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Archive for November, 2008

Black Friday Let Me Down Again

November 29th, 2008 at 07:43 am

I'm in the market for a digital camera (have been looking for a couple months). I checked the Black Friday specials, but the situation was exactly the same as last year when I was looking for a GPS: Yes, there were some fairly decent discounted prices, but the models that were being offered all left something to be desired. The top-rated models that Consumer Reports or other consumers deem to be "best buy" just aren't the ones offered up at steep discount. Once again, I skipped the Black Friday sales. (The digital camera was the only thing I was shopping for.) Call me crazy, but I'd rather spend an extra 30 or 40 bucks and end up with a camer I'll be happy with and get maximum use of ... After all, this is going to be the very first digital camera I have paid for, and I plan on keeping it as long as it functions.

I'm not prepared to write off Black Friday all together ... Next year if I'm in the market for something, I'll check the specials again. But so far my "streak" of finding absolutely nothing worth buying in the Black Friday specials continues.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27th, 2008 at 07:52 pm

DH asked if I would cook our turkey yesterday (Wed), and at first I resisted because it would go against tradition, but DH reminded me that we were not having company over, that it is just the 2 of us, and we can do as we please, so I decided "why not?" I also went ahead and made instant pumpkin pudding ... slaved for a whole 3 minutes making that! I'm glad I went ahead and cooked yesterday, because it freed up my time today.

We had turkey yesterday, leftovers today, and will have more leftovers tomorrow. Then, I will pick the bones and freeze the remaining meat for sandwiches and soup.

We had talked about going to a movie today, and I was interested in "Australia," but when the reviews came out they were pretty tepid and I did not want to spend $14 for 2 matinee tickets to a movie that is only so-so, so we decided to skip the movie.

We came up with a much better idea. The weather was lovely and I knew traffic to downtown would be light, so we decided to go take a long walk with our dog at the Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail in downtown Austin. It was one of the things on my "To Do Before We Leave Austin" list.

For anyone interested, here is a link to a map of the trail:
http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/downloads/tlake_kiosk.pdf

"Town Lake" is not actually a lake but part of the Colorado River which runs through downtown Austin. Lady Bird Johnson worked to have the trail developed as part of her national beautification efforts. It winds through over 300 acres of parks that run along the river.

The trail is a bit over 10 miles, but we of course did not attempt to do the entire trail. We walked for 1-1/2 hours and probably covered over 3.5 miles. It was beautiful; it was sunny and the leaves are still on the trees, tho many fell as we walked. We all got good and tuckered out, especially our 4-legged little man. There were many other dogs for him to check out, lots of things to sniff, and squirrels to chase. He even got scared off by an irate goose when he got a bit too close!

We noticed several families BBQing and having Thanksgiving picnics in the parks. Only in Texas, eh?

Our only cost was the gas to drive us there and home again. I just love exploring places I have not been to before, especially if I can learn something new or get out and exercise in nature. It's the best of frugal fun!

After we got home and ate our turkey leftovers, DH had a bit of work to do and he recruited me to help him out a bit. The thing about being self-employed is that when there is work, you do it, no matter what day it is. It does not mean that you do not get time off ... my DH has plenty of free time to go to the driving range and hit balls, for example ... but he works at least a little bit every single day, 365 days a year. And I help him out whenever he wants my help. We are truly thankful for the work; it pays for the turkey and the gas to Town Lake and all the other necessary and good things in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Zestimate on my former house

November 23rd, 2008 at 12:04 pm

Zillow's "Zestimate" on my former house is now 86% of what we sold it for, and since real estate prices in the Seattle area started turning down later than much of the rest of the country, I think it's going to fall even more. The folks who bought it only put 10% down, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing if you're buying a your starter home, but our former home was not a starter home by most people's standards (even a couple years ago). When we sold, I joked to my neighbor that we might be back if we re-purchased our old home at foreclosure auction, but I really would hate to see that happen.



Touched The Moon

November 16th, 2008 at 08:11 am

We went to NASA / Johnson Space Center yesterday. It was G-R-E-A-T! We went on/to:

- Tram Tour (which included stops at Mission Control, the Astronaut Training Facility, and Rocket Park)

- Blast Off (where we got a live briefing of current spaceflight activity, especially interesting since Space Shuttle Endeavour had lifted off on its way to the Space Station just one day prior --- this included an outline of NASA's future goals)

- Living In Space (where they had mock-ups of the parts of the shuttles' interiors and explained and demonstrated how astronauts carried out their daily lives in space including activities such as eating and sleeping, and the always asked question "how do they go to the bathroom?")

- Starship Gallery & Artifact Museum (where we saw a nicely done film about the history of and reasons for space travel, then went to the museum which was just amazing) --- That is where I "touched the moon." Those of you who have been there know that there is a little piece of moon rock that they let visitors touch.

DH also tried out some of the flight simulators.

We wanted to make it a day trip to avoid having to pay for a hotel, so we followed the recommended list of "Must See" Attractions" for a shorter visit. There were other things to do and see, including several opportunities to drop some extra money on amusement park type rides. But we stuck to the things that were included with our admissionn fee, were more educational in nature, and were highest up on the "must see" list. As it was, with driving back and forth from the Austin area, it was a rather long (13-plus-hour) day. While I could have gladly spent another 1-2 hours there, going to other movies & visiting other exhibits, I still felt like we got the full experience.

For anyone who has the opportunity to visit Texas (or anyone who lives here and has not yet been), it's definitely worth the trip! For you parents, they have many activities for children (many included with the admission cost), and the kids we saw all seemed to be having an absolute blast.

We spent $5 on parking, $18.90 for 2 admission tickets (I bought tickets in advance on-line when they were having a 1/2-price sale), $15 for lunch, and I spent $3.49 at the gift store (2 postcards to send to family and 2 rubber wristbands that say "Failure Is Not An Option" for DH & I). Transportation back & forth was our biggest expense, but quite a bit less now than it would have been several months ago thanks to the lower gasoline prices.

The last couple weeks have been quite busy with work, my playing social secretary some evenings to some customers of DH's who visited from overseas, and our pup having to go to the vet to get something checked out and then needing a bit of extra attention & meds (he probably has developed allergies because of our move here --- hopefully they'll go away when we move to Cali). I have a draft blog entry going on quite a few things which includes mostly a bunch of boring numbers, but I just hadn't had the time or energy to finish it up. (Blogging about touching the moon is much more interesting.) But I will get to that next week!

NASA has the goal of landing a man (or woman) on Mars right around the time DH & I hit standard retirement age. If they can achieve that goal, then surely DH & I can achieve our goal of a secure retirement, right? As they say in Mission Control: FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION!

House Hunting Quickie

November 6th, 2008 at 08:00 pm

We're now thinking that we will hold off a bit longer on buying a house ... probably at least 10 months. We're going to go ahead with our trip to San Diego next month to look at neighborhoods and the market in general, but have decided that unless we find something that we like and we think is priced significantly below market, we will not buy right now. We could be wrong, but we think if we hold off a bit prices will come down even more. We considered cancelling the trip, but decided to go ahead since it is not going to be too expensive and it will help us to narrow our search down to a few neighborhoods (right now we are a bit all over the map).