Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020

It's that time of year when I look back and reflect on the previous year and look forward to reflect on the new year. I try to objectively take stock of everything that's gone on in the year and make somewhat objective projections for the new year. But, as we all know, it's hard to be objective about your own life. The whole, "you're too close to yourself to see the truth" thing applies, but that doesn't stop me from trying.

This year...

Objectively-ish, this year has been kind of mediocre. I didn't really accomplish much. On the other hand, nothing earth-shattering has happened either. No one I love has died**, as has happened in December the last two years (Tommy in 2017 & my grandmother in 2018). We have the same jobs, for the most part. There have been a couple of pretty interesting little things...
  1. I impulse purchased a new car in March--went into the dealer to get my car serviced, came out with a new car. Same type, newer model. I'm pretty happy with my new car, it's both cute and fast. I regret nothing. Also, Road & Track named my car 2020 performance car of the year. So there's that. 
  2. I got a small bump in job responsibilities that came with a small raise--this has come with more than a little anxiety, but I'm trying to put myself out there and take on new things. 
  3. We semi-impulse purchased a Peloton bike earlier this month... Jesus help me!
  4. We paid off both of our cars this month... saving us more than $1,000 per month! 
I'm thinking that's pretty much it. Otherwise, we live in the same house. We have the same jobs. We drive the same cars (sort of). We're pretty dull.

Last year...

One surprising win this year was last year's New Year's Resolutions. I had resolved to write one blog post a week for a year and to do 5 days a week mindfulness meditation. I failed at both of these things. But...

I wrote more blog posts this year than I have in the past several years. In fact, more than the last three years (2016-2018) all together.

So, while I didn't write 52 posts this year, I still did pretty great and am claiming this one as a win for blogging. It really helped me push to put some thoughts down or write posts so I could remember events in my life. That's a win.

Next year...

Next year is 2020, which blows my mind... I remember when that seemed like the distant, distant future! That means it's my 20th wedding anniversary and we are planning a trip... more on that another time. I'm also planning to take the new year as a new opportunity to learn something new and try again to invest in myself. While I suck at that last part, and always let myself down, I'm still going to try.

There is this proofreading course I've just started taking that will show me how to start a proofreading business. I plan to keep tackling that in the new year. My intention is to start my own business. I hear putting intentions out there in the universe helps them along, so wish me luck. 

My New Year's Resolutions for 2020 are...
  1. Take the proofreading course
  2. Start my own business... I'm so scared.
  3. Keep trying to write one post a week... I'm so close to being there!
  4. Try to take off some of this weight. I'm getting a treadmill Peloton bike to help that along (and maybe so I don't have to go outside because, well, outside is cold and scary!)
  5. Try to keep my house more clean (I suck at housekeeping!)
That's more than enough resolutions. I'm bound to succeed at one or two of them! Bring it on, 2020!!

** As an aside... Since I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, my mom's brother was killed on December 16th. We didn't really know him, because family drama with his mom, but it's still incredibly sad. He was only 32 years old. RIP Andrew. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

I Hate Being a Homeowner

Have I mentioned that I kind of hate home ownership? Well, maybe hate-love better describes my feelings. Either way, heavy emphasis on hate. I feel like that's an unpopular opinion, but I would much rather rent than buy. It's not even close. "But home-ownership builds equity... blah, blah, blah..." yeah, I don't care. But here we are, "homeowners" (parenthesis because the bank owns it much more than we do) and the experience is so not making me feel all warm and fuzzy.

I would like to take this opportunity, before I go on, to say that I actually do love our little house. This is the love part of my hate-love feelings. Our home is cozy and it's ours, we're pretty happy here and I like being able to do with it whatever we want without asking anyone's permission. I just hate the entire process of home-ownership.

I mean, buying a home is a horrible experience. The whole exercise of finding a house you like and can afford, then getting a home loan is the absolute worst. The amount of information they want is ridiculous. Oh, you had one overdraft for thirty-six cents a year and a half ago? We're going to need you to write the underwriter a letter explaining why you're such a failure. You have too many credit cards, your credit score isn't quite right, you don't make enough money... you now have to give us your entire financial history and then wait, on pins and needles, for a stranger to pass judgment on your worthiness to have a roof over your head. It. is. the. worst.

Then, when they decide you're worthy and you move into your new place, you're responsible for everything. When you rent, someone else is responsible for things that break. Got a roof leak? Yup, that's going to cost you $350. Your gutters need to be cleaned and repaired? That's gonna cost you $500+. Your sink is clogged up and you need a new garbage disposal (us, right this very second)? That's gonna be a pretty penny.

Home-ownership comes with a million little money-sucking costs. You have to get the yard up-kept, or you have to have a husband/child/person who will mow (mine won't and I can't). If you live somewhere cold, the snow becomes an expensive nuisance. There's mortgage, insurance, and taxes which are all expected expenses. But, then there's all the little unexpected things like a home warranty, which you have to pay monthly and then you also have to pay copays, and then there's only a 50/50 shot they'll cover whatever is wrong. And all the little fixes and "upgrades." It's all on you.

Yeah, I hate it. When we lived in an apartment and the pipes burst in the bathroom, our managers fixed it and sent a company to dry out the carpet, and it didn't cost us a thing. When the dishwasher died, they replaced it and it didn't cost us a thing. They sprayed for bugs, came in to inspect the smoke detectors every month for free, and all we had to do is pay our rent. It was so easy.

But, that was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when renting was easy. Back when the rental contract prohibited you from burning candles, but you could smoke inside. When they allowed pets without charging pet rent or having a pet minimum. Now, if you rent, you can't smoke inside. This is fine by me, but not with Matt who is a throwback to the 90s south where everyone smoked inside. There're pet minimums, if they allow pets at all, and the pet deposits are ridiculous. Then they charge you pet rent, which is kind of the most absurd thing I've ever heard of. I mean, do they charge extra rent for people's kids? Of course not. But kids have the potential to do as much or more damage than pets.

But I digress. Right now, it's Sunday, it's snowing and we have two sinks half full of muck because our sinks won't drain. When I turn on the garbage disposal, water literally sprays out the back and all over the power plug for the garbage disposal. We're going to have to call a plumber in the morning and between the sinks and the disposal, I'm expecting a $500 bill. If we were renting right now, that bill would be on someone else. Sooooooo glad we're not renters. 😤 I'm taking this opportunity to blame Matt who insisted we buy a house, rather than rent, when moving to Utah. Thanks, honey.

Home Sweet Home, Winter 2015

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas 2019

It's Christmas! I've been off work since Sunday and four days off has been a lovely way to spend the Christmas holiday. Matt and I are spending the day together, just hanging out. I'll be making us a nice vegan meal this evening (a story for another time).

This year, we bought ourselves a Peloton bike and a new game system (table top role playing games, not video games) for Christmas. My lovely little sister got me Garth Brooks' Legacy collection on Vinyl, my folks got me an electric griddle and Omaha steaks, and my aunt got us Hickory Farms. We've had a really nice year and are thankful this Christmas for our health and the health of our families.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing for Christmas this year, I hope you're having a good one. Merry Christmas!

Reflecting pool, Temple Square, SLC 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Making an Actual Investment

I've decided (yet again) that I need to work on my health. I could stand to lose some weight, but more than anything I'm not really getting any younger and I'm in horrible shape. So, one of my resolutions for the new year is going to be to invest in myself... lose some weight and build endurance, improve my health.

To do that, I decided I would seek motivation by making an actual investment, rather than relying on a sort of abstract motivation. I mean, I suck at self-motivation and I tend to give up on physical activity or eating well when they become hard. Zero willpower to resist the junk food and sitting on my ass in front of the TV or computer.

So this year, as we approach a new year, the actual investment we made in ourselves looks like this...

For the record, riding this thing is way, way harder than it looks. It came yesterday, I put my cycling shoes together, and took my first ride last night. I choose a 10 minute scenic ride and, I'm a little ashamed to say, I didn't make it through the whole thing without breaks.

I'm working on trying to eat better, too, because this I feel like it will make exercise easier if I can take some weight off. First day, but I think I'm doing pretty well so far. It hasn't been without temptation, there's ice cream in my freezer, but I'm taking it hour by hour.

I don't have a lot to say about the bike so far, except that it's pretty uncomfortable. The seat seriously hurts your ass, which I knew to expect because many of the online reviews mention it--I ordered a gel seat cover, so hopefully that'll help. I'm sure after I've ridden it longer, I'll have plenty to say. For now, the only thing I have to say is that it's hard so wish me luck as I try to build some endurance and get in better shape.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A little bit about technology...

My friend Jodi recently posted about technology and the future being now, and it got me thinking. As I left a comment and tried to keep it to a reasonable length, I reflected on where we were twenty or thirty years ago. The technology you have in the moment is always the best technology you've ever had. In the mid-90s, we thought home computers and share-ware floppy disks were the shit. Today, we can control our homes with only our voices.

I work in technology for a company that makes smart home equipment. This stuff is pretty amazing. Before I began working there, I had no idea about smart homes. I knew it existed, but made a choice to stay in my bubble, under my rock, and not learn how it worked. It all seemed a little bit complicated to me. Get this plug to connect to this hub, to work these things. Some things work together, others don't, it seemed like a mess.

But the truth is, it's not that hard and it's getting easier every day. The way the technology works together to create a network of commands to control the home is brilliant. If you invest in it, you can turn your lights and other electronics on/off, adjust your thermostat, control doors, cameras, and alarm systems. What you can do with it is almost limited only by your imagination and the technology's inability to physically reach beyond itself.

Still, it can be a little bit overwhelming... or, maybe it's just me that's overwhelmed? I remember when we were watching Star Trek and thinking no one would ever be able to video chat. That's not going to happen, it's ridiculous... yet, here we are. The crew on Trek can use their replicator to create things and food. We're not there with the food, but with a 3D printer we can create a lot of pretty neat things. Star Wars allows callers to chat holographically and while we're not there yet, we are able on a larger scale to create some pretty realistic holograms (think Michael Jackson).

My point is, it's hard to think about technology that's at your finger tips as futuristic, but it's also impossible for some of us NOT to think of it that way, too. Most days, it doesn't even occur to me that my iPhone is more powerful than any home computer I had in the 90's and early 2000's, and is still more powerful than some computers today depending on what you buy. I take for granted that I can Facetime with my mom or Skype with sister who has an Android phone (ewwww!!), or that I can control my internet with an app on my phone.

What's a little bit ironic about all of this is that we don't have a single smart home feature in our house, unless you consider a TV remote you can talk to futuristic. It's not because we're cheap, I mean, smart home tech is pretty inexpensive for the most part. It's because my husband doesn't really trust it. He won't install smart locks because he says we can just unerringly put the key in the lock and turn (as an aside, the internal tumblers in our back door lock broke once making it impossible to do just that). He has this idea that with a keypad, anyone could break into your house.  He believes smart thermostats have a mind of their own--the Nest certainly does--and wants to be able to control the temp manually. He doesn't trust it, fearing it's sort of half-baked or not well enough developed to trust it.

So, until he starts to believe it's trustworthy, we'll just keep our regular old semi-low-tech home. Or maybe I'll start sneaking these things in, one at a time, until he becomes accustomed to them and we have a smart home without him noticing. Remote lamp switches certainly wouldn't go amiss for my Christmas tree right about now!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Coffee and a Classic: A Year in Review

Can you believe I've been getting these glorious Coffee and a Classic boxes for a year?! It's the Christmas present that keeps on giving (as long as you keep on paying!). Over the last year I've gotten a lot of neat books, a lot of coffee cups, and tried a lot of different cocoas. I thought it would be fun, as the year ends, to look back on the year worth of boxes and share my overall impression.

Some quick facts about Coffee and a Classic Subscription boxes:
  1. You can subscribe on their website or through Cratejoy: Subscribing directly through their site seems to offer more flexibility. 
  2. Payment plans can be monthly, 3 Month Prepay, and 6 Month Prepay: Monthly subscribers have an easier time making adjustments to their packages directly on the site. If yous sub for 3 or 6 months at a time, you have to email them any time you want to make adjustments. However, paying in advance makes it a little bit less expensive.
  3. There are two subscription levels: Standard Classic Subscription ($51.99/month) and Starter Classic Subscription ($41.99). The difference seems to be that the higher level subscription has a coffee cup and comes in a high quality photo box (I love these boxes, by the way!).
  4. Book choices include: Classical Literature, Children's Classics, or Classic Non-Fiction.
  5. Drink choices include: Coffee, tea, cocoa, or surprise me.
  6. You can set up a reoccurring subscription using either your credit card or Paypal for convenience and they always email you before your subscription is going to renew. 
A couple of quick facts about my experience with them:
  1. They have good customer service: When Matt signed me up for this box, he put my email address in wrong. This made it impossible for us to access my new subscription account. We emailed them and within a few hours they had it fixed and we were on our way. I contacted them one other time to change my book-type preference and they got that done without any trouble. 
  2. I've gotten all three book-categories over the last year and the books are great quality!
  3. My drink preference is cocoa and each month's has always been unique and delicious: The packing for the cocoa is also really neat. So much so I plan to frame the pics on the front of the cocoas and hang them in my kitchen. 
  4. Each month I've gotten a lovely mug: My only issue here is that they are clearly not dishwasher safe, but until recently the insert hasn't specified that. I absolutely destroyed one of the mugs by putting it in the dishwasher. 
  5. The boxes are beautifully, thoughtfully curated each month: It's clear they love books!
A couple of bumps in an otherwise flawless road:
  1. Some of the scents for candles, soaps, and oils haven't been my preference: They always match the box and make sense, but haven't always been to my liking.
  2. Broken glass: One of the boxes had a glass oil burner that was broken into pieces in the box. I have no idea how this happened, since it was cushioned and well packed. I get mugs every month and never has one been broken, but this one thing came broken. 
  3. Different contents than others with the same box: One month I got a different mug than the others who got the box (mine was a ceramic mug while most of the others were a lovely travel mug) another time the candy was loose all over the box, rather than in a box as I saw in some of the others boxes. 
Overall, my impression of the subscription boxes has been just wonderful. Being a literature person, particularly one who enjoys classical literature, I have been so delighted by these boxes month after month. No only do I feel the boxes are completely worth the $50 or so we pay for them every month, I feel like that's a bargain. So much so, I will continue to subscribe to them into the foreseeable future.

Favorites from the year:

**Absolutely not a paid endorsement, I pay for this subscription every month. None of the links are ads. I have not been paid to endorse any of them. I just love the products.**

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Center Street Christmas Celebration

Our cute little town's Christmas tree lighting celebration was last night. It was a celebration for the reopening Center Street, which has been closed for months, and a ribbon cutting for the new arch over the street. There was a short parade, carolers, our high school bad played Christmas music, candy windows unveiled at our local candy company. It was a nice way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon.

Logan is a lovely all year, but at Christmas time, it's really something to see. It's got a distinct Hallmark Christmas movie-like feel. Lots of people came out for the Christmas celebration so it was crowded, but still a really good time with a strong community feel.

The short parade included Santa being pulled down Center Street on an antique fire wagon by the Highpoint Clydesdales. They are the biggest horses I have ever seen, but truly beautiful creatures. We got up closer for a look while they were parked in the middle of the street. They are huge...

I managed to get pretty close, despite the crowds and get a shot of these gorgeous horses that won the World Clydesdale Competition in 2018.

When the short parade with Santa and the horses was done, there was a tree lighting and a ribbon cutting for the opening of the Center Street arch. The snow on those trees isn't an affectation, we've gotten about a foot and a half of snow over the past two days. The trees are huge, flanking Center Street behind the new arch, and light up. While we waited for the tree lighting, even though Matt objected to my attempt to take a picture of us in the middle of the crowd, I got one. I actually think this pic came out really good, a rare gem!

After the tree lighting, seeing the Clydesdales, and the arch we took a little walk down Center Street to the corner of main. I snapped a couple of pics of this cute little street along the way...

This is a look down Center Street toward our main street. You can see how close the mountains are in this shot, as well as the lovely old buildings. The right hand side is Wells Fargo bank, built in 1914.

This theater is the oldest in town. It's been renovated in the last couple of years and though I haven't ever been inside, I've heard it's still got it's original charm. They were showing "A Christmas Story" there tonight for free. We didn't stay for the movie, but I just love this theater.

There were carolers outside the Caine Lyric Theater, but in this picture the crowds were there to see the reindeer. There were too many people crowded around to get a good picture of the little fella. 

These reindeer, made of what looks like grapevine, are on both sides of the street and are situated at both ends of the this block.

After seeing the rest of the street, we circled back around to see the Candy windows in front of our local candy shop, Blue Bird Candy Company. Their candy is amazing and this year they did candy windows! There were three different designs, but this one of Frosty is the the only one I could catch without too much glare. Their windows are a little bit tinted, so that with the glare of the setting sun, the other two were impossible to capture. But even still, they are gorgeous.

Once we'd seen the candy windows, we headed out to have dinner. It was a perfectly lovely afternoon. So much so, I think I'm going to convince him to go to a few more of these sorts of things this winter!