Anza-Borrego, California

This weekend I had a chance to reconnect with Mother Nature at one of my favorite desert areas, Anza-Borrego.  It’s about a 1.5-2 hour drive southeast of San Diego, and there’s a diverse range of activities you can do there.  There’s a lot of big wheel trucks and bikers in certain areas, but there’s also a lot of amazing hiking routes there.  It’s challenging in the sense that you have to create your trails most of the time, especially if you want to go uphill, so you really need to have a handle on navigating.  But from the slot canyons to the loose sand to to the boulder-filled mountains, you can get a good workout and amazing views with some careful research and a sense of adventure.

The best part is that camping is free though very primitive (though there are camping areas where you have to pay, but at least they have port-a-potties or bathrooms).  It’s usually best to car camp by setting up a tent on a truck bed since some areas have coyotes, but it’s so peaceful and gives you a good head start for the next morning’s hike.  A notable spot is the Marshall South Home, where a family lived in Anza for years.  Some of the house remains on Ghost Mountain, and it’s crazy to envision a family self-sustaining there for years since the nearest town was miles away.  To go to the house, you have to go on a mile hike upwards, so for him to build a house and carry all the material back and forth is just amazing to think about – talk about frugality and living off the grid!

I took a purist approach to this round (okay, okay, so it was unwillingly as I had my gadgets taken away from me so I could focus on time), but here’s some of my favorite pics of Anza from adventures’ past:

I hope everyone has a terrific Easter if you celebrate, and an awesome weekend to everyone in general!

March Debt Repayment and April Goals

Part of April Goals - two hill repeat sessions on Torrey Pines (ahead)

Part of April Goals – two hill repeat sessions on Torrey Pines (ahead, start at the base and putt-putt up to the treeline)

Since it’s pretty much the end of March (and if the stars align, I’ll have some offline tree-hugging time this weekend), I’m happy to report that I am now $1168 free of debt, with a current balance of $8479 to go.  In addition to my normal repayment, I put ~$200 of my Ebay sales towards the debt despite my gifts allocations for April and May, although all the nice stuff sold quickly so I don’t expect that to happen next month.  I’m still thinking of ways to create more side income, but I admit I don’t put a lot of effort in it.  In my defense, I help out B with his side business, so I’m not completely lazy… just a tad bit of a beach bum, is all.

I’ve also decided to continue with goals but making them monthly, since it sounds like it might be interesting to read (at least for one or two people), and I do admit it helped me stay accountable.  So here are my April goals:

1) Run 75 miles, with 2 hill repeats sessions on Torrey Pines (pictured above) – Torrey is actually straight ahead and a bum kicker (it’s part of La Jolla Half Marathon), but the ocean views are a good distraction.

2) Meet all the calisthenic metrics (burpees, side planks with push-ups, walking lunges, push-ups), and 4 each of back/bi, chest/tri, delts/legs sessions – I won’t go through every session, but I almost always do 4 sets of 20 with medium weights, with 2-3 different exercises per body part.

3) 12 sweets this month.

4) Stick to or go under $600 in expenses (groceries, going out, gas, gifts, miscellaneous), and meet a 25% want metric.

5) Study Spanish for at least 10 hours – I know I should be practicing daily, but sometimes it’s challenging when I’m juggling other things that might be more important like eating bon-bons and watching trash TV on my couch.

6) 4 new healthy recipes – I tend to cook for taste, and while I’m pretty good about portion control, B might not be – he’s muscular, but he may or may not have packed on some pounds since I came into the picture. :p  I’d like to find 4 healthy recipes (perhaps paleo) so I can mix it in with my dozen or so stand-by recipes that I tend to make.

I’ll do a midpoint check in to keep me accountable, and will keep track with the spreadsheet below (probably click to see clearly):

April Goals

April Goals

I’m excited for April, and actually love the name until that awful Avril singer ruined it for me.  If anyone has any April goals or delicious paleo recipes that I should try out, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

Word to my mother

I’ll post the actual beginning April balance later on, but I’ve managed to sell a few things in Ebay sales (yay!), though only a slight portion is going towards my debt (boo!).  I didn’t spend it on gigilos and blow, though (not that I would, by the way, just in case I needed to clarify) – there’s some bridal showers, a wedding, and Mother’s Day gifts for my mom and paternal grandma going on in April and May, so I just pre-ordered and spent it on those events.  For Mother’s Day I usually send out a bouquet of flowers, which I’m not a fan of since delivery fees are always outrageous, but my mother and grandma absolutely love them.  Though that should be reason in and of itself, here’s my makeshift list of why my mom, in particular, deserves them (and so much more).  Of course, it’s not always this sunshine and butterflies feeling – there are certainly times when she drives me mad or where I’m left wondering, “What is this crazy lady talking about?!” as she prattles on about something, but I honestly could not have asked for a better mother:

1) When LOL first came out, she would write a text to the effect of “Don’t forget to bring a jacket, it’s cold outside. LOL, Mom” because she thought it meant “lots of love.”  It took me awhile to correct her because I thought it was so adorable.

2) She has better fashion sense than me (anything I wear that I get complimented on is usually something she picked out) and since we’re the same size, I get her designer leftovers.

3) She played both parental roles from third grade on, and though my bro and I were pretty good kids (if I do say so myself), that was a serious task no matter how angelic a kid is.

4) She often mixes up American sayings, like one Halloween instead of “trick or treat” she said, “Happy Halloween, ho, ho, ho!”

5) Although she tricked me into doing chores when I was young, “vacuuming is fun, try it!… okay, now straight lines… good!”, I do admit my cleanliness habits (and slightly Type A aspects) derive from her.

6) When she caught me making out with my boyfriend in high school *ahem* scantily clad *ahem*, she didn’t yell or punish me, but rather just calmly stated, “I’ll light a candle for you at church on Sunday.”

7) Because she’s extremely risk averse and afraid of heights, a “family hike” is often at a perimeter of a golf course… or well-manicured park… on pavement.

8) She might not have taught me money management skills, but she did teach me manners and enough good sense to survive in life, which I think are just as important.

9) At any party or wedding when the “younguns” will form a circle on the dance floor and go in the middle to show off their dance moves, my mom just jumps right on in and does this snapping fingers-shaking hips dance that is slightly offbeat but 100% awesome. 🙂

10) She’s been dealt some pretty hard cards in life, but challenges and overcomes them with resilience and toughness.  She’s amazing.

Needless to say, my mother brings endless joy and warmth to my heart, and if flowers bring her joy and happiness, then it is money well spent!

My Internet-Order Boyfriend

Even though I’m new to blogging, I’ve been a big fan of the internet for many years due to a variety of reasons – I’ve scored clothing/shoes at great prices, kept in touch with family/friends, and landed my job through the internet.  One significant way it’s hooked me up is I found B through the interwebs.

I won’t say where we met lest people think I’m getting a kickback from them, but the site rhymes with Patch.  I think it’s a great tool for someone like me, who’s fairly shy until I get to know someone, and whose schedule primarily revolves around work (dipped my pen in the company ink once and it didn’t work out, so I tend to not go this route anymore), the gym (same for work reasons since I’ve been going there for years), and hiking in remote places (because as cute as big horn sheep are, I’m just not into that kind of thing).  Seeing as some friends have had success with online dating, and my best friend actually found his now wife online, I gave it a go.

So I paid my membership fees, set up my “non-negotiable” parameters (non-smoker, wants kids someday, likes being active), and started trolling around.  Since I like camping/hiking, if a guy had a picture with something outdoorsy in the background, I gave him a wink.  If someone wrote something particularly witty and charming, then I sent an email.

B, with a beautiful mountain range in the back of him on his profile pic, was one of the first guys I winked at – what a rouse that was, by the way, since he’s what Jim Gaffigan calls more “indoorsy,” but I learned that after I fell for him.  He wrote back within a couple of hours, and after a few emails back and forth, we agreed to meet at Casa Guadalajara (which he picked since I mentioned I liked Mexican food in my profile, so he got a few adorable points for that one).

Our first meeting was kind of awkward at first, though liquid courage took care of that pretty quickly after a margarita.  There was actually one point where he thought I ditched him because I took a long time in the restroom (only one stall was working).  He asked afterward if I wanted to go out again, and I said sure.  “How about Friday?” he asked… on a Wednesday.  I agreed to it, since I thought it was quirky.

I won’t go into every date, but considering it will be 2 years in a month and we’re shacking up together, it’s reasonable to say we’re doing well.  There were definitely bumps in the road, like the few months where I only saw him on weekends since he had a job out of the city, or when we have… high spirited discussions… when it comes to all things politics, but over time there were awesome moments, as well.  Like when we had our first sleepover at my place and while I was cooking breakfast, he fixed my shower head, retainer case, and bike chain by his own initiative (anyone with MacGyver skills is just plain sexy in my book!).  Or how when I had surgery this past Fall and, though we subsisted on cereal for dinner since I was out of commission, he helped me with everything from getting out of bed to bathing.  Or when we just communicate so openly and honestly so that all of our differences can be resolved without making it into a huge fight.

He’s also easy on the eyes, which is just icing on the cake.  As my parents (who are obsessed with “The Bachelor” and love to tell me every season’s synopsis despite my eyes glazing over when they do) say, “He could be a contestant on the Bachelor!”  Um, way to set the bar, folks. 😉

Overall, the “start-up” costs of dating was a bit high.  I wanted a couple of few new outfits since I had been out of the dating circuit for awhile, a new haircut/color to symbolize a fresh start, gas to and from the dates, and of course the subscription fees of the dating service.  But meeting B was definitely priceless,and I feel so lucky and fortunate to have him in my life, so I have the internet to thank for that.

As well as finding the blogging community, of course!  But I think I’m just repeating myself superfluously on this matter.

Week 2 results and challenges are zzzzz

Last week, I posted a Week 2 challenge filled with health and budgeting fun, and here are my results from it:

1) Run 4 times a week for 20 miles total, with a 6 mile “long” run – Pass!  I’m still slow as molasses due to a layoff in running during the Fall, but I completed the mileage so at least I’m getting some endurance back.

2) Weights week -one back/bi session, one chest/tri session, one delts/legs session – Pass!

3) 2 sweets only – FAIL.  Let’s just say stuffing my face vs. projecting it on to B this past week was better for our relationship, because let’s face it, I’m not always a nice person and no one wants to see a grown man cry. 😉

4) No more than ~$100 for food/going out/gas – FAIL.  I was close since I spent under $113, but I still went over $100.

5) Post on Ebay or donate 5 articles of clothing and 2 pairs of shoes – Pass!  And not only parsed it out, but I put all of it out there, plus put a couple of bags into the donations bin in a shopping strip near me.

Week2

I also realized I didn’t do the math with Johnny Moneyseed’s wants challenge last week, so I tabulated my “wants” from last week’s and this week’s spending.  I kind of eyeballed the calculations, but I probably spent about $100 per week on wants, which in a course of a year is $5200.  That was eye opening, because this is me actually trying to tame my wants.  Looking at the list, though, I don’t think I would necessarily cut out time with friends or family (and I suppose I “need” headphones for my runs because it’s not very fun listening to me mouth breathe for miles and miles on end), but maybe I can cinch in the belt a bit more so that I’m shaving off a couple thousand this year.

As I predicted, even though it’s kept me accountable with running and spending, I’ve already grown bored with posting weekly challenges.  Maybe I’ll do monthly ones instead, but who knows how long that will last.  I figure as long as I’m putting in my miles, staying aware of my spending, and trying to keep my hands outta the cookie jar, I should be okay.

Cop out?  Probably. 🙂  Have a great weekend!

WWPFBD?

Seeing as it’s about 3 months into my NY resolution of getting rid of my debt, I did what most resolutioners do and resort back to their old ways… almost.  I am not even going to lie when I say that I’ve been having some “petulant child” moments that are pretty embarrassing to admit, but I will since 1) this blog is still quasi-anonymous, 2) I’m fairly honest, and 3) I embarrass myself on a daily basis so I’m just meeting today’s quota.

One example is reading on more than one occasion to be sure to celebrate little milestones when trying to reach your goals.  Seeing as I got rid of 30% of my debt, my justification habits went on overdrive and thought, “I should sign up for a half-marathon!”, convincing myself it was “only” $100 (actually $125, seriously, how do these organizers sleep at night?!), it was good for my health, I can be part of the cool kid club with my runner group, etc.

Another example is I took cantaloupe’s advice and posted all of my stuff on Ebay or donated them all at once, instead of letting them go bit by bit.  I do admit, it felt kind of awesome to let it go in the sense that it’s out there ready for the taking.  But then, people started inquiring about this thing and that thing, and I got a bit panicky, initially thinking “I should take the bid back, I could use it this summer” or “I’ll just apologize and say I posted it in error.”

So what did I do?  I thought to myself WWPFBD (What Would Personal Finance Bloggers Do?) and resolved to stick to the straight and narrow by foregoing the race sign-up and answering potential buyer’s questions (with clenched teeth… er, clenched fingers?… but answered them nonetheless).  And pretty much told my inner petulant child to STFU (um, just Google if you don’t know that acronym).

I know this sounds fairly childish considering my age, but it really was (is) a bit challenging to extract the emotion out of the rationality of getting rid of debt and things.  Mostly because I’m a marketer’s dream since I’m such a sucker for ads and pretty things – I mean, I’m the type that goes into Nordstrom’s and Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” plays in my head. 😉  But, I’m slowly learning to detach myself from things and possessions, as well as accumulating them.  Rationally, I know that they’re just quick fixes, and getting out of debt and building wealth will be more gratifying in the long run.

And, besides, it’s been less than 3 months.  I don’t want to be like those resolutioners who give up going to the gym… I’d much rather be on the side of the habitual gym goers who are there almost every day, and have the results to prove it.  So, I’ve picked the side I’d like to be on.

Napa Valley, California

A few years ago before the “Baby Boom” when most of my girlfriends got pregnant (circa early 30’s), we took a girls’ trip to Napa Valley for some wine tasting and outlet shopping.  I hate to brag (but I will), but I absolutely love my girlfriends – there’s about a dozen of us who have kept in touch the past 12+ years, and they’re about the nicest girls you could ever meet.  Nine of us went on the trip, and there was absolutely no drama, no fights, and no awkwardness, but rather tons of laughter, paying the bill and giving each a few dollars back since everyone would put in too much (I love when this happens), and a lot of “‘it’s okay, you go first,” “no, you go first,” “no, you go first.”

By the by, I would usually end up saying “okay” first.  When you gotta go, ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉

We visited two wineries, V. Sattui and Beringer Vineyards.  I’m actually not much of a wine gal and prefer Newcastles, Shock Tops, and Fat Tires.  But, I learned a lot (though I didn’t retain it… those little tastings add up and I am a lightweight) and it was a fun trip:

The costs were relatively inexpensive since flights back in the day on Southwest were super cheap (like $100 round trip or something), and we stayed at an Embassy Suites so we could have people sleep in the bedroom or the suite area (plus, it’s a free breakfast, and we just had to pay a little extra for any additional folks).  Ground transport was covered since a couple of our friends lived in the area, and in exchange we paid for their meals and gas.  The priciest things were the wine that I ended up just giving as gifts and some of the meals since we splurged on nice places.

On our final day, we took a trip to the outlets and shopped for awhile.  There were no pictures, though we did buy one dress from BCBG that we’ve rotated among some of the girls for weddings and such.  We all made a pact that our next girls’ trip will be in Paris when we’re 40, so I hope it really happens (with me saving up for it, of course!).