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A Hike and... an Engagement?

April 19th, 2024 at 03:26 pm

We did the traditional ‘after busy season time off and hike’.  But this time was a little different.  For the first time in 7? years I didn’t just look up the easiest hike I could find. I mean, the hike was labeled “easy”, I guess because of not a *lot* of elevation gain.  But after about a mile uphill, it did kick my butt.  MH’s job is way more physical and he seemed less bothered by it.  But he very heartily disagreed with the “easy” assessment.  It was a 4 mile hike with a lot of uphill.  And…  It was just perfect.  It is exactly what I needed.  I like that it was a bit more of a challenge, while being relatively easy.  & I probably would not have been up to that during several years of recent ‘survival mode'.

This morning I bought some hiking shoes, which should help.  I’d like to go back and redo with some better footwear.  & I am over this “once per year” hike schedule. I’ve decided that at a minimum we need to be doing a hike at least once every month.   

We do really need to take more advantage while our fuel costs pennies.  Not sure how long that will last.  Thinking to hitting more Bay Area and Tahoe hikes.  Last year I realized that we had extra freedom with MH done with the whole 'driving the kids to school' thing.  In addition to that, I do work from home one day per week.  I'd like to maybe once or twice a month hit an afternoon hike.  If it's easier for me to leave at 2 or 3.  I think we left closer to 3:00 for this hike and I was surprised how empty the parking lot was (both before and after our hike).  I expected more of an 'after work' crowd.

Here are some pictures from our hike yesterday.  This is only 30 minutes from our house.

I’ve done a good mix of relaxing and crossing things off my to do list, this week off work.  I feel I have both the physical and the mental energy to get things done.  While my time has skewed maybe 80% - 90% towards just relaxing.  It’s been a good balance.  

In other news...  I was not supposed to know this but MM(20) is engagement ring shopping.  MH and I got engaged when we were both 19, which was weird in our day.  Have got a lot of questions why we bothered to get engaged if we didn't plan to get married until after college.  (& it was just plain weird to get married in our early 20s). I presumed that MM(20) and his girlfriend are not in any rush.  They are certainly taking their sweet time.  I am not surprised at all that they plan to eventually get married.  But it is a big surprise that they are ring shopping.

The only reason I know is because the GF is going halvsies on the ring and she gave a chunk of money to MM(20).  I thought it was rent/utility related.  I am just trying to figure out how much I owe the kid for utilities.  So I asked him about it.  He got really uncomfortable and I thought, "Ugh, I don't want to know."  So I started to tell him, nevermind.  But by the time I changed course, he had already admitted it was for an engagement ring.  

What!?

Kudos to the girlfriend for getting MM to buy a $1,200 ring!  (This is what I presume, re: her $600 contribution).  She thinks it's cute that he is an extreme cheapskate.  It is not cute, and it will get old.  So I am relieved he can at least spend money on important things.  Not that I think a ring is important.  But you know, people first.  Then money, then things.  It's the "people first" part that I think he's wise to oblige. 

Admittedly, there could be a YOLO aspect re: girlfriend's recent health problems.  I presume they won't get married until after college, but who knows.  The girlfriend is *amazing* and a very welcome addition to the family. 

Pasadena & Looking Ahead

January 5th, 2024 at 03:02 pm

We are back from our New Year's trip to Pasadena. 

The trip was mixed.  MM(20) was too busy and basically only had five minutes for us.  We had brought him some stuff from home, and so we met him at his hotel, just as he was taking off.  He did invited us to lunch with him and the group of students he was driving back to the college, but some of them had COVID and others were sick with whatever else.  We declined lunch with the sick people.

We didn't do the parade, but we went to the float showcase afterwards.  The downside is that for the most part there weren't any animations (the float operators were long gone).  But we did see one of the floats operating.  The plus side is you can get up so close and see the floats from all sides.  

I have lots of pictures to share, but will just start with a few.

MH and I had a nice dinner in a pub on New Year's eve.  We had found a free charger for the car and so just took our time.  As we thought ahead to the New Year, all I could figure was that it's going to suck.  That's my take on 2024.  Mostly thinking to health issues of various loved ones.  πŸ˜”

I can see the theme is that it will be a challenging year on the health front.  This is the most obvious.  But I also think it's going to be a crazy bucket list year.  Some mix of low lows and high highs, probably.  The Pasadena New Year's thing was a magical 'once in a lifetime' way to start out the year.  Next month MH should be getting his movie made.  Those are the biggies.  But if we have any time and money left after that, we had been planning to make it to the Grand Canyon this year.  I think it's ridiculous we still have not made that work after 2013 canceled trip.  & it may very likely get pushed to the side *again*.  

On the challenging side...  GMIL's health is starting to slide.  Both our parents with cognitive decline seem to be worsening significanly in recent months. & I am probably the most beside myself about the girlfriend.  She's so young.  It sounds pretty unlikely that she can return to school this month.  The pandemic really slowed down our parents' cognitive declines.  So I have been bracing myself for some obviously rougher years, but I think this is it.  2024 is obviously going to be rough. My BIL is also still battling some mystery illness.

Amazing Weekend

October 10th, 2023 at 01:14 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.  πŸ™„  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 03:32 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 03:55 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 03:45 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 01:54 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 02:49 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 01:56 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 09:16 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 05:26 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 04:18 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.

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

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.

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

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 10:34 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.

This & That

September 5th, 2016 at 06:19 pm

Not doing anything exciting this weekend. I live in the house of Grump, right now. HA! MH is clearly getting stressed about going back to work. DL is okay, but we are walking on eggshells around him. I think my mood is okay but I am still stuck mostly off my feet. So we are all out of sorts on some level.

{MM is off at a sleepover, hopefully having more fun than the rest of us!}

We usually stay home on holiday weekends and avoid the crowds. But feel a little extra housebound right now.

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**Still figuring out the ropes of the new school. Weird after having both our kids in only one school for the past 8 years. They've often been in different locations, but always the same school.

I get the impression that this school leans more towards just supplying school supplies. But I've been asked for $20 for lab supplies/art supplies and $13 so that DL can write in/keep his math workbook. Oh, and $20 for a PE uniform (that he can maybe wear for a few years). {I had asked an 8th grade parent about sizing and she told me her 8th grader's first uniform was still too big. So I guess that they last}.

I have no idea what other expenses will trickle in.

**I saw that the Phantom of the Opera will be playing in our city next spring. We will try, but I doubt my kids will enjoy. DL seems way more into "being in" the theater versus "watching" the theater. Will see. If they don't enjoy this, I will give up for a while. MH and I can afford to go to twice as many musicals if we ditch the kids, so I can't say that I am that upset about it. Big Grin

But I first saw Phantom around DL's age and thought that it was pretty incredible. I guess I Want to give that experience to my kids.

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We are working on figuring out some vacations

**For our anniversary this month, we usually go to Napa since it's the only place we can generally get more last minute (free MIL timeshare). Well... We failed. MIL was able to get us a hotel in Tahoe instead. I look forward to the change and I think that part is all good. BUT, they didn't have a condo/kitchen so we will probably have to eat out mostly. Not the super cheap getaway that we are used to.

I suppose we can eat dinner before we drive up there and bring breakfast. So maybe we only go out for one lunch and one dinner? I suppose it's not a big deal. We'd go up Friday night and come home Sunday morning.

**I've finally figured out what I want to do for my 40th birthday. Kind of anything I want to do (National Parks/outdoors) is not really doable in winter. So I finally settled on just staying close to home. Rather than driving really far, I just want to keep it close. (I mean, I am sure San Diego is quite lovely in December, but it's a 7-hour drive). So... I settled on San Francisco! Thinking more to the southern tip of the city where the coast is beautiful and there are some lovely hikes, plus one of my favorite restaurants. We just don't make the time to go there like ever, so that is what I settled on. Would love to stay along the coast somewhere south of the city. I don't want to do the "hills" and "traffic" part of it all. Focusing more on the outdoors and the hiking.

MH still has to see if we can get a free timeshare stay. But since we mostly struck out this year and his mom was being difficult about it, I've already looked up some options. Thankfully it wasn't as expensive as I was envisioning. Will work it out, however it works out.

Birthdays & Knitting

July 3rd, 2016 at 01:19 pm

This month is the month of birthday. We will be hosting three birthday parties this month (the third party is for MIL's 70th).

Yeah, I had forgotten about MIL's birthday, but we are going in with SIL and she seems to be in super cheap mode.

We are just winging it when it comes to our kids. Very "go with the flow". We sent out invites for LM's party next weekend but are keeping it pretty loose. Will see who can make it and make decisions from there. Was thinking of splurging on an ice cream cake but I can just pick that up during the party. We don't do party favors - I hate all that junk and clutter. So yeah, I am really not planning to do much to prepare.

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With dh working, I am not feeling like we need to pinch pennies quite as much as last year (with all the big splurges).

We are planning a mid-week trip to San Francisco in July. We were going to do a weekday trip to Monterey in August but I am not sure if we can get that to work out. Maybe that would be something to do in October. The kids don't have the same break but I think they at least had one weekday off together in October.

In addition, dh and I have a couple of weekends away planned. That is more motivated by MIL having tons of timeshare points to use up. Is not anything we plan to spend money on. These trips will be later - our anniversary and my 40th birthday.

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So... Everyone in my house has been jumping into some new skills and classes.

I went a little back and forth on this. I was feeling inspired. But I also do feel like I have plenty on my plate as is. In the end I am glad I decided to take on a new skill myself. I took all that inspiration to finally learn how to knit. I am glad I just bit the bullet because it is really something that can be done during otherwise down time. In the end I don't feel like this has taken away from anything else.

Though I am sure you can mostly learn this skill online for free, I ended up picking up a book with 50 squares to knit. IT didn't even have any reviews and I picked it up on a gut feel. But I am LOVING it. Have mostly been told that knitting a blanket or something like that would be too tedious at this point and to keep it small. So this has been kind of perfect to practice and to build up skills.

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely learned online from Youtube. Since I got my needles and yarn first (Michael's) I kind of started with that. Then I have to look up all the stitches online because yeah, it's hard to learn from a book. But between the two, I am happy with this method of learning.

Honestly, I feel kind of silly for not doing this sooner. One of those things I had been putting off for a very long time.

Edited to add: Saw some tote bags to knit, which seems the easiest/most practical so far. Making a note to self since I'm not quite ready for that yet.

40th Birthday Weekend

January 16th, 2016 at 08:06 pm

I am so glad to be done with the "Year of Splurge".

Last year was a lot of pinching pennies while planning all these BIG and short-lived things. Though I see the value of doing something "bigger" once in a blue moon, it is not how I enjoy living my life overall.

Now it's back to "Vacation Lifestyle" where we can do several smaller things throughout the year. Last weekend was a perfect example of that. We spent a whole whopping $260 and it was just incredible. Of course maybe this isn't fair since we paid for several shows ahead of time. But I didn't really count those since we do those every year and this was just the first time we stayed in the city and were able to do several more. (But since we ditched the kids we didn't spend any more than usual).

The "weekend away" part was $260, and was worth every penny. We could easily afford to do something like this every single month, and is what I would rather do versus saving up for one big trip only once per year.

So I suppose I will put this under the "vacation lifestyle" category.

In the end we had wanted to hit 5 shows but one was sold out before we could get tickets. It was the Friday night show, which was probably for the best since we didn't have to rush to get there.

The first night we had a late dinner and were mostly getting ready for bed. (I think dh was already in bed). When I told dh that I had just wanted to go for a walk or go do something for a bit. I usually go to bed super early but was a little nervous about having to stay up so late the next night. Going to bed early wasn't going to help with that, even if I had stayed up a little later than usual. One of the venues that we frequent for the Sketchfest was on the same block as our hotel and I had been reading off comedians performing there this weekend (reading these off on the car ride). We had joked about stalking them and also wondered if any would stay at our hotel. So we initially just discussed sitting in either lobby and people watching.

That said, when we looked up the next show down the street it was to start in an hour and was one of dh's favorite comedians. It had been long sold out, but dh suggested trying to get tickets. I figured that would keep me awake. He told me, "The good tickets usually open up last minute anyway. They hold extra seats for the talent." So we walked over not really expecting much. Well, maybe dh was expecting more but I certainly wasn't expecting much! But... they had front row seats available. !! File that away under, "It never hurts to ask." Of course, all these shows are pretty small and the front row seats don't cost any more than the back.

It was the best show we saw all weekend. I don't know if I have ever laughed so hard at a live show.

That pretty much summed up our weekend. Dh (the birthday boy) is charmed and everything went our way. All the food was great. We got free parking everywhere we went. & so how it seemed to go.

We did get stuck in the back row at a podcast recording that dh has been to a few times and always gets crappy seats for. But I was fine with it because at least we had seats! We had to rush from another show and there were a lot of people stuck standing. We got some of the last seats though we had been able to get there an hour before the show started. In contrast, on our Sunday afternoon show we didn't get there more than an hour early and we were like third in line. This was our view:



I mean, we didn't even bother to get there until the doors were supposed to open. & it was a packed and sold out show.

All the other shows were assigned seats and we had front row seats.

So we went to *five* shows, ate at several restaurants, and met up with some friends. Birthday Success!

Spending:

$130 Restaurants
$60 Hotel parking (free timeshare stay, otherwise)
$70 for spontaneous show

TOTAL $260

(See my prior post for some pictures of our weekend).

Vacation Planning

February 11th, 2015 at 02:25 pm

We got our room booked in Maui. Cost will be $0, thanks to in-laws' timeshares.

Airfare is going for $300 right now from the west coast. I don't know that I've ever paid more than $400. But $300? WOW! It's the first time I am flying all four of us to Hawaii and so these prices sound good but the low prices have not hit for fall yet. We will keep an eye on things. I signed up at a website that had a lot of great airfare tips and sales alerts. I feel relieved because when I perused airfare last month I thought it might be a lot more expensive than I had envisioned. It's since gone in the opposite direction. $300 per person x 4, would be phenomenal.

Our annual vacation budget is $1,500 and so I think I will just try to fit airfare in that range. (We usually don't plan trips to Hawaii and I Would not expect our usual vacation budget to cover that!). I plan to use credit card rewards to pay for the car rental. I may hold back $1,000 from my overtime this year to fund the trip. We wanted to take surfing lessons, maybe two of us do a zip line, etc. But most the lazing around and swimming, snorkeling, hiking and boogie boarding type stuff should be fairly inexpensive. I am feeling optimistic that this trip will be easily funded without pushing into our savings goals.

Of course, our usual vacation budget funds our overall more "vacation lifestyle" and frequent weekend trips and so on. This year is going to be "two BIG trips and not a lot of money to do much else" kind of year. We still live in a resort community, have some amazing hikes in our backyard, and maybe we should make more of a go of some camping excursions this year. I think we can easily keep our "vacation lifestyle" but it will just be more frugal than recent years. Will just have to plan accordingly.

Beach Trip Update

August 13th, 2014 at 01:29 pm

Beach Trip:

Spent $400. The bulk of that was food, and then the kitty hotel. That maybe includes $20 gas. I won't worry about the rest of the gas (maybe spent $50 gas total).

I don't remember the last time we went somewhere so crazy expensive on the food front. Never?? Their Round table pizza prices were 70% more expensive than our own local RT. We went there on the last night for a "cheap dinner" and couldn't believe the bill. Large pizza was about $30. !!

I'll pull $400 from the vacation budget. It works out perfectly because I also wanted to donate $100 to Camp Sac. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet and so made that donation this week and will pull $500 from vacation budget. $400 + $100. (Since MIL treats for our camp trip we always make a donation instead. Money used to keep up the non-profit camp).

Here are a couple of pictures from our trip.

First is the Mendocino coastline. Breathtaking.

Second picture was taken at Glass Beach. Old dump site where the trash has been ground down over the years into a beautiful sea glass beach. When you look closer at some of the rust colored areas of the picture (in person), is remnants of the old dump. There was one part that had an old giant car part and shards of glass. It's fascinating how old trash can be so pretty. Lots of the sea glass on the shore is plastic (red and orange pebbles used to be car tail lights) and ceramic (lots of pieces of china).

Our hotel accommodations were free, think to MIL's endless timeshare points. The property was so beautiful but the rooms were really run down. We are not picky people by any means, but when we got there I think we were both a little uncomfortable. I will say that the place grew on me. The beds were surprisingly comfortable and so we got over it. The beauty of the grounds won us over. Which is maybe why MIL's timeshare covered this place. Usually WAY NICER properties.

So, we finally did it. It took us 13 years, but we finally ventured up north for the beach. Since we now live up north. What was our overall feeling about it? It was beautiful but the drive was so stressful getting there. I don't know if I have ever been on such a windy road in my life and felt really horrible for carsick younger child. (I know I would have been miserable most the drive if I wasn't driving).

Glad we saw it, but think we will stick with Pismo Beach. Oh, and it took us 6 hours to drive home (supposed to be a 4 hour drive). SO... Pismo is a lovely and very easy 5 hour drive with hardly a windy road. I think that is just *our* beach.

We certainly had fun and have no regrets about it. It will just be a long time before we go back again. & new adventures sometimes give us extra appreciation for the places we already know and love.

Beach Trip & Citi

August 12th, 2014 at 08:12 pm

We are back from a long weekend at the coast, and kids start school this week.

I have no idea how much money we spent, but guessing $500-ish for gas and food and kitty hotel (4 Days).

My parents picked up airline tickets for visiting my sister in October. Phew! Glad that it is confirmed for sure that I don't need to cough up $500 for that (before they changed their mind). Which meant I had $1,000 left in vacation budget, and it doesn't look like I will be spending much in October (We won't rent a car and at worst it will only be $25/night to split a hotel. Just me, so not a lot of food to buy either). $500 should be more than plenty leftover for that trip.

Dh wants to go to Napa next month (I doubt we'd even spend $100) and I am still toying with the idea of going to Pismo Beach for my birthday. The kids don't get their usual day off (Monday after Thanksgiving) so it would just be dh and I. Will probably just make that a last minute decision, based on funds available. I suppose I should just use my Citi reward to book that hotel, and call it a day.

Will post more about our trip later.

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When we got home the Citi card was here. I charged it up already. $215 school lunches for first half of year, $260 field trips, $70 supplies and spirit t-shirts, this month's health insurance, plus $35 to pre-pay next month's insurance. Total = $1,500.

$200 earned - now I wait until I can redeem.

Short Vacation Update

July 18th, 2014 at 02:39 pm

A sure way to vacation success is to go in with low expectations. Big Grin

Background: In-laws invited us to So Cal for a week. We were wary about the heat and crowds and spending all that time with them, but in the end it turned out pretty well. Unfortunately FIL had an injury and they didn't end up really doing anything with us. ??? So it was kind of weird (to go on vacation with someone and then never see them), but WE certainly had fun.

Disneyland: Glad we didn't spend our own money to confirm that the kids are over it.

My parents took me to Disney once. I always kind of appreciated the magic of vacations like that because they were so rare. Living a 6-hour drive from Disney I certainly know many people who go many times a year and seem to enjoy it. But, dh and I are just so bored with it, and our kids even moreso. (I think they have both been 6-8 times? The older one a couple of times more?). As dh said, "We don't care enough about anything to actually wait in line for it". We saved that for Wednesday and the day started out pretty well but it was so crowded in the afternoon and evening. We gave up and left early. For the most part it was way better than expected and we did all the "long wait" stuff early on before there were any lines. Phew.

The kids still LOVE Legoland and the in-laws did join us for a few hours.

For BM's birthday we went to Six Flags. Best day of our week. We could not believe how not-crowded it was. There was only one ride BM could not get into (didn't want to wait 45 minutes and the ride shut down when he decided to do it last even if the wait was long), was the new one. We told him we will come back in 5 years and everyone will be bored of it. It was surprising how short the lines were on everything else.

So, we decided that he did 11 mega coasters for his 11th birthday.

Oh, and the Six Flags by us is just awful. They won't let you carry fanny packs on the baby rides or set your drink down while you ride. Ridiculous $1 lockers by every ride where you have to put your hat and sunglasses. Rolleyes Dh and I both worked at an amusement park in high school and we were just kind of annoyed about everything last time we went to that Six Flags, in comparison. Looking at the website this one seemed to be about the same so I Was resigned to being the "stuff holder" all day. In the end, they had very few rides that requested lockers (BM saw one or two) and they still let you set your hat and drinks to the side for the ride. It's a small thing but it makes a big difference in enjoyment.

Compared to the other crowded parks, Six Flags was heaven. Big Grin LM and I had a surprisingly enjoyable time though we didn't do many rides. Dh was a sport and rode most the BIG rides with BM. I am just getting too old for that stuff. Dh feels the same way, but he is a trooper. Next time we need to find a friend who is brave enough or tall enough. We could not for this trip. (His best friend is way too short to ride anything!)

I am guessing we spent $500 for the entire trip. Will see where we end up. Six Flags was entirely paid for by credit card rewards. In-laws paid for our other park tickets. We treated MIL to a $100 meal for her birthday dinner but she got us $100 Disney dollars (going to a timeshare talk). So I think we made out pretty well. We could have made the Disney day free, with the disney dollars, but decided to splurge on a ridiculously expensive lunch. $90 for four. IT was okay. If we had spent real money we would have been pretty disappointed.

Dh and I also made it to one show. A podcast one of his favorite comedians does. There were some other $10 shows but the timing didn't work and these are all shows that come to San Francisco at times. So, those will have to wait for another time.

I can't believe we were gone for 5 nights. I can get pretty cranky when we are away from home too long, but I think I am mellowing with age. I seem to travel better. But still very happy to be home! LM too seemed to have a surprisingly good attitude but this morning he told me he was happy to be home and he was going to hug the floor all day. That is usually how I am. Big Grin

Edited to add: $500 in expected costs is for food and fuel.

Good Money Week

July 8th, 2014 at 01:37 pm

I feel like I have been on vacation for weeks. Work is just really quiet. (Clients are mostly on vacation so I am getting caught up with stuff, just doing what I want to do). The long weekend was extremely refreshing (feels like it was more than a week or something). I think a lot of it is that I don't work a full week again until kids go back to school. Two more vacations in that time. I am already winding down for vacation after a quiet couple of weeks and a long weekend.

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I updated my 2014 rewards tally in my last post.

It's been a good money week. I did receive the $2k kids' college money.

I redeemed $200 Chase Freedom reward towards Six Flags expense, as planned. (Just saw my rewards hit today). I saved the rest ($36?) to redeem next month with gas 5% cash back (vacation driving). I expect this reward to be a grand total of $250. Will redeem the remaining $50 next month and will figure out what to do with it at that time.

We received our $500 (SW Chase) gift cards yesterday.

I won't know about dh's other $200 checking reward until Friday?

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I had yet to close the last two Chase Sapphires we opened. No rush, until the annual fee comes due a year after we opened. I probably would have closed them by now, but I did not want to close them while opening other accounts for rewards. In case it lessened our chances for any reason. The checking offers were because we had Chase accounts, and so I decided not to close them until we got our checking rewards, at the least. We have since both applied for new Chase accounts. At the time we both only had one Chase credit card.

SO...

Today I closed my Chase Sapphire card and dh's SW Chase card. The SW chase card was paid off yesterday AND we received the reward. It's best to close that one ASAP to get the annual fee refunded. Crossing my fingers on that too.

I will pay off the Chase Freedom next pay day and close that account. I will close dh's Chase Sapphire as soon as I sort out the SW Chase. Maybe tomorrow.

I can't close our Chase checking accounts before December. I have those set up in Quicken with a reminder. If we close before 12/31/14, we will be eligible to do the same rewards again in 2015. But if we close before December we forfeit our rewards.

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I suppose I have been somewhat in cleanup mode. Also managed to do some light de-cluttering around the house. Freecycling a few items, recycling batteries, etc.

I was going to say I wish that I had anything to sell. BUT, I guess that is not true. I am glad I don't have much laying around that we don't use or need. The difficult part for me is the stuff I don't want to throw away. (Thank goodness for freecycle! So glad to get things to people who can use them, even if can not sell for money or give to charity). I did have two freecycle no-shows, which is really annoying. I got a slew of e-mails of interested parties, but it's hard to tell who is actually serious I guess.

I purged a personalized frame (unique spelling), my very old and tired cat carrier, and a small animal pet leash. The free stuff got enough interest that I will try a few more random things next weekend.

Back from Camp

June 25th, 2014 at 08:28 pm

Just checking in. Got back from camp today and have lots of laundry to do. A shower would be nice too!

I know we have lots of new bloggers around here, so I will do a bigger update. We have an annual family tradition to go to our city's "Family Camp". Several of the cities around here own or lease campgrounds in various areas. (Near Yosemite or Tahoe). Some of our family lives in other cities so we have tried various camps throughout the years.

BUT, Camp Sac has really nice cabins and it's a lot closer. So we have come to prefer it. It's about 90 minutes from our house and 1/2 hour from our family cabin. Only about 20 minutes outside of Tahoe.

The kids get the run of the campground and various supervised activities, so the adults can rest. It is DIVINE! Especially when our kids were younger. They provide all food.

So, we just returned from our 3-night stay. We went with my nieces, SIL, my in-laws and my dad. We decided this was our 6th year at Camp Sac. I can't believe that!

I think the weather has mostly been okay the past few years, though one year the camp was buried in snow this time of year and another year they had just cleared out most the snow. THEN last year rained the *entire time*. Which this year the staff said they never remember happening before. Yeesh!

But I guess this year made up for it. *Perfect* weather.

This picture is at Lake Tahoe. Sometimes it is warm at camp but too chilly by the water to really enjoy the lake. But we were blessed with perfect lake weather yesterday.



Some of the camps are more reasonable. I'd say Camp Sac is fairly expensive. (They try to advertise it as a cheaper alternative to Disney, but WE tend to spend about as much go to Disney. It's probably cheaper than an average vacation, but is expensive if you have a very small vacation budget. Camping is certainly infinitely cheaper and we have many beautiful campsites in our state). But anyway, MIL loves to vacation with the extended family and it seems to scratch that itch for her. We may have paid the first couple of times but now she insists on covering it. I am expecting this to cost us $0. We drove a little extra but didn't have to buy food for 3 or 4 days.

I was reflecting on what special times the kids have had there. My kids may outgrow it soon enough. So we are cherishing the years that they still enjoy it.

This & That

June 20th, 2014 at 07:49 pm

**Just waiting for a few bank and credit card rewards to come through. $200 seems to be the number, of late. (I think we have racked up 5 x $200).

I am pleased to say that the Southwest Chase double dip worked. Woohoo! That will be $500 in gift cards.

Crossing my fingers that our "fake direct deposit" worked for another $200. Will find out next week.

**Kids finished school this week and so we are slipping into vacation mode. I don't think I work a full week again until they go back to school.

**The kids' birthdays are coming up in July. That whole thing has been interesting. We literally and seriously told them not to expect anything for their birthday. Which we did achieve last year (no gifts). But have failed this year. We told them that because we bought some things earlier in the year that we did not want to wait until July for.

BUT, with credit card rewards and deals, their gift pile has gotten absolutely ridiculous. At least it will be very unexpected.

We spent $50 on them. Dh saw a prepaid Moto G phone deal and picked that up. They use my old phone to play games they can't get elsewhere. So, when dh saw this deal he was very excited about it. I thought it was the perfect surprise gift. (The Moto G is much nicer, and they won't have to share the one phone as much).

Dh wants to pick up a Wii U with the gift cards. We are negotiating on that. (He seems pretty set on it so I am trying to talk him into buying it after birthdays or holding until Christmas. It seems ridiculous for birthday). We had also already agreed to pick up a tent for them, with gift cards. We saw a massive one for $100-ish and thought that it would be nice for them to have a tent for the backyard. One that we don't care if they muck up.

THEN, I am talking to MIL the other day and she tells me to tell dh she "picked up a DS2" and then quickly changed the subject. I was thinking, "Surely that is not for my kids?" So I asked him about that, and surely it *is* for my kids. Rolleyes (The in-laws are crazy on the Christmas gifts but usually don't do much for their birthdays. BUT, they are trying to rack up some travel rewards).

So that is how their "expect nothing" birthday turned into the Great Gift Extravaganza of 2014.

**Our trip with the in-laws is coming up. (Which is also a birthday gift of sorts, for the kids). I never know if these trips are going to cost us $0 or $1,000. When they invite us and insist on paying for the bulk of it. But it's been several years and we are in an infinitely better financial position than last time we planned a trip together. So we will just roll with it.

Since the in-laws are racking up credit card rewards, they already bought all the park tickets and we have our kitty daycare covered. Which is a great start. I think if I suggested they put us as authorized users on their reward credit card that they would be over the moon with us charging up all our gas and food on the trip. But, I didn't go there. As is, we can handle food and gas. & I am sure they will manage to squeeze in and pay for some of that.

May Doings, New Project

May 10th, 2014 at 01:32 pm

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 β€œmakers” 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!).

Fiscal Doings

May 3rd, 2014 at 01:19 pm

**For the first of the month I received $19 in bank interest and $100 in credit card rewards. ($50 for ROTH and $50 cash; two different cards).

**I am taking care of some fiscal chores. I finally got around to making sure I was set up as secondary custodian on kids' investment accounts. I was mostly concerned about those (real $$$). Though I guess I should look into getting dh set up as secondary custodian on their savings accounts.

**Got my first Ting bill ever! We signed up right after Thanksgiving? First 4 months were entirely free. For April, we were charged about $10. $5 of that is for our household.

Next month we will likely pay a full $26 for our half of the bill. That has been our consistent monthly usage.

**I plan to open Chase checking account this weekend. That will be a $200 reward earned in something like 10 days.

I am not sure what I will do with this reward. Might just set it aside for vacation/kitty hotel, though I don't know if that is necessary. Otherwise, will probably invest the $200. We are diverting our snowflakes into an investment account, starting this month.

**I opened a new investment account this week, for my current year raise and to divert all snowflakes to. The purpose is a supplementary unemployment fund, college savings, and mortgage paydown/retirement. Gives us a little more liquidity and flexibility for the first two purposes, but mostly expect to use it for retirement or mortgage payoff, eventually.

No firm decisions yet. If things go well we may do 50/50 mortgage paydown/investing. I think that is probably where we will eventually end up.

I guess we are all backwards. When we graduated college the IRA contribution limits were a mere $2,000 per person. But we were saving 50%+ of our income. We started out with much more money in taxable savings and investments than we could possibly put away into tax-deferred accounts. Over the years that has shifted and we have certainly tried to be very tax efficient. In the past we have also done the complete opposite. We were saving too much into retirement, but funded ROTHs anyway knowing that we can use that money for college and so on. IT ebbs and flows.

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**I think last year was a dud on the "vacation lifestyle" front, but this year is shaping up pretty nicely.

Had a few loose vacation plans fall through. (Yellowstone wedding is postponed for a year or two; National Parks don't seem to be in the cards for us).

But, several other things popped up in the meantime. Most of them involve free hotel stays and driving, and so I think I can leave most the vacation budget intact for my plans to visit my sister in Ohio in the fall. Other than that, we have a short trip planned every month for the rest of the year. The Northern California coast, the Southern California coast, Napa, Tahoe, etc.

MIL invited us to Disney. I feel a little bad for her. She wanted to do something nice for us. We could really care less about going to Disney. Even moreso though with the summer offer - hot and crowded! (Even our kids don't want to go. What did we do to our kids??? Big Grin ). I might regret it, but we are giving it a go. Trying to compromise with Lego Land, which the kids are excited about.

Nice Weekend & Snowflakes

February 2nd, 2014 at 04:30 pm



Another gorgeous weekend in San Francisco. WOW!

I met up with my bff since we couldn't mesh our schedules last weekend. We had lunch and drinks with a beach view. The time went too fast.

We actually had some rain last week and might get more this week. Phew! (Not enough, but it is something).

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**I redeemed $25 credit card reward and added to mortgage payment. Also added $20 for carpool savings and $15 for internet savings. Total $60 snowflake for 2/28 mortgage payment. I will pay it at the end of the month.

I also expect a $200-ish insurance rebate (we get every February) so will add that to the mortgage payment as well.

**I updated side bar for total January interest received. No other savings this month since it was only a one-paycheck month.

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I think we pulled off a no-spend weekend. We went down to Bay Area for FIL's birthday. The car already had a pretty full tank (filled up when we got home last weekend). I spent money on lunch, but MIL slipped us a $50 gas card when we left. She often gave us cash when gas prices were very high and we were dealing with dh's medical problems and so on. BUT, it has been a long time. Not expected in the slightest.

So, if I spent about $20 on lunch, and I got $50, then it nets out to a profit. FIL took dh and the kids to the movies while I had my girl time.

I wasn't expecting to make out so well this weekend. Was just expecting to spend.

It's carpet cleaning weekend at work. I should probably work from home. I should probably do some errands. But, I think I will torture myself by doing nothing. Will mean a crazier schedule next week, but am looking forward to a breather before things get REALLY crazy. Maybe if I relax all day I can work up to a little shopping tonight. I have $90 in Kohls gift cards, and only need some nice pants (my work pants are getting pretty worn from so much wear). So, not expecting to spend any actual cash or to use up all my gift cards.

More details on AmEx Amazon $25 Deal + Good Vacation

December 3rd, 2013 at 04:14 am

I've been subscribing to a few more blogs trying to get better notification of credit card bonuses and so on. Anyway, so I had already heard about the Amazon deal about 10 times, but I am glad I read through this post because it had a lot of info that I did not know:

Text is http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/12/01/american-express-amazon-25/ and Link is
http://millionmilesecrets.com/2013/12/01/american-express-am...

I realized that I was able to register my Fidelity American Express (which in general does not have all of the same perks of a true American Express card). I also saw the tip that authorized users *with different account numbers* can also register. My dh thought I was crazy at first, but I was pretty sure our real and true American Express card had different credit card numbers (our transactions show up separately online because of the different card #s). So, we checked and I was right.

So, we will be able to get $75 off of $225, multiplying by 3.

**Now the trick is to remember to use the right card each time. I think that is TRICKY!!**

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I was starting to worry that I got denied on that Chase $550 bonus. They absolutely *never* contacted me - I have a fraud alert so they always call when I apply for new credit. They certainly did not approve me instantly - never do with the fraud alert.

So, I was relieved today to get a letter that they just needed to confirm my identity. I roll my eyes at the letter because it says they "couldn't contact me". Well, they would have if they tried. ??? But, if I don't even get this card for another week or two, I think I will pass on charging up the property taxes and will just take my time. In this case it probably works out for the best. IT will take a little longer, but the $3k is no problem with all the insurance bills I have due.

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I feel like I have been tested very much this year. !!

But I am pleased to say that our third try of the year for a "vacation" went VERY smooth. It did not start out that way and we had our moments, but overall I'd say was an A+ trip. Phew!!!

So yeah, that above was my view for the weekend. It was about 80F degrees and the weather could not have been more perfect!!

My parents went with us and we celebrated my birthday AND also that dh and I have been together for half my life. Not sure on the exact date for that milestone so we just decided, "good enough!" Was also 18th anniversary of our engagement. So, we have been together 18.5 years - we started dating when I was 18.5. We officially got engaged on my 19th birthday but had talked about it and agreed to marry months before that.

I usually am not really into making a big deal about birthdays or anniversaries, but I enjoyed being treated like a Princess all weekend.

Why do I feel tested??? Well, the week started out with a bout of food poisoning. {I am so behind at work I can't even think about it. Stress!! I was hoping for a quiet week to catch up but instead I was home puking out my insides}.

LM was sick on Turkey Day - we had already called it off due to my illness - so we both stayed home for Thanksgiving.

{I have no idea what I ate or what happened, but my body just reacted so violently. Food poisoning was my guess, the symptoms were classic, and no one else in my house got sick. LM had a sore throat/fever thing; totally different. Thankfully he mostly slept in the car and seemed good as new once we got to the beach}.

I was feeling optimistic for the beach weekend, but after bouncing back in about 12 hours (how my kids usually are), LM woke up pretty sick the morning we were supposed to leave. Somehow he snapped out of it and we took a deep breath and we gave it a go. I Wasn't sure until we left that we would even go. I was determined to enjoy our anniversary no matter how we ended up celebrating, but feeling pretty sorry for myself when I woke up and thought we'd have to cancel. & kind of beating myself up for even trying because it would have been our third ruined trip of the year (NONE would have went well). I think any other time BM and I might have just gone with my parents, but it was an anniversary thing and so dh and I were intent on spending the weekend together.

I guess in the end I learned it was good that I tried. Phew!!

Relaxing Weekend

February 3rd, 2013 at 10:34 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!!

Work/Vacation

January 26th, 2013 at 05:02 pm

**Got the kids' passports submitted, finally. A VERY painful process... Rolleyes

As of right now, LM is no longer going on the trip. Will see...

We saw a Ted Talk about War Horse last night (& also saw it mentioned in the blogs). I will send the link to MIL if they have time for a show while in London.

Overall, they have a timeshare place (of course), are using miles for flight, and I believe a lot of the museums there are free. So, is not near as expensive as it sounds, that is for sure. MIL did not say it had to be frugal, but I think she is pleased with the choice. & I am sure there will be PLENTY to spend money on.

**Work/Vacation - Trying to do both**

**Today we see Thrilling Adventure Hour in San Francisco. Any other time we may have made a weekend of it, but I will probably work all day today and tomorrow. I told dh we could go, if we drive straight there and back. But we may have a quick dinner there, just due to the timing. Nothing fancy. Maybe even Taco Bell. I was not sure how this weekend would pan out - and it did not pan out good. Will try to work from home tomorrow. At least I feel it is feasible to meet all my deadlines, even taking time out for several hours today.

**Next weekend is historically "carpet cleaning" for our office. Post 1/31 deadlines, but pre-tax appointments. SO, I told dh we could go away for his birthday, but had to be next weekend. (His birthday was last weekend).

He never made the arrangements, until I told him nevermind, I would figure it out while at work Saturday. At which point he decided to get it done. Glad he did, because sounds like he was on the phone a while. There was nothing anywhere along the coast on such short notice, and so all they had was Napa. I was pushing something a little closer to the Bay Area - just a quiet hotel to unwind all weekend - if we couldn't be near the beach then I didn't care if it was down the street from our house honestly! BUT, Napa came up as the only vacancy. Why Napa? Lord knows. So, we will stay at the same place we stayed last time. It was REALLY NICE. We will stay put and not go anywhere, for sure. That is what we should have done last time (not big wine drinkers). The timeshare stay is free - we will probably order in pizza. Or maybe get some groceries if we stay in - is a nice condo. Reminds we should just grab a take and bake pizza when we leave - even cheaper - our grocery store pizzas are A+. I told dh we could go away, but didn't want to spend money. Especially with the show tickets we bought for today.

I am hoping after next weekend to feel VERY refreshed to tackle the rest of tax season. It won't be May until I can get another weekend off.

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**My dad has offered to give us one of his older keyboards (music). We were thinking of buying one for LM, so this works nice. I believe I will buy a stand for it (will look for something used). I also have some Amazon credit I can use for that. It has all the midi sounds and yadda yadda. We already have a piano. But I am sure we will eventually get a sound studio of sorts with LM's musical passions.

I have a tuner that I have had since sometime in my teenaged/childhood years. It is the one we use in our main living area for stereo/MP3 players and such. The speakers too (they are awesome). So, dh is salivating at moving that old tuner with the keyboard and buying a new tuner. He found one for $250. I don't know when he is going to buy it - not sure when we will pick up the keyboard.

Dh has an office that is mostly unused. It is a place to hoard his junk. I am thrilled he seems motivated to go through some of the junk, to turn the room into a music room. Big Grin {I went into major decluttering mode while pregnant, between nesting and being displaced from my office - and with my ebook and MP3 player - I don't really own a lot of stuff any more. Mostly "electronic/doesn't take up space" stuff}. Dh has always been a movie and music collector - always will be. Electronic quality just isn't good enough for him. I have no doubt he has tons of junk he could get rid of though. Like the boxes in his office that haven't been opened. Fair enough - all his blu rays and CDs he actually uses on a regular basis. But I think there is some "haven't looked at it in 10 years" stuff to go through...

He was using his office for editing when the kids were younger, but now does that all downstairs at night or while the kids are at school. He's got some really old music equipment, and a bunch of video game systems in there. We are also storing are "on the fritz" TV in there while we decide what to do with it - but it would fit in our giant closet.

My old desk (solid oak - very nice) is in there unused. I think we could probably give it to LM.

I'd like to eventually buy a drum set for the music room. Dh already has the guitars and amps - we could be quite a band. We are pretty passionate about music - but has been really on the back burner for us lately. But LM in particular is very musical, so we are excited for this music room project. (& who knows, maybe my dad will be in a big drum upgrade mood at some point - I should ask him about that... Overall, my dad is a "keep it forever" type, so won't hold my breath. This keyboard is totally ancient that he is "letting us borrow.")

Music room - was always sort of the plan. Just hadn't got to that yet. But I think before we weren't sure exactly *where.* So far we are starting with a $250 tuner investment, and using what we have and hand-me-downs. This is always how we approach things. Eventually may be a full sound studio, but since I would like to stay out of debt, it will start small and improve over time.


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