clothes off the dressers, etc. & that was really about it. Not that I didn't do more - but that is really all the progress I made.

I did clear out the living room - but that one was easy. I clean it often enough - I mostly had to put away all our camping stuff.

I figured cleaning the bedroom would be easy (not a lot to it) and I may tackle the master closet. (A goal in my sidebar). But there was just no way. Not enough energy or time.

I decided to work on just general house cleaning today. Clear the piles off the kitchen counter and the dining table. It won't take very long and won't be so exhausting. Maybe file bills (I maybe have 3-6 months to file - I just throw them in a pile until I file them every so often).

If the house is decent, this will leave things like scrubbing the floors, clearing the master closet, scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning the kids' rooms - as future weekend projects.

But it would be nice to have the house presentable for guests. I think that's part of the problem - we haven't had guests in a while!

But I have been literally been cleaning 2 hours a day. I basically saved myself a full Saturday or something of cleaning. Phew. Tomorrow is busy but I have all morning so will try to do 2 hours tomorrow. Dh will be home too which will be nice.

Oh yeah - he earned $250 worth of Scholastic books (games, toys, etc.). Good lord, he bought a lot of crap. He will donate his $120 voucher today to the school. (I think I'd reverse that and spend $120 and donate the $240. If it were me!) We really need to go through and donate some old books. Our house is turning into a book museum.

Manic Monday

June 16th, 2009 at 03:07 pm

The funny thing yesterday is I petered out pretty quickly and was feeling un-accomplished. But if I add it all up, I guess it adds up to a busy/accomplished day.

**I cleaned the fridge. The only thing I really threw out was soda. AND I was impressed how un-dirty it really was since I hadn't cleaned it in a few years (maybe 2005, last?). The shelves in the door were another story. As I marveled how clean the fridge kept itself, I got to the shelves last - filthy! Mental note - pull those out and clean a little more often - all the fridge seems to need.

I did find 2 dead flies in there. Lovely!

**I dusted some blinds (feather duster was easy and effective). Was probably a first. The blinds in the kitchen were covered in filth and were hard work to wipe (Particularly lower and closer to the counter/sink). I flipped them around to see the back and they were pristine but for all the dust. I figured I better work on the dust - which meant I ended up going through most the house dusting blinds.

I dusted a few other things while I had the feather duster out.

**I dusted our 2 ceiling fans. The downstairs wood-finish one was filthy. The upstairs white one barely had any dust. I found that funny - I wondered if the white paint repelled dust. I think we need a white one downstairs too! Wink

**I washed everyone's bed sheets, plus our mattress pad and comforter. The comforter is still air drying - that one maybe gets washed once every few years.

I finally remembered to take the flannel blanket off LM's bed. The rest of us took off our blankets ages ago - it has been so hot.

**LM took a nap and I did veg out and watch some TV. I probably would have napped, myself (I love myself a 1:00 nap), but I didn't want to sleep through school pickup time! Which means I am not sure if I will get one nap during my time off. Bah!

**We picked up the car in the evening. Mechanic thought it needed a new EGR valve, with the computer code. But it did not fix the problem. He thinks we need a new computer and that if we are forceful enough, the dealer should replace it for free. (California has some pretty long emissions warranty, and this would be covered, even though we bought the car as-is - the emissions warranty stays with the car).

He could fix it for $800. Ugh!!!!

We'll go to the dreaded dealer.

He said the car was fine but we won't pass smog until it is fixed. Unfortunately, I don't remember smogging the car and I have owned it 3 years, so it's probably due later this year. Figures.

The last car I had was a 1993 model. I know it had a "computer," but it was before cars got so overly computerized. The van has never had any mechanical problems (knock on wood) and I wouldn't expect any since it is a 2005 model. BUT the computer issues are pricey and never ending. We already replaced some computer part in the $800 range. Unfortunately, feel stuck with the thing for now.

Dh's car will officially hit 100k miles this week. & all I can think of now is how we will probably replace the van sooner than his 2001 vehicle. Figures.

**We prepared birthday invitations for everyone in BM's class. We decided on Chuck E Cheese because it is EASY! We just show up with cupcakes, and will buy tokens and food for whoever shows up. I don't think it could get any easier.

Dh had some coupons for 100 tokens for $10 (or something along those lines). They are usually a quarter each - so he said he would stock up once or twice before the party, with his coupons. Smart!

Anyway, we realized with only 3 more days of school, we better get on it. BM helped me and did a great job. We still have to figure out who we will invite from LM's class, but there is no "end of year" deadline there. Phew.

We may be crazy though. I really don't expect everyone to show up. We had maybe 5 friends they wanted to invite in addition. We had an extra invitation so I told BM he could invite his favorite friend that isn't in his class. He decided on a 1st grader that I had never heard of.

Dh is still insisting on the family party. He usually does all the work, so oh well. All I have is my parents, but he has about 15 close family members around here. I guess I see why he cares about it more. But I think it's kind of overkill. I mean do they really all want to drive up here in the 110 heat? I think they would get over it if we skipped it. Wink The kids' birthday is always on some miserably hot day.

**Dh bought Rockband because he saw an awesome sale on Amazon, through another vendor. He had been watching the price go down as they clear out the "old ones." Well, like the next day they lowered the price $10. He was griping and telling me he didn't know what to do. I suggested calling and asking for a price match. He said they didn't have a phone # and he doubted an online store would price match. He ended up e-mailing them to ask for a $10 credit for a future purchase, at the least, and instead they immediately refunded $10.

Just another, "It never hurts to ask" point.

**We want to go to Gilroy Gardens this week. It is a little amusement park for smaller kids. Gilroy is a little town about half hour south of San Jose.

The story, that I know, is a wealthy guy built the park around his dreams. His passion was trees and plants and he wanted to build this non-profit theme park to teach kids about plants, etc. He was actually one of our clients at my last firm and we were auditing the place very early on - during construction. So I spent a lot of time there and saw the place being built. So I heard about this little gem long before most people, and I actually have pictures somewhere of it during the construction process.

They had built these beautiful gardens, and we got personal tours of the whole place. He had also built a residence there.

In the long run, I think the place mostly failed and they sold it to the city. It has since seemed to be revived.

Anyway, I was just remembering the cute little park we went to. We actually had a company picnic there after it opened, etc. I don't think I had ever been there outside of work.

BUT, I was checking out the website yesterday, and holy cow! I was completely overwhelmed by everything there. They have added SO MUCH stuff. I am not sure if a day will even scratch the surface. Will see. We may look into season passes next year.

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Today I will probably work on chores in the a.m. The thing about this type of spring cleaning is I don't "see" a lot of progress. I figure I can generally find time to clean the house though and so I want to focus on those things I never do. Even though the house needs a clean. Not sure I have the energy to "do it all!"

Still on Staycation

June 15th, 2009 at 04:13 pm

I am exhausted from the weekend. It was fun, but exhausting!!! Campout, BBQ, swimming all weekend, etc. Lots of fresh air though.

Dh is working for free books at Scholastic. We dropped the car off at the shop. I let him have the other car since all I need is a trip to the drugstore and to pick BM at school (both within walking distance).

& those are literally the only 2 things we have withing walking distance, so phew.

The weather is cooperating quite well too - divine spring-like weather. Hopefully it will get me in spring cleaning mode.

I told LM I would clean house until noon (all those little things I never get around to), then lunch, nap, and pick up brother.

WE have to pick up the car when dh is done around 4:30, and I offered to take BM to his karate class @5.

So much for relaxing!!! This was not exactly how I planned my staycation. Wink I didn't know dh would be "working" all week - bah.

But I am sure I will feel accomplished, and I will definitely enjoy the weather and the change in pace. Thankfully BM (the exhausting one) is in school. LM is content to play in the corner while I spring clean. When I get my car back we will get out and do a little more though. I won't ignore him all week! Wink

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Dh picked up a free new cell phone for me. Free after rebate anyway. Forgot we had to pay sales tax. Still an awesome deal.

It's really just about the same as my old phone but it is black (my fave color) and just looks cooler. Everyone keeps asking me what new features I have though. & funny enough, I think none.

It has a memory card in it so I can take pictures and get them off the phone, for free. Woohoo. It's probably a better camera than my old one. I am excited and will definitely be sharing more photos here. I just don't carry around our "bulky" camera much, so I am excited about this. There is so often I would love to take a picture of this and that. Like, the turkeys at work or the beautiful drive I often take to my aerobics class, etc.

The phone also has bluetooth - but doubt I will use that.

More Purchases

June 13th, 2009 at 12:07 am

**Dh got Rock Bank on deep discount (new). Well, will arrive next week. Big Grin

**I found a new home for our old light bulbs - woohoo. I asked a neighbor (just been lazy and hadn't gotten that far yet). We have a pile of original 2001 light bulbs from when house was new. We replaced with CFLs. (& these are the lights we use fairly often - some of our light bulbs will last decades. WE didn't replace the zillion barely used bulbs in the house).

**Reminds me, Ebay sales picking up again. Craigslist has been a wasteland. Not so many people getting rid of things for super cheap any more. Between that and the whole thing with my dad's health (Was crazy for a while in there), dh has probably not made a sale (or a good purchase) in 6 weeks. BUT he sold something today.

He showed up to buy something earlier this week, a DS, and it was literally held together with duct tape. LOL. That is what is priced low to sell these days. I can't quite put my finger on the economy. Maybe people are more desparate and asking for higher prices to begin with.

Needless to say, he passed on that DS.

**DH also spent $50 on green paint and lights. Out garage is half way to being a production studio.

**I tend to upgrade my cell phone every 4 years. I got a decent "free" offer today (& it has been about 4 years). We usually do not take the "crappy" free phones. We usually take the $30-$50 phones. IT may be free, but I don't like the idea of throwing away a phone every year or 2. But it was a good sale. Dh read the fine print and told me it was my dad's phone that the offer was for. Um, HELLO? Everyone on our phone plan got a new phone this year, but ME! LOL. Dh said he could probably get it for me anyway - he will try. FREE Sounds good to me. I think my odds are good considering I haven't upgraded in 4 years.

Of course we renew our contract for 2 more years (Verizon). We have had them for over 10 years - shopped around numerous times - I don't see us changing. Contract is a fomrality any more. Our plan is uber reasonable now that we have added my parents.

**With low prices I have been perusing airfare to various locations, and cruises, etc.

I was pricing Alaskan cruises and was surprised they were only a few hundred dollars per person (out of Seattle - which is perfect for us - we could drive up there in a day).

Anyway, a friend just told me he went on an Alaskan cruise, so I asked him which cruise it was. Wouldn't you know, out of San Francisco? I didn't even think to look - no idea we had cruises sailing from our backyard.

SO, I looked it up, and almost fell over by the price. 2 times as much, at least!

I double checked the Seattle cruises - couldn't believe my eyes. YEs, same cruise and everything, 50% off out of Seattle.

So, sailing out of SF means an extra $1k total and an extra 2-3 days at sea.

OR we could just spend 2 days driving, spend like $60 on gas and $200 (at most) on 2 hotel stays).

Time certainly becomes a consideration with these things, BUT the SF start wouldn't save us time - it would take MORE time. Plus I'd rather drive than cruise, personally. & the drive up the coast is gorgeous, I might add.

I think we will sail from Seattle...

It's tempting, because Alaska cruise is something we have always wanted to do, and it will probably be a little cheaper than Hawaii, in the end.

BUT, the sunny beaches of Hawaii sounds about 10 times more appealing to me.

All I know is I want to splurge for our anniversary, next year. Hawaii and Alaska are now the front runners. (& funny how they are so like opposite. Both beautiful though, no doubt about it).

Will see...

Staycation Plans

June 12th, 2009 at 07:01 pm

As of today, the weather is mostly on my side!

After having a fair amount of time off for 2 maternity leaves this decade, and not being much of a vacation person anyway, my LONG awaited staycation has arrived. Woohoo. I like just having some quiet time at home, and I have looked very forward to this for a while.

Unfortunately I have a fair amount of chores, but then again, that was kind of the point (to catch up a bit on those chores I never seem to have time for).

It will be a little busier than I had hoped, but oh well.

Today we have a picnic with the school.

Tomorrow we have a campout at a local park (if it doesn’t rain? Ugh). As a bonus, dh said we could look into some future camping reservations if the tent goes well (it was fine for our backyard run). For this year, as our vacation fund nears exhaustion, I would like to go to a local camping spot (like ½ hour away). It’s not very grand, but I have camped there before and it is dark enough that you can see the milky way. (Well, you could in the 90s! The area is getting pretty populated). We were disappointed there were so many lights at our Yosemite camp last year, so our goal this year is DARK camping. Maybe for next year we can reserve early enough for some prime beach camping. Now that we have a tent! (Last year we bought sleeping bags. Next year we can buy cooking gear).

Sunday we have a BBQ and will go to the Bay Area for the day. At least we can sleep in our own beds Sunday night – phew. Some family from both out of town, and out of the country!

Monday – Wednesday dh is volunteering (all day – ick) for some free books, etc.

Decided to take the car in Monday for some needed work (as to not cram it in with my work schedule. We don’t rent cars when we are one car less – it’s easy enough to work around. But easier yet when I don’t have to get to work late and leave early!) Though this will leave us carless. Hmmm, we could always drop dh off at his job – duh.

I FINALLY printed up some letters to transfer our savings into our living trusts. Next week we will go to the credit union to get it taken care of, and our $70 property tax refund CASHED. (I got it over a month ago and had pushed it to the side). While I am at it, I will try to get my online savings account transferred into the trust.

It occurred to me I should get my haircut too – has been a while – would like to chop it for summer.

I will probably tackle some big chores while dh is busy “working.” BM will be at school. LM doesn’t need much attention. (Though I am thinking of taking him to a science museum by my work, one we have never been to. Since he is free, we will check it out when I pick up my paycheck next week).

BM has a big BBQ thing his last day of school on Thursday, and we will probably go to the water park, since he gets out around noon. Yay!!!!

Friday I would like to go to an awesome “amusement park” called Gilroy Gardens (aka Bonfante Gardens). I will post all about that later. I have been waiting to take the kids on a weekday. They have never been – but it is more geared towards little ones – so we are running out of time.

Father’s Day weekend – will probably spend it with the our parents. We could spoil the kids and hit another museum. Or just play it low key. Depends how we feel.

For Friday, it depends on the weather. Our backup plan was the Natural history museum in San Francisco. We have been avoiding a weekend visit because it is so BUSY. I have horror stories of the crowds. (I wouldn’t go with my kids unless they were on leashes anyway – it gets so packed).

We are paying for all the splurge with our vacation budget.

Pictures

June 11th, 2009 at 12:47 am

These are pictures off dh's phone. I was surprised by the quality on some.

Also found these...

Sourdough bread store in San Francisco:





We saw the Weiner Mobile a few months back:



LM's favorite Fry's store. (He is train crazy. Dh is Fry's crazy).



{My cell phone has a camera, but we have no (cheap) way to get them off. Quality sucks anyway - it is a 4-year-old phone. I think this is our official first cell phone camera picture download}.

Piano Lessons

June 10th, 2009 at 03:59 am

I've been meaning to start the kids, in piano lessons, for a while.

MIL offered to buy BM lessons (awesome), when he turned 5, but the last year was so overwhelming with Kinder and all. Told her, "Maybe next year." I started age 6 - didn't see the rush.

Thing is I taught piano. The golden rule of thumb is to not teach your own children. There are reasons for this!!

That being said, dh brought it up today. I told him, sure, if his parents' offer still stood. Music lessons are EXPENSIVE! I know first hand. Wink

He mentioned his dad's layoff and all. Um, good point. Maybe the offer doesn't stand.

I then said we could always drop the gardener. (I would be less opposed these days since I have a wee bit more time - and we could all chip in).

Dh was not having it. Which is funny to me. I thought I was the one who HATED the yard work more than anything else. Then again, he never did it and he has more time. So, yeah. I guess he hates it about as much and doesn't want to get stuck with it.

I told him flat out, well, something has to give. We can not afford it!!!!! Maybe we can discuss when preschool is out of the picture. One more year there.

OF course, I think now is a good age, and I don't really want to miss that window of opportunity.

So, I decided to start giving the kids lessons. For the long run, they need formal lessons. For the short run, at least I can get them started.

I was about to buy some primer level books (clearly I don't have any) when I decided to go check my music stash before I pressed the final "buy" button online.

Wouldn't you know I had like TEN books. All the books in my shopping cart? I owned. Color me surprised.

Saved me some $$$$$!

I am not sure how usable some of the books are. Clearly they were mine from 25+ years ago. !!!! But, I had a few new books - some duplicates - lord knows why.

Since I stopped teaching (10 years ago?) I have lost most time and motivation to keep up, myself. Maybe I will institute practice for myself too.

(My parents gave me their grand piano since my sister moved across the country and they don't play. They gave it to us when we moved into this house. We had so many empty rooms...)

I figure while I am at it I will start teaching LM. He has music in his soul. I have a small keyboard he can practice on. He could probably handle the piano learning otherwise - the keys are surely too heavy for his little fingers though.

We'll see how it goes.

Reminds me, I need to get the piano tuned too.

Homemade Quesadillas

June 10th, 2009 at 12:31 am

Sunday, dh had the grand idea to make quesadillas (with homemade tortillas).

Really wasn't very hard (at all). I'm a homemade convert. Yum!

Also, went well with our homemade salsa. (I posted the recipe ages ago - I can find the link if anyone is interested).

Between that and his Indian food cooking classes, he is ganing quite the homemade repretiore. Mexican food seems to be MUCH simpler, overall.

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BM was invited to a birthday party at a VERY fancy house the other day.

Finances are very relative. Back home everyone was to broke by rent and house payments to think of much else beyond that. & hanging around the "new mom" crowd here has put us across most of the same type people. (young and BROKE!)

We have some neighbors who have a HUGE house, but their yard isn't much to speak of, they mostly bought it with equity from the Bay Area (like many here) and they don't seem to have a lot of toys (though certainly plenty of income). So, people like that, I just don't think much about it. They certainly have more, but I've never been intimidated in the least.

But more and more (through school and tee ball) we some to come across more JONESES types. I couldn't tell you if they could truly afford their lifestyles or not. Who knows; who cares. But if I think about it I really haven't been exposed to too much JONESES in my young life. IT is interesting. I could see how it could get a little depressing on some level, if everyone has more than you. I think most of my friends of more recent years, not only did I have a more intimiate knowledge of their finances (they come to me for financial/tax advice), BUT no one really had much to speak of. They kind of squandered their money. We always had the "nice house." & certainly compared to any friends and family in the Bay (we have more house, hands down - for FAR less money). I do admit there is something about a bigger, fancier home that gets to me a bit. & I have no idea why. Considering at some point I thought we would never own a home and I still have to pinch myself sometimes that we do!

Then again, I told BM if he had that much fun, well, there's a friend he has to make. Big Grin That's the cheap route - go play with the Joneses. Come home later - hehe.

I used to worry since we did buy in a rather upscale neighborhood, that the kids would run into the Joneses factor. That they may want want want a little more than we ever did in our average middle class neighborhoods. Funny thing is most of our neighbors are pretty practical and down to earth. It's people in the general area, in other neighborhoods that we have been noticing this with more. Who would have thunk?

Oh well - they are out there and I am running across them more. Basically, we feel knocked off the top of the heap. We will most certainly get over it. Big Grin IT's just, different...

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I have been pricing waterparks. I think we may surprise BM with a waterpark trip on his last day of school. There is one here that is actually a pretty good deal. (The other one is highway robbery - yeesh!!!)

In San Jose there is a park with a modest/cheap water slide park. Like 4 basic slides. I miss those. Everything had to get so dang big and fancy and expensive. We may try to hit that one too, sometime this summer. But, for the fancy one, we can convert one day passes into season passes (for San Jose location too - that one is maybe a small premium). Yeah, we will do that!

I also wanted to hit an amusement park we had never taken the kids too. Got to cram it all in on my week off!

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School board politics - GOOD LORD!

It is pretty nasty in our school district right now.

I feel blessed we have our little charter school (& our kids made it in/will make it in). But we aren't immune either. We are still in the district.

The school politics in itself have been a doozy. But seems preferable in comparison.

Weeks like these I hope my dh doesn't waste his time, energy and money on a teaching credential. I don't think he would last 2 seconds. He doesn't put up with bullcrap, and I don't think he could take it! He's just not the right personality for it, I am afraid. Which is too bad. He WANTS to teach those grades no one else wants (like middle school).

Real Estate Update

June 9th, 2009 at 12:28 am

Well, my house may be turning into a TV studio. Yipes!

Boo's post (summer suggestions) reminded me that dh told me his wild new plan is to paint a wall in our garage green. A year or 2 ago he put up a green sheet and did some "green screen" video effects with the kids. I think he got the idea because we just happened to have green bed sheets.

It worked out okay - though not perfect by any means.

Well, he got the Lowe's paint code for the perfect shade of green for green screen - along with good reviews of the paint color - so this is his new idea.

Sounds cheap enough as far as entertainment goes. Kids will probably LOVE it.

What didn't occur to me, when he told me this plan, is how he is working on a web-based comedic series. It just occured to me about now that this is a hint that he wants to use our garage for production. Hmmmm. I guess nothing wrong with that. Probably explains why he was looking into it in the first place.

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With all the foreclosures it's hard to keep track of fair market value in our neighborhood any more. The reason is foreclosures record as "sales" for the amount of the loan (far as I can tell). With time, 2 "sales" relatively close together is a clue. But I haven't been paying as close attention and am not sure on some of the public data if they are real sales or merely foreclosures. Though foreclosure is a pretty safe assumption?

A lot of the data points towards improvement, BUT the biggie around here is that banks have really been falling behind on keeping up with all the foreclosures. So there is a pretty giant "phantom inventory."

With the old foreclosures, our neighbors would move out, and a for sale sign would go up pretty quickly.

These days I know people who walked away late last year, from their homes, with no activity to speak of on the homes. So the lag is pretty clear.

In our own neighborhood there are a few clearly abandoned homes. 2 are just coming up for sale, though sales records show they officially foreclosed last December. I originally wasn't quite sure what was up with these 2 homes, but now it is obvious there is just some serious lag.

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So anyway, homes like ours have been holding steady in the $325k range for a while (for reference, we paid $300k in 2001).

I just saw 2 of the same homes recently sold for $280k. Ouch!

One looks like a foreclosure, so not sure it means much. BUT one had clearly foreclosed first, and then sold for $280k. In the meantime, a few homeowners and banks are asking in the $320k range. Will see!

At $280k, we would still have the enviable position of 25% equity. BUT, I still am not quite sure how low things will really go. For the long term I am not worried. For the short term, who knows.

My spouse says, "who cares?!?"

I understand his sentiment for the most part. But I do care. There is nothing fun about being trapped in a situation. & being underwater in a home is a much worse situation than we have been in our adult lives. Also, the potential for the neighborhood to fall into ruins is not good either. But, silly me for caring about that!

Beyond that, I do agree that we will cross that bridge if we come to it. IT just doesn't look so good, for now.

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The silver lining in this cloud is a reduction of property taxes, right?

Not so fast. A neighbor of mine who paid much more (with equity from another home) was refused a lower property appraisal last year. They needed to provide THREE comparable sales at lower prices. Ugh. Nothing is selling!

So one real sale at $280k means little.

I checked the dates, and value has to be as of Jan. 1 anyway. Too late for us - we had a $325k or so appraisal at that time. Our assessed value is currently about $320k. Our taxes can not rise more than 2% per year, by law. BUT we can lower them for fair market value decreases.

But, at this rate, we may be able to shave off a few hundred dollars a year, come 2010. For that, I have little issue with a home value more than our loan, but lower than we paid. In the short term, it helps.

That being said, we would have to set aside that money into savings - any property tax savings. If property values increase - we go right back to where we left off. Which means if your property taxes are lowered, don't forget about the future. IT's best to pretend like you still have that old bill...

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I am not sure of the median prices, but a quick run down of our home's more recent values:

2001: 300k
2002: 400k
2003: 500k
2005: 650k
2006: 500k
2008: 350k
2009: 280k (Ouch!)

You get the picture...

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Interestingly, I haven't bought much of what I have read/heard about the Bay Area. I remember like a year ago someone was saying you could find things for like $100k. As if!

From what I Could tell talking to firends and relatives who live there, prices were holding pretty steady. Lower, but not any significant drop. Certainly nothing I would call "affordable."

But that has changed. Their market is very different. But ugly, all the same.

They had something like a 40% drop in home values over the last few months of 2008. Talk about OUCH!

Median Home Prices San Jose (my home town):

1999 $300k
2002 $400k
2007 $700k
NOW $400k

Funny enough, dh's parent's home value have mimicked the median value. I guess they own a "median home." It's about 1300 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, built around 1970. Yup, that's what $400k buys you. IT's certainly nothing to write home about. (I am often misunderstood - nothing wrong with a median home - it's certainly more than we could ever afford there. BUT my issue is with the PRICE!)

Interestingly, condo values have dropped further. We saw our old condo is going for $10k-$20k less than what we originally bought it for (1999). Another ouch.

Lord knows why. I still don't see anything affordable about that market.

In the long run, median home values in Sacramento have run about 33% of the Bay, since we have lived here - about a decade.

So, I would pretty confidently say median home prices here have dropped back to around the $150k level, here. It was somewhere in that range when we moved here.

So anyway. So I regret moving? Um, no. Do I regret buying? Um no. I can't even put into words how much money we have saved owning over renting, the last 10 year.

Ask me again next year. But unless our neighborhood goes to hell, I won't get too caught up in the short term.

Do I wish I sold my home in 2005 and rented for a few years? HEck yeah! Big Grin

But yeah, I hear all this hype that the Bay Area is suddenly "Affordable." All I see is the same numbers that drove us away in the first place... At this point, nothing has really changed - just the same figures that led us to buy our current home in the first place.

A Lovely Summer Weekend

June 7th, 2009 at 03:36 pm

Okay, we went to the movies to see UP yesterday.

I am a pretty particular movie critic. BUT this is probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. LOVED IT!

The kids? Eh. They liked it, but I think it was a little deep for them. The first 10 minutes were entirely depressing (& a bit too much so, in my opinion, they could have toned it down a bit). Though the kids did like it, and maybe that is the genius in it - that it could be a movie so liked by kids and adults alike. There was definitely plenty to entertain the kids. Though probably a bit dark in some regards, for my taste (for the kids).

& thank you Pixar (& Disney too) for realizing we don't want to see 2 hour+ movies any more. YEESH!!!! This movie and the last couple we saw were closer to 90 minutes. THANK YOU!!!!!!

(We love Cars, but that is one crazy long kid movie!)

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Yesterday was a marvelous Saturday.

After the movie we went to the store and stocked up on smoothie fare. I just grabbed whatever juice concentrate was on sale, some fruit on sale (blueberries) and some frozen fruit and a giant tub of yogurt. Oh yes - and bananas.

Will be smoothie set for a while...

I broke out the smoothie maker in the evening, and it still worked, well. Phew.

We tried vanilla yogurt, frozen peaches, ice, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Yum!

I also had some bananas going bad and so cut them up and threw them in the freezer for a future smoothie.

My favorite recipe from years past is lemon yogurt, O.J. & frozen strawberries (I believe). I was thinking of trying that one today.

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The weather took a turn for the better so we decided to camp out in the back yard after all. A good trial run for next weekend. Assuming weather cooperates.

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Our neighborhood association had a BBQ yesterday, so of course we showed up for the "free" food.

I think we mostly planned to eat and run, but the weather was DIVINE. Plus, instead of the usual bounce houses, they had gotten water slides (smart). So we set up some lounge chairs in the shade and enjoyed the afternoon. (Let the kids run ragged while we relaxed!)

A+ to the BBQ, for sure. They didn't run out of food, and it wasn't a million degrees (like years past).

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At the BBQ we ran into our neighbors who moved a couple of doors down and snatched up a larger house with a LARGE yard.

They invited us over for dinner.

Our own yard is quite small by most standards, but larger than anything we thought we would ever own in california. So we are quite happy. (It's not the houses that are expensive - it's the LAND!). A yard is pure luxury here.

But man, what a yard!!!

It's nice to have a neighbor willing to maintain that - hehe. All the fun, none of the work?

I also have new appreciation for our landscaper. I would have said we went cheap. But I guess no one (prior owners) ever put any trees in that yard. & they are thinking of ripping out the irrigation and starting over. Ugh.

Our yard is looking pretty good, in comparison. Small, but nice.

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In the evening we camped out outside. So it was just an extremely simple weekend. I likey.

Not much planned for today. BM has a birthday party to go to. Probably should catch up on some chores...

Retiring Parents

June 3rd, 2009 at 02:44 pm

I am feeling financial pressure!

Not a ton, but dh and I were talking last night. About our parents. I said, "I feel financial pressure." Dh asked if it is because our "inheritance" may be lowered as our dads face forced early retirement.

Huh?

No. I know WAY too many people who are financially strapped taking care of their parents. & of course we would help our parents if they needed it.

I don't think in terms of inheritance. I think in terms of how much help will our parents need. They are quite self-sufficient (I think). But the truth is I come across more people taking care of aging parents, then receiving inheritances, in my line of work anyway.

So basically, I am the only person currently employed in my immediate family. & that is a wee bit of financial pressure!!

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Dh's dad is taking a forced early retirement this month. I've heard mixed things if he will look for another job or not.

My dad started disability (post stroke). Overall, everything is good with my dad. Good as can be. His employer is holding his job for him for now, and they are covering his health insurance - so that is good. His disability pay is quite ample. It's about his net paycheck anyway (which is quite large to begin with). & he is convinced COBRA is their saving grace since they were quoted $30k per year for private health insurance (pre-stroke!!!). COBRA gets him to age 60 and then there are other options.

I wouldn't be surprised if dh's dad does return to work, and I certainly expect my dad to return to work if he is able (he never wants to retire).

But since my mom "retired" in her 20s and dh's mom retired recently, we just realized all our parents will be unofficially retired at about the same time. How strange!

We are taking a wait and see attitude, and regardless of the grim nature of all this early retirement, we were thinking we should probably have a big party for them. Not now, but eventually.

I guess all this certainly does lower our odds of future inheritance. Somehow I think we will survive. Wink

My dad is 57. Dh's dad is around 60.

They will probably be fine (we got our financial smarts from them). My point though is: Things Rarely go as Planned! & all of this makes for a good reminder of that.

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Not much to report otherwise. Been kind of a no-spend week. May was spendy, so we figured no more spending until credit card closes (tomorrow).

In times of crisis I appreciate having the luxury not to count every penny. No doubt May was a little extra spendy as we cared for my parents. But I just appreciate not having to sweat it. So I have been a little removed from my finances, but I see nothing wrong with that.

The stock market has been doing so well, my net worth is up about $15k for the year (with that and all my saving). Well on my way to my $30k net worth increase goal. I've stagnated at $200k for a while (net worth) and so it's nice to move forward. I have no idea how temporary all this is. But I just enjoy seeing some positive numbers. Big Grin