7.17.2017

10 Things To Do in Paris

I landed in Stuttgart on Saturday morning, and we were on a Sunday 12pm train to Paris.  We were so darn close to missing that train too.  We ignored our alarms.  I was tired, confused about what clothes to bring, and I just couldn't get it together.  We were all but running to the train, and of course our seats were in the part of the train waaaay down at the end.  I didn't know exactly what time it was, but I could tell that train was about to take off and had we shown up 1 minute later we wouldn't have been on it.
That croquette was so good!!!
But we made it! We spent four days, three nights in Paris, and I was jet lagged the entire time.  I was wide awake at 3am, ready to face plant at 6pm, and just generally tired much of the time in between.  I pushed through except for that one nap I took on our last full day there after a long day in Versailles.

Nobody comes to Paris to sleep. 


View from our hotel room

side view of the hotel

10 THINGS TO DO IN PARIS

Stay in a teeny tiny hotel.  There are reasonably priced hotels to be had in Paris.  Maybe not in the 1st Arrondissement, and even pricey ones will likely be pretty small, but tiny hotels are typical of Paris, and as long as it's clean and you have a place to lay your head at night it's fine.  Hotel Eiffel Saint Charles where we stayed is in the 15th.  The hallways were narrow and the elevator barely fit the two of us and our luggage.  The room had a wardrobe closet, but no drawers.  This is when traveling with packing cubes comes in handy.  The bathroom was miniature.  Our room was the size of a postage stamp, but it had everything we needed.  They even put us in the same exact room we were in five years ago.  We had five cities to book, and I was over it, so I didn't even bother to look elsewhere.  I already knew it was clean, reasonably priced, near all the train stations we would need, and walking distance from the Eiffel Tower.  Hotel Eiffel St Charles is our Paris home away from home.  We've stayed there twice.  I can say that now! There are pics of the hotel room in the link at the bottom.

Visit The Catacombs of Paris.  It's cold, dark, damp, and is full of history.  132 steps down a spiral staircase is hallway after hallway lined with bones.   It's pretty fascinating, and you won't be the only one interested in seeing it up close.  The line snaked around the entire block, and it was HOT.  I read that this would be the case so I reserved tickets on Headout.com.  With a printed reservation we were able to pick up the tickets down the street from the little tobacco shop next to McDonald's.  We walked right up to the front and got right in.  I've got this odd fascination with all things dark and creepy.  I've been to Catacombs of Naples and the Catacombs of Rome so the Catacombs of Paris had to be seen.   If I had to pic my favorite catacombs it would be Naples.


Ride many, many trains.  Most of them will smell of body odor, but they get you where you need to go, and it's just the reality of public transportation on a hot humid day.  There are a few stations and trains with air conditioning but the majority are not.  The humidity of Paris was really unexpected.  I think I may have been one of those stinky people on the train.  The first thing I did when we checked in our hotel was take a shower.  Then I had to take another one after the Catacombs.  We were on trains every single day.  I still don't know how to ride them.  My husband did all the work.

Eat a typical European breakfast.  You don't really see eggs, bacon and pancakes at most of the cafe's in Paris.  You also won't see any Splenda or Stevia.  Europe seems to be the land of carbs.  It's bread based foods for breakfast and lunch in most casual bars and cafes.  For breakfast on our first day we had hot bread, jam and coffee. 
The Louvre
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour.  The trains are cool for getting from point A to point B, and your legs can only take you so far, so a good way to see a lot of the city is on a tourist bus.  We did one with 8 stops and paid about 2 € extra for the ability to hop on and off at any of those stops we wanted to.  You just sit back, relax, and listen to the pre recorded vocal tour in the ear buds you get with your tickets.


Eat lunch on the Champs De Elysess.  At the end of the street you will find the Arc Di Triomph.  You have to go there, so you might as well stop for lunch when you get hungry.  There are plenty of restaurants to choose from.  This was our only hop off of our bus tour.  The plan was to buy one item of clothing from Paris.  Probably a shirt.  I went into Zara and H & M and discovered something odd.  All the clothes were weird.  By weird I probably mean fashion forward...and fashion forward I am not.  Maybe these things just haven't hit the US markets yet, but I was hard pressed to find a single thing that appealed to me.
A must see show!!!
See Moulin Rouge, C'est Feerie.  I took one look at the ticket price and figured I'd pass, but MJ said, if you want to do it we should do it, and so we did it.  I bought the tickets here.  We went to a 9pm showing.  The theater is super nice.  Everyone is seated at tables and packed in pretty tight so it's not typical theater seating.  I hear if you order dinner you get seated closer to the stage, but I didn't want to spent that much money and I heard the food wasn't the greatest.  One woman had on this magnificent red dress, and there were some others pretty dressed up, but we were not.  We knew to stay away from shorts, sneakers, and flip flops, but that jeans are okay.  The show was fantastic, and in my opinion worth the money.  Some of it was topless.  Small breasts were very appreciated by casting, and every single performer had a fantastic body.  Male and female.  There were abs and pecs popping all over the place.  There were only two songs that weren't in french.  There were three specialty acts.  One involving snakes, another involving roller skates, and a comedian, but it was basically a variety show made up mostly of group numbers.  The costumes were absolutely beautiful.  The singing and choreography was great.  We tried, but we could not finish the bottle of champagne that we got as an extra with our tickets.  Moulin Rouge is in the bad part of town, but as soon as you step out of Blanche metro train station the theater is in your face.  You don't have to walk far so if you take the train there isn't a lot of time above ground for you to be mugged, harassed, or whatever else supposedly happens in the red light district.


Visit the Palace of Versailles.  I was kind of on the fence about this one because it is a full day affair.  Versailles is a 45 min train ride from city center, but it was only about 20 minutes from our hotel.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to wake up at the crack of dawn and spend one of our precious days outside of Paris.  If you plan on heading to Versailles you have to go early or maybe don't go at all.  The tour  buses show up around 9am right when they open and it's all over from there.  All it takes is a bus or two and the line is almost out of control and the palace is packed.  We woke up at 6:30am to be there by 8:30am.  After a late night at Moulin Rouge.  Sigh.  But it was the only way.  The tour prices are super expensive, and I read with some of them (not all so be careful) you get right in and avoid the long security line, but I really didn't want a tour.  At 8:30am there were only a small clump of people in front of us at the security line to enter, and a small group waiting for the ticket office to open.  On our way out the line was snaking back and forth full of people waiting in the hot sun.  The early bird really does get the worm on this one.  It was a rough wake up, but I'm glad we went.  We didn't want to stand in a line to buy tickets so I bought them on my phone.  You do have to print them so I ordered tickets online direct from Palace of Versailles, and emailed them to the hotel for printing.  The website is kind of complicated because there are all these different things to do on different days, and different ticket options, but basically buy the Passport ticket and you have access to Palace and Gardens.  The palace is impressive, but the Garden of Versailles is what really makes the place so special.  If I ever go back to Paris I would actually like to skip the Palace and just spend a day hanging out in the Garden.  There is a lake, restaurants, and food stands.  The grounds are very peaceful and make for a really nice walk.  It is the biggest garden I've ever seen in my life.  It's so so beautiful.  Pictures really don't do it justice.   
Duck, Beef, Dessert
Eat dinner at a traditional french restaurant.  We ate outdoors where they pack everyone in all tight.  On our first night I had a croquette and pom frites at a brasserie.  Oh my goodness.  It was so good.  I'll admit, I was ready to have another one two nights later, but MJ had other plans.  He made reservations at Le Tournebievre, which is right across from the Palace of Notre Dame.  I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be getting that croquette, but it was nice to get some protein, and dinner was delicious.  From start to finish we enjoyed every bite and I am so glad MJ convinced me to get dessert.  It turns out that cassolette de fondant au chocolat, 55% sans gluten is actually good old fashioned Molten Chocolate Lava Cake, and it was so good.


Sit in the grass at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and wait for her to light up.  I considered going up.  Maybe if I'd felt like it and there was no line we would have, but I didn't want to buy tickets in advance and be pinned down to a certain time.  I just wasn't really that vested in going inside.  Maybe next time.  I would have been all over the bottle of wine that many tried to sell us that night.  It is such a great hustle, but we were stuffed from dinner.  If I ever go back to Paris, that is probably the only other thing left that I really want to do.  Picnic dinner and wine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  It doesn't even seem to be a tourist thing.  There were plenty of locals hanging out.  The days are so long that you have to wait a while for the lights to come on, but when they do everyone cheers and it's pretty spectacular.  It was really the perfect end to our time in Paris. 

Our first trip to Paris was rainy and quite chilly, so I'm really glad we got to go again.  We could not escape the rain this time either but at least it was scattered.  The plan was to try not to do too much.  Catacombs, Moulin Rouge, and Versailles were the only major activities, but even still our days were filled.

We've been back in Stuttgart for five days and we are off to our next trip today.  I'm finally going to Greece! It is the place I've wanted to visit for a long time.

Related:  Our First Trip to Paris


7.06.2017

Plenty of Time for a Melt Down


My fourth of July came a little early.  At least that's what it felt like.  As the weekend approached I was wondering if I'd bitten off a little more than I could chew.  For a normal person, no big deal, but I'm not a normal person.  I'm a highly anxious traveler so having people over, then hopping on plan for a weekend trip, then coming home to get ready for another trip is kind of a lot for me to take in.  My parents arrived on Saturday.  My older sister and nephew arrived on Tuesday night.  They all drove back to Vegas on Thursday morning.  My little sister along with her husband and my niece arrived in Vegas on Thursday night, and I followed them all to Vegas on Friday evening.



The thing is.  I couldn't miss it.  I was really disappointed thinking that they might be coming out while I was gone and was thrilled to find out I'd still be here, so I didn't hesitate to get my tickets booked.  I couldn't miss out on seeing my little sis and I couldn't miss out on a family gathering.  They are just too few and far between.  I did see all the adults in April, but again.  It's rare.


I made a detailed packing list in Word a month in advance and carried it around with me so I could revise as needed.  I packed for Vegas the weekend before, but started packing for Germany three weeks in advance because when you work full time you don't really have three weeks.  You have three weekends.  I made multiple lists and checked them a million times twice. I ran around buying things I needed.  I started taking my trash to work.  I know.  Weird right?  I don't have neighbors to bring the trash bins in and it's never a good idea to piss off the HOA.  I got some cleaning done the day everyone left, and when Friday evening rolled around I was ready.  To bad my plane wasn't.  One hour delay.  Super annoying, because this is the 3rd time out of the last three times I've flown to Vegas, but one hour is a heck of a lot better than four.  C'mon Southwest I really like you, but you are testing my patience.

I went shopping with my mom.  She worked out with me.  We all went to the fair.  By the time I made it to Vegas on Friday night everyone was pretty close to winding down for bed, but by Saturday night we were dancing in the streets.  Literally.  My parents have great neighbors.  They borrow each other's hoses and pull trash bins in for each other.  They also do block parties.  I haven't been to a block party since like the 1980's.  It was fantastic.  Everyone set up their little tables with food.  Someone was on the grill doing burgers and hotdogs.  There was music.  Someone set off fireworks.  The drinks were flowing.  People were mingling.  I danced with my parents in the cul de sac and we were having such a great time it was hard to break away, but I had to hit the strip.  It's a must do on every visit.


It was hot.  Like 90 degrees at night and 103 degrees during the day hot, but I tell you what, I love those warm nights.  We grabbed an uber with one goal in mind.  Have one drink on the strip at Fat Bar.  That's it.  And the thing about the strip is that it's so massive it could take you a few hours to accomplish.  We got dropped off near the Bellagio.  The fountain show wasn't happening yet and it was late, so we headed straight to Fat Bar. I don't know why everyone followed me (of all people) off the strip, but I guess I was the ring leader so follow me they did.  Someone (not me) realized that we weren't on the strip.  We rerouted, had our drink, and ubered home.  I think we made it back around 1:00am.  I could be wrong on the time, because I had a little too much sangria at the block party, but it was pretty late.



My sister and I got our nails did.  I haven't had a manicure in like three years.  This is a big deal.  We grabbed lunch at the Habit.  We ate yogurt at Golden Spoon.  We hung out.  I booked by flight for as late as possible Sunday night, but before we knew it my parents were driving me to the airport.  It was a quick trip and I didn't pull into my driveway until about 1:00am.  Work the next day was pretty much hell on earth, but it was worth it.

The 4th of July was my recovery day.  Tuesday.  I regrouped.  Slept.  Did laundry.  There were more last minute things this week.  I'm getting ready to leave the country and I can't find my wallet.  Still calm. The good people at Madewell were kind enough to email me, but I realized my mistake when I went back to work and couldn't find it.  Get the key to the house sitter.  Mail that box to the husband.  Make sure the fence gate is locked.  One last trip to Target.   Is four pairs of jeans too much?  How about 15 tank tops? But I'm calm.  The suitcases are all but sealed shut.  I trust the process.  I trust my list.  The anxious traveler in me seems to have left the building.  There is still plenty of time for a melt down, but I'm hoping it won't come to that.  I'm ready for my next adventure.

6.21.2017

Injured List

Sometime last summer between Bikini Body Guide Week 13 and Healthy Body Guide Week 12 I injured my shoulder.  It hurt when I did those push-ups where you stick your butt up in the air, but I didn't think anything of it.  I was working out 5-6 days a week so there were always aches and pains.  I was sore for like two months straight, and my knees always hurt.  I can work through pain, and pain is all I thought it was.  After a while I stopped doing push-ups that hurt, and stuck with regular ones.  I figured maybe I'd just tweaked my arm somehow, and that it would eventually go away.

But it didn't. 

I did circuit training workouts with cardio in between from January through September.  As planned, I went to Hawaii in October feeling better about my body than I had in a long time.  When I returned, I settled into a less intense and less structured workout schedule.  I bought a Yoga strap and was excited about shifting my focus to Yoga, and working on my back flexibility, but by the end of November I could barely lift my purse.  Up until then, my shoulder only hurt when I did those butt in the air push ups (also known as pike push-ups), but suddenly I couldn't lift my arm, or reach for things, without a searing pain ripping through shoulder.  I couldn't sleep on my right side or my stomach.  All arm workouts ceased.  I couldn't even do yoga.

I have bad knees.  I can't overwork my lower half, so I cut down to walking and/or running on weekends one leg circuit training workout per week, until eventually I quit the one circuit too. The only thing I really felt comfortable doing without knowing what was wrong with my shoulder was walking, but also I was burnt out.  The weather was cooler, the days were getting shorter, and my Insomnia was bad so when my shoulder pain started to take over, I kind of gave up.  If I moved my arm a certain way, or even moved it too fast it hurt.  Even simple things like driving, opening doors, and lifting my arm to wave at someone hurt.  I couldn't even cuddle with my husband unless he is on my left hand side.  I'd started walking around with my elbow stuck to my side because that was the best way to ensure there would be no painful movements.


I went to the doctor in January and got sent home with a list of shoulder exercises.  I did them diligently every day, and my shoulder started to feel worse.  Then it started to feel better.  Then it started to feel worse.  I went back to the doctor and pushed for a referral to Orthopedics, because in my eyes, this was way past a wait and see situation.  I needed some answers.  Orthopedics sent me for an MRI in March which confirmed a tear in my Supraspinatus rotator cuff muscle.  Physical Therapy started in April. 

There are four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder.  One along the top, two across the back, and one that runs up the side. That's the one I tore.  It affects abduction, so for me it's kind of like having a dead arm.  My arm feels about 50 times heavier than it actually is.  I actually feel gravity pushing against it whenever I activate my muscles to lift my arm.  Depending on the motion I either feel weakness or pain.  Sometimes it aches from my shoulder all the way to my collar bone with no movement, and other times I forget it's injured until I'm trying to pull up my covers while lying in bed or reaching over to hit the switch for the garage door on my way out. 

I wasn't sure how I was going to fit in my daily physical therapy exercises, but I make it work because a rotator cuff tear is not the kind of thing that will just go away on it's own.  I wish it would.  I do a set of exercises before work, a set when I get home, and the last set before I go to bed.  I do this every single day, because being injured sucks and I don't even want to think about having surgery.  At my last physical therapy appointment they added three additional exercises.  Two months later, there is some improvement, but it also seems to be up and down.  Some days are better than others.  I can sleep on my stomach now, which is pretty exciting, and less things are causing me pain throughout the day, but my arm is still not 100%.  Not even close.  It's very stiff in the mornings and getting in and out of shirts and sweaters still hurts.

I don't want this to turn into a chronic pain type of situation.  I want to handstands and bridges again.  I want to be able to do push ups, and as much as I love to hate it, I even want to do Bikini Body Guide again, but until then, I'll be in the corner working my therapy bands and over the door pulley system from the 1980's.  Last month I realized I'd be on vacation in a bikini in less than two months and had only been running on the weekends.  Oops.  So I started a no impact mostly abdominal/lower body toning workout I can do with only a few adjustments multiple times per week without moving my arms too much.

What a difference a year makes.

I still don't know know why or how, but the cuff is torn.  I'm being careful with my shoulder.  I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing and hopefully the physical therapy does what it's supposed to be doing and I'll be using that Yoga strap in the not so distant future.


6.09.2017

How We Traveled Through Europe on a Budget


I think sometimes we feel kind of weird about talking about how much we spent on things unless it was super cheap.  Like, if someone compliments you on your shirt you could proudly say, "Thanks, it was only $20," but what if it was $125?  Is it still okay to volunteer that information?  I wouldn't know because I've never spent that much on a shirt, but I have spent that much on jeans.  Now I'm going to tell you how much I spent on my first trip to Europe

When we decided on a European vacation in 2012, I was so nervous about how much it would cost.  I googled "average cost of European vacation" and a few sources said about $2,000 depending on where you go, how long you stay, and accommodation preferences, which didn't tell me much.  I fake booked possible flights and possible hotels for possible dates in possible cities, and the numbers scared me.  I wanted to experience that whole backpacking through Europe kind of thing...minus the backpack...because in general I travel with way too much stuff to make that work.  I wanted to be there for at least two weeks and see as many cities as possible, but how do I do that on a budget?

That's where Carnival Cruise Lines came in.

Airfare:
1 round trip ticket:  San Diego to Europe:  $1,026
1 one way ticket:  Barcelona to Paris $126
Total:  $1,152

Train:
1 ticket Thalys High Speed Paris to Amsterdam: $100
1 ticket CNL overnight train Amsterdam to Stuttgart:  $150  (doubled as hotel room that night)
Total: $250

Lodging:
7 nights Carnival Cruise Mediterranean Cruise (Double Occupancy):  $1,172  (total for 2 people!)
     *Ports of call-  SPAIN:  Barcelona, FRANCE: Toulon (Aix En Provence), Cannes, Livorno (Florence & Pisa)
     *ITALY:  Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples.
2 nights Barcelona:  $250  
2 nights Paris: $372
1 night Amsterdam $133
Total (12 nights Lodging for two people):  $1,927


Not included is excursions, food and drink for our non cruise days, and miscellaneous transportation expenses to get from point A to point B via train.  We mostly used trains, but I think there was one or two taxi's involved.  MJ is excellent at navigation so we didn't have to do a lot of the shore excursions which can be pricey.  We only did one, and it was because of a transportation strike on our Pisa and Italy day.  So the cost for one person (assuming hotel is split down the middle) was $1,402 for airfare (flying in from the West Coast)/transportation and $963 for 12 nights of lodging based on double occupancy accommodations for a grand total of $2,365.55 all in.  I know it sounds terribly expensive when you lay it out there like that, but the average cost per night for 13 nights lodging was $158 and we got to experience so much.  I still can't believe how much bang for our buck we got out of that cruise.
Carnival Cruise Ship
So this is how our trip went.  I flew from San Diego to Barcelona, MJ flew from Stuttgart to Barcelona (at a cost of $160 one way) and we met up at the airport.  We spent one night in Barcelona in a cheapie (but very clean and nice) hotel near the airport.  We spent seven nights on the cruise traveling from Spain, to France, to Italy, and then back to Spain.  The ship returns early so we had the day to explore Barcelona and spend one more night there, before hopping on an airplane to Paris for two nights.  We took a train from Paris to Amsterdam where we spent one night, and then an overnight train from Paris to Stuttgart.  We had to fly home out of Stuttgart because MJ was already there for work and that is where his round trip ticket originated from.  I suppose I could have left him in Amsterdam, but nope, I wanted to do that last leg on the overnight train with him and then fly home together.

Pisa, Italy

It was a whirlwind.  I'm exhausted just thinking about our crazy schedule.  It was insane.  Up early every day to make the most of the day before having to get back to the ship, then to bed as late as possible because we wanted to enjoy every minute that we could of our experience.  We felt it was in our best interest to make the most of the time we were over there, so we added Paris and Amsterdam after the cruise.  Yes, that meant more money, but the way I see it when it costs a cool G to get somewhere I want to stay there as long as I possibly can.  When we traveled on our own after the cruise we didn't have to be back at the ship at a certain time and it was nice to have a little bit more time to meander the last four nights before catching the overnight train to Stuttgart.  It was basically a quick hits tour of Europe.  We didn't have time to just be in most of our destinations, but I loved that trip so much, and as go, go, go as it was I have no regrets about doing it that way.  We were able to visit four countries (not counting Germany because I only saw the train station and the airport) and ten cities.  Food for most of the trip was taken care of.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Do I want to travel that way again?  Maybe.  Preferably a cruise with less involved ports of call like the islands of Bermuda or the Bahamas.  The kind of places where you want to sit at the beach all day or explore a small village.  However, if you are trying to get to Europe and you need to do it on a budget I would still recommend a cruise.  It was a wonderful experience and a wonderful way to see a lot of Europe, but it did get me craving the experience of spending more time in those places.  I already knew I wanted to go back to Rome because Rome wasn't built in a day and we found out very quickly that it can't be fully explored in one either.  I knew I'd want to go back to Paris because Paris in October can be chilly and rainy.  We didn't have time for the Palace of Versailles, or the opportunity to bask in the glory that is the Eiffel Tower as much as I wanted to.  It's a huge city and I want to see more.  We got our second chance at Rome, over Thanksgiving and we will be going back to Paris.

Our biggest family vacation was Ensenada, Mexico.  We visited family in Michigan and Northern California.  We didn't fly anywhere, and now that I'm older I know why.  It's damn expensive to fly a family anywhere, let alone pay for accommodations.  Families who can still afford to travel are very fortunate.

As an adult my first vacations consisted of road trips to Las Vegas.  Then short cruises, often including my own city as a port of call!  My older sister and I did two of those together, and it was great.  Time away is time away, and we had fun together.  My next biggest vacation was a 7 day cruise in the Caribbean.  I was attracted to the one stop shop package deal that even allows you to book in advance and make payments.  It was a good way for me to dip my toes into traveling without having to spend too much.  I was that person who would travel to Las Vegas, but eat Subway and Panda Express while I was there to save money.  I'm the one who insisted we eat as many meals as possible on ship.  My husband is a heck of a lot more liberal than I when it comes to spending on vacation.  I've had to come a little more towards his side because he is not about nickel and diming his way through a vacation.  


Our Oahu honeymoon in 2010  was my first non road trip non cruise vacation after a very long vacation drought, and I've been hooked ever since.  Every vacation since is right here on this blog and it brings me so much joy to go back and read the posts.  I must have a vacation planned at all times, and I've been lucky enough for that to be the case pretty consistently since then.  There was that stretch of time after our second time to Oahu last October when I had nothing planned.  I went to Germany last minute for Thanksgiving, and when I came back there was another lull in the vacation planning.  Everything was up in the air with MJ being out of the country for the year, but  I am knee deep in vacation planning mode and will finally get to check that one place off my bucket list I've been dreaming of for a while.  I have something to live for again!! Only partly joking, because when I'm in that day to day grind of work, eat, sleep, having a vacation to look forward to means a lot.

Paris, France
After last years girls trip to Vegas, some of my friends were saying that we should plan a trip someplace further.  Some place international.  I didn't say no, but I never agreed, and eventually I had to say that I'm not available to do those kinds of trips.  I felt a little bad, but the thing is, my husband and I love to travel.  I can't commit to taking trips with them, because I don't have the time or the resources to do it all.  I wish I did! I would be agreeable to a cruise or some other shorter domestic trip, but my husband is my ultimate travel partner and I really want to experience those places with him.  I'm the only married woman in the group, but I think they understand.

If you don't enjoy traveling.  Congratulations! You are saving money.  But if you do, then figure out a way to get out there and see the world.  White sand beaches, turquoise waters, lush rain forests, grand cathedrals, cobblestone streets....there is so much beauty to be discovered and I can't seem to get enough.  I don't even even want to know the grand total of what we've spent on our vacations.  I also don't really care that much.  I care, because I'm wired to be frugal, but I also don't care because it was worth every penny. 

Related:
Europe:  4 Countries, 10 Cities, 15 Days

The Cost of Vegas  

5.25.2017

How Much it Costs to Feed Me

I have a thing for numbers.  Not math.  I hate math.  I suck at math, but when it comes to creating budgets I'm good at it and I'm fascinated (although sometimes disturbed) with knowing how much things cost.  Now that my normal meal plan has been firmly established for well over a year, I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how much it costs to feed me.  I've heard people say that eating healthy is not expensive, but I've never believed them.  Whole foods are not cheap, and when was the last time you saw a coupon for a bag of apples or a pack of meat?  Yes, those things do go on sale, but you will never find 3rd party coupons for them the way you do for things like Zatarain's rice and pasta dinner mix or Aunt Millie's hamburger buns. I got a thick coupon book from McDonald's in the mail full of the usual burgers and deep fried chicken, but they couldn't be bothered to include a single coupon for one of their premium salads.

This list of foods and prices were collected from several receipts over a period of months, and is a comprehensive listing of everything I meal prep and eat on a daily basis.  When I say everything, I mean everything.  My shopping list is saved as a note in my phone and it rarely changes. I eat out on Friday night and Saturday night always.  I'm sorry, but ground turkey and broccoli while I watch my Friday night movie does not cut it.  I don't mind eating the same thing every week, but I have my limits.  I might take a week off here and there, but for the most part I meal prep every week, and this is what I've been eating for the last year and a half. Same old, same old because I'm just not that into cooking. 

Fats
Peanut Butter (40oz):  $5.48  --$1.27 per week
Almonds (@6.99 per lb): $9.50  --$3.05 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.32

Carbs
Whole Wheat Tortilla (12 ct): $2.46  --$1.43 per week
100% Whole Wheat Bread (8oz/18 slices): $2.96-$3.42--$2.66 per week (I eat 5 days per week .95)
Ezekial Bread 4:9 (24oz/20 slices): $4.99  --$3.49 per week (I eat this weekends only $1.50)
Fiber 1 Cereal (16oz): $3.74  --.87 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.75

Protein
Ground Turkey 93/7 (48 oz): $8.96
Boneless Chicken Breast (2.0 lbs @1.98 lb): $9.51 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (2.0 lbs @4.95 lb): $7.18 x 2 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (1.25 lbs): $4.95 x 2
Weekly Total:  $23.32

Fruits & Vegetables
Green Onions: $1.18  --0.59 per week
Frozen Bell Pepper Strips (14 oz): $2.18  --$1.09 per week
Broccoli (2.4 lbs@1.26 lb): $3.02
Shredded Carrots: $1.67  --0.84 per week
Baby Carrots (32 oz): $2.34  --$3.07 per week
Apple (@.97 per lb): $2.33  --$2.76 per week
Weekly Total:  $11.37  

Dairy
Skim Milk (1/2 Gallon): $1.67  --0.84 per week
Fage Total 0% Yogurt (35 oz): $5.98  --$9.57 per week
Weekly Total:  $10.41

Coffee
Stevia (80 ct):  $3.96  --$1.04 per week (I also use this in my Fage)
Creamer (16 oz): $3.18  --0.74 per week
K-Cup (72ct): $35.00 --$3.43 per week
Weekly Total:  $5.21*
*I only use K cups on weekends because coffee is free at work so actual expense is closer to .98 weekly, but I do occasionally stop for $1.25 coffee at 7-11 so I did not adjust.

Wine o'clock: 1 bottle $4.97

Total Spent Weekly $64.35
Total Spent Monthly $257.40

The weekly and monthly totals do not include sales tax.  They also do not include cinnamon to sweeten my Fage or the spices, reduced sodium soy sauce, and reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce ($3.42) that I use to season my meat. It does not include Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers ($1.98) and Pretzels ($1.98) which I like to keep on hand to snack on from time to time.  I almost didn't include my wine because it's not even food, but lets get real, I'm pretty consistent about my weekly wine habit, so even though it might make me look like a wino it made sense to add. 

I know these numbers to be true because I am that person who know exactly how many ounces of everything I eat and can tell you exactly how many ounces are in a pound or how many grams make an ounce without looking it up.  The only thing I did not calculate based on the exact portion size is creamer and peanut butter.  I just eye ball it.  I divided those prices by 30 days because I think I have to replace them about once a month or so.

What this tells me is that eating healthy isn't cheap, at least I don't think it is.  Minus the coffee accoutrements and the wine this is the cost for a healthy diet consisting of 100% whole foods.  Processed food tends to be more expensive.  Right?  So I imagine that my bill would be even higher if I those were a big part of my purchases.

I saved so much money when I didn't eat.  I will never go back to that, but sadly it's true.  It's also sad that I don't even know if I could have afforded $250 a month for groceries back then.  I may have, but it would have been so tight.  I didn't know how to eat properly back then, but even if I had wanted to I'm sure that I would have been put off by how much it costs.

The numbers also tell me that although I did a pretty good job of estimating, I may be a bit under on our joint grocery budget.  When I did Whole30 it cost $520.00 for me alone for 30 days!  I was floored.  After that, I increased our budget from $350 to $500 because we were making changes in our diets and I realized that $350 was not realistic.  If it takes $250 just to feed me, it definitely costs a more to feed my husband because he eats a lot more protein.  He changes his meal plans up a little bit more than I do, but when he returns home it will be interesting to calculate exactly how much it costs to feed him.  And we may have to increase our budget.  Ugh. 

 So how do I stack up? Am I spending too much?

The IRS National Standard for monthly food expense is $345 for 1, $612 for 2, and $737 for 3.  According to the official USDA Food Plan, Thrifty is $164.20, Low-Cost is $207.50, Moderate is $256.30 and Liberal is $327.10 monthly for a female of my age.  For a male & female family of two our $500 budget puts us between low cost and liberal.  According to this Gallup poll from 2012 the American family reports spending an average of $604 per month. In San Diego County a household can qualify for up to $194 for 1, $357 for 2, and $511 per month for 3 through the SNAP government assistance program.

Sometimes when I go through the check out and my total is $85.00, I'm shocked because I realize just how expensive it is to keep yourself fed, and that doesn't even include keeping yourself housed and clothed.  But what else can I do to spend less? 

Giving up coffee and wine isn't an option.

There are probably a few swaps I could make, but overall the cost of whole foods is the cost of whole foods and there isn't much I can do about it.  I buy Ezekiel Bread and Almonds in bulk at Sprouts.  I shop at my Neighborhood Walmart for everything else because it's close to home and cheap.  I am sure the totals would be much higher if I shopped at Ralph's or Von's.  I admit, Ezekiel bread is kind of a luxury item. Fage is pricey, but it's the best.  Regular carrots are probably cheaper, but baby carrots taste so much better.  The biggest swap I could (and probably should make) is to stick with the whole chicken breasts instead of the pre-cut tenders.  It bothers me that I am paying so much more just because I don't have to cut it, but raw meat is gross, and it's easier to have it done for me.  Those thick breasts take so much longer to cook and I got so sick of eating them that way.  I refuse to buy more than two at a time and since it's just me, I'm allowing myself to do it.  Also, since it's just me I don't feel the need to splurge on a "nice" bottle of wine. 

How do you stack up when it comes to your grocery expenses?  Do tell.  I'm fascinated.

5.10.2017

That Type of Person


I'm the type of person who kind of shuts down when insomnia takes over.  Combine that with being pushed to the limit at work and I'm done.  Motivation is down and inspiration is squashed.  I can't muster the energy for anything extra and that definitely includes all things blogging.  Stringing together coherent thoughts for a post is impossible, and then the longer I go the easier it is not to, and then I feel so bummed out that I'm not blogging that it makes me not even want to read blogs.  A few weeks ago a friend asked me on Friday around 7pm if I wanted to go to an art festival the next day.  I was already in pajamas trying to stay awake on a movie.  If she needed to know right then the answer was no because when I'm that nauseated from fatigue I can't imagine wanting to do anything.  I told her I'd text her the next morning because tomorrow is a new day, and sure enough the sun was shining and I was ready run around like a mad getting all the errands and Saturday stuff done before rushing off to Art Walk where we had a great time. 
What we had for lunch at Art Walk
I'm the type of person who doesn't think anyone cares about the type of person I am.  I think this also tends to contribute to my lack of blogging at times.  When you think about it blogging is kind of bold.  It's hey look at me, look at what I'm doing, and this is what I think! When you are a lifestyle blogger you might blog about things like travel, fashion, or cooking, but a lot of it is all about you.  When you get right down to it blogging requires some level of confidence to assume that people are interested in who you are and anything you have to say at all and the confidence to be okay with it if they aren't.  It's funny how I don't truly realize confidence is exactly what it takes until it's gone, but like those times when I feel too tired for life that confidence comes and goes.

I'm the type of person who feels so deeply.  Sometimes I think I am too emotionally fragile for the world.  I cry on movies, commercials, and TV shows.  I watched a documentary on Netflix called Be Here Now, and I sat on my couch alone in the dark and sobbed for a good five minutes after it was over.  I was so saddened and moved that I thought about it for weeks.  I hate conflict too.  It is entirely too stressful.  If I have to deal with conflict or if people are mad at me I feel physically ill.  Appetite gone.  Stomach in knots.  I hate it that people have to die, that there are so many sick and suffering, and so many people who are just plain evil.  Feelings can be such a burden!  I feel good things very deeply too.  That part I like.

I'm the type of person who loves watching people's dreams comes true and I will use that as an excuse for watching another silly reality TV show.   The Pop Game, features five teenagers are invited to live in an LA mansion and compete for a record deal while their parents/managers bicker and cause drama in the background.  MJ totally judged me for watching it, but what can you do?  Admitting that I watched it (and will watch it again if there is another season) is a little embarrassing, but it was so good.  I sat there and cried (of course) on the last episode because I saw so much growth in each contestant and wanted them all to win because they improved so much and did so good.  Gosh, you'd think I know these kids or something.

So how's that for my first post back in a month?

I actually feel like a human being today instead of a zombie, and I really wanted to take advantage of that and write, even though I didn't have anything in particular to say.  I also might be the type of person who cares too much about what other people think.  I need not allow thoughts that nobody is interested or that I don't have anything important to say prevent me from blogging.  So What.  Right?  So here I am writing without apology, and without regard to how literary or "post worthy" this may be.  Just me, writing what I want (and hitting publish before I change my mind) because it's what I I like to do.

4.12.2017

I Am Not My Own Boss

Do you ever get really, really annoyed with work for stealing your fun, and preventing you from doing things that you want to do?  When I'm really tired, waking up in the morning for work is the worst.  Who wants to sit in an office all day when the sun is shining and there are so many other alternative activities in this world?

That was me last week.  Slightly bitter because my husband was home for a limited time only.  It was a surprise so I had no extra days off planned, and had just taken quite a few days off two weeks prior when he was here.  It sucked getting out of bed when he was still in it, and sitting at work when he was sitting at home.  I rushed home every day so anxious to spend what was left of the day with him.  We didn't do much, because even though he was on vacation, I was in work mode.  I was tired (although so was he from jet lag) and had to be up early, so we ate dinner and watched TV.  Not super exciting, but time together is time together and I was glad to have it.

It's times like this when I wish I was one of those multi-level millionaires that work from home and poolside locations throughout the world.  Surely you've seen their pics and gushing testimony all over social media about how awesome their life is.  How they make so much money that they retired their husbands out of the workforce.  How they can work from anywhere as long as they have a laptop and wi-fi.  How they don't have to ask their boss for time off, and no longer hate Monday's.  They seem to be on cruises a lot. 

Be your own boss.  Be home with your kids.  Take vacation when you want.  Drink wine in front of a fireplace on Tuesday afternoon.  But isn't that sales?  Oh no, you don't have to sell anything.  It's so easy!  Working 9-5 is unnecessary. 

Guys.  I don't get it.  If I don't have to sell anything then how do I make money to support myself?  Multi-level marketing is all about sales, but I have been approached by people who claim to be making a lot of money and claim that you don't have to sell anything.  If your income depends upon a product that you actively promote it is sales.  Even if the product is so good it sells itself, it's sales.  Let's just say it's true and you don't have to sell a specific product or a specific thing, you are most certainly selling something.  You are selling the program, and you are also selling yourself in a way.  That's how you get people to sign up...so you can make money off of them...and then you motivate those people so they will get other people to sign up...so you can make money off of them. 

I don't doubt that there are people making a ton of money selling wraps, essential oils, fitness products or cosmetics, but I have this feeling that they are the exception not the rule, and that there are just enough of them to make people think it's easy to have that same success.  I also don't doubt that there are a lot of people stretching the truth and probably don't like it as much as they claim or don't make full time living off of it as they imply, because if it was truly that easy, and that lucrative why isn't everyone doing it?  Why hasn't everyone quit their jobs, signed up to sell whatever it is they like, and found themselves rolling in the dough on a permanent vacation?  Also, if everyone did it, who would do everything else?  From what I understand, we actually need people working in offices, retail shops, hospitals, airports, and all the other places that are integral to society.
This Guy.  Heart face emoji
So yeah, last week I was a little bit bitter about having to go to work.  It happens to the best of us, I'm sure.  Why can't I be that girl I follow on Instagram posting about how she sold enough wraps to buy a house and gets a six month vacation twice a year?  Then I thought about how I probably couldn't sell ice-water in hell.  Not only do I suck at sales or promoting, I don't like it.  I don't even like pimping out my own blog.  I do it sometimes, and  there's nothing wrong with it, but it usually makes me uncomfortable.  I'm also pretty risk adverse.  I like the idea of knowing that I'll get a paycheck every month.  It may not be #girlboss #instagramgoals but I also like generous paid time off, my retirement plan, and paying $0 dollars for a zero co-pay no deductible health insurance plan.  My job is solid.

Earning money online as your sole source of income isn't for everyone.  This blogger could write one million posts about how she made $100,000 in a month online.  Not in a year a single month, but I still wouldn't be able to figure out how to do it!  My mind is literally blown by how successful she has become through blogging.  This girl is legit, and she doesn't brag about it, she informs. 
Burgers Again!!
Plenty of people find another way, but that isn't my path.

My job limits the amount of vacations I can take, and the days I can stay home, but I also wouldn't be taking vacation if I didn't have it.  I wouldn't be doing a lot of things if I didn't have it.  I might not even own a home if I didn't have it.  We love to travel, and thanks to my job, not necessarily in spite of my job (because that's the better way to look at it), I have managed to take some pretty fantastic vacations.  Over Thanksgiving I got to spend a nice chunk of time with my long distance husband.  Last week I got to spend a wonderful long weekend with family.  It may not be as much as I want.  It never is!  But that's life.  Some things you can and/or are willing to change, others you can't and/or won't.  You maximize what you have, make it work, and even if it isn't ideal, you have to move past the bitter and be glad for the good things you got.  You really just have to.     

I had to make do with less time with MJ than I wanted last week, I live for the weekends, I hate Monday's, and the only thing I get to choose about my schedule is what time I take my lunch break, but we saw Beauty and the Beast together at the "fancy" theater The Lot, and spent too much money on overpriced drinks downtown just because.  Searsucker is kinda pricey, and we could have stayed there and eaten if we wanted to, but chose to get sloppy burgers at Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers instead.  Yes, that's the name.  I'm not a Girl Boss.  I am not my own boss.  I have a boss, who I had ask for an extended time off this summer.  The answer was yes, and for all of that...all of it...I am grateful.      


4.06.2017

The Sensational Phenomenal So Good Very Rad Day

I would have been content to party with the parents in Vegas for my Birthday.  That was the plan.  It didn't make any sense for me to spend my Birthday alone, so I was going to fly to Vegas and spend it with my parents.  They probably go out more than I do.  We would have fun.  As it got closer, we started making plans about what we would do.  I was to get in Thursday evening, so my mom scheduled spa time for Friday afternoon, then we would go to lunch and go shopping.  The night before I left mom said, "consider going out on Friday night" so I packed an extra pair of black pants, just in case.  The plan for Saturday was to hit the strip, dinner and a show, and then one of my fave spots Vista Cocktail Lounge at Caesar's Palace.  Sunday, would be a day to relax or do whatever, and Monday I go home.  That was the plan.  Reservations were made, tickets were purchased, it was all set.

My flight there was delayed three hours due to high winds in Vegas.  No big deal, delays seem to be the norm these days.  Unfortunately.

My facial was not quite as relaxing as I'd hoped, because the woman went to town on my face doing extractions with her evil little tool.  She did a good job removing all the invisible black heads I didn't know I had, but it was the most painful facial I've ever had in my life and left me with marks on my face.  Exactly what you want the day before your birthday.  I guess I should have known better, but I've never had a facial like that.  I had a fantastic time shopping with my mom.  I felt like a kid again.  We shared a fitting room, tried things on, and I handed some of them over to her at the register to pay.  Thanks mom! The shopping marathon continued after a pit stop for lunch.  

So this is the part where things started going differently than I expected.  My mom and I had just opened a bottle of wine, and were chatting in the living room, until she decided she needed to camp out in her little office off the kitchen and get busy with paying bills.  The doorbell rings, and my mom insists that I answer the door.  It's probably a neighbor she said.  Well, it was not the neighbor.  I checked the peephole and all I could see was the back of somebodies head, so I opened the door and guess who turns around?  My big sister Dani who lives in South Carolina.  My big sister, who I haven't seen since October last year, and whom I didn't know when I'd be seeing again was standing there at the door.  My first reaction, after screaming "Oh my gosh, what are you doing here?" was basically to start bawling because I could not believe my eyes.  My sister doesn't get to travel a lot, so it was a huge deal that she made this happen.  I could not believe that she was here for my birthday, and I was just so so happy to see her.  The good news is that she made it, but the bad news is that her flight path was delayed by 8 hours so she was super exhausted, and had missed out on some of the fun stuff we had planned for that day.  I have a love hate relationship with the airlines.  Mostly hate at the moment.

Later on that night, I got another shock.  My dad walks in, and right behind him is my little sis all the way from San Francisco, whom I also had no idea would be making an appearance.  Just last week, she asked me if I was excited about the trip, and there she was...on the trip!  More happy tears!!  I kept looking for my niece and nephew, but they left the kiddos at home and flew into to town for 48 hours so they could be there on my Birthday.  I know I already said this, but I couldn't believe it.  I could barely believe that the five of us were all together again, and that they had gone to all this trouble to be there on my Birthday.


I didn't know what was going to happen with the show because MJ had only purchased three tickets for The Beetles Love Cirque Du Soleil at Mirage, but now there were five of us.  Nobody seemed too concerned about that minor detail.  MJ was quick to ask me via text if we needed more tickets, but mom said she'd take care of it.  Later that day I explained to my sisters that we probably wouldn't be sitting together since the tickets were purchased in two sets.

Little did I know. 

Big sis, Middle Sis, Little Sis
We went for a walk Saturday morning, and then started getting ready for the strip.  I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.  My birthday turned out to be the most perfect day weather wise the whole time I was there.  I was a little disappointed because I didn't get to talk to MJ before we left.  He texted me Happy Birthday, and I replied, "No phone call? Sad face emoji," but he said he couldn't because it was moving day so the wi-fi in his new apartment had not been set up yet, and he was out of data.  I understood because it's just one of those things you learn to deal with when you are in a long distance marriage.



The four of us stopped at Golden Spoon for yogurt first because it's Dani's favorite.  The parking situation at those huge hotels is so confusing that it was a group effort figuring out where the lot was, but we made it and we were lucky enough to catch one of the beautiful Bellagio water shows on the way to New York New York where they have the Pizza pretzels I love so much.  Turns out, they taste better when you are drunk, but it was still a good pre-dinner snack because I hadn't eaten since breakfast.  We sat and had a drink at the nearest bar, and took one to go, because you can do that in Vegas, before heading to Planet Hollywood.  Little sis bought some earrings and we met up with one of my mom's friends.





We underestimated how long it takes to walk the strip so little sis and I rushed ahead back to the Mirage so we could make our 6:45pm dinner reservation at Fin.  They put six chairs at the table, even though our reservation was for five.  Odd, but I didn't question it.  Mom and big sis show up, and I didn't even see it get taken away, but next thing I know that extra chair had disappeared.  Okay, whatever.  I didn't think much of it.  My dad showed up next.  I was busy checking out the menu and chatting, when in walks my husband, who is supposed to be in Germany.  Why is he not in Germany?

Three weeks ago we had three days together.  I dropped him at the airport, he spent a week in Arizona, and then flew back to Germany, so why was he here in Las Vegas at the restaurant where I'm having my Birthday dinner, when he left the states exactly seven days ago.  Or did he? How? What are you doing here? For a second I thought he must have been hiding out somewhere for the last week.  "I came back for your Birthday," he said and even though, I could clearly see that he was there standing in front of me, I couldn't believe it.  I gave him a big hug and I couldn't stop crying.

Well, no wonder he couldn't call me.  Surely, I would have heard an airport loud speaker announcement over the phone and ruined the surprise.  My dad had gone to pick up MJ from the airport and they went directly from the airport to the strip. Everyone else was talking and laughing and I was slumped over in my chair clutching a napkin to my face sobbing, because I just couldn't believe they had orchestrated this entire thing.  I finally gathered myself, we placed our orders and enjoyed dinner.

Well, we show up for the show and lo and behold, there are not three, not five, but six seats together all in a row.  The show was so good.  It was 1 1/2 hours and didn't end until almost midnight.  Two of the three surprise guests were in for some serious jet lag, and really, everyone was pretty tired after a long albeit wonderful day, so we never made it to Vista Cocktail lounge.  We went home, ate cupcakes and drank wine around the kitchen island before hauling off to bed.

As our family has spread out geographically, as my parents get older, as I get older, I am acutely (and sometimes painfully) aware of just how precious people are and the experiences that we have together.  There is no better birthday present than time and people you care about, and that's what they gave me this year.




The first airport drop on Sunday was big sis.  Less than 48 hours after arriving mom and dad shuttled her to the airport.  Little sis still had time to come hang out at at the casino for cheap drinks and some gambling.  MJ taught me how to play Black Jack, and coached me to $20 in winnings.  The drinks were actually really good, but they we got the gambling discount so they were only $2-$4 bucks each, which is a steal for anywhere let alone Vegas.  We picked up Steak Shack to go, and then it was time for the 2nd airport drop for little sis.  MJ and I had one more day there.  We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel and watched a movie at home, and then it was time for the parents to shuttle us to the airport.  MJ stalked me and got himself on my flight so we flew back to San Diego together, and I got my husband back for an entire week.


So you see, my April Fools Day Birthday was a Sensational Phenomenal So Good Very Rad Day.  Like best day ever sensational!!  All of it.  I make a point to do things I enjoy on my birthday, but it's typically never anything big, and for me this was big.  It crossed my mind that with MJ gone for the year, I could end up spending my Birthday alone.  I wasn't even looking forward to it that much, but one turned into three, turned into five, turned into six and I was lucky enough to spend the entire day with a bunch of people I love.  Everyone leads busy lives, and we all have our own thing going on, but they hopped on planes from near and far just to be with me on this milestone Birthday.  They made me feel so special and so loved.  It was truly unforgettable, and I will be forever grateful for what they did and the fun times we shared.



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