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Amazing Weekend

October 10th, 2023 at 02:14 am

Fingers crossed, but I think I am out of the medical loop.  It's all been 'abundance of caution' that has never turned out to be anything.  But I had my first mammogram (ever) that was all clear the first round.  Phew!   I am shocked.  I was sure I'd have to go back this week.  Because I always do.

It was crazy for a while in 2018-2019 with all the medical appointments.  It has definitely been a step down from that.  But it's nice to take it down a step further and have the "all clear" re: everything medical.  I might have acheived this once in recent years but it did not last very long.  Fingers crossed.

This weekend was perfect and magical.  I really viewed it as more of a chore weekend, going into it.  Mostly driving down to the college to deliver a few things to MM(20).  

We drove 735 miles.  The first car charge was free, but apparently it was just a fluke.  We thought we were going to get free charging all weekend.  (Electrify America is often free on Holiday weekends.)

We spent $234 on the hotel and tickets.  I am guessing $400 with food and fuel and everything.  Probably not quite that much.  We didn't do any big meals.  But I am guessing $400-ish for the weekend.  Will tally it all up later. 

It was fleet week and we saw some jets doing a show.  Could see from the freeway on the drive down.  

I guess with DL(18) having a driver license and being more independent.  We are actually getting through some of these things we thought we would do while MM(20) was living on the central coast.

We went to this art installation.  Wasn't sure if it was going to be over hyped or what.  It was beautiful.  & we picked the perfect day to go.  The weather was absolutely perfect.   The sky was so dark (no moon) that the stars were amazing.  I saw a shooting star!

I thought it would be nice to get there before sunset.  This ended up being perfect.  It was gorgeous in the light too.  We walked the property during (a great) sunset and then we went inside to eat dinner.  Then we came out and walked more thoroughly through the lights.  We stopped a couple of times just to sit and enjoy, the view and the stars.

The next morning we headed to the beach.  There's still chatter of whales online, though clearly that all peaked the last time we were there.  (It was a day trip, I didn't know until we left, and we wouldn't have had time anyway).  So we tried, but no whales.  But we did see lots of dolphins.   

& we saw a very fast and good foil surfer.  I mean, I could watch the surfers all day.  But I barely noticed the surfers on this trip.  The dolphins stole the show.  & then MH and MM pointed out this foil surfer.  Just google it, it's the craziest thing.  It's hard to describe.  Even most the videos I found were "meh" compared to the guy we were watching.  He was just flying all over the place.  It took us a while to figure out what the heck we were even seeing. 

We took MM(20) with us to the beach and his girlfriend met us for lunch. 

 

MM(20) has some leadership position re: the rose float this year.  He was really eyeing these flowers at the restaurant.  I guess he has been trying to track them down.  So we learned a lot about that whole process.  I guess the school grows a lot of the flowers.  & I am sure they just have to buy some of what they need.  But this particular flower is the perfect shade for what they need and more difficult to find.  (Would take more than a season to grow).   & I guess that dyeing flowers is frowned upon.   The GF has these same flowers outside her on campus house, so they were in deep negotiations about how much MM could get away with "borrowing" flowers from her house.

Of course, the down side to this is I don't know when we will see MM(20) the rest of this year.  I actually gave him a camping mattress when we initially thought his bed would arrive some nights after he moved into his apartment.  It's only because of this that I know he has camping plans after New Years.  ๐Ÿ™„  He mentioned it to me re: the camping mattress.  We will have to get him a round trip flight from LA for Christmas (he will only have a couple of days off).  & then I guess technically he should be free January 1st or 2nd?  But if he goes camping, we aren't going to see him much.

I really need to buckle down and make Pasadena plans.  I am very mellow about it because MM(20) stayed at the timeshare by Disneyland last year.  That was rather last minute.  I know we can find some lodging.  & I am sure we have missed the boat as to anything very convenient. But I am committing to figuring things out this weekend.  Ideally, we want to see all the floats before or after the parade.  I just don't want to deal with the peak crowd.  We briefly discussed and MM(20) insisted it's all free the night before, to see the floats up close.  I am not 100% sure if that's true, if he has access we won't have, etc.  But it's only $20 to go see all the floats afterwards.  (I just figured this out). I will be buying tickets soon, to have that insurance.   

Side note:  MM(20) will have free lodging near Pasadena.  Because he is staying and working until the parade, he will have free lodging.  Last year he left early and just went back to watch the parade.

Other than that, I am exhausted and would be happy to go *nowhere* the rest of this year.  But I have been really looking forward to the behind-the-scenes rose parade experience.  Financially, will probably be a 2024 expense.  Heck, even if I charge any of that in December, won't be paying for it until January.  Definitely a 2024 expense.  Except for these $20 tickets that I want to buy now.  

Travels

September 27th, 2023 at 04:32 am

Our 'last minute reasonable college move-in hotel' from last year was not so reasonable this year.  & we have stayed there a few times but I wasn't really excited about the hotel cost this September.  It would have worked in a pinch (far more reasonable than anything else).  But other than that...  Meh. 

MH keeps insisting this is a one-day trip and I keep insisting that we aren't 20 any more.  I gave in for this one time and I mostly regret it.  

All else being equal, would leave it at, "Well that sucked, but glad to save the money."  But as we were driving home I saw in the college parent group that the whales were putting on quite a show at the beach where we usually stay at our forever hotel.  Which is significant because we went on the most amazing whale watching (trip of a lifetime) some years ago and...  I wouldn't know because I puked the entire time on the boat.  So I am super bummed we didn't just spend that $200.  I could have watched whales.  From land! 

Probably not as relevant, but then later (during the week?) I saw that the ocean was glowing with bioluminescence.  I didn't even know that was a thing that far north.  I later saw that it is also a Bay Area thing.  Never heard of it when we lived there.  I presume it's a little extra spectacular right now, and probably more common down south.  But I don't know, this is what I presume based on pictures, social media chatter, and literally never hearing of this before.  

As to the biolumiescence, they call it the red tide.  Well that's going to the top of my bucket list.   The pictures are magical.

Anyway, the week before move-in was chaos.  MM(20) had disappeared the weekend prior, and then disappeared all day Monday.  We cornered him Monday night and figured things out (whatever he needed to buy).  It was more useful to ship things here and then move them in the car, but we were running out of time.  We scrambled and we got it done.  Move-in went as well as it could have.  At least we didn't hit any traffic.  

The short money summary:  MM spent about $450 on the bed tax, bike supplies (lock, helmet), a microwave, a wifi router, and some misc, items.  Used his $1K annual college gift, so has about $550 extra spending money for the rest of the year.  MH and I chipped in $500 for a mattress.  (If we didn't, he would have slept on the floor.)  It seemed most prudent just to order from a furniture store and have that delivered, but then the mattress arrived several days early.  As did several other things we shipped.  But we got it all figured out, and it was nice his bed was already there when he moved in.

While MH was on the phone with the mattress store for what felt like hours...  (While I bought up everything else).  MH found out he got into the Tucson film festival.  So he is going this weekend.  & had to scramble to figure all that out too.  The airfare was very reasonable (even though this ended up being very last minute) and so it was a no brainer.  But all the hotels were booked up that weekend (don't know what else is going on) and the hotel ended up being quite expensive.  We even tried to get a free timeshare stay but the place we stayed last time was booked up.  So this is going to be a  $1,000+ trip.  But this was by far the best film festival we went to and I still think it was worth it.  I am just relieved I didn't plan to go.  Would have been another $400 for me to fly.  

Then we started making plans to visit MM(20).  Time to find another reasonable hotel that we can book last minute.  Thinking maybe we could try something more "on the way" versus the "30 miles south" gem we found, that keeps raising their rates.  Back to the drawing board.  But I finally figured it out.  They have a very nice Motel 6 near the college.  It was $100+ cheaper than any other option, and it's in the college town (very convenient).   We are also going to an art installation while we are there.  Missed all the nature stuff so will go see the fake plastic stuff instead. All that came up to about $200 (hotel + excursion).  We got a $300 cash gift for our anniversary (and because MIL felt bad about the Tucson timeshare).  I wasn't necessarily planning to use that money for this trip, but it should cover most of our expenses.

Oh yeah, MM(20) left behind one piece of furniture (wouldn't fit with everything else) and forgot some minor things.   I don't even know if he will want the furniture re: small apartment.  But we just figured we'd do another trip and would be happy to go back on a less busy weekend.  I believe we abandoned this plan last year due to Tucson.  

It's nice to get to some of these things we thought we'd be able to do while MM(20) went to college in the area. 

I was thinking the other day that we succeeded this year re: vacation lifestyle.  It's my preference to do a lot of smaller trips and staycaytions, versus saving up big dollars for just one big trip.  My personality just wants to spread it out.  So I was pondering our success on this front in 2023 (after some years of failure on this front).  And duh...  DL(18) got his driver license.  So we can go and do whatever the heck we want.  That is the very obvious change that set things in motion.  We certainly took advantage of this freedom this year.  In the past, we probably just did more things with the kids.  & some of these awkward in-between (kid) years just coincided with a lot of other crap.

Note:  It's been a busy year and there's a lot I did not blog about.  We did some big concert weeks (that I never said much about) and things like that.

Edited to add:  Probably could have just done AirBnb in Tucson because it is a lower cost region.  MH realized too late.  (An Uber driver was telling him he had an inexpensive AirBnb.  Which was my "duh" moment.)  It's not top of mind because none of these vacation rentals have ever been reasonable in our state.  Making a note so that maybe this jogs my memory in the future.  

LA Trip

September 9th, 2023 at 04:55 am

Success!

Not only did I have a peaceful week.  But was able to finally redo jinxed LA trip.  Third time was the charm.  Had planned this trip originally in 2019.  Was initially supposed to be Hearst Castle, Solvang, LA.  (We skipped Solvang this time, but we made it at some point.) 

If money were no object, the central CA coast is where I would live.  It has always been my favorite place.  It's more complicated than that.  Living close to family is more important, among other things.  I don't foresee ever moving to the central coast.  But maybe some extended (weeks long) vacations during early retirement, is probably how it would realistically translate.

Writing down before I forget: Ventura was beautiful.  Never noticed it before, but it was stunning when we drove though last week. 

This was the view from our hotel room.  It's our 'forever hotel' near the college.  The price was has quintupled on the weekends, in recent years.  But weeknights can still be reasonable.

This part of the trip was particularly magical.  The sky was so clear and the moonlight was so pretty.  As we were wrapping up packing the next morning, I looked outside and just happened to spot 2 dolphins swimming by!  

My niece is working at the college this summer.  She's pre-vet, and stayed there to take care of the animals.  After Hearst castle, we met up with her.  We got to meet the kittens she was fostering (OMG) and the baby goats she is taking care of.  

Not much to say about the rest of the trip.  I holed up in the LA hotel for 3 days while MH attended the film festival.  It was over in a blink.  I guess that's how time is any more.  But I did relax and enjoyed the peace.  

We were not able to charge at the hotel and I thought that would be more challenging.  But we ended up in so much LA traffic that it added a lot of range to the car.  (Braking generates electricity.)  Because of that, we drove about 60 miles (from last charger) and ended up with 20 more miles (range) than we started with.  Got the battery up to 85%?

I still thought we'd do a quick stop on the way out (once the battery drained enough; charging is much faster on an emptier battery).  But once we guaged the traffic (hit more on the way out of LA) and re-assessed once we got out of the madness, it was an easy 2-stop drive home.  I think last time our second stop had been much shorter.   That was probably the difference with being able to start out with a full charge. 

I think the trip will end up being about $1,750.  Most of that is hotels.  About $400 for food and $70 at chargers.  1,000 miles driven.  I am not used to paying for hotels.  So, ugh.  The trip feels quite extravagant in that regard.  But we better get used to it.  MIL has been flip flopping about her timeshare (that we just want to get rid of).  So it initially sounded like maybe we could use the rest of the year.  But last MH brought it up, he said they had gone back to getting rid of it ASAP.  Which is really all good and for the best.   I want to go back to LA for New Year's (rose parade) and so it's just going to be one of those years.  I think we spent our vacation budget on the last LA trip.  

I am earmarking future gift/bonus money to offset the whole 'loss of free timeshare' thing.  I am also not interested in traveling with my kids in the future.  (Those timeshares were the best for bigger family trips.)  Just winging it for now.  Will be able to plan better with the heads up in future years.  & I just expect a completely revamped budget at some point in the future.  But with two kids in college, it's not in our plans to actually increase our vacation budget.  It's all been far more extravagant than anything I envisioned during these college years.  I really thought we'd just be more homebodies, but there's just been so many opportunities and we have the cash to take advantage.  This is the only year I can realistically get to the rose parade (re: work schedule).  While MM(20) is building rose floats.  So it's at least a 3x LA year.  

Thankfully, MH went back to work Tuesday.  & he was actually busy.  (It usually starts out pretty slow, after summer break).  & the LA hotel was slow to show up on the credit card.  So I am probably going to kick that can down the road a month and let MH's income cover that.  It's all the same in the end (as MH would roll his eyes and tell me) but I personally like slowing the money drain.  I am looking at August and I've just got the new tires and $1,000 of vacation expenses to pay off in September.  Was able to kick off medical bills and the LA hotel to be paid for in October (charged in September).  & MH's October income might cover those extras.

Spending will slow, as everyone settles back to school and work. 

Staycation

April 23rd, 2023 at 04:45 pm

I had a week off work with absolutely nothing planned.  My expectations were pretty low (that it would be peaceful).  It ended up being a mix of some peaceful days and some challenging days.  & a bomb was dropped on me re: work.  Ugh.  Another post for another day.

I did make it to my other happy place (above).  This was a neighborhood in San Francisco, where my friend lived during our college years.  Another little slice of paradise. 

I hadn't even realized until my week off, but...  MH could take some time off with me!  What a difference it makes, to not have to wait until 4:00 until the kids are chauffered.  It was a "the kid has a driver license" benefit I hadn't realized.  So we did do one day in San Francisco.  We went to an art museum, ate at a fancy restaurant with a beach view (enjoyed watching the kite surfers) and went for a sunset hike. 

We had bought a more premium museum membership in 2020, to help out the museum during the pandemic.  & figured we'd maybe get more use out of that during these college years (expecting to be more frugal/pinched).  The premium membership has reciprocal membership with other museums.  This was the first time we had used our local museum membership for free admittance to another museum.  But I don't expect much the rest of this year.  We have too many plans already for this year.

I expect the whole "kid driver license" thing is why we have had so many weekend trips already this year.  It's just easier to say yes to things.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but clearly we are enjoying the extra freedom.

Taxes Almost Done, and Other Challenges

April 16th, 2023 at 02:54 pm

Waiting, waiting, waiting...  Feels like absolutely anything and everything is delayed.  RA decisions were delayed, because of course.  All of these film festivals keep delaying...  & then I was thinking that I hope financial aid isn't delayed for several months again, this year.   Last year MM's internship took forever to sort out.  I am stressed about college housing (the longer we delay the harder it will be) and it would be nice to have any clue what financial aid situation is before...  January?  The rest is just annoying.  But it's a *lot* of annoying.  MH was literally just telling me some film thing was delayed 2 months.  He's waiting to hear for the last? film festival, but they've already delayed several times.  I don't know why all these organizations keep pushing back 1-2 weeks, and then doing that like 10 times.  They are driving me crazy!  

We did do our first big road trip in the EV, to LA.  950 miles roundtrip.  This trip was easy peasy.  It was only 160 miles from our hotel (near college town) to LA hotel.  Which made our first *big* drive very *shrugs*.  We've done the 600 mile college roundtrip several times already.  We took our time on the way down and spent 3 days.  Every morning we were able to start with a full charge (hotel chargers). 500 miles down the 101.  We took I-5 back (Sunday) which was more direct (only 400 miles).  But there are far less EA and EVGo charging options on the I-5.  Still, we didn't look for any other chargers and it worked out.  (No extra stops required.  We were able to charge to 100% at our hotel for free, for the big drive home.  We just stopped to charge while we ate and took one charge/pit stop.) Out of curiosity, I just looked up other chargers.  As I expected, there's some gas station chargers along the route.  & we missed a free rest stop charger.  It's another post for another day.  

The trip went as smooth as possible.  Phew!  I really appreciate it.  Because life has been a whirlwind of crazy lately.  And also, the last couple of LA trips I had planned were canceled.  So I feel like it was a miracle we even made it.  Even moreso that it was such a peaceful trip.  But we did have one snafu.  MH's car fob battery died without any warning.  I did not bother to bring my keys, but he did have both our car keys.  So we just switched out the batteries.  Problem solved.  Phew!  

& the drive was absolutely spectacular.  After all the storms, everything is so green and vibrant.  & the beginning of the superblooms, etc.  

The picture above is from a beach near MM's college.  It is one of my happy places.  I had been there several times before, but we hiked in a different direction towards the wildflowers this time.  The landscape was otherwordly at many of these beaches.

Work is...  Ugh!  I don't even know where to begin with that.  This week should have been the hump.  Done with all the tax deadlines and should be quiet the rest of the year.  But I can't get any peace and so I couldn't even get a relaxing weekend before the next very large obstacle.  Another post for another day.  I am more irritated about the timing than anything.  The whole situation is forseeable and overall I feel more prepared now than I ever would have in the past.  So I can appreciate that.  Lord knows *why* the bomb couldn't have just been dropped on my *after* my quiet week off.  Or... why couldn't it just wait another month?  Give me one quiet month before it all goes to heck!? 

{I am taking this week off work.  Because it's the first week I could reasonably do so, ideally without coming back to a mess.}

In other news, MM(19) did not get the RA position.  Decisions came out late, as I mentioned.  It's terrible, as I imagined it would be.  When we visited MM(19) last Friday it sounded like he had a few housing options.  But none of those have panned out.  On the flip side, I had to figure this out alone during my college years (no adults helping me) and so I know it will work out.  I have backup plans for the backup plans.  I mean, I didn't go to school in a college town.  That part is particularly challenging.  But I know worst case, he has to buy a car and will find something further off campus.  (Is not ideal for his school situation, but is what I did and the rent is significantly cheaper this way.)  The RA applicant (parents) have been getting advice from other parents that it will work out, it just won't be ideal.  I *feel* this very much right now, after a week of apartment hunting.  I suppose our other advantage is having money to throw at the problem.  This is just the most out of my comfort zone and wheelhouse, of everything going on right now.  

And...  It's down to the wire with taxes.  I am breaking this out into two posts and will do my more financial post next.  & will get into why I did our taxes so late this year.  But then there's everyone else's taxes.  GMIL's taxes are complicated and terrible.  Because of her scammy brokerage situation.  So I have to wait a long time to make sure I have everything (her 1000 pages of investment 1099s), and then we went to LA last weekend.  & I've been putting out fires every night this week.  So here we are.  I procrastinated most of yesterday but it wasn't as terrible as I remember.  Maybe even finished in a few hours.  Phew!  Have to help her get her taxes paid, but at least her taxes are filed.

& then doing the in-laws' taxes.  This is new this year.  Thankfully, their taxes are easy peasy.  I appreciate that, especially because they have the same scammy broker situation.  But apparently most of that is in IRAs.  Phew!  I am doing their taxes because FIL can no longer handle (dementia).  I really thought I'd put them on extension and never in a million years expected I'd have everything.  But I seem to have everything, by some miracle.  (I think the first time FIL handed me the tax file, it had absolutely no paperwork for 2022 taxes.  & I've been too busy to look at it since whenever he actually gave me the 2022 file.)  It was a lot more work for the first time set up, but these will be easy peasy taxes in the future.

I am waiting to hear back from the in-laws before I finalize.  So unfortunately all this tax stuff is bleeding into my vacation time.  But I can appreciate that 99% of the work is done. 

Edited to add:  Taxes done.  Yay!  I was just feeling cranky about spending Saturday and half of Sunday wrapping up everyone else's taxes.  But I under-estimated how good it would feel to get that done and have literally nothing on my plate for a half day.  Everything else is on "ignore".  I am enjoying vacation mode.

 

Back from Camp

June 28th, 2022 at 03:49 am

Life has been a whirlwind the past couple of weeks.  We don't have anything planned for the rest of summer.  The stars just aligned to craziness last week.  It was all the things.

Celebrated my parents' 50th Anniversary.  Did our annual family camp trip.  Those were the biggies.

Camp.  It's a miracle it stands and we felt very blessed.  Even if there was a lot of challenges (from the fire).  One smart thing they did was request that campers volunteer, to make up for staffing shortages.  DL(16) volunteered and had a blast.  & made $165 tax-free for 8 hours of work (in the form of a discount; we transferred the money to his bank account).  It takes a certain personality and he would never want to live there all summer.  But...  He got some taste of the behind the scenes.  For him, camp is the highlight of the year, and getting to "work" was just icing on the cake.

We saw a bear at Lake Tahoe.  That was exciting.  

Oh yeah.  The cabins smelled smokey and all of our belongings smelled like ash trays when we got home.  We felt so blessed to be able to go to camp this year, but it definitely had its challenges.  They are still working to replace burned sewer lines, etc.  We saw melted light bulbs off the patio.  I really can't wrap my brain around it.  Light bulbs melt (at 3000 degrees) but all the structures (and most of the trees) still stand. The fire fighters are miracle workers.

MM(18) starts his summer job tomorrow.  This is the job that is randomly in the same parking lot as my work.  So he will get to save a bajillion dollars in gas.  Both him and his girlfriend have major adjacent jobs this summer, both Tues - Thurs.  Is just how it worked out.  Anyway, we are carpooling tomorrow.   

 

Peace & Calm

September 27th, 2020 at 02:56 pm

Hell froze over and I got a week of peace and calm. There's probably a million things I could/should have done. But... Treated the week as a long overdue staycation and didn't do much of anything productive. I felt like I was figuratively gulping in the fresh air but I guess it was also quite literal. I had to pinch myself that our staycation destinations all had clean air on the days we planned. Was trying to keep it flexible, but locked in reservations one day and it still worked out. (The air quality has been very patchy). We had a difficult time spending any of our vacation funds. I did some rough math and an old average of $100/month for car gas will now give us 8,000 miles of driving. We enjoyed this incredible freedom. If I want to drive to the beach every single weekend, cost of fuel is no longer a limiting factor. On Tuesday we took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and had Muir Woods (redwood forest) mostly to ourselves. It was *amazing*. We didn't see another soul once we left the main trail, and had a picnic spot all to ourselves for lunch. I had been starving for some beach time and so we hit the beach afterwards. We did end up stopping for a refuel on the way home. We drove 254 miles, stopped and added about 55 miles of charge, and still had 65 miles left when we got home. Third completely different drive, still getting that 260-mile range on one charge. We learned two things worth sharing: We played it a lot more loose this trip, just stopping for some fuel on the way home. It's a charger we would use a lot on drives from the Bay Area, so it was nice to check out this one (different location, different route home). All we did was run an errand and grab a couple of grocery items while we were there. I'd say we spent about 15 minutes in the store and then spent a minute or two discussing if we had enough to get home, deciding yes and unplugging. We ended up charging for 17 miles and gaining about 55 miles. & honestly, we didn't even have to charge 1/2 that long to get home. Felt more like a gas car trip. In the short run, we have infinite free charges and will probably be stopping more, but long term when it's not free, it's just going to be much shorter stops. We had spent so much time in the car, it was nice to stop and take a break. {As a side note, MH wanted me to mention our car had one of the slowest charge times. I had no idea, but that's good to know. Like I said before, every single car model is different. If faster charging is really important, almost any other electric car will be faster}. We did some windy steep hill driving and that is also worth mentioning. When I mentioned the manufacturer recommended maintenance, there was no mention of brakes. This is not an oversight. The car does have traditional brakes, but those are mostly there for sudden stopping and more emergency type braking. Most of the time, you don't use the brakes on the car. The regenerative braking system slows the car down through the engine (more like a low gear on a gas car). This braking regenerates energy and adds more range back to the battery. So... Not only did we get to zip up the hill with ease. But... We did not have to use the brakes at all to come back down. It was *amazing*. {Again, I don't get the sense this is universal for all electric cars. So just another reminder that every car is different}. The next day we went to the family cabin, midway between our home and Tahoe. It's a trip that MH had already done with DL(15). We just enjoyed the peace and quiet. We went on a hike where we didn't see a single other person. I personally would have stopped for a free charge but MH was feeling "meh" about that. I have no idea why. He usually leans toward the cheap side of things, so it was very unlike him. He was kind of saying, "We don't need a charge, and these chargers won't always be free." So wanted to live life without worrying about fuel, for this trip. The chargers are so under-utilized east of our city that they have left all of those free. It's the more utilized ones that they started charging more for around the time we bought the car. So there is a completely free charger at the freeway exit we use to get to the cabin. View from hike near cabin, no other people that day: Total driving 2 days: 400 miles. Total fuel costs 2 days: $5 Thursday was our anniversary and we had a low-key day at home. We ordered in a nice dinner. Because the kids had school, we left Saturday for one more trip/hike, this time with kids. The road to Tahoe was closed. If not, I think we would have gone all the way and tested it out. But our plan was to go visit Camp, which was mostly closed for this season. It's probably about 10 miles away from Tahoe. We got our camp fix, and there is a nice isolated hike. Our timing could not have been more perfect. We saw a couple of people hiking back down as we hiked up, but that was about it. We had the top of the mountain completely to ourselves. I would have stayed longer, but MH seemed to be more in a rush. For the best, because we saw at least 20 people coming back up as we hiked down. It was clearly a popular lunch spot. We had debated packing lunch for the third time that week, but decided "meh" with the longer drive and earlier start. But we didn't start too early and had missed the early morning crowd too. {We hadn't expected it to be crowded because we've never seen too many cars there when we camp during summer. Even though the parking is very limited. Was one reason we left that hike for the weekend. We saw more people than cars, not sure where all these people were coming from}. Of course, the "up the mountain" 100 mile drive wasn't doing much for our electric range. I believe it was estimating we only had 90 miles left on the car once we got to our destination. We weren't worried about it at all knowing that it would use very little of that energy to go back down. The stories are true: We had more range when we got home than we did at the top of the mountain. So... 90 miles downhill generated more energy that it used. It's hard to believe it until you see it for yourself. We did stop for lunch and a free charge. The lunch took longer than the charge. We had two convenient options: a charger right by camp or the charger by the cabin. We drove 190 miles. Stopped for a free charge that added 100 miles to the battery. Still had 200 miles left when we got home. Although we had consistently been getting a 260-mile range in different weather and terrain, this works out to a 290-range on one charge (if you ignore the extra charge and 100 miles). Which means... even though the uphill used a lot of energy, the downhill still put us +30 miles ahead with the roundtrip. Obviously, stopping to charge was completely unnecessary. MH ended up getting an extra free charge. It was the first time he got a survey/free charge offer. I have already redeemed two and got an accidental extra credit, so make that *3* free charges. When showing him how to access the free charge, I noticed my last free charge expires next week (on October 6th?). I asked MH not to plug in the car when we got home. There's enough range for me to drive to work all week and then we can refuel at a free public fast charger next weekend. MH does have some planned day trips with DL(15) during his time off (fall break in another week), but if they go into the mountains where the chargers are always free, I expect that we won't get through all of these extra *free charge* offers. Oh yeah, our fuel costs for our 190 mile drive yesterday: $2.06 Our higher summer electric rates end October 1. For spring and fall, just means even cheaper driving.

Napa Weekend

January 16th, 2018 at 08:40 pm

Weekend Spending:
$12 Groceries
$100 Dinner (Friday)
($100) Cash Gift
$100 Hotel Fees, Dining Out (Saturday)
($100) Gift
$100 Room service (Saturday)
($100 Credit)
$28 Dining Out (Sunday)
($50 Credit)

Spent less than $0!

In the end, we spent around $20-ish for the entire weekend away from home. Some of the groceries we brought back home, and the Sunday dining out was included dinner after we got home.

I didn't plan it that way, MH is just charmed like that!

{We have since received a $50 credit from the hotel. So I guess we made money?? Big Grin I edited above to reflect this credit).

We aren't a big fan of the restaurants in Napa (way over-priced and have yet to find anything that lives up to the hype), BUT we did find an excellent restaurant on a prior visit and planned to return. I expected that to really be our only expense this weekend, and so was fine with the high cost. The food was DIVINE! In the end, MH received some birthday cash to cover that.

The timeshare company and/or the resort screwed up the reservation and so we got a small hotel room instead of the suite we reserved (with full kitchen). I had no idea what on earth we'd spend the $100 credit on, that they gave us to compensate for the error. MH is smart, and figured we could order room service. It worked out since we had planned to buy some groceries and just hole up in the room most of the weekend. $100 covered brunch and dinner on Saturday.

We usually pay -$0- when we stay at timeshare properties, but some hotels have incidental fees (usually parking fees in places like San Francisco). We've stayed at this resort a few times before and I recalled they charge taxes directly to us. So we paid $60 for two nights. (Not a bad deal!) We also made sure to use up entire $100 credit and went over a bit, owing $15. Spent $25 on lunch out Saturday. All that added up to $100, but MH happened to receive a $100 birthday check (in the mail) when we got home. That worked out nicely!

{In the end, MIL was beyond peeved and found out that we can get the taxes refunded if she calls every time. They charged us because we aren't timeshare owners. We probably never mentioned to her in the past?? Anyway, she called to complain about everything and we supposedly have another $50 credit coming to us. Did I mention that MH is charmed?}.

Sunday we ate lunch at our favorite deli chain before heading home, and then I took the kids out to dinner since we had no food in the house (no one was up to running to the store AND cooking). That said, DL started to give me a laundry list of food items. I told him, "If you want me to pick it up for you, you get to order one menu item." I just didn't want some mega order and they had already eaten VERY WELL all weekend. MM(14) ordered a double whopper, which was more than half of the $11 we spent on dinner. We had some food in the house to supplement.

Some Wineries/Landscape:




The view from our hotel:


On Saturday we ended up doing a brewery tour and some beer tasting. We then went to a 2-hour podcast recording. All that was free, except we ordered an appetizer and a beer sampler while waiting for our tour. (Officially they don't do free beer tasting on the weekend, but apparently they do ply you with free beer).

I enjoyed the relaxing weekend. I won't have a full weekend or any weekday off until May. So it was nice to have such a relaxing weekend. MH was telling me that everyone seemed confused that he doesn't go to Napa for the wine. It's only an hour drive from our house, so probably the closest vacation destination we have. Tahoe is nice, but could be treacherous to get to this time of year. & it's twice as far away. Napa is where we go when we want to relax. It's just close and relaxing.

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I was not going for "uber frugal" this month at all, and would roll my eyes at the idea of our lifestyle being uber frugal. (I've lived many adult years on pennies, and we live rather extravagantly these days, compared to any frame of reference I have living in Bay Area or how I grew up).

So I am amused how the month is shaping up. MH and I have a $50 gift card for a fancy meal this week (will go on his birthday). The weekend after that we will probably take my dad to Benihana (belated birthday gift; I have a $100 gift card).

I think I will be able to redeem my last $500 credit card rewards (gift cards) this week. No idea what to even do with that! I will probably donate some.

Back from Camp

July 1st, 2017 at 10:16 pm

We are back from our annual family camp trip. (10th year! Hard to believe. 9th year at this camp).

I hadn't thought too much about it, but was describing to a co-worker. It's basically like summer camp for the whole family. The camp is run by our city. Year 1 we tried San Jose's camp (near Yosemite). But Sacramento's camp (near Tahoe) has nice cabins. It's easier to get to, and we all just love it. So as I described to my co-worker the nice cabins, how all food is provided (dining hall) and they serve beer by the patio. The more I described it the more heavenly it sounded. So that was a couple of days before we left and I really started to look forward to our trip.

I haven't had more than a day off since November? So it all sounded very luxurious the more I thought about it. Otherwise, I just hadn't given much thought to the whole thing.

Last year was really a dud because we could only fit in our DC trip if we left on the last day of school and came back the day before camp. UGH. Anyway, I never planned to stay the whole time, and DL (11) was just not having it. We both ended up leaving camp even earlier than I had planned (last year). The year before my nieces had not come up, and so the last two years were kind of a bummer.

This year my nieces made it up for camp and the kids just had a BLAST with them. I think next year if their cousins can't make it up that we may let them invite friends. It just makes all the difference, for them.

MH had also bought a couple of games right before the trip. Rolleyes It's not like we don't have a million games. But one of them, Codenames, was a HUGE hit. We just had a blast with that one. It's one of those games that is more fun with more people.

Lake Tahoe was filled to capacity. After falling below normal levels due to drought conditions in recent years. I just thought it didn't look like it could be much more full. There was barely any beach left. I looked it up yesterday and it's at its peak. They are releasing water. Extra so since we had a heat wave last week with a lot of snow melt.

Since I had heard the ski resorts would have skiing well into July this year, because of so much snow this winter, I did look it up and we had planned to go up to one of the ski resorts instead of going to the Lake on the Lake day. It would have been $$$$$, but how often can you go sledding the end of June? Big Grin In the end, the kids changed their mind last minute and wanted to go to the beach. Saved me a lot of money. I was thinking how that $15 game was infinitely more entertaining. I really wouldn't have minded spending the money for a one-time thing (the resort had rock climbing and ropes courses and all sorts of thing my Monkey Monkey would LOVE). But I think it worked out in the spirit of camp to just not spend any money. In the end, it was probably the nicest (camp) trip we have ever had.

Oh, and the theme was Hawaiian or something along those lines. We aren't really much into the themes but I bought a few leis at the party store (a couple of bucks). In the end, MH brought his ukelele. (He got into it more than he would admit). It was a fun theme. Camp was super fancy this year; they had hula dancers!

{This trip is paid for by the in-laws. My dad usually goes with us too}.

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MH had free advanced screening tickets (plus extras) for the Spiderman movie, Wednesday night. He saw some kid running around camp in a spider man costume. So he approached him and offered him tickets. I was surprised because he is generally protective about his secret movie source. But he told me that he just said he got the tickets from a friend.

{In the end, they went and LOVED being able to see the movie early}.

MH kept two tickets just in case, but we all felt up to going to the other movie he had gotten us tickets for: The Big Sick. Patient Saver mentioned in her blog about the cultural diversity in New Jersey. Growing up in California, that's all I know. (The population was something like 3% white where I grew up. Any house on my street growing up would be a look into a different culture and world). Anyway, I bring up because the movie was about the melding of cultures. & it speaks so much of my upbringing and my childhood friends' struggles with their parents. Loosely based on the true story about how comedian Kumail Nanjiani met his wife. In the end she got sick and ended up in a coma after they broke up, and he bonded with her parents during that time. MH had already told me that they ended up married so not too much of a spoiler? It's more a story about all the pressure his parents were putting on him to marry a Pakistani girl, and about her parents warming up to him and working through their own stereotypes. & also some about hospitals and Doctors/nurses. (Sometimes medical stuff is just a little too close to home. Especially when it's written by someone who has been through a big medical ordeal).

Anyway, we took the kids and they liked it more than we expected them to.

Oh, and MH got Spiderman tickets for another day, so all is well in his world.

DONE!

May 28th, 2017 at 06:26 pm

**MM(13) had his final on Tuesday, so we are done with this 3-school nonsense. Woohoo!

It's still a little messy since he doesn't have a last period class and MH is going to pick him up early for the next few weeks. On one hand. On the other hand, it's on his way home, so maybe it's not that big of a deal. Though he gets out of work a while before MM gets out. I don't know. We hadn't discussed that part. Maybe some extra driving, but at least no more sitting around and waiting.

**I think I am over the hump on a big work project. PHEW!

I could feel it on Tuesday. I woke up crazy early and so went on a 2-mile walk around the lake. It was a billion degrees during the day, so in the evening we went to the pool (walking distance). It was just divine. Life is good.

Back to vacation lifestyle. I had failed miserably the past 9 months or so (don't remember ever being that busy, since having kids) but the rest of this year is looking up.

**The last few weekends we have gone out quite a bit. In a frugal manner. Free movies, using free gift cards, taking advantage of memberships, etc.

We used up our last dining gift card (credit card reward from last year) so I mentioned to MH that I might keep an eye out for a meager reward like that. If that's all there is, is better than nothing.

**I am so behind on posting that I guess I will just start with this weekend.

Yesterday DL had his friends over. Their plan was to work on their band, but thankfully I mentioned to have them bring their swim suits. The band thing didn't work out so well, and instead they really enjoyed their time at the pool. (DL is getting way into drumming. I've got a really old hand-me-down drum pad thing and we will probably him a fancier one for his birthday).

& MM(13) is friends with all of them, so he hung out with the younger kids yesterday.

Today both kids were invited to a BBQ (another 11yo that goes to school with MM now). I think DL has moved on, having switched school. So though it was his friend to start, I think MM will probably have more fun at the BBQ. Hopefully DL enjoys himself a wee little bit. He is way into swimming these days, so maybe he will be okay. If not for the swimming part, I could see him being cranky and bored. Will see...

That reminds me that we did discuss birthday plans. It sounds like MM is going to try to get a group of 13yos at the water park. Summer is a tough sell though. So, will see what we can do. We already discussed it. If everyone can go, it's just going to be the big kids. If everyone can not go (most likely) then DL and a mutual friend of theirs will be invited. I am hoping MM can find one or two friends who will be in town. (DL doesn't seem to care too much either way).

DL's new best friend at the new school shares his birthday. There was talk at some point of some mega birthday, but his friend sounds like he wants to bow out of that. Now his friend wants DL to have a party and he is not going to have a party? Regardless of how it works out, they will have to co-ordinate somewhat. So that they don't both have a party on the same day. For now, it seems like it will be rather low key. Just a sleepover at our house, or something like that. (Though it's way more fun to sleep at other people's houses, and that is what DL is pulling for. Sounds fine by me! He's got some time to talk his friend into it.).

I forgot to say, we always stay home big Holiday weekends. Too many crowds. We hadn't planned much of anything, but had some impromptu get-togethers. MH has a friend coming over to watch a movie, too.

P.S. I shared a couple of easy recipes in my last post, if you missed it.

September Savings

September 30th, 2016 at 05:18 pm

Received $40 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $41 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$6 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-220 school expenses
-188 Medical Expenses
-110 Large Purchase**
-90 Dentist
-40 Took kids/friends to fancy pool

**MM was going to reimburse us partially for a shared electronic purchase. I think we just forgot in the chaos. I'll check with MH on this.

Edit to add: MM reimbursed us $55 for large purchase

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Flashback:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

September Update:

No progress on this front because life is chaos right now. I don't see how/when until things settle down a bit.

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MH is back at work. He got a nice raise but is working less hours. It almost evens out, though making a little bit less.

For this month I am just putting his paychecks (3 weeks) towards replenishing our checkbook for vacation expenditures & gymnastic spending.

Next month he will put his 401k back to 50%. He's pre-ordered a VR system, which will take all of his income in October. November income will pay for the hotel on my birthday. I guess that except for the 50% 401k thing, we are just splurging his income most the rest of the year. (We have cash for these things, but we are also working on saving up for some big expenditures, so it will be nice to just cash flow our big splurges).

Until I typed this out, I thought we had maybe gotten used to the extra cash flow and were over-spending a bit. In the end, I was $750 short in the checkbook, after MH being off work for 3 months, which is easily explained by $250 vacation overage plus about $500 of gymnastic spending. Now I just feel silly. We have enough float in the checkbook so I was just kind of muddling through in the interim. I had forgotten that I hadn't otherwise planned for the gymnastic expenses.

I was expecting that MH's income would cover the kids' extra-curriculars. In the past we've covered with other windfalls or they just haven't been significant expenses. I can't say they were a big financial priority. But now we are in a better place to afford this type stuff. I think a lot of it will be moot given the kids' school changes for this year and next. So any bigger expenses will probably be rather temporary. For the next calendar year I can plan ahead better.

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Overall, I'd say that this month was chaotic. Probably too much stress spending.

More fun spending is planned for October. MH and I are going to Tahoe this weekend, and next week we are taking the kids to Monterey. (Instead of the usual big October break that we usually take advantage off, the kids have only one day off together. {Which is why we moved our DC trip up to June}. Though technically MM is skipping his math class so that we can go to Monterey during the week).

Planning Something Fun

September 18th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

I hadn't really thought much about it, but I think it's probably pretty official that we are not going to do a National Park trip this year. I had wanted to see how our home repairs would price out first, but I didn't count on my child falling apart. (If we went on a trip it was going to be without the kids, but I don't think DL would go for that right now).

It's fine. I already had a good feeling that we would push that off to next year. It just popped into my head and I am thinking, "no way in heck!" We have absolutely nothing travel planned for next year, or any future years, so I am sure we will plan a nice National Park trip next year. Just MH & I. I don't know what order, but we want to do Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce/Zion and Yellowstone. That will probably keep us busy for the next 3-4 years. If we do anything with the kids it would probably just be renting a beach house or a lake house for the week, or a small road trip. It would not be a priority or wish of mine to fly anywhere.

As for my birthday, I mentioned wanting to do a weekend away near San Francisco. MH did discuss with his mom, but her timeshare did not come through on this either. !!

That kind of got pushed aside in the craziness of the last couple of weeks, but today I booked a hotel. About $500 for 2 nights (*choke choke*). But it's my 40th birthday and I wanted to splurge a bit. (It's just extra painful since we already spent thousands above our travel budget this year, and we rarely pay anything for hotels. I had to take some time to talk myself into it).

We got a beach front hotel near San Francisco.

I want to spend the day in SF doing a hike and eating at one of my favorite restaurants.

I expect that the beach will be much nicer by our hotel and we will probably drive down the coast a bit and just enjoy the food and scenery.