Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Charter Flights

D and I decided that Air Transat wouldn't be our first choice next time we are flight searching. The service was great. It has nothing to do with that. Even the food was decent.

We thought a direct flight to Venice would be great but the plane seats in our case was so hard, our behinds went numb which made it hard to sleep comfortably on the way there.

On the way home, we ended up on a plane without seat back displays so the in flight entertainment was horrible. So we felt trapped for the 9 hrs plus. Thank goodness for iPods and travel journals.

We like our travel miles and with Air Transat, you don't get anything outside of what your credit card gives. Had we gone our usual route and flew KLM/Air France/Delta, I would be a smidgen away from a free North American flight.

Overall our charter experience was better than I imagined or have been told about. Price wise it wasn't that much less than a "regular" airline. The real potential benefit was the direct flight scheduling. I think with the right planes, it would have been much better.

We also notice that there were a very high proportion of first time travellers in our group who were on tour packages. Perhaps charter airlines and their respective agencies make their money this way.

Because of this, there was higher than normal travel giddiness, confusion and a corresponding lack of travel etiquette relating to allowing people in rows ahead to exit before you, knowing what to do at xray screenings...(mind you, I walked through forgetting to take the sunglasses off my head and even the security check gal didn't notice during the pat down).

The amount of luggage people brought were staggering. As online check is only available at certain hubs (not Venice), we had to line up to check in 3 hrs prior and the line was crazy. I haven't had to do that in ages and haven't missed it one bit.

So between the plane and check in experiences, the charter route is low on the list of flight options. I actually don't mind connections because you can stretch your legs, get a meal/drink, do some shopping. It just adds a few hours to the travel day so we have to pick flights earlier in order to arrive at the time we want.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Super Getaway

Am back home and back to work. Long shift yesterday! Slept like a rock last night and have a medium list of things to catch up on today -- at a leisurely pace. Jet lag minimal. A few early approach pictures of Venice to whet your appetites. It's diet and workout time for D and I. Too much good food and wine and gelato...full travel report to come.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Back In A Week

We will be leaving this weekend for Italy. With everything that has gone on this first half of the year, we are both really happy about getting away for a bit.

Even though mentally we know that making money isn't all that, it isn't until exhaustion hits before you remember that time is number one thing D and I value. We both have a hard time saying "No" to everything that may look good on paper but can drain you dry in reality.

Oh, and a quick update about my office move. I will be starting at my new office as of July. Everything is there and ready to go. There was even less stuff than last year and took a fraction of the time to move than I thought. All good things.

Hope everyone has a productive and fun week.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mish Mash

My allergies have been horrible this year. A wet and what feels like an extended spring may be a cause. My homeopathic remedy usually does the trick but I've had to resort to Claritin when it gets completely out of control.

On a much more fun note, there is an art exhibit I'd like to see this summer in Ottawa -- "Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome". The perennial summer issue is availability of weekend time. I am going to check into flying and staying for just one night.

The annual "Donkey Day" was last Sunday. As many of you know, I am a big fan of them. And the day helps to raise money and awareness for the sanctuary.

I haven't been in the frame of mind to look for another company to quote for replacing attic insulation at the cottage. It has been non stop for contractor contacts in the last month.

I'm tired of people not showing up and not responding when they say they will. When I feel mentally strong enough to tackle this job again, I'll resume. After all, I waited 8 yrs. Another year isn't going to kill me. The amount we've accomplished this year already is more than enough.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Roofing Tip

Because of our upcoming getaway, we will not be able to see the result of the cottage roof replacement until the end of the month. Which brings me to a valuable roofing tip.

Make an effort to visit a roofing supply place where they have moderately large samples of the various shingles up on display. Not the hand held boards with a couple of shingles, or worse, the page with a 2 inch version of the shingle.

You really don't get the full effect of the colour or texture until you see a few rows of it installed like it would be on your roof.

For the cottage, we didn't know about contractor roofing supply places so we went to a local home supply center and agonized over the mini samples they had. I had pictures of our existing roof on my Blackberry and D and I must have looked like fools looking at the phone and holding the tabs up the light...

When we finally made it to the proper roofing place, we were able to see the real thing. Thankfully, we made a great choice for the cottage and had we gone with the other one, it would have been great too (phew!).

For the house, it was trickier in some ways. As we are doing a partial replacement, we were looking to match the colour with what is currently the rest of the roof as we like that colour. Once we saw the 2 colours this roofer recommended, it was a no brainer. We only liked the one.

For those who wish more details, we went with a 30 yr shingle for the cottage and a 50 yr shingle for the house. It was what was recommended to us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Home Maintenance Update

We will be flying Air Transat to Venice. They offer a direct flight from Toronto vs. the last time I few, which was via Amsterdam.

The price was lower than the major carriers but more importantly, the flight times worked better but we won't be receiving any extra points. As this is my first dealing with them, I'll report back my opinions after.

A message arrived from the cottage roofer (while we were outside painting) letting us know the job has been completed. And most importantly, there were no surprises or extra expenses.

We were mildly concerned that boards would have to be replaced. I wasn't joking when I described the previous roofing job as somewhat a "disaster". I'm just grateful it lasted until I was ready to have it replaced.

We allotted $4500 to the job (just in case there were extras) and we will be needing just over $4000. So the $500 extra will be shifted towards our partial home roof and window replacement which is in the $1500 cost range.

It is so nice to have big jobs like this completed, especially when you are relying on others to do it. We just faxed through the signed agreement for our house job and the estimated time when our job will be completed is in the 4 - 6 wk range.

By then we hope our outdoor painting will be completed. Our goal is to avoid strenuous outdoor work during the high humid times. I certainly feel for those professions who are at the mercy of extreme heat.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Too Much

D has an unfortunate car mishap on the way to the cottage last weekend. A flap of something rubbery flew up in the air and hit his car on the bumper. It managed to cause mini cracks on the clear coat and almost knocked out the grill protective cover over his fog light.

He has not had the best luck with vehicles lately. In our garage, he dropped something made of hard plastic onto my car and the result were 4 vertical scrapes I had to touch up. This incident was preventable and we have chalked it up to mental exhaustion and subsequent clumsiness.

We have subsequently decided that he will no longer accept extra contract work during the warmer months as the increased outdoor housework makes life too hectic. And in reality, his contract work pay doesn't go to savings. It is more fun money and we can live without it.

I have one more Friday to work and will move into official semi-retirement. Pretty exciting! How long will that phase last? To be honest, I hope for a while as I still want and need to save. Plus I am also curious to find out if I will achieve a better stress balance at work. I can hardly believe I will be celebrating my 14th year of practice this summer.

Our exterior painting projects are more than 1/2 done. We went at it for about 6 hrs yesterday (lost track of time) but the results are worth it. With the weather being so unpredictable this year, we feel we need to take advantage of what workable weather we get.

I'm anxiously awaiting strawberry season to start.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Airstream Tour

We did something educational and fun over the weekend. Ever since I saw a documentary on Airstreams, I've been wanting to see one in person. Sure, I've seen them on the highway but I really wanted to go inside one.

I finally got that chance and was it ever fun. They are really neat. We started with their smallest sport models and moved up to the 30+ ft ones. They know it is really hard to consider the smaller ones once you've been around the larger ones.

Our vehicle has a lot of towing power so it wouldn't have a problem but I can't really see myself pulling it around all over the place. What I can see myself doing is buying a piece of land (that would allow trailers) and putting one there permanently ie. in Nfld.

We were both so glad to have had the chance to go through one. They were as cool as I imagined. But, you should have seen my face when it was suggested it was possible to amortize the cost of one over 25 yrs!

I've never taken longer than 7 yrs to pay off any of my houses ($145K - $285K). I cannot believe people would chose an option like that for something in the $55000 price tag. You wouldn't even get that option for a car!

Like most specialty vehicles (car, boat etc), there are specific extra costs that come along with it -- special toilet paper, chemicals, smaller sized everything that costs a lot more...There is a definitely lifestyle cost attached to it.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I don't want to save 100% of my income. That's too boring. And I do not believe it is necessary. So I am going to start with 85% and see how that goes.

The other 15% will be my fun money and it will be a raise compared to what I was getting from Friday income. Should I desire more spending money, then I'll change that ratio to a maximum of 50%.

An update on the Turbo hub antenna... The first time it worked really well! The next day, we couldn't even get one laptop going well. Turned out there was something going on with the Bell Tower as my cell phone wasn't receiving anything.

Last weekend when D was up, he had no troubles. The antenna was purchased off of an eBay vendor for around $36US plus shipping.

Turns out, we got a deal on our contract with Bell as we noticed the prices have gone up since. We got a 2 year contract. Hopefully prices will still be reasonable come renewal time and most certainly better, newer technology too.

We are also loving the drive up on a Thursday night vs. Fridays. So far so good and what a difference! It is shaping up to be a great summer season.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All Coming Together

I'm late with my bi-yearly dental check up so it's off to the dentist for me today. Yuck! I'm not a fan and am one of those people who gets nervous at the sounds of dental drills.

The roofer I have been waiting for has answered my questions and we will be firming up our contract with him after we decide on shingle colours this weekend. Am so relieved to have it so close to completion -- At least on my end.

I've figured out where the monies will be coming from. The roofer up north does not take credit card but the local one here does so at least I get some points out of it.

I just got notified our $50 gas card courtesy of MasterCard is on its way. After my car expense next week, I'll be getting another one from Visa too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Only Wed

Today feels like it ought to be Friday! The week has been so full with each day seemingly stuffed with 2 days worth of events in it.

Summertime is typically slower work wise for me. There is a natural cycle that ebbs and flows throughout the year I've come to appreciate.

In my ideal world, we'd be able to work less during the dark winter months when it makes sense to allow our bodies to hibernate.

Heck, it would be great if we could all work part time and still maintain a good quality of life. I can just imagine how much less stress and more health it could bring.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Decisions Decisions

Three and a half hours later and I got my car back. Repair was covered by warranty -- turned out to be a temperature sensor.

Would have cost $500 if I was covering it on my own. Was told about extended warranty. Am considering it.

The most fun part was getting to test drive a convertible sports car while I was waiting. Made the time go by faster.

Next stop is to get the 3M protection on the front of my car. That's happening either this week or next depending on whether I can complete any paint touch ups at least 24hrs in advance.

I've made up my mind and will be dropping my Fridays at work (2 1/2 hrs) totally starting July. So I have proclaimed myself to be officially semi-retired.

It was a tough decision but a necessary one for mental health reasons more than anything. Now I will be getting 4 days off in a row every week.

Financially the only thing affected is our pocket money as Friday income is split between D and I. We'll just have to dip into our dream for casual spending.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Home Maintenance

D and I had a really productive day yesterday. We were so into our garage door and surround painting, we managed to totally miss the men's French Open final and our talked about screening of X Men First Class.

The garage results are great, even though we are only at the first coat. We have a wooden garage door, so not only is it heavy but also requires a lot of prep -- scraping, sanding, filling, priming.

Managed to get a small sunburn at the back of my neck from it all. We were invited to a friend's house for dinner so it was great to get some good work in and not have to cook.

D's cottage spring cleaning went well. He worked extra hard this past week. I'm a lucky girl to have someone who is willing to do all that physical labour.

He told me that one of our neighbours up there discovered his well had run dry and was not a happy camper, to say the least. His is a 200 ft drilled well which translates into "expensive to replace".

I can only imagine how stressed I would be if it were me in his shoes. We had to replace our well 8 yrs ago because the pipe got clogged after a couple of decades but they just popped a new one in the same place.

Our next door neighbour had to try twice before finding water. I wouldn't want to find myself in a place where we had to consider a shared well situation. Not because I do not wish to help out a neighbour, but from a resale perspective.

I know I would hesitate to buy a property that had a shared situation, well or driveway, for that matter.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another Day

Well, it has been 1 month since I've stopped putting prepayments towards the mortgages. Haven't missed it for 1 second. It's nice to see savings accounts build up again.

I've declared myself officially done the mortgage payment game. I handed the baton to D who gratefully accepted it. Now I am working on my long term career plans -- How to handle Fridays, drop them or work them around my life? I'm working 1 Friday a month during the summer. That's all I know for now.

My first German car test came this week in the form of a "check engine" light. The first thought in my head was "Here we go...the universe is testing my resolve here...". Never in my 14 yrs of Honda ownership had I ever gotten a "check engine" light come on. So my first trip to the dealership is coming right up.

The fellow who was supposed to give us an estimate for the cottage roof insulation stiffed D this weekend. I'm not happy about that and have received no message from him. Onto the next company. At first I was going to call and then I thought, if this is the way they run their business, I don't wish to engage with them any further.

I spending a lazy day catching up on reading. It's nice to be able to putter away. Our trip to Venice is around the corner. Time to bring out the good ole Italian phrase book for a whirl.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I usually use credit card points towards flights. Recently we decided to use them towards gas cards.

Luck would have it I have just enough points for a $50 card and since ordered, there is news of a postal strike in our neck of the woods.

The very best part about it is the credit card has no fee and I do not carry a balance so it truly is a free gift.

Our other card normally has a fee associated with it but because I have a business account with the bank, it is waived.

I get points with use as well as travel insurance which has saved us a lot of money over the years.

D's new card has a fee of $75/yr but it covers our roadside assistance for both our vehicles, saving us having to buy a plan anymore.

It's great to get freebies and discounts just for regular spending.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Getting There

We have firmed up with the one roofer and am waiting for the other one to answer some questions prior to firming up. It's all good.

Haven't figured out which account to use for payment of the smaller job yet. The other one is going to be paid for from our non tax acct.

The only other job slated for this summer is new attic insulation at the cottage. I have a call out to a company for more info and an estimate.

At home, the biggest job this summer will be exterior painting -- garage & sun room. All the paint have been bought. Just waiting on mother nature to cooperate. Can't wait! It's going to look great when completed.

D's annual spring cleaning weekend happens this weekend, sans me as I apparently get in the way and complain too much about the noise...