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Archive for July, 2014

My Carry-On Only Packing List

July 24th, 2014 at 04:37 pm

It's time to start packing (at least this is what F told me - I was waiting until tomorrow, but I think she's right; a lot is going on tomorrow).

We’ll be gone 16 days, with potentially two climates (we need to have clothes for anything from 55 deg F to about 85 deg F). We’ll be doing laundry once or twice. This is my standard packing list... I use a visual packing list because I just think that way.

What I’ll wear:
black leggings
tank top/camisole
short sleeved t
long sleeved t
infinity scarf (lightweight)
puma trainers
1 pair of socks

In my Campmor:
liquids ziploc
hanging cosmetics bag (small and flat) - including powdered clothes soap for 3 washes
small purse with the essentials (pull out on the plane)
packable daypack
little pouch with euro adapter/phone charger
plastic bag for dirty laundry and ziploc for wet swimsuits
ziploc of stuff to pull out on the plane (sanitizing spray and wipes, knitting project, inflatable pillow) with binder clips to attach it to the seatback pocket

5 trousers - jeans, cropped black leggings, grey convertible pants (long to bermudas), cropped jeans, cropped black cuffed pants [plus 1 to wear]
1 skirt
1 long sleeved shirt [plus 1 to wear]
1 three-quarter sleeved tunic
5 short sleeved shirts
2 tank tops
1 dress
1 pair pajamas
6 pair underwear
1 bra [plus camisole to wear]
4 pair socks
2 thin cardigans
1 warm cardigan (this is by ibex - it’s thin but warm)
1 packable rain jacket
2 pairs of shoes [plus 1 to wear]
1 swimsuit

I’ve done a test-pack and this fit into two medium and one slim ebags packing cubes. The total weight was 14 lbs. and there was a ton of room left in my Campmor bag. I can easily stow my purse and the ibex zip cardi in there while I’m walking around the airport so that I have both hands free.

Rain Rain Rain

July 20th, 2014 at 10:23 pm

It was a beautiful day today - super hot (I like hot!).

F had a playdate and I went into the office. Then I picked up both girls and took them to the pool.

We were supposed to have our weekly adults v. kids soccer kickaround this evening, except it's raining now (monsoon season); and lightning and thunder. F is pretty disappointed, but she's in the living playing FIFA with D right now, so that helps.

So, we're not going out to eat tonight, which is good, because we had a couple of unexpected expenses.

My back was pretty bad for about two weeks (long story - was in a car accident when I was 16 and it flares up sometimes) so I had to go to the chiropractor. She's amazing and it's better now. $66 (no insurance doesn't cover it - it goes toward deductible). And I'm still paying down the Big Medical Bill. Ugh.

And D's car needed oil change and a new battery. It was $233! Eeek! There is now negative $75 in the auto servicing bucket and my car needs an oil change soon. I put $60/month in that bucket, so it won't fill up next month; I'm going to have to transfer some money from somewhere else.

And... finally... ants! We tried everything, and finally called the pest control people. $178. Only $33 left in repairs which freaks me out. We need to build that back up! I put $70/month in there just in case, so it should go back up quickly.

Saturday Stuff

July 20th, 2014 at 03:34 am

It seems like we squeezed two days into today... I seriously thought tomorrow was Monday.

- cleaned the birdcage, litterbox and toilet
- vacuumed the house
- F had a friend come over for a playdate
- put in a load of laundry
- did a little bit of work
- F's friend's mom picked up the friend
- went to our usual two supermarkets (Saturday shopping!)
- unloaded groceries
- made lunch
- hung laundry
- made marinade for dinner
- did more work
- the Parent Association Vice President came over (I am PA Pres) and we planned out the year while our kids played (so basically another playdate!)
- they had organized a show for us, so after we did our work, we watched their show
- decided to have dinner outside
- ran a bath for F and played bathsketball with her (that's not a typo) - first one to ten baskets won; I am really bad at bathsketball - she won.
- finished up the work from earlier and send off some Parent Association emails

Did you notice the only thing I spent money on today was groceries? I get a $10 statement credit from Amex for shopping at Sprouts, too.

Tomorrow - we may eat out... our little Mexican place has kids eat free on Sunday and Monday nights and we'll be playing kids v. adult soccer until about 6:30.

Irish House and Pension

July 17th, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Here's something I didn't know until just a few days ago: D has an Irish pension! It has about $14k in it. He said he completely forgot about it, and he's not sure what the rules are about how it can be invested. He thinks you can't really touch it at all until retirement (not even to change what fund it's in or anything). Wondering if anyone knows anything about Irish pensions?

He also got the annual mortgage statement from our Irish house. As of June 30th owe 5272 euro on the house. We're paying only about 20 euro a month in interest now. Final payment will be June 21, 2015; one more year!

Our payment is 451.40 euro each month, so I am figuring that even leaving money in the Irish account like we usually do, and maybe a little more, when we own the Irish house we can add $400 a month to our principal payments on the US house. I am going to go play with my mortgage paydown calculator now...

Possible Project I may NOT Pursue

July 17th, 2014 at 02:22 am

Right now I have enough work; in 8 months or so I may not, but here's the thing: the long term future is not a reason to take a project I don't have any time for right now, and it's definitely not a reason to take a project that looks like it could be awful.

I got a call from a woman (who knows a friend of mine) about a possible project. She's talked to some other architects but didn't feel like it was a "fit." She's bought an old house (1940s) that is in a borderline commercial area (zoned for commercial), and already done some demo (like taken out the heaters - something I wouldn't have done right away - winter isn't THAT far away). She wants to turn it into a restaurant.

I told her I'd come look at it, but let her know that I am going on vacation soon and my priority is the projects I'm currently working on. I told her I couldn't really devote more than a site visit until I return.

The house is a maze of rooms, and she wants to "open it all up." (This means replacing structural walls with beams, etc.) I talked to my engineer, and he said she needs to know that the roof load requirement for a commercial space is more than double a residence. And then there's the fire suppression system for a commercial kitchen...

And its an old house, and I'm sure there are lots of surprises in there that she won't even find out about until they start work. Oh - and did I mention that they have fixed up a few houses and want to do some of the work themselves? I honestly have no idea how much she should budget, no idea how much I would charge (given all of the unknowns).

I'm either going to tell her the timing isn't good for me, or give her a price that (if she were to accept it) would make the project definitely worth my time.

Amex Offers

July 15th, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Just signed up for two American Express offers:

- $10 back on $50 purchase at Sprouts (since this is where we shop every week, I'm pretty happy about it! We usually spend less here, but I'll stock up!)

- $20 back on $20 min. Amazon purchase - really? Wow! Definitely will use this.

So if you have American Express, go to offers on the bottom of the main page...

Folk Art Market - A Volunteer Weekend

July 15th, 2014 at 08:16 pm

The great thing about volunteering all weekend is that I didn't have many chances to spend any money. I did buy a fresh juice (for me) and an ice cream (for F) up at Market. We were volunteering for three days straight, and felt like we needed a treat! B

ut I brought our lunches, and I didn't buy anything at Folk Art Market (aren't you proud of me?). There were some beautiful things, but I wasn't tempted because I just don't want any more stuff.

Got a free tshirt, and so did F and so did D (we all volunteered). Perfect bed-shirt!

And I made some friends, got to help some people, had fun.

One More Airport Thing...

July 15th, 2014 at 12:26 am

We do have kind of a long layover at DFW (4 hours)... we've been there before, but the only fun thing to do for a kid (not a toddler - they have Junior Flyer Club play areas for little kids, but that isn't fun for a big kid) was to ride the Skylink.

If you live in Dallas or know DFW well and have any ideas, I would so appreciate them!

Are there any fun shops to look in? Anything else to do where we wouldn't need to exit the airport (I don't want to have to go through security again).

Frugal Airplane Activities for Long Flights

July 15th, 2014 at 12:15 am

We're leaving in a few weeks, and we have a long plane flight (first flight is just 2 hours, then 4 hour wait in the Dallas Airport, then 10 hours to London), so I'm gathering up things to do the plane for F (and me, actually).

The two goals are: low cost and minimal size. We don't bring a lot of books because they're heavy and have to be lugged back with us. We use individual sheets that can be tossed after they're completed. They're held together with a clip.

- book on my phone
- soduku puzzles (free puzzle printouts here:
- knitting (one ball of yarn, scarf, instructions on my phone, chart printed out)

F (who is 9 years old):
- extreme dot to dots (a few pages cut out of a book she already has)
- roadtrip battleship (free printables:
- mad libs (cut out of a book she already has)
- printable boggle game - can be played alone or with others - lots of 4x4 and 5x5 grid here:
- mad-minute multiplication practice sheets (she thinks multiplication is fun, so I'm just going with it)
- brand new pad of paper for hangman and drawing ($1.50 at Target)
- airport bingo (we make our own with categories like "screaming baby" and "person who needs help with the overhead bin")
- New game for the ipad/ipod - we're getting Dots (stack the states and stack the countries are always popular; and my favorite is Oregon Trail because it takes forever!)

And then there's our travel journal... Just a tiny notebook and F and I write back and forth to each other in it about things we're doing or have done. If she had to keep a journal herself, she probably wouldn't, but if it's like secret notes to each other, it's way more fun!

Another Snowflake to our Mortgage

July 10th, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Another snowflake! I got paid by the gym for May (yes, May; he said June is coming soon) - so $70 toward the mortgage principal. We now owe $70,383. Next month we'll be in the $60k's - so happy!

Tonight we're going to have dinner (tacos with guacamole - I copied the recipe down from Gabriel's which has the BEST guacamole - have been using this recipe for years). And then we're going out to see the Folk Art Market artists' procession (free!). After the procession there is an African band, so we'll all be dancing!

I'll be at Folk Art Market all weekend, working (as a volunteer of course). As the chair of a committee I get a free parking pass (right next to Market) and I get to go to Market for free (including the Friday night party) and I get the wonderful feeling that I've helped people. It's the most exhausting and rewarding weekend of the entire year!

Solar Panels

July 8th, 2014 at 09:02 pm

One of our long term goals is to install solar panels on our roof. We live in an insanely sunny climate, will eliminate our electricity bill (and we'll get money back from the power company). Federal incentive is 30% and our state incentive is 10%. Also - having solar panels definitely adds value to a house, so you make your money back on resale.

So we've been crunching the numbers and comparing companies...

The company I really like has another incentive program. They're giving me a $500 discount for being an architect. And they'll give me $500 every time I refer someone. I'm doing two projects that I think will be considered referrals and my neighbor is interested in panels, too.

And, yes, I have the money saved for this specific purpose. No, I'm not financing it.

The biggest hurdle now is the neighbor who lives above us. By law he can't stop us from having panels (and other people in our neighborhood have them, and our homeowner's association allows them as long as they're below the roof parapet), but I don't want him making our lives difficult, either, so once we decide but before we sign a contract I'm going to talk to him.

Mortgage Principal and other Stuff

July 7th, 2014 at 05:45 pm

Getting there...

Paid down $155 on mortgage principal today. Our balance is now $71,332. Even if we don't pay any more down on principal, we'll own the house in July 2020.

Yesterday's frugal fun: we rode our bikes to the park (about 1 mile) and played tennis for a little bit, then rode home. Had teriyaki salmon bowls for dinner (like the ones they make at the special counter at Whole Foods but homemade and a lot less expensive). I have a good teriyaki sauce recipe - might have put in a bit too much ginger, but no one complained. We all love ginger!

Vacation decisions: we're hoping that D's coworker is ok with staying with the cat, dog and birds (he said he was, but we want to make sure) and our neighbor will stop by and let the dog out while he is a work. She spends a lot of time in her gardens, so our dog can hang out with her.

Volunteer stuff: I just called the logistics expert that helps put on Folk Art Market to ask about a lot of miscellaneous things like how do I get the handstamp for my volunteers to use at the exit and what do we do if it rains. I got a call from the volunteer coordinator to say she has a bunch of badges that my volunteers haven't picked up yet... ??? I need to stop by their office and pick those up I guess. Argh!

But right now... I'm going to my weightlifting class. I need a break!

Frugal Things I Did Today

July 5th, 2014 at 09:54 pm

I am trying to be super-frugal this month because we are leaving on vacation at the end of the month, and also my husband needs (unexpected) orthotics for his plantar fasciatis (pretty sure that was spelled incorrectly). Here are today's strategies:

1. I worked out that because of our vacation, we will only have three grocery shopping trips this month, and set a budget for those trips. The rest of our grocery budget will go into the vacation fund: money for buying groceries on our trip.

2. Pruned and dug out wells under our trees to make watering more efficient; then used our cistern water to water the trees. We're expecting some storms and I want to use the cistern water and let it refill rather than letting it overflow and go unused.

3. Found a pattern for a scarf to knit on our vacation. One skein of yarn, so easy to carry; and I already have the skein, so not going to purchase anything new. Small needles, also easy to carry. And the pattern is free on knitty!

4. Grocery shopping this week: exactly on budget. The menu is tacos, pasta with goat cheese and courgettes, teriyaki bowls, crash potatoes with a vegetable, mexican eggs and salad, fagiole and biscuits. Plus all lunches and breakfasts. No eating out!

Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th, 2014 at 08:13 pm

A low key Fourth - we went this morning to our city's Pancake Breakfast where we hung out until almost noon, saw a lot of friends... Bought the tickets early and saved $2 (D and F get the pancakes, but I can't with my restrictive diet). So... $12 for breakfast, but it goes to charity.

Hot dogs for lunch at home. Free.

D and F are watching the Brazil-Colombia match. I can hear them in there discussing the play. Free.

Maybe the pool later... Also free.

I am going to take the soccer match time to finish up some work, including organizing my team for the Folk Art Market. I've picked up t-shirts, and I need to drop one off to a volunteer who lives up the street. They were very kind and let me have a badge and tshirt for F... youngest volunteer! (She's not officially signed up obviously, but she will work a station with me, and she'll be accompanying us on Friday night so that we don't need someone to babysit - it was great news that she'll be allowed to do that). So we save both money - not that we ever pay for babysitting - and hassle! And she gets to be at the opening Friday night event, and she gets to volunteer (good for her soul, I think).

OK, I'm going to work now!


My Carry-On Only Packing Strategy

July 2nd, 2014 at 08:47 pm

I love packing - totally LOVE it! Probably because a vacation is a grand experiment in minimalism. Our house is clutter-free and open, but we still seem to have a lot of stuff. But when I pack I edit, edit, edit. I pack in only a carry-on.

I promised to share my packing list, which I will do in the next post, but first, the list of what I DON'T bring:

What I don’t bring:
- jewelry except one pair of earrings that I wear and my wedding ring
- a big jacket (I layer instead)
- a real book (reading on my iphone is fine for me)
- photocopies of our passports - my mom has pdf’s
- things I wouldn’t wear at home (silly hats, money belt)
- belts and other accessories
- towels (have never stayed anywhere they didn’t have towels!)
- travel clock (my phone has everything I need on it)
- computer (I load pdf documents onto my phone)
- hairdryer (I never use one at home either)
- camera/video (this is on my phone; my husband who is a keen photographer brings an SLR)
- guidebooks (before I go, I do a lot of internet research and then put relevant info in a pdf on my phone)

And now, what I pack it all in:
My bags:
- baggallini triple zip (this is my regular, every day purse) It is light, small and can be stuffed into my carry on and the interior is light colored so things don’t get lost inside. You can use it alone or pop it into a backpack or tote. I've seen it for about $26.

- campmor essential carry on - it’s only $30 (frugal, frugal!!!), rugged, has backpack straps that pull out (which I use a lot) and shoulder strap (which I leave at home). It doesn’t have hard sides (which add weight and make it harder to stuff into the airplane bin and also the size-check box. It has an outside pocket for things you need to grab for the plane (sweater, ziploc of “stuff you need to have under your seat”). Also has a handy front pocket for a sweater and a place to put your passport where you can get to it easily but it’s not exposed -

- Eagle Creek packable daypack - sturdy, but packs up small; perfect for day trips. Can pack souvenirs in here if you’re allowed a “personal bag” on the flight home.

- two medium (14x9x3) Ebags packing cubes and one slim (14x5x3)

I promise to show you the packing list next time... I'm an architect and I think visually, so I have a visual packing list as well which I constantly modify. This one is for a trip we're taking to the UK (D's family) and France, so the weather will be pretty varied (could be chilly in the UK, will be hot in France).