Friday, October 24, 2008

Confessions of a Hoarder

I've always been a little obsessive compulsive. I knew it was weird when I was a kid and I used to have a digital clock and I had to keep track of how many minutes I watch turn over each day and how many hours I watched change. I also used to write down the weather temperatures each night from the evening news. I wasn't especially tidy until I got in my 20's. When my Mom used to visit me, she used to clean and that, for some reason bothered me. Now I wish she would come and clean my house. I had too much pride to appreciate it when I was younger and just getting started with my first apartment and eventually a house. Now my friends call me "anal" and all say how clean my house is. I don't think it is as clean as I would like it to be, which probably is another indicator I have a problem.

Growing up, we always had enough. Aside from the time when we left the Bay Area and moved to the property in Garden Valley and Leo was unemployed for a while, I don't remember us ever being really poor. My step-dad was a sheet metal worker and frequently was laid off or worked less hours in the winter months. I remember my Mom always shopping and stocking up when he was working to help tide is into the non-working months. I say this is how it got started.

As I've gotten older and had more money, I find that I am still "stocking up" but so far there has only been 1 time in my life when I've needed to use this supply. Needless to say, I have much more than I can possibly use in a reasonable amount of time of lots of things. Living in Idaho where the LDS population is quite large, I find myself saying that I'm just doing "food storage" or collection for an emergency, but really, I just buy too much. I seem to not feel safe if I don't have a good supply of something and then a backup supply. Before I even run out of something, I add it to my list and frequently there is a new supply before I even run out. It is rare that we run out of something in my house.

When I first moved in with Dave and his boys, I tried to monitor the supply on what everyone used. This was crazy. I couldn't possibly keep up with 5 people's consumption and the teenagers ever changing tastes. So, as of 2 years ago, I adopted the policy of - if you use the last of something, either 1) notify me 2) leave the package out or 3) write on the list (fridge). This has worked quite well for everyone and we still rarely run out of anything. And I stress a lot less.

But here's where it gets weird. I have sooo much shampoo. I do wash my hair every day and I do have thick hair, but I must have years and years worth of shampoo. Why? I do remember when I moved out on my own that someone told me it was good to rotate the shampoo you use on your hair. So I had 3 or 4 kinds in the shower and rotated using them. Now I live in a home where the shower is a phone booth, so there is certainly not room for a selection. So all the shampoos and conditioners sit on the large garden tub, daunting me. I think I've been trying to "use up" what I have for almost 3 years. I also collect hotel soaps and shampoos. Why? I don't take them with me on trips because I'll be at another hotel that has more or staying at someone's house that has shampoo (I like to try other's people stuff!) so I never use them. I've recently started using the little soaps in place of my more favored body wash (which I also have a ton of) and still have a huge pile of soaps. I did manage to use up a lot of the little shampoo containers but then feel bad about throwing away all the plastic bottles.

I also have waaaayyy to much scrapbooking stuff (see above pic), linens (not really my fault, because we have all mine AND Dave's), tupperware (see previous reason), clothes, shoes, earrings, razors, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.

I do think it's a good idea to have stuff stocked up, especially food. You never know when a natural disaster, illness or a lay off can happen and you'll be glad you have lots of things already paid for in your home. But I do think I need to question almost every purchase I make and be sure I need it and have a place to store it. I love having lots of stuff, but I also hate the feeling of clutter and overwhelming amounts of stuff. It's all about moderation, right?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pepper and Chloe - Our Girls

When Dave and I met in 2001, I thought we might have a child together. I had Aaron, who was then 6 and he had 2 more boys, then 10 & 14. We quickly decided that the 3 boys were going to be plenty for us! So, in 2004 we got our first baby girl, Pepper. We "met" her when she was 4 weeks old at a local Havanese breeder. She was the last one available in the litter and we immediately put down a deposit on her. I went to visit her every day and she was just a joy. I had bought a stuffed dog toy a few months prior and that became her "baby" which we put in with all the puppies and her mama so she could always have a piece of her family. When she was 6 weeks old (and still nursing!) her little collar was still too big for her and I begged the breeder to let her stay a few more weeks but he insisted she would be fine. So, excited beyond description I headed there with her baby and my cool dog carrying bag. I put her in the bag and put her on the front passenger seat and she promptly cried her little head off. I then unzipped the top of bag and she stood up and snorted like a little pig. It was so sad, she was missing her family. I tried to comfort her, but she just wailed. By the time we got home, she totally sacked out and took a big nap in the middle of her blanket. The first night, I put her in her crate beside my bed and spent most of the night with my hand through the wire door. She did very good and only cried when she needed to go out. I hung a small bell by the back door and each time I took her out, I hit it with her paw. Within a week, she was hitting it herself to go out and to this day still uses that as her signal to go out. After a few nights, Dave said she should be able to sleep on the bed with us. And today, she still does.

When Pepper was 2, she was kind of apathetic and didn't really do much and I really wondered if she was lonely. She also had almost no interest in eating and only ate her kibble every 3-4 days. Around the same time, I became involved with an online Havanese Rescue Yahoo Group. I had signed up to be a rescue contact in Idaho since there were none and so did another lady that had Havanese. Soon, I did a home visit for a third woman who had signed up and then I needed my home visit done. Heather was the one assigned to do that and we quickly became friends. It turned out she had Peppers sister from a different little and another Havanese as well as a German Shephard. She was heading to Bend, Oregon the next week to get a 3rd Havanese from Hystyle Havanese and let me know there was another puppy available in the litter. She also raw fed her dogs, something I had been looking into due to Pepper's lack of luster for her kibble.

Well, Dave and I decided we had to have this little cream Havanese, then named Q-T-Pie. Heather went and got her and her own Tootsie Pop 2 weeks later. By now, Aaron was 11 and very much wanted to be friends with Pepper, but their relationship had started off a big rocky because Aaron was too rough with her when she was little. And Pepper was never really a cuddler, or lap dog. She would sit by you, but not on you and didn't enjoy being held. From the moment Chloe came, Aaron held her and carried her around like a baby, which she still enjoys today. Pepper immediately shared her toys, her bed and her Mom and Dad like the good dog she has always been. Chloe came from a breeder who raw fed, so I switched Pepper and Chloe has never had kibble. Both my dogs LOVE to eat every day and their coats and skin are wonderful and I believe they are very healthy. Each day I feed them a raw chicken wing, a 1/4 of a sirloin patty (from Costco), some rehydrated veggies and Nupro powder. I also give them organ meat and occasionally some rice.

Like all Havanese, they like to shred and play "run like hell", espeically in the snow. They go most places with us and if they can't go, they stay with Auntie Heather and their sisters. Pepper and Chloe have brought immense joy to our blended family. To them we are Mom and Dad and all the boys are their brothers. They bridge the gap of "theirs" and "ours" and love everyone the same. Yes, having dogs are a lot of work, they require time, love, attention, money, feeding, walking, grooming, brushing and a huge commitment, but they are worth every bit of effort.

The dogs also have thier own website

Friday, August 22, 2008

Trip to CA

Both Dave and I are from the Bay Area and most of our family is still down there. I love to visit at least once a year so that Aaron can see his family and we can also see all the wonderful things that the beautiful state has to offer. On Friday, August 8th we set out towards Folsom, CA to attend my 20 year high school reunion. The drive was uneventful and the MDX was full of gadgets and while Dave was driving, Aaron and I had plenty of electronics to keep us busy. I mostly watched videos on my ipod touch while Aaron played the PS2 and did some web surfing on the laptop. Dave was stuck listening to music on the 80 gig video ipod.

We arrived in Folsom and got checked into the Lake Natoma Inn, showered and headed to the Happy Hour event at Yagers. There I saw classmates that I've known since the 3rd grade but most that I haven't talked to in 20 years. It was a lot of fun!

Saturday we checked out of the hotel and headed to Dave's Mom's house in Saratoga, CA. We relaxed most of the weekend outside on the patio and Aaron played in the pool. Monday, Dave's Mom and I headed to the gym and then went out shopping. She took me to Nordstrom Rack and then a wonderful shoe haven called DSW. I loved both and bought a few things for great prices.

On Tuesday, we headed to San Francisco and spent a wonderful day in the city. I had purchased CityPass tickets for all of us ahead of time so we had a bunch to do! We took the CalTrain to SF and then rode a bus to the piers. We had lunch at Fog Harbor and walked around the various shops. We then took a cruise over to Alcatraz and visited the famous "Rock". After that, we caught a bus and raced over to the Exploratorium which closed shortly after we arrived. We then headed to Ghiradelli Square and had huge sundae's and milkshakes. We then headed back towards the wharf Dave got some crab sandwiches along the seafood row. Aaron found the Musee Mecanique and we spent some time there. We missed the Boudin sourdough tour, but we had done that before. As it started to cool and then sun went down and the tourists started to leave we headed to the aquarium which was open later than any of the other places we visited and was indoors. When we finished the aquarium, we caught a bus back to the CalTrain station and then headed back south. We arrived back at 10:30p making for a long day in the city, but it sure was a lot of fun!

On Wednesday, we headed north again, but only to Belmont where my Nanney (maternal grandmother) lives. I had finally completed her digital scrapbook after 3 years of collecting photos, scanning them and then compiling a 100 page book spanning almost 100 years. It includes her and my grandfather's acestors, their 3 children (my mom), 7 grandchildren (me), 4 great grand children (Aaron) and 1 great-great grand baby born last year. It was a beautiful work of art and I was very proud to present it to her. We headed to lunch at Mimi's and then talked and visited for a few hours. That night, we met up with one of Dave's friends, his girlfriend and her son and went to a wonderful italian place on Santana Row called Maggiano's. Huge portions, great service and spectacular food!

Thursday we headed to Apple headquarters where we visited the Company store. I heard about it from Cali Lewis of GeekBrief.TV but never realized it was literally 3 miles from where I've visited my MIL many times! Aaron and I were in heaven and bought some goodies and took pics. We then headed over Highway 17 and into Santa Cruz to visit my step-sister and Dad. My sister and her boyfriend live in a beautiful home in Aptos where they have 3 doggies, wonderful decks and great food, music and conversation. My Dad happens to be working in the area so he joined us. Him and Aaron always have great conversations about gadgets and electronics. Aaron even brought his scooter charger to have Grandpa see if he could fix. If only we had brought the volt meter!

Friday we packed up and headed towards home. We stopped in Pleasanton to visit my Aunt and Uncle and visited with them a bit before they headed out to play some golf. We then drove to Reno, where we ate at the Peppermill buffet and then spent the night.

Saturday we drove home, picked up the dogs and spent the night outside on our patio since our hardwood floors had been refinished while we were gone. The smell was horrible (it even killed all my fish) and we decided not to take any chances on us or the dogs having any ill effects from breathing the fumes. Sunday we unpacked and then Monday headed back to work. I loved our vacation, but it went by SOOO fast!! It always reminds me what a beautiful place CA is and how I love to visit, but am definitely happier in Idaho.

Full album of the pictures here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oregon Coast

2 weeks ago, Dave and I dropped off the dogs at the Pet Lodge and headed West to the Oregon Coast. This was our 4th trip over there since 2001 when we went there on our first trip together. This was our first time driving and I hope we never fly again as driving is definitely my preferred method of travel. I love having my stuff with me and having the MDX's navigation was helpful and roomy interior was great. We got over 20 mpg which is good considering the "X" only has 2000 miles on it and is a full size SUV.

Anyway, we set out first thing in the morning from Boise and arrived at the Starfish Manor in Lincoln City in the afternoon. We toured our beautiful room which was very similar to the one we had at the Nelscott Manor last September for our wedding/honeymoon and decided to go to the Chinook Winds casino. We had terrific service as most people were at the casino portion and the restaurant we went to was in the hotel. Dave had the Captain's Platter which was a huge seafood plate of all kinds of wonderful things. I had crab cakes for the first time and they were marvelous.

The next day we drove north and stopped in Pacific City for breakfast at the Pelican Pub. There I had the best stuffed french toast and we shared beer sausage gravy and potatoes. On the beach where the restaurant is, cars can actually park and launch boats. It was quite strange to see cars and trucks driving along the beach. The beach was in front of Haystack rock which was also a beautiful site.

From Pacific City we drove further north all the way to Nehalam where there was a craft festival going on. I have to admit I was somewhat embarrassed after Dave drove as far as he did when there were only a few booths of stuff. I did buy some great home made cards and we did have a delicious strawberry shake at a local place so we counted the trip a success. We had also never driven farther north than Tillamook so all that was unchartered territory for us. We heard Canon Beach was nice, but after being in the car for 2 days we decided we'd had enough of driving. We also stopped at a winery outside of Tillamook but it was somewhat crowded and the person serving wasn't very personable, we had 2 samples, checked the interesting decorations of the place and continued our trip.

Saturday night we drove south from Lincoln City to Depoe Bay where we had dinner at a place we'd never been called Tidal Raves. Dave had the special which was a freshly caught sturgeon topped with crab. I had a wonderful crab alfredo. The view was beautiful and the service was great.

On Sunday, we went for the 3rd time to our favorite spot for brunch, Fathom's restuarant at the Spanish Head Inn. In 2001, we stayed at the Spanish Head Inn and went to brunch there and had a wonderful time. We spent hours talking and drinking mimosas after we finished eating. This time wasn't perfect as there were several small children that disrupted the environment, but the view and food was good. Dave emailed them later and they did send us a gift certificate for a free brunch for our next visit and we will be sure and go back. We then headed to the Factory Outlets and did some shopping. For dinner, we headed south again to Gracie's Sea Hag in Depoe Bay where Dave had a full crab and I had fish n chips.

Monday we decided to go to the Wild Flower Grill as it was recommended in the "journal" that was in our room. It was a terrific find. It was maybe once a house on the side of Highway 101 and overlooks somewhat of a swamp with berries growing that has been converted into a wonderful breakfast spot. They had homemade bread for toast and the slices were huge. Dave had an omelet and I had pancakes with marion berries and homemade cream.

We then drove south to Newport and walked around the various shops and watched a fishing boat prepare crab for the people who had gone out that morning. We went to eat at a local place where Dave again had a whole crab and I had a cup of chowder. For dinner, we went to J's Fish and Chips a wonderful little place in Lincoln City where the chef brought us some chowder that he had made up in the back. Dave happily "tasted" it and loved it. So the guy sent a big container home with us for later which made Dave very happy.

On Tuesday, we packed up and drove home. We got behind a truck painting lines on the road which was going very slow so we didn't stop at the Spirit Mountain Casino buffet on the way out of town like I wanted to, but we did stop and eat in Tualatin at Rose's where I again had fish and chips and Dave had some kind of weird sandwich with meat and egg salad.

It was a wonderfully relaxing trip, I got a lot of reading done and I took a nice hot bath in the big jetted tub that overlooks the beach each night. I also read the great Chesapeake Bay trilogy by Nora Roberts given to me by my Mother in Law. I just found out there is a 4th book so I'm trying to find it.

On the trip, for the first time in my life, I ate seafood. And liked it. Yesterday was my birthday and Dave took me out for fish and chips at a great place called Fresh Off The Hook here in Boise. We also went out for a nice dinner at the Cottonwood Grille with his sister and her boyfriend Saturday night. Then we went to a new comedy club (since the Funny Bone is gone) and had a great night out. In 2 weeks, we are headed to the Bay Area where I plan on seeking out more delicious seafood! I love summer!!

The full album of pictures of our Oregon Coast trip are here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pretzels and Oatmeal

In January, I decided I was DONE carrying around the extra 20lbs I had accumulated in the past 4 years. When I came back from our family cruise to Mexico, I started hitting the gym more and watching what I ate using the Weight Watchers point method which had been successful for me in the past. It went well and I lost a few pounds. Then my employer announced they were going to start a "Biggest Loser" challenge and my SIL was going to participate with her work also and we made a side bet for the loser to buy the winner a pedicure. We divided into teams at work at weighed in on Feb 28th. I weighed in at 158.5 and I am 5'4". My goal weigh was/is 135. I really don't know if that's doable, since I seem to be hovering right around 143, but I am still trying.

For 10 weeks, I went to the gym 6 days a week, ate well and changed my lifestyle habits. I cut out coffee completely (because of my cream usage), increased my water, cut back on drinking and did all kinds of physical activity at the gym (weights, cardio, yoga, pilates).

On May 8, I weighed in at 141.7 and actually won the biggest loser competition at my work (top female) because I had lost 11% of my body weight. I was shocked that I had one, but very pleased because of all my hard work. I won a year's paid membership at the gym which was really cool because that of course saves me money every month.

I've always liked oatmeal, but became very discouraged when I found out those little packets were 3 weight watchers points each. Well, 1 never filled me up and I hated to blow 6 points every morning so I bought some instant oatmeal in the bulk, a bag of frozen blueberries and a bottle of maple syrup. For about 4 points, I now have every day a cup of 5 grain organic oatmeal, blueberries and a bit of maple syrup. It is delicious, filling and by far my favorite meal. I've had it every day at work for 6 months and look forward to it every day.

My other favorite snack is pretzels. Frequently at night, after dinner I want something. I'm not really a sweets or chips person, but I do like a little something. Needless to say, whatever I would find (granola bar, ice cream, crackers, etc) was never a very good choice or satisfying. I now keep pretzels and whatever I can fit in 1 hand is my night time snack (if needed). They are crunchy, salty and only about 118 calories (approximately 2 points). So, now I buy the pillowcase sized sack of pretzels and forget those expense 100 Calorie snacks that are good, but tiny and not very satisfying.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my journey. I'm still eating well, weighing in weekly (and documenting my weight on my calendar) and going to the gym. My goal is still 135, but I'm happy to stay where I am (in my size 8 jeans!!)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Free Money

With gas and grocery prices on the rise, there has been more and more info on the web and in the news about being frugal and taking advantage of cost savings wherever possible. I've always been frugal, my parents and grandparents taught me well. I thought I would share some of the great ways I get free money or save money for my family.

401k Contributions
This has been hammered into the ground everywhere, but (especially younger) people still aren't all doing it. If your company offers ANY kind of matching on a 401k/403b plan, you MUST contribute the amount to get the matching contribution. This is FREE money. It doesn't get any better than this!

I've been riding the bus for almost a year now, but this may not be available where you are or for your circumstances. If public transportation isn't an option for you, look into ride share, park and ride or even walking/biking to work. If you just can't do it for work, look at other trips you make on your spare time and try and take the vehicle in your house with the best gas mileage, take your bike or combine trips. Always, run your errands in order around town so you are not backtracking. If you have a doctor in a certain part of town and there happens to be a store there, plan to go there when you have a doctor appointment. My friend who grooms my dogs lives near Costco, so when I go visit her, I hit Costco. My son's doctor is in Meridian so when he goes to the doctor, I go to Winco. Planning ahead is key, but the pay off is great financially and you might just save yourself some time also.

Credit Card Rewards
Now, I only recommend this if you are financially responsible. It has taken me a lot of years to get to the point where I can charge my month's worth of expenses and pay it off each month. When I was younger, I had the mindset that whatever I charged was somewhat free. The bill would come at the end of the month and I would always be surprised. These days, I use mvelopes and file my financial transactions daily, so there are no surprises. I know and plan how much my credit card bill is each month. Dave and I currently have 4 credit cards that we use. The Chase visa is for main expenditures and we get 1% cash back on any and all purchases. The American Express card is a one savings account and we use that at Costco since they do not accept MC/Visa. We get the 1% reward put into a savings account. Our Discover card is just for gas and automotive expenses and for those types of transactions we earn 5%. These rewards are able to be cashed in for credit on the account, so the rewards go back into the same debit. This comes in handy now when gas prices on are the rise. I have a monthly calendar item for each card to check the balances and redeem the rewards when it reaches a certain level. There is no benefit to earning the rewards and not using them! I was actually able to buy a $399 ipod touch earlier this year from credit card points. We even run medical expenses through the credit cards to get the rewards.

Flexy/Health Savings Account
If your employer offers a flexible spending account for medical expenses you should also participate. Figure out EVERY possible out of pocket medical expense you might have in a given year and they take that amount out over your paychecks throughout the year. You do not pay income tax on this money. This year, my 13 year old was going to get braces - a cost of $4700 if I paid in full (a 5% discount). I was planning on using the rewards Visa (to earn 1% cash back) and then getting that money from my flexy. Since he was in the hospital for 10 days, we have opted to use the $5k that I elected for 2008 medical expenses for that and are submitting all the other bills in the family to reach that amount. Next year we will plain again for the braces and I'll do the same thing. So, what might have cost $4935, actually costs $3159 if you consider the cash rewards, paying in full and the tax savings. The bottom line is that any money you contribute to the flexy, you get back when you submit a qualifying receipt and you didn't pay income taxes and it may possibly drop your income to a lower tax bracket. Most employers offer this and a daycare savings plan (which works the same way for child/elderly care expenses) to employees and often times I think the benefit isn't used because people don't understand it or see it's benefit. It really is a huge money saver.

Smarter Shopping & Freezing
Shop sales, shop in bulk, shop less often and plan your meals. I don't go to the closest grocery store to my house even though it is convenient because it is expensive. Instead, when I am across town, I choose the cheapest store in town to shop. Yes, it's a bit of a drive (5 miles) and I have to bag my own groceries but if I can combine it with another trip, the only thing I'm out is the hassle of bagging my own stuff, which I don't mind because I think I do a better job than most of them anyway. If you have the storage space, buy items in larger quantities (only if it's cheaper, bigger isn't always better!) and put into smaller containers/packages and freeze. I freeze everything. I have a 21 cu freezer and keep it full of food and frozen milk jugs so it runs more efficiently. If the power ever goes out, it also has a much longer life with the extra ice inside.

Eating/Drinking Out
I am always amazed at how expensive it is to eat out. I can feed my family of 4 (3 boys 13, 17 & Dad) and myself for around $10/meal. If we eat out, it is usually $50-$100. Even little things like not getting a soda when you're out or skipping that morning coffee can add up to huge savings at the end of the month. Recently my SIL and I made 46 meals (23 each). We figured the cost to be $5.72 for each meal. This is for the main dish only, but for each of us to feed our families for 4 for under $6 I think is a steal. And it's good food. We are using the book Fix, Freeze & Feast that I heard about in the Manic Mommies podcast. I also do things on my own like make batches of rice for the freezer on a Saturday. I also make lasagnas in big batches and brown ground beef in 6 lb batches to freeze for later use (see pic). Even making your grocery list based on the meals you plan to cook for your family will save you money because you won't be running to the store for little items the rest of the month.

I donate all unwanted items to a local charity a get a tax write off for doing so. Once a year we have a garage sale and sell household items. I keep books, cd's and movies that we no longer want listed on Periodically, I sell things on ebay. Most of us have too much stuff and others would benefit from having some of our "extra". They get a great deal and you get a little money back on your investment.

There's lots of things people can do to save money. Obviously the biggest financial lesson is if you don't have enough money you have to either spend less or make more. Sometimes you can't make more and sometimes you can't spend less, but you can almost always do SOMETHING to save somewhere.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gadgets I Can't Live Without

Inspired by Philoking's post on Gadgets He Can't Live Without, here are my favorite gadgets:

Blackberry Pearl 8100 - Since this delivers my work email and it is my telephone, I never leave home without the Blackberry. Purchased when it first came out, the Pearl has great typing using SureType, email, web access, my calendar and contacts. With EDGE, I can browse the internet but it's not very speedy. The 8120 is out, but my plan isn't ready for an upgrade yet. I have added a 1 gig MicroSD card for picture and MP3 storage but since I mostly listen to podcasts on my Ipods (see below), I actually don't use it for a music player. The camera is only 1 megapixel, so I only use it in a picture taking emergency. It is a great device and I can hardly wait to get the 8120 which has wi-fi for making phone calls when out of service areas (my parents live where there is no T-Mobile), the SD card is on the side and the camera has been upgraded to a 2 megapixel model.

Ipod - I use the term loosely, as I have 5 ipods. I have an old 512 shuffle that is supposedly Dave's but I manage it for him. When I recently got a newer 1 gig shuffle, I said that was his, but I still use that one also. The 512 is on the treadmill for works and the 1 gig shuffle I use at night for listening to hypnosis audio books. I mostly use the 32 gig Ipod Touch as it does video and audio. It also has wi-fi which is handy except there doesn't seem to be wi-fi when I'm not at home or work and in both of those places, I typically don't need it because I have PC's. I also have a 4 gig Nano that I use when I don't need video or want something small and lightweight that I don't have to worry about breaking if I'm biking or working out. It also has GREAT battery life which the Ipod touch does NOT. I have a 5G video that I used to carry with me everywhere but the Ipod Touch has kind of replaced it because of the bigger video screen. So the 5G is now my "car" ipod since I have the Denison Ice ipod integration in my Honda Accord. I basically don't go anywhere without at least 1 Ipod and I'm almost always wearing or listening to one.

Laptop - If I were traveling, I would definitely take my laptop though now that I have the Ipod touch which does Google Reader, Twitter, Gmail and Facebook I may not need it. Though, if I needed to access my home or work PC the only way to do it would be through my laptop or using someone else's PC. I'm sure I will continue to travel with it. I would also need it to offload pictures from my camera SD card (though I have 2 and have never filled them both except when we got married). I currently have a 3 year old HP 15" laptop that I have upgraded the RAM and hard drive. We also use the HP laptop for our podcast and it works great when traveling.

Camera - My blackberry has a built it camera, but like I mentioned before it is only a 1 megapixel so it's not very good for pictures. I am a picture taking fool and also the dedicated family scrapbooker so I am always taking pictures at gatherings. I currently have an HP Photosmart R927 which I like a lot. It does take video and I wish it were better quality, but it has everything I need in a cheap point and shoot.

Car - I have a 2005 Honda Accord EX with V6, leather interior, sunroof, spoiler and bra that I couldn't get far without. I do ride the bus to and from work, but the Honda is a GREAT car that gets about 25 mpg in the city and up to 35ish on long trips. I bought it brand new and am about a week away from making the last payment!!

I also occasionally use my son's PSP and have a ton of other gadgets, but these are my favs!!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I recently found a former co-worker on FaceBook which led me to her blog which I've been reading and really enjoying. THAT'S what made me think I should blog more. I think in my last post I thought I should blog more, but didn't know why. Yeah, so that's why.

A few years ago, I remember my co-worker Dan talking about geocaching and how he had his GPS and would go looking for things out in the boonies. I thought it sounded strange and didn't really give it much thought. Two summers ago when Aaron and I went to CA and visited my Dad, we somehow traded my radar detector for his new Mustang for a Garmix etrex navigator. At the time, I thought I could use it for directions but Aaron and I plugged in into the car on the way home, thought it was cool and then I never used it again.

Well, last month Aaron was grounded and looking for something to do and had heard about geocaching on the internet and decided he wanted to do it. I agreed and said I would drive him around but he needed to do all the research and find out where they were and give me directions. So we've been out a few times around Boise and it's a lot of fun. We found interesting items in the little cans and containers and left some things we had and even met a lady who was out on Easter that lived in Oregon. I think Aaron keeps in touch with her online at the geocache site.

What you do is go to the website and find cache's to hunt for that are near you. We print off the GPS coordinates, the description on the cache (including any hints!) and then driving directions that get us close. We put all the ones that we want to find in order and head out. We park the car, then grab the Garmin and walk around until we get close. The GPS that we have gets us within 10-30 feet of the item and then it's just figuring out the clever hiding place that the person used. We even went out once on our bikes and down to the greenbelt. Bike caching! LOL
Anyway, it's a lot of fun and I hope to do it when I travel and hope that Aaron's interest in it stays around!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Places I'd Like to Visit

I've been thinking I'd like to blog more. I'm not sure why, but since I spend most of my free time reading other people's blogs and other various feeds in my Google Reader, maybe I have something interesting to share. I do have a great interest in a bunch of different areas and a lot of people think I know some stuff, so why not blog more?

So I was watching something on TV last night and they were talking about a destination and I was like "Wow, I want to go there!" and then I realized there a few places I want to visit, so maybe I should write them down. So why not blog them?

So, here's my list. What's your list?

Hawaii - I've always wanted to go to Hawaii, I don't even know why. I think there is some dream of beaches and beauty and I know I want to visit somewhere where there is clear water, so maybe that is the attraction. My hope is that if I visit some place with beautiful clear waters, my fear of swimming in deep or open water will subside. I would also like to try snorkeling, again, I don't like water or being under water, but something about clear water interests me because I am ok in swimming pools (but there's nothing to look at!) Years ago I had a saltwater aquarium and I just think it would be so cool to see these fish in the wild. I don't think they live in Hawaii, so that may need to be a different destination.

Grand Canyon - This isn't even that far from where I live (Boise, Idaho) and since I grew up in CA, I can't believe I've never been, but I haven't. I saw that glass walkway thing on the internet when it was finished and don't think I would like that because I am afraid of heights, but maybe a hike down it or a flight over it would be fun. I think Hoover dam is near there, I'd like to see that too as I've only seen in on TV. I also think Aaron should visit the Grand Canyon.

New York - I'd love to someday visit New York, but I know I'd be afraid. Recently a girl at work visited there with some of her girlfriends and they did a lot of fun stuff. My Uncle and his family also visited there and I just love looking at their pictures and the fun they had. A lot of TV shows I watch are filmed there so maybe that is part of my fascination.

Palm Springs - This is what caused me to write this post, I just remembered. I called my grandmother yesterday and she was telling me how she visited there on the way to Tucson, AZ for spring break (yes, my grandmother had a better spring break than I). Dave's sister and husband have mentioned it as a nice place to visit also. If it's very hot, I'd have to go in late Spring or early Fall so I didn't roast. Not sure what I'd do there, I guess just lay out in the sun.

I guess that's about it. Kind of a boring list.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Riding The Bus

Growing up on 10 acres, the only way to get anywhere was to have a car. When I moved to the Bay Area, I had a car and never rode public transportation. I never thought I needed to and certainly didn't *want* to. I've lived in Idaho since 1993 and again, have always had a car. When I first moved here, I did carpool for a while because my husband worked at a job near mine and at the time, they were widening I-84 from 2 to 3 lanes so traffic was bad. After that, I went back to commuting alone. I've always lived in Meridian or West Boise and have worked downtown for 13 of the 15 years I've been here, so my commute has usually been between 10-15 miles each way. Not far by comparison in most towns, but far enough that the cost and wear and tear on the vehicle is noticeable.

In the summer of 2007, I started noticing a bunch of people standing on the corner outside my subdivision and then I would frequently get behind the bus going down Chinden. I then noticed that when the bus got here, it actually stopped the building where I worked and I had to park 2 blocks away. I knew my employer offered some sort of bus pass, but didn't know anything about it. So, I checked with them and found that if I rode the bus and gave up my monthly parking pass, I would not only save money but be able to park in the fancy garage below the building (meaning never step foot outside when arriving at work or leaving) 10 times per month!! This is quite the deal. I called Valley Ride and found out what time the bus stopped outside my subdivision and have been riding every day since last July. I do drive about once a month, usually if I have an errand to run that is near work, but most things I need to come home anyway (usually to get Aaron) so I just ride the bus and then grab the car and go.

The first day I rode, a young man fell asleep on my shoulder as we rode. This was a little disconcerting, but as a Mom, I let him sleep until his friend laughed and woke up him. My husband was appalled and had been questioning why I was riding the bus anyway.

When I visited CA in October, I told my family I was riding the bus and they all looked at me like I was crazy. I've found this to be common. People wonder why someone with a perfectly good car would ride the bus. I'll tell you why. I save money yes, but more importantly, I don't have to worry about a thing driving to work. In fact, I get to read, visit with someone, listen to my ipod or just stare off into space. I don't get upset about traffic, worried about icy roads or pissed off at other drivers.

Since I've become more comfortable with public transportation, we actually rode the bus in San Diego to go shopping after our cruise and even rode it up in McCall so we didn't have to find a parking place in town. Also, when I visit the Bay Area now, I am much more likely to ride BART or the bus system there because I have an idea how it works.

I love riding the bus and recommend anyone who has it available give it a try!! Most people that ride the bus are very nice and helpful and welcome new riders and will help you out. All the drivers are a kick, and I've enjoyed getting to know them as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCall Winter Carnival

Dave, Aaron and I (plus 2 Havanese) headed to McCall for the 2nd weekend of the annual Winter Carnival in McCall, Idaho. Full pictures here. Since Dave and I met, we have spent president's day weekend in McCall with all the kids. We used to ski but as the kids grew and their interest waned, we stopped going. Last year, Dave and I (plus doggies) drove up for the day on the actual carnival weekend. We stopped for breakfast in Cascade which took 2 hours and caused us to get behind a huge accident that had happened right in town as the parade was starting. Needless to say, we missed the parade, but walked around town with the girls in their stroller and had a nice day anyway. This year we decided to stay over, and to go the next weekend so there would be less people. Well, I didn't realize that they had moved the harmonica festival to McCall and on that weekend, so it was still crowded but not nearly as bad as it was the weekend before.

It was the first trip for the new Acura MDX that Dave bought last Fall. Aaron was excited and of course immediately hooked up the PS2 and wireless headphones and started gaming. I had my ipod and was listening to podcasts as I read RSS feeds from offline google reader. Poor Dave was left to listen to XM all alone on the wonderful 10 speaker dolby surround system.

The drive up was a bit slow since the roads were snow covered, but not bad at all. We all got off work and school early and headed out about 2pm. We arrived in McCall after about 4:30p and stayed at the AmericInn which was excellent. They had an indoor hot tub and pool and a great breakfast each morning. They of course allowed dogs and I always enjoy staying with other dog people as they are usually friendly.

Friday night, I had made reservations for The Mill which is Dave and Aaron's favorite place to get prime rib. Dave had the "enormous" size which was something like 44 oz and Aaron had the "medium" which was still a huge 36 oz. They both did really well and managed to eat almost all of it. I was stuffed with my measly 12 oz New York steak.

Saturday it was snowing, but fairly nice out as we headed into town to look at the sculptures and go to a little Craft festival. We even rode the bus into town so we could leave the MDX safe in the hotel parking lot. We took pictures of most of the sculptures and even found Aaron a new pair of snow pants in the local thrift store since we found out after we arrived that he didn't have his anymore. He was also fascinated by the huge icicles hanging around various buildings. He had some fun with those. We came back to the hotel in the afternoon and Aaron and I headed to the pool. Aaron met some kids his age and had a great time playing pool games. I sat with my laptop and ipod and was of course happy to have time to do that. The girls were really well behaved and did well in the crates in the hotel while we were out and of course enjoyed the longs walks in the deep snow. There was a storage facility near the hotel that I walked them around and I let them off leash a few times and they ran crazy.

Saturday night we headed out to Mexican. We decided to walk since it was close by and it was a nice evening. It was snowing pretty heavily by dark and on the way back from dinner, we saw the fireworks that launched over the lake. I had never seen fireworks in the snow before, it was pretty cool.

Sunday we had breakfast and then headed home as it was Superbowl Sunday and Dave wanted to see the game. We unpacked and had a nice relaxing, quiet, Superbowl in our jammies and ordered chinese food for dinner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cruise to Mexico

I believe it was this summer that Dave's youngest sister suggested that all of the siblings and Dave's Mom go on a cruise together to celebrate some monumental birthdays with spouses and no kids. She found a great price on a 5 day trip to Mexico that was a few weeks ago. 10 of us went in all, Myrna's 4 kids, Dave being the oldest and only boy, along with his 3 younger sisters.

We left on Monday, waking up to fresh snow in Boise. Dave and I drove to the airport to meet the others and luckily our flight was only delayed about a half an hour. We landed in San Diego where we met Myrna and Art who flew from the Bay Area and then together took cabs to the port where we boarded the ship.

We sailed on Carnival cruise line and the ship was the Elation. It was a 10 year old ship, 12 decks high and very nice. We got on board and by that night all of us were sea sick. I have gone on a cruise 20 years before, a 7 day to Mexico and never got sick. Everyone else who usually didn't get sick wasn't feeling well either. We talked to some of the crew on board and they said it was the first it had been in 2 years. There was a storm the weekend before we left that brought high winds and heavy rains to the west coast. It certainly left the Pacific Ocean a bit tumultuous.

The next day was much better and by Wednesday we were in Cabo San Lucas for the day. We all got off the ship and split into 3 groups. Several went on a zip line tour, Dave and I went on a Cabo by Land and Sea tour that he had won and 4 others went shopping. We all met up at Cabo Wabo, Sammy Hagar's bar at the end of the day and had a bite to eat and then headed back to the ship.

Friday we were in Ensenada where we all went shopping. I also had my hair put into corn rows. It was a fun day that we topped off by eating an authentic Mexican lunch at a small open cafe. Dave even had a cuban cigar.

The meals were great, the company good and the weather nice. We were so busy I never so much as cracked a book open or even listened to an ipod. For me, that was amazing. I also did not take my laptop but I did have email through my Blackberry which had service the entire time so I even Twittere'd a few times.

When we arrived back in San Diego on Saturday morning, we had a few hours before our flights left so us girls and Dave took the city bus into town and visited the mall. It was fun to see a bit of the city and I was glad I was an experienced bus rider and was comfortable trying public trans portion away from home.

It was a nice, fun filled vacation with great company. I really enjoyed spending time with Dave's family and it actually turned out to be a lot of fun traveling in a large group because there was always someone to do stuff with :)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Looking Forward to 2008

I actually meant to cover my goals for 2008 in the last post, but 2007 turned out to be full enough to justify it's own post. So I've been following all the talk and blog posts about resolutions, goals, etc for 2008 and thought I would document mine merely for the reason of measurement for next year. So here we go:

* be patient with the kids and choose my battles
* be a good spouse and give my marriage 110% each day
* continue to train the dogs and walk them at least 3x week
* maintain good walking habits (3.5 miles/day) and attending yoga at least 1/week
* eat fresh fruits and vegetables each day (at least 2 servings)
* continue resolution to not smoke (began 1/1/06)
* learn more about investing and monitor personal finances (in moderation)
* read more (self-help, learning and enriching titles instead of junk)
* make time for family and friends
* finish scanning all the family pictures and create my grandmother's scrapbook by her bday in October
* begin work on a scrapbook for my Mom of "S&K Ranch" history (critters, cars, buildings, etc)
* make DVD's of scanned pictures for family members to deliver in March with original pics
* complete house inventory for insurance purposes (software is installed)
* watch less mindless TV
* drink less alcohol
* drink more water

* maintain a positive attitude about my work, job and co-workers
* figure out what I want to do with myself (school, different career path, own business?)
* attend some kind of training to learn some new skills

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007: The Year in Review

As I begin the new year I tend to look back and review what happened this year. I started out this year living apart from Dave and Aaron living with his Dad in Reno until the end of July. I was very happy to move back in with Dave in March after our few months apart. Dave even re-proposed and gave me my ring back after I moved back in and we recommitted ourselves to each other.

Dave and I visited his Dad and step-Mom in Yachats, OR at the beginning of February for a wonderful long weekend of relaxation and eating great food. We also made a day trip drive up to McCall for the Winter Carnival. We took the dogs and had a fun day despite a long delay at breakfast and an even longer delay because of a traffic accident that caused us to miss the parade.

At the beginning of March I took a few days and went to Sun Valley with Chloe to swap out some computers for work at our Ketchum office. A few weeks later, I went to see Aaron and spend some time with family. I picked Aaron up in NV and then we went onto my Dad's where my 2 step-sisters met us. We had a nice long weekend there and then went on to Sacramento for a few days. I ended up returning Aaron a day early and heading home from that trip and wondering how things were going to go in the future with Aaron as he actually seemed worse.

Shortly after that, Aaron started talking about wanting to come home. I told him he had made a 6 months commitment to his Dad's and he needed to stay. This was probably the best decision I made. By the end of his 7 month stay, he was very appreciative to come home and has been on good behavior for the most part since. He is also off his medication, something we had been wanting to move towards but I was not brave enough to do it during the school year, so I was glad he did it at his Dad's. Aaron will be 13 in March and I think we are only beginning the challenges we will have with him during his teen years. But, I am hopeful that he will continue to do well, being respectful, minding adults and doing well in school. My goal is to remain patient, consistent and strong.

At the end of May, Dave and I traveled to AZ to stay again with his Dad and step-mom this time at their home in Green Valley, AZ. We had another nice, long weekend of relaxing, sun and good eats. On June 1st, Dave and I celebrated being together for 6 years. Shortly after that, we decided to get married before Fall and begin planning the Oregon Coast wedding for Labor Day weekend.

At the end of June, my good friend Wendy got married and I flew up to Seattle to join her and her son Kyler on their special day. I have know them for almost 10 years now and it was great to meet her husband and catch up with her Dad.

July was VERY busy at work as we completed a huge project that required all the computers to be reimaged and everyone trained on a new system in a 2 week span. This was why Aaron stayed another month at his Dad's. I was very happy for the project to be completed and for him to be home by the end of July (also my birthday).

In August, Dave took Matt and a truck full of stuff up to Moscow for his Junior year at U of I. Since he moved out of the dorms and into an apartment, he was finally able to take some furniture and more kitchen stuff. Aaron and I took our annual trip to CA to visit family and had a nice time catching up with family and friends.

In September, Dave and I traveled to Lincoln City where we got married at the Yachats Light House on September 1st. We had a wonderful, romantic, long weekend of beautiful weather and great food on the coast. Then it was back to school for everyone and the beginning of Fall.

At the beginning of October, I reduced my work week to 30 hours, so working 6 hours a day so that I could be home after school with Aaron. This has been a great change for the house but the lesser paycheck is taking some getting used to. The extra 2 hours a day allows me to get more done and definitely be more relaxed before the dinner/evening rush. Also in October Aaron and I made a quick trip to CA to attend my great-Uncle's funeral.

In November, I tackled the downstairs bathroom, removing wallpaper, texturing and painting. It was a big project for such a little room. Our Thanksgiving was nice, Matt was down from school and joined us at my friend Heather's for a wonderful meal. December was busy and full of the holidays with decorating, gift buying and lots of cooking.

Aaron is visiting his Dad for 2 weeks in Sparks, NV as Dave and I are headed on a 6 day cruise to Mexico with his 3 sisters and their spouses and his Mom and step-Dad next week. I can hardly wait!!

In February, we are taking the new MDX to McCall for a weekend to enjoy the Winter Carnival. We also hope to visit the Oregon coast in the summer or early Fall to celebrate our 1 year anniversary.

All in all, 2007 was a year of change, growth and acceptance. I am looking forward to the new growth and knowledge 2008 will bring.