Friday, November 15, 2019

$100 Fun Things Budget | October 2019

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November has sort of gotten away from me.  In the blink of the eye it’s mid-November already.  I’ve had things going on that I will tell you about in a month or so, maybe two. Nothing to be alarmed about, but it has kept me busy.

It’s time for the belated October 2019 edition of the “$100 Fun Things Budget”!  The below are the items I purchased using my $100 Fun Things Budget.  To read the rules of what falls under this budget, please read my previous post that talked about it.

October 2019:  $96

  1. Adidas Lite Racer Cloudfoam Slip-On Walking Shoes  $22
  2. Max & Mia The Essential Travel Cardigan  $25
  3. Felina Comfyz lounge set  $13
  4. Sarasa 4+1 Multi Pen Doraemon Time Travel Silver special edition  $15
  5. Sarasa Select Ink refills  $7
  6. Zebra Mildliner Doraemon Time Travel edition  $15

I had two pairs of Skechers slip on walking shoes that I loved and wore for like 3 years.  They’ve been worn out, so I bought the Adidas from Costco.com.  They were a good deal for $22 (but are no longer available on their website).  I had read that they run HUGE.  I’m normally a size 6.5-7 in women’s shoes.  I decided to buy a size 6 and they’re still quite big!  I have to wear thick socks so my feet don’t slide around in them.  So they do run HUGE, if you are interested in them.

I ADORE the Max & Mia travel cardigan!  They feel soooo soft, exactly like the popular Barefoot Dreams circle cardigans, except waaaaaaay cheaper at $25!  I got it in store at Costco, because I wanted to wear it on my two plane trips in October.  On plane rides it feels like you’re wearing a soft blanket!  I loved it so much that I went back to Costco two weeks later to buy more as Christmas gifts, but by then they only had size L and bigger, and none of the people I was buying for were that size.  Too bad!  And it’s not on Costco online, so no dice.  I linked to Amazon above but it’s also large size and above, and costs more.  It’s still cheaper than the Barefoot Dreams version though!

I also bought the two piece Felina Comfyz lounge set at Costco in store.  They were on major sale at $13!  Both the top and the bottom are so soft and comfy.  I’ll definitely get a lot of cozy use out of it this winter! 

By the way, I count clothes & shoes in my Fun Budget because lord knows I have enough of clothing that I do not NEED anymore, so I have to use my fun budget to purchase them.

The next three items are all Doraemon related. 

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It’s a long nostalgic story, but I started reading Doraemon comics (manga) in Chinese when I was in early grade school in Taiwan.  It was originally published in Japanese but translated into Chinese.  (He’s a robotic cat who time travels.)  I still have some of those books!  Long story short, over 40 years later Doraemon is still quite big in Japan.  I noticed that Amazon even have the mangas translated into English, so a couple of years ago I bought and downloaded some of them to read on my iPad.  I *LOVED* reading them as a kid, and I just want to keep reliving it, you know?  Lo and behold, I was on Instagram the other day and Tokyo Pen Shop announced they had Doraemon special limited edition pens in stock.  I was so excited that I went to the website right away the bought the multi-pen, different colors of refills for it, and the mildliners.  If you love Japanese pens and stationery, I highly recommend Tokyo Pen Shop.  They’re actually based in the US (Iowa), but source all their special items from Japan. 

Just look at the different Doraemon facial expressions on each highlighter!  It makes me smile every time I see it!

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Doraemon multi-pen with 4 gel ink colors and a mechanical pencil.

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My entire pen collection is swatched in a big notebook that I call my “comPENdium” (ha ha, get it?)  If you are interested I will write a post about my comPENdium soon.  It’s indexed by type of pen and everything!  It even includes all my fountain pens and ink refills.  I keep the comPENdium updated because it’s fun to look at, but also so I don’t accidentally buy the same pen when I already have it.

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That’s it for my October Fun Budget purchases!  I’m making my list for Black Friday sales as we speak.  I have gift budgets for my family and a few friends that I’m purchasing gifts for.  I also have a budget for myself.  Top of my list is a new Canon Pixma for printing photos for scrapbooking!  I’m totally excited to jump back into scrapbooking.  My 7-year old Canon Pixma MG5320 finally bit the dust a few months ago.  I can only scrapbook if I can print photos at home, so I need to buy a new printer.  Hoping for good Black Friday sales!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ohio Trip | October 2019

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We spent 11 days traveling in October to Vancouver and Ohio.  We planned a trip back to Ohio at the end of October to see our new nephew Pierce around 3 months old, and before Todd’s sister Amy went back to work from maternity leave.  We happened to be in Ohio in August when Pierce was born, so this time we can see him much bigger and more interactive! 

We left on Saturday 10/26.  Our flight was delayed by two hours in Nashville, so we didn’t get into Cleveland until 10:30 PM.  We watched Ohio State beat Wisconsin on YouTube TV on the iPad at the airport.

On Sunday 10/27 we just hung out, because it was rainy there.  We got to have lunch at CoreLife Eatery.  I helped Amy & Luke with some financial planning as far as budgeting, retirement, college funds, etc.  It was very productive for being a rainy day!

On Monday 10/28 we had a very full day.  In the morning we drove to the Goodyear Blimp hangar at Wingfoot Lake, Ohio.  My father-in-law Tim is contracting at Goodyear and arranged a special tour of the hangar and the Wingfoot One Blimp for us!  It was a guided tour with one of the pilots of the blimp. 

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We got to learn the history of the Goodyear Blimps, including involvement in WWII and blimps as part of the submarine fleet in the Navy.  It was quite interesting. 

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This is one of the blimps that you see at sporting events!

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The aerial camera is mounted in the front of the gondola, below the nose.

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There’s a whole rack of AV equipment for broadcasting the images to the networks for the events.

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A view of the blimp cockpit.

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After the tour, we drove to the Goodyear headquarters in Akron, where we got signed in as Tim’s visitors.  They are very secretive at Goodyear HQ.  We got signed in and they put stickers on our phones to cover both the front and back cameras so we couldn’t take photos while there.  Tim treated us to the really awesome cafeteria there for lunch, and we got to visit the offices where he works. 

In the afternoon we started cooking for our Very Ghoulish Halloween Dinner!  Before the trip, Todd’s sister Amy planned for us to cook an entire dinner made of ghoulish things to celebrate Halloween.  It was all hands on deck as we prepared the extravaganza! 

I made these Crescent Mummy Dogs!

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Amy made these spider cookies.

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Todd got up early before the blimp tour so he could make this brain strawberry cheesecake!

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My mother-in-law Sylvia made this spaghetti head with “eyeballs”.  The noodles are made of black beans and actually very good!  The texture was just right.  Not too soggy, just chewy enough.

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So the idea was to make an entire human body of food items.  My brother-in-law Luke made the yummy ribs by sous vide and then grilling.  Get it, ribs?  He also grilled up some sausages to look like intestines.

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We had some chicken legs (as legs), and some mashed potatoes and green beans.

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Some more views of this ghoulish dinner.

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It turned out so fun and also Pinterest-worthy!  Amy got to check this off her Halloween bucket list, ha ha.  The family that eats together, stays together!

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We were supposed to fly back on Tuesday 10/29, but Southwest had flight cancellations and delays out of Denver, and our plane couldn’t make it to Cleveland for our flight out.  The delay would cause us to miss our connecting flight in Phoenix, so we booked flights for Wednesday at 8am to Atlanta, then San Diego.  But it happens that Tuesday was Luke’s birthday, so we got to celebrate with him with dinner out at Kingfish

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Some other things… Noodle’s cousin Morton is a 24 lb Maine Coon!  I could barely hold him, he’s so big, LOL.

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And the fall foliage is just so pretty.  Something we don’t see in SoCal.

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And… looks like Sylvia & Todd have their hands full with the kids, ha ha.

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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Cutting The Cord and Ditching Dish

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Remember when I wrote a post about our 12 month spending analysis, and how 5.5% of our expenses are utilities, of which a good chunk is our monthly satellite TV?  After a few weeks of research, we finally made the leap to cutting the cord!  We are now officially TV streaming people. 

We, along with most people, didn’t really understand how far streaming live TV has come in the last two years.  There are actually many choices to stream live TV.  There’s Hulu Live, Playstation Vue, Sling TV, YouTube TV, AT&T TV Now, DirecTV Now, etc.  For our needs, we evaluated Hulu Live and YouTube TV.  Most of these live streaming TV services will offer a free trial of a few days to a week so you can try out how streaming TV works, how it looks and functions, and how the interface works.  We did a week of free trial with Hulu Live, then did 5 day trial of YouTube TV. 

Here were the functions we were most concerned about, and how the two services stacked up.

  1. Channel SelectionYouTube TV has over 70 channels, while Hulu Live has almost the exact same number, but also includes Hulu original content and on-demand catalog.  There really wasn’t any major differences in channel selection.  We were mainly concerned about sports channels such as Big Ten Network, FS1, ESPN, CBS Sports Network, etc. and they all have them.
  2. Cost:  YouTube TV is $49.99/month.  Hulu Live is $45/month.  We also looked at AT&T TV Now, which has a $50/month plan and a $70/month plan.  For AT&T TV Now, you only get the Big Ten Network on the $70/month tier, so we eliminated them immediately.
  3. Cloud DVR:  Hulu Live gives you only 50 hours on their cloud DVR, while YouTube TV gives you UNLIMITED DVR and keeps the recordings for 9 months.  And you only have to tell it what your favorite sports teams are, and it will record every single game that your team is airing. Same with favorite shows. I dig it!
  4. Number of Simultaneous Devices/Streams:  Hulu TV allows 2 devices/streams, while YouTube TV allows 3 devices/streams.  You can watch on your smart TV, Roku, Fire stick, iPad, iPhone.  We watched the Ohio State football game while at the airport, on our iPad.
  5. Skipping Commercials:  Hulu TV doesn’t allow you to skip commercials (even on DVR recordings), unless you pay an additional $10/month.  YouTube TV allows commercial skip on shows that aren’t available on-demand.

The streaming picture quality was pretty much the same between Hulu Live and YouTube TV.  

A frequent question that we’ve gotten from family/friends is:  Can you get big events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars, etc.?  Well YES.  It is EXACTLY the same as cable/satellite TV, except much much cheaper!  (And you don’t pay taxes/fees like cable/satellite.  The price IS the amount you’re charged.)  We have over 70 channels of live TV, including all local channels, major networks, major cable channels, sports channels, etc.  When we looked at which channels we actually watch, it was only a handful.  Cable/satellite claims to give you hundreds of channels, but most of it is useless channels that we never watched, such as shopping channels, religious channels, double-counted HD vs SD channels, etc.  The only channel that I want to watch that isn’t available on YouTube TV is the Hallmark Channel, and I plan to pay for a month of Hallmark streaming for $7 during the holidays. 

After our free trials, we decided that YouTube TV best fit our needs and signed up!  I called a couple of days ago to cancel Dish Network. They offered to lower our monthly bill from $124 to $80. Too little, too late! I kept saying "no thank you, I just want to cancel the service". After three times, he finally gave up and gave me the deets on returning the equipment.  We are saving almost $75/month! And good riddance to Dish Network. Seriously. Why would I pay hardware rental fees for three TVs, when I can stream live TV with every channel I want to watch, on all three TVs, without equipment rental. Also no contract, so I can come and go as I please. Bye Felicia! Better late than never! And I’m saving $900/year!  Woohoo!

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fall Trip | Vancouver Day 5 Granville Island & Queen Elizabeth Park

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On Monday 10/7, we decided to check out Granville Island, which is located southwest of downtown Vancouver, across a bridge.  It was raining, so we decided to drive. 

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We were hungry and cold when we arrived, so we went into the first coffee shop we saw, GI Gelato & Coffee House, and got a latte and banana bread to share. 

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It really was underwhelming, to be quite honest.  But we got warmed up and were ready to check out Granville Island Public Market

I had heard about Lee’s Donuts already, so of course we had to check it out!  They don’t take cash at all, so we used our credit card for a pumpkin spiced donut, LOL.  (An int’l travel tip:  see if you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, use that card on your foreign trip.  We have one and we used that card throughout our trip to Vancouver.)

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Right outside the public market, you can see downtown Vancouver across the water.  It was quite picturesque!  20191007-2019-10-07 11.55.08_blog

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And because of the rain, we got to wear our ponchos and rainboots we bought for this trip.  (See poncho above in photo at Lee’s Donuts.) 

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Two days before the trip, this was what the forecast looked like.  So I got on Amazon and ordered rainboots and rain ponchos, LOL.  They arrived in time for our trip!

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Thank goodness it did not end up raining every single day of our trip!

After the donut, we checked out many more vendors at the Granville Island Public Market.  We had soups at The Stock Market.

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We bought some nuts and handmade treats at Bon Mano Bon to take home to gift to Fred, our neighbor and catsitter.  We got a huge “cinnamon record” pastry at Stuart’s Bakery.

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They also have a HUGE selection of other baked goods.  Look at that macaron display!

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We also got a proper latte at JJ Bean.

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We checked out a few more artisan stores at the market, including a bead store called Beadworks.

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And a paper/notebook/pen store called “Paper-Ya”. 

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Granville Island was awesome and fun, and perfect for a rainy day versus all the other outdoor activities we had gone on, such as the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Stanley Park

Since we were on the south side of Vancouver already, we went to see Queen Elizabeth Park.  It was free!  The park was on a hill, so you could see pretty far from it.  You could see farther if it weren’t cloudy and raining, LOL.

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We walked up and down the hilly trails for some awesome plants and botanical views.  It really was quite spectacular.  We can’t imagine the upkeep of this place.  We saw constant gardening workers coming and going.  And we were quite surprised that even in the fall, there was so much plants and flowers to see!

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I think the park is a popular location for wedding photos.

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I love this photo with all the colors of the plants, and the foggy background!

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We got back to the hotel and took a little break in the afternoon.  Then we walked a few blocks to dinner at Banana Leaf, a Malaysian restaurant.  My friend Jennifer had recommended this place to me when I asked on Facebook about visiting Vancouver.  They have several locations in Vancouver.  We went to the one on Davie Street.

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They had a Pride special of two special large plates for $17 CAD each.  One was the Vegetarian Mee Goreng with lettuce, cucumber, tofu goreng, pickled red cabbage, mee goreng, crush peanuts, vegetables, and egg.  We added chicken to the noodles for $3 CAD.

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The other Pride special plate was Rendang Beef plate with roti canai, eggplant fries, krupuk, rendang beef, mixed vegetable curry, and a fried egg. 

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Both plates were mega-delicious and we couldn’t have been happier with our dinner choice!

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Thus ended our last full day in Vancouver BC!  The trip was so much fun and I really enjoyed the city.  It was very metropolitan, yet clean!  And they have a diverse multi-culture, multi-ethnic city, with a lot of nature, culture, and food to offer.  Visiting Vancouver has been on our to-do list for a long time.  We’re glad to finally do it on our year of anniversary celebrations.  Some places we want to see next time in Vancouver:  the Richmond area’s Asian malls & markets, and the Richmond Night Market.  And taking the ferry ride to Vancouver Island in Victoria to see Butchart Gardens. 

The next day, Tuesday 10/8, we drove south from Vancouver back to Seattle, WA to fly home.  Because we both have Global Entry, we were able to use the NEXUS lanes to get through the US customs at the border really fast.  There was one car in front of us, and it took us two minutes to cross the border into the US again.  We showed our Global Entry cards to the US customs agent at the booth, and it was fast sailing from there.  If you travel to other countries, or even just Canada and Mexico a lot, I would highly recommend getting Global Entry for fast entry back into the United States through customs.  It’s only $100 for 5 years and it includes TSA Precheck!

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