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!)
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!
Archive for September, 2010
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!)
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.
I often say that we just avoid the "big guys" as much as possible. To save both money and probably even moreso, to save on frustration.
But there are some areas where we have little choice (utilities, etc.).
The airlines are quite a doozy. I probably can't complain too much because I rarely fly unless I can find a rock bottom deal. The rest of the time, it's on our parents (this current trip is on MIL's airline miles).
The airlines are really getting on my last nerve though, for this trip.
For whatever reason we didn't get seat assignments - this is an airline I fly with all the time. (Tickets were bought with some sort of rewards - maybe credit card rewards - I don't know).
Beggars can't be choosers, eh?
I was dissapointed to see that the only seats available at check-in (I logged on exactly 24 hours before flight to nab seats) were in the back row of a smaller plane. (I have only flown to Hawaii on GIANT planes before). I told dh to pack ear plugs as a particularly bad flight is still seared in my memory - same plane - stuck by the back engine. I am pretty sure it is the same type plane and this flight is pretty long. Dh will be glad he is deaf in one ear. I should feel lucky we get to sit together.
SO, I asked dh to call and ask for assigned seats on our return flight. He called, and let my preface this by saying my dh rarely takes no for an answer and doesn't take much crap. But, pretty much, they said it is impossible. Somehow everyone else has assigned seats, but us? Ugh!
Meanwhile, when I check in, they try to sell me a million upgrades. Who pays for this stuff? The economy seating with extra room, about $79 a person. Fast track through airport security? Another $70 or so a person? Egads. On and on and on...
I then looked up the meal choices. Since our flight leaves a few minutes before 10am, the fresh food served on 3+ hour flights, is not served on ours. Breakfast is served, but not lunch.
Which is fine, because it cost an arm and a leg. Dh tells me he pretty much rather die than pay a penny for airline food. I tell him this is nice, but I rather pay $5 or $10 than starve. I am one of those people who has to snack constantly. I will try the snack thing, but if I feel faint, I am going to eat. Dh will have to get over it. I totally see his point and will try to pack enough food, though.
& so the fun begins!
(Ugh - I am just not a travel person!)
In other news, I got our latest Surewest bill. It has been "inching" up $10 or $20 a month as our credits expire - just at the same time they raise rates.
You know dh loves his video and all that. & trust me, we never paid a dime for cable when we made less than $60k-ish per year. Never!
But, I did about fall over when I opened this bill. $180! For cable, internet and phone.
In the end, I thought this may be a good thing. Dh started griping and we talked about how maybe it was time to drop the cable. I thought we would have all week to discuss it a bit.
Instead, he called Surewest to complain, and they lowered the bill back to $160/month. IF we signed a 1-year contract.
I suppose we have all year to discuss dropping the cable. I thought we were so close! (With netflix any everything). If dh had to buy a dedicated computer to run hulu through the TV, it would most definitely be worth it. At these prices? Ouch!
It's hard because Surewest is a good company. Their customer service, and their services/products, are excellent. I can guarantee if our only options were any of the other big guys, we'd be completely out of the game - even though they cost less. I can't tell you how many times dh legitamitely threatened to leave Dish and they never took a dime off our bill. (We refused to sign any contracts with them). It's nice that Surewest will at least work with us.
Next year I suppose this all could be moot. If dh is working next year, I won't care about the bill. But in our current financial state, it's a little ridiculous.
In other news, I have a MRI scheduled for when we get back from vacation. I stumped more Doctors with my arm, so the concensus was that it's probably nothing but they want to look at it to be sure.
Dh is more supportive this time. Less, "When I had "nothing" it was a tumor," and more "I think it's probably nothing." I suppose the Doctors were convincing.
We will be MRI buddies. Since his surgery maxed out our deductible this year, I already know MRIs will be $50/pop for the rest of the year. Now is good a time as any to deal with something like this. On January 1, it would cost about $1500 a pop. So, phew! (& dh already is signed up for one MRI a year for several years - like we really want to pay for more than one).
Dh has a doctor appointment today - he's got some fungus thing that won't go away. He ran out of medicine and decided he better get a refill before we leave. I think he should have told his doctor ages ago that it didn't exactly every go away. So glad he had some motivation.
We are getting our HMO's money's worth this year, that is for sure. His only real side effect from surgery (besides one-sided deafness) is that his eyes are bothering him a bit. I am wary for him to get glasses if his vision is fluctuating, but he should look into it. I've got a female checkup, the MRI, plus a consult about my neck. Outside pregnancy, we are the types who could go years without seeing a Doctor. So I think we have had our fill!
I learned that my good cholesterol was a little on the low side. My doctor didn't say anything, but I saw my results. Get that from my dad's side of the family. He always had cholesterol and blood pressure issues, from very young. Genetic. I am not sure if I have ever had a cholesterol screen (since I so rarely go to the doctor). So, interesting to note. I thankfully inherited my mother's low blood pressure. The nurses always delight in my low numbers. (Though I also tend to get faint very easily - so as with anything - too low is not always the best thing. I tend to run more normal with age and weight though. Though my numbers still seem to impress).
I have flown recently, but not for a big trip.
These new carry on policies are absolutely ridiculous!
I got out the measuring tape and my carry on (bought new in the last few years) - it is just too big. I toyed with bringing it anyway (trying to sneak by) but the more I look into it, the more I think this is a bad idea. (It's a few inches too long due to the handle thingy do, though also too deep). I don't want to get stuck having to check it.
My mom mentioned offhand that I could use their baggage. So, phew! Since we are staying with them the night before we leave. Guess I will have to pack and then re-pack.
Thankfully we are going to a warm destination - it will be easy to pack light. I was thinking of doing laundry in the middle of the trip anyway, since I only have a couple of pairs of shorts that I think will be appropriate (long/light shorts, for hiking).
WE did just go to Colorado, but we packed so light. I only now realize that we really only get one (tiny) bag and one personal item. The pleasure to bring more costs $50 at minimum (roundtrip fee for checked baggage).
The plus side is that I was impressed how light people traveled on our last trip. Now I realize why. Maybe they should have enforced this "one carry-on" thing many moons ago. It was nice not to be drowning in baggage in the plane cabin. It's the gouging to check a bag that really irks me.
I do admit that it is nice not to deal with checked baggage. Those prices are a pretty good deterrent. I can look on the bright side - no checked baggage in my future.
I am just annoyed that my relatively new carry on bag is completely obsolete! I suppose it is still nice for road trips?
Anyway, at Overstock I found some decent carry-on lugagge for $30-ish with shipping. I may just put on my Christmas wish list, or purchase sometime next year for future trips.
Or I could title this post - "Feel Like I can't catch a break!"
We decided to put dh's MRI off for one month so we can enjoy our anniversary vacation before resuming talks about radiation and stuff like that. I do admit it has been nice to put all that stuff behind us for a few months and just forget about it (which mostly, we have done).
But, in the meantime, it is my turn to pile up medical bills. I found a lump on my arm which may just be serendipitous. I usually don't go into the doctor for much, but I do listen to my gut. I felt kind of silly going in, but finally did. After I made the appointment, I found a similar bump on my neck.
The lump on my arm definitely stumped the doctor (I thought he may just tell me I got hurt and let's see if it goes away. It looks more like swelling, to me, than anything else). But, he believes it is a tumor/cyst/growth of some sort. Though WAY more concerned about my neck. All I can think is that may have been there forever. I tend to get allergies and swollen glands, most the year, so I thinking back, it may have been there for a LONG time. It's only now that it struck me as odd, because it is very similar to my arm bump, and I am not sick at all.
I did a pile of lab work yesterday, and the results thus far seem good. (I keep getting e-mail alerts as they roll in). I have appointments with 2 different specialists (arm/neck) - probably after vacation, so, phew. Maybe dh and I can go bury our heads in the sand and enjoy our time. Even if I get the arm appointment this week, any biopsy or scans would wait upon my return, I assume. The neck doctor was too busy to see me until end of September, anyway.
For now, I am just frustrated by mounting medical bills and such. I feel like we can't catch a financial break this year!
Dh knows how to handle the situation (not!). He told me he didn't really care what my general doctor said. As "you don't know how many doctors told me there was NO WAY I had a brain tumor." Gee dh, way to help me feel better. Considering his unique situation, I won't worry about it. Doctor said was probably not serious. I will go with that, and ignore dh. Until a Doctor tells me otherwise, anyway.
But, dh was happy they took this seriously, and that I would get some more opinions. I suppose would be the case - to be extra cautious when it comes to any sort of lumps on the body. Dh's tumor was different in that it could not be seen with the naked eye. His symptoms could be explained away as a common cold.
My poor parents seem to be in the same boat. They had to replace the pipes in their house last weekend. (Knew it was due as most their neighbors had already done it). I think they got a good deal, with the economy and all, so works out. Had some water leaks once my dad started working again.
BUT, there was apparently some politics with my dad's boss, which was making my parents nervous. In the end, the boss just up and quit. So, not sure where that puts my dad. He did not get to restart the COBRA clock, since he is a contractor for this company, at the moment. Health insurance is their only financial concern, at the moment. If not for that, he could retire. Of course, the other thing is he doesn't want to retire. So, hoping that it all works out.
I am not sure how long he is been at this job - maybe a few weeks??? Quite a bummer.
In other news, my Grandma isn't doing so hot. The last thing my mom needs is to worry about me, too.
All I know is that I am ready for this vacation!
Our return is definitely looking like a cold shower of reality! Ugh.
Well, LM finally expressed an interest in something. He is obviously musical and artistic.
His school actually has a dedicated art teacher. I am surprised he isn't really taking to it so much, but I am sure he will as they do more drawings and such. (They started out the year with sculpture, which he didn't seem to enjoy?)
So, they had a sales pitch for a private after school program. Dh told him the usual "hell no." But I said, "Wait a minute - it's not like BM who has 5 things going on and then wants to do the Mad Science after school, which cost an arm and a leg."
I figured if he is showing interest in something, it is fair to oblige.
Of course, the cost is $14 per class. (choke choke). No discount for more classes.
I keep hearing all about this new childrens' art studio downtown. I am sure it is quite nice, and figured that might be more economical. Um, no? $16 per one visit. It's only $8 per person, but LM can't take himself. The KidzArt program would be cheaper and more convenient, then.
The city actually has no art classes. They used to have a kid art class that one of the kids was enrolled in. Maybe it was LM. That was a long time ago - nothing right now.
I will be keeping my eyes out for more frugal alternatives for some creative outlets for LM. I may sign him up for the Kidzart just to see how he likes it. But for the most part, seems overpriced. BM did Mad Science for one term and though he enjoyed it, we weren't very impressed. That we can do at home. We just don't feel we have much to offer as far as artistic guidance. Maybe we could find some free stuff online. It seems what he liked was being instructed how to draw a particular thing, and he does do quite well. Better than I could (which isn't saying much!) Maybe we can find that kind of stuff online.
He's 5 - so not a lot of other options at the moment.
All I can think about in this economy, is who pays for this stuff?? I am tired of seeing people who can't afford their mortgages with $100+ gym memberships and apparently spending $16 for every art visit. (All my REALLY broke friends have told me all about this art place. I just can't stomach the price!)
I have an admission! I don't actually verify all my receipts (though I charge most things). I do reconcile my bank (daily/weekly - electronically, which is very simple). & I download my credit card transactions often enough that I will catch anything that is "off."
But, as far as a penny here or there, charged, or a few pennies even, I wouldn't have a clue.
I honestly don't expect to find much, but I guess I could be surprised.
I bought a little notebook quite a while ago, to note charges, particularly for things I don't keep receipts for. The goal was to match them to my statement every month (at the least). I took it out of my purse for some reason, and forgot about it (for a year???). Spotted it the other day and decided to start over again.
So far, it is real exciting:
9/4 Gas $45.24
9/4 Bread Store $7.34
9/9 School lunches through 12/31 $159.25
9/14 Taco Bell $4.53
Clearly, it's not the daily spending that gets me in trouble.
I think I also need to make sure I ask dh for all his receipts, and make sure to write those down too. I know we went out for dinner last Friday, but since I didn't bother to take my purse, makes it harder to remember when we go out together. I usually just let him cover it, then.
Will be interesting to download my activity and see what I forgot to write down!
I booked our zipline tickets. Kind of for the middle of the trip. I found a place online that sold the tickets at a total $20 discount. They charged more fees though (they don't mention that) - so in the end it looks like we saved $13. Still came out ahead, so phew. About $250 for a 4-hour adventure (includes lunch and time at a swimming hole).
I really have never done anything like this - so am very excited!
ETA: I expect a $250 Chase rebate around 11/1, so consider that won't have to come from savings. Assuming I can squeeze out another $250 - I feel lucky every time I hit 200 points that they haven't lowered the rewards for me yet.
We had our first real soccer game Saturday. Ugh! Due to a variety of factors, I just don't think sports will be our thing. The coach on the other team was downright scary. I think dh said it best when he said, "Geez, it's just a GAME."
You hear about how kids are growing up to be so non-competitive in this day and age. So I am completely thrown off by how intense soccer league is for 7-year-olds. Not only this, but we are behind the curve since most the kids started much younger.
Don't get me wrong, he has a really good coach. & BM has been a very good sport. But, I don't think we can get behind the organization as a whole.
We actually had other issues with the tee ball league, and with this whole thing, I don't think dh or I will encourage much more on the competitive sports.
It's funny because no one in my family has ever been into sports at all (but for my mom). We have much more brains than brawn. The truth is, none of us want to take any sport quite that seriously.
All that said, BM is lucky enough to have both brains and brawn. He has always wanted to get out and run around. He wants to try a little of everything, and we are happy to oblige. He will show interest in tee ball still, and probably soccer too, but no real burning desire. Which is why we will probably stop encouraging it.
It's not the end of the road for him - just the end of playing ball, probably.
Track starts in the winter (he wanted to run a mile the other day, for fun, so that is why we have been eyeing the track club - which he could have joined last year, but I thought he was too young). & dh has dreams of swim team, because he did swim team (I had no idea).
I may feel differently with age, but just think it is all way too much at this age. & I can't help but feel he will be left in the dust if he quits now.
The track team does not require you to compete, so I think I like it already. Will see!
Has anyone here done Odyseey of the Mind? They have a team at his school. Again, I just assumed he was too young last year. But apparently no.
I have heard nothing but good things about it, and is so completely up BM's alley. He will probably join the team for this year.
From their website: "Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level."
I think this will suit our own family a wee bit better than soccer!
In other news, we had a delightful weekend at the family cabin. Weather was just gorgeous.
I have to preface this by saying, dh is a lucky duck. I can't say I have ever found a wad of cash, in my entire life. But to dh, eh, happens every once in a while.
SO, today he goes to the thrift shop, and is not sure he is thrilled with the prices. But he sees this really cool Hawaiian shirt (for our trip) and some nice/comfortable pair of shorts. Figures maybe he should buy a 2nd or 3rd pair of shorts, for our trip. (He may have 1 or 2?)
When he tries on the shorts, he finds $9 in the pocket!
My jaw hit the floor when he told me.
Irony is the stuff cost $9 - so he just paid with the cash he found.
I laughed because clothes are SO not his thing. I really have no idea where this Hawaiian shirt idea came from. Since being home with the kids, his standard uniform is a white shirt and jeans. I nag him to wear some real clothes once in a while. I am not much into looks and not overly picky. But I prefer my husband doesn't look homeless, either. Sometimes, anyway. (90% of the time I don't notice).
So, as he modeled his new outfit (khaki shorts???), I told him he HAD to wear this new ensemble to his family BBQ tomorrow. His mom will pass out. LOL.
In other news, that nasty mosquito hasn't shown up again. I think I did whack it, but no idea where it went. The cat might have got it.
This weekend we have BM's first soccer game, and a family get together at the cabin (about an hour away). They took LM already. They wanted to do a BIG family weekend, but the 3-bedroom cabin can only fit so many people. Was a perfect fit for his grandma and her kids and grandkids. But great-grandkids - there are about 8 of them. Plus the grandkids' spouses - gets kind of crowded. We will just show up for the day.
I was hoping that the kids could stay over night, but no go. MIL gets really weird about "out of the way" we are. YEs, all 5 miles "out of the way." (I shouldn't whine - this means that she doesn't drop in on us much - even when in the area! Is probably for the best!) So I am surprised that they stopped to pick up LM. At least he is getting the overnight / cousin experience. Not very exciting for dh and I. We have been trying to sneak out to the movies, forever. We were considering tonight (only one to pay for babysitting), but decided against it. It's been too spendy.
I put a small sum in LM's lunch account and a larger one in BM's. I think they kind of feed off of each other, and all of a sudden they want to buy lunch every day. Ugh! I told them 3 times a week, max. Since LM was so gung ho, decided to put more money in his account. (I really thought he would be too scared to go through the whole buying lunch ideal - what do I know). But since there is a $1.75 fee for every deposit, I decided to just estimate the rest of the calendar year. So, about $150. Ouch. That will buy them 45 lunches, each (when added to the money BM already had). The frugal lunch option - well, isn't so frugal with the two of them together. But, it still makes life easier on us, so be it. (Dh's grandma is always slipping me a $20 here and there for lunch, too, which is nice).
Somehow or other, we were on the verge of trying hang gliding in Hawaii. (From cheap - not spend anything but food and rental car - to $200/hour, per person, motorized hang gliding. Don't ask me how).
I chickened out, but told dh that I would rethink the zipline thing. If I don't have a heart attack on the zip line, maybe I will try hang gliding, next time...
So I have to pick one and reserve that. Will be $260-ish, for the 2 of us. We decided to bite the bullet and splurge.
I am thinking of doing that on our anniversary. The fact is that is probably more dangerous. Oh well!
I dumped our $6/month Green energy fee on our electric bill. It's a good program, but everything has been going up and up, so it seemed like a logical cut.
OF course, I just dumped it, and then I regretted it a bit when I Was looking at it again. For everyone who pays $6, their share of energy is 100% renewable. I didn't remember it being quite so direct. No wonder we signed up!
Anyway, I just got the last bill, and they adjusted our balanced billing up by $5/month. My first thought was that this mostly offsets are gas decrease of $6/month. I guess that's a wash.
But, then I realized that they completely did not take into affect our $6/month payment reduction. They just averaged our last 12 months.
So much for that! I should sign back up. They change the amount every 12 months. So, am stuck with it for another year.
Anyway, our gas/electric is averaging $103 a month now, down from $104 last year. $6 of that is completely voluntary green energy. All else being equal, it should knock down to $97, next year.
I will have to consider just adding the green energy back. Paying for it anyway.
I must say further attempts at energy savings seem to be failing. New computer monitor was bought largely in that vain, and dh sung the praises of the energy efficiency of his new TV. But, energy usage seems to remain unchanged.
Dh found a great deal on a Blu Ray yesterday - it was $10. He sold his DVD copy within hours, on Amazon. (Kind of unexpected how quickly it sold), for $20.
I admit this is one area where dh and I differ, and the kind of thing an "allowance" comes in handy for. I have no idea why anyone would waste all that money on DVDs, etc. I wouldn't spend a dime of my own money on that stuff.
But, dh is a different breed. All that said, when you walk in and see his extensive DVD/Blu Ray collection, you can kind of guess what people are thinking. Reality is that he is making money by converting to Blu Ray. Kind of funny. One of his more recent finds was Toy Story, practically free after rebates and coupons. Plus, it came with movie tickets, and of course, he sold the DVD.
Who knew someone would pay $20 for a used DVD? IT had special bonus features or something like that. You got me!