Friday, July 21, 2017

Frugal Friday + Dunkin Donuts Gift Card Giveaway

July continues to be a month of absolute craziness. I was in Sonoma wine tasting with friends this week, and used the condo accommodations I won at the school auction. It was a lot of fun, but the timing was challenging, wedged in right after my other vacation, my trip to Tokyo, and M's upcoming 50th birthday hurrah in Las Vegas. But, life is short (and the condo was only available for these particular dates).

Here are my frugal Friday wins for the week. (Note, it wasn't a particularly frugal week on whole, with eating out, wine, Ubers to wineries, etc.)

  1. Sold our TV stand through our local Facebook group for $30. Finally! I've had this listed for several months.
  2. Filled out some sort of tiny property tax exemption that every homeowner occupant (vs homeowners who rent out) qualify for in my county. It's a very, very small amount of the overall total, but should save around $80 annually. I'll take it!
  3. Stayed at a condo that I won in the school auction (sunk costs), & used that for our girls trip this year.
  4. The condo had a kitchen, so we brought breakfast stuff, to avoid eating at least one meal out.
  5. I have friends arriving this afternoon (her daughter is touring colleges in the area), & despite my overall schedule craziness & strong desire to order delivery, I'll be making dinner this evening. :-) I'm making a family favorite of tacos, chips with guacamole, & margaritas for the adults.
  6. Used our previous high school aged babysitter (she's now home from college for the summer) for after care this week, as camp ends at 3 pm each day. It was about $100 cheaper to have her pick up the kids & allow them to relax & swim at the house, etc vs having two kids in the hourly camp after care.
And, with that, on to the giveaway! I have a $10 Dunkin Donut gift card, and no local store near me. (I had to cash out expiring hotel points, and refused to let them just expire. The gift card was the only item I had enough points to purchase.) So, please leave me a comment between now & next Friday with one frugal thing you did this week, and I'll enter you into the drawing! The drawing will end at 5:00 pm PST next Friday (7/28), and I'll draw a comment randomly & email you if you are the winner. Please make sure you are logged in when you comment, so I can send you an email to get your contact info & send the gift card out through physical mail. 

We sign papers to sell our Seattle house this afternoon! So excited to be making progress in the right direction. Home stretch, friends! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, it was a very frugal week, as I was traveling for work & spent zero on myself. M & Nick, who were the only people home last week, appeared to keep the spending in check as well.

My return flight home was supposed to arrive in San Francisco around 9 am yesterday. Instead, I sat on the plane in Tokyo for 7 hours waiting for a mechanical fix. It was incredibly hot in Tokyo, and the plane had to have the power shut down throughout the wait. This means it was. .. insanely hot on board. I'm so happy the delay (if it had to happen) was on my return vs outbound flight. My outbound flight was miserable in other ways, as I still had the flu.

Overall, the trip was very successful from a work perspective, and Tokyo is a lovely city. The weather in July, however, is not my favorite. VERY hot & humid. It was a relief to step out into the cooler weather in San Francisco last night.

M surprised me with champagne by the pool, and we watched Nick swim & entertain us after my Uber arrived at home. We finished up the night with dinner out (using a meal pass + a gift card), & then a trip to Costco to get our supplies for the week.

I pick up my sister & BFF this afternoon, so I'm very excited about that. It's girls trip time! We will spend a few days here, and then head to Sonoma. We'll be taking advantage of the 2 night condo stay I won in our school auction, so the room is "free" (i.e prepaid given auction winning).

Here are the frugal choices made over the past week:

  1. I took an Uber to the airport on Saturday, and used my gift card. I'll get reimbursed from my employer, turning the gift card into cash, basically.
  2. I spent $0 on myself on my work trip.
  3. Used a gift card (and free meal pass) for dinner last night with M & Nick.
  4. Provided feedback to United on my compensation for my return flight. Given I was flying business, I expect to receive miles, and prefer that over credit. We shall see.
  5. Purchased dinner ingredients so we can cook this weekend while we have guests. We'll be going out for dinner while we're in Sonoma, so I think we'll enjoy having dinners here with our new patio table vs going out.
  6. Buying breakfast & happy hour items to bring to the condo, to reduce costs.
  7. Opted for the buy back option on our Audi SUV. (There is pending litigation, and a settlement offer for our car.) We've absolutely loved this car, but opted for the buyback. We will receive about $46K back. Part of that is the buyback value of the car ($35K, I believe), & the rest is the penalty fee from Volkswagen. We will get buy as long as possible with our other two cars (they are both 12+ years old), and when one of those dies, we will likely buy an electric car as our replacement.
That's it on our side. I have a ton of work to catch up on today, and then need to get everything sorted at home before my few days off early next week. TGIF! I hope you've all had frugal & fabulous weeks as well.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frugal Friday

Well, vacation is over & the chaos of life is back. ;-) Although we really enjoyed our vacation, we did try to make frugal choices where possible. Here are a few of our frugal wins for the past week:

  • I got up super early on our last day (not by design, but took advantage of it, as I was already up) & did all of the laundry/sheets before we left. This saves $15 from our cleaning service.
  • Packed up all remaining groceries (there was so little - we did a great job planning) & sent the extras with my sister/mom, & used the final bits & bobs for our remaining few meals.
  • Packed lunch to eat in the car on the way to the airport.
  • Brought home the last few items that would travel (a couple of apples, kiwi, a cucumber, and pears)
  • Gave feedback to the rental car company that the "overdue service" light was on for the entire trip, and got a credit for one day's worth of rental - $34. 
  • Avoided eating out on our vacation, with a few very small exceptions. Had lunch at the Costco food court while buying our groceries ($11), and M & I each had a beer at the airport for $12 total. 
  • We came home to an empty house, and I heated up a frozen pizza while M went to the store. It was tempting to pick something up, but we made it work.
  • Took an Uber back to M's office, which was about half the price as it would have been to our house. This was less about frugality, as M left a bit early last week & was in the office, but ended up being a cost saver. 

That's it from our end. What about you? Any frugal wins to report? 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Our last day at the beach

We've had the absolute best time, but all good things must come to an end. The only real snafu on this vacation was that my youngest nephew & my oldest got the stomach flu in the middle of the night last night. It was no fun, and most of the adults were up & down, helping with clean up, locating medicine, etc.

Other than that, it was the best family vacation (with my parents/sister's family) that we've ever had. The boys all got along, the weather was perfect, and we got a lot of house projects done as well. We ran out of time to do some touch up painting & exterior window maintenance, so my sister & mom will make a trip back to take care of that. This vacation has been so relaxing, with minimal work (my job), and lots of time to spend time together.

As for today, I'm exhausted due to not sleeping last night. I'm just relaxing around the house, getting bags packed, doing laundry & dishes & taking care of Sam. He seems to be feeling a bit better, which is great news, as tomorrow involves a 2+ hour drive from the coast, plus a flight.

I have a bit of a pit in my stomach at the thought of what I need to accomplish tomorrow & Friday. It's going to be a bit of whirlwind. I need to:

  • Pack for my trip to Tokyo (Saturday)
  • Create a schedule (including finding a ride to camp for Nick on Monday)
  • Iron on all Boy Scouts patches for Sam's uniform
  • Help Sam get packed for camp
  • Bring Sam/his gear to a bag check in the evening on Friday
  • I have someone coming by for our TV stand (finally)!
  • Prep food for Nick/M to eat while I'm gone
  • Catch up on email/work on Friday
  • Post a nanny ad. . . ahh, the ongoing super fun times continue. :-)
  • Clean the house 
That's about it from me. I hope you all had a fabulous long weekend (for those of you in the US!). 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Goals for July

July is a crazy month with multiple trips & vacations. Super excited for the personal trips, less so for the work trip to Japan. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in July.

1) Financial - 
  • Wrap up all last minute projects for the Seattle house sale. 
  • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house
  • Finalize family budget for post rental house sale
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Keep July grocery spending to a minimum, and use as much as possible on our family vacation/avoid waste.
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. 
  • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys)
  • Stay on budget for all our July events.
2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!

  • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
  • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc.
  • Enjoy an adult only vacation with M, to celebrate his milestone birthday. 

    Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in June
    • 30 miles of pace training for my relay
    • Stay focused on my fitness, despite all of the many trips
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
    • Work from home 2x this month.
    • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Try a new recipe
      • Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in July? Any big goals for the month??

      Sunday, July 2, 2017

      Feeding 10 people on vacation

      We're about to start the extended portion of our family vacation (adding my parents, plus my sister, her boyfriend & my two nephews), & I'm looking forward to our family time. It's not cheap to feed 10 people, even with menu planning, Especially when four of the "attendees" are growing boys (10, 11, 12, & 15). :-)

      If we lived locally, I'd feel comfortable asking everyone to chip in & divide the grocery list in thirds. However, my parents just returned from taking our kids to Disneyland, and have them for another two weeks this summer, and my sister hosts all of the parties & is extremely generous with her hostessing. So, I like to buy all of the main ingredients for this trip, and the other two families bring smaller things.

      I was curious to understand the per meal breakout of our trip. And, we are definitely not trying to make this the most minimal budget. As you can see. ;-) We're having things like crab cakes (local crab!), smoked salmon, grilled burgers & corn, and we start every meal with a huge happy hour/appetizer spread. (Note: this only includes food, but not the alcohol).

      We'll be hosting a total of 12 meals (four days), for 10 people, so a total of 120 individual meals. Our costs were $350 (approximately), and our family has been eating all of our meals at home for the past three days as well.

      Total meals:

      • 36 - our family, pre big family celebration. (3 days x 4 people x 3 meals a day)
      • 120 - extended family party (4 days x 10 people x 3 meals a day)
      156 total meals prepared

      Total cost is just under $2.25/meal. Some meals (breakfast) is obviously cheaper than other meals (crab cakes). I've never tracked our hosting quite like this, but may start & this will give us a good benchmark. As I noted, the four boys eat quite a bit. My kids, in particular, eat around 10 servings a day of fruit & vegetables (I wish I could say the same), which drives up the cost quite a bit, but is a cost we're happy to pay.

      I'll also track if we leave anything behind (freezer) &/or take anything back with us. 

      As for the beach, the tiny speck in the back is my eldest son, trying to control his kite on a breezy day at the beach. The boys are in love with kite flying, and we've been to the beach every day. 

      What about you? Do you track your cost per meal when hosting guests? Do you have a goal in mind? 

      June goals - how did I do?

      Another month draws to a close! Let's check in & see how things went in June.

      1) Financial - 
      • Meet with realtor to discuss/adjust pricing & get our Seattle house sold! - We are under contract! Again!
      • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house - We are in pretty good shape, but need to wrap up a few details, now that we have a number for our house sale. 
      • Finalize family budget for post rental house sale - We are in pretty good shape, but need to wrap up a few details, now that we have a number for our house sale. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - We've been consistently bringing our own water bottles when we travel, as well as using our re-usable ziplocks when possible. 
      • Avoid buying groceries while the kids are with my parents (this should be easy, as we always have plenty in the fridge) & keep grocery spending in check when I'm with the kids at the beach - We did well, for the most part. Before we left, we bought coffee, salmon (for M to eat while I was gone), & frozen pizza for the freezer that was on sale. Once we were at the beach, we did fine with our shopping, but have recently purchased groceries for our family trip (feeding 10 people, 3 meals a day for 4 days is not cheap). If we use up most things, I'll consider it a win!
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - Crushed this, and sold $511 on my local Facebook site + eBay. Used the cash to fund shopping for our vacation, spending money, and some donation/gifts that I needed to cash flow. 
      • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys) - We didn't get to the closets. However, I went through all of our games, toys & boys clothes at our beach house & have a huge donation pile. So, considering this a win!
      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!

      • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. - We've had a great time with the boys, particularly on vacation. Lots of family time. 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - We've had a great family month in June. 
      • Have three dates with M  - the kids are out of town for a few days, so this should be doable! - Yes! We had three date nights, and it was, as expected, fabulous. :-) 
      • Finalize M's birthday & Father's Day - check!
      • Figure out what to do for my dad for Father's Day - check!

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in June
        • Run 25 miles in June - I changed my fitness routine in June, & loved it. I focused on strength training, not running, to see if it would make a difference in my overall body shape & strength & really enjoyed it. I did fall off of the wagon a bit on vacation, as expected. 
        • Start training for my relay - yes! Have done two training walks.
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - ended the month with 4.25
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - Finished with 840 minutes. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - My highest month ever, with 16 strength workouts!
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - Finished with 5 stretching workouts, which is my highest monthly total for the year. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - having a vacation towards the end of the month to look forward to really helped. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. -  Yes, I think I managed three times this month. 
        • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc. - this is on my list for July!

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe - I don't think I've tried any new recipes for the month. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - I spent lots of time with my family, and my bestie, so counting this!
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes, squeezed in time for volunteering at the last school event. 

          Overall, I'm super pleased with the month and my progress. What about you? How was your June? Any big wins for the month?

          Saturday, July 1, 2017

          Buyers bailed, and sometimes things happen for a reason

          So, we were on the beach flying kites with the kids on Thursday evening when we got an update from the realtor that the buyers bailed after the inspection. Now, many requests later, there were no asks to pay for any repairs, and/or discount the house based on some sort of mysterious inspection finding. They simply wanted to exercise their opportunity to bail because they had another offer accepted for a house in another neighborhood at a lower price point. . . My realtor was very concerned about these buyers (and, their realtor), & it appears that was all for good reason.

          However, in the camp of "things happen for a reason", our realtor also advised us that another couple was interested in the house & disappointed when we moved to pending status. She reached back out to their agent, and they submitted an offer within a few hours. The offer was exactly what we had agreed with the previous buyers! We negotiated with them in one round, and closed for $25K higher than we had the day before. ;-) And, a shorter closing & inspection window. All good things for us. Our realtor also knows the agent's buyer, and their financing person, and is very confident in this deal.

          What.a.whirlwind. I was pretty stressed out on Thursday evening, but tried to keep perspective, and look how things turned out. In ironic news, we received the bid for our air conditioning in our San Francisco house, and it's $37k. For those of you wondering how that's possible (as am I), it's actually not really an air conditioning bid. It's all of the work required to get us ready for an air conditioner, and then the actual unit. We knew when we bought the house that things like the electrical panel would need to be fully redone, but we weren't aware that the duct work wasn't up to code (it was at the time of building, but where we live has very strict energy compliance rules). This requires all new duct work, floor vents, and of course, a new heat pump.

          Before M & I went to sleep on Thursday, we agreed that if the buyers accepted our $25K higher offer, we'd put all of that money (because, hey, the day before we were happy without it), to upgrading San Francisco house. We'll cash flow the rest. It will increase the value of the house, and we'll likely recoup about half of the actual investment in reduced power bills over the time of ownership.

          What about you? Any examples of things happening for a reason? M & I also realized that we were able to buy both our Seattle house & our San Francisco houses when previous buyers bailed, so we've been on the good luck side of that as well. 

          Friday, June 30, 2017

          Frugal Friday - the vacation edition

          It's been such a mellow week - I'm loving it! M arrived on Wednesday, and we've been flying kites, hanging out on the patio, and of course, going to the grocery store an hour away to stock up. For about half of next week, we will be feeding 10 people, so our fridge is very full. :-) My parents & sister will bring things to share, but they typically host & plan all events when I fly in, so this is my chance to host here at the beach.

          Here are a few of the frugal things we've done over the past week or so.

          • $40 credit on Hawaii flights (again!), as the flight prices dropped another time. They are now only $166/per person. A steal!
          • Remembered to cash in my grocery store reward points before they expired. I only had $2, but used it towards a $2.99 clearance package of ant bombs, because. . . ants apparently love this hot weather & have decided to come inside.
          • Renewed all of my library books before we left on vacation, and picked up a few extra. I used to buy books for trips, but now I use the library for free. (or, for the occasional $.50 fine, as it sometimes happens). 
          • Used a $4 off of $20 Rite Aid coupon to pick up mouthwash.
          • Bought $150 of gift cards at Rite Aid, earning $20 in rewards. These are for places we are regulars at (i.e. home improvement stores)
          • Bought $8 worth of salad ingredients at the produce stand before I left town. I'm hoping that by having fresh ingredients on hand, M will be inclined to eat in while I'm away. :)
          • While on vacation, I created a detailed menu plan (more important when you're not near your standard fridge, stocked with backup & fill in ingredients) & shopping list.
          • Other than $10 for lunch at the Costco food court, haven't eaten out at all on our vacation, and don't plan to. 
          That's it for us. I'll have a house update again over the next few days. These buyers have been. . . terrible. I'll leave it at that & cross my fingers for a more positive update by the end of the weekend.

          What about you? Any big frugal wins? 

          Wednesday, June 28, 2017

          The importance of a shopping list

          It's become clear that when you are pretty removed from a store, and have no access to a vehicle, making a complete shopping list/meal plan is critical. We do actually have a small grocery store in biking distance, but who wants to carry heavy things in a backpack? Also, the prices are definitely "touristy", and I'd estimate 30% higher than you'd find at the grocery store in the next biggest town.

          So, we have biked to town for a few essentials (milk, ice cream ;-)), but M will be here this evening & we will finally have access to a car. I'm reminded again of the importance of meal planning & getting the shopping list as complete as possible, as Costco is almost an hour away, and to call it the most reasonable place to buy groceries would be a huge understatement.

          This morning, I'll form the shopping list, double check it against the menu, fridge & freezer inventory, & then check it again. We will likely make two Costco trips - one for our first few days, and then a second trip before we have guests.

          Other than that, it's another mellow day. Here's what's on the agenda:

          • Some sort of a workout
          • Bike to town for milk & an onion for dinner, plus a cucumber if it's not an arm & a leg
          • Laundry
          • Go through the boys closets & remove anything they've outgrown
          • Pickup the house
          • Sweep the floors
          • Lunch - I'm thinking of broccoli/cheddar soup (freezer) for me + the remainder of a baguette, and leftover hot dogs & pasta for the kids. With fruit & yogurt.
          • Dinner - I'm planning to make a sausage risotto, and a salad
          • Finalize first grocery list/meal plan

          What about you? How close do you live to a major store? How often do you shop?

          Tuesday, June 27, 2017

          Life on the coast

          We're having a very mellow vacation so far on the coast, particularly because we don't have a car until tomorrow. We've gone on bike rides, been to the ocean several times, and played plenty of games. It's been all kinds of fabulous.

          I'm making a very gourmet meal of pasta & hot dogs (with salad) tonight for dinner. The freezer clean out continues.

          Our vacation house needed some love, as sand blows very hard in this area & gets pretty much EVERY where, even though we are a few blocks from the ocean. I spent the morning cleaning our window sills. . . can you believe that moss can grow in your windows, with even the smallest amount of moisture? The sand blows hard enough to create a small gap between the windows & the screen, & then moisture eventually seeps in. The Oregon coast has a very wet climate, so proper care is required. It took a few hours, but all ten upstairs windows are now properly cleaned. Tomorrow I will tackle the downstairs windows.

          I also spent some time today catching up on a few work emails that need to be sorted out before I fly to Tokyo. Other than that, I've been avoiding working as much as possible.

          It's my goal on this trip to inventory the freezer & pantry, and create a running document that I can use to better plan for our next trip.

          Just a couple of beach boys. . .

          Monday, June 26, 2017

          We are under contract!

          It's been a whirlwind, and the buyers we passed on a week or so came around again & went $20K higher. We negotiated & ended up getting to my minimum bar, which I still think is a bit short of what the house is actually worth. However, it's not worth the time or stress to find another buyer willing to go a bit higher.

          I got off the plane in Portland on Saturday to a text message that the buyers had accepted our offer & we were under contract! What a way to kick off our family vacation.

          Saturday was crazy hot, and even at the beach it was 95. We stayed up until 11 pm, chilling on the patio while the boys played soccer in the street with a light up ball. No one could sleep with the house that hot, as every door & window had been closed off until we arrived.

          Here's my favorite picture of Saturday's gorgeous day. Absolutely breathtaking & the Oregon coast on a sunny day kind of looks more like a tropical island. :-)

          My mom stayed with us for two nights, so yesterday we went into town & picked up groceries while we had a car. We kept dinners super easy (Saturday - pizza & salad, and Sunday - pasta & meatballs). Tonight the boys & I will play freezer roulette, & choose something out of the freezer. We leave things, and plenty of other guests do as well, and you never know what you'll get. I'll supplement with protein, and we have plenty of fruit & vegetables. Should be an adventure.

          Looking forward to some nice quiet time with my boys, and taking a break from work. I slept for 10 hours yesterday - it was fabulous!

          That's it from my side. Hope you are staying cool wherever you are! It's back to 65 and cloudy here, so typical summer beach weather!

          Friday, June 23, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          This week has been quite a bit outside the norm, as the kids are with my parents, & M & I are home alone. I've also been working crazy hours to wrap up all of my work to get ready for two weeks of vacation. The longest I've taken off since starting this job! As a result, it certainly hasn't been the most frugal week, as we had three dinners out/date nights. Don't regret it at all, and it's unusual for us. However, all of that restaurant food (and wine!) is not good for my healthy eating, so I'll need to trim back the calories to get back on track.

          Here are the frugal wins for the week:

          • Picked M up at the airport after our flights on Sunday
          • I used my Uber gift card both ways (to & from the airport) for my trip this weekend
          • Sold a pair of sunglasses on eBay & got more than expected - $56! 
          • Took advantage of having no kiddos around & celebrated our date night (bumped from May) with dinner out. Combination Father's Day dinner as well. 
          • Saved $32 on our Hawaii flights by price matching (this generates credit for a future flight, not actual cash back).
          • Received 4 lemons from a coworker who has a tree that is not liking the hot weather, & all of the lemons are dropping
          • Kept grocery shopping to the bare minimum. . . coffee beans, salmon for M to grill this weekend, & cheese pizza for the kids that was on sale. (The pizza went into the freezer). Our grocery bill for the month is looking great. Our dining out bill, on the other hand. . . It was both M's 50th birthday & Father's Day, as well as two bonus date nights. Lots has been spent in this category for the month.
          • M will also be able to take me to the airport tomorrow, saving about $20 on an Uber. 

          I also have a few frugal goals for my upcoming vacation:
          • Keep grocery shopping reasonable & in check. (I have family members who get a little crazy, so it's tempting to go all in).
          • Stick to the meal plan
          • No meals out! We're in a very mellow part of the Oregon coast, and there are few restaurants anyway. The only potential exception would be before our flight home next Thursday.
          • Evaluate our pantry & freezer options, and use those up first. This is particularly important, as we're not at the vacation house very often.
          • Minimize food waste where possible. I can't get this down to zero, as we fly home & some things don't travel well. 
          • Bring any leftover (easy to pack) fruit along tomorrow on my flight, so we can use them for breakfast on our first day.  
          That's it! Super excited to have some time off from work. What about you? Any big frugal wins to report? 

          Tuesday, June 20, 2017

          Menu plan for the next few weeks

          It's a been of a whirlwind over the next few weeks. M & I are solo at the house this week (the kids are with my parents) & then I'm at the beach house with a variety of family members & kids, and eventually M will join us. As a result, we're way off course for our standard menu planning process, and we'll be taking advantage of the opportunity to go out to dinner without a sitter!

          Once we get to the beach, I'll properly inventory all of the freezer & pantry supplies, and adjust the menu based on what we already have.

          Add to that it's insanely hot & I have no desire to cook, and here's the menu I'm thinking about through the end of June:

          • Monday, 6/19 - I made chicken caprese paninis, with fresh basil from the garden.  
          • Tuesday, 6/20 - M & I will go out for happy hour, as I'm done with work at a reasonable hour. 
          • Wednesday, 6/21 - M & I will have kebabs, pitas, cucumber yogurt sauce & salad
          • Thursday, 6/22 - M & I will eat pad thai (freezer). I have a super late work night, so this should be quick & easy.
          • Friday, 6/23 - M & I will go out for happy hour. 
          • Saturday, 6/24 - I'll fly back to Portland to pick up the kiddos & head to the beach. Depending on how hungry the kids are, we'll probably wait until we get to the beach house. Most likely dinner will be mac & cheese & chicken nuggets. #gourmet :-) 
          • Sunday, 6/25 - My mom is going to be with us, so probably pasta & meatballs. I'll also pick up groceries for easy meals from the grocery store in walking distance
          • Monday, 6/26 - grilled hot dogs, veggies, & watermelon
          • Tuesday, 6/27 - Whatever is left in the freezer at the vacation house. 
          • Wednesday, 6/28 - M arrives. I'll make risotto with sausage. 
          • Thursday, 6/29 - M will grill burgers & corn
          • Friday, 6/30 - We'll barbecue fish & serve it with rice
          • Saturday, 7/1 - Leftovers
          • Sunday, 7/2 - My parents, sister, & nephews will join us at the beach. We'll have a big appetizer spread, pizza & salad. 
          • Monday, 7/3 - My parents, sister, & nephews will be with us at the beach. We'll make crab cakes for the adults, and hot dogs for the kids.
          • Tuesday, 7/4 - My parents, sister, & nephews will be with us at the beach. We'll have grilled sliders, corn on the cob, & margaritas
          • Wednesday, 7/5 - M, the boys & I will eat whatever leftovers linger before we fly home.
          • Thursday, 7/6 - Flying home. We will either get food at the airport, or heat up something from the freezer when we arrive. 
          I leave for Tokyo two days later, so the boys will be on their own. I'll have to get super creative to come up with options for the boys, as I won't have much time to prep anything in advance. 

          What about you? Is it hot at your house? What's your favorite easy meal prep when it's too hot to cook? 

          Friday, June 16, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          In between all of the craziness around here, we've still been trying to keep things reasonably frugal.

          • Made $35 selling the rest of the yard furniture that the previous owners left behind on my local Facebook group
          • Wanted to treat the kids on their first day of summer break, so took them to lunch using a Panera $10 offer, & paid for the rest using a gift card.
          • Used my last $10 grocery coupon to buy items for M's homemade birthday cake. 
          • Bribed Nick to let the doctor burn multiple warts off of his foot. It was pretty painful, but he hung in there & didn't move during the entire burning treatment. I used a gift card to buy him Magic cards at Target. 
          • Used other gift cards that have been lingering in my purse to offset purchases this weekend (lunch out for Sam on Sunday)
          • Found $.65 on the ground. ;-) 
          • Used the last of our lemons to make homemade lemon bread to bring to our neighborhood gathering
          • Picked a bunch of basil & gave it to friends before we head out of town. Even though not benefiting our wallets, it's nice to share. 
          • Celebrated M's birthday with thoughtful gifts, but nothing too extravagant. (Mostly because he's crazy hard to shop for.)
          • Went to dinner for M's birthday, and brought our own wine. We had a lovely dinner out with the boys. 
          • Invited a friend to join us at camp for "bring a friend for free Friday", which although not benefiting us, is nice to give a parent a break for a few hours
          • Packing a lunch for the airport this afternoon
          • Using Uber to get to the airport, which is about $30 cheaper than parking, and I have the gift cards that I purchased a week or so ago to generate grocery store rewards

          That's it for me. I'm really looking forward to the weekend. The boys will be participating in a huge mountain biking event tomorrow, we'll be celebrating my nephew's graduation, and then I'm flying home to spend the last of Father's Day with M. We'll definitely be going out for our first date night in a while, and no sitter needed. Woohoo!

          What about you? What frugal wins did you have for the week?

          Wednesday, June 14, 2017

          Selling a house is stressful

          We had a hard time settling on a list price for our house, as there are no perfect comps in our area for our home. We went out with a price, got an offer slightly below list within a few days, but then the buyer backed out (they had another offer accepted). We received another offer yesterday, but it was substantially below our reduced list price ($250K - so, a ton of money).

          We attempted to negotiate with the buyers, and made real attempts to meet in the middle. We went down $50K in in our first round of negotiations. They went up $7K. It went on like that. They also would provide an offer & ask for a response within 2 hours. In the middle of the work day. On Monday, they provided their "final offer" at 10 pm, and it expired at midnight. I didn't sleep at all on Monday, waiting to hear back. We couldn't settle on a price, so agreed to not proceed.

          The stress of not knowing what the true market value is, and understanding whether it's worth dropping the price yet another $30K to close is really, really hard for me. I constantly second guess my own decision. I hate the stress of the unknown! We're trying hard to be flexible, willing to negotiate, and be reasonable, but not all buyers are in this situation, clearly.

          While we are not in a rush to sell, having a house on the market for an extended period of time in the Seattle market makes it less likely that you will get an offer close to your asking price, so it is a concern. We'll monitor the situation over the next few weeks & then  make a determination on next steps. We've listened to our realtor at each phase, and the original list price & reduction were both at her guidance, so I hope we have the best possible information about pricing, etc.

          For those of you who have sold a house, how did you decide to accept or pass on an offer? Did you second guess your decisions? How did you stay calm during the process??!!

          Sunday, June 11, 2017

          Simple Sunday

          Oh my, how quickly the weekends fly around here! We ran a bunch of errands yesterday, so today we'll be catching up on other things. The boys have been saving for six months for new bikes, and finally had enough money to make their purchases. We took care of that, and dropped off pants to hem for M, and I looked around for a dress. I don't really enjoy shopping unless I'm with friends, but it wasn't too bad.

          We capped off the night with fresh Alaskan salmon, rice, & wine & it was an amazing dinner. M is a fabulous cook.

          As for today, it's nice to know there's no school work waiting to catch up on. ;-) Here's what's on the agenda for today:

          1. A 4 miler pace walk for my relay. I'm a bit behind on my training
          2. Yoga
          3. My pushup challenges
          4. Shoulder exercise for my physical therapy
          5. Clean up the DVDs that we pulled out of our old TV stand (trying to sell). Determine which to donate, sell, keep
          6. Clean the fridge
          7. Finish packing for the boys trip
          8. Make something for our neighborhood gathering. I'm thinking of a fruit salad or cookies
          9. Neighborhood party
          10. Wash the boys sheets
          11. Sort my work & personal calendars
          12. Check the boys shoes for their trip (make sure there are no holes)
          13. Laundry
          14. Decide on dinner
          15. Sweep the pool area

          What about you? What are you hoping to do today? Any fun adventures ahead? I'm looking forward to a neighborhood party - our next door neighbors are having it to welcome us to the neighborhood. So kind! 

          Saturday, June 10, 2017

          I only came for the cake

          The boys & I made a cake to celebrate M's birthday yesterday (it's early, but he'll be out of town on the actual day), & it was fabulous. A little sloppy to frost (it's whipping cream, not frosting), but the taste was fabulous.

          I got the recipe from Mavis's blog, & recommend it, particularly if you have anyone in your family who isn't a big frosting fan.

          Other than that, we have a weekend of getting things done as a family before the chaos begins for the summer. I'm excited about all of our family plans, and the trips on the agenda. Including:

          • The boys are going to Disneyland with my parents. M & I will be working, but enjoying several date nights while the boys are gone.
          • I'm going to the beach with the boys. My mom will join me for a few days, then M will join up, my sister, nephews & my parents will join again for the 4th of July. 
          • I go straight to Tokyo once I get back from the beach (less excited, obviously, as this is a work trip).
          • The day after I get back from Tokyo, my sister & friend are flying in. We'll spend the weekend by the pool, relaxing & having fun, & then we're heading to Sonoma. I won a couple of nights at a condo as part of our school auction.
          • They had out, and then my friend & her daughters are coming to stay with us for a few days. The boys are thrilled, and rarely get to see my friend's kids. They all grew up together in Seattle, but the distance has meant a lot less time together. The boys are very excited to show them around the new house.
          • And, my mom is flying in to pick up the boys & keep them at her house for a week, and M & I are going to Las Vegas for a weekend to belatedly celebrate his birthday.

          Wow! A lot going on in July. :-) What about you? What are your summer plans? Anything fun on the horizon? 

          Friday, June 9, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          So happy it's Friday, although it's a dreary, rainy day today. The gray skies make me a little depressed . . . I've really adjusted to leaving Seattle, apparently. :-)

          Here are some of our frugal wins for the week.
          • Found a nice 6 pack of IPA on clearance at the grocery store (perfect for my parents visit this summer)
          • Packed a lunch for myself + Nick on Saturday, as we were out at soccer tryouts, followed by a game. The end of the season - hurrah!
          • Bought 4 gift cards at our local grocery store ($150 worth of Uber, for trips to & from the airport this summer & $50 for the Gap, as we always need something) to generate $40 in free spending at the grocery store. I used the first $10 to stock up on pasta & buns for our homemade burgers. 
          • Saved $400 by asking my mom to drive us to the beach during our family vacation (otherwise, we'd need to rent a car for an extra week, and still have to go back & forth to Portland, as M is arriving later). I'll pay for my mom's gas, of course, but she's excited for the time with us at the beach. 
          • Sold $240 worth of patio furniture (came with the house) on my local Facebook group
          • Used another grocery store coupon to buy 2 bags of couscous, 1 jar of ketchup, and 4 lbs of pasta for $.83
          • Made all meals at home, except for one planned dinner out to celebrate the boys wrapping up school. This is a go to restaurant for us (very casual, salad bar type place) & they had a graduation offer going. We bought $100 gift card, earning a free meal pass for a future visit. Then used the gift card to pay for that night's meal. 
          • Bought popsicles to keep in the freezer on hot days, to avoid going out for ice cream.

          That's it on my side. M is going to be home shortly, & I'm thrilled! He's been gone all week for work, and it's been chaos. I need to take Nick to the doctor this morning, wrap up a ton of work, and then looking forward to enjoying the weekend.

          What about you? Any big frugal wins this week?

          Thursday, June 8, 2017

          The end of the school year

          Sweet mercy - there is so much happening at school, but the end is upon us! Sam had his 5th grade commencement ceremony yesterday, both boys finished soccer tryouts yesterday, and today is the last day of school. Combine that with M traveling, Nick's writing workshop party (don't ask), school finishing at noon today, no nanny, lots of work commitments, and it's been chaos.

          I've been busy trying to sell our patio furniture (came with the house) in the meantime, & get rid of a few other things that we don't need. It feels great to get things cleaned out. I'm inspired to keep going! There's plenty of other things in the house that need to be organized.

          Here's what's on my "sanity only" list for today.

          • Sell patio table/chairs
          • Sell glider
          • Clean out TV stand (someone is coming by for it on Saturday)
          • Laundry
          • Dishes
          • Clean fridge
          • Work out (pilates day)
          • Physical therapy stretches
          • Check into vacation house calendar & get back to my mom
          • Start packing list for boys trip to Portland
          • Review Boy Scouts camping list & make sure I've ordered anything we don't already have
          • Make dinner: pasta, grilled chicken & fruit salad

          That's it for me! What about you? Is anyone else caught up in the frenzy of the last few weeks of school & activities? 

          Sunday, June 4, 2017

          A mellow Sunday

          At least, I'm hoping it's going to be a mellow Sunday! M is trimming our neighbor's tree (the branches that hang over our pool, and yes, we asked first :-)), and I'll be taking Sam to a Boy Scouts event shortly. Other than that, it's a relatively low key day. Here's what's on the agenda of things I hope to accomplish:

          1. Gather up library books, & drop them off
          2. Yoga
          3. Go for a walk
          4. Complete 30 push ups for my push up challenge I'm doing with my sister
          5. Sort out childcare for after camp a few weeks this summer
          6. Review my calendar for the week, as we have no nanny & M is out of town for work.
          7. Make dinner reservations for M's birthday
          8. Find receipts for our updates to this house. (Lesson learned - we kept none from our other house, as we expected to use the $500K write off when selling. . . foolish, as won't be able to & don't have many write offs).
          9. Make a menu plan for the week
          10. Make muffins or rolls
          11. Dinner - stuffed peppers (trying a new recipe)
          I think that will keep me busy. And, while I'm at it,here's the menu plan for the week:

          • Friday - we had beef tacos
          • Saturday - M grilled burgers & potato wedges
          • Sunday - I'm making these stuffed peppers. 
          • Monday - leftover tacos. Will probably turn them into taco quesadillas for the kids
          • Tuesday - leftover burgers
          • Wednesday - leftover stuffed peppers
          • Thursday - M is out of town, so I'll probably make breakfast for dinner. I'm thinking of a pepper, egg & potato scramble/hash  
          • Friday - homemade pizza

          What about you? What are you up to today? And, if you own a house, do you have a receipt file for when you eventually go to sell? If not, start one! Learn from my mistakes. 

          Thursday, June 1, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          We had some frugal wins, and then some less than frugal moves. Here's an assortment of both!

          Frugal wins for the week:
          • M & I completed hours of yard work & pool maintenance (vs paying for a service)
          • Sold a small table & 2 chairs (Pottery Barn Kids, from when the boys were small) for $30
          • Made dinner for our guests rather than going out or ordering takeout
          • Used flight credit for M's trip to the beach house this summer, and was only out $50 out of pocket after the credit
          • Sold our old TV for $200 
          • Made almost all of our meals at home. 

          Frugal fails for the week:
          • M took our guests to the local park to explore while I was cleaning up & getting dessert on Sunday. One of the kids had a drone & wanted to show M how to use it. Of course, the battery died while M was flying it, & it's stuck 35+ feet in a tree & won't come down. We ordered a replacement. :-(
          • Realized that the flights I'd booked for M's birthday trip to Las Vegas had a stopover (yuck!), so changed our flights. It was Southwest, so no flight change fee, but still an additional $110 for the change in flights. 
          • In other flight news, I've been keeping any eye on flights to Portland for my relay in August. I was supposed to receive a discount code through the event. No dice. Have emailed, contacted them, etc. In the meantime, the flights have gone up $150, and now there are only two seats left on my flights in & out (my schedule is really tight, so I can't change the times or dates). I was so frustrated, as this is almost twice what I normally pay for a flight to Portland.
          • We have our house on the market in Seattle, and are obviously not around to monitor how things look. We paid quite a bit for a cleanup yard service before we listed the house. (Note that we have always had ongoing yard service as part of our rental agreement). The house has been on the market now for three weeks, and apparently the grass is two feet high & the yard needs $350 worth of weed pulling, mowing, etc. I get that things grow, but I'm very frustrated that the original yard service didn't do a thorough job, and now we're having to pay again on top of that. Sigh. Can't wait to get the house sold! 
          • We had an unexpected dinner guest on Monday, and ordered pizza for the kids. M & I stuck to our plan of steak salad, but didn't have enough quick leftovers to go around. This was really about laziness, as I could have easily gotten up & whipped something together. However, I was firmly entrenched in the lounge chair, sipping wine & enjoying the kids. :-) 

          What about you? Did you have any frugal wins or fails to report? 

          Setting goals for June

          June is going to be a month of summer camp, vacationing at the beach, and the kids out of town for a trip to Disneyland with my parents. I'm looking forward to all of it! Here's what I'd like to accomplish in June.

          1) Financial - 
          • Meet with realtor to discuss/adjust pricing & get our Seattle house sold!
          • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house
          • Finalize family budget for post rental house sale
          • Find one alternative cost cutting option
          • Avoid buying groceries while the kids are with my parents (this should be easy, as we always have plenty in the fridge) & keep grocery spending in check when I'm with the kids at the beach
          • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. 
          • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys)
          2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!

          • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. 
          • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc.
          • Have three dates with M  - the kids are out of town for a few days, so this should be doable!
          • Finalize M's birthday & Father's Day
          • Figure out what to do for my dad for Father's Day

            3) Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in June
            • Run 25 miles in June
            • Start training for my relay
            • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
            • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
            • Complete 6 strength workouts.
            • Complete 6 stretching workouts. 

            4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
            • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
            • Work from home 2x this month.
            • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc.

              5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
              • Try a new recipe
              • Do something social at least once per month.
              • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

              What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish in June? Any big goals for the month? 

              Wednesday, May 31, 2017

              May goals - how did I do?

              Another month is gone, so it's time to look back & reflect on my progress! Tracking my goals helps me (mostly) stay focused, and remember what I'd like to accomplish each month.

              1) Financial - 
              • Finish all projects for our rental house & get it listed! - Our rental house is listed, so done. 
              • Update our project & budget list for our house - we have updated the project list, but not the budget. 
              • Start new family budget for post rental house sale - yes, have a draft. I'll update once we actually have a sale price. 
              • Find one alternative cost cutting option - I ordered reusable baggies. I'll be honest & say that I don't love them. They are workable for certain foods. I'll post a full review. If nothing else, for the things they work for, I'm saving every so slightly. ;-) 
              • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - Yes! I sold $230 worth of things we don't need, including a flat screen TV, and a kids table/chairs. 
              • Finalize our decluttering & organizing in the new house - we got a lot done! There is always more work to be done, however. I'm not sure I'd describe this as "final". :-) 
              2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!

              • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. - we've been spending a lot of time by the pool as a family, which is great.
              • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - I think this is going well, although mostly it's pool time or the occasional board game. 
              • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) - Fail. However, the kids are going to be out of town for a few days in June, so we will take advantage of free date nights then. 
              • Plan M's birthday & Father's Day - I'm working on it, but still have some things to line up. 
              • Figure out what to do for both parents (Mother's Day & Father's Day) - I solve Mother's Day, but am waiting to hear back from my mom on a good suggestion for Father's Day. 

                3) Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in May - I've lost 2 pounds. Progress, if nothing else! :-) I can also definitely see a difference in the toning, thanks to all of the strength training. 
                • Run 25 miles in May - I've been doing a lot more strength training this month, so I ran 10 miles. 
                • Run a 10K - yes! It was incredibly hard, but done. :-) 
                • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I'm at 3.5. Still plenty of room to improve. 
                • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - Yes! I did 1085 minutes. 
                • Complete 6 strength workouts. - I completed 14 workouts & noticed a big improvement in my strength & overall muscle tone. 
                • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - I did 3 workouts, plus a massage + two visits to the physical therapist for limited mobility in my shoulder. 

                4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
                • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - I'm doing an okay job of this, but quite frankly, until I have a lead in place in Asia, this is really hard. I do evening calls 3-4 nights/week, which is not conducive to having a chance to relax. 
                • Work from home 2x this month. - Yes! 
                • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc. - I actually started on this, but would like to spend more time thinking about it in June. 

                  5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
                  • Try a new recipe - I did try a new salad recipe over the weekend, and it was delicious. 
                  • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes, I went for a hike with a friend. The frugally winning combination of hiking + chatting. I also went to a party I won at the school auction, which was pedicures & appetizers/desserts. It was really fun & lovely as well. 
                  • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes! I volunteered twice this month, and have my big volunteer event coming up this afternoon. 

                  Overall,I feel really good about the month. It was a nice blend of getting back into a regular workout routine, spending time with the family, & accomplishing some stuff around the house. I'm super excited about June - we have a lot of exciting things coming up.

                  What about you? How did you do with your May goals? Any big wins to celebrate? 

                  Monday, May 29, 2017

                  A lovely family get together + finishing up the long weekend

                  We had Michael's cousin & his family over last night for a barbecue, and had a great time. The weather was cool, but warm enough to be outside for a few hours. M handled most of the menu - he grilled kebabs, potatoes, tomatoes & made rice & a yogurt sauce. I made a veggie tray with hummus, as well as salad shirazi (tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper & green onion finely diced, combined with lime juice, olive oil, salt & pepper). It was all great. We had champagne by the pool while the kids played, & laughed & caught up.

                  Having guests over was a good excuse to do hours & hours of yard work & patio clean up, as well as house clean up. The house is really coming along at this point, which is exciting. Not that there's not a tremendous amount of work to be done, but it does look better.

                  In disappointing news, M was with the electrician/pool guy yesterday for nine hours, trying to get our pool heater installed. No good. It won't light up, which means that the gas line is not powerful enough for the new unit. The previous pool heater (it wasn't working when we bought the house) was 35 years old, and required a reduced amount of gas. Anyway, to fix it, we will need to increase our gas line, which is quite an expense. On top of the $2000 we spent on the pool heater, and the $400 we spent yesterday for the guy to come out to no avail. So frustrated!

                  I slept in a bit today, & then power washed the patio furniture, as well as part of the paved outdoor area. I'm guessing the patio furniture hadn't been cleaned in 5+ years. It's a big stone/granite table & chairs that the previous owners left behind. We'll see if we can bring them back to life for a bit before we replace them with something more usable.

                  I also sold a kids table & chairs set this morning for $30, so that was a nice win.

                  I'm looking forward to relaxing today, and taking care of a few chores that linger. I'm planning to make goat cheese crostini & steak salad for dinner. Yum!

                  What about you? How will you spend today, and what's on the menu? A special thanks to all of those who have served, or supported those who have served. Many thanks to those that make our freedom possible. 

                  Sunday, May 28, 2017

                  Let the long weekend commence, a menu plan & pool picture

                  I've been feeling really stumped for a good menu plan lately. Uninspired, in fact. I don't mind making the same thing regularly, but need a few good basics to add to our rotation. Here's what I'm thinking about for the week ahead:

                  • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto
                  • Saturday - homemade calzones 
                  • Sunday - having guests over for dinner. We'll have grilled tomatoes, rice with tadiq, beef kebabs, & yogurt sauce. And wine + salad. Our guests will be bringing dessert.
                  • Monday - grilling either steak or fish, depending on what Costco has available. I'll also make goat cheese crostini. A long weekend favorite. 
                  • Tuesday - leftover risotto
                  • Wednesday - leftover calzones
                  • Thursday - leftover kebabs (notice a theme about our week day menu? ;-))

                  As for the long weekend, it's been fabulous so far. Yesterday I went for a two hour hike in the sunshine with a friend. The weather was warm, but not too hot. Perfect (and rare!) I also got my hair cut, which is something I try to limit to 2x/year, as it's not super cheap. I also did a bunch of chores around the house & in the yard. I feel like the patio sweeping & garden cleanup will never end. Our backyard is made of a bumpy/rock concrete, so it's difficult to keep clean. Combine that with the pool, the fact that it had been a long time since it was kept properly cleaned due to the lack of mobility of the previous owner, & the close proximity to the pool, and you have an ongoing chore. The stones are similar to this:

                  And, here's a picture of my favorite part of the house, where we spend many afternoons. We've actually done a lot since this picture was taken - we've added red umbrellas, red flowers, & purchased cobalt blue planters to add color to the patio. I'll see if I can get a few updated photos to share.

                  The boys also sweet talked Michael into taking them to a movie yesterday, but I stayed back & did more yard work & then read in blissful silence before bed. Small wins. :-) 

                  We're having Michael's cousin & family over this evening for dinner, so it's been a good motivator to get the house in as good of shape as possible. It also means that we have quite a bit to accomplish today. Here's what's on the list:

                  • Yoga
                  • Clean kitchen
                  • Wash all sheets/make all beds
                  • Laundry
                  • Sweep patio 
                  • Finish weeding the front yard 
                  • Make sure all bedrooms are clean (boys, I'm looking at you)
                  • Clean garage freezer
                  • Book a rental car for our summer vacation
                  • Drop off books at the library
                  • Prep the food for the party

                  I think that will do it! What about you? Are you doing any of the typical Memorial Day weekend activities (barbecues, hosting guests, going to the movies)? 

                  Friday, May 26, 2017

                  Frugal Friday

                  I am so VERY ready for the long weekend, as I'm sure many of you are. :-) It's been one of those months. . .

                  Here are our frugal things for the week:

                  • Threw together a quick dinner after a late soccer game on Sunday. I was really tempted to eat out, but we'd already gone out on Friday.
                  • Turned the Friday dinner leftovers into another lunch (x3 people), & another dinner (x3 people).
                  • Could not find shorts of any kind that I like. I'm looking for something practical, comfortable & age appropriate for hot days. I ended up cutting off a pair of jeans that are too big. Full length jeans that are too big are not cute, but for shorts, they look nice & relaxed. Saved myself at least $20, and repurposed something that would have been heading to the donation pile. 
                  • Price matched several flights & got a $156 credit for future spend. I'll use that money to offset the price of my flight for my summer relay in Portland. 
                  • Consolidated our laundry to save water (i.e. ran one big load vs multiple smaller loads).
                  • I've been using my "reusable" ziplock bags. They are not perfect, but we are finding a few ways to use them for lunches, which cuts down on some of our waste.
                  • Made (most) meals at home.
                  • Although not directly for me, my parents flight to Hawaii was changed (from a mid day to a red eye!) & I called to handle the adjustments for them. They had to cut a day off of their vacation, so they were less than thrilled. I inquired about credit for the significant flight change, & was able to get them $500 for future travel. 

                  In non-frugal updates:
                  • Sam & Nick both had excellent player evaluations from their soccer coaches. I care a little about the soccer, but a great deal about the attitude & sportsmanship. Sam has struggled with both in the past few seasons, but got a fabulous evaluation this time. It's an area he as actively worked to improve this season, so I was thrilled with the results. He asked to go to dinner to celebrate, & we went out to a Greek restaurant last night. (Nick also had a great evaluation, but his is consistently good). In semi frugal news, I brought my own wine (no corkage fee at this restaurant), which kept the cost down tremendously. 
                  That's it for me! Was it a frugal week for you? Add in any frugal wins or fails.

                  Thursday, May 25, 2017

                  It's almost a long weekend

                  And I, for one, am very ready for the extra day off! :-) We have a few plans over the weekend, but for the most part, we will be getting things done around the house. We've reached that point where it's easy to not progress on house projects, because you lose momentum. But, there's still *quite* a bit to do!

                  Here's what remains, in terms of projects:

                  • Install new doors
                  • Get a bid for air conditioning
                  • Put in ceiling fans in two of the rooms (we hope to use the air conditioning very infrequently)
                  • Put up all trim pieces
                  • Finish painting
                  • Seal "shower planter"
                  • Towel rack in the master bathroom
                  • Find a pool cover/cut to size
                  • Tear down all outdoor structures/rebuild (there is a rat infestation. The pest service is out of option, as the structures have plenty of access space for the rats. They recommend tearing down & starting again with sealed sheds).
                  • Install shelving in the boys closets

                  Those are most of the bigger projects. There are also plenty of smaller sized ones:
                  • Hang remaining pictures
                  • Clean all screens (they have flooring dust on them)
                  • Clean all slider door tracks (ditto the flooring)
                  • Deep clean the outdoor patio space, to prevent pine needles from blowing into the pool
                  • Talk to neighbor & trim pine tree back over the fence line
                  • Finish planting all fruit trees
                  • Clean pantry
                  • Clean garage shelves
                  • Organize linen closet
                  • Organize my closet (it's livable, but I prefer a lot more organization to make it easy to find things).

                  I think that's the top of the list, but I'm sure more things will stack up once those get checked off. If you remember, how long did it take for you to get "settled" once you moved? I feel like it's taking forever, but then again, I'm impatient. ;-) 

                  Sunday, May 21, 2017

                  As soccer draws to a close + a meal plan

                  Spring soccer is almost over, and then we're off the hook until August! I'm looking forward to the break. :-) Today is Sam's last game, and Nick has a game today (if he's feeling up to it), and then a game the first weekend of June. The end is near.

                  Yesterday was a really relaxing day, so today I need to get more done around the house. Here's what's on my list:

                  1. Yoga
                  2. A walk or light cardio of some sort
                  3. Laundry
                  4. Dishes
                  5. Menu plan
                  6. The produce stand
                  7. Schedule for the week (work calendar, workout calendar, schedule for the nanny, etc)
                  8. Clean our hall closet
                  9. Determine which pictures we want to hang, vs store
                  10. Have the boys call my parents
                  11. Clean the fridge
                  12. Do some sweeping by the pool. Our neighbors have a fir tree, and the needles get into the pool like crazy. 
                  13. Take Sam to his soccer game/end of season party
                  14. Relax & enjoy at least 30 minutes by the pool.
                  Here's what I'm thinking of for a menu plan this week:

                  • Sunday - Oven baked chicken risotto
                  • Monday - chicken tacos
                  • Tuesday - leftover risotto
                  • Wednesday - if any chicken remains, chicken fettuccine
                  • Thursday - kebabs (freezer) + gyozas (we have a huge bag, & I need to get rid of them)
                  • Friday - Either takeout pizza or leftovers from whatever remains
                  • Saturday - grilled burgers, or salmon if it looks good
                  • Sunday - likely having M's cousin over for dinner, so probably a Persian feast (rice, kebabs, roasted vegetables, etc).

                  What about you? Any big plans for the long weekend (if you are in the US)? Also, as the weather gets warmer, our bananas are ripening faster than we can eat them. I have 10 or so in the freezer. I made banana chocolate chip muffins yesterday (loosely based on this recipe), but would love other recommendations, if you have them. 

                  Saturday, May 20, 2017

                  Sleepy Saturday

                  We enjoyed the pool yesterday evening, & then spontaneously decided to go to dinner. The food had just arrived when Nick informed us that he was very sick. Ahhh, life with kiddos! :) We packed up dinner, headed home, & Nick threw up on our driveway. He was sick all through the night, and this morning. He skipped soccer, and is starting to feel better, after crackers & Gatorade.

                  I was up quite a bit in the night with him, and then took Sam to soccer this morning so M could get in some yard work. We have one mature fruit tree (a grapefruit tree), but the neighbor has a tree that has basically smothered it - the neighbor's tree is about 5 feet beyond the property line, has grown on top of our tree - blocking the sun, and is also close to our roof. M spoke to our neighbor (she is quite elderly) & asked her if he could cut it. So, he was taking care of that this morning.

                  This afternoon, I made everyone lunch & then we all got in the pool. It's 90 degree, so relaxing by the pool in the sunshine (technically, I use a big umbrella, so it's the shade) was just what the doctor ordered after a sleepless night. I'll also wrap up some laundry, hit Costco, get my supplies for the end of the year soccer party tomorrow, and I have a batch of muffins in for our other neighbors. It's a lovely woman who is taking care of her husband with advanced dementia. I know she doesn't get out much, so the kids & I try to go over when we can (with baked goods or meals) just to say hello.

                  This evening, I'm meeting a friend (M's cousin's wife) for dinner. I hope I can stay up late enough to handle it. :-)

                  It's HOT here today, and I can already tell that we are going to need air conditioning! Our rental house stayed cool in the heat, but this house is not as insulated. We'll have to price that out & add it to our budget. Maybe we'll add in solar?

                  What about you? What are you up to today? 

                  Friday, May 19, 2017

                  Frugal Friday

                  Happy Friday! I'm very happy that the weekend is almost here. :-)

                  It's been a pretty typical week at our house, but here's our list of frugal wins.

                  • M replaced the brakes on my car
                  • And, changed the oil on my other car
                  • I declined a fundraising party I was invited to, and sent a donation instead. I don't need to buy anything new, and would rather my money go straight to the source.
                  • I bought a PT ball (I'm seeing a physical therapist about my limited shoulder mobility on one side), and used my health care savings account.
                  • I've been wanting to try a new local restaurant, and to expand the horizons of my youngest eater. A cute local eatery had a Groupon, so I bought that before Mother's Day. I'll use the Groupon to take the kids out on a weekday, and see how they do with Italian food. I know my eldest will love it. I'm trying to get the 10 year old to try new things. 
                  • For Mother's Day, we stayed in & M made dinner. The kids bought me flowers (an inexpensive bouquet), & we spent the afternoon playing by the pool. No expensive dinners out. It was absolutely perfect. 
                  • I picked up a free book that someone left at the office donation pile. Once I'm done with it, I'll pass it along to our library book sale.
                  • I had a dentist appointment, and have no cavities. This is great health news, but also good fiscal news, as it means no out of pocket spending for any dental treatment. 
                  • We line dryed the majority of our clothes and made all of our meals at home.

                  What about you? Any big frugal wins? 

                  Thursday, May 18, 2017

                  A house for sale

                  As regular readers may remember, we listed our Seattle rental house (previously our residence) last week. We actually already received an offer (2 days in), but the buyer rescinded, as they had another offer out that was accepted. So, that was a little crazy.

                  I wasn't actually expecting to be stressed out by this house sale (yes, I'm obviously a person who isn't very self aware), but I'm finding the process to be very stressful. My assumption was that, while we are not looking to carry the mortgage for any length of time, we are also not desperate to sell. Things are good, and this money will help free us up & provide more financial flexibility. Now that I have that end goal in mind, I am, of course, all about getting the offer & rejiggering our financial life goals around whatever magic number we settle on. This is my first time selling a house, so I'm sure all of you experienced sellers are laughing at my foolishness. :-) Ahhhh, life lessons.

                  In other news, the end of the school year is drawing near! There are lots of 5th grade activities for Sam (who will be starting middle school in August). I'm absolutely not prepared for that milestone! So, we're swamped with end of the year school stuff, combined with regular life.

                  And, I'm busy planning & coordinating lots of fun summer travel, and trying to overlay that with some potential work trips. Of course, there's still too much work, and I'm desperately in search of a lead role for my team, so I can stop managing so many people in APAC. Fingers crossed, because the evening meetings & traveling gets old really fast.

                  It's almost Friday, and I am incredibly ready for the weekend! I didn't get enough rest last weekend (actually, scratch that, I did, but not enough to recover from the previous few weeks), so I'm still dragging.

                  If you have sold a home before, please share any tips or experience, or your tales of selling your home.