Monday, September 16, 2019

Malibu Trip | Lodging and Eats

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Even though we’ve lived in SoCal for 20 years, we’ve actually never been to Malibu (right north of LA).  This year Todd decided to do his annual Olympic-distance triathlon in Malibu, so that we could visit a new place.  This is one of our 6 trips this year to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary

We booked our lodging several months ago through AirBnb.  Todd looked for reasonable hotels near the start of the triathlon and they were all over $300/night.  That’s one thing we found out rather quickly:  Malibu is very expensive to visit.  The hotels are pricey and so are restaurants.  However, Todd found this tiny house AirBnb with ocean views and only a couple of miles from the race start!  It was very cute and had everything we needed, so we booked it.  It was still pricey though.  $549.36 for two nights, including taxes, fees, and cleaning fee.  Another thing to be aware of is that the price per night you see when you look at the AirBnb website does not include the mandatory taxes, fees, and cleaning fee.  You could be paying as much as $100 more per night after it’s all said and done.  Buyer beware. 

We drove up on Thursday 9/12.  We didn’t leave until 11am-ish.  If you know Southern CA (esp LA) traffic, then you know you can’t drive anywhere during commuting hours.  Since we didn’t leave until 11am, we drove up to Carlsbad and decided to have lunch there at the brand-new Windmill Food Hall

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One thing we’ve come to realize about the food hall craze is that it’s actually not cheap to eat at food halls.  Even though it’s a building that houses quite a few stalls, and there’s no service at all, you still pay a lot for the choices. 

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I forgot to take a photo of the food we got.  Todd got chicken fingers from Cross Street, and I got Drunken Noodles with Shrimp at Thai Style.  We got out of there for $30.

Driving up to LA is always an adventure!  There was some stop and go, and finally 2.5 hours later, we arrived near Malibu.  However, we couldn’t check in to our AirBnb until 4pm, so we had a couple of hours to kill.  We decided to go to the outlet mall, but instead I asked Google Maps to take us to The Commons at Calabasas, which turned out NOT to be an outlet mall.  We had to drive through really narrow bendy mountain passes through Topanga Canyon to get there.  It was over 100 F there and just very hot.  So we decided to get some frozen yogurt at Menchie’s.  Todd was very excited about frozen yogurt since it was so hot!

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Then we hung out at what seemed like the world’s biggest Barnes & Noble, which had double escalators to an upstairs loft.  And a section just for Reese Witherspoon’s book club.

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Finally around 3:45 we left Calabasas and took the Kanan Dume Rd to Malibu.  We got into our tiny house AirBnb via a lockbox on the door.  It was very cute inside.

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Todd picked a local Mexican place for dinner:  Lilys Malibu, right down the street.  We looked and found it they close at 6pm, so we had to get there around 5:30 for dinner.  Todd had a carnitas burrito and I had chicken enchiladas.  It was fairly good, but pricey for Mexican at $28.

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We got back and sat on the deck of the tiny house to watch the sunset.  There’s view of the mountains, which extended all the way to the ocean.  Also, since it was a point, there were ocean views on three sides!

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The tiny house had a small flatscreen TV, but just with a Roku connection and no regular TV, so if you wanted to watch anything you had to log into the apps on the Roku.  We tried Netflix and someone else’s account was logged in, so we didn’t bother logging out and logging in.  Pro tip:  if you log into Netflix or other streaming apps while on vacation, be sure to log out when you leave.  We watched “Murder Mystery” on Netflix with Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler.  It was fairly entertaining.

On Friday morning we went to breakfast at Le Cafe de la Plage down the street.  Todd had bought some microwave popcorn and Coke at the grocery store the night before, so he ate that.  I got an omelette and a latte and it was $23 with tip.  Oh Malibu.  It was very good though, at least!

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We spent the rest of the morning at the Getty Villa, which I will write a post about this week.  It was gorgeous and it’s free to go, but you have to make a reservation ahead of time, and parking is $20.

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For lunch on Friday, we went to the Malibu Pier.  We were hoping for free street parking, but there were no spaces available.  There are lots nearby that charge $15, but they were full.  So we had to park at a lot across the street from the pier for $20.  We walked the pier and went to lunch at Malibu Farm Cafe at the end of the pier. 

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Todd had a salmon plate and I had the Impossible Burger (meatless).

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The food was good, but pricey (oh Malibu).  Lunch cost $62 with tax and tip.  You do get panoramic ocean views though, and the place is quite cute and farm to table.

We took naps in the afternoon and just hung out.  Then we went to dinner at Spruzzo, an Italian restaurant on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1 – it runs up and down the CA coast, close to the ocean).  Todd carbo-loaded for this triathlon the next day.  We shared a salad and a pizza and it was just the right amount of food. 

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The outdoor deck was huge and I really loved the ambiance.  It was mountain AND ocean view on the terrace. 

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They also had a firepit.

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We got out of there for $55 and I felt like that was actually worth it.  It was a really nice experience!

The next day, Saturday 9/14, was Todd’s triathlon!  I’ll be writing a separate post about that this week.

Overall, we really enjoyed Malibu!  While it was pricey, there’s no doubt that it’s a world-class destination with miles upon miles of really nice beaches, the mountains right next to it, and a classy relaxing atmosphere.  We did not run into any celebrities while we were there (that we know of).  But we still have the triathlon.  I kept telling Todd that I knew that Matt Damon did the Malibu Tri a few years ago.  And wouldn’t it be weird if you were swimming in the ocean and Matt Damon bobbed up next to you?  Find out later this week if that happened or not!

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I Accidentally Deleted the Last 50 Blog Comments on Friday

Hi Everyone!

Just a short post to let you know that I accidentally deleted the last 50 blog comments on Friday.  I had gotten a bunch of spam comments.  In the process of trying to delete the spam comments, I accidentally clicked on the tab with the real comments and selected all and the system deleted the first page of 50 comments.  I’m very sad, since I rarely get comments these days and those 50 comments were over the last year.  I just wanted you to know because I didn’t want you to come over to the blog and wonder why I deleted your comments.  It was a total accident, and I’m sad and sorry.  After over 10 years of blogging, I made a technical “fat-finger” mistake while on my phone.  Ugh!

Christine

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Financial Friday | Using Things For A Long Time Saves Money

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Recently, Todd told me about a conversation that he had with his friend, and it brought up a financial topic that should be intuitive but it’s not.  A lot of saving money over your lifetime is about using something for a long time.

Todd was talking with his friend (let’s call her Nancy to protect the innocent).  Nancy said to Todd, “I just paid off my car… now I’m wondering what to do next.”  When he told me this, I said, “What do you mean ‘what to do next’?  You keep driving it for a long time, that’s what you do.”  This is where my mind goes to automatically when I’ve paid off something, or purchased something that cost a good amount of money.  I plan to use it for a LONG time.  But so many people default to the myth of the monthly payment scheme.  They are deluded into thinking that it’s ok to continue to pay for something monthly, because they can afford it or “it’s in their monthly budget”.  If that’s how you budget, then I would posit that your budget is bad and it doesn’t account for saving enough money for a good retirement.

We are so used to thinking about whether we could afford something by whether we can pay the monthly payment on it.  Car salespeople, home loan salespeople, and anyone whose job is to SELL you things will tell you that you can afford something because you can afford its monthly payment.  That supposition is wrong.  It’s a very myopic point of view.  You should be looking at the big picture of the lifetime cost of something, versus how much money you’d save if you didn’t always buy upgrades to your life because you “can afford the monthly payment”.

Let’s talk about cars first, because it’s an example of a costly item that a majority of Americans own multiples of.  Since I started working after college at the age of 23, I have owned and driven three cars, and this current one is a hand-me-down from Todd.  So for 26 years, I’ve paid for three cars.  The first car I owned, I paid off in three  years.  I kept driving it, but when my sister got into a big accident and totaled her car, I drove it down to Texas from Ohio and gave her my car for $1.  That was 1999 and I bought a Honda Prelude.  I paid that car off in three years, but drove it for 17 years, until late 2016, when I sold it on Craigslist for $2,800.  I had kept meticulous maintenance records on that car, and it was in good shape.  The only reason I sold that car was because Todd got a Kia Soul electric car, and I got his hand-me-down 2011 Subaru Outback.  I didn’t want to pay insurance for three cars, and had nowhere to park the 3rd car.  The Subaru is now nine years old (we bought it October 2010) and I’m still driving it. 

This is all well and good for you, you say.  But show me the numbers.  How much money are you actually saving by driving your cars for so long?  Assuming you choose wisely and buy good value cars that are also reliable and don’t need much fixing, you can save over $200,000 over a lifetime span of 40 years if you buy only 4 cars instead of 10 cars. 

Why am I comparing 4 cars versus 10 cars?  Because to me, driving a well-made reliable car for 10 years is reasonable.  Where did the 10 cars come from then?  That assumes people either lease cars so they could have the latest and greatest, or they pay off cars in four years and then buy another one immediately, because they could afford the monthly payments.  Of course there are scenarios in between, where someone could drive a car for 6 or 8 years.  But this comparison is between two extremes, just to show how much money you could save over 40 years.

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The columns with loans assumes a 3% annual percentage rate loan over a 48 month loan span.

The money you save doesn’t even take into account what you would get if you invested it over time.  It’s just a straight-up amount.  If you pay off a car and then instead of buying another car or otherwise spend the money every month, you invest it into a stock index fund, you would have much more than $200k.

Another reason to always drive your car for at least double the years that it took you to pay off the car, is to stagger a multi-car household so that you never have to pay for more than one car at a time.

Another secret to saving money over the long run is to not mind hand-me-down items.  Todd drove the new Subaru Outback for six years.  When he got the Kia Soul EV, I sold my 17 year old Honda Prelude and started driving the Subaru.  The Subaru is now 9 years old and going strong.  I hope I can drive it for 7 more years! 

Another psychological reason that people buy things instead of using them for a long time is because they think they deserve it.  You work hard and have to put up with a lot of crap.  Don’t you deserve something new and shiny?  Maybe.  Another way to think of it is, don’t you deserve to pay your future self too?  So that you can retire earlier? That new and shiny thing now means robbing your future self to get it.  Is it worth it?  It is something you should always evaluate when considering buying new expensive things.

I also use other things for a long time.  As I write this blog post, I am using my new computer that we bought over Labor Day weekend.  I used my old computer for 7 years, and it finally got to the point that the performance was so degraded that if was locking up on a regular basis.  So I finally caved and asked Todd to find me a good deal on a new PC.  I’m still using an iPhone 6.  It’s four years old and it’s still fine.  When Todd gets a new iPhone this month, the newest one coming out, I will get his two year old iPhone 8 hand-me-down.  It’s paid off and I can probably use it for at least two more years.  We also never pay for two phones at the same time. 

Like I said, I don’t mind using things for a long time, or getting good hand-me-downs, if it means I could leave my job at age 48, after saving money for 25 years.  Oh wait, I did that already.  :)

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How We’re Celebrating 25 Years of Marriage This Year

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On June 25th, we celebrated our 25 year wedding anniversary.  It’s an awesome achievement and something to be celebrated for sure.  I dug this up out of our photo archives.  We looked so young in 1994!

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At the beginning of the year, we thought about what we would like to do to celebrate our 25 years of marriage.  In true Christine & Todd fashion, we decided to have many smaller celebrations instead of one big one.  Why not celebrate all year long??

In April, we took a week of staycation to hang out around town.  We went to the beach a couple of times.  We went to the movies at the theater, and watched movies at home every night.  We ate out.  We made homemade nachos and chicken & dumplings.  We read books.  It was fun and relaxing.

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For our actual anniversary, Todd took the day off.  We had lunch at Pacifica Del Mar with ocean view.

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We went to the Aerospace Museum at Balboa Park.

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And we went to see Toy Story 4 at the movie theater at night.

Todd’s company had a company shutdown for the first week of July, so he had the week off.  We had another week of staycation where we did many things around town, and also spent a day in San Clemente.

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Sometime in May, we were in the middle of the final Game of Thrones season and having so much fun watching the episodes and listening to all the podcasts together.  I found out there’s an annual Game of Thrones convention called Con of Thrones, and this year it was July in Nashville, TN.  Wheels started turning in my head.  Part of the success of our marriage is we have so much fun together being obsessed about different things, and being quirky about it.  We enjoy being geeks together about different things.  I thought, what better way to celebrate that than attending the Con of Thrones in July?  So we booked flights and hotel, and we went!  I’m going to write a separate post about Con of Thrones so I won’t go into the details here, but we had so much fun!  Three full days of geeking out over our favorite podcasters, book details, themes, show costumes, show art work, cosplay, etc. 

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In early August, we flew to Ohio for Todd’s 30th high school reunion and to visit his family.  We had an awesome time!

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We have four more trips to go the rest of this year!  We will be going to Malibu, Vancouver BC (Canada), Ohio again, and Texas.  It is a full year of celebrating our 25th anniversary together!

But wait!  How are we splurging on all these trips when I’m not working anymore?  We actually got the idea for a year of celebration in January, when we found out about a really rare deal on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card through Chase.  We applied immediately because it was too good to pass up.  Here are the deets:

  • $149 annual fee
  • Spend $4,000 in the first three months of getting the card, and you get FREE (well, for a $11.20 fee) companion tickets for the ENTIRE YEAR after that!
  • You also get 30,000 Southwest points
  • $75 of annual Southwest travel credit
  • FOUR upgraded boardings per year (when available)

Here’s how we made out.  We used the 30,000 points to buy Todd’s ticket to Nashville.  My companion pass was free.  We would have had to pay $11.20 fees each for those tickets, but since we had $75 of travel credit, it was free.  We also used two of our boarding upgrades to board in the early A group, which would have cost $80, but it was free.  For the Nashville trip we saved $980 just by having the credit card.  You can see the savings from the rest of the spreadsheet.  We saved $2,135 (the green highlighted amount) by having the credit card.  I got to travel for free all year.  We only paid $1,357.12 (including the $149 annual fee) for FIVE roundtrip tickets for two people.

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We couldn’t be more thrilled that we were able to do this on a budget this year!  If you ever see this deal pop up again, and you would like a year of free companion tickets to travel, you need to jump on it!

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Monday, September 9, 2019

August 2019 Favorites

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One of the things that really helps me to feel blessed and grateful is recapping all the great things that happened during the month.  I also have a paper notebook where I make lists of things that make me happy on a regular basis.  I also keep track of my doings in Google Calendar so that I remember all the stuff I did and with whom.  This blog really helps me remember with photos and words too.  That’s why whenever I think about giving up blogging, I end up always coming back to it.  Because it’s good for my mental health, and good for my soul to remember the good things in my life.

This is a recap of some of my favorite things from August 2019.

I had lunch with my long-time work friend Susan at Piacere Mio.  I also had lunch with my good friend Anne at Urbane Cafe.  I need to be better at taking photos with friends when I have lunch with them.  We had dinner with my long-time friend Sally (since I was 12!) at Ryoma Ramen.  Todd was there too so I did get a photo!

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I’ve been walking outside regularly and listening to podcasts while walking.  I walked up the hill to the street where our first house in San Diego was.  Yes, we were totally those people who fell in love with a house in our own neighborhood and moved two streets over!  We moved into that house in Feb 2000, then sold it and moved into our current house in Oct 2001, so we were only in that house for less than two years.  However, I never realized how beautiful and huge our neighbors’ houses were up there.  I walked by this one with a 4-car garage and  ocean view. 

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I just never even realized that my neighbors had 4-car garages, for some reason.  It seems really extreme… but we don’t have basements in SoCal and people are always hurting for more storage space.  Although I’d say just own less stuff, ha ha.

One of the highlights of August was flying to Ohio to see Todd’s family and for Todd’s 30th high school reunion.  And his sister Amy’s good timing of giving birth to her 2nd son while we were there!

We flew there on Southwest and somehow on both legs of the flight, we got exit rows.  Todd had some really awesome legroom! 

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Meeting Pierce for the first time!  (Older one is his big bro Quinn.)

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Having lunch with one of Todd’s oldest and goodest friends from high school, Joe, and his brother George.

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Turned in our first electric car, a Kia Soul EV. 

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And then buying a used 2017 BMW i3 EV.

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Going to the Padres vs Colorado Rockies game on 8/10.  And eating Carnitas Snack Shack food inside the stadium.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Sunny, breezy, and not hot.  So San Diego.

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Celebrating my dad’s 75th birthday with lots of his friends, and getting to see my sister Joyce and my nephew Andrew again.

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Todd’s last softball game with his team Purple Reign on 8/14.  They lost so they didn’t get to go on in the playoffs.

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We've had a fun summer with Todd's company softball team Purple Reign! Because I don't work now, I was able to attend about five games this year. It was so fun to watch them improve, and watch Todd become a reliable hitter, outfielder, first baseman, and first and third base coach. I really admire Todd's ability to participate in things he loves, have fun, and make friends. He's a good example to me of someone who enjoys life to the max and MAKES fun happen for himself. So inspiring!

We found a new-to-us Persian supermarket and restaurant – North Park Produce in Poway.  The food there was SO good!  Here’s Todd’s chicken shawarma with hummus.

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We watched two movies at the theater:  The Farewell and Where’d You Go Bernadette.  I had listened to the Fresh Air podcast episode where Terry Gross interviewed the filmmaker Lulu Wang about The Farewell, based on her family’s real life lie.  I was intrigued and made sure to see the movie.  I had read the book “Where’d You Go Bernadette?”  by Maria Semple several years ago and really enjoyed its quirkiness, so I enjoyed the movie adaptation as well. 

One dish we made twice this month that we really enjoyed is White Balsamic and Tarragon Chicken.  We made it for Todd’s family while visiting Ohio, and we made it another time at home.  Yummy!

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Here it is with the olive relish, along with an Aloo Gobi side dish.

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The very end of August (8/31), our favorite time of the year started.  Its college football season!  We celebrated by watching ESPN College Gameday, watching Ohio State beat Florida Atlantic, and eating homemade nachos.

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Some Noodle cuteness happened this month as well.  Always makes me happy to see his antics!

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