Sunday, August 30, 2009

Winery Concert

Last night the hubs and I went to see Diana Krall at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. Since digital camera are not allowed we could not get any photos. The hubs did take one from his phone.

The white blob to the right of the yellow blob is her playing at the piano.

We were sitting on the grass about 30 feet from where she was on the stage. We brought a blanket and some grapes, cheese, salami and bread. We purchased a couple bottles of wine on site. It was an excellent evening just hanging with the hubs listening to great jazz. The only thing I would do next time would be to bring a low slung beach chair to sit on.

Friday, August 28, 2009

How Much To Save?

So I have this specific amount of money I want to have saved and a bunch of expensive things I want to buy. I'm trying really hard to find a balance between wanting things and sticking to a savings plan. Its hard! If I get those fancy schmancy tickers figured out I will add them to my side bar to track my progress.

Emergency Fund $3000 - I have given myself a deadline of six months to save this. That is a savings goal of $500 per month. Right now I have budgeted $600 per month and that is comfortable so at that rate I will be able to meet my goal at the end of January 2010. A full month ahead of schedule but also some wiggle room for any emergencies.

Travel Fund $2000 - I want to save for my honeymoon vacation next May strictly with money from paychecks along with my emergency fund. However, that would require adding an additional $225 to my monthly savings goals. That could be a bit of a stretch. I can reasonably expect to have around $2000 in a tax return in February 2010. That money will be earmarked for travel when I get it and I should have already saved my emergency fund.

I want to go back to snowflaking as I was pretty successful when I did that in June. I need to weigh the cons of wanting something against the pros of that much more saved because it does add up.

We have a few large expenses coming up in the next six months that I need to plug in to our budget.
  • Dog teeth cleaning - $300
  • Repair clutch and brakes on hubs new car - ?
  • Purchase hubs new car - $2000 (we are buying my dad's old Porsche from him and can make payments if need be). The reason for the new car? The hubs current car is not the most reliable and in January we can no longer commute together.
How is it that Trading Spaces can spend $1000 per room and make them look fabulous and I have spent thousands and still do not have one finished room? We are in the home stretch as far as condo projects go and want to have them all completed in the next year. That will leave four years of enjoying a finished space before we move on.

We saved for and purchased our new TV a few weeks ago. The other big budget items we are looking at. We want to buy quality items since we will be living with them for the next several years.
  • New couch and chairs for the living room.
  • Low profile bed frame with storage in the headboard for master bedroom
  • Bathroom vanity and sink.
  • Five more closet shelves in the master bedroom
  • New kids beds
Things that I would like but don't absolutely need.....
  • New cushy dining room chairs
  • Bar and bookshelves for dining room
  • New kitchen counter tops
  • Deck in yard
By far the most expensive items will be the living room furniture. I absolutely hate what we have now in color and its just not that comfortable. It makes me want to save that for last which is ironic since this is the room we spend the most time in.

Other things we need to do around the place is paint (living, bath & kids room), baseboard moldings (install and paint), replace tile on hearth & beef up the living room mantle. These things are all items we plan to purchase with monthly mad money as they are not large ticket items.

This weekend we plan to head out and pick up some more baseboard molding to finish off the kitchen and dining rooms as well as some paint to start painting all the moldings we have already installed (base and crown). We will price tile for the hearth as well.

Oh yeah, Christmas is coming too! I did get a jump start on that though. We already bought the kids "big" gift of iPods (with cash thank-you-very-much!) and I have 1 1/2 tabi socks kitted for SD. After those are completed I will get SS's fingerless gloves knitted up. I have to start thinking about ideas for other family members too.

I had the thought that if I saved $1000 and then saved for a big ticket item and went back and forth like that I would make both halfs of myself happy. I think its more important to have that emergency fund saved up though. Darn it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the Twilight series of books. To give you a brief synopsis, 17 year old Bella Swan moves from Phoenix, AZ to Forks, WA and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire. Just a ferry and short car ride gets us to Forks and the surrounding area.

The city of Forks has embraced the Twilight phenomenon. There are websites dedicated to points of interest in the town. The most notable site is the red 1953 Chevy truck Bella drove in the film. The truck below is not the actual truck from the film.

A private home and a bed and breakfast serve as the official residences of the Swan's and Cullen's.



Esme even leaves a daily note on the porch of there house. Wonder if that means they are vacationing in Alaska?

The Dazzled by Twilight store located both in Forks and Port Angeles carry everything Twilight you could hope to purchase from clothing to memorabilia to books to you name it. The inside of the store is set up like you are in the Forrest. Its actually quite cool.


There are a few places around town you can see little Twilight items. Dr. Cullen seems to pop up everywhere. I think its fun the town has a sense of humor.


Forks isn't all about Twilight though. The town was started as a timber town as evidenced by its timber museum. At the visitors center there is a huge nine foot in diameter tree trunk with a hole in the center big enough for a teenager to crawl through.


Just a short drive down the highway you arrive at the Hoh Rain Forest. This area is a protected National Park and include many species of tree and animals including bear, elk, deer, owl, frogs, etc.


From here we went to La Push which is located on the Pacific Ocean and home of the Quileute Native American Tribe. The town of La Push feature prominently in Stephanie Meyer's series.

The beach, like most Washington beaches, was pretty rocky with a lot of trees and drift wood piled up on the sand. The dogs had a great time running around. It was pretty windy as well.

The hubs and the dog on the sand at First Beach in La Push right on the ocean.

Port Angeles is a little seaside town located across the Straight of Juan de Fuca from Victoria BC. A little known fact about Port Angeles, its the birthplace of John Elway, former quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

The town is pretty small. We stopped at the Twilight hot spot, Bella Italia for a photo. I neglected to get a photo of the book store in Port Angeles.

We stopped in Port Townsend and drove through Fort Warden state park. This is where the film An Officer and a Gentleman was partially made.

Finally as we headed towards the Kingston ferry we stopped in Port Gamble. The township really only consists of a few homes and a group of buildings along the main road off the highway. They have a tea house, a Masonic lodge, antique shops, a book store and post office/general store. Its a quaint little town to stop off at or drive through.


The Walker-Ames house facing the water is a really great example of Victorian architecture and boasts the Washington state champion Camperdown Elm.

In 1640 the Earl of Camperdown grafted a Camperdown branch to a Scotch Elm tree. This tree is a mutant and cannot self produce. Every Camperdown Elm tree in the world is part of the original and must be grafted to a Scotch Elm tree to be started. This one is the State Champion in Washington State located in Port Gamble.

You are never far away from coffee.....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Christmas Planning

WooHoo! I just ordered this ornament kit from Knit Picks! I think its a pretty reasonable price for 22 hand crafted ornaments. I really wanted to make some for my tree and will, even if I have to buy some extra yarn in the colors I need - I will have the patterns. I figure these will make great "little extras" for gifts this year.

I am trying to be better prepared for Christmas this year. I have already bought two spendy gifts for the kids and am halfway through a pair of socks for SD. I have not been knitting on them because she is here for vacation. I am so busy at work that I have not had much time to knit at lunch and so tired I have not been knitting in the car on the way to work (the hubs and I carpool). Once they go back to their moms I'm sure things will go back to normal and I can take advantage of it.

Tomorrow we are headed to Forks which is in the northwest corner of the state. I have never been there and since the kiddos (and I) have read the Twilight books and seen the movie, and since its practically our back door, we fidured we would make a day of it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Goal Achieved

One of our big time purchase goals was a flat screen Plasma TV. We watch and own a LOT of movies. Originally we wanted to get a 42". However, with the amount we had budgeted for the TV purchase we were able to get a 50" Plasma HDTV instead and two weeks ahead of time.

Between selling things on Craigslist, a yard sale (sold the old TV there) and saving part of our paychecks we picked the TV up yesterday.

In May we went down to basic cable to save some money every month. That meant we no longer got some of our favorite channels like HGTV, TNT, Travel Channel, TLC, Food Network, Lifetime (yeah - sometimes I do like that channel).

With the HDTV compatibility we get the HDTV stations of what we used to pay for with the digital converter box. Hello Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, Leverage & Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes)! The hubs is happy because he can get two ESPN channels and watch futbol (American soccer) as well as Rescue Me on TNT. I was able to watch Leverage on the TNT website a week later but now I can watch it the night its on.

Can't wait to play Wii ski on this thing!

The best thing about it? We paid cash - our credit cards are still pristine after paying them off a couple weeks ago.

Now we are saving for a new couch.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping Has Started!

This year the hubs and I decided to get the kids their own iPods. We settled on the 1 gig Shuffle due to total cost and were happy to hear that they were on sale at Target for $45 each. They hold up to 240 songs and are so tiny! They were out of all colors so we got two silver ones.

A couple days ago I finished the first sock of a pair of Tabi socks for SD. I originally planned on giving them last Christmas but did not get them completed in time. The pattern was from the book Not Just More Socks.

I'm starting the second sock tonight and hope to finish them by the end of the month. The kids come back for two weeks on Sunday so I will have to knit in the car on the way to work and on my lunch hour to meet that deadline.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vagabonding

Part of the motivation for becoming debt free is the opportunity to travel for extended periods of time. Because of debt we really have only taken one real vacation together in our eight years as a couple.

The plan:
  • Become consumer debt free in three years.
  • Sell our condo in five to six years.
  • Reduce our possessions to what is necessary and store large items we intend to use upon our return -or- build/buy a small house.
  • Save enough money to live & travel on frugally and simply for up to two years.
Enter vagabonding. What is it you ask? I think it's best put this way, "a deliberate way of living that makes the freedom to travel possible".

The hubs and I have tossed around a few ideas. With the sale of the condo we could buy a Mini Clubman and Airstream. Although this would be extremely cool, the airstream trailer is only 22 feet long and opens out for you to be able to sleep. Not practical if this is our "home" for any length of time.

We have contemplated the 4-hour work week philosophy of working for a few months and taking mini retirement vacations for a few months at a time. This would require a permanent residence that we could come home to and house our reduced but necessary possessions (negating the need for a long term storage unit). This would also require an extremely flexible job and career change.

In the world of extremely flexible jobs we have a couple options.
  • The hubs could get a job working on board a cruise ship (he currently works for a cruise line) and as his wife I can come too. This has some opportunity for international travel as well - bonus!
  • Move to and area with a film industry (an interest for both of us). Working on a film for a few months then taking time off. We have a little film experience under our belts and can always get more in the next few years.
  • Become independently wealthy.
The small home option would be something like the Katrina Cottages which at roughly $110 per square foot to build are pretty reasonably priced. All we really need in a small home is an open floor plan for the main part of the house to include our kitchen and great room space for living and dining, a master suite of bedroom, bathroom and walk in closet and a half bath (for guests) and utility space as well as a covered porch and that is really all we would need. I am partial to plan numbers KC517, KC697, KC888 (bed 2 would be open living space) & KC936 (with optional master suite and upstairs as loft space).

More things to research and a debt reduction plan to keep following. The possibilities are endless and the future is closer than we might think!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ug!

This morning I was in a hurry. I was trying to touch up my toe nail polish and I spilled the bottle ALL OVER THE FLOOR AND MY PANTS!


The pants are only a month old and I love them and wear them often. I suppose if it was the beginning of summer I would be even more irritated. However, I can still probably get two more months of wear out of them before the season is officially over. Even here in overcast and rainy Seattle.

They are soaking in Oxy Clean but I hae little hope.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekly Update

So, last Monday I posted that I would do a weekly update in three areas of my life. I suppose I did ok.

Health
Walk three times this week - I walked once
Track all food via my fitness pal - first three days and stopped, switched back to weight watchers site
Increase water consumption minimally to four glasses a day - first three days were great

Condo Projects
Buy and install baseboard molding along long hallway - check and then some
Declutter more in preparation for the yard sale - a little and need to do much more

Finances
No Starbucks during the work week - went twice with cash on hand / semi victory
Think on something before purchasing - bought the slider grill pan without thinking about it but used it right away

I am dissappointed with myself in the walking. I kept pushing it off and then I ran out of time. I am happy to report that I did something right because I lost 2.2 pounds last week. This weeks goals...

Health
Track daily via weight watchers
Drink minimally four glasses of water a day
Walk two more times
Do either Jillian Michaels DVD or Wii fit once

Condo Projects
Continue declutter in preparation for yard sale on Saturday

Finances
No Starbucks during the work week

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

In my side of the family, everyone shares a birthday with someone. Well, except me. Typically we get together and lump several birthdays in to one celebration. Last night I hosted the July & August birthdays.

From left to right is my mom (Aug 8) my niece (born 8-8-08 at 8:08 am I kid you not!), myself (July 28) and my nephew (July 6) who shares a birthday with his great grandmother on his father's side.


I think the photo of my niece above says it all - enjoy life and eat cake by the fistful!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lady E is finished!

Last night I was in the knitting mood and pulled out my Lady E entrlac shawl I started in October of 07. Its so funny that I finished it last night because it only needed two more rows and has been sitting on the needles like that for several months.

I'm glad I finished it before the weather starts to turn so I can wear it all winter long. Although my office is air conditioned really well so I think I will be able to use it now.

It's longer than the pattern because I wanted it to be. I'm still on the fence about adding fringe. I need to measure the yarn I have left and see if I even have enough to do it. I need to block it still too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

#56 in Things That Make Me Happy

Deep baseboard moldings.

Tonight the hubs and I went to Homer (Home Depot) and picked up thirty feet of 4 1/2" deep MDF baseboard molding. Total cost $25.72. We are purchasing and installing a little at a time as we can afford it.


Mind you, we are not even close to being finished with baseboard molding for the entire house. But, since our condo is under 900 square feet it won't be a terrible expense. The stuff we were looking at before we found the MDF was going to cost us $42.96 for 24 feet. Vast improvement and a savings of 52 cents per foot! Yay for saving money!

Of course this has to be painted and the other stuff didn't but I don't care. The cost of the paint will be way less than buying the other molding. Not to mention we are putting this in our bedroom and we will not be going with white molding so the original stuff we looked at would not work as it was already finished in white.

In just under an hour the hubs had cut and installed most of it. That is the wonderful thing about power tools, a compound mitre saw, a nail gun and an air compressor got the job done in no time at all.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekly Update

I have decided to post my weekly goals so I can keep track and account for things I truly am trying to accomplish. There are a few main areas of focus for me.

Weight Loss
  • Walk three times this week
  • Track all food via my fitness pal
  • Increase water consumption to minimally four glasses per day
Condo Projects
  • Buy and install baseboard molding on long hallway wall
  • Declutter more in preparation for yard sale
Finances
  • No Starbucks during the work week
  • Think on something for 24 hours before purchasing it

I think a weekly list will make it easier to break down not only where I need to improve but make it easier to keep track of things.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Moving In The Right Direction - Finally!

I alluded to a large change in our debt situation a few months ago and now it has come to fruition. I was freaking out in June because of our rather large consumer debt and how long it was going to pay it back even with an accelerated plan.

I had basically told my family that the hubs and I didn't want gifts for Christmas, birthdays or anniversary's and we could not reciprocate from now until - the end of time.

  • My parents offered a low interest loan.
  • I did not email my family and share my tale of woe so my parents would loan us money.
  • My parents would not have loaned me this large amount if they didn't trust we would pay it back.

We got the check yesterday and deposited it. Right away our personal loan at our bank was paid. Then I went home and paid off all but two store credit cards. I have returns to make so want to pay the balance off after those have cleared.

Even though we still owe the large amount, we no longer have to make seven payments a month to cover them. The interest rate is 4% and we have a monthly repayment plan with my parents over the next five years. Our plan is to pay it back in three.

We are saving $186 in minimum payments and TONS in interest. Our debt to income ratio will go down and our credit rating will go up.

Next step is to refinance our condo to get out from under the interest only loan we have, get a better interest rate and possibly stop paying PMI (private mortgage insurance). We may take a little equity to upgrade our kitchen and bathroom but that we will get back in the form of a better resale value. Our plan is to sell in five years.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

In Bloom

Finally my Crocosmia has buds on it. For at least a month or so I have been seeing Crocosmia blooming all over the area and wondered what was wrong with mine. I separated it all out a few months ago. I had decided to buy one plant and keep it in a pot where I could move it to maximize its sun exposure then dig all of mine up and move it to the entrance to our parking lot at our condo complex.

I got home today and they are budding!

My Nicotiana is going strong but I bought more today causethe price was right and I have a planter to fill.

The Clematis I thought I ripped out this spring is doing nicely (sorry for the washed out photo).

In the shade of the corner of the yard my impatiens that I bought a couple months ago are still going strong.

They are in a blossom bag and I highly recommend them. My tomato in the topsy turvey has a few flowers but nothing much else happening there.