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Archive for April, 2009

One week - spending and saving

April 30th, 2009 at 02:56 am

Before I post the spending and embarrass myself, here are some savings:

About $120 savings on ride to and from the airport next week. A friend will drive us there (at 5am - good friend) and will pick us up. We will leave him the car to use while we are gone and also won't need to worry about parking it.

I saved about $150 on car rental in Hawaii by searching the net for a while for coupons and promotions and finally finding one for the rental we needed - and very convenient one - that Hertz is right in our hotel! We'll also get triple reward points for it.

I also got red leather sandals (and I really needed them, I have a nice rouge clothing items for spring season) from my mom. She saw them on sale and thought I would like them. And I do!

And a co-worker who came back from her trip Egypt (to meet with her husband who was going on leave from his job in Pakistan) brought me back a silver necklace, also my style.

And now the spending:

24-Apr
grocery store $16.94
Tahari skirt (OK, not a need) $108
Hotel for 2 days on Priceline $302

25-Apr
amaretto $14
lemons $3

26-Apr
restaurant in the West Village $86
(it was a lovely day to go out)

27-Apr
bagel $0.5
grocery store $24.59
lunch DH $5
lunch me $5

28-Apr
breakfast $5.5
dive shop (prescription mask for DH and a wetsuit shorty for me) $159.7
Mexican restaurant $56.2
Barnes and Noble(guidebook to Kauai - a need, and a practice pad for chinese characters) $36.74
Free People top from ebay (NWT) $51
(it is spring and I wanted something casual for weekend outings)

When you go day to day, it does not seem like you are doing anything extravagant. When you write it down and see it all at once, it looks much worse.

Yes, I have not been very frugal. In my defense, we plan on saving most of our refund.

Manicure/pedicure dilemma

April 25th, 2009 at 11:46 pm

It will be warm enough to wear sandals in no time. That means pedicure season.

In normal closed-shoes time it is not a necessity if one has clear healthy nails. But with open toes - it is a part of the "outfit" and is kind of a must.

But here is my problem - we are going to Hawaii in one week and not sure what to do. On one hand - flip flops and sandals, so I am very tempted to get one before going.

BUT... a diver friend cautioned me against it. We will be in water for hours each day -- besides scuba diving we will be snorkeling, will take few surfing lessons, and relax in the pool in the evening. Plus, the island has high humidity in general.

So she says that under these conditions it is best not to cover the nails with polish because it greatly increases the chances of getting nail fungus.

I don't know if this is correct. I have been around a girl that had this condition and it is a terrifying thought.

So, I am not sure what to do.

Scored(barely) a good deal on our flight to China. It was not easy!

April 18th, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I feel proud whenever I manage to get a great deal on airfare (because it is not easy and takes great deal of research)

For mid-summer, non-stop flight with Continental

Flying into Hong Kong and out of Shanghai

$983 pp (includes taxes)

That is a very good deal, especially considering that this is not a round-trip ticket but like 2 one-way tickets.

It is a 16hr long flight to HK! I have done this flight few times before and it is tiring. But I am looking forward to my trip.

Booking it was not easy -- when I finally found this fare, I went to discuss it with DH, get a credit card, think about if a little more. Than, when I was ready to purchase my request was timed out. So I re-entered exact info and now the flight was $1,725!

I tried again and again but it was still the same. So I called Continental reservations line. They looked at it, told me "the cheaper flight was just sold out, it happens all the time, sorry we can't help you." I sounded my disappointment (politely) and just did not know what to do. I guess I had difficulty accepting it. So the rep told me: "I'll transfer you to Continental now, but they'll tell you the same thing".

This got me a little confused - since I was calling Continental in the first place. But I guess they maybe outsourced the reservation system or something like that.

The next lady looked at the flight I wanted and said "yes, it is $1,700" I was sad, of course. It is a huge difference. Than she said if I wait few minutes she can play around to see what she can find in the system. And she found that flight for that price! That was amazing. So I booked it right there. I was so relieved.

I booked both our tickets. We are going on the same flight but DH is coming home after 2 weeks (he needs to go to work). So it was a complex fare with comlpex requirements, and I got a great price on it!

I keep checking this itinerary - and it is still $1725 - it never went down again.

I got approved to go to CHINA!

April 16th, 2009 at 04:46 pm

I am so thrilled!
My employer has approved me to go again. Smile))

So I am spending 30 days in China this summer and using only 7 days of my vacation time. (work related part is 3 weeks). The trip is partially subsidised. My salary is being paid without using my vacation time, course and housing for 3 weeks is provided, everything else (including flights) I'll have to pay.

This time DH will fly with me there! He'll have to come back to work after 2 weeks. But even 2 weeks with him there is nice (last time I went all by my lonesome).

We will fly into Hong Kong, spend 3-4 days there and fly to Shanghai for a day or to and off to Nanjing.

DH will stay with me for a week of my programme, than go home. I will eventually end up somewhere in Hunan province (probably in Changsha) and will make my way back home on my own.

I am really excited. Yes, I'll have to study and attend boring bureaucratic functions and the city is as hot as a brick oven that time of year.... but it still feels like a partial vacation. A definite change in routine. I am very excited!

Photo week -Part I - Paris

April 13th, 2009 at 04:10 pm

I started posting pics when I came back from last "real" vacation in October, but stopped after the Netherlands.

Talk about procrastination. So this week I'll post some. I hope you guys post some as well.


























I love how Parisian women look so elegantly at any age. I think in the US many women take care of their looks in 20s and 30s and let themselves go after 40. I will try not to be one of them and look like the women in the photo when I am past 40.

I have tonns more pictures, these are just the ones I happened to have on this computer.

Shoe shopping is not easy for me. Which ones should I keep?

April 12th, 2009 at 04:48 am

I am not like some women who can go out to the mall and come back with many pairs of shoes.

For me it is a huge task. Mainly because of a few really good shoes I own. So I want a shoe that is comfortable, that feels soft like a slipper, breathable, flexible, very stable... Very hard to find at any price range and even harder at a reasonable one.

I can't bring myself to pay upwards $800 for decent shoes. You could by a crappy car for that amount! but finding something in $200 range is tough. It is mostly a clearance bin of nicer brands (no, not the luxury name brands like Prada, just unknown here comfortable European ones that I know fit my feet well.)

So I was looking for a comfy spring/fall "walking around in jeans" shoe and a neutral casual sandal. I buy on average one pair in 3 months.

I ordered 3 pairs with the intend to return those that do not fit well. I am in between sizes, so all 3, each are half size different, may or may not fit. (it is free return shipping so it is ok to try).


I really like the look and I have few outfits that work with it. However, it was only available half size smaller than it is available. But I know the brand and their nubuck is really soft and stretches, so there is a chance.


Not really feminine, but really really comfortable. I tried this one in the store and it was heavenly to walk in. It cost twice as much in the store than on clearance on the internet. Perfect for days when I need to walk a lot and wear less formal pants or jeans.


Neutral, stable, A little "vanilla" but may work with a lot of bright colors. I'll see if I like it.

I won't keep all of them because it is just too much money. I am uncomfortable spending that much on shoes in one month.
What do you guys think of them?

I like these 2 sandals but they did not have my size as they are all clearance items from last year collections:





Cheap vacation - does it work or is that even a good idea?

April 10th, 2009 at 08:37 pm

I am planning our trip to Hawaii right now.
We got cheap tickets. We got a reasonably priced nice hotel with promotion like $180 a night.

But activities - that adds up to a lot. I am a scuba diver - and I want DH to get certified on this trip so that we could dive together. Certification is around $500, plus $150 per day per person for 2 boat dives, plus equipment rentals.

But being in Hawaii, in those warm waters and marine life and sit on a beach without taking advantage of it? How can we do that?

We would also like to try a surfing lesson - it always looked interesting and we'll be near a beach with ideal conditions for beginners.

Snorkeling, exploring some of the island on horseback. All of it is more pricey per day than hotel cost.

Yet coming all the way there and not doing these things, that does not make sense. That is why vacations never work out cheaply for us. We can't just not take opportunities that are right there.

I am conflicted about it. I thought when I booked these super cheap tickets that this would make it an inexpensive break. But as I am learning about all the things that are available, I am realizing it won't be.

I guess not matter what we plan, we can't be just one of those people (like my mom) who can lay on a hotel beach all week, no matter how nice it is. That makes trips much more expensive.

Cocktail hour - making my own top shelf stuff

April 9th, 2009 at 03:25 am

At $7-$12 for a cocktail plus $2 tip it gets pricey. To have 3 cocktails each for 2 ppl... would be more than I am willing to pay.

So I have a fully stocked bar, like some people have a fully stocked pantry.

Now I can make in my house 3 of my favorite drinks:

1. Top shelf margarita (contreau, fresh squeezed lime juice and patron tequila)

2. Amaretto sour - amaretto, fresh squeezed lemon juice, bitters, bar cherries and ice.

3. Long Island ice tea - vodka, tequila, rum,
gin, grand marnier, fresh lemon and lime juice,
Coca-Cola, ice

I have given up Pina-Colada because it is too high in calories.

This stuff would cost a lot more in a bar - and in many bars they don't use freshly squeezed juice (and that is my primary source of vitamin C) Smile))

So I get best ingredients (I don't like bottle mixes such as sweet and sour - in my opinion they are way too sweet)

We also have most of these things at work and have a cocktail after work hours most Fridays when things are not in the emergency mode.

I will be inviting more people for drinks to our apartment - another up side is that no one needs to drive anywhere until sober - they could just crash on the couch.

It was a fun and inexpensive weekend away, but DH was fined $115 for shivelry

April 6th, 2009 at 01:00 am

So that put a damper on things. I was so upset.

We were picking up a package inside a post office - DH was waiting in a car outside, as there were, naturally, no parking space anywhere. After waiting for half an hour in line I got my package, and went to the car. He got out of the car for 1 SECOND, to help me put it in a trunk, and a meter maid started writing a ticket instantly. a second out of the driver seat, and they got you for $115.

They are waiting outside the post office every Sat, because it is soo crowded.

Working people cannot get their packages(and it is a city, so they can't just be left on a porch like elsewhere) at any other time but Sat. because they work and post office is only opened 10-4. And it is not like a small town, where you can come on your lunch break. Most people commute an hour to their work, so there are no options but Sat. for families where everybody works. And they have short hours on Sat.

Other than that highly unpleasant incident, we had a nice weekend.

We went to Atlantic city and did it reasonably cheaply.

The hotel was free, part of Marriott rewards.

So our total expenses were:

ice cream at a village shop $3.75
Latte $4.5
notebook and refills (souvenier) $10
water, toothpaste $10.32
tip for a free cosmo at a casino bar $2
gambling until 2 am $52.5
dinner (included a pitcher of margarita) $70

5-Apr
housekeeping tip $5
lunch $37.51
gas $22.07
coke (we normally never drink soda, but DH needed caffeine to stay awake on the drive home and the only options at a rest stop was Burger King coffee) $2
lobster tail at a local cafe $4 (bought it to go and shared at home with self made coffee)

So the total was $223.65 for a weekend in Atlantic city and $115 for the fine

We managed to keep costs down by leaving Sat (it is a 2.5 hour drive) spending most of Sat there, lodgning only night and coming back Sun afternoon.

It was a fun weekend. We gambled late, we had nice dinner, we got 2 pm late checkout and lounged at leisure on a beautiful hotel bed.

Alcohol at a fundraiser - sells better than candy

April 3rd, 2009 at 07:27 pm

I bought 2 bottles of wine at a fundraser for an Ethiopian orphanage run by western volunteers.

This fundraiser was pretty well run - a bunch of organizations just donated things (like cases of wine, ethnic crafts, etc) so all things sold were 100% profit to the cause.

And individual people cooked special (often ethnic) dishes and sold them at specially set-up tables at luch time.

This is a kind of a grass-roots fudnraiser I like - there is no pressure to buy, stuff is quite cheap (because it is all donated) and you get odd things that regular stores don't carry. I got a bottle of luxemburg dry white wine (never heard of it, but I am into trying new things) and a bottle of italian sparkling wine.

Everybody feels they are getting a good deal and something special, as opposed to buying candy you could buy at any store for 6 times the price(that kind of fundraizing feels like another form of begging to me).