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Long Week

January 30th, 2017 at 07:55 pm

**Last Sunday I took DL(11) to the art museum. We have a membership but I don't know if I have ever eaten in their cafe. In the end they had small salads for $4 and the food was *really* good. It's kind of perfect because he is hard to get there, but once he was there he had a blast. Now I know that I can bribe him with food.

**MH got called to work in Monday (I don't think they've ever called him last minute like that before) and I ended up having to pick up MM for his high school math class. I think it's the first time all year I've had to sign him out of school for that. I have taken him to math a few times, when he otherwise had the day off or maybe if he got out of his other school early.

Just 4 more months of this madness!

**Last week we went to three shows in San Francisco. It was a LOT. We drove there three days in a row. But we had a great time.

One of them was a show I had been wanting to go to for a long time, where random people volunteer to read from their childhood/teen diaries. Absolutely hilarious. Another was an Adult Swim show panel that we took the kids too. We had front row and center for all the shows. In the past the talent has been uncomfortable with kids in the audience, for more plain vanilla shows (like on network TV). Guess they wanted to curse but there were so many kids in the audience. I didn't know what to expect, but in this case they chose to completely ignore us. Phew! They have to figure either we know what we are getting into, or that we are just clueless. Wink We were the only weirdos that brought kids to that one. DL(11) is hard to please, but he actually really enjoyed it. The third show was a podcast; MH found some friends to go with him. Which is *amazing* because everyone is always so broke and busy. Especially on a week night. We had forgotten that we bought the tickets, figuring we'd just cover them. They reimbursed him the night of the show, so that probably covers most of our costs for the week (tolls and eating out). Had totally forgotten that we even paid for all those tickets, so that was nice.

We took the train when it was just 1-2 of us, to help with our sanity. It maybe saved a few bucks when MH went with his friends, and definitely cost more for two of us. But sanity is priceless. (& I mean, we still had to drive an hour to get to the train, but the last few miles is the worst of the drive).

**On Saturday we went to visit MH's parents after the show. His dad's birthday is this week and we gave him a $50 gift certificate (which was a free credit card reward).

**MH went to a free game night last night. Trying to mix up the frugal with the not-so-frugal...

**Our kids were getting cell service in the reverse order. But in the end I don't think DL(11) ever used, and then suddenly MM(13) wanted to hang with his friends after school. His school seems in the middle nowhere, but I guess is a reasonable walk from the library. Several of his friends wait for their parents there every day, but he's only free on short days. So we have just been giving him DL's phone on those days. MH brought it up and I admitted he'd probably want his own phone for the DC trip too. The problem is that his existing phone is not compatible with Ting. So MH picked him up a new phone this weekend. $100-ish. We didn't necessarily have time to wait for the usual deals we get. But MH told him we'd just cover it; he could pay for the difference if he wanted more. Being Mr. McFrugal, he didn't want anything more.

We need a SIM card, so we have yet to activate. But we are just going to give him DL's phone # and turn off the cell service on DL's phone. If DL decides tomorrow he wants to hang with his friends after school, we can turn it back on. So it seems best to just wait until he *really* starts using it. I still expect that they will both be using cell service by next school year and have already included that in our budget.

I leave you with a picture of a sunset:

Birthday Weekend

November 28th, 2016 at 11:20 am

This month has been a very long and trying month. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Lots of medical stuff with several family members. *sigh*

I think for now mostly everyone seems okay. Though I don't think anyone is "cured" or out of the woods. Four close relatives off the top of my head; no answers when it comes to any of them. Just random unexplained medical stuff.

Oh, and work is completely crazed. So... Yeah, that's why I haven't been bloggy.

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It looked touch and go for a while, but thankfully I had a nice birthday weekend. MH was a little under the weather, the weather looked pretty crappy, and DL freaked out when we tried to leave him with grandparents. (Which has *never* happened before, but you know he has been having issues). But... in the end it all somehow worked out. Phew!

Our original plan was to just stay south of San Francisco. We had wanted to do a hike and have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in SF. But with the weather (very rainy on Saturday) we let it go and just stayed close to our hotel. I chose Half Moon Bay, since I wanted to stay along the coast and didn't really want to stay *in* San Francisco.

It worked out really well. We just happened to drive through that area on our one-year anniversary and there was a spectacular thunderstorm. I guess the place is just kind of magical, to us. We ended up just spending the whole weekend in Half Moon Bay, which was quite all right.

The view from our hotel room:



Given the stormy weather, we were maybe a bit too close to the ocean. Yeesh!

Saturday we were able to do a nice morning and evening walk by our hotel, between rains. It was nice.

Sunday morning we did two hikes before we headed out. The sun came out at it was gorgeous that day.

It was extra nice since it's the first hike I've been able to do post broken foot. I really couldn't walk much when we went to Tahoe last month. We couldn't even do a small hike.





MIL slipped me $200 for my birthday. We actually spent about exactly $200 on food this weekend, including ordering pizza for the kids on Friday since we seemed to have no food in the house. So I already paid off the dining credit card for the month (closes monthly on the 25th) and threw the extra $200 to cover weekend dining expenses.

There was a restaurant next to our hotel which was absolutely divine. They had live piano music and excellent food. We spent $100 there Friday night. Saturday we went to the Moss Beach Distillery. I thought it sounded familiar. I guess it is a famous haunted restaurant. It used to be a speakeasy, as was the first restaurant we ate at. Otherwise we just kept it light. Didn't even eat out Sunday since our hotel served such a substantial breakfast.

I am grateful for the relaxing weekend. Work is just going to be crazy for the foreseeable future. I was planning to take this week off, but I don't see that is going to fly. Just not enough hours in the day. (Will have an extra week of vacation next year, if I don't use my last week up this year, which will be nice).

Edited to add: My birthday isn't for a few more days, but we celebrated ahead.

Summer Doings

July 30th, 2016 at 07:31 am

**Finished with the birthdays. BM insisted on making his own cake from scratch. Spent $44 on pizzas. Just had a party at our house.

I did take BM clothes shopping. He's a beanpole so we made do with the Boys section. I expect it will be the last time. Since LM has graduated out of school uniforms and this is BM's last year, I won't be buying ahead sizes on clearance any more. I also expect their clothing choices to diverge as they surpass uniforms and find their own styles.

I am pleased with how we made out though it wasn't planned. He picked out some $5 shorts. The school shorts were reasonable and so I bought 4 pair. I just told him I'd buy a 5th pair when I know they fit well and are comfortable. Will see if 5 sets of uniform clothing will get him through the year.

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I suppose that it's nice that I am not hosting a birthday party at my house or driving 4 hours round trip this weekend. But I think I over-scheduled since we haven't had time for anything else but birthdays lately.

I told the kids we could go to the "Wipeout" pool this weekend (has inflatable obstacle courses). It's a bit of a drive and will take up a chunk of the day.

I recall pictures weren't working when we found this place last summer. Here are the obstacle courses:


Next weekend LM has his drama camp showcase and everyone wants to come up to our house for that. I am exhausted just thinking about it.

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Today we plan to get BM's new checking account set up. I expect it to make my life a little easier. I am hoping to set up electronic "direct deposits" for his allowance (which is still a whole whopping $2 per week because the kid just doesn't spend any money). He will also be able to do phone deposits. So I am hoping to be less of a middle man for his finances.

Yesterday I sorted out all the kids' birthday money and we went to the CU to withdraw their 7% interest. (Those accounts are maxed out so they aren't earning anything on the interest). I thought maybe we'd withdraw once or twice per year. But as someone who has always done 99%+ of her banking remotely, yeah, I have not bothered to go more than once per year. I admit that we were right there anyway and there was no line. It's just relative.

I sorted all of LM's money stuff with him. He's got a $20 birthday check from Florida Great Granddad. $28 of interest from other CU. $19 left from Grandma's souvenir gift money. Plus $17 piggy bank money to deposit ($11 of which was birthday money from my sister). I'll deposit the check for him while I am at the other CU tomorrow. The rest, I took the cash and will do an equivalent transfer to his savings account.

LM is up to $600 cash!

BM has a $20 birthday check from Florida Great Granddad. $35 of interest from other CU. $30 left from Grandma's souvenir gift money (because he spent $0 of it). $26 from his piggy bank.

BM is up to $900 cash!

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Last month was spendy and it was hard to justify spending any money the last week or so. I am relieved our credit cards have all closed for the month and we are on a "new month".

Yesterday dh and BM went to the movies. Dh had a free ticket and so just had to pay for BM.

My plan was to take LM to his favorite sandwich shop since I had a free sandwich coupon (in exchange for giving blood). I thought we'd do our own thing while they were at the movies, but dh moved in on our dinner. I agreed because it was right by the CU and would save me a trip to the CU on Saturday since I wanted to take both kids with me. We banked while dh ordered for us. He had a free sandwich reward thing and so we only had to pay for 2 sandwiches.

(To be clear, the kids have the 7% accounts at some other CU that we are not members of. So we are going to the other CU to set up the checking account. They both seemed to offer fairly equal terms for youth checking accounts, but my CU is walking distance from our house and I can do electronic transfers to/from kids accounts since we are all members of that CU. It wins on convenience).

We went to Togo's and their meatball sauce was kind of weird last time I had a meatball sub. Fearing the worst I haven't re-ordered for a while but I thought I would redeem my free sub sooner and meatballs was sounding really good after giving blood. So I got that in my craw. Sad to say that after 30-ish years, if not more, they changed their meatball recipe. Do NOT LIKE!! Frown I'd probably be more devastated but LM has got me on another sandwich. Oh, and I am kind of addicted to their chicken salads also. The dressing is so good, and maybe that will get me through this. That meatball sauce was just *so good* before. Maybe I can find a recipe that is close.

The Turkeys are Out

February 6th, 2016 at 08:16 am



I saw 20-30 turkeys while driving into work today. These guys were keeping the cars in check.

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February 5:
-0- Spending
Dinner: hobo dinner (crockpot meatloaf + potatoes)

Planned spending for the weekend:
Saturday - weekly groceries
Sunday - haircuts

BM agreed to a haircut, which happens never, so I will drag him along with me.

May Doings, New Project

May 10th, 2014 at 06:32 am

Shifting from work mode to play mode, over here.

I took yesterday off, which was first weekday off since December. Having 3 days off feels like having a week off, after tax season. Big Grin

Dh and I went on a beautiful hour long hike about a 40 minute drive from our home. I just googled "easy" and this is what I came up with. It was close and it looked gorgeous, and it was indeed easy. We were rewarded with a waterfall at the end of the hike.





Afterwards, we went over to Fry's for 50 cent hot dog/soda meals. Dh picked up a blu ray on sale for $9.99. The full prices of those blu rays astound me. Yeesh! ($40 for a movie??)

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Other May doings:

**Robot Wars seems to be a no-go this year. I haven't heard anything as to what happened with that. Frown Frown Frown

So, we have plans to go to the Maker Faire this month, instead.

"Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned."

You name it, they will probably have it. I expect to have some interesting pictures to share.

**This weekend the kids have a birthday party at a rock climbing place. The place has a very reasonably priced summer camp, so we make look into that for BM. He probably needs a membership to one of these places. He is a born climber.

I also noticed the drop-in play place was open Sunday. Hard to get open play on the weekend, due to birthday parties. So, I may take the kids. It's only $7 per kid and it might as well be Disneyland, as far as they are concerned.

**For Memorial Day weekend the HOA has a BBQ and turns on the pool heat.

BM will be at camp that week with his 5th grade class. IT sounds fairly identical to the family camp we always go to in June. I think he will have a blast.

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We have a movie theater in our home. Which I have mentioned before, but probably not much the past few years. My husband is deaf in one ear, post brain tumor. & so I think this has really dampened his enjoyment of the theater room. In addition, he has since bought a couple of HDTVs (which are smaller screens but higher quality). We are also both fairly set on downsizing, so I don't think anyone here has been too upset that the theater room is not getting a lot of use. We aren't taking it with us. (Will just buy a ridiculously large TV for our new home. Which can be way more expensive than our theater setup, but will work better in a smaller space).

BUT...

Dh is getting renewed interest in utilizing the room more. I told him I was more than fine with him upgrading the projector. I know he has been unhappy with it for a long time. I did express my concerns about long-term future. But we both kind of feel if we have the space and the equipment, we might as well enjoy it. We don't plan to downsize for another 15 years or so.

So, we have a loose plan to build a platform for the seating so it is at a more ideal height. & this will allow us to add another row of more formal seating if we ever want to. For now, we have some old office chair and bean bags, which I think will work for a long time. We've been using those anyway, but more seats will work better with the back row raised. I don't think dh cares that much about additional seating aesthetics, but I will keep an eye out on Craigslist for theater seating. The only reason we ever bought theater seats in the first place was we stumbled onto an incredible deal. I am sure we can find a deal on a second row.

Before dh and I discussed it, I was kind of thinking we had really gotten pretty up to date on everything. Finished furnishing our home a couple of years back (took it very slowly over the years) and replaced most our electronics in the past year. I was thinking that really the only thing on our wish list at this point is to replace the old projector. We've agreed to probably do that after Christimas. Dh's parents have been generous lately and if he wants to take all of what they give us at Christmas, I am fine with that. Will probably work on the seating before that since it should be fairly inexpensive to build a platform.

I don't know if I fully realized how much dh has been sulking around the last 4 years, but he seems to be snapping out of it. I am so happy to see him impassioned about his movie set up again. I think financially the timing just works, too. This may have been a ridiculous splurge 2 years ago and it might be two years from now too. But for now, it works. I think his parents will likely pay for it anyway. They have been fairly generous the last couple of Christmases, with cash gifts.

We are waiting until Christmas to see what his parents give us and what kind of year we have financially. We can buy a much better projector for $1,000-ish otherwise. But holding out to potentially spend closer to $3,000 of gift money. Whatever our budget, we will make it work. A $1,000 projector will be a significant improvement.

Our home theater setup is fairly simple. It started with an inexpensive projector on a small table. That was when dh had a dream and we all thought he was a little insane. Wink

We eventually bought a screen and seating, and a new ceiling mounted projector. Around $3,000-ish for all that, but it was about 5 years into this whole movie theater thing. For the first 5 years, a blank wall and a projector and some hand-me-down couch was the setup. We have had the current set up for about 10 years.

That's the bulk of it. Dh has a surround sound setup that he bought in college. He eventually bought a fancier tuner and a blu ray player, but can watch most anything through his computer.

I share because I think it's something really important to share as far as debt free living. It has never been about deprivation for us. It has always been about being creative, and usually means having more than other people anyway. It means starting small and building up. Which is how we approach just about everything. I couldn't tell you how a $30,000 theater set up is any better than our current $3,000-ish set up. The difference would be fairly indiscernable to most. (Especially when you turn out the lights!!) Yes, our projector is outdated, but that would happen no matter how expensive we went. It's a 10-year-old projector and TV technology has blown it out of the water in that time. Dh is fairly confident that this projector will be the last one he ever buys. For this house, anyway. We may be able to swing a theater setup in a smaller space.

As an aside? Technically we paid an extra $30,000 for the room for this theater. That is not exactly frugal. It came to be when we moved to our lower cost haven. We figured we might as well splurge on that because we were saving *so much* on housing. BUT, at then end of the day, since we bought new construction we got the extra space at a deep discount. Today the extra room fetches a premium of about $100,000 over the smaller homes in the same neighborhood. I had to share because I think at the end of the day this little splurge will have been a fairly profitable investment. (It's been like that since Day 1 and was obvious we got an incredible deal on the extra space. Which is why we chose this house in the first place. The space was perfect and the price was right!).

Relaxing Weekend

February 3rd, 2013 at 02:34 pm

**I am so happy to be home. We had a nice/relaxing weekend, and I think dh had a GREAT time (I think he appreciates breaks like this more, being with the kids every day). BUT, I slept terrible, and killed my back staying up last night to watch a movie on their small TV/uncomfortable couch. I told dh, "I know this place is fancy schmanzy, but I like our home MUCH better!!" We certainly have a much nicer TV and a much nicer bed and couch! Big Grin

So, I am personally just glad to be home.

WE did soak in the hot tub this morning, and my back does feel much better.



Last time we went to Napa, we gave it a try and saw the sights and did the wine tasting. This time the location was just chosen for the last minute vacancy. We decided to stay in and relax. That we succeeded with. I think dh's mom was appalled that we did stay in and did a take and bake pizza. LOL. Frankly, nothing appealed to us about going out and spending a ton of money. We did order some room service, the take and bake pizza our local grocery store does is A+, and we went out for an excellent Greek lunch. So, certainly no complaints from us. Since she did slip us $60 (I suppose was for dinner?), I don't think we will spend any of our own money for this trip. At least the vacation budget will remain intact for *this* weekend. Phew!! {We did have to pay $10 for the room - for whatever reason - it has been $0 generally lately when we use their timeshare points}.

We also did go walking for a couple of hours - bird watching by the marsh. There was absolutely no one there; I only wish we had thought to bring binoculars. But still saw plenty of beautiful birds, and enjoyed the peacefulness.





Weather was pretty nice, but not as warm as expected. I still broke out the flip flops and worked on my tan a bit. Big Grin

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Room service: I had to order again because last time we were in a splurgey mood and ordered smoked salmon, toasted bagel, chive cream cheese, red onions and capers. So we ordered again this time, but I think what I should do is just re-create this at home. YUM!! We are entertaining in a few weeks, and will have to remember this. I wrote it down so I do not forget.

While at the store picking up our pizza, I also noticed ranch/carrot packaging with sunflower seeds. I had never thought of that. I just picked it up because it looked tasty, but we always have these ingredients on hand at home. So I will have to remember this next time we entertain, too. Or to keep on hand for the kids.

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In other news, we went to San Francisco twice last month, AND my friend just bought a home in San Francisco. !! That is another post for another day. But looks like I may be going back in a couple of weeks to see her new place.

{Short version - paid $500k+ to own 1/4 of a home/four-plex kind of thing. She will probably fare better than most the locals who can't hang onto their $100k-$300k homes. So though it sounds kind of crazy insane to me, I am also not too worried about her finances. Wink Just because she is crazy insane frugal, and I do think her parents would help her if she lost her job or anything like that}.

SO, I looked up once again into getting an electronic toll tag, and for the first time it actually makes some financial sense. In fact, I almost got one for each car before I read that it had to be used at least once a year. Unlikely with our van, as we try to drive the gas sipper for longer trips and especially for big city parking. SO, we decided to just get one. The fine print on the toll tag said we could switch it between cars. So, PHEW! That is PERFECT!! {THey did not say this so much on website, as they prefer you do not switch it. But for once in a blue moon, makes me very happy. Now I just have to remember. !!}.

This is kind of significant to me, because when we moved here, one thing I felt like was that we were not much farther out from San Francisco. BUT, in the end we never go (directly from home) because the bridge is such a nightmare. So, I am so happy to erase that part as a downside to our low-cost-of-living move. No more waiting hours just to get past the toll booths. WOOHOO!!

Pretty Sunset

January 18th, 2012 at 11:02 pm



The sunsets and sunrises have just been GORGEOUS the last few weeks. Of course, we have barely had a cloud in the sky, either. I have been enjoying as I seem to be driving to work with the sunrise and driving home with the sunset, lately. IT probably won't last much longer as the days are starting to get longer.

Some storms are rolling in so I saw some clouds today...

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Tomorrow is dh's birthday.

He didn't really want anything on the food side (weird to me - we celebrate with FOOD). But I remember he really likes my fudge, so will make that tomorrow a.m.

I also decided to just take the kids to school tomorrow, as a surprise. I am off of *school drop off* until tax season is over, otherwise. Work is purely INSANE and so I probably shouldn't do it. But, many years we go away for the weekend, so I figure sleeping in a bit one day won't hurt too much. That will probably be dh's best present.

OF course, part of my concern with this plan was that I was also meeting dh for lunch. Will just have to be uber productive at work tomorrow...

Going to the "free on your birthday" sushi buffet. I guess we will celebrate with food.

I think I will also let him get that stupid quieter garage door opener. Haven't seen the point, but we were advised to replace it (by my dad) since it has been giving us some trouble. I keep putting it off due to cash flow, etc. But I guess since I know we have enough equity for refi (not tempted to put cash towards that) and since BM didn't need that $150 for track, after all... Will probably just tell him to get it. If I was really nice I would buy it and get it installed, but I think he can handle it. He's got infinite more time than I do right now. I might have arranged it if I thought of it sooner. I think I was too up in the air with this refi and thinking we should wait. IT was the cancellation of track which swayed me - $150 extra all of a sudden.

Dh will appreciate it because he has to fix it when it gets stuck. Wink Which it hasn't done in a while, and would be nice to replace before it gets stuck again... He's wanted a *quieter* one since the day we moved in (it's been 10 years) though the rest of us could sleep through anything and our bed is nowhere near the garage door anyway.

Of course dh tells me the other day when I brought it up, "The noise doesn't bother me any more." Seriously??? 10 years of complaining, I give in, and that is his response? But I think he will be happy anyway.

German/Irish Cookie Recipes?

November 29th, 2011 at 06:45 pm

Here are all the butterflies we couldn't see when we went to the beach the other day:



WOW! It just wasn't quite so impressive down on the ground. (My dad sent me this picture and was also surprised how many there were).

Next time we will have to remember our binoculars.

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BM needs to work on a big cookie project for school. He is supposed to pick a recipe from his heritage. I told him he was American and we have been here for several generations - and I have no non-American recipes. I have a great chocolate chip cookie recipe from his Grandma, and is the best I could come up with. I googled it to check that chocolate chip cookies were American. Encyclopedia BM already knew the answer to that.

Anyway, we googled German cookies and found a couple of recipes, and I said we could try a couple this weekend and see what we like best.

BUT, if you have any Irish or German cookie recipes, please share. Of course, preferably the easier the better since he has to make a how to book of some sort. We ruled out some of the recipes with 20 ingredients.

I still think we should just pick something American, but that just isn't as cool!

There will be lots of baking in my house this weekend!

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Tonight we tried this recipe:

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

http://www.netplaces.com/potluck-recipes/healthy-vegetarian-...

Thumbs up!

Dh got a few free recipe books on the kindle - so this was one of those - glad I could find it online to share.

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Today I received that annual refund from Chase. YAY! I will have to update my rewards tallies. Maybe tomorrow.

Plastic Jungle is less impressive this round. Last time they struck me as lightning fast - I sold some gift cards for cash. This time it took them EIGHT DAYS to receive half of my gift cards. The other half has apparently not arrived yet. They clearly closed their offices for the holidays, but from 2 to 8+ days is a little ridiculous. (To be fair, the US Postal service has gone amazingly downhill the last decade, and I use it as little as possible any more - I understand it may not all be their fault - but I think the Holidays slowed them down VERY considerably).

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Tomorrow is back to work for me. The end of lazy and the beginning of CRAZY.

Perfect Beach Day

November 28th, 2011 at 09:30 am









I am so glad we made it to the beach yesterday.

First off, gas was significantly cheaper from last time we filled up. Yay!

We got to my folks house around noon and gave my mom her kindle (Christmas/Birthday present). She seemed to love it though we couldn't get their library system to work with it. Dh will figure it out. Or maybe it is just the library. Oh well!

We ate lunch at Burger King and it only took 45 minutes to get to the beach. Dh is definitely not a beach person, but with the short drive I realized it would be really easy to take the kids again. It was just a "Gee, this is a lot closer than I remembered!!" kind of moment.

We saw the monarch butterflies, and it wasn't all that exciting. There were a lot of them, yes. But they were all way up in the trees, so not much to see.

That said, the beach was AMAZING. I had never been to this particular beach, but it is definitely now my favorite.

The tide pools were amazing. We ended up getting there so late we stayed for the sunset and the low tide.

IT was crowded, which didn't bother me, BUT everyone and their brother was there to take pictures of the sunset. We moved away from the main picture focus to a little beach off to the side, and I heard someone say about my kids, "We should tell those kids to get out of the way." I could only think: Rolleyes Some of us were actually there to enjoy the beach and not just take pictures of it. Thankfully, they decided against asking the frolicking kids to get out of their way.

Of course, I figured we'd do Taco Bell for lunch and the deli for dinner - keep it cheap. BUT, my parents took us out to my favorite mexican restaurant for dinner. We might have gone anyway, but my birthday is this week so was an early birthday dinner.

All that, and we got home by 10pm.

Oh, and the weather was just perfect. I was questioning the weather report I saw because on the drive we mostly saw thick fog, both ways. But it was a very sunny and beautiful day at the beach, which is hard to come by. Thank goodness weather.com did not lie! Big Grin Since when is the land covered in fog and the beach clear and sunny? Bizarro! It's usually the opposite around here.

I have today off of work. & tomorrow I have a seminar. So, I have been very happy with this vacation. IT was kind of spontaneous, but I mostly prefer to stay close to home and keep it low key. As such, I definitely feel very refreshed! It was a very good call.

IF we have time, we might go to the art museum today. If not, we will maybe go Sunday instead. Today will mostly be a lazy day at home.

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Credit card closes on the 4th (Sunday) and so not much fiscal I have to do before then. At that point I should have a good sense of our 12/31/11 status.

When I get paid on Thursday I will pay the mortgage and the property taxes. The assessed value of our home went down about $7000, but the taxes went up with all the voted tax increases the past year.

My mom did slip me $40 for groceries on T-Day, per usual. Yay!

Anniversary Update

September 24th, 2011 at 05:33 pm

I thought Great-Grandma sent us $20, but it was actually $40. Woohoo!

Grandma sent us $100. Double Woohoo!

If we were smart, we'd save that up for a really nice dinner in Napa in several weeks.

Anyway, we couldn't agree where to go and I was in an "eating out" mood last night. We decided to eat out two nights in a row. What the hell. Dh said we should celebrate cutting cable, too.

So, spent $50 last night.

Tonight we are going to a newer Benihana type place in our neighborhood. (We had decided Thai food, but we drove by the Benihana type place and thought it would be fun to check out. If it as good as we hear, will have to take our parents sometime).

& if all we can justify is Taco Bell on our weekend getaway - so be it!

We actually did get our Olive Garden gift card today ($5) but we weren't expecting it and made other plans. I still haven't found the other one, anyway. Rolleyes When I find it, we will meet there for a lunch date without the kids. I don't generally lose things, so I am REALLY annoyed, but I am also positive it will turn up soon.

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Thanks to Baselle, we went to the auto museum today (Free Museum Day). We chose this museum because we had never been (only free one in area that looked interesting, besides a couple of museums that we had been to before). We had to pay for the kids, since was only 2 free tickets per household. So, it cost us $8 (& we saved $16 on adult tickets).

Wasn't sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed it.

Lots of historical cars, as well as some interesting stories, unique cars, etc. Really, quite the museum!

OF course, BM has done two reports now on Henry Ford (one last week) and so he REALLY enjoyed it. We got to see a mock up of Henry Ford's first car creation (Quadricycle), which we knew all about from BM's report last year. & they had one of Mrs. Ford's vehicles - the very one she had owned. Talk about some serious history.

Of course, my favorite car was Linda Ronstadt's black porsche. It was showcased next to Governor Brown's car, since apparently they were lovers at some point.

Black is just my favorite color - the car was pretty sweet.

I thought this was pretty cute:



The *world's first snowmobile* (IT was an add-on kit for the Model T Ford):



Probably one of the most unique cars was Forbe's money green Lamborghini:



I didn't take a picture of the last one, but regretted it. But, it was easy to track down. With the head-on view, I hadn't noticed the gold tires, but did notice that the interior was very gold.

One of the more interesting stories was a 1920s era vehicle which was traded in at the local Dodge dealership in the 1970s. The Dodge dealership restored the vehicle and donated it to the museum. "Hi, I'd like to trade-in my 50-year-old vehicle. I think it is time for something new?"

First Day of Fall

September 23rd, 2011 at 08:45 pm



Picture is of the first day of fall, on the river by our home. (I didn't take this picture, but it is gorgeous).

Of course, the first day of fall pretty much went unnoticed around here. IT was about 90+F degrees.

I just happened to notice that the "no heat challenge" usually start around the first day of fall. (On the first day of Fall?)

Of course, it is not usually so HOT here, this time of year. A/C has been working HARD, so hard to think beyond summer.

Maybe we won't need heat until next January... Lord knows - weather has been wacky all year. Of course, this would only be useful if we weren't running the AC so much!

Camping Mt. Diablo

August 21st, 2011 at 05:42 pm

{See last post for some older photos I finally got around to posting.}

With the likes of Tahoe and Yosemite in our backyard, it's probably no wonder we have NEVER heard of this gem before. We went camping on Mt. Diablo this weekend, and it was just amazing! (& a MUCH shorter drive - turned out to be about 80 miles from our home).

We met my dad for lunch around 1:00. We met at a fabulous and reasonably priced Thai restaurant. We feasted! I thought, "Where else can you eat authentic Thai cuisine, and drive 15 minutes into the wilderness for some amazing camping!" Maybe other places, but not many?

Our plan was to set up camp (check in 2:00), explore the famed "rock city," and drive up to the peak in the morning before we left, for the views.

Wildlife spotted: primarily deer, hawks, owls, coyotes (?), rabbits. Which isn't terribly exciting because these are the same animals we see at home. But, we saw the coyote a handful of times running around very close. Was beautiful. I suppose we also saw a lot of lizards. I didn't see any spiders bigger than a centimeter or so, so no complaints!!

"Rock City" was just amazing. BM loves to climb anything and everything. & though I held my breath a few times and had to chastise the kids to be more CAREFUL, they just had a BLAST. It was a huge rock playground. Just beautiful!

When we drove in we saw there was a star gazing event, and decided to go. (What luck!!!) Just BM and I went with Grandpa. We drove up to the top of the mountain and saw the most AMAZING sunset. We were above the fog rolling in, and arrived at a great scenic overlook just as the sun finished setting over the horizon.

At the top of the mountain, the night sky was pretty amazing for how early it was and how much light was coming up from the valley down below. If we had been up to staying longer, would have been even more amazing. The fog was starting to roll in (below us)and drown out the city lights when we left closer to 10pm. The moon was nowhere to be seen, and the sky couldn't have been more clear. We saw a handful of shooting stars. Basically, several people were there to show off and share their telescopes. IT was so much fun!!! We looked at several planets, galaxies, nebulae, stars, etc. I used to have a telescope, and love astronomy. We had actually planned this trip in the hopes of spotting the tail end of the recent meteor shower, but got much more than we had hoped for!

In the morning we hit rock city one more time to let the kids play, and then drove to the top. We stopped at the same scenic overlook again. Camp was very foggy and WET in the morning (got to test the water proofness of our tent - it passed. & it was so clear it would have been easy to leave off the water proof cover. It has sort of an open design for watching stars, etc. But for whatever reason we put the whole thing up. It felt like a little rain, when I Walked away from the trees, but was possibly just fog and condensation that hit our tent all night. My dad said the coastal redwoods get gallons of water from the fogs and he never quite understood that (until he slept under a tree in the fog!)

Anyway, so we drove up above the fog line and just soaked in the view for a LONG time. We decided to not drive to the very top of the peak since the observation tower was temporarily closed. I think we were happy with what we were able to see!

The peak was about 3500 feet - and probably the highest peak in the Bay Area. (I am not sure, but we saw several peaks in the distance that were quoted as being 2500 feet high - like Mt. Tam. I suppose we only got a view of the west, so not sure what else can be seen on the east side. Heck, to the east are the Sierra Nevadas. REAL mountains, but those are far off in the distance).

We let the kids play on the rocks some more before we drove home.

Throw this in the "vacation lifestyle" category because it was about on par with our last Hawaii vacation, but was mostly a 24 hour vacation! & certainly MUCH cheaper!!! We are definitely going back for a whole weekend next year. & is a good spot for day visits as well (when driving to/from visiting family).

Frugal note: We took gas sipper (compact vehicle). We were able to easily fit all of our camping gear (for 4), 4 camping chairs (clearly not necessary), etc. I share because most people look at us like we are crazy to try. Big Grin Of course, kids have short legs so not like there is any need for more space. I just find it funny how giant vehicles are seen as such *necessity* in this day and age - the minute you have one child. & yes, we have a minivan, but it is certainly not a necessity. Anyway, was for the best because we probably couldn't have parked at the campground otherwise - not a lot of room for cars. The gas sipper can squeeze in anywhere (& squeeze we did!)

Pictures Long Overdue

August 21st, 2011 at 04:45 pm

First off, camping was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, and there were no tarantulas to be seen.

I will do a separate post to share some pictures, and events of weekend.

When getting pictures off my phone, I realized I hadn't taken any off my phone in a while.

So, here are a few random pictures:

First, just a small part of the spread for public TV volunteer appreciation dinner:



Last time we were at six flags, BM was wearing a very bright yellow shirt. The fish seemed VERY attracted to him - they all swam over to him at once and popped their heads out. We realized a lot of the staff wore yellow and they probably thought BM was there to feed them. Was just funny!



We saw tons of butterflies there and at the Academy of Sciences. This is just one of many amazing shots.



We did go to the free symphony concert (+ free ice cream) at our alma mater a few weeks back. The place was a mob, but we actually found a pretty nice place towards the front. This is maybe 1/4 of the crowd? But the concert was absolutely amazing. There was no traffic/crowd parking - maybe we knew better where to park.



We passed this house on the way to camping on Saturday. There were also several homes on the base of the mountain. I looked up this house just to see if I could find a better picture online. The real estate in the area was amazingly cheap considering what it is and where it is. ($1 millionish - but heck - we have friends and family who own pure crap at those prices). This may be my new dream place to live or get a second home. I didn't price out any condos, but I am sure if there are any there they would be very reasonable. & even owning a house on the mountain is not entirely unfathomable. I suspect some of the pricing is the economy, and the rest is the "out of the way" factor. (Homes on the mountain were on lower section - higher up was state land).



This picture does not do justice, but we caught the sunset last night (unplanned, and didn't have my camera with me!). It was probably the most amazing view I have ever seen in my life. We were above the fog rolling in. Picture didn't come out as terrible as I expected.



Now I have to go through my camera pictures, and no doubt my dad will have some amazing shots from his super fancy camera!

Aloha #2

September 27th, 2010 at 10:15 am

After continually reading that all the BEST views take treacherous hikes and routes by sea, we were awed yesterday that we were able to just drive up to the first 2 vistas. (The pictures do not do the views justice!)

Just amazing!





We then hiked 8 miles round trip through a swamp to see this:



LOL. Actually, it turned out that we felt lucky to have such spectacular views for our first 2 stops. We looked up the last one when we got back, and thought, "eh." Picture #2 was at the beginning of the hike - and I don't think anything could beat that. We didn't see anyone the 4 miles in, but on the way out we saw quite a few people disappointed by all the fog. We got (mostly) stunning views and a cool hike back - so no complaints from us.

Every day is just more amazing here. I can't believe we have 3 more days to explore!

Aloha!

September 25th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Ah, this is heaven!

September is the time to be here. We have had virtually the whole island to ourselves, it feels. (It also helps to still be on California time - a lot of early morning treks have helped us to beat the crowds).

We got the lava pool completely to ourselves (picture #1) and picture #3 were at some gardens we visited today - got the place to ourselves there, too.

The beautiful beach we visited today had people, but not many.





Back from Camp

June 24th, 2010 at 07:19 am

Not sure how it is in another areas, but a lot of the cities in Northern California run "family camps." They own campgrounds around Yosemite or Tahoe, or elsewhere I suppose, and hold camps in the summer with lots of activities and very reasonable room and board. (You can attend any camp you wish, but is discounted if you are a resident of the city it belongs to).

This was our third year in a row. We had no choice this year since the San Jose camp was shut down due to some structural issues and water quality issues. Which is fine - the amenities at Sacramento camp are WAY better. HOT showers, and nice little cabins. Anyway, we kind of travel with San Jose relatives, so we have gone to both camps (dh went to SJ camp as a child).

We went with our parents and our niece.

We had a great time, and more on all of that later.

But, we were lucky we didn't get snowed out. They had these pictures up from just a few weeks ago. Up to a couple of weeks ago they still had 4-5 feet of snow hanging around. They were very busy clearing it all out in time, and the kids got lots of snow play.

These pictures were on their website, from end of May:





I'll show pictures later of how it was when we were there - you will see how busy they must have been, clearing out the snow! There were just a couple of snow piles remaining by the time we arrived.

Someone would say, "I guess we came a lot later last year." Um yeah, July 1? Yes, we came so much later last time. Rolleyes The snow was a wee bit unusual, but there had been some big storms in May.

Anyway, they cleared most of it out in time for camp. We had to contend with a lot of mud though!

In the end, the weather was divine. If not for the cabins, we might have really FROZE. Weather was still hitting in the high 30s overnight. Thankfully we had good shelter. The days were beautiful, sunny and warm. Even the beach ended up being a nice 80-degreed day. I have lots of pictures of the kids playing in snow piles in their shorts and flip flops - hehe.

At home I set the thermostat to 87, for the cat, in case of freak heat wave. I am extra careful about that after a friends' house got up to 100 degrees in an unexpected heat wave, while they were on vacation. It killed their fish. SO, I always set the air, and this was the first summer it looked like it didn't kick on at all while we were gone. The house was 80 degrees upon our return.


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ETA: I am linking an old post about family camp since I got so many questions last year - answers some questions...

http://monkeymama.savingadvice.com/2009/07/06/questions-answ...

Appreciated All Around

May 7th, 2010 at 07:34 am

Teachers should be feeling appreciated today:



Monkey Mama sure feels appreciated:



Early Mother's Day Gift! Big Grin

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I am starting a 3-Day weekend. My first one since December (heck, I haven't had many 2-day weekends, since).

I haven't decided what exactly to do, but I actually feel a little productive. So, I may hit Craigslist or scrub the showers, or something productive. Now if I could get the inside of the house as shiny as the outside...

Oh, I am quite sure I will also find some time to laze around and take a nap.

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I offered to bake a cake for a teacher. In the end they didn't have enough people, so most of us made two. In the end, it was the perfect cake to make 2 of. I thought I may be up all night, but it worked out pretty well. Probably baked from 6:30-ish to 8:30-ish. Frosted and wrapped around 10pm. Not bad.

http://southernfood.about.com/od/cakemixrecipes/r/blbb658.htm

Simple, but DIVINE.

This was a good lesson for the kids. They were quite upset that I was making TWO cakes, and that they couldn't even have a bite! Wink Told them it is nice to do things for other people...

OF course, dh bought me some powdered sugar and I didn't need it (he had gotten all the ingredients for me while I was at work) and so I decided to make my "2 minute" fudge today. Had been craving it for a while.

http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,179,150165-227201,00.html

This one is also simple, but divine. I think that would sum up my cooking motto pretty good. I like simple!

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Between baking and a board meeting last night (I was baking while dh was meeting), we squeaked by with our school volunteer commitment for the year. I just read deadline was May 31 - yikes! We missed a couple of months with dh's surgery, and he has been unable to volunteer at all during the day, with LM's reduced preschool schedule. They also canceled bank day with the demise of WAMU - which was where I got most my hours last year. This year was mostly baking, board meetings, and Scholastic.

Next year should be a little easier. So, phew.

BM was counting the other day. He said we have 500 books. Yikes! Dh is looking forward to way more Scholastic hours next year, with both kids in school and no daycare to consider ("volunteer" though paid generously with books - many that we keep). I think I have to institute a sell/donate the same amount of books we bring in. They are mostly kids books, and small, but it's still kind of absurd. Knowing that he can volunteer a bajillion hours, I better be prepared with a plan. Of course, I would hope he donates most of the books he earns, to the school.

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But for a birthday party, we really have no plans this weekend. I likey!

Love the Sky Here

September 5th, 2009 at 09:29 am

With my new cell phone and ability to take pictures off the camera (the old one had a camera, but we couldn't figure out how to get the pictures off without spending $$). With that, I thought I would take a lot more pictures.

I have.

Apparently, the only thing interesting around here is the sky! Big Grin

The first one was on the drive home from work, again (these cloudy summer skies are awfully unusual).



This one was a sunrise on a bike ride. The foreground is a pile of empty home lots. No doubt, if the homes were built, my rides wouldn't be so nice and scenic!



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In other news, I Was so shocked of the low price of our hotel for our anniversary (or moreso the expesiveness of the price at every other travel site) that it didn't occur to me I could get a further discount. Like, I know I could call and ask. But I Was fine to just book it, and figured any further savings was a crap shoot.

So I happily booked a $300 stay that came out to $700+ on all the travel web sites.

Of course, after I booked it, they had said very little about their rules and cancellation policy, so I poked around the website a bit. As I did, I found that there was a 10%-off offer PLUS $20/night dinner gift certificate, if I had seen this promo code and used another link to book.

Wha???

So I e-mailed them and asked if I could apply the promo code, or if it would be easier to cancel and rebook. With no answer, I figured we'd call today (yesterday I was trying to work and stuff).

They eventually called us back first and we decided just to cancel the reservation.

I haven't rebooked it yet, but since we got 10% off with AAA, I am pretty sure the new offer voided the AAA offer. So we won't save any money on the room. BUT we will get $40 of free food. Which was really going to be the most expensive part of the trip, besides the room.

I am pleased as punch!

We will probably go out on some interesting, exotic lunches. & then just stick at the hotel for dinner. The restaurant hotel is a Marie Callendar's. I think we may buy some pie too.

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After I had done my Hanes order, I realized we had bought some sweatshirts for BM through Hanes, last year. They are allowed to wear sweatshirts as part of their "uniform." Which is pretty much all he wears when it gets colder.

SO, I perused their website and saw they were on sale for $5 each.

I did another order for those. Ordered 5. 20% off, free shipping, means I paid $20 for 5 brand new sweatshirts. (The ones I bought last year are fine - they have held up well - but they are just getting small).

This is why I rarely shop thrift for the kids any more. I used to a lot more, but I usually can get similar prices new, for FAR less time and hassle.

I am glad I thought to look.

Hot Weather; Beautiful Skies

August 29th, 2009 at 05:29 pm



This picture was actually taken the other day, but it was like 100 degrees and I tried to fathom how it could be so hot with all the clouds (heat is common in summer; not clouds).

Picture just turned out gorgeous - camera phone and all.

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A friend told me about a bike path that was just down the street for our home. "Huh???" I said.

We checked it out. It was gated and said, "closed, no trespassing, patrol" etc., etc. But the gate wasn't locked and my friend assured me it was fine. With some caution we went through the gate and decided to check it out.

There are a couple of roads along both sides of the canal - probably for service vehicles - mostly gravel. We saw a number of people jogging and walking their dogs on the gravel. No doubt it is usually more highly traveled. It was hotter than Hades!

But not far away from the canal was this bike path. I had looked at the map online and mostly wrapped my brain around it, but was confused because we biked so much around and never saw it. BM asked where we were going. I said, "exploring!"

Anyway, it was kind of silly in the end because the path quickly turned into some open neighborhoods and ended on a busy intersection. BEsides the "entrance" by us, there really wasn't any "no trespassing" signs. It's a public park.

I just ignored it before since it's all blockaded on our end. So I am really relieved it was mentioned.

I thought it looked like the path went right past our favorite little secluded park in the middle of "homes never built land." (I've shared pictures before). & it did! It was just far enough away from the park that we couldn't see it from there.

This is the funny part. BM and I stopped by the park on our return and enjoyed some of the "hills" in the park landscape. The bike path was flat as flat can be, and though convenient, and good for some more exercise, it was pretty boring. So I told BM, "The path was really safe because there are no cars to worry about, but it was rather boring, don't you think?" HE replied something like, "Yes, cars make it more interesting."

Yes, that is what I am afraid of!!

I am pleased to have a nice, decent sized bike path to do some "training" on, right outside my door. But I am really looking forward to more weekends on the river parkway. I cringed as I described that path as "hilly," but I appreciate it's challenges a little more after finding the flat as flat can be bike path. I am afraid that is all we have close to home!

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I made it to aerobics this morning. Phew. I tried to go on Thursday, but traffic was a mess. Not sure traffic was ever so bad that I aborted my aerobics detour, midway. But that day I certainly did! It was just the worst of the worst. There were many accidents that day, plus a fatal one near my final destination (fatal accident wasn't even on the freeway). It probably would have taken hours to get there, so I'm glad that I turned around. I was bummed, because I had missed many classes due to our car situation.

Anyway, so I went to aerobics this morning (1 hour class), and then we did our bike ride. I am starting to remember why I was so skinny before I had children. !! As I resume my more active lifestyle... I am also surprised I so easily handled working out for 2 hours. I've been so bad about the gym and everything with how crazy everything has been the last month or 2.

Dh had to volunteer today so I made "breakfast for lunch." Kids were estatic.

I took a nap in the afternoon. Thank goodness I squeezed it in. I woke up feeling extremely relieved I was chipper enough to run after the kids. They have since quietly played together. It's not always so easy, these days, but I forget they don't need that constant, exhausting, supervision. I knew they would be fine while I napped, but I figured I had a long afternoon ahead of me.

Instead, they were content playing together so I did some financial chores. paid all the bills and determined that our savings accounts sit at a solid $21k, still. Phew! I transferred a chunk out to pay the van body work, and all that. Set up the few bills I had to pay for September. An hour a month mostly takes care of the bills and such.

The kids are excited about "lunch for dinner" now. They also want "dinner for breakfast," but I think I will pass on that one.

It's HOT today. When we got back from our bike ride (which seemed pretty hot for 10am) the A/C was already on. Oh boy, is that a bad sign! We've been squeaking by with only really turning it on in the evenings. I've felt rather trapped inside all afternoon. Blech!

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I am trying to enjoy the slowness of our next couple of weeks.

It occurs to me, as I pay the bills, that fall clothes shopping will be upon us soon. (Um yeah, that's probably why I have largely ignored Back-to-School shopping. Haven't tried on the kids' fall wardrobes yet. IT's only 100 degrees).

Halloween is just around the corner, and all the rest of those holidays. IT will be busy and though we aren't big spenders when it comes to the Holidays, there are always MORE expenses to contend with during that time of year.

Back From Tahoe

July 5th, 2009 at 09:16 am

& we had a blast!

This was our cabin (there were 3 rooms and we had 2 of them - with our parents)


This was really the only river access at camp, which was a bummer (San Jose camp had river running right through camp and way more swimming holes, etc.) This turned out to be the only thing we liked less than San Jose camp though - Sac wins in all other areas...


Some hiking views




Our excursion to South Lake Tahoe


A little bit of snow still left








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Things we liked better about San Jose Camp:

Location. Couldn't beat the campground itself AND we were right on the edge of Yosemite.

Also, kind of missed sleeping more in the outdoors (the tent cabins weren't 100% shelter - more fresh air)

Things we liked better about Sacramento Camp:

*Actual cabins - I didn't even see one bug inside. Big Grin LEss bug bites - warmer at night.

*HOT showers - their showers were so much cleaner and hotter

*Playground for the kids

*SO MANY kids activities - the kids made a lot of friends and BM was able to be rather independent

*I think the food was slightly better

*Lake Tahoe is considerably warmer than the rivers around Yosemite. So better swimming, though it was a bit of a drive. We guessed water was closer to 65-70 degrees at the lake, whereas rivers run temps in the low 50s.

*I almost forgot - the weather!!!! IT was about 75 during the day and 55 at night. At the beach it probably hit 80 - which was just perfect. Could have gone all week without a sweater, but it never got hot either. DIVINE!

*We didn't need our parents so much since the kids could go off and do their own things while we did ours. This will be a bigger benefit when both kids are older. & they definitely enjoyed doing kid things while we did grown up things. BM did archery, went on a hike, etc. LM did some arts and crafts, some games, and went bug catching, etc. We all did tie-dye shirts. The adults went on quite a few hikes (sometimes with the kids).

Though we liked the location slightly less, it wasn't half bad. Obviously we had some pretty awesome views.

The cabins and facilities were comfortable enough that we are strongly considering a full week next year. (I couldn't last more than 3 nights on a cot in a tent cabin, alternately - that was pretty much my limit last year).

I am quite sure we will return to San Jose camp someday - it was so beautiful - but I think we will most likely become Camp Sac regulars.

The half week ran about $500, and a full week runs about $1k. LM will be out of preschool next year though and we will be able to save a little more to our vacation fund.

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Yesterday was a little bit crazed. We got home in the morning, but came home to guests visiting from the mid-west. We cleaned up and did laundry while trying to be nice hosts too. My dad had a vertigo spell and went to emergency (he is fine - we were worried he was having another stroke, etc. But was just vertigo - a complication from his stroke apparently).

So half the fam headed to emergency and clearly my relatives wanted to eat in. So I ran to the store and grabbed some food for a double batch of burritos. Picked up some watermelon on sale. Had a rather impromptu meal, but was good!

The emergency room here never particularly seems to be full, and that held true as they got in and out rather fast and were able to join us for dinner.

Lots of dishes, etc.

My mom slipped me $60 for food which was nice - I think we spent $80 between that and ordering in sandwiches for lunch. & well, we now have a TON of leftovers.

We watched the neighbors set off a few fireworks, and collapsed in bed pretty early. They left early since they had a 2-hour drive.

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Which reminds me, I think we spent $10 at camp. Parking at the beach was $7. We spent maybe $3 on ice cream and sodas. It is mostly all-inclusive, which was nice.

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Today I don't want to do much - I am so exhausted from yesterday! At least all the laundry is clean. Phew. We were so filthy when we got home yesterday. Ah, but we had FUN!

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The kids' party is this week. Thankfully, not much planning involved. I'll make cupcakes the night before and pick up balloons at the party store next door to Chuck E Cheeses, on the way over there.

Dh already bought 250 tokens on sale (a couple of trips with coupons).

For the "family party" at our house, we have been collecting Round Table Pizza coupons. We have got a lot of large coupons lately.

It is certainly easier to keep costs down in this economy. Coupons are more abundant than usual.

Life is Good!

June 29th, 2009 at 09:15 am

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

--------------------------------

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

---------------------------------

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)

---------------------------------

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

Recovering...

June 21st, 2009 at 09:56 am

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!!!!

----------------------------------

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.

--------------------------------------

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

Pictures

June 10th, 2009 at 05:47 pm

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}.

Wind Up Car

August 11th, 2008 at 09:51 am

http://dvice.com/archives/2008/03/windup_key_for.php



Teehee. Saw one of these on the road today.

I had to do a double take.

Camping was Awesome!

June 25th, 2008 at 03:44 pm

Just got back and had a few pics to share, below.

We went to San Jose Family Camp, which is owned and run by the city of San Jose. We don't live there, but are from there and I guess if you are willing to pay a premium you can generally go to any family camp. I HIGHLY recommend if you have kids, and a local family camp. We just had a blast!!!!

We went with my dh's parents and my dad (my mom is just not a travel or camping type).

We had 2 tent cabins right next to each other.

What PRIME real estate!! We were a 20 mile drive from the west entrance into Yosemite. I don't think we could have stayed anywhere else so close for half the cost, so we were very pleased in that regard as well.

So MANY activities for the kids (moreso BM than LM unfortunately, but will be right up his alley next year).

The food was hit and miss, but there was PLENTY.

We paid around $600 for the 5 of us (paid for my dad) and that was about it. We needed about one tank of gas and we treated everyone to ice cream in Yosemite. Otherwise all the meals were provided. I think I spent $2 on sodas. It was a very "frugal" vacation in that regards. We were penalized because we were non-residents, so did pay more. But without my dad we would have paid less than $500, for the 3 nights. So not bad. Included, food, tent, activities, everything.

Oh yes, entrance fee to Yosemite was $20, but someone else paid. We all took one vehicle. & the shuttle there was awesome (free). So $20 to get in 7 people was NOT bad. The ice cream was very reasonable - came to $12 or something for the 7 of us as well.

Anyway, for now, I leave you with pictures... I have about 10 loads of laundry to do (dirt dirt dirt) and I return to work tomorrow.

P.S. We did get our stimulus and do I added $1800 to my savings on the left columns. $1k of it washed out the taxes I owed 4/15 and $800 went directly to our mid-term savings. May pull some out for car repairs.

Taking dh's car to the shop Friday - we could not fix ourselves since the battery (& connecting wires, etc.) were so corroded - will get some help.

Wouldn't you know, just as we packed up and started driving out to Yosemite, my car had a "check engine" light pop up. It was some other light we looked up and it said in the handbook "probably does not need towing - is a simple thing that needs fixing. Service soon." (in so many words, anyway). When we got to camp (made it - phew!) the electronic door locks stopped working AGAIN so that was all we could figure. So we have car issues to straighten out this week and next... Should have the van checked as well to make sure it is nothing more than the locks. Just glad we made it back without a tow. Wink Both our vehicles are in limbo for today...

Anyway, the pics as promised...

Here was most of the view from our camp. Just in love with the place...



Looking down on swimming hole with water fall. This was a 20-minute trek from camp (complete with rattle snakes!!). But might as well have been Hawaii - was gorgeous.



BTW - I was the only adult to brave the cold water. Yes, it is melted snow. No, it really isn't any colder than the Pacific Ocean (more north by us anyway). So I didn't find it to be so bad. IT was hot so the water was refreshing. The rest of my group were wusses.

& Yosemite. There are no words...

I had gone once as a teen (maybe 15 years ago?)

Just WOW!

I had LM duty, and wasn't exactly feeling up to a big hike, so we took an easy "hike" to the lower falls. Was gorgeous, regardless.



& Half Dome:



All this, 4 hours from our driveway...

BM and grandpa, and dh did the Vernal Falls hike, which is the lower part of the Half Dome trek. (3 hours but BM is a major hiker - he tired out about the last 15 minutes so that one was exactly his speed).

I didn't get any pictures of the Vernal Falls (they hiked to the top of the waterfall) since I had LM and the camera. But having grandpa is like having a professional photographer wherever you go. I will no doubt have some breathtaking shots to share once I get copies of his pictures. As such, I Really didn't take many pictures this trip.

We figure we will make this an annual tradition for our family. In fact, I have said many times we aren't big vacation people. Though these last few years have been rather odd in that regard for us (vacation vacation vacation - with retiring parents who like to travel). But for now we have no plans for next year and I would just love to do a half week there again. (I don't think I am tough enough to camp much longer than 3 or 4 nights - hehe. Glad to be home and have a real shower...) But we should sign up for next year as early as possible, and hit early June when the waterfalls are still strong and the weather isn't so hot.

I think if we never vacationed anywhere else, I would be content.

But, for now it's back to reality...







Summer Here

April 29th, 2007 at 08:05 am

Oh yeah, it is a bad sign when you have to turn on the a/c in April. Yikes. It was a hot weekend and we waited it out, but last night it was up to 85 in the house so I turned on the ac for a bit to cool off the upstairs for the kids, before bed. Good move since I later opened the window but the neighbors were LOUD last night, and quickly closed the window - hehe. The 10-15 minutes of a/c did the trick and kept the house comfortable for the night. It's 77 in here right now and quite comfortable, as long as I don't do too much work in the house. Was over 90 outside yesterday - ick. The summers where it doesn't hit 100 degrees until July, I can deal with. But sometimes it starts hitting in May, and I am getting scared it will be one of those LONG summers. Hopefully it will cool off for a bit - I really rather have 1 more month of no a/c! The electric bill has been so nice and low!

Yesterday was REALLY nice. Dh had wanted to go to the Scottish Festival, which was quite expensive really. I told him I didn't want to be too stingy and cheap, but since we are going to Monterey next weekend... So we decided to go to the zoo and Fairytale Town which we have memberships too. & you would be proud of us. We packed up a lunch. There happens to be a pond and park between the zoo and Fairytale Town and so we decided to hit FT first, stop and eat lunch ,and maybe run by the zoo for a bit - it is very small.

Anyway, the heat was a bit much as the day progressed, but overall a very cheap and fun day. Kids had a blast.

The little FT also had a promotion where they are going to put in a "yellow brick road" and you can buy an inscribed brick for $100. Would love to to so - I think that is cool. Will have to think what we want to inscribe in it. For a good cause and all.

Anyway, for the ever present truth that less is more to kids, I had to share this. Fairytale Town has a few farm animals and slides and stuff to climb in. A fancy playground I guess. But they have this thing called the "crooked mile" which is basically a little raised path that winds round and round. So when we got there I plopped down and let BM run through it about 10 times. It might as well be a fancy roller coaster as far as he is concerned - the kids just LOVE it. Dh and I have always scratched our head on that one - who knew something so simple could be like the main attraction? LOL.

Here's a glimpse:



& then where we had our picnic lunch:



& the big duck who tried to grab my food. I was a little scared of him, but started snapping his picture and he ran off - he didn't like it - LOL. I guess he was a duck - I don't know - some big fellas.



We figured we wore out the kids real good and they would nap all afternoon and maybe even sleep well at night, but the plan backfired. They went on nap strike and were extra grumpy to boot, plus we were exhausted. Oh well. Baby had another awful night. Ugh.

We actually went to the SF zoo last year once and it was quite cheap, but the food did us in. So we are thinking about it for this year - we just need to pack up a lunch and go enjoy - the zoo even has free parking. I guess gas will be the pricey part, but is such a nice zoo. All we have to do is rein in the food costs to make it a pretty affordable excursion.







More Pics

April 23rd, 2007 at 06:27 am

I am enjoying seeing the blogs come to life with so many pictures.

WE decided to go for a walk last night and I decided against dragging along the camera, but when I stepped outside I Saw this, so ran back in for it.

Picture #4


If you look really closely, the lower right-hand corner of the clouds has a faint rainbow.

& then the sunset progressed.







For the area, not the most spectacular sky or sunset. It gets really beautiful in the evening as a rule. & the sky has just been so beautiful with a brilliant blue and puffy white clouds in recent weeks as well. But overall a pretty nice evening. We stayed out for an hour and the rain cloud seemed to shift south, stayed clear of us - phew. I got some well-needed exercise. Have to enjoy before it starts getting hotter than Hades... But even so we are lucky to be near so many water ways, it tends to cool off in the evenings with a breeze, but not always. Yup, definitely enjoying mild weather.

In other news, I think we are going to give it a test with the $10k credit card debt, 0%, to earn interest in the bank. I think we just felt uncomfortable borrowing more money than we had. No particular reason, it is just a lot of money to mess with if something goes wrong. What? I don't know really. But the original $20k seems a bit much. I think I will try to get $12k, so even as I pay down the minimums, the $10k will earn interest. Dh has been firmly against investing our e-fund at all as is, but now he is like, maybe we should invest a bit. Is he crazy? LOL. We can take the money we earn from it and invest it - fine. Sometime I just don't know. Why look over a 5% "sure thing"? But anyway, we already expect to earn $500 this year from our rewards card, and now maybe $500 from this little ploy. I think after we give it a try we will try for another Citi Card and see if we can get another balance transfer. I have no idea how much they will give us, but I am sure they won't blink at $10k with our credit score. I think we will open one in my name and one in dh's name just so it won't really hit either of our credit scores very hard. Frankly, in our situation, I think it will help. Anyway, I think I am a little weirded out by the idea so we'll test it and get our little $50 gift card (woohoo). & if I don't regret it and just pay it back in a couple of months - LOL - we might try to borrow a little more. Free money here we come. Wink We have been pondering it, and I just don't feel comfortable opening a lot of cards just for promos and how it could mess with your credit score. But if we can open 1 each, play the game, and close the cards without much of a blip to our credit score, then I am in!! Which I am sure we can. I just am not sure we can do this indefinitely. So I don't want to get too used to it. But all the same I feel quite pleased at the idea of making $1k off the credit cards in 1 year. Doubling our current returns. Well, maybe even tripling if we can get 2 cards at $10k. We'll see!

Not only does CitiBank have no fees and all that, and the gift card promo, etc. BUT the best part to me is just being able to get a check deposited directly to my money market account. I still do not trust the credit card companies enough to send a big negative balance to them I guess.

If you told me a year ago I would apply for $10 cc debt, I would have thought you were insane. Wink Oh yeah - this is going to add to my challenge money - woohoo.

Oh anyway, here is the blog where I got the idea (below). I considered it carefully because I do not necessarily agree some of this bloggers' money-making ideas. For one, I can't see myself applying for a zillion cards just for free money and promos. It has got to affect your FICO signifcantly. But we'll see. I was also reading his step-by-step guide to investing in Treasuries, which was very useful and interesting, I do have to say. But just left me not seeing the point because I can make more in my money market with a lot less effort. But I will keep in mind for when times change. So I had to look at this cc idea a little more critically, and I still think it is good as long as you don't overdue it. So while I recommend the blog overall, I wouldn't do everything the guy suggests myself. Wink I guess a reminder to consider things very carefully when it comes to finance.

ETA: Oh, to give the guy credit he seems pretty on top of the credit score thing - I just saw more of his replies on the subject). I guess the risk is not my thing - LOL.

Yes - for Citi the fees look like they are waived on most of the promo deals for most cards right now. But I will definitely let you know how it goes - will keep you updated.

http://www.mymoneyblog.com/how-to-make-money-from-0-apr-bala...