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? 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pantry update - use it up!

Way back in October, I posted about using up things lingering in my pantry, fridge & freezer. It feels like I'm way overdue for another update. Here's how that's going.

  • Lemons - sadly, we've moved out of our house with the lemon tree, and I miss it SO Much! I think I have five lemons left. But, from a use it up perspective, we're all clear here. 
  • Two unopened tubs of Nutella - 3/4 gone. No additional progress since TSA confiscated a tub I was bringing to my mom. Had no idea it was a "liquid". 
  • Poppy seeds - (lemon poppy seed muffins) - done
  • 1/2 a bag of quinoa - gone! Used the remainder for spicy quinoa chicken tacos. 
  • two tubs of pesto unearthed from the freezer, from many, many batches ago - one gone, one slotted to go into pesto risotto soon - gone! We need to plant more basil. 
  • 2/3 a bag of chia seeds - gone. Used these in smoothies, yogurt, granola, etc. 
  • 1/4 bag of Craisins - used these in granola. 
  • An enormous quantity of baking chocolate, repurposed from random bars & gifts - all gone. Used these in granola, cookies, etc. 
  • 2/3 bag of cashew pieces (so, better for baking/cooking vs snacking, as not entire cashews) - no progress. - used up in granola!
  • A bag of dried pinto beans (I need to cook these & freeze them for tacos). -By far the worst experiment. Used all of them, but apparently didn't get the cooking right, because they were a stomach killer & I had to toss them.  
  • 8 individual packs of almonds & trail mix - used in granola!
  • 3 individual servings of honey peanut butter - used in granola!
  • 1 1/2 boxes of orzo - gone. Used in one of my favorite rice pilaf dishes. 
  • 3/4 a large box of stuffing - I've made another batch of stuffing, but no one really loves it, and it just . . . lingers there. 

Wow! Look at all of that progress! Moving definitely helped me whittle down the pantry, fridge & freezer. I'm in much more of a "restock" phase vs use it up these days. 

What about you? Do you have pantry, fridge or freezer items you are trying to use up?

Monday, April 3, 2017

April goals

It's time to set bright & sparkly new goals for the month!

1) Financial - 
  • Start forecasting & modeling our plans for selling our rental house
  • Pay our taxes. Yay. ;-)
  • Adjust our budget as needed, now that we've had a month in the house.
  • Build a list & budget for all remaining house projects
  • 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) 
  • Continue researching plans for an adult trip in October

    3) Fitness/health - Lose 3 pounds in April
    • Run 20 miles in April
    • 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.

      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's on your list of goals for April? Anything big or small that you very much wish to accomplish this month?

      Sunday, April 2, 2017

      Menu planning & bike racing

      Yesterday was a super fun day. We left the house bright & early for the school walkathon & auction/fundraiser. It's a huge event, with all parents participating. The money raised helps support the majority of expenses for the year, including two extra teachers to keep class sizes down, field trips, etc. I don't know a single family who doesn't contribute in some way. People run the carnival games, bake cakes for the cake walks, donate items for the silent auction, sponsor the kids running laps, bid on auction items, line up corporate sponsors, clean up the school after the big event, etc. It's so inspiring to see everyone pull together. It's a blind auction, and though I bid on a bunch of stuff, I have no idea how much I actually "won". All of the money goes to the school, so at least it's for a good cause? :-)

      After the walkathon, the kids got in the pool (it was 82!) & then Nick had his first league soccer game. They lost in a very close 3-4 match, but it was a fun (& hot) game to watch.

      We didn't get home from soccer until 6, so I threw together naan pizzas & salads, and then Nick's friend & his family stopped by to see the house & take Nick with them for a sleepover. He'll be hanging out with his buddy & then going bike racing this afternoon. And, because you can't really see his face very well. .. here is a picture of him last week, trying bike racing for the first time. (Picture for a limited time due to trolls with no life.) He's on the left.

      My mom arrives today - super excited! I haven't seen her since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to having Nana around. :-) It's also a strange dinner week, with multiple meals not involving everyone. My dad arrives on Thursday as well.

      Menu plan:

      Saturday - naan pizzas
      Sunday - beef kebabs & rice
      Monday - M is traveling for work, so the rest of us will have tacos
      Tuesday - I have a team dinner - everyone else with have leftovers
      Wednesday - out to dinner with my mom. M will make pasta & chicken for himself + the kids
      Thursday - PF Chang's delivery (Sam's favorite), as I will be getting home late from picking up my dad at the airport
      Friday - homemade risotto
      Saturday - leftovers
      Sunday - chicken kebabs & rice

      When I got home from work on Friday, I looked around & we'd pretty much eaten everything that was originally planned as a leftover. I had no obvious ingredients lingering around for dinner, and no freezer meals. We ate through all of our freezer meals between my international trip & the packing/moving.

      So, I quickly defrosted part of a rotisserie chicken (leftover from date night last weekend), made the very last of a bag of quinoa lingering in the pantry & added lime juice & a bunch of spices, unearthed the last of the tortillas from the freezer, and used the last of the cheese to make . . . chicken quinoa tacos. I also had to go to the grocery store to get cake stuff for the school fund raiser, and I picked up an avocado to slice on top (of the tacos :)). It was actually delicious! Necessity being the mother of all invention & all. M really liked it, and & I can see us having this again.

      And, on to today's list. Here's what we're up to!

      1. Wash all sheets/remake beds
      2. Take Sam to soccer
      3. Go for a run, or do yoga. I now have a yoga area set up & have rearranged the furniture, so yoga is looking likely.
      4. Pick up my mom from the airport
      5. Go for a walk with my mom to show her how to get around the new neighborhood
      6. Make a to do list & schedule for my mom
      7. Buy any meal plan ingredients for things my mom needs. I'm hoping she'll make some freezer meals, muffins, breads, etc. 
      8. Sit back & enjoy the sunshine & the pool with my mom & a glass of wine this evening. :-)
      What about you? What's the most creative meal you've made lately? And, what are you most looking forward to today? For me, it's definitely #8! :-) 

      Saturday, April 1, 2017

      March goals - how did I do?

      March was the "month of moving", so definitely not our standard month. There was a lot packed into those 31 days!

      1) Financial - 
      • Declutter, pack & move! - we did it!!!! We didn't declutter the garage as much as I would have liked, but given the compressed time frame & my trip, I'll take it. 
      • Get our San Francisco house rented (we are limited on what we can do, other than keeping the house clean & ready, and making it available for showings.) - We found a renter, they signed a contract, and then bailed. Our landlord did get to keep a deposit, so we are now out of our lease. 
      • Build a brand new budget for our lives, with our new costs & expenses - mostly done. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option (so far, in January I started using newspapers to clean mirrors, in February I utilized my bike to run errands, so let's see what March will hold!) - I didn't really accomplish anything in this vein in March. 
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - I stopped selling stuff & ended up donating as it got closer to the move. 
      • Unpack & organize the new house - we are 75% of the way there. The rest of the stuff requires things like: drawers/shelving in the closets, etc. None of the closets have a single shelf, and the kids rooms are very small. We need to sort out the storage situation in their rooms before we can finish unpacking/organizing. 
      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. - well, not sure how fun it was, but we all moved & packed together. ;-) 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - we had almost no time for anything other than the move. 
      • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening)  - I had a dinner date with M last weekend, & it was fabulous!
      • Figure out adjusted travel plans for 2017 - done!

        3) Fitness/health - Lose 3 pounds in March - I stayed the same. I did gain 2 lbs on my business trip, but have since lost them. Sigh.
        • Run 12 miles in March - Yes! 12 miles exactly!!! 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I averaged 3/day. Not as good as I would have wanted, but still remembering to make this a priority.
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - I finished the month with 960 minutes, which makes me happy given the move chaos. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - Only two strength workouts
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - and zero stretching workouts. I don't have a yoga area set up at the house yet, and this is a problem. 
        • Work out at least once on my business trip - yes! I did work out one time at the gym, and have several days with 20,000 steps. 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - considering I was once again covering for another leave, I'm feeling pretty good about my work life balance. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - yes, I managed twice. 
        • Find a new job - we are reorganizing our larger team at work, and I've designed a role that is significantly better for what I'm looking for. It will require hiring, which is always time consuming, but the ultimate role should be a much better match for what I want to do, and my time management. 

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe - I don't think so. I didn't cook much this month at all. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - I can't think of anything social that I did, either. 
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - I was supposed to volunteer yesterday, but a work meeting was moved & clashed with my volunteering event at the school, unfortunately. I am signed up to host/sponsor a party for our school auction, so that's been happening & being planned for May. 

          All told, I'm extremely happy with the progress I made in March, considering the factors. I also had a nine day business trip that ate up three weekend days, so feeling good that I accomplished so much in a limited portion of time. What about you? How did you do with your March goals? Any big wins to report?

          Friday, March 31, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          Oh, happy Friday!

          Sam has his first "boy/girl" birthday party. They are going to a movie. There will be plenty of other boys attending, but oh, we shall see. 5th grade boys are not particularly known for their maturity. . .

          In frugal news, there were definitely frugal moments last week. Most of them were around traveling & summer camps - all of which are big yearly line items for us. I was able to book all of the remaining summer camps for the year, as well as the majority of our flights through the end of 2017. This was a nagging item that had been lingering for a while, so I'm very happy to check it off the list.

          • No meals out this week! Next week I will take my mom out to dinner, as she's helping me with the kids. That will be offset by not needing the nanny as often next week.
          • Saved $1500 by using travel credits on our flights for summer trips. These credits were earned when our Hawaii trip continued to get changed/adjusted last year. 
          • Saved $191 by applying travel credits earned by regularly monitoring prices, and applying for credits when the prices dropped below the fare we paid. 
          • Saved $196 by carefully reviewing our tax returns & noting a couple of things that were missing. 
          • Used frequent flier miles to have my mom come out on Sunday. Not only did that save cash, she will be a huge help - cleaning, meal prep, childcare, and organizing after the move
          • Made a few tradeoffs for summer camp planning that will save over $500. For example, I was going to register the boys for a camp that goes for the entire week of July 4th, even though we would miss a day. Then noted I get a couple of days off at work, and opted to take the other two days off, which saves quite a bit. I can also work from home if needed, and arrange play date swaps for the kids. 
          • Found great flights for $50 below my budget for a week in August when I'm flying my parents out for the last week of summer break. There are no camps available. None. I've had this problem for two summers in a row, so this year, I've planned ahead. Flying two people out, and giving them $100 of spending money for events (trampoline place, arcade, lunches out, etc) is still cheaper than summer camp for two kids, if you can believe it!
          • A friend asked to borrow our vacation house for the weekend, and gave me a $100 gift card as a thank you. 
          That's it on my side! I've also started carpooling to Sam's boy scout meeting to save gas money (and time), which is great. The house/move has been extremely expensive, so we are looking at other ways to save our cash. What about you? Any big frugal wins this week?

          Thursday, March 30, 2017

          Selling our rental property - what's next?

          We are 90% sure that we will be selling our Seattle rental property once the lease expires with our current tenants (end of May). Selling gives us a significant amount of flexibility in our budget, and reduces our risk, given that we currently own three houses - two of which are very expensive. Last year we cleared $4500 on the rental property, so we are making money, although a very small amount. We had no major repairs in 2016, which helped the numbers. The real value, of course, is the rise in the property value since we've owned it.

          I have a call with a realtor on Friday to check in on next steps. She toured our house last week, so should have a good sense of value, the market, etc. The market in Seattle has been very hot, but if it's anything like the market we're in, has just started to show ever so slightly a bit of softening. We shall see.

          Assuming all happens as expected, I'm estimating that we will clear (after taxes) around $835K. We actively worked to pay down this mortgage while we were living in the house, which will obviously benefit us when we sell. Here's my plan for how we will distribute that money. M & I are still working through this, so it's definitely draft one of the plan, and not a final proposal:

          • Pay off our vacation house. The interest rate is at 3.5%, so relatively low. There is no tax advantage on the mortgage interest, as we are maxing out that deduction with our primary residence. - around $230K
          • Pay down our primary residence - around $200K. 
          • Add to our investments - $200K
          • Savings - all remaining money, so around $205K. This will be money we use to cover yearly expenses moving forward, taxes (federal & property taxes), as well as give us some flexibility on our budget so I can look for a new job that isn't as demanding. 

          That's the very rough draft of a plan, of course. M is a much bigger financial risk taker than I am (understatement), so he would love to keep the house. I would love to sleep at night & feel more secure about our overall financial picture. :) I'm sure there will be tweaks on all sides as we close in on the final numbers.

          Other things we've considered: additional college savings for the kids (we will likely fund out of savings on a regular basis instead of one lump sum), additional smaller property investments, etc. I'd like to sell, hold most of the money (between savings & stock investments) & then make additional decisions over time.

          Any recommendations for things we may have overlooked? 

          Wednesday, March 29, 2017

          Rebuilding our financial plans, post house purchase

          We are definitely not yet unpacked, but we are making slow progress in that direction. Every evening, more gets done. We fix the washing machine leak, put handles on drawers, unpack a box or two, and organize rooms. It's such a process!

          As part of buying the house, we completely imploded our 2017 financial plans. And, as you lovely readers know, I'm a planner. Not having a plan for 2017 (and beyond) is unsettling (to say the least) for me. Although this plan may not be perfect, it's a must for me to start roughing out our remaining expenses in 2017 & the next 12 months, plans to pay for them, and other larger scale planning for our lives & budget.

          Background: we typically use our paychecks to cover all standard expenses, and either bonuses or stock from the previous year to cover what I'll describe as "yearly expenses". Yearly expenses are things like: travel, summer camps, home repairs, taxes, etc. Because we wiped out our entire savings for our down payment, this year will be trickier & require much more cash flow management.

          Here are the known expenses for the remainder of the year:

          • Taxes
          • A new cash flow/slush fund 
          • Yearly expenses for the remainder of the year
          • A small 401K loan that I took out to cover a few house projects before we moved in
          • Our trip to Hawaii

          And, the available sources of funds:

          • Stock grants (typically monthly, but our vesting schedule is varied)
          • Bonuses (these are actually paid in January, so it's fudging the 2017 numbers a bit to include them. However, I'm trying to plan the next 12 months, so in that case, it makes sense to include.)

          The good news is that I now have a plan for all of the known expenses, and have around $30K left. That's critical, as I'm confident there are other house expenses lurking.

          We will tweak the budget as needed based on M's new role, when the transition process is completed. I feel so good once I have a plan for all of the expenses, the money, and a match between the two columns on my spreadsheets. ;-) What about you? How far in advance do you plan? 

          Tuesday, March 28, 2017

          A quick update

          I got a ton accomplished over the weekend (woohoo!) & M & I also managed to squeeze in a date night. Loved every minute of it.

          I'm currently in the process of sorting out our summer plans, camps, and working through our travel details. We have a few $500 airline credits that need to be used (not flown, but booked) by the end of the summer, so I'm juggling flights & bookings to ensure we can use those up as efficiently as possible, as well as a companion fare that we receive via our credit card.

          We also received our taxes back from the accountant. I increased our withholdings substantially last year, and it definitely worked for state taxes (we are getting a very small refund). For federal, we continue to have an increasing percentage of our total compensation come from stock equity vs salary, which makes it very hard to get this correct. Mostly because there are black out windows for our stock, so using that as our "standard" monthly cash flow, and greatly increasing withholdings on our salaries isn't feasible without building a much bigger cash cushion. That's on the radar, but not for a few months as we rebuild post the house purchase.

          So, 2016 taxes are complete & we now know how much we owe. It's a lot, but within the range that I'd estimated. We should see a small reduction in our taxes in 2017 (home ownership), but we will also be selling our rental house (most likely), which will create a huge tax burden. Ah, the ebbs and flows of taxes.

          Speaking of selling our Seattle house, we've had a realtor tour the house, and I have a call with her on Friday to discuss next steps. As much as we would love to keep it for investment purposes, I will feel much better with us selling it, realizing the equity, and that money can be used for a variety of things; 1) paying down our mortgage on our primary residence 2) additional investments 3) a cash cushion that will free me up to explore other jobs in the future.

          My mom is flying in on Sunday, and I'm really happy to have the help. She has asked for a "to do list" of things to accomplish, as she likes to be very productive while she's visiting & the boys are in school. I am very pleased to oblige. ;-)

          And, finally, M & I have decided to go to Hawaii in October, on an adult only vacation. We try to take one a year. Last year we did a weekend in Tahoe, and the year before that, a week in Hawaii for our anniversary. I'm super excited & planning out different options, assuming all of our financial uncertainty is settled by then, of course.

          Those are the updates! As usual, lots going on. We are finally back to meal planning & no take out, but we are making slow progress on the house. The washing machine needs a significant plumbing repair (of course - when was home ownership ever easy?), but we have a long running list & tackle each item on our list as we can.

          Happy Tuesday! What's one thing you'd like to get done today? And, are you done with your taxes???

          Saturday, March 25, 2017

          Back to menu planning

          It's been a wild time here, between the move & my trip the week before that. As a result, we're out of freezer meals & starting from scratch on the menu planning.

          Here's what we're making for dinner this week!

          • Friday - Oven baked chicken risotto
          • Saturday - date night. Mac & cheese + dino nuggets for the kids
          • Sunday - lubia polo
          • Monday - leftover risotto
          • Tuesday - tacos 
          • Wednesday - something quick, as we have a Boy Scouts meeting in the evening. freezer options. Grilled chicken, samosas, & gyozas. 
          • Thursday - leftover lubia polo 
          • Friday - homemade pizza

          For the rest of the day, I have a lot that I'd like to get done (as usual, plus new household tasks to help us get unpacked). Here goes!

          1. Make a shopping list for the week
          2. Costco
          3. Produce stand
          4. Take Sam to the Boy Scout store to buy his uniform
          5. Take Nick to a soccer scrimmage
          6. Take Sam to his Boy Scout camp out
          7. Clean all shelves (they have a thick coating of dust from our flooring installation), so that M can install the DVD player & remaining electronics
          8. Organize my closet
          9. Call Comcast about an extra modem we need to return
          10. Go to the library to return overdue books
          11. Go for a run
          12. Track down tax ID numbers for two summer camps the boys attended
          13. Time permitting, register the boys for the remaining summer camps
          14. Work on our budget
          15. Go on a date with M (woohoo!!!)
          I will be thrilled if I get everything done today. What about you? What's on your menu this week? And, any big projects on the schedule for today?

          Friday, March 24, 2017

          Not so frugal Friday

          Normally I have a good list of things we've done to save money. This week, not so much.  I ordered takeout a few times, we continue to spend money on house projects, and our new nanny started on Monday. Sam started Boy Scouts ($320, not counting the uniform), and I paid for the moving out cleaning at our rental house. I could have cleaned it myself from 10 pm-midnight, but decided to treat myself to the cleaning service. Well worth it since work has been crazy.

          I'd planned to make dinner from the freezer yesterday. I got home from work at 6, and unfortunately, M forgot to mention that he was finishing the sealant on the garage floor. We keep all of our freezer meals in a freezer in the garage. Which I couldn't access. Our inside fridge is bare bones (fruit, vegetables, condiments, and in the freezer - smoothie fruit & frozen vegetables.) I ended up ordering pizza delivery. SUPER unusual for us, but these are the weeks that flexibility is a must, as we put our lives back together.

          As usual, we do our best to have some frugal wins, even if it hasn't been very consistent this week. So, here goes:

          1. Used a coupon for my pizza delivery, saving $5
          2. Picked up two Costco items to serve as meals, vs takeout. The ravioli lasagna was great. The pizza burned. (New to me oven, and it's EXTREMELY sensitive).
          3. I never received a tax bill for the new house, and it's pay in advance. I called yesterday, and it turns out we missed the billing cycle by one day. We will be receiving a supplemental tax bill, but not until October. I'd factored both into our budget, so this was a savings of $1800. (Our property taxes will be significantly higher, once they adjust for the new purchase price, but the first bill is typically paid based on original purchase price).
          4. Made lunches for the kids every day, except for on move day. They were allowed to purchase hot lunch on move day, which is a rare treat for them.
          5. M remodeled the garage entirely on his own: tore down old cabinetry, patched, drywalled, painted, installed a new ladder to the attic, buffed the floor, applied epoxy & sealed the floor twice. It looks so different in the garage! We had a bid from a contractor on the work, but since the garage wasn't a requirement for us to move in, we opted to skip the $5K for the work. M couldn't resist, so he did it himself.
          And, that will cover it! I'm off to work & hopefully will get a tremendous amount done this weekend around the house. What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

          Wednesday, March 22, 2017

          Trying to bring a little order back

          Moving is one of those things that you block out (like child birth), because it's so stressful! :-) When we moved from Seattle to San Francisco, our relocation covered full packing & moving, so we definitely had less to do. For this move, other than the big pieces of furniture, we handled everything ourselves.

          In addition to the logistics of the move, I'm a person who loves organization & order. Let's just say that the house is several months away from that state, and it's causing me a bit of stress. ;-) So, focusing on what I can/need to accomplish today is more helpful than spinning my wheels & not getting anything accomplished. So with that, here's my to do list for today after work:

          1. Finish filling out all Boy Scouts paperwork for Sam
          2. Call to see if I can order a night stand for our bedroom. We had to shuffle around our furniture quite a bit, & we both like having night stands. We had a dresser serving as a night stand in our other house, but this bedroom isn't big enough to accommodate.
          3. Call power company to transfer service to our landlord.
          4. Call water company to transfer service
          5. Update our budget
          6. Call about an egift card that I tried to use & wouldn't work.
          7. Call about our property taxes. I understand they are due on 4/1, but we haven't received a bill
          8. Set up a physical for Sam
          9. Return a call to my doctor about an eye appointment
          10. Bring Sam to Boy Scouts
          11. For dinner - probably leftover PF Changes from move day
          12. Fill out mandatory Boy Scouts training

          If I get this done in the evening, I will be grateful for the progress & not worry about the state of my house tonight.  You can't do everything, every day! What about you? What is one thing you are hoping to accomplish today?

          Monday, March 20, 2017

          It's Moving Day + a house picture

          When we moved to California (way back in August of 2013), we moved into a rental property. It served us extremely well, and we've been lucky to have such a long lease in such a fabulous neighborhood. We had a great landlord (next door), who was the perfect blend of available, but not nosy. Loved their family. We will miss our little cul de sac, and are looking forward to new adventures in our own place!

          I can't believe it, but moving day has arrived! Michael & I moved pretty much everything but the heavy furniture over the weekend. The new house is in chaos (stuff everywhere), and movers are coming bright & early this morning to start the final process of moving the furniture.

          I'm super excited to get everything sorted out, put away, organized & cleaned in the new house. It will be at least a month before I can convincingly say that we are "officially" moved in, but if nothing else, every belonging will be somewhere in the new house by the end of today. Now, we may not be able to find it, but everything will be there!

          Also, I feel compelled to add that the pool is the star feature of this house. I'll add lots more pictures over the upcoming weeks, because this picture may give you the wrong impression about the overall state of the rest of the house. So, like every good social media picture, keep in mind that this one is the house "at its best". ;-) But, by far the best part of the house! Maybe one day, we will have enough time to sit outside & relax & enjoy.

          Got to run & get breakfast for the kiddos before the movers arrive!

          Friday, March 17, 2017

          Frugal Friday + an update

          Thanks so much for all of your feedback & support on my last post.

          To answer some of the questions:

          • M has an extended period of time to find a new role within the company. 
          • He's still currently working in his old role. It's performance management time at work, so he's working through that process, as well as helping his team with resume reviews, mock interviews, and sourcing roles.
          • He's had multiple interviews, both internally & externally. He's kind of leaning towards an external job, but doesn't yet have a formal offer. If/when the time comes, it will be a big decision, as he has a great deal of equity in our existing company.
          • We still need a nanny due to the above. He's never been busier, between the house projects (many of which he's completing himself, working, & interviewing).

          And, on the frugality side, we've been too busy to spend any money, with the exception of house/moving stuff. I haven't done a good job of keeping track this week, but here goes:

          • Made the most of freezer meals all week, given I hadn't been home in two weekends to prepare meals.
          • We did eat out yesterday (late, late day), and today is a planned day out (Nick's birthday!)
          • I'm cleaning our new house today after work (lots of dust, dirt & grime after all of the construction), rather than using a service.
          • I filed my expense reports from my Tokyo/London trip promptly, to get back some of the charges that were on my own dime. 
          • Kept Nick's birthday low key. He's invited to two big parties this weekend, but once we're moved in, he will have a sleepover at the new house, with friends. He also received gifts today: a gift certificate for an art class, a used telescope, and a new book from his brother. He was thrilled. I will also bring cupcakes to his soccer game tomorrow, and we will go out to dinner tonight to celebrate.

          And, that's it from our side! 10 years ago today, I was at the hospital, getting ready to have my baby. What an exciting moment in life! And, how quickly it's gone. :-) What about you? What frugal things have you done this week? 

          Tuesday, March 14, 2017

          Menu plan for the week, & utter chaos

          It's a little hard to articulate exactly why the past few months have felt so challenging, but when I look back. . .there's been A LOT going on.

          • We decided to move back to Washington, & I was going to leave my job
          • We changed our minds, & bought a house
          • The house caused a LOT of stress on the financing side
          • I decided I had to stay at my job, at least for the next year.
          • We've had a terrible, unreliable nanny
          • My job has been in the process of a giant reorg, in addition to the normal stress 
          • M got laid off. The week after we bought the house
          • We have been doing a ton of work in the house, before we move in. M is at the house every waking moment.
          • The flooring in the new house was a disaster, & we've had to postpone the move, plus add in another $8K to get it fixed
          • We've had to fit showings for the house into our schedule, and keep it clean
          • Packing/moving (official move now rescheduled for next week)
          • I'm in the process of finding a new job. Interviewed & didn't get the first one. Still TBD as whether I will stay on my team.
          • I had an 8 day business trip in between all of this
          It's been just a lot. I can tell that I'm always at the end of my rope, and don't have enough time to see M. He's literally always at the other house, working. I'm so happy that, in another week or so, we will be moved in & I will be seeing him regularly again. And, that we can finally stop having our belongings half packed. Because, that's getting old too.

          In good news, I found another nanny! HE (yes, a he! Came highly recommended from a friend) starts next Monday. So, I only have to get through this last week without a nanny. Hallelujah. 

          Menu planning has been chaos, so here goes for the week ahead. It's the random assortment of freezer meals week ahead, given my traveling & the move. 

          Menu plan

          • Sunday - kebabs & lubia polo (freezer) + greek yogurt sauce
          • Monday - chicken (freezer) + leftover alfredo (adults) & pasta (kids)
          • Tuesday - potato soup & homemade rolls (adults) + pasta/chicken (kids)
          • Wednesday - chicken (freezer) + cheese tortellini
          • Thursday - A variety of stuff from the freezer: gyozas, samosas, and grilled chicken
          • Friday - Nick's birthday - we will go out to Greek food
          • Saturday - homemade pizza
          • Sunday - Something cobbled together from the freezer, because we are moving on Monday!

          In an effort to hold onto my sanity, I went to the gym early this morning & got on the treadmill. It really helped. Now, to find time to carve out like that more regularly. Fingers crossed for a positive remainder of the week! What about you? Tell me one thing that's stressing you out this week!

          Sunday, March 12, 2017

          Jet lag & daylight savings do not go together

          I flew back from London yesterday, after a very tiring trip. Particularly tiring because, midweek, I had another 20 hour travel day where I flew from Tokyo to London. So, trip looked like this: Saturday, San Francisco to Tokyo. Wednesday, Tokyo to Frankfurt, to London. Saturday, London to San Francisco. Each of those travel days is around a 20 hour door to door trip, plus three different time zones (Tokyo is 16 hours ahead, London is 8) in that week. Not sure it was my best plan, but my options were limited. I could either do two separate trips, or one combined. Because of our move, this felt like the best bet when planning. Ha. ;-) I did manage to score a last minute upgrade to business on my way home. It was the best part of the trip, for sure. Flying business, while not totally enjoyable, is a totally different experience than flying economy. Particularly after a super long week.

          Anyway, I'm back & struggling to stay awake. It was a cruel twist of fate that today is day light savings - I needed every hour today to get things ready for our move on Tuesday. In addition, the boys have two soccer scrimmages (one each), two flag football practices, and two flag football games. So, I'll obviously be super productive while chauffeuring the kids around.

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

          1. Set up nanny interviews
          2. Set up soccer carpool
          3. Figure out schedule for the week
          4. Pay bills
          5. Clean toilets
          6. Drop off check & key for our cleaning lady at the new house. We're going to have it cleaned tomorrow, to get rid of all of the construction debris/dust before we move in.
          7. Set up an interview with a hiring manager (work)
          8. Make a menu plan. Last night I felt heroic heating up a fettuccine alfredo from Costco & putting together a salad. Must get a real menu plan together. 
          9. Get in some sort of physical exercise. This is the longest I've gone without a consistent exercise routine, probably since the kids were born. And, let me just say that I can tell. My clothes can also tell. The jiggliness is not cool.
          10. Take the kids to various practices & games.

          Those are *must dos* today. I'm going to ignore everything that's not an absolute must. What about you? Are you enjoying daylight savings? :-) 

          Thursday, March 2, 2017

          February Goals Wrap Up - how did we do?

          February was a madhouse, with the house purchase, the financing debacles, and the many, many, many projects! I'm not sure we nailed everything, but here's a quick look.

          1) Financial - Figure out our housing situation, and get it all resolved (i.e. moved, job changes as needed) before school starts. 
          • Set a move date. - yes, 3/18, barring any issues with the flooring installation. 
          • Get our San Francisco house rented (we are limited on what we can do, other than keeping the house clean & ready, and making it available for showings.) - We did have someone who signed a contract, and then their project fell through & they backed out. Unclear how that impacts our liability, but still working on this. Our realtor has a solid lead, so we've introduced him to our land lord. 
          • Build a brand new budget for our lives, with our new costs & expenses - eh, we've done most of this, but I'd like to finalize a few areas. As a result, I've carried over to next month.
          • Find one alternative cost cutting option  - not only did I use newspapers & other items around the house (think, spare towels, etc) to pack, but I also used boxes from our neighbors! Plus, I ran several errands & lots of trips to the new house either on foot or biking. I'm hoping to replace a car errand trip at least 2x/month in the future. 
          • Determine if we're doing any work in the house, and sources of funding - done. I'll do a full update on this, but we ended up doing a lot. The house is looking pretty good!
          • Build new cash flow model - Ditto above - we've done most of this, but I'd like to finalize a few areas. As a result, I've carried over to next month
          • Sell another $100 of items on the Facebook swap site. - Crushed this goal. I made $749.03 by selling things. The majority of this came from two necklaces. But, I also sold two yoga blocks, a scarf, & 20 kids books. 
          • Continue to declutter so we can pack less! - I continually review everything we have, whenever I'm packing. I'd estimate I've donated another 100 or so items as part of the packing process. That doesn't include the huge amount of things I've recycled or shredded. 
          • Pack - I committed to having pretty much everything (that we wouldn't need over the next few weeks) packed before I left for my business trip. I did really well, and am in good shape. I also tried to keep the house still looking okay, for future showings. So, I'd say I achieved this at 90%.
          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 haven't done much/if any of this in February. We have spent a lot of time together as a family, but I don't think any of us would describe it as "super fun". ;-) It's involved loading a trailer for the landfill, picking up carpet staples, etc. The family that works together . . . ;-) 
          • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - We've definitely exercised together a lot - trips to & from the new house. We've minimized computer time, so I'm giving us a pass. 
          • Have two dates with M per month (one lunch, one evening) - Yes! We went to lunch for my birthday, and had a quick dinner at home for Valentine's Day. Both sans sitters. 
          • Figure out adjusted travel plans for 2017 - I roughed something out, but haven't made any progress, due to the move & timing of our other house sale. 

            3) Fitness/health - Lose 20 pounds, bringing my weight to 133. This may sound familiar, as it's also a carryover goal from last year!
            • Run 12 miles in February - I've run 4 miles. I injured my soleus (not running, but hiking) & wasn't able to run for a week or so. Also, general business. 
            • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I'm closing out the month with just over 3. This is not awesome & I need to work on this. I am doing a much better job of cutting back on sweets. I had a bad spell there for a few weeks, but have cleaned things up. 
            • Complete 800 minutes of cardio - lots of construction work & a long hike got me to 825!
            • Complete 6 strength workouts. - 4 official strength workouts, but lots of time with a hammer, screwdriver, mallet, etc. 
            • Complete 6 stretching workouts. - I had 3, and one was a super long studio yoga class. I need a lot more of this!

            4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
            • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress - I've managed this by looking for a new job. It's a new perspective, for sure, but comes with its own stress of course. 
            • Work from home 2x this month. - yes! I've also been using a few comp days to get things done around the house. 

              5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
              • Bake bread, and try a new recipe. - I tried a couple of new soup recipes, a delicious baked spaghetti, & also made yeast rolls a regular part of our menu. Yum!
              • Do something social at least once per month. - I went on a long hike with a friend. 
              • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - Yes, I volunteered at the boys school on my day off - my birthday. 

              All in all, I'm super excited with my progress this month. There were certainly areas that could have gone better, but we accomplished a lot as a family. Woohoo! What about you? How was your February? Any big wins to call out?