Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Pickled jalapenos & it still feels like Monday

I'm having a heck of a time getting into the swing of work/life, post vacation. Work is particularly painful, with some challenging issues ahead. But, here we are, right into Tuesday. All I can say is that I hope this week goes quickly! :-)

I've gotten a few things done, completing our Oregon tax form for the sale of the vacation house. That required a call to the state tax bureau, to answer a question. I also had to ask the title/escrow company to update the forms numerous times, as they had errors. I'm not feeling great about that. 

I need to find someone to water our plants when we're gone next week. M thought we had a plan last week, but we had a huge heat wave, and we lost quite a few plants. I had wanted to hire Nick's neighbor friend to water, and it was clear I should have gone with my instincts. Unfortunately, he's not available next week, so I'm looking for other options. 

I picked a few large jalapenos, and did a quick pickle on them. They are great, and an easy fridge item. M loves pickled jalapenos, and we buy them in the off season, so it's also a bit of a money saver. Here is the recipe I use. It couldn't be easier. 

My sister is now in Hawaii, celebrating her son's graduation from high school. I'm attempting to live vicariously through her, as she enjoys the beach, sunsets & all of the Hawaii fun.

Hope everyone is having a great week! What is one thing you've accomplished today? 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Menu Plan Monday

Oooh, I'm unprepared for the work week! I'm grateful we got back on Friday evening, but even so, I still needed a few more days of "vacation adjustment". Nevertheless, it's on & I'm back to work today. 

The boys have an afternoon tennis camp this week, and Sam has soccer practice, so dinner timing will be a bit all over the place. Here's our plan for the week:

  • Friday - we had a combination of snacks, flight meal (kids) & then I baked up chicken when we got home/were unpacking
  • Saturday - M grilled hot dogs, and Nick made homemade buns. I made a green salad & fruit salad. 
  • Sunday - Nick made dinner for Father's Day - burgers, homemade buns, and a burger sauce. They were delicious!
  • Monday - I defrosted barbecued chicken from the freezer, so we will have that on leftover buns
  • Tuesday - hot dogs, green salad & fruit salad
  • Wednesday - tacos
  • Thursday - barbecued chicken
  • Friday - TBD, but I typically make more of an appetizer meal on Fridays. So, potentially wings or panko crusted shrimp. 

What are you having for dinner this week?

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Travel priorities

I thought I'd share a bit more about our trip, while it's fresh in my mind. I do not consider this trip to be frugal, by any stretch of the imagination, but we instead treated it as a major splurge. Even treating it as a splurge, we made sure to prioritize the most important aspects of the vacation, and not waste money on things that weren't important to us. 

Here's how we planned:

Savings/budget. It goes without saying that we had cash to pay for the entire trip, and had the money tucked away in our savings. Because we didn't travel much (at all) in 2020, we had carryover travel money available in 2021.

Flights. We needed six flights to Hawaii (ours, and my parents). Because of COVID, Alaska Air allowed you to carryover your companion fare to 2021. We took advantage of this, and split our travel into two groups. I added Nick as my companion, and used the 2020 companion fare, and then booked M & Sam together. This allowed us to use both companion fares, driving the cost way down. I also used miles for both of my parents flights. I booked early, when flights to Hawaii were still pretty reasonable, from a mileage trade in perspective. 

Lodging. This one was harder for me, and I went back & forth quite a bit. After a lot of research, it was clear we'd need to choose our highest priority: having a kitchen, access to the beach, number of included activities, or best available hotel rooms. After polling the group, we decided that we wanted to prioritize the number of included activities, for a few reasons. 

  • Booking water sports for six people was really, really expensive
  • Access & availability to the activities were highly varied 
  • The activities were the things the kids/my parents were most excited about. In fact, when we planned this trip, the boys & my dad sat down & planned out all of their preferred activities. The hotel we stayed at had a resort fee that included: stand up paddle boarding, snorkel/boogie board gear, kayaking, canoeing, work out classes, ukulele lessons, bingo, etc. We took advantage of all of these, saving a lot of money. 
Once we decided what we prioritized, I started looking on Costco travel, which we consistently find to have the best deals on hotel prices. My first choice hotel wasn't available, so I booked something else (it had a few included activities, but not as many). I kept looking, and eventually found what I wanted. Hotels booked via Costco also come with a car rental. Given how difficult car rentals were to book during our trip, this was wonderful. I upgraded to a mini van, so we could have room to transport all six of us.

Food. We requested a fridge & microwave for the room, but the food prep options were pretty limited, which we knew going in.  

We all decided that breakfast wasn't a big deal to us, as we'd be doing water activities in the morning (the water is smoothest, and best for things like kayaking & paddle boarding). My mom made & brought two giant loaves of bread (pumpkin & banana), & we bought bananas at Costco. This served as breakfast. 

We bought snacks & drinks for the pool at Costco, which helped us avoid pricey hotel purchases. We were able to bring some of the snacks on the return flight as well.

For lunches, we went out to an inexpensive fish & chips restaurant one day, and the other few days shared some things at the pool bar. We were able to use our bingo "winnings" to offset some of the cost there. For our arrival day, and departure day, we stopped at Costco to buy snacks & fill up on gas (respectively) & the boys had lunch at the Costco food court. As you can imagine, that's always cheap. ;-) 

Dinners were a different story, and we knew they would be a splurge. We planned for a mix of restaurants, and our main goal was to ensure the menu suited the diners, and whenever possible, have a view. Because of the huge surge in travelers to Hawaii, and current labor shortage, it was pretty challenging to get reservations anywhere. In the end, it worked out great. M & I had a special dinner out for his birthday, while my parents took the kids to a different place. All of our other meals were together & were fantastic. And, not cheap. :-) 

Other stuff. We were able to pack all of our stuff in three small carry on bags (for the four of us) & took advantage of the hotel's free laundry. This allowed us to get into & out of the airport quickly, and ensured we had no baggage charges. We also needed very little in the way of new things for the trip. I bought one new dress to replace one that no longer fit. The kids needed a pair of new trunks, and one pair of "dressy" shorts for dinners out. I found the shorts at Marshalls, for $8/each, so they were quite a deal. The trunks were 2/$12 at Costco. I used a gift card for the majority of the cost for my dress. 

And, there you have it. That's how we planned, budgeted & prioritized our trip. What about you? How do you plan for travel? Do you make a similar list of priorities? 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Frugal Saturday

The last week or so has been spent on vacation, so lots of money out (and memories made), but fewer opportunities for frugality. There have been a few wins here & there. 

Saving on things we buy

  • Planning ahead for our trips to/from the airport, I purchased (slightly) discounted Uber gift cards through Raise. I also clicked through Rakuten to get to Raise, saving a small amount more.
  • Took advantage of an iBotta strawberry offer, saving $.35. That offer triggered another (redeem any offer type of thing), saving another $.15. I like saving $.50 for strawberries we were planning to buy anyway. Also, we bought them on Friday evening, and they were gone on Saturday afternoon. The teens are big fruit eaters!
  • Uploaded all of our receipts to Fetch
  • Picked up some snacks & drinks at Costco, to save a bit on food spending. 
  • I went through our hotel bill & found an overcharge, and had it corrected. 

Earning money

  • I paused all of my eBay sales, so nothing there. I did find $.35 on the ground in Hawaii ;-) 

Avoiding spending

  • I packed snacks for the kids, and also pre-ordered them a meal for the long flight. 
  • Brought our own water bottles to fill, to avoid having to buy drinks for travel days.

Eating what we have

  • We did a good job clearing out the fridge ahead of our trip, finishing off leftovers, etc.

For others

  • Gave away a bunch of garden produce ahead of leaving town, as well as two gallons of milk. Waste makes me sad, so this makes me happy. 
  • We paid for my parents trip to Hawaii, as the gift for my dad's (belated) 70th birthday & my parents (early) 50th anniversary this fall. So happy for the time & memories together.
  • I managed to give away a yard sign metal holder (Nick refused to display his middle school graduation sign), so at least it's not going straight to the recycling bin. 
Sam has an early soccer game, in a bid to avoid the heat this morning. We got in late last night, so combined with jet lag, I'm very tired. Hope you are all having a great day!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Surfing, turtles & all the fun

 We went to the gym this morning, then caneoing, and had a few turtles following our canoe. They got SO close! (Photos below). It was incredible.

The boys went surfing, and excellent times were had by all.

Whatever expectations/hopes I had for this trip, they were wildly exceeded. It was such a wonderful family experience.

Boys, surfing:

The turtle basically got into the canoe with us:

Even the view from the gym is lovely:

Hope everyone is having a fabulous week!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Paddle boarding & bingo

We started off the morning at SUP (stand up paddle boarding) & the water was perfect, with low wind. We all had a fabulous time. The boys took an ukulele lesson with my dad, and then we had bingo by the pool We won four bingo prizes, which was pretty great - poolside drinks (x2), an appetizer, and an entree. We  plan to use them tomorrow. 

Tomorrow will be canoeing, and the boys are taking a surf lesson. We've done everything we've wanted & then some. I'm very happy with our decision on lodging, as we went back & forth numerous times on our biggest priority. In the end, we opted for a hotel with lots of (included) activities, as that was the boys biggest priority. It's worked out so well, & the activities have been the highlight of the trip. My parents also had photos taken for their 50th anniversary, and they are stunning. 

My view this afternoon was pretty fantastic. 

Hope everyone is having a lovely week!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


 We pulled over on our way back from dinner, because the sunset was breath taking. No filter on the picture. 

We kayaked today, and had an overall fabulous day. Tomorrow is stand up paddle boarding. Can't wait!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week. 

Maui vibes

 Maui is, as expected, absolutely fantastic. All of the activities, family fun, & laughs. So many laughs.

Dinner view

View from my yoga mat. Ocean side yoga = total bliss

Swimming with the turtles

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Frugal Friday

It was a busy week, with Sam in soccer camp & Nick wrapping up school, along with plenty of other errands. But, it's also a week where we planned out summer travel. I can't believe it - travel planning is back! I'm very tired after the busy week of getting ready for vacation, but we're almost there. 

Saving on things we buy

  • It took two very long calls with Comcast, but I got our internet bill back under control, after they raised our rates. This promotion is good for the next two years, which will help. In total, I'll have saved $1200 in two years, by calling in. So, well worth the time, despite the temporary pain.  
  • I also saved $.70 on our grocery bill via iBotta offers, and uploaded all of our receipts to Fetch as well. The contrast of those small vs large savings..they all add up.
  • Used Southwest points & a tiny amount left over from a gift card to buy two flights for later this summer, saving $900. I'll take it!
  • Also travel related, used a 10% off promo code for a flight for our family relay (assuming it happens, with COVID). This is our last year, so we're hoping it occurs. We are all double vaccinated. I used travel credit for the rest of the cost.
  • I'm working on cutting down on our usage of plastic wrap. I ordered a set of silicon covers, and took advantage of a new customer offer, and free shipping, saving $10. 
  • I noticed that the local grocery store was having a gift card offer with Home Depot. I bought gift cards (we use them frequently for house projects) & earned $30 in grocery store rewards
  • Used a $10 credit to buy a Father's Day gift for M
  • Took Sam out to Chiptole, after a long week of soccer camp & soccer practices. Finally used the $1 or so remaining on my Chipotle gift card. It's now out of my purse!

Earning money

  • It continues to be a slow week, and I'm ramping down sales in advance of a vacation. But, a few things here & there. I sold:
    • A set of 3 blank VHS tapes (new in sealed wrappers). Who knew these were still a thing?
    • An outgrown hoodie
    • A wand topper, from the days we used to go to Great Wolf Lodge. I had no idea I still had this, but discovered it while cleaning out an ignored drawer. 
    • A sweater I never wear
  • Earned a $5 Paypal offer by downloading the app. It covered postage for an eBay sale. 

Avoiding spending

  • Used additional travel credits for my flight to pick up the boys from my parents house later in the summer, with $0 out of pocket
  • Picked up two PE uniforms for school, off of Buy Nothing. It looks like I'll only have to buy one extra set per kid, saving me about $30. 
  • Neither of the kids have flip flops (long since outgrown). I considered picking up a cheap pair for summer, but didn't feel great about that. As we were going through M's stuff, we discovered two like new pair of flip flops. One pair fit Sam. Nick opted to wear slides for our trip, and doesn't like flip flops. Great! No out of pocket spent needed. I'll list the other pair on eBay, as they are an expensive brand & no longer made. 
  • I took Nick to Starbucks to use a gift card he'd received (for his 8th grade graduation). I was hungry, hadn't made lunch, & was very tempted to buy lunch out. Instead, I came home & had a burger out of the freezer. 

Eating what we have

  • They are not my favorites, but the boys don't like a granola (purchased to top yogurt) & granola bars I bought a while back. I've been slowing working my way through them. 
  • We continue to eat a lot from the garden: spinach, kale, radishes, carrots, zucchini, mint, basil. I can't wait for the tomatoes & peppers to really start producing. 

For others:

  • Gave away a bunch on Buy Nothing
    • A very fancy dress from the way back time machine, when I was *ahem* much younger & could wear a dress without a bra
    • Swim goggles, two sets of snorkel gear
    • Swim trunks & a swim shirt
  • I accidentally bought two yearbooks for Nick (speaking of frugal fails). I even checked my budget spreadsheet & tried to get a hold of someone to find out. Somehow, still ended up with two. Another mom offered to buy it from me, but I was happy just to give it to someone who would use it. As a thank you, she made a donation to the school PTO. Win/win. 
  • Gave away lots of zucchini to friends, neighbors, & everyone who was picking up items on Buy Nothing ;-)
That's it on our side? What about you? Any wins to share?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

All the last minute fun

Things with our vacation house sale have been...difficult, to say the least. The buyers have been challenging, and we have been super accommodating. We finally hit the breaking point of how flexible we would/could be, and their realtor gave us a 10% chance of closing.

Our expiration window is today at 5 pm. They accepted at 4:40. I'm absolutely over the moon thrilled by the end result, but very frustrated by the transaction process. I won't get into the details, but it was a long & messy process. We accepted a buyer credit in the initial offer, with the clear feedback that the credit would avoid back & forth during the inspection process (e.g. could be used to cover any minor repairs as needed), & they agreed. We found a previously unknown issue, and agreed to cover that, as it was impacting the usability of the item. Irritating, but fine & totally understandable. The rest of the nickle & diming over the repairs, despite the prior agreements around the credit, and then asking for multiple other smaller ticket things that we approved without question....sigh. It was a lot of drama.

Now we just have the appraisal, and we'll be moving towards closing. Hurrah. I was up at 4:00 am, because I couldn't sleep. Too stressed about the house. I've learned a lot about myself, and let's just say that I'm not, by any means, the kind of person who enjoys buying/selling homes. I need to avoid this in the future, and let M manage all of the negotiations. 

To change my mood, positive things:

  • The weather has been perfect for Sam's (6 hour a day) soccer camp. Sunny & beautiful, but not too hot. Low 70s all week.
  • We leave on vacation in just a few days, and the last "hurdle" (COVID tests) is tomorrow. After that, it will be pretty smooth sailing.
  • I can head into the vacation knowing that things are in hand with the vacation house. Based on what the realtor said, I thought we would instead be putting the house back on the market this weekend. 
  • Nick has officially "graduated" from middle school. I have two high schoolers on my hands! Whoa, there. Not sure I'm ready, but here goes. 
  • We are going out to dinner tonight, for a work event. I haven't worn proper adult clothes in a while, & I'm looking forward to it. 

That's it from my side. What's happening in your world? 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Sharing & happiness

Just a few thoughts on how much I'm enjoying sharing right now, & how much positive energy it brings into your life. Despite all of the chaos of the day to day, it really cheers me up & makes me happy. A few recent examples. 

Buy Nothing Group:

  • I've been giving a ton of stuff away on Buy Nothing, and it feels so nice to make someone else happy, provide utility to others, and get stuff we don't need out of our house. I feel like I'm really on top of decluttering, but there's always more. I swear that stuff multiplies. Pool toys, goggles, snorkel gear, swim trunks & shirts, hoodies, soccer gear, food we won't eat, etc. 
  • On the reverse side, I was able to pick up two P.E. uniforms from a mom I'd never met, who lives two blocks away. She didn't want them to go to waste (hear, hear) & I would have had to buy them for the boys .I'll probably end up buying them each one extra set, because...laundry. But, we kept useful items in circulation, instead of in a junk pile.

Food sharing:
  • Those of you who have grown zucchini before can sympathize with my plight. There are SO MANY. And, we're heading out of town on vacation soon, and won't be here to eat lots of zucchini. I've been giving these away left & right. Friends, neighbors, strangers picking up stuff on my porch from Buy Nothing, etc. (All with permission, of course.) Not as many people garden in my neighborhood, so people are thrilled to have the free fresh produce.
  • On the flip side, sharing begets more sharing. Two neighbors who took zucchini dropped off items for us (unexpectedly). One was a Persian yogurt dish M hadn't had since childhood. Another dropped off fresh lemons. What a treat. 

Time/expertise sharing:
  • I helped out with reviewing a project for the non-profit I volunteer for, which should help accelerate the program. It feels great that, what takes me not much time, is a skill someone else really needs right now. 
  • Likewise, I'm volunteering with a few groups at work: new interns, mentoring through a diversity program, etc. It's so much fun to be able to answer questions & help direct people when they are overwhelmed, or need guidance. 

I'd love to hear any examples of sharing & happiness from you! We all need more positives in our lives. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Menu plan Monday

 The weeks are speeding by, as ever. Here's what we're having this week for dinner!

Friday - wrap up last of the leftovers, & burgers for others

Saturday - ribs & potato salad

Sunday - barbecue chicken & coleslaw

Monday - tacos

Tuesday - ribs & potato salad

Wednesday - barbecue chicken & coleslaw

Thursday - tacos

Friday - pizza, or TBD. Whatever we need to eat out of the fridge, before we leave for vacation. 

What about you? What's on the menu this week? 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Weekend happenings

 It's been a good weekend so far, with beautiful weather & enough activities to keep everyone busy, without being overwhelming.

I got a few things done yesterday:

  • Went for a run
  • Took Sam to a soccer scrimmage (got in a bonus walk during warm ups)
  • Attempted to drop off books at the library for donation. They must have adjusted their hours again, so I'll need to try again another day.
  • Booked (different) COVID test appointments for our Hawaii trip, and cancelled the previous ones. I'm happy I found an alternative, as it will save me ~90 minutes of driving 
  • Got the majority of items packed for our trip. I like to lay things out, & get as much as possible done ahead. Then, right before the trip, I just pack the items we need this week.
  • I drank a margarita by the pool with M. He's been working on his homemade "skinny" margarita recipe, and it was delicious. 
  • As part of the Hawaii packing, I discovered a bunch of outgrown swim goggles, & two snorkel sets in our pool bin. Gave those away on Buy Nothing. 
  • Packaged & mailed an eBay sale
  • Did a little bit of gardening. Items I picked yesterday, below. (Spinach, kale, radishes, two types of basil, & three zucchini)
  • Booked a bunch of summer travel. I'm thrilled that traveling will be happening again this summer!

Today is going to be a bit cooler, with a high in the mid-70s. Sounds pretty perfect to me. I'm off of cooking duty this weekend, as M made ribs last night, and I cheated & bought potato salad at Costco. It was pretty good, so I'll give it a pass. Tonight he's making barbecued chicken, so will have that with the leftover potato salad. And, he went a little crazy with the fruit purchases this week. Last week, we ran out of fruit half way through the week. Our kids do love fruit. Let's see if we can get through everything purchased this week (all bought at Costco, for size scale): apples, blueberries x3, raspberries, strawberries, nectarines x2, peaches, watermelon. One container of blueberries is wrapped up, but it will be a challenge to finish all of that before our trip. Fingers crossed. Whenever we run out, M panics & overbuys the following week. :-) 

Here's what I need to get done today:
  • Make zucchini muffins
  • Nick - math tutoring (the last one of the year, and he's thrilled)
  • Both boys - tennis
  • Clean out the remainder of the pool bin (there was a lot in there, and it all needs to be pulled out, cleaned, organized, some items tossed/donated, etc)
  • Work out
  • Make the schedule for the week (it's a wild one, with a bunch of family stuff)
  • Make a workout schedule for the week
  • Talk to our neighbor about aphid infestation
  • Clean solar panels
That's it. What about you? What are you up to today?