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. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

A very happy Mother's Day, to all of you wonderful mothers out there. It can be an exhausting & all encompassing journey, but worth it!

I'll be taking the boys to soccer this morning, & then hopefully spending the rest of the day mostly relaxing & getting things done. M is making Persian kebabs & rice tonight for dinner. Yum!

Here's our menu plan for the week:

Sunday - kebabs & rice
Monday -  leftover pizza (from Saturday's sleepover)
Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
Wednesday - spaghetti & meatballs
Thursday - tacos
Friday - I'm going to a fundraiser for 5th grade moms, so I'll probably make pasta & chicken for the kids before I go.

It's going to be a very simple menu plan this week, as I didn't make a large meal yesterday, like I normally do. I'd also like to go through the garage freezer & update my inventory with what we have on hand.

What about you? What are you up to this Mother's Day? What's on the menu this week? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The 10K Saturday

And, not $10K, but a 10K run. So much more fun. ;-) I got up this morning & did a really hilly 10K. The hills were nasty. The last two miles were straight uphill. Who designs a 10K with the final miles all uphill? I'll tell you who - a sadist. I'm beat!

M took the kids to soccer, and Costco, & now I'm resting up at home. I have a party this evening (I won it in the school auction). It's a pedicure party, where drinks & food will be served. Getting a pedicure will be a nice reward after the run, & I'm looking forward to meeting a few of the other moms from school. I don't get to spend a lot of time at school due to my work schedule, so it will be nice to have some familiar faces.

Nick has a soccer game in the late afternoon, and then Sam is having a sleepover this evening. It's just your basic weekend here. :-)

Our realtor is holding an open house for our Seattle property, so fingers crossed on that front.

We have two soccer games at the same field, close to the same time tomorrow. That's about the best Mother's Day gift of all. I do love watching the boys play, so I will probably manage that, so M can fix the brakes on my car. The oil light is on in the other car, so that's yet another project that will need to be tackled.

It was an extremely intense work week, and I am all out of energy today. Normally, weekends are used for getting things done, but I feel the need to just rest up & recover this weekend. The 10K was probably a bit ambitious. ;-) I did manage to accomplish a few things over the past few days.

  • I've worked out 5x this week so far, & will work out again tomorrow. Probably yoga, so I can recover from my run.
  • I called Southwest & changed our flights for our adult trip in July I'm taking M to Las Vegas as an early 50th birthday celebration. We will also go to Hawaii for a longer trip in October
  • I provided feedback about a summer camps refund policy (aka no refunds, even if they are able to fill your spot, or end up cancelling the camp). This is not the norm around here AT ALL, and is not clearly described when registering. I received my money back, due to my email. This saved $650.
  • Sold a table that was in one of the sheds when we moved into the house. It was a very inexpensive Ikea table, but still, $5 & we got rid of something we didn't need.
  • Faxed over a health form for Sam's summer camp, & nagged the doctor about completing it. It's now ready for pick up & I can drop it off on Wednesday.
  • Interviewed & hired someone to help with after school care for the last few weeks of school. Our nanny is now studying for finals. A neighbor is home from Columbia for the summer, so will be available to help out. I'm paying more than I'd typically want to ($22/hour), but she had very good energy, got along well with the boys, and it's only for a few weeks. 
And with that, I'm off to go read my book. I ran out of library books, and serendipitously, one of my coworkers left a freebie at the office. Do you ever just use the weekends to crash & recover from crazy weeks?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frugal Friday

All of my global team was in town this week, so we had full days of meetings, plus evening activities every day. I'm exhausted, to say the least, and looking forward to the weekend!

Here are our frugal wins for the week!

  • Even though it was a crazy weekend, we did not eat out. It was super tempting on Saturday night, after a full day of kids activities, but I stuck to the plan. I brought plenty of snacks & water to the games, and we ate between activities at the house.
  • Ate a few lingering single serving freezer leftovers (from meals my parents prepped for us a month or so ago)
  • Created meals out of leftovers for the kids, including using leftover taco meat to make "Taco quesadillas" (cheese quesadillas, but with warmed spicy taco meat inside). It's a kid favorite that we make rarely, as we typically don't have leftover taco meat. This week, because Sam was at overnight camp, we had extra.
  • Stuck to my shopping plan at Costco & the produce stand. Made a last minute swap of romaine hearts for organic mixed greens, as the organic mixed greens ended up to be on super sale. 
  • Used leftover fruit in smoothies. I typically use freshly squeezed oranges, but now that we don't have an orange tree in our yard, I had to get creative. M bought lunch for our painters one day (pizza & lemonade - their request), so we have a large tub of leftover organic lemonade. Not the healthiest smoothie base due to the sugar, but I used it sparingly to be able to blend the smoothie in our Vitamix
  • School is out on Monday. I'd registered the kids for a camp, as I have to work. The camp costs $95 for two kids, for the day. Unfortunately, the camp didn't have enough kids, so they cancelled. A few friends are pooling resources, and hiring a few older siblings (college students) to watch the boys at a park. Price = $70 for two kids, and includes lunch. I think the boys will love it.
  • Our neighborhood art school gives one free trial lesson, so we signed Nick up for Sunday. We actually bought him lessons through our school auction (his birthday gift), so this will allow him to try a class & know which type of session he might like best for his paid lessons.
What about you? Any big frugal moments in your week?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekly spending roundup (5/1-5/7/17)

I haven't done one of these in a long time (too many purchases with the house!), so it's probably time to get back on the wagon.

  • Monday - no spend day
  • Tuesday - no spend day
  • Wednesday - $35.12 - reusable ziplocks. We haven't tried them yet, but I'm interested in the environmental savings, as well as any cost savings. These will primarily be for packed lunches (where we need light/small containers), so I am a little concerned about one of the kids tossing one accidentally. Especially given the price! I'll report back after we've tried these out.
  • Thursday
    • $153 - a week's worth of after school care from our nanny
    • $56.49 - library fines for the two books lost in the move. Sigh.
  • Friday - $30.40 - various Ubers for M. He will be getting reimbursed $20 for one, after he fills out the correct forms. 
  • Saturday - $35.12 - gas
  • Sunday
    • $50 - I've been on a quest for new shorts. I have zero pair, and want something casual for hot weather. I've tried three pair at Costco so far, but none have worked. They will be going back. I did get an $8 shirt for Nick for an event, so that will remain
    • $85 - two bottles of nice whiskey for M's Father's Day gift, plus his big milestone birthday coming up!
    • $72.68 - weekly groceries at Costco, including a rotisserie chicken
    • $10.70 - the produce stand. This included: a large tub of organic mixed greens, two bunches of radishes, 3 lbs of mini cucumber, a few cluster of tomatoes, 8 apricots,  & a package of whole wheat lavosh bread
    • $688.17 - flights. My mom called yesterday to see if I would be okay with her flying here to pick up the boys, and then taking them home with her. She wants the boys to attend a few big family things that are going on, and M & I can't take the time off of work. She will return the boys the following week, when she & my dad were already planning on visiting. I'd paid $521 for summer camp that week, so this should work out well, as I'll be able to cancel a week of camp. 

Total spent this week = $1151.16

I haven't gotten a chance to catch up with M yet this morning, but it sounds like he won some money in the tournament he attended over the weekend, which should more than cover his travel expenses. Woohoo! :-) 

What about you? Did you track your spending last week? How did you do?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The weekend goes by too quickly

We were up at 5:30 for a soccer game, but now have the rest of the afternoon (mostly) free. I plan to work out, and I'll eventually get Nick to a free art class he's trying. Then we will pick M up at the airport, and I plan to make it a very early evening. I had a bunch of other chores I'd marked as something I'd like to accomplish today, but I, quite frankly, do not see that happening. ;-)

I have my international team in town this week, so I have one team dinner, and a few evening social activities. I will likely only attend one, as it's too much with the rest of our schedule.

In exciting news, our rental house is going on the market next week! I'm so excited to get that sorted out. Woohoo for progress!

And, because menu planning keeps me sane, here's what we're eating this week.

Friday - Spaghetti & meatballs (the boys had leftovers from the fridge, I had a single serving freezer lasagna meal - leftover from my parents visit).
Saturday - Taco quesadillas (the boys had this, using up leftover taco meat. I had a single serving freezer meal of chicken risotto).
Sunday - Fettuccine alfredo using a Costco rotisserie chicken. I'm going for something like this recipe.
Monday - kebabs from the freezer + rice?
Tuesday - I'll be at a team dinner. Leftover fettuccine for the other diners
Wednesday - baked fish & pasta
Thursday - gyozos & baked chicken
Friday - homemade risotto

Nick subbed on Sam's team this morning (an early morning game, but at least it was a gorgeous morning) & watching the boys play together was definitely my weekend highlight. Nick scored a goal off of an assist from his brother. Sam swung him around & lifted him up in congratulations. It was . . . adorable & made the weekend worth it. I love seeing them work hard together & also have the right attitude to support each other. Super cute. Wish I would have had my camera ready.

What about you? What was the best part of the weekend? And, what's one thing you're looking forward to this week? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Oh Saturday, what should we do?

It's one of those Saturdays where having an extra pair of hands would be amazing, but M is out of town. Instead, I'll rely on my "village" of friends. I'll give Sam's bud a ride to & from a game this morning (&, it's a 35 minute drive. Our league is usually super close teams, so not excited about that). Then, I'll feed everyone lunch, head back, drop Nick off for a ride to his game. Then drop Sam off for a Boy Scouts requirements event, head to pick up Nick (again, 30 minutes away), and pick Sam up on my way home. I'm tired just thinking about it.

Sam is pretty sleepy, after being away at overnight science camp for a three days with his school. He had an amazing time, & did great with listening & being a leader. There were some worries there, so it's such a good feeling to hear about him maturing.

In the brief window of time between activities, here's what's on the agenda for today:

  1. Some sort of exercise. My legs are pretty sore from my workout yesterday, which is always a good sign. 
  2. Go through the boys clothes, clean out the size 8 shorts that are getting to be a little "short" on my 11 year old. Still fit in the waist, but length is becoming a problem. Make a list of anything we need.
  3. Pick up bonus kid, take everyone to soccer
  4. Laundry
  5. Dishes
  6. Clean the fridge
  7. Find a date for a "birthday" sleepover for Nick. Seriously, his birthday was in March.
  8. Make a list of things to sell via eBay or my local Facebook swap
  9. Pool maintenance
  10. Water the plants
  11. Take Nick to his ride for his soccer game
  12. Take Sam to his ride to Boy Scouts
  13. Pick up Nick from soccer
  14. Pick up Sam from Boy Scouts
  15. Collapse on a patio chair & drink wine
And, that's it! What about you? What kind of Saturday are you hoping to have? Is it an errand filled day, or hopefully more relaxing?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Frugal Friday

It's been a very crazy week. We're doing a team wide re-organization, which involves an absolutely enormous amount of coordination & communication. Sam has been at science camp this week, so things have been a bit quieter than normal here & I'm excited to have him home this afternoon!

I've been too busy to spend any money this week, but here are a few frugal things I've accomplished:

  • Called Comcast over a billing error, and gotten $70 reversed. There is another $70 erroneous charge, but I need to call again about the second charge. Check your bills! 
  • I haven't done any "shopping for fun" in a long time, but I did look at a few cute dresses online, & then just left them in my cart. It was enough to browse around & get a few ideas of how to better use the things in my closet.
  • Price matched all of our existing 2017 travel, & requested a $20 flight credit for our adult Hawaii trip, as fares have dropped.
  • Made all of our meals at home this week, even though we had a broken oven for a few days.
  • Exchanged a pair of running shoes that didn't fit.
  • M took an Uber to the airport this morning, and used a free credit to offset the cost

Here are the non frugal things that happened this week:
  • Continue to fund repairs & yard work at our rental house (it's going on the market next week!) in order to get it move in ready
  • Had to replace soccer balls & practice socks for both kids. When you play as much soccer as my peeps do, you have to replace the gear pretty regularly
  • Paid off all of our library fines. Sigh. How books got lost in the move (along with our Amazon remote that we have never found), I'll never know. 
  • Order reusable replacements for ziplock bags, in an attempt to both be more environmentally friendly, and save cost over the long haul. I am testing out a few from Amazon, and will come back with a report either way on longevity of the bags, how easy they are to clean, etc.
I am so VERY happy that it's Friday! Looking forward to getting a bunch of stuff done this weekend, as well as relaxing & enjoying the cooler weather. What about you? Any frugal wins to celebrate?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May goals

I love the freshness of a new month, and the feeling that anything is possible. Here's what's on the list of projects to tackle for May!

1) Financial - 
  • Finish all projects for our rental house & get it listed!
  • Update our project & budget list for our house
  • Start new family budget for post rental house sale
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. 
  • Finalize our decluttering & organizing in the new house
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 two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) 
  • Plan M's birthday & Father's Day
  • Figure out what to do for both parents (Mother's Day & Father's Day)

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in May
    • Run 25 miles in May
    • Run a 10K
    • 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 May? 

      Monday, May 1, 2017

      April goals - how did I do?

      I've finally made some positive fitness changes (mostly green!) in April. I also managed to get a bunch of other stuff done for the month, so I'm feeling good about things overall.

      1) Financial - 
      • Start forecasting & modeling our plans for selling our rental house - yes! We have a plan, and a forecast on what we expect to clear. 
      • Pay our taxes. Yay. ;-) - Yes. Hurrah for the IRS. 
      • Adjust our budget as needed, now that we've had a month in the house. - We have a rough budget, but are still trying to understand utilities, etc. Also, we have a few upcoming strange months covering the rental expenses, etc. I'll be tackling this again more officially once our house sells. 
      • Build a list & budget for all remaining house projects - I have a draft, but need to update it. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - I didn't really make much progress on this. I need to put my thinking cap on! I was considering ordering the re-usable plastic bags (ziplock replacements). Does anyone have any that they recommend? 
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - I didn't sell anything. We have a flat screen TV that we need to sell, but I haven't gotten myself organized enough yet to take pictures & list it yet. 
      • Finalize our decluttering & organizing in the new house - it's a work in progress, but I would definitely not describe it as "finalized". 
      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 took the boys BMX racing a few Saturdays ago, and they had a blast. 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc.- We have been spending a lot of time together working on the house. Not sure that's as fun as everyone would want, but lots of time mowing the lawn, raking leaves, etc. We are all working together!
      • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) - M & I had a great dinner date together to celebrate his promotion. 
      • Continue researching plans for an adult trip in October - Yes! It's booked & we are going to Hawaii to celebrate our anniversary. 

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 3 pounds in April - down 1/2 a pound. Not the progress I was looking for, but moving in the right direction. Finally!
        • Run 20 miles in April - yes, I ran 24 miles in April
        • Run a 10K - yes! I ran a 10K last Friday. I got the route incorrect, so it ended up being closer to 8 miles!
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I finished with 3.6/day, so still work to do here. 
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - Yes! Best results of the year. I finished with 1,115 minutes of cardio. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - Yes, I had 8 strength workouts!
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - I had stretching workouts. A clear area of focus, as I'd like to consistently do yoga a minimum of 1x/every week, and 2x/week as often as possible. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - it's been a rough few weeks, as we discuss fully reorganizing our teams & responsibilities. I've been trying to work out to offset the stress, which helps. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - I managed 1x/this month. I had visitors at my house earlier in the month, so it wasn't feasible to work from home. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe - Nope. It wasn't one of those months. Lots of guests, some traveling, & general chaos. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes, I had a girls trip!
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes, in that I organized & sponsored a fundraiser for our school, which raised $850. The party will be held in May, so that will require more volunteering. I also volunteered at the school for a fitness event, so I managed two different activities.

          What about you? How did you do with your April goals? I'm off to go set some fancy May goals! :-) 

          Sunday, April 30, 2017

          Sunday - wrapping up the week

          I always use my Sundays to wrap up the week (tackling chores that remain) & to plan for the week ahead. Both of these things are critical for my sanity & our overall organization during the crazy work week.

          I had a fabulous two hour hike in the sunshine with a friend yesterday, and the weather was gorgeous all day. I ran errands, and then hung out by the pool for a bit with the kiddos & M.

          In what is surely the last possible appliance that can break at our house (I shouldn't jinx myself like this), both ovens went out last night while I was making dinner. And, by both, I feel compelled to add that this house has two incredibly tiny ovens stacked on each other, vs one normal sized oven. It took me two hours to finish the dinner, because I kept checking it, adjusting the settings, swapping to the lower oven, & finally . . . used the microwave convection oven. For those keeping track at home, since we've moved in, we had to spend $700 on repairs to the water connector to the washing machine (it wasn't a standard repair - went far back into the wall, and involved parts that were 20+ years old), and had to get a new dishwasher. Both the washing machine & the dishwasher also leaked on our brand new floors the first time we used them. The pool heater is also broken. And, now the oven. ;-) In our area, you are not allowed to do an inspection. The owner does an "inspection" when they list the house, and it's available to read, but you are not allowed to do your own. Technically, you could, but no offer would be accepted with any contingencies. So, you get what you get. M is very handy, so let's see where we come out with the oven. He thinks he's fixed it today & got up at 4:30 to work on it. But, I did notice that he planned dinner out on the grill for tonight. .. .

          M took the boys to the early soccer game this morning (bless him!) so I can get things done. I have a bunch of paperwork-ish stuff I didn't finish yesterday, plus standard chores.

          1. Laundry
          2. Supervise Sam's packing for overnight science camp
          3. Science camp paperwork
          4. Send out family schedule for the week (I book things on my work calendar, M's calendar, etc)
          5. Coordinate schedule with nanny
          6. Sort out summer camp activities 
          7. Fix the printer
          8. Take Nick to soccer
          9. Drop Nick off at art class
          10. Pick up Sam at his fitness test (Boy Scouts)
          11. Find a picture of Nick for a class project
          12. Search the house for a couple of library books that went missing during the move. We currently owe $50. I'm not thrilled, but cannot imagine where they went. We also never found our Amazon remote. Such a mystery. We packed everything, and everything is now unpacked. Where could they be????
          13. Strength workout
          14. Yoga
          15. If the oven is back, make banana bread, and take a loaf over to the neighbors
          16. Call my parents
          17. Find a birthday sleepover date for both boys (delayed from the move) & get the invites out

          Nothing is a huge work item, but it all just needs to get done! I'm also hoping for more relaxing pool time today. Even 20 minutes outside with a glass of wine & my book would be perfect! 

          What about you? If you accomplish one thing today, what would you want it to be? Do you also have lots of "small" chores that constantly need to be ticked off? 

          Saturday, April 29, 2017

          A free Saturday

          We have absolutely zero scheduled sports/boy activities today. What an unexpected treat! I need a catch up day, as I wasn't home last weekend.

          I'm looking forward to getting some errands done today, as tomorrow I have to be at a soccer game at 7:15 am. Oh joy! ;-)

          Here's what's on the list for today:

          1. Make a menu
          2. Meet a friend for an early hike, before it gets too hot. I love to combine social time with a workout. Plus, it's free! What could be better? 
          3. Go to Costco. I have a few returns, and need to get our groceries. I also have our rebate check to use.
          4. Call Comcast. Sigh. Comcast
          5. Take the boys to a bike shop to be measured
          6. Fill out a bunch of school paperwork for end of the year activities
          7. Make sure Sam packs for his overnight science camp
          8. Figure out an (extremely delayed) birthday sleepover date for Nick
          9. Return my running shoes to Nordstrom, & try to find a new pair. They make my feet go numb, which is never that fun.
          10. Yoga
          11. Take the boys to the library
          12. Make dinner
          13. Put away at least two "piles" in the house, from the move
          14. Laundry

          And, menu plan for the week, just so I can check off #1!

          • Saturday - homemade pizza
          • Sunday - fish & rice
          • Monday - Chicken & pasta
          • Tuesday - Tacos
          • Wednesday - leftover pizza
          • Thursday - leftover fish & rice
          • Friday - taco quesadillas

          The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, so maybe we'll eat outside again this evening. What about you? Do you have a full agenda for today? What are you hoping to accomplish?

          Friday, April 28, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          It's been a quick week, with lots of work changes & meetings. I had an 8:00 pm meeting with Jakarta last night, and an 8:00 am meeting with London this morning. I'm pooped, & looking forward to a slightly quieter Friday (no one else is online on Fridays, starting by late morning). Hurrah for small victories!

          What kind of frugal things have we done lately . . . ?

          1. Made dinner every night this week, even though I had two very unexpected late nights
          2. Line dried all clothes (minus underwear & socks), which saves the fabric, but also reduces power. We line dry on a large rack in our spare bedroom.
          3. Moved all outdoor lights to solar. While an initial one time cost, we live in an area that has a lot of sunlight, so this should reduce our ongoing outlay of batteries, etc, and provide us with inexpensive outdoor lighting
          4. Continue to maintain our pool without paying for help. M has studied up quite a bit, & most of the supplies are available at Costco.
          5. Speaking of Costco, we received our rebate check ($240, so $120 net savings over the cost of membership), and will use that purchase our groceries for the week.

          Less frugal things for the week:
          1. I did pay to have someone clean the house. The week got away from me, and I was out of town last weekend.
          2. M made dinner on the spur of the moment 2x this week. He ended up swinging by Trader Joes to pick up a few things. He spent under $4, but both items were already in the cupboard. Still cheaper than takeout!

          I'm considering buying reusable bags for lunches, etc. I want to reduce our use of ziplock baggies. Does anyone have recommendations? I'm looking for lunch packing options, as well as baggies I could use to store divided up meat in the freezer, etc.

          Focusing on fitness

          I'm a creature of habit, and typically create a schedule & then just go with it. Even when that schedule stops working. I've realized (through many failed attempts) that I actually need to adjust my schedule semi-regularly to make time to work out. Things change each season. Soccer practices & times adjust, new off hours meetings get added to my calendar in APAC, daylight savings wreaks havoc on my time zones (other countries don't follow, so it creates a bigger gap in meeting times), etc.

          I need to do a better job of evaluating when things aren't working, and making adjustments. I spent some time on Sunday revamping my scheduling & coming up with options to allow for me to have time to: work out, get plenty of sleep, and make time to relax (relaxing could mean reading a book, yoga, a hot bath, time with friends. . .)

          I have not been able to lose weight in 2017, (I typically gain through second half of each year, and spend the first half losing it all over again, in a terrible cycle). This is a real problem, & I need to make sure I'm prioritizing working out.

          Getting up earlier isn't really an option, as I need a minimum of 8.5 (but, prefer 9) hours of sleep to stay healthy with my lupus & keep my symptoms in check.

          What are the changes I'm making?

          1. Review my schedule on Sundays, & build out a specific workout plan. (I.e. run @ 6:45 on Monday, making sure I don't have any early EMEA meetings, etc).
          2. Come up with a "best possible" workout slot, but have other options for days that won't work. For me, the sweet spot is really 6:30-6:45 am as a start time. As I have more & more APAC meetings (evenings) & fewer EMEA meetings (morning), this should be helpful.
          3. Figure out what doesn't work for me, & work around it. I've been trying to get into the habit of hitting the work gym in the mornings, but that requires showering, lugging all of my gear, & the gym is packed at my desired time. I've decided that working out at home, but ensuring I have strength focused workouts (in addition to cardio) is the winner. I tried it out today, & it worked well.
          All in all, I've had good success this week, and have found some options for building a regular workout schedule again. What about you? Do you evaluate your schedule & make adjustments on a regular basis, or are you a creature of habit? When do you work out & how do you fit it into your busy life? 

          Tuesday, April 25, 2017

          Things are happening!

          I can't recall when I last gave an update on our Seattle rental property, but things are moving along quite well. We are officially listing our house on 5/10, and will have an open house that weekend!

          We are doing some minor work to the inside (repairing a crack, touch up paint, etc) & some bigger cleanup on the outside. The total cost of the work is estimated to be around $3200. We will also be covering the cost of the mortgage & utilities until the house sells, as our tenants are out as of 5/1.

          We don't have all of the final numbers in, but have been using a range to predict how much we will clear after realtors fees, taxes, etc. It's exciting to think about next steps, after we sell. The Seattle house market is very hot, so we are hoping to draw multiple buyers.

          As for the money leftover after all of the fees & taxes our paid, we are thinking of the following:

          • $200,000 - boys college savings. We will then consider these as fully funded.
          • $800,000 (estimate) - we will spread this across a variety of assets (conservative to riskier) to continue to generate income. 

          We debated back & forth putting some of the $800K into our mortgage in San Francisco, and then having our monthly payment rescaled back. We also debated the value of paying off our vacation house. At this point, we'd rather keep the money (relatively) liquid, at least in the short term.

          Having this investment fund will ensure I can actually leave my job, and find something with no income requirements, that's much more flexible. We will draw down the investment fund each month to cover the gap between our expenses & income, but it will last well beyond when the boys are out of school. Unless something major happens, which is, as always in life, a possibility. It will also give M the option of leaving his job & finding something that doesn't pay as well, should an opportunity that he is very passionate about arise. We haven't given a ton of thought yet to our 10 year plan, but I think it's fair to say that we will not need a house nearly this big (or expensive) once the boys are out of school. That would drastically change our financial requirements. More to come on our 10 year plan! 

          In other news, M started his new job yesterday! So happy to have that resolved. He received six job offers (four internal, two external) & accepted the one that he thought would be the best fit. Apparently, his skill set is highly in demand. ;-) 

          We've worked really hard over the past 20 (and, 25 years for M) to build up a nest egg that will allow us the flexibility to leave our insanely demanding jobs. I don't think M will do it, but I am already feeling the relief that comes along with knowing that I have choices. 

          What do you consider "financial independence", and when are you hoping to achieve it? If you are already there, please share your story!

          Monday, April 24, 2017

          A few frugal things & a menu plan

          I had a fabulous long weekend with my sister & best friend, and am now trying to get back to reality. We spent the weekend on the Oregon coast, and had a very mellow time. We did a 10K run (it turned into just over 8 miles due to my questionable route planning ;-)), played games, drank wine, did some shopping, and really just hung out. It was fabulous! We had an absolutely gorgeous day on Friday, so it made the 10K really pleasant.

          Here's what's on the menu for the week:

          • Sunday - kebabs & rice (M grilled for us)
          • Monday - Costco pizza (I see it lurking in the fridge. M & the boys must have picked this up while I was gone)
          • Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
          • Wednesday - tacos
          • Thursday - spaghetti & meatballs
          • Friday - oven baked chicken risotto

          And, although it wasn't a super frugal weekend due to traveling, there were some frugal victories along the way.

          • Took an Uber pool to the airport. I've never done the pool option, but Uber was extremely expensive when I needed a ride. So, I saved $16 and my ride only cost $8. It added about 5 minutes to the ride, and was quick & easy.
          • Brought my own water bottle to refill at the airport on both sides.
          • We only bought one meal out on our trip. I paid, as the other girls had purchased breakfast, wine & dinner stuff to eat at the house.
          • I was able to find summer clothes for the boys at Costco, and got them pretty much everything they need for the next year or so (minus a pair of jeans) for $80. 
          • I also found replacement shoes for Nick, who has grown an entire full size in a few months. They were at the Nike outlet, and I paid under $20. 
          • I had to cancel my work London trip (unrelated to frugality - only related to work stuff), but that saves me money on nanny hours, as it's harder for us to keep the time in check when only one person is trying to cover all pickups. This will likely save around $50. 
          • I was looking for a few things at the outlets (I typically shop just when I'm with my friends, as I find it helpful to have a 2nd & 3rd opinion). I was able to buy a replacement black work cardigan, a black tank, and a dressier navy tshirt to go under cardigans. All of these are work options, & will replace things that are looking shabby. I wash everything, including my dressy clothes, but line dry. They do need to be replaced faster, but I also don't pay for dry cleaning. It's a tradeoff, I suppose. Everything was a fantastic price, & I used up an Under Armour store credit to get the boys a couple of shirts, as well as a Gap credit to get a tank top for myself.

          That's it for me. I need to work through my long to do/catch up list for the week & get things done! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. 

          Sunday, April 16, 2017

          A rainy Easter

          Given our stormy weather today, I'm very happy we did our egg hunt on Friday with my parents. It's been raining since around 10 am, and shows no sign of letting up. I'd envisioned hiding the boys very small gift bags (containing a chocolate bar, gummy bunnies, & a bit of money to use for BMXing) outside, but I think I'll scratch that idea.

          We took the boys to the BMX track last night, and Sam decided to join Nick in the race. They had a great time, and Sam beat Nick by quite a stretch. Given it was his first time, Nick was less than excited about this turn of events. ;-) It's hard to be the little brother, but these are good life lessons. Their buddy has been racing for about a year, and he took first place. Some of the kids their are absolutely incredible to watch. All of the other kids have full matching outfits, bikes, & helmets. We're not sure if the boys will stick with it, so Nick was wearing jeans & Sam was wearing track pants. They definitely stuck out a bit. ;-) We also have rented protective helmets & bikes. If they decide they enjoy it, they will be at least primarily responsible for saving up enough to cover the majority of the cost. Honestly I'd rather have them spend their money on something like this vs wasting it on video games or Pokemon cards.

          It's the last day of spring break, and we are all feeling mellow & enjoying the last day of quiet. So far today, I've gone for a run, caught up on laundry, built the schedule/carpool/nanny schedule for the next two weeks, made 3 dozen muffins, cleaned the fridge, & caught up on some life "paperwork".

          Next up, I need to pack for two separate trips - my girls trip to the beach, & my work trip to London. It turns out that M & the boys will be able to pick me up at the airport on Sunday, bring my "work bag", and take the other bag home. I'll then head to the larger airport (SFO) for my international flight. This will make packing much easier.

          I'm off to make some tea, and get started on my packing. Looking forward to a nice, relaxing dinner with the boys & M before we get back to the routine of work & school. I do miss our large family Easter gatherings when I lived closer, but this is nice too. What about you? How do you spend Easter? 

          Saturday, April 15, 2017

          A menu plan, & Saturday happenings

          I'm taking my parents to the airport shortly, and then we will be back to just four again. We will miss all of the laughs, the tremendous help, & the exceptionally clean house! :-)

          I typically start my Saturday by planning our menu, which then informs my shopping list for the week.

          Menu plan:

          • Saturday - leftover chicken pasta florentine that my dad made earlier in the week
          • Sunday - M will grill beef kebabs & make Persian rice. Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to eat outside.
          • Monday - Oven baked chicken risotto
          • Tuesday - Leftover kebabs & rice
          • Wednesday - Leftover risotto
          • Thursday - I'm out of town. I'm guessing M & the boys will go out to dinner
          • Friday - I'm out of town. M & the boys will have pizza (freezer)

          I'm actually out of town (for work) after my girls weekend, so I need to plan the menu for next week as well. I'm not quite there yet, so need to give that more thought. 

          Here's what is on the agenda for today:

          1. Make a Costco list
          2. Go to Costco
          3. Produce stand
          4. Library
          5. Take my parents to the airport
          6. Mail tax payment
          7. Price out how much one of our cars is worth. Considering trading it in for an electrical car, if the price is right.
          8. Go for a run
          9. Take the boys to get passport photos taken. (We are considering a ski trip to Whistler next year, to see M's cousin who lives in Vancouver).
          10. Sort out plans for next week, including car pooling, work schedule, M's schedule & my travel plans
          11. Figure out boy scouts for next week
          12. Determine when Nick can use his free month of art classes, and add to the calendar.

          That should do it! How about you? Are you in preparation mode for Easter, or up to something else this weekend? It's pretty great going into the weekend with an already clean house! 

          Friday, April 14, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          We've had guests all week (my parents) & they stayed with us & hung out with the boys over spring break. Everyone has been having a great time!

          Here's a small list of the frugal things I've managed this week:

          1. We didn't pay for a spring break camp (around $700), but instead had my parents here. We paid for their flights (~$300) & gave them $100 for kid activities (trampoline park, arcade, etc). 
          2. I didn't need the nanny, or cleaning lady this week because my parents are amazing.
          3. Planned to take an Uber to & from dinner (I took my mom out as a thank you, because she spent 30+ hours cleaning my house to get rid of all of the construction debris/dust) so we could enjoy wine. M offered to drive us there, saving $15. I tried to book an Uber home, but the app was not cooperating. I cancelled our ride, as M was able to pick us up. I did get charged a $5 cancellation fee, but that was still $15 less than what the Uber would have cost.
          4. My parents cooked for us all week, and now I have dinner leftovers in the freezer, plus protein balls & banana bread. Yum!
          5. Shuffled a bunch of furniture around in the new house, so I won't need to order a replacement night stand. Very excited, as they are extremely expensive in the line we have for the rest of the room.

          That's about it for us. My parents are doing an Easter egg hunt with the kids this evening, and surprising them with a trip to Disneyland (in June). The boys will be thrilled. :-) I need to start packing for my girls trip/London trip. What about you? What frugal things have you done this week? 

          Tuesday, April 11, 2017

          I used up all of my plenti points

          You may remember that I've been on a toiletry ban & had a goal to get through 6 months without spending anything on toiletries. I started the year with a stash of Rite Aid plenti points (close to $90) & was planning to get through June with that.

          Unfortunately, I've been out of face lotion, and multiple substitutes were not working. With lupus, my skin requires a specific type of lotion, and lots of sunblock for my face. (I take a prescription that makes the sun even more powerful, & I'm already pretty fair & living in California).

          I was also out of Advil PM, which I use when I'm traveling to try & get as much sleep as possible - despite jet lag.

          I used the last of my plenti points today ($29.45), & then earned $10 more. I'm out of pocket $19.17, but only part of that was considered a toiletry. The Advil comes out of our health category for the year.

          In the end, Rite Aid was having a BOGO50% off sale on my lotion, so I was able to get two containers for $34. Additionally, I also picked up a lip balm with sunblock, as my lips are also starting to get sun spots. Yikes.

          I continue to inventory all of the rest of my toiletries, and everything is in reasonably good shape, quantity wise. I'm hoping to now make the $10 in plenti points last through June!

          What about you? Do you track your toiletries (shampoo, soap, floss, toothpaste, lotion, makeup, etc) to ensure you have enough? How do you find the best buy on this category of items?

          Sunday, April 9, 2017

          Sunday happenings

          I got almost everything done on my to do list yesterday!

          1. Go for a run
          2. Make time for yoga
          3. Sort out my jewelry area
          4. Move a dresser out of my closet
          5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
          6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
          7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
          8. Make a menu & Costco list
          9. Go to Costco & the produce stand
          I didn't manage to squeeze in yoga time, but I've already done it today. We ended up hosting a sleepover, so plans changed a bit on the fly. I've also decided to hold on #5, as the rearranging of furniture gave us an option for a nightstand in our bedroom. It's not a match, and doesn't look as good as a match to the set. However, it's free! And, it's the nightstand that's much less visible when you enter the room. We'll keep it for now & determine later if we're bothered by it enough to replace it.

          It's a much nicer day today (sunny & lovely), so I'll be getting in some fresh air in between taking people to soccer games. My parents return from Napa, and we are having an early Easter celebration. They head home next Saturday morning.

          Here's what's on the list to accomplish today:
          1. Sort out the family vacation house schedule
          2. Send out an email to everyone who has requested a slot
          3. Finalize tax payment
          4. Yoga
          5. Go for a walk in the sun
          6. Review calendar for the week
          7. Send my parents the schedule for soccer practice
          8. Pick up bonus kid for soccer, take 3 kids to a game
          9. Make risotto for dinner
          10. Clean the waffle maker (the kids made waffles today)
          11. Investigate flight options for my London flight in a few weeks
          12. Verify rewards number is attached to London hotel reservation
          Add in the laundry & dishes, and it looks like a pretty mellow day! What about you? What's on the agenda for today? Do you have any good spring-ish recipes? Looking for some inspiration!

          Saturday, April 8, 2017

          The wind has finally stopped

          Happy Saturday! It's been a very windy few days around here. One new thing I've learned about owning a pool. . . when it's windy, it's a must to sweep up regularly near the pool. Otherwise, every last leaf will be in the pool, and need to be cleaned out. Ah, pool life. :-)

          It's spring break, which means no soccer today! The boys are actually subbing for another team tomorrow, but today is soccer free. We have no planned commitments, so I can get things done & organize our lives. My parents are in Napa, and will be back tomorrow. Here's what I'll be up to today.

          1. Go for a run
          2. Make time for yoga
          3. Sort out my jewelry area
          4. Move a dresser out of my closet
          5. Order a new nightstand. (Our master bedroom is tiny, compared to previous houses, so we're doing a bunch of furniture shuffling.)
          6. Contact our realtor for our Seattle house on tenant move out date. Start getting work kicked off in the yard
          7. Fill out paperwork for Sam's overnight science camp
          8. Make a menu & Costco list
          9. Go to Costco & the produce stand

          Menu plan (my parents will be with us Sunday-Friday for dinner):

          • Saturday - leftover PF Chang's. There is so much leftover Chinese food from our dinner delivery on Thursday!
          • Sunday - M is grilling chicken, and will have that with rice
          • Monday - My mom has offered to cook. I think she mentioned enchiladas
          • Tuesday - Leftover chicken & rice
          • Wednesday - My mom has offered to cook
          • Thursday - Leftovers
          • Friday - I will probably make risotto
          I have late meetings all week, as I'm interviewing for a new senior role in Asia. It would be a HUGE gift to fill that role - much less travel, and not managing a huge team of people myself in region, remotely. I'm taking advantage of my parents being in town to get as many of the late night interviews, meetings done while they are around.

          What about you? What do you have on your agenda for today? 

          Friday, April 7, 2017

          Frugal Friday . . . or is it?

          First, in great news, M got promoted at work. I'm sure many of you are scratching your heads wondering how it's possible to get promoted while you're looking for a job. Totally reasonable question. ;-) At our company, levels are person based, not role based. The two are obviously highly correlated, but you have to be performing at the next level for a minimum of 18 months to earn the promotion. This now means that M will be eligible for significantly more senior roles. He's pretty far along on two conversations & feels very optimistic about landing either/both of them.

          So, we went out to a very nice dinner to celebrate. This is a very substantial difference in leadership & expectations, and is something M's been working on for multiple years. Super proud of him. The dinner was, shall we say, not frugal. ;-)

          I'll break the list into two this week, for clarity.

          Frugal wins:

          • Having my mom clean our house (we're talking, super deep cleaning after all of the flooring & ceiling drilling). She's spent a least 30 hours cleaning. This is totally her choice. She hates being bored, & has loved being able to help us out so much. It's also probably saved about $1000 of cleaning costs as a result.
          • Requesting a small refund on a few things that weren't delivered properly on a restaurant delivery yesterday. We will be getting back about $20.
          • M's promotion will mean a raise, qualifying for a bigger bonus pool, and additional stock grants!
          • M & I had my mom cover a bunch of child care that would have resulted in about $200 of nanny time &/or a sitter. I had a team dinner when M was in Seattle, we went out to celebrate the promotion, and my mom covered after school care a few days. 
          • We ordered delivery take out instead of going out last night, when my dad arrived. Obviously, the most frugal option would have been prepping my own meal, but due to work crunches, this was the next most frugal option.
          • It turns out our rental house is likely worth $200k more than we'd expected. I won't count our chickens before they are hatched, but this would be HUGE, if it is realized.

          Frugal fails:

          • M & I had an expensive celebratory dinner out after his promotion announcement
          • We ordered a delivery dinner yesterday. I also over-ordered & we have way too many leftovers. It's fine, as they will be eaten & not go to waste, but I could have reduced our order by at least 1/3.
          Trying to prepare myself for another week of visitors. Super excited to have my parents in town again next week, as they will be spending time with the boys over their spring break. I will give them spending money to entertain the kids, and I won't need the nanny. I'm also going to try to avoid any meals out, except one. I've promised to take my mom to dinner as a thank you for all of her efforts this week with the house.

          What about you? Any big wins or fails on the frugal front this week? 

          Thursday, April 6, 2017

          One quarter complete, checking in on the 2017 clothing budget

          Given that we are through the first quarter of the year, I thought it would be helpful to check in on my 2017 shopping budget & see what I'd purchased.

          I wrote a post back in December on what I planned to buy.

          Here's the original list:

          • A minimum of 4 pair of kids shoes. More if they need new soccer cleats, & I don't have the correct size from my sister. Her kids play single season soccer, and don't wear them out as much as my kids do. As a result, I have about 4 pair of bigger season cleats at the ready. Expected cost = $150
          • Slippers for me. Our house has no carpeting, & I've really missed slippers during this cold snap. Of course, as soon as I buy them, it will get warm again, & I'll wonder why I have them. ;-) Expected cost = $10 
          • Running shoes for me. Expected cost = $75 
          • Running shoes for M. Expected cost = $75
          • Replacement workout outfits (M + me). We wear things a lot, and although we hand dry, we typically have to replace 1-2 items each/year (sports bras, running shorts, etc). Expected cost = $150
          • Kids clothing, miscellaneous. I've not bought the kids much of anything, as they have lots of sports shorts (the only thing they will really wear), dry fit tshirts, etc. They each have one pair of jeans, a couple of pair of pajamas (mostly for trips to Oregon) & a couple of jackets. However, I'll add $200 just in case.
          • Socks, all. With the working out & kids feet growing, we tend to need to replace socks with some frequency. Expected cost = $40
          • Shoe repairs, me. I need to have my Frye boots reheeled. Expected cost = $25
          • Random things for M. He's a bit less diligent in his clothing purchases, and tends to pick things up at Costco that strike his fancy. I'll just build that into the budget, and be happily surprised if it doesn't happen this year. :-) Expected cost = $250

          So, what have we bought so far this year? Here's the list:

          • Slippers (me) - $8.09
          • Running shoes (me) - $130.15 
          • Running socks (me) - $21.68
          • Slip on sneakers (me) - $14
          • No show socks (me) - $11.98
          • Boys soccer uniforms (home & away, so two per kid) - $306.72
          • Base layer & gloves (Sam, at a super chilly soccer match) - $20.02
          I also returned a few things purchased at the tail end of 2016:
          • A workout jacket - $13.02
          • Ski stuff (opted not to ski this year, with the move) - $61.79

          All told, we've spent $437.83 out of our intended budget of $750. The boys soccer uniforms are the biggest portion of the spend, and reflect almost half of our yearly budget. They weren't anticipated, but should now be good for at least three more seasons. I think we can make this budget, if we stick very tightly to the rest of our categories. 

          What about you? How much are you planning to spend on clothing in 2017 for your family? How are you doing so far?

          Wednesday, April 5, 2017

          Small goal progress - update #2

          Given that we weren't sure what 2017 would hold at the beginning of the year, I decided to create a series of smaller goals to help me stay focused. (You can also see my first update on the small goals here.)

          We ended up tackling some huge projects in 2017, but I still like the idea of having smaller goals, to fill in the gaps as we work to tackle the big ones. :-)

          Here's what I came up with at the beginning of the year.

          • A toiletry challenge! I consider toiletries any of the following: makeup, anything dental related, any product you'd use in the shower and/or to clean your face. I currently have $75 of Rite Aid plenti points, and I'm hoping to make these last for at least six months. Even better if I can make them last for all of 2017 by "rolling" the points. This may be tricky, as rolling your points means generating new points off of purchases made with points. It would take just the right combination of point offers & needs for this to work well. I'll be doing an inventory of our toiletries in the next few weeks, so I can see where we stand & determine what I need to look out for on sale. I've already raided my gym makeup bag when I ran out of eyeliner, because it's the rare day that I work out in the morning before I've showered at home. Using up what I have in various bags (travel, gym) may be my first way to reduce spending. - I'm still doing well with this! I have $34.95 left, and no immediate needs. In fact, I used my plenti points to buy the boys Valentine's Day cards, and Nick also bought a pack of Magic cards for himself & gave me $10 cash for the points. The only thing I really need at this point is more face lotion. I ran out, and I've been using sunblock as my only face lotion. I prefer a thinner lotion against my skin, with the sunblock over it. If I see a good deal at Rite Aid on my preferred brand (Olay), I will likely pick some up. 
          • Tracking all of our clothing purchases. I did this with our groceries in 2016 & it was both fun (sometimes tedious), but also really helpful when it came to understanding patterns, areas to stock up on, and where to cut back. We have a reduced clothing budget this year, so I'm hoping this helps. - Yes, and I just wrote a post on this. We're doing great with our shopping. The boys soccer uniforms threw us for a bit of a loop, but other than that, things are right on track & we are only buying critical needs. So far, we've spent $437 out of the intended budget of $750. 
          • Every month, look for one permanent way to cut costs. It's totally fine (and, likely) that these will be small cuts that will add up over time. This may be finding a ziplock alternative for one of our common usages (school lunches), reducing our water needs by building rain storage, etc. 
            • January - I used (free) newspaper to clean our mirrors. I had no idea about this trick, but it's awesome!
            • February - yes, I replaced two errand trips with walking/biking, and continued that back & forth to the new house. I need to get back to replacing the errands with walking. Our new house is a bit further. 
            • March - n/a - we missed this month, as we were moving. That said, I did find entirely free moving & packing materials, so I'll count this as my one frugal move, even though it's not permanent. Mostly because I'm hoping not to move again until the boys are out of college! :-)
          • Come up with two date night suggestions that don't involve an expensive meal out. - I managed one of these. M & I utilized a free Valentine's Day sitter option, and made dinner at home while checking out paint options for the new house. We still need to figure out the second option. 
          • Maximize my travel hacking. I'm not sure what 2017 will involve for work travel, but there are lots of opportunities to use points & credits for their best value & by keeping track of all of our rewards, it helps to ensure I'm using them well.  - I was able to use my flight credits to save $1500 (I gave my parents $500 as a thank you, as they are taking our kids to Disneyland & covered all of the flights using their miles). As a result, I've kept our flight costs way down this year. I've also been keeping an eye on price changes, and filing requests for lower fares. I still have two flights to book for the remainder of the year, as well as a hotel for our adult Hawaii trip. Other than that, I think we're good! I'm saving lots of hotel points & airline points for future adventures. 
            • We've spent $1091.12 so far this year for all of our travel through the end of 2017. This includes flights to the beach for the summer, flights for the holidays to Portland, flights for myself & M to Hawaii, and a flight for me for a girls trip coming up in April.
            • We have the following points/miles for future travel. I track these like cash, as they are an important asset to track & measure when booking travel. It's not always best to use points - sometimes it's best to use a combination of points & cash, pay cash & save the points for a better deal, etc:
              • 52,000 points at Starwood
              • 81,000 points for Alaska Airlines (our preferred airline)
              • 80,000 points (split among M & the kids) for Alaska Airlines
              • 17,000 points on United (work travel, so sometimes use this to upgrade to business)
              • 197,000 points for the Marriott. Will likely turn this into a Hawaii trip with the kids in 2018
          • Make $100 selling things on Facebook. - I crushed this goal by selling a few necklaces (Tiffany - they apparently hold their value extremely well). I also sold a variety of smaller items, but none of them were worth much. Lots of $10 & $15 at a time. I've made a total of $880 so far this year, and would like to now get to $1000. 

          What about you? Did you have any small goals you were tracking in 2017? How are you doing against the goals you set out to achieve?