Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking forward

I intend to do a separate post that reflects on the past year, but who knows if I'll get around to it. At any rate, I've been thinking about any sort of resolutions/hopes I have for the coming year. I have a few!

Fitness: My city does a series of 5ks that cost $5 each that runs from May to October, and if they’re not an insane mass of people, I’d like to do those this year. I also want to find a 10k to run in the fall (or sooner, if things are going well – we’ll see).

Weight: I'm going to keep eating healthily and will keep tracking what I eat. That, coupled with running, should do good things.

Mindfulness: I received a 5-year journal for Christmas – each page is for a day of the year, and there are 5 writing areas of about 4 lines each. I want to just take little notes about good things that happen on most days, so I can look back and see what was going on each day without having to dig through lots of boring navel-gazing (as in my previous journals that I got sick of writing!).

Money: Keep up the good work, mostly. I'm saving 16% of my salary toward retirement, returns have been good, and I feel like my savings in that area is adequate. This year I started saving the equivalent of four mortgage payments per year (mortgage only, not interest/taxes/insurance) in an investment account to use toward paying off my house in another 16 years or so (barring any emergency use of those funds!). I'm going to have to replace my car eventually, but I'm holding off as long as I can, as I want neither a car payment nor to pillage my savings. There's definitely room for improvement in my various spending categories, so we'll see how I do. I haven't reviewed my spending, but I already know that my travel was off the charts, even though I only paid for one plane ticket this year! I regret nothing, even though it WAS a bit too much by the end of the year!

Community: I could stand to give back by volunteering in a meaningful way this year. I'm mulling it over.

So those are my plans for the coming year. Not bad! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Adventures in transit

Modern apps make transit SO much easier than I remember it being back in the old days of paper schedules and memorized bus routes. 

It's amazing to me that I've ridden buses and trains in lots of cities in the US and Europe, but I've rarely ridden a bus in my home city since I got my first car in late 1997. When I lived in Boston, I was all transit all the time. In the Bay Area, I'd often ride BART and would occasionally ride a bus in San Francisco, since driving there is SO not fun, and parking is the worst! If I was staying in the East Bay I'd either drive, walk, or opt to stay home and avoid traffic completely. In Portland the city traffic is usually reasonable, and parking can always be found if you're patient, so my default (lazy) choice is to drive. Honestly, I remain proud of the fact that the city is driveable - but let's face it, using transit or biking is a big factor in keeping it liveable here!

Thanks to iPhone apps, I've started expanding my horizons beyond borrowing cars and using Car2Go. The most useful is PDX Bus:
As in any good mapping app, I can put in start and end places and times, and it'll tell me what my trip options are. It also checks on the status of the bus and updates the actual vs anticipated arrival time, AND will let me set an alert to make sure I get to the stop on time, or get off at the right place. Finally, it integrates with our transit agency's app, so I can buy tickets and store them there, then access them right from this planner. Genius!

Another terrific app is called RideScout. I tell it where I am and where I want to go, and it calculates how long it will take and what it will cost, depending on how I choose to get there.

So if I want to go from Point A to Point B, it will cost me $2.92 and 12 minutes in my own car, vs $7.61 and 13 minutes if I walk to and use the closest Car2Go, OR I can ride a bike and burn 144 calories in just under a half-hour. (The second Car2Go entry assumes I walk farther, so drive a shorter amount, making it a bit cheaper but requires a longer travel time.) The app also calculates bus routes and costs, and provides great directions for transfers. I can tell it not to include my own car in the calculations, but I think it's instructive to see what it would have cost to do a given route.

For example, looking at the above options, at first it seems like a no-brainer to just drive. BUT when you factor in that it's a round trip, so I'd  have to find and pay for parking, suddenly the car really costs more like 40-50 minutes and almost $6 in gas, and $2-3 in parking. The bus remains about an hour, 1:10, and $5. If it were lighter and warmer out, I would totally hop on my bike to burn some calories before (and after!) I hit happy hour.

I've been without a car for three months now, but I'm clearly still getting in the groove of using alternate transportation options. I'm really glad I didn't rush out and get a new-to-me vehicle, though I'm still certain that will come with the new year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Thanksgiving is around the corner! I love this holiday, as it's the official beginning (in my mind) to the holiday period, I usually have a couple of days off, and I get to stick around town and be lazy.

This year I'm continuing a tradition of having TG with a couple I've been friends with for quite a while. They do the turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, and then the other guests bring the rest. This year the guests are me, my sister, and another friend. We are bringing/making:
 I think my sister is also in charge of gravy, and I can't remember if we were ALSO doing Brussels sprouts or not - but for five people, I think we have more than enough food.

I'm hoping to go for a hike in the  morning before coming home and doing tart assembly; we're eating in the early evening so there should be plenty of time for that, weather permitting. I'll have YET ANOTHER friend's car to drive, since she'll be out of town. This is at least the sixth household that has helped me out since I totaled my car in September, for which I am very grateful.

I did spot a super duper cute car on Craigslist, but it sold already (at least, the post is down). I feel a little sad to have missed it (red! two-door!) but I know it would have been silly to try to rush it through. On Friday I have a red-eye to the Dominican Republic where I'm spending a week at an all-inclusive resort with a bunch of my Canadian friends. When I come back I'll have ten days in town before heading East for Christmas (holy crap I have to shop), and then I'll be back before the New Year and THEN I can see what's happening, car-wise. Yep, I plan to obsess about it until then.

Monday, November 10, 2014

More car thoughts

This weekend I borrowed a car (a Mini!) from friends so I could go to the suburbs and get re-certified in scuba. Then I dropped their car at their apartment and wandered through NW Portland and the Pearl District before I hopped in a Car2Go and went home.

I noted a few things:
 - I do like being the person who shows up in a cute car
 - The Mini had great highway handling and good lines of sight
 - The clutch on the Mini was a bit stiffer than the one on my Hyundai; I didn't love that
 - It was great to be able to wander around downtown without caring about where I was heading, as I could see from my app that there were lots of Cars2Go so I was confident I could meander to my heart's content and then easily find a way home.

I'm narrowing down my car wish/want/must have list. It's been helping to think about where I've been, since I've only had three cars in my life.
  1. My first car was my dad's old car that I shipped cross-country for about $1,500, then learned it couldn't pass emissions, so I only had it for a few months before giving it to friends (who lived south of me in a less-emission-strict area). So really, I've only had two cars for any period of time... 
  2. In 1998 I bought a 1985 Honda Accord two-door hatchback for $1,800. That car was totaled twice while I had it - the first time was body damage only, but the second time I was T-boned by a Caddy and the axle snapped, so that was the end of that, in 2005... months before my car was going to turn 21!
  3. Since I was commuting 20 miles each way to a suburb (i.e. had no remotely reasonable transit options), I had to replace my car right away. I got a one-year-old Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback with 15,000 miles on it for $6,300. I kept it for nine years until my little incident a couple of months ago. Fortunately, this time I can take my time shopping.
 I've always been proud that in my entire life I've spent less than $10,000 on car purchases, and I never minded very much when my car wasn't fancy. I DID wish that my last car had air conditioning, so that is pretty high on my list for Next Car. Here's what I've come up with, in descending order of importance:

  1. Low price
  2. Clean title
  3. Manual transmission (I figure there is less to break, and they are usually cheaper)
  4. Low mileage
  5. Reasonably newish vehicle
  6. Air conditioning
  7. Cute factor
  8. Hatchback
  9. Four doors
I'm leaning further and further away from going with a four-door. In my 16 years of cars, it's never been a huge problem that I only have a two-door. I really appreciate all the room that the hatchback model gives me, and I can rent a bigger car if I foresee the need for more passenger space. Yes, ideally I'd have a four-door.. but we'll see how it plays out.

Anyway, I'm not buying just yet. I still want to make this purchase with cash, though I'm not fully clear on the specifics - if I go to a dealer can I just charge it and then pay the bill later? If I buy from a private seller will they wait around for two-three days while I get a check from my out-of-town bank?  I want to leave the vast majority of my six-months-of-living-expenses in the bank untouched, and I don't want to tap my early house payoff fund, and I don't want to tap my fence replacement/new deck money, so I need a bit of time still to save up.

Of course right now it's sunny and dry: It's easy to contemplate forgoing the convenience of a car when the sun is shining!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Too much!

Have you heard the saying "Too much of a good thing is still too much" or have I made it up?

In any case, I'm living that. And, I don't feel like I can really comment on it because it's obnoxious, but here goes: I've been doing WAY too much travel this  year. I love to say YES to every offer I get, and I've been using miles so my flights have cost me very little, but this has been my year:

 - January: work trip to the Bay Area; weekend away with one of my book groups
 - February: 2 weeks in Toronto
 - March: weekend houseguest
 - May: work trip to Detroit, weekend in Toronto; overnight guests 
 - June: two-week trip to Hawaii for (awesome!) family wedding; weekend trip to Ashland
 - July: weekend in Nashville for family reunion;  long camping weekend (of excellent good times!);   houseguest

 - September: week-long bike trip (of awesomeness!), bracketed by houseguests; houseguest and grad school reunion party (of splendor!)
 - October: weekend in San Francisco; 9-day visit to see family in Hawaii;  overnight guests
 - November: weekend in Ashland, bracketed by parents visiting Portland; weekend away with one of my book groups
 - December: weeklong trip out of the country;  East Coast for Christmas with possible day trip to NYC

On top of all that was biking a TON and running a lot; and totaling my car in mid-September. Of the eight weekends left in the year, I'll be home for three.

So, I'm having an awesome time, I'm spending WAY too much on travel (because even if the flights are $100 or less, it costs money to be in other places), and my biggest issue is that it's very hard to enjoy each little piece, because I view it as part of a larger, more-stressful whole.

I solemnly swear I'll be better in 2015. I already have a few things planned (weekend away with friends, between one and three trips to warm places in the spring, trips to Toronto and a family reunion in the fall...), and I foresee a few more (a couple of zero-birthday celebrations, work conference travel), but I'll TRY to do better. Because no one likes a whiner.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Car browsing

This weekend I have a friend's Chevy Aveo on loan. She and her husband are openly scornful of it, but there are lots of them for sale on Craigslist, so I'm glad to borrow it and see what I think for myself. So far I don't know why they don't like it - the radio speakers are kinda crappy, and the engine is a little sluggish, but visibility is good and it's got a billion times more features than my car had!

In a way, I was proud of the minimalism of my car - no clock, no power windows, no power or remote locks, no a/c (okay, that was a bummer). It got great mileage and I could fit my bike in the trunk (when I put the back seat down and popped off the bike's front wheel), and I never worried about it being stolen!

I did always swear that my next car would be a 4-door, so I'm trying to limit myself to those as I browse the internet. I also don't want to have a car payment, and I don't want to spend every cent I have, so I'd like to buy something for under $8,000. BUT I also don't want a ton of miles on my next car. It's unlikely I'll get everything I want (low price, few miles, good quality car, four doors, air conditioning, recent model year) so I have to figure out what's most important and go from there!

At the same time I keep thinking about buying a winter/commuter bike. I visited a bike shop and tried out a couple, but they didn't seem like what I wanted. I think I want a hybrid with disc brakes and a rack... probably I should hit a bike shop this weekend and see what I can buy used.

I'd really rather have some serious couch time, so I may well make it into November without having added to my garage at all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeing the light

Last week I worked remotely from my brother's house in Hawaii. It was so great to spend time with him and my sister-in-law (which is such a funny concept! but she's great so it never feels weird), and it was good to work from there instead of burning vacation time on a place I'd already visited. Plus, that way they could work too, and then we either went out to dinner or cooked at home. Very low-key and nice visit.

Their rental house is high up on a hill with mountains behind them and the ocean in the distance - amazing view! Since I worked 5am-2pm every day (so I could stay on the same time zone as my colleagues), I watched daylight arrive and took pictures when I could.

Best contrast: early in the week picture:

vs later in the week when a hurricane was in the area: 

And most striking:

Now all that rain has followed me home to Oregon. Thank goodness for friends willing to give me a ride or I might not ever get out of the house again. I have a feeling this car-less thing isn't going to outlast the winter!

Fortunately yesterday was nice (and I knew the rain was coming) so I did a bike-errand to the library and grocery store. My backpack weighed over 25 pounds when I was done getting everything (you better believe I weighed it) - that should count as an extra workout!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Car2Go: first thoughts

I've finally used my Car2Go membership - twice! First thoughts: man those cars are TINY. And: I wouldn't want to own one of them, as the transmission is pretty rough when shifting. And: the minutes add up pretty quickly! And: it sure is fun to drive and sing along to the radio.

The way it works is pretty slick - you consult an app to see where the closest car is to your location:
You can even choose your car and reserve it for the next 30 minutes, so it doesn't vanish before you get there. Then you walk up and lay your membership card against a reader in the front window - it must be an rfid chip. The reader indicates it's gotten the information it needs, and you wait while it checks your account. You know you're good when the car unlocks for you!

Then you interact with a touch screen to confirm the car is clean and undamaged; then you remove the key from its slot and insert it in the ignition, and you're ready to go! When you're done with the car you have to wait for some data to upload, confirm you didn't damage the car while you had it, and then exit the car and let the reader in the front window read your card again to conclude the transaction.

It takes a little time for each of the steps, but is reasonably slick and intuitive. Yesterday I used a car to drive a mile to a friend's house - mostly I just wanted to finally try this thing. Today I used a car during my lunch break to drive about 3 miles away from home, and then I ran home (exercise!). That little jaunt cost me $4.51, because traffic was a little slow, so I don't know that I'll make a habit of it. But it was nice to have a different route home than the usual places I've been running, so I like it as a concept.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finally! wheels!

I finally got my Car2Go membership card in the mail. The mailer was very cute:

(cat not included, of course)

I haven't gotten to use it yet, though. Yesterday the closest car was almost a mile away, and today during lunch I used my bike to run an errand to my local bike shop - I'm starting to test-drive bikes for winter weather. After I tried a couple, I realized..I don't really know what I'm looking for. I've been on the same bike for a decade, it was built for me, and I love it. Riding other bikes felt weird, and not very comfortable - my knees were in the wrong place over the pedals, I couldn't reach the handlebars the same way, I felt crowded in the handlebar-to-seat area... I've been offered the chance to borrow a couple of rainy-weather bikes, and perhaps I should do that before I go any further down this shopping path.

Tonight I'm going to walk a couple miles to go to a brewer's dinner with friends, and though there may be a car I can take home, I sincerely doubt I'll feel I should be driving!

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday I have an early flight, so maybe then.

It'll happen!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Carless continues

I had a friend in town last weekend, so borrowed another friend's car for the weekend. I reallllly appreciated having wheels at my beck and call!

I'm still waiting for my Car2Go card to show up. I'm frustrated that it's been over a week since they said I'd have my card in "a couple of days" - I'm headed to the airport this afternoon and had a carefully crafted Car2Go/transit route worked out, and now I'm reduced to asking for a ride.

What's funny is when I had a car I would likely have asked for a ride too! But now it's coming from a place of neediness, and I really hate that feeling. 

I keep looking at cars on Craigslist, and I've found a few I would definitely consider, but I'm not ready to cough up the money yet. Plus, I'm out of town a lot this month so it feels silly to hurry up and buy something, just to leave it in my garage!

I think this experiment will start to feel more real in November, if I last that long...

In other news, I've resumed running but not regularly enough that I'm in the groove. I went for a run last Saturday, and Tuesday. I walked 6 miles on Sunday and 3 yesterday, so it's not like I'm not using my legs, but it's very different. And, as mentioned I'm headed to the airport and expect to walk a lot but NOT run over the next few days. So, we'll see how next week shapes up! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Car-less living: Car2Go

Not a lot of car excitement going on at the moment. I did run into a wrinkle earlier this week when I visited the auto body shop where my poor car is temporarily residing. Turns out the guy thinks they can fix it for juuuust about what the car is worth - between $2,000-3,500, though this is just a guess so far. He can also provide pictures of my car to a couple of scrapyards, and see what they will pay me for it. He asked what I'd want to get out of the car and I said $1,000 (a figure pulled almost wholly from the air), and he said that was probably reasonable.

I was really torn on the way home (in a little rain, on my bike). $3,500 to get my car back! My low-mileage rockstar car! For which I only paid 6k to begin with!

But I've slowly come around to the idea that the car is gone. It's not really worth that much money, and I'd be better off holding onto the cash until I'm ready to put it toward a different/newer car.

So, I'm moving forward with my car-less living venture. This week I joined Car2Go but I haven't received my card yet. What's Car2Go? It's an awesome one-way pay-by-the-minute short-term car rental service. You use an app or a web browser to see what cars are near you:
And then you proceed to the most-convenient car (you can reserve it so it doesn't poof away in the time it takes to get to it). These cars are sprinkled all over town:
You scan your membership card to gain access to the car, and then your credit card is billed either 41 cents/minute or $14.99/hour to use the car. You can leave it wherever you want when you're done with it (within a very good-sized boundary) - even at parking meters, without paying the meter, so long as the space allows the car to be there 30 minutes or longer. There's a joining fee, but I found a coupon code so I think I won't be charged that fee.

Since I signed up I've been obsessed with watching the availability of cars in my neighborhood. So far there's always been one around within a ten-minute walk. I will fully grant that isn't perfect, but it's not bad. I can see using a Car2Go in a few scenarios:
 - if I want to go to a movie and have cut it too close (or it's too rainy) to bike or get a ride
 - I might use the service to get to the grocery store, and hope there's another one around when I get out (and I'll shop lightly/make sure I have time to walk the 2 miles home if I have to!).
 - I can definitely see taking a bus or walking TO the theater, and then grabbing a Car2Go to get home.

Lots of things around Portland are about a 15-minute drive, which works out to a little over $6 - not an amount to splash out carelessly, but definitely a good option to have on hand.

I think my paid-for car cost me about $90/month when you factor in insurance, one tank of gas every five weeks, and the extremely occasional oil change, so I'll see if I can come in  under that for my ongoing transportation costs. I'm excited to get to use a Car2Go for the first time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Car-less living, days 1-4

It's early days in my car-less living experiment - I'm not calling it car-free since a) I'll borrow/rent/ride in cars as needed, and b) it's not exactly something I set out to do on purpose!

The first few days were normal - on Saturday I was doing a hike with a friend, and she was going to drive anyway; that night I met up with some friends and got a ride with my sister, but I also could've biked it.

Sunday, I had plans to meet friends in SE Portland so I biked the 7 miles each way. Last night, I made plans to hang out with my sister and biked that, 2.5 miles each way. In both cases I would have driven, even knowing full well I could totally bike it.

Today I am going to ride my bike 10ish miles round-trip to the auto shop to sign some papers regarding my car - apparently they won't really look at it or anything until I've done that, but I bet I'll be able to get their gut on whether it's totaled. I might also swing by the DMV on my way home  A friend pointed out that it does still have some value in its air bags, undented doors, etc. so I'll see if I can get anything for it from the body shop or a junkyard.

So, that's about 25 miles in three days that I would not ordinarily have ridden, but that don't cause me undue hardship (unless it rains today... stay tuned). I'm going to have a car this weekend and am going to make a list of errands that will be easier with a car (namely: a fedex and a goodwill run, maybe groceries as well).

I also signed up for Car2Go today, but can't use it until I get my card in the mail.

I'm scoping out how best to get to the airport, which in the old days was a 15-minute drive - turns out it's a half-hour bike ride from my house, and there is a bike path that brings you directly to the long-term bike locking area. I think it'll depend how lightly I pack, whether that will work. I may also try using Car2Go + transit to get there in about the same amount of time, but for a bit more money. In the past I might well have gotten a ride, but assuming I go with alternate transportation options, I'll take notes and share!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Totally totaled!

WELL. I am pretty sure I totaled my car on Friday night. I'm fine, but my car is not at all.... I rear-ended a pickup truck going something around 10-15mph (I had the brakes on hard but couldn't stop in time; the airbags didn't deploy though). I'm happy to say there was no phone distraction involved in the accident, but it was totally my inattention that caused it. Sigh.

My car didn't have a high value (probably $1500-2000 or so), and I didn't have collision insurance because of that, so I won't be getting a payout at all. It was ten years old and only had 65k miles and would have gone another decade though.. boo!

Right now it's at a randomly-selected garage, and I guess I'll have to call them to get an update. Then I have to dig out my title and notify the DMV of this unhappy turn of affairs.

Then, I have to figure out: what now?

I'm definitely not willing to take on a car payment. That means that whatever I buy has to be paid for out of my savings. I also don't want to deplete my savings account! Lastly, I don't really want to give up much of my current lifestyle. I looked at my savings balances and I'm up $5000 from this time last year - but none of that was earmarked for a car purchase! The extra money in the bank is all for house prepayment and for a deck. I don't want to give up either of those plans.

So, I'm thinking about not replacing the car at all for a while - I'll be out of town a fair amount the rest of this year, and I don't have to have a car to maintain my day-to-day life. A couple of friends have offered to lend me their cars as needed, and I can bike to lots of destinations.

I've been crunching the numbers: additional bicycle (more suited for winter riding) vs. getting a new-to-me car... they're pretty compelling!
I know I'll get another car, more likely sooner than later, but ... I might try doing without for a while too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

done and done!

I survived Cycle Oregon! I even had fun along the way, though the ride itself was brutal. On day three or four, my friend and I agreed it might be our last CO. But by day seven we were already getting nostalgic, so no promises that this is the last. It's definitely the last for quite a while, though!

The route was tough - 400 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing if you did the basics, no extra legs:

My friend and I sagged after 33 miles on day four (i.e. quit early and caught a ride on one of the support vehicles) - we could've gone longer, but it's unlikely we could have finished the day, so we quit early in order to get a ride before the sag wagons got totally swamped. It was a good call.

Also, on day 6, we "only" biked 70  miles and then went white water rafting for 8 miles and were driven the rest of the way to camp. It seemed like a good idea, but we wound up waiting about 90 minutes to get started and FROZE on the river in our bike gear. So it wasn't all that much fun, but it was different!

In total I figure we rode 350 miles and climbed 27,000 feet - that is plenty for me!

The scenery was amazing:

And we were really happy to be done.
Really, really, really happy. 

I'm also happy to say I think my training was at least adequate. I may have been able to finish day four - almost definitely, if crawling into camp in tears counts as finishing. But I felt pretty good, overall, and like my endurance was decent. The hardest day for me, mentally, was day 3 - at the beginning I just did not see HOW we could do it, but we did! And now it's over! We'll see what fitness I do this fall.

Friday, August 29, 2014

One last weekend

WHEW. One last weekend of effort before Cycle Oregon is here. Tomorrow for the first time this summer I'm going to be in town and NOT biking - I'm going on a hike with some friends I haven't seen in months. Then I bike on Sunday and Monday. I think I'm going to ride to the library today so I'll pick up some miles, and with a ride next Wednesday I WILL hit an extra 250 miles before CO - bringing me to 1,250 for the season, before I do 400 on the ride.

Is it any wonder I'm going to be ready for a bike-break??

This whole summer has felt like one big event after another: awesome Hawaii wedding, trip to Ashland, family reunion, amazing long weekend at camp, and then of course the buildup to the ride. I was a bit surprised to look at my calendar and see that the rest of the year is still stuffed with activities! It looks like I'll have a breather in November, maybe. Of course, I think I'm going to sign up for a run, so I'll have to find one that fits around everything else!

Monday, August 18, 2014

I did it!

My goal this year was to ride 1,000  miles before Cycle Oregon - and I made it with three weeks to spare!
No rest for the weary, though! My new goal is to get another 250 in before we head out of town. That's a bit of a stretch, and I know it. Here's how I think it'll go:
     This week: Wednesday 15 miles, Saturday 86 miles (omg), Sunday 20 miles = 121
     Following week: Wednesday 15 miles, Saturday 50, Sunday xx, Monday yy = 65 + ?
     Final few days beforehand: Wednesday 15

If I do the miles as planned, that'll leave 49 miles for me to do that Sunday/Monday (it's Labor Day weekend already...!). That should be very doable - note there is an IF in the previous sentence, and a SHOULD in this one. We'll see how it plays out. I do have plans with my bike friends for a specific ride that Sunday, but I'm not sure about its mileage.

This coming Saturday will be my longest ride of the year (.4 longer than the longest Cycle Oregon day, though much much much flatter) - it's an organized ride, and I'm not going with any friends, so I hope that there are enough other riders to distract/entertain me as I slog it out. And I hope it's not as hot as it's been lately.. it's looking like high 80s which is ten degrees cooler than the LAST organized ride I did, so that's a positive sign.

In general, I'm nervous about my conditioning and stamina. I guess part of that is because it never gets easy, even if it goes faster! As part of a loop I did this weekend I revisited a hill I did this spring. At the time I remember I was in my smallest gears and going 3 miles per hour - my app thought I'd stopped moving! This time I was in harder gears and kept it above 8 miles per hour the whole time, so clearly I've improved! But I was sure happy when the light at the top of the hill turned red so I could recover.

I was talking to a bike pro today and she was impressed with my training - I've been doing just about 100 miles/week and running about 6 miles/week, usually with two days of little or no activity. She thinks it'll be sufficient for me to do okay on the ride. I sure hope so!

I also finally picked a bike seat. It is fine in the crotch and upper legs area (the woman I talked to today calls that area the blegs (butt/legs) - ha!). The seat makes my sit bones feel sore, but on the other hand I've been on a different seat every week all summer long. My butt has NO IDEA what "my" seat feels like. So, I bought the seat, have it on my bike and have a couple hundred miles to get used to it. Gulp.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Calories and fitness: almost six months in

On February 19th this year I started logging my calories using an app called LoseIt. It's free, but I chose it mainly because a couple of friends were already using it. In fact, I had it on my phone for at least a couple of months before I started using it. I've always resisted counting calories - because it's both hard, and honest! - and I haven't been in a place where I wanted to be really scrupulous about my intake.

There wasn't anything magical about the date I started tracking - I was staying with friends who were both riding a health/fitness wave, and it inspired me to get started. I'm still not remotely perfect - I don't really know how best to figure out calories when I eat out, so I've created a generic "restaurant meal" entry that I use, and take a wild guess about how many calories I actually ate. And when I spent two weeks in Hawaii for my brother's wedding, I didn't bother at all - just tried to make healthy choices and resumed my tracking when I got home. In fact, non-tracking has been my M.O. for all the various trips I've taken this year, and I think it's worked pretty well for me.  Fortunately I really do know how to eat pretty healthily, and I've been doing a better job about portion control, which is probably my biggest issue. (Also, I haven't bought ice cream to keep at home since at least the beginning of the year - definitely a help!)

So how's it going? Pretty well! Counting calories FINALLY imparted to me on a gut level why exercise is so important. If I'm limiting myself to 1,149 calories per day, it makes a HUGE difference if I go on a run and pick up 400 calories! There's no question that is an hour well-spent.

I had some medical stuff earlier this year that resulted in me dropping 5 pounds (I'm totally fine now), and since then I've dropped an additional 20. When I started tracking I was at a new all-time high (by just about 5 pounds but still... not the kind of records I like breaking!), so I'm still in a familiar weight range right now. And I've been training for Cycle Oregon, and cross-training by running. Once the ride is over (and it's coming right up!!!! eeek) I know for sure I will bike a LOT less. But I want to keep running, and intend to sign up for some 5k runs, and perhaps a 10k in the spring, so I stay motivated and engaged with exercise. And I can head back to the pool once the rains set in - that's a tough workout!

I use RunKeeper to track my running, walking, biking, and swimming. So far this year I've run 52 miles (!!!) and have biked 907 miles. My pre-Cycle Oregon goal was to hit 1,000 miles, and my stretch goal was 1,200. Since I still have three weekends to train (gah) I may even make it to 1,300 before we go ride 400 miles in a week. Yowza. I've set a goal to run 100 miles by the end of the  year, and I guess I'm on track to meet that goal too. To be honest, I'm way more wowed by the running numbers - I've done Cycle Oregon three times before, so riding 1,000 miles in preparation is significant, but at least a little familiar. Running ANY distance is a totally new experience for me!

As I said recently, this fitness/health stuff seems to come in waves, and I'm under no illusion that I'm suddenly magically a new person. But... I think I have the tools to do this. I'd like to drop a few more pounds before CO, but really, I'm focusing on being strong and active. We'll see where it takes me!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On being particular

I'm a decisive person, and have never understood people who spend lots of time doing research to make just the most perfect choice possible on the planet (or so it seems to me) - I like to come in, assess my options, pick one, and move on.

This comes in handy lots of the time - planning trips (pick a destination, pick a flight, book some kind of lodging, and go!), buying a used car (price is right, age is fine, let's do this thing), heck, even shopping for clothes or jewelry. I remember poking around at the Saturday Market with a friend who assessed every bit of jewelry, put stuff on hold to revisit it, and really pondered each and every bauble that caught her eye. It drove me insane, and I wound up buying way more than I ever normally would - in retrospect, I realized I was trying to show her how this shopping thing ought to be done!

The truth is, my way isn't the One True Way, however it is my default operating behavior and it's hard to remember/believe that people act differently for rational reasons.

Right now I'm living in the world of being picky. I'm trying to find a new bike seat, and it's not coming together easily! I have friends who say their bike seats never give them any trouble - yeah, you spend seven hours sitting on something and you'll be a bit sick of it, but they don't ever have any specific pain points or anything.

I'm now on the sixth seat I've tried this summer and still am not finding my perfect match. When you are testing a bike seat, there are three main areas of discomfort to consider: the sit bones (the contact point between you and the seat where most of your weight goes), the crotch area (which can't be blissfully ignorant of the existence of the seat, but hopefully feels neutral about the situation), and your upper legs/inner thighs area (which can chafe/pinch/bruise if the seat is too wide or in other ways too much present).

First seat: good sit bones, bad crotch, no notice of legs
Second seat: decent sit bones, fine crotch, leggy complications
Third seat: painful sit bones, fine crotch, no leg awareness.
Fourth seat: terrible horrible no-good crotch.
Fifth seat: probably much better but still sore from fourth seat. also didn't feel super well-supported in the sit bones
Sixth seat: This is the same brand as the second seat and so far I think it might be mostly okayish. Sit bones are okay, crotch is okay, not sure about the leg complications.

It's killing me that I can't just go, get a seat, and ride away happy, but apparently this isn't something I can force!

I had similar issues when getting a mattress.

My first was a latex mattress that seemed great at first, but after a few months I realized it was too soft - and they did not take returns. When I left the bay area I sold it to a soft-mattress-loving friend who is super happy with it still.

When I got to Portland I did some research and read that people were pretty happy with IKEA mattresses. So, I got one there. And it wasn't comfortable. And then I found out they had a terrible return policy: you have to buy a second mattress, then they will take the first mattress back, but won't refund your money - you'll get a store credit in the amount of mattress #1. So basically you're out the cash for TWO mattresses. This seems so insane as to be impossible, but that's what several store employees told me. So when I got my second mattress I chose one that felt comfortable and was not super expensive. Fortunately for me when the store employee called to talk about giving me the store credit for the first mattress, she asked why not just refund onto my credit card? I was very happy to let her!

Unfortunately that second IKEA mattress was also sub-optimal. I was going to just live with it, but a couple things happened: my sister moved in and could benefit from a decent mattress in my guest room, and some friends gave me mattress money for my housewarming present. SO back to the mattress store I toddled.

This time I chose a locally-owned shop that sells regionally-produced mattresses. They too have a pretty strict return policy: you get one return and it has to be done within six weeks. I got a mattress, they delivered it, and after about six weeks I realized it just wasn't working - much to my deep chagrin. They let me swap it for another, which is the one I have now. To be totally honest, it's good but not great. If I could exchange it again I totally would! But I can't, I don't need any more mattresses, and I am NOT going to go back through this process if I can help it! I have considered setting up my guest room bed and rotating between the two to see if I prefer one mattress over the other. But I can't (yet) bring myself to be quite that picky just yet!

....and I am definitely focusing on my seat first!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Headwinds, tailwinds

Woo-hoo: it's time to buy a pair of shorts one size smaller! Since February I've been tracking my calories for the first time in my life. I love that various apps make it so easy to do that! I don't do well tracking when I eat out - I made up a "restaurant meal" entry and then take a wild guess about how many calories I ingested. I eat out maybe four times a week, so this isn't an ideal thing, but it's working okay for now. I've also been exercising a lot, and I have to say it's motivating to be able to get caloric credit for the exercise I'm doing!

Last week was the first time I tried running intervals. I did six 6-minute cycles; each cycle consisted of 3 minutes of running fast, and 3 minutes of walking/staggering/trotting. It was really really hard but gave me some payoff immediately - the next time I ran (two days later) I cut a minute off my average speed, and I cut another minute off this week! Now I'm down - temporarily, anyway - to an 11:30 mile, and it's still hard but it's starting to feel like I'm actually running. Crazy!

All in all it's been a great spring/summer for me on the health & exercise front, but I'm realistic and know it's not like I'm suddenly a new person. I typically go long months with little to no exercise, and then may have a biking season or something before resuming my slothful ways. Right now it's feeling pretty natural and good to get out there and exercise, and it's likely it won't always be that way.

A billion years ago I subscribed to Utne Reader, which is a magazine that compiles interesting stories from other media sources. This was in the early 90s, and I remember reading an article about time and how we perceive it and how we cycle through it - sometimes we are sluggish and everything is effortful and takes forever, and sometimes we are a whirlwind of productivity and everything comes together and time is our magical friend. I picture it like a sine wave of effort with the uphill and downhill chunks not really in our control, but hopefully ours to recognize and seize upon.

So, right now, I'm in the downhill curve of the sine wave, in terms of exercise - for the most part it feels good to get out there, I enjoy the activity (even when it's hard and I'm tired and sore and... I swear, I DO enjoy some element of it!), and I look forward to the next round. One of these days I'm likely to encounter the uphill, headwind, don't-wannas and I will have to deal with them when they come.

Also: I'm not giving away my bigger shorts just yet! In truth I'm just at the bottom of my typical twenty-pound average weight range, and chances are I'll bounce back up and my new small shorts won't fit. Maaaaybe I'm really going to keep losing and stay down... or maybe not!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stay on target...

Well, I'm still biking, still running a bit. I'm trying to pick out a new bike seat in the midst of all this training - it's daunting to commit to riding five hours on a new seat, without being sure it will be remotely comfortable! And's really not! But a local bike shop has a seat lending library, so I don't have to commit without testing, and that's fantastic. I've managed to get just about 100 miles in on each of the two seats I've tried so far, and I don't think I've found my one true seat yet but the process is pretty great.

According to my gadget, I've biked just shy of 600 miles so far this season. That's great, since my goal before Cycle Oregon is 1,000 (1,200 would be even better). I think I can pretty confidently say I'll get another 400-600 miles in the next five weeks.

The hills will still be brutal, and there's no help for it. Sunday I rode 25 miles in the West Hills:

I'm proud of the fact that it's a figure 8. You know what that means? It means we absolutely killed ourselves getting up into the hills (that wiggly bit on the bottom-right was crazy crazy steep), and then we went down some and opted to go back uphill again. Woo! Here's the elevation profile (in meters, but you can see the gist of it): 
Brutal. The worst bit was a quarter-mile at a 13% grade. I was in my smallest gear, could barely bring the pedals around, going under 3mph, and I accidentally lifted the front part of the bike right off the ground in my struggle to keep going. Yikes! But hey, it's over now. And that whole ride was 25 miles, 2200 feet of climbing - one-third the mileage and one-third the climbing on the worst days. 

I honestly don't know how on earth I'm going to get through that ride in one piece, without sagging. One of my friends has already dropped, but the rest of us are holding firm so far!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The time I: tried a float tank

I have a friend who is raising money so she can go spend two months volunteering on an elephant preserve in South Africa - how cool is that?! A few months ago, she coordinated a fundraising raffle and got lots of good prizes donated. In fact, I donated my cake-baking services as a prize, and the winner claimed it two weeks ago for a coworker's going-away party. She never let me know how the cake was.. hopefully it went over well!

Anyway, in my opinion one of the best things about the raffle was that you could pick from the available prizes if your ticket got drawn. I won very early in the evening, so I chose the gift certificate to a local float tank center.

I know: a what? I'd heard randomly about sensory deprivation float tanks from a friend, who back in the 1990s went on a couple of dates with a guy who had one in his basement. (I found that very weird and Very Portland.) The idea is that the tank has about 10 inches of extremely salty water in it, heated to about body temp, so when you go in and close the door you feel weightless and isolated from the world.

When I lived in Oakland a float tank shop opened near where I lived and I often walked past it - I decided I was intrigued by the idea of a float, but too cheap to shell out for it, even though some of the benefits sound great, like feeling really relaxed,  having an amazing nights' sleep the night following the float, and even getting some meditative insights. So when I saw that a float certificate was an available prize for my winning raffle ticket, I was all over it!

The float center I went to has three styles of tanks: a small open room, a tank that has a lot of head room so you could almost stand up if you wanted to, and a traditional tank you have to squat to get into. The certificate I won was sufficient for three floats, so I decided I'd try all three tank/room types before I was done. Sunday was my first float, and I went in the tank with the head room.

I read Lisa's description of a float at the same center, and it's very accurate - each float tank is in its own room, which has a changing area (that is, an undressing area) and a shower, and then the tank. They give you wax ear plugs to put in, to keep the epsom salt-water out of your ears. There's a dim light on in the room which they tell you to turn off before you get in the tank, and there's a dim light in the tank you can turn off when you're ready. And then.. you float.

At first I felt a little confined by the space (even though it was big) - I think because the air was humid, it felt a little hard to breathe at first. Then, because it was dark and the water and the air and my body were all the same temperature, I realized I really couldn't feel what parts of me was in the water and what parts were floating above - even when I had my hand half-in, half-out, I couldn't feel the difference. Very trippy!

The water was CRAZY buoyant. It was probably waist-high if I sat up, but I was physically unable to sit - I kept floating up to a reclining position when I tried to sit cross-legged in the water. It takes no effort or thought at all to stay on the surface, which was a pretty amazing feeling! 

However, mostly I was a little bored. I was already well-rested (since I'd gone on hard bike rides the previous two days and slept like a rock each night) so I don't think I dozed. My mind wasn't racing, exactly, though I did think of a few things to keep on my to-do list. I thought about some blog posts I might write (namely this one, but perhaps some other experiential ones, like the time I went skydiving, or got open-water certified to scuba dive, or moved cross-country on the train), and I thought a tiny bit about my career path (no blazing insights, alas).

For the most part I sloshed around and wondered what time it was. The tub was long enough that I could extend my arms over my head and not touch either my feet or hands to the edge, so I spent time pushing off from one end and gliding to the other, then bouncing back to where I'd started. It's as close to weightlessness as I'm ever likely to get, and I guess if I ever DO get to space I'm going to spend a lot of time gently ping-ponging myself around.

Eventually some music came on to let me know it was time to get out. Then I was a little reluctant to wrap it up, but I do have two more floats left. I felt very relaxed the rest of the day, but I did NOT have an epic nights' sleep - in fact I woke up a couple of times disappointed that my sleep wasn't being amazing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Another three

Yesterday I ran another three miles during my lunch break. This time I ran solo, at the track near my home, and only walked about ten steps of it.

Goodness, is running any distance on a track BORING. It was nearly empty so I ran part of it clockwise instead of the traditional counter-clockwise, but it only helped alleviate the boredom a little. But mostly I just kept plugging, and finished at a slow and steady 13:30 pace.

So now what? I guess I learn how to do it better. The first  mile and a bit was brutal - I just wanted to STOP - but I pushed through it and was reasonably okay the rest of the time. My knees were tight yesterday and today as well, so my exercise today was 30 minutes of swimming which seems a good alternative.

Tomorrow, assuming my knees are okay, I think I will return to the track but do intervals - what, specifically, I don't know. Perhaps running fast on the straights, trotting the rounded ends, and alternating running and walking laps? I'm totally making this up as I go.

Tonight I'll be spending time with friends as it's the third anniversary of my friend's husband's death. I will be really appreciative of life and fitness and being with good people. I will also marvel a bit at how much has changed in three years - it was one of the nudges I needed to move back to Portland, but I sure wish he was still alive!

Monday, June 23, 2014

A routine? and a milestone!

I might be settling into something that resembles a fitness routine. My top priority is biking, but I do want to do justice to learning how to run. Right now it looks just possible that my weeks will look like this:
Saturday & Sunday - bike rides, of increasing length and hilliness
Monday - rest
Tuesday - run
Wednesday - swim
Thursday - run
Friday - rest

I want to enter both the biking and running with relatively fresh legs, and swimming seems like a good alternate way to exercise and burn some calories. We will see if I can settle into this pattern!

Something crazy happened on Saturday. As I said in my last post, I rolled back my c5k training and last Tuesday I spent time on the track alternating between running and walking. When it was time to run, I pushed myself pretty hard for 30 or 45 seconds, and then jogged the rest of the 90-second interval. It seemed to go pretty well, and my run time was an impressive sub-10-minute mile! But I didn't feel like I could sustain that pace for ANY amount of time. On Thursday I focused on sustaining a pace for the entire run time, and my pace was more like an 11-minute mile, and I was really ready to drop at the end of each chunk of running.

My running friends were certain I was running too fast and needed to try a slower pace, but I don't know how to gauge that. So on Saturday (instead of biking!) I went for a run with them. People, I ran three miles! That's 5k! We stopped at the midpoint for a little water, but I didn't feel like I HAD to stop. On the way back my ankle hurt a bit so I walked for maybe 15 seconds before resuming our very slow trot.

So, this running stuff is definitely coming together. Crazy.

Then on Sunday I did a 40-mile bike ride that has me back to being nervous about my ride in September. So this weekend, no easy 3 miles of running for me, no sir, back to the bike I go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Back to it

Well, I'm back in town after two absolutely terrific weeks in Hawaii! The highlight (of course!) was my brother's wedding, which was SO lovely and SO fun and just perfect in every way. It was fun getting dressed up in a really pretty dress, I liked all the people I got to meet, and the rental house I shared with family & friends on Oahu was just terrific. After the wedding week I spent nearly a week on Kauai with friends and that was also great.

But now I'm back and fitness is the name of the game. I ate pretty healthily and swam a lot on my trip, but only tried running twice and it was pretty close to a failure both times. I was in theory on week 5 of Couch to 5k and just couldn't make it through either workout I tried. So, I'm going to have to roll back the calendar and ramp up again.

I'm signed up for a 7k on Saturday August 9th. I already know it's wildly unlikely I'll run the whole thing, but I have eight weeks to prep for it. I can't seem to fit a week of c5k training into a calendar week, but I think I'll start at either week 2 or 3 and just do my best to fit in what I can.

More important is the bike riding. I returned from my trip on Friday night and hit the road both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Saturday I did some hill riding - any route with a street named Skyline in it is going to be hilly! We rode 20 miles and did about 2500 feet of climbing. I didn't do too badly (or my friends were struggling more than I was...) and I attribute my relative strength to the running. However, Sunday my buddy and I did 35 miles of flat and I was just. not. feeling it. I got a flat at mile 6, and struggled to settle into the ride for the rest of the time we were out there. My friend was doing better than I was, but we were both feeling pretty whipped by the end of the ride.

When my alarm went off Monday I had no idea where I was or why I was getting up! I guess it was a triple whammy of jet lag, vacation ending, and sheer exhaustion from the biking. But, onward and upward from here!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Busy weekend!

This weekend was super busy. On Saturday I rode 55 miles on my bicycle as part of an organized event called Reach the Beach. I rode this several times in the early 2000s and it's always been my favorite ride. For the most part, it's super beautiful, and it's very well organized with rest stops every 12-15 miles. May can be a risky time to do a bike ride in Oregon, but we got crazy lucky with the weather this time!
Saturday at the coast
I was riding with a friend who's been dealing with a pretty big range of life, work, and medical issues, so she didn't have a lot of energy and hadn't been able to ride much lately. She tried so so so hard and managed to ride 40 miles. She decided to stop at the third rest stop, since she'd been reduced to stopping every mile to try to gather some energy. I felt badly for her but agreed it was definitely the right call!

That left me to do the final 15 miles solo, but I didn't mind very much. At least it was sunny and warm, not rainy and cold like it's been on previous rides! There are some stretches of really hideous headwind in that final leg of the ride, and my butt and legs were sore from already being on the bike nearly 5 hours, but I dug out my last bits of energy and actually finished the last leg in 75 minutes, which was quicker than I'd estimated. It remains clear I have a LONG way to go before Cycle Oregon.
Sunday at the work party
Yesterday I spent three hours on a work crew in that same friend's yard - for the same pile of life, work, medical issues, her massive yard has gotten well and truly out of hand. About ten of us turned out and spent time in the cloudy rainy day taming that land! It's more yardwork than I've even done at my place! I didn't mind working in the rain at all - way better than biking in it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A try-athlete

I've been a cyclist for a long time - I was fortunate enough to work with biking-obsessed friends in the late 90s, and they pulled me along into that world. I certainly have many years of relatively few miles, but this year will be more high-mileage as I train for and ride in Cycle Oregon in September. Including the 400 miles ridden during that week, I should do more than 1500 this year - one of my highest-mileage years!
I've already been training some this year, though I've also been a bit busy. I'm doing a 55-mile organized ride this weekend which may be interesting, as my longest ride so far was a few weeks ago and was 30 miles. So.. we'll see. It's my favorite ride, I'll be with a friend, the weather looks acceptable, and we can take lots of breaks if we need to!

But I'll admit, Cycle Oregon has me worried. Add to that the fact I have lots of weekends when I will not be in town, and only some of them will be road trips where I can bring my bike... I've got to do something else to help increase my fitness!

Enter: running. I've never run before (I like to joke that I run when chased) but it's appealing in its simplicity - strap on the shoes and head out! However, like so many things in this life, I'm finding that it's not quite as simple as that. I've been following the Couch to 5k program and completed week 3 on Saturday. Just as I hoped, I did two of the workouts while traveling for work. However, apparently it's not right if your lower legs are on fire while running, so today I got fitted for different shoes. I'm hoping this will make it easier and more enjoyable! I haven't minded the time at the track, and I get a kick out of watching the insanely fit and speedy teenagers who are there working on various skills with their coaches. I don't really know how to figure out pace and form, but I think the most important part is to learn to run without my legs aching after thirty seconds - I can worry about technique after that. 

Finally, because I'm not being complicated enough, I've started doing a little bit of lap swimming. Wow is that good exercise - my app that I use says 30 minutes of swimming is about 500 calories, vs about 200 for my slow run/walk or about 300 for my non-speedy biking. Not that I actually swim continuously for 30 minutes, mind you! But I can do a full lap, stop and breathe, and then do another. I'm almost always doing the breast stroke with some side stroke or crawl mixed in.

Right now my biggest problem is figuring out when to do all the activity! Since I'm so new at it, I always want to run on fresh legs, so I can't do it after any volume of biking. Biking is most important because of Cycle O. Swimming is a good rainy-day exercise, but we're moving into our better weather. I ought to be running 3x/week, but it's already having to slide a little for cycling. I'm mostly going to do the best I can and take it from there.

I'll be in Hawaii for two weeks in a little while, and will definitely continue the running and swimming - I already found a community pool a mile from where I'll be staying that offers lap swimming, and perhaps I'll get to test that theory about the simplicity of running. September is coming! Gotta be fit!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tracking spending

It's time to start a new notebook for tracking my spending. That's right, I track what I spend. And yep, I do it old-school. In 2007 I bought a tiny, awesome notebook from my neighborhood stationery shop (remember those? the shop went out of business shortly thereafter after nearly 100 years in the same spot), and I resumed tracking my spending after several years' break. This time, the habit stuck!

I know I tracked my spending for a while in the late 90s or early 2000s, but I can't remember what I did with the information, and I don't think I did it very long. I know I was inspired after a bout of reading Your Money or Your Life (highly recommend) but I  don't know if I got much out of it.

Perhaps I was in a better place financially when I started tracking in 2007. I know I started it easy: in June, I tracked grocery spending only. In July I added restaurants. By September I was tracking all my spending, as far as I can tell, and even started sorting it into categories. The categories changed a bit over time: by the end of 2007 they were: groceries, eating/drinking out, coffee out, bills, entertainment, gifts, charity, travel, transportation, clothing, household, upkeep/health, misc. In the intervening years I've added hobby (typically cycling and knitting expenses go here), booze, and house. (Household expenses are things like a new spatula or set of sheets; house expenses are things like a ladder or the yard guy.)

It's fun to look back and remember - at the beginning of 2007 I was just under 20k in debt, including grad school, my small car loan, and a credit card. In July 2007 my notes show I had 70k saved for retirement - more than my salary, and not bad for 36, but not super amazing either. Thanks to the power of writing things down, I can figure out by what percentage I've increased my salary (thanks, Past Me who negotiated hard during one promotion!), by what percentage my retirement savings have gone up (thanks, markets and Continually Diligent Me!), and by what percentage my bills expenses have increased (okay... you can't win 'em all).

Anyway, those notebooks above represent seven years of data. I'd be really bummed if I lost one, but more importantly they represent a really great habit I've developed. Now I'm starting a new notebook and I think I'm going to adjust a little bit of the way I track things - large lump-sum expenses like for travel or furniture won't show up in the monthly figuring, just the annual, so my month-to-month spending can be a little bit more apples to apples. But I'm definitely busting out that book to keep up this routine!

p.s. I'm partial to using hard-to-find pocket-sized notebooks from Spain. Last time I bought three, and am opening the second. I'm kind of thinking about buying a few of the latest model to have as backup against the tragic day ( six years...) when I log my last entry.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm still here!

Whew, it was a busy February, but somehow March is getting away from me as well. Let's see. I'm still loving the blue wall. I haven't decided what I might paint the rest of the walls, and I've had a few votes to leave them intact. That pleases Lazy Me, as it turns out that painting is messy and time-consuming!

So, I tried painting over the sample splotch in the living room.
Well. There is a SLIGHT shade variation - I think perhaps the bathroom paint is a bit lighter than the rest of the rooms, and I must have used that, as the can isn't labeled well. So I have one other can to try before I either buy a really big print, or repaint at least one wall. Fingers crossed.

And yes, I did get a new couch - AND a coffee table. I identified what I wanted (Crate & Barrel Petrie, IKEA something) and found them on Cragislist, saving me 800 and 100 dollars, respectively. Pretty sweet! Please note the flowers from my yard. Spring has sprung!

And the kitty is still hanging out a lot. And he still cracks me up.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Color at last

I've been in my house just over a year now (I know!) and I'm finally getting around to painting - at least one wall, anyway!

I've been looking at paint splotches for a loooong time, examining them in various lights, polling people, mulling it over, but mostly ignoring the blobs on the wall. I decided ages ago to go with the top-left one, but only actually got the paint two weeks ago. The wall I'm painting is central to the house - it divides the kitchen from the living room, and is one side of the long (only) hall that leads to the bedrooms and bathroom. My vision was inspired by an article in the NY Times last fall that showed an art gallery with a midnight-blue wall framing the art. I can't find the link but trust me - pretty. I've opted to have it the most matte (non-shiny) surface possible - the walls are quite textured and I want to downplay that as much as I can.

So, I've never painted my own space before, and have only assisted one time in memory. I was kinda faking it, but I spent a Friday night putting painter's tape up on all the surfaces adjacent to the painting area (walls, ceilings, door frames, baseboard). Then I spent Sunday afternoon cutting in - i.e. using a brush to paint from the baseboard up a few inches, around the edges of the walls, etc. For fun I also painted around all the swatches on the wall, to verify that the color was a perfect match for my choice. Then I used a roller to paint great swathes. Wow is a roller a lot faster than a brush!

It became clear when it dried that I'd have to do a second coat. This was a bit of a bummer, but I took the time to be really picky - which I very rarely am. I turned on all the lights and used a flashlight to examine the wall, and stuck some colored tape everywhere I thought I'd need to add paint. Today I finished during my lunch break, with a headlamp to really examine each area of the wall to be sure it's totally blue!

I'll examine it one more time to make sure I got it all, and then I'll peel the tape, fold up the tarp, and restore the furniture and face plates to the wall.

Someday I'll get around to printing photos and framing them. And then I'll deal with spotlighting them somehow. Baby steps - but I have 29 years before that mortgage is paid off, so huge hurry!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Empty slates

My housemate (aka my sister) moved out at the end of December, and now I've got an empty guest room to deal with. It's exciting to have an empty slate, except my living room is ALSO an empty slate (we were using her furniture). Plus, I haven't painted yet. And I just got given a massive phone from my employer that is pushing me over the tipping point in terms of office furniture. Or.. I can just put stuff on the floor, I guess!

Empty living room

 But I digress.

Guest room: It's not a very big room, so I decided I'd like to get a Murphy bed so I can use the room for sewing or something when I don't have a guest actually using the space. That's all well and good, but it turns out Murphy beds are super expensive. Just the hardware runs over $500; a kit that has the hardware and the pieces to build a cabinet runs over $1000, and brand-new ones typically run well over two grand.

So, I turned to Craigslist, and found something a couple hours away. It was used, and super heavy, but they were willing to deliver (for a fee) and drop it in my garage. And there it loomed for a few days.
Fortunately I had family traveling through town just before Christmas, so I borrowed some rolling tools (a dolly and a little platformy thing) and we managed to wrestle the pieces into the guest room.
Actual bed platform

Cabinet that will attach to the wall

I've gotten as far as contacting a handyman, and we're working on picking a day for him to come out and assess the situation. I sure hope he's willing and able to take it on, because I'd like to get this thing settled soon!