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Napa Weekend

January 16th, 2018 at 12:40 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 02:16 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 10:26 am

**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 09:18 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:

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

Redeemed $41 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

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

Savings (From my paycheck):

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

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

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

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

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

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July Flashback:

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

August Flashback:

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

September Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning Something Fun

September 18th, 2016 at 03:34 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 11:19 am

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 06:19 am

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 Oct