Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Passport Renewal & Health Checks

I decided to renew my passport sooner than originally planned because I had the time last week. In anticipation of future travel plans requiring tourist visas, I requested a passport book with extra pages for $5 more than the regular price.

It ended up costing me $92. Money well spent, in my opinion. Total came to just over $100 including my passport photos. And I'm good for another 5 years. I chose to keep my cancelled passport as a souvenir.

This past week was full of appointments. I got my teeth cleaned and my eyes checked (finally!) after 5 yrs. Teeth and eyes are both good -- Phew!

We are really lucky to have extended health care that covers 80% of most check ups. My eye exam cost $98 and my teeth check and clean came to $99.

My final Naturopathic appointment is this week. I started eating the foods I've avoided the past 5 months to see what effect they have. Eggs and dairy do bring on nasal allergies within a couple of hours so now I know.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

You Never Know...

In the category of "You never know unless you ask...",

  • I got flight miles credit for 2 flights I wasn't supposed to get but the agent made an exception for me! I was supposed to have been a member of their program prior to the flights.

  • I received a discount of $400 on my trip to Norway when I decided to call and ask if I was eligible for an advertised price reduction. Turns out if the final payment date has not occurred, you are!

What a great way to start the weekend.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What I Want?

If someone was to ask me right now what I've "always wanted", my answers would be:

  • electric curlers (since I was 7yrs old)

  • A large wooden box of professional art supplies (since I was a teenager)

  • to take one month off without guilt (since I started working)

The first 2 on the list can be achieved pretty quickly. I've just not taken action on it. The last one has been a mental hurdle for years. No idea when I'll be brave enough to make it happen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Getting Organized

I am in the midst of getting my info together to calculate capital gains on the stocks I sold last spring to buy my car. I am not organized enough to find the price I sold them for easily so I've sent an email to my investment advisor.

Depending on what my taxes will be, I may or may not get a tax refund. Right now, without having all of my investment receipts yet, I am running at about a $700 refund position.

Meanwhile, I have been neglecting my 2013 book keeping for my office. That is on the agenda today. Along with various odds and sods such as hemming pants and clearing my paperwork off my treadmill so I can actually use it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Work Lessons

The two weeks out west has taught D & I some lessons. Neither of us enjoyed him working from home full time.

It could be an issue of space as our spot there is very small and there is no relief for ourselves from each other when his work gets tense. Plus it has potential of ruining the whole environment. You don't want to associate a great place with stress.

One solution will involve D taking holiday time while we are out for 50% of it. It will affect rest of the year vacation allotment and will translate into D going to Europe once a year vs. twice. I think he is OK with it as he loves to ski.

Another idea we are considering is buying another small unit in the same building so our living space will be split into sleeping unit and working/socializing area.

This idea only makes sense if we aren't planning on moving out permanently.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Travel Languages

I'm not leaving anything to chance this time. When D and I went to Berlin, I left it up to D to learn enough useful German.

When push came to shove, D froze and started speaking French which didn't get us very far. I don't want a repeat of the stress of putting together words from our phrase book trying to book a cab for 5 am.

People told him he needn't bother because everyone spoke English. Not true. We didn't meet anyone who spoke English to us. Not even the cab drivers. And the restaurants we went to didn't have English menus.

I've used those "All Audio" courses before with success and I've started with the German one. D has decided to use Rosetta Stone. Between the both of us, we ought to be more successful this time around when we get to Munich.

Because we'll be heading back to Amsterdam too, I also want to learn some Dutch too. D's passing on this one. I managed to order french fries in Dutch the last time but failed miserably with ordering an ice cream cone.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Funny Story

I got to meet some of D's ski buddies and one of them had a great story to share. He was on a plane home from a business meeting and the company had paid for him to fly business class.

He was in the aisle and some other guy was sitting by the window. During boarding, he noticed that the flight attendants were overly attentive to the fellow by the window. He just figured maybe that is just how things were in business class.

When general boarding occurred, he saw many people stop and look. D's friend thought maybe his fly was open or he had spilled food on his shirt but neither was the case.

The last straw was when a flight attendant asked the fellow by the window whether he'd like to watch the landing in the cockpit. This was pre-911.

So he asked the fellow what his name was.

He replied, "Matt Damon".

To which D's friend said, "So, what do you do?"

"I'm an actor."

"What movies have you been in? Anything I would know?"

"Good Will Hunting, Bourne..."


And they proceeded to have a nice conversation for the duration of the short flight from Boston to Toronto until it was time for the cockpit viewing.

When D's friend got home and told his wife, she freaked out, as would have I.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I've spent some time looking at this site by Hurtigruten. Their trips to Greenland are inspirational! A place I'm looking forward to visiting someday.

But first thing is first. I'm going to complete my visits to Scandinavia with a trip to Norway this summer. Planning to do some hiking and will likely be moved to take many many pictures as I sail through the fjords. Wish this trip could have included Svalbard. (I want to see an Ice Bear...)

This will be my "big" trip for 2012. Big referring to cost. Scandinavia isn't known to be cheap. But at least I will only need one currency.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

West Coast Cost

Happy Valentine's Day! Can you believe D and I couldn't find any Cinnamon hearts at the mall? Maybe they just aren't popular anymore?

We spent a day in town grocery shopping as well as checking out one particular neighbourhood in our research of potential places to move to. There was going to be an open house in the afternoon.

Here's what we concluded. The walk ability of the neighbourhood was great. Everything we use on a weekly basis is within a 15 min radius. We would be getting more in terms of specialty grocers.

The curb appeal was OK. The developments were in a transition zone between commercial and residential.

We both loved the "west coast" architecture. There were 2 bedroom, 2 bath 1450 sq ft condos with outside balconies/patios ranging from 450 - 1400 sq ft. The outside spaces and interior light were fantastic. Pricing started at $364000 with condo fees around $260/month.

Should we wish for single family homes, the prices would be in the $450000 - $700000 for a 3 bedroom, 2 or 3 bath with a double car garage (starter home) in a nice area. Nice area meaning near or part way up a mountain, golf course, winery.

So we would be up sizing in price and downsizing in space. Living up at the resort would be at least $150000 cheaper. Now we know what the price of poker is.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Amsterdam Story

D's boss is apparently still laughing over a story he told him about me in Amsterdam. I thought I had written about it but searching back here it appears I hadn't.

Also found out my subject tags and history search didn't work that well either but that's a different problem for another day.

The story begins in Berlin when I discovered and fell in love with a yogurt made by Movenpick. It tastes like whipped cream and my favourite flavour was mandarin orange/lime combo. I'm sure my cholesterol level shot up with each tablespoon but I didn't care.

In a land where you could buy a pint of beer at a grocery store for .35 euro, spending a few euro dollars per small cup of yogurt was a bit of a stand out. And again, I didn't care. I ate as many as I could. I don't drink milk but am a serious lover of whipped cream and cream in general.

Fast forward almost a year later when we visited Amsterdam and stayed on a houseboat. Imagine my delight (I believe I even let out a small scream of surprise) when I saw a large container of the dutch version of the Movenpick yogurt. Same coloured container, with the same print of the mandarin orange and lime slice on the front. I bought 2 each only costing over a euro each --cheap!

As soon as we got back, I tore open the tub and started scooping it down. OMG, did it ever taste good! D tried a couple of tablespoons and agreed it was so creamy and yummy. In my mind, I was trying to figure out where I could find a houseboat to buy and move to Amsterdam.

I was a 1/3 rd of the way down the 900 ml tub when I said to D I was going to dig down to the bottom to get to the fruit to balance out the creamy taste. So I dug and nothing. There was no fruit. I had manage to almost consume half a tub of whipped cream that tasted like the Movenpick yogurt.

It never occurred to me to google "slagroom" until now. I just assumed it was whipped cream and used up the rest of it (and 2 more containers) in my morning coffee (I don't drink morning coffee but happily did so as a whipping cream delivery system as D called it). Apparently I was doing a dutch thing without knowing.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Life Spectrums

I watched a powerful documentary last night on depression that struck a deep cord within me. Here's the link to it, it has been divided into 5 parts with a couple of commercials at the start. Really worth watching. I haven't re-watched it but hope it is the entire show.

On the other end of the spectrum, I discovered Men's Journal magazine just before Christmas, en route out west. Never bought it before but I was drawn to it (beyond the Daniel Craig cover...). In depth articles and I like how the small print above the title says "Live the Interesting Life".

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Clipping Along

Aside from a pretty annoying (probably dehydration) headache, I've settled out here pretty well. Cannot say I'm motivated to do much even though the ski conditions are pretty great. It's nice to be able to the flex the "do whatever you feel like" muscle.

It takes a few days for the rest of my business banking to be completed due to the length of time required for money to be moved from one place to another to another. Yeah, it got done this morning.

I've also decided on something fun money wise. That annuity D has started paying me, for my overpayment towards the mortgage?

I'm going to take the first year of it just for myself. In all likelihood, I probably would have spent 30 - 40% of it had I not put it away so by the time the dust settles, I may end up drawing 4 yrs worth.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Travel Tales

I'm writing from our hotel room. Our flight landing was aborted yesterday due to fog. So we spent the night at a hotel graciously provided by the airline.

As usual, there are the people who insist on complaining. Our new flight won't leave for a few hours so we'll be able to enjoy lunch here before departing.

D and I have somewhat confirmed our next trip in the spring. We will be returning to Germany and the Netherlands for 2 weeks.

I am awaiting the rental contract from the apartment rental company. Flights have been booked. Because it is spring, prices are higher. You pay more for warmer weather.

What balanced the higher flight prices was finding newer apartments more competitively priced making the over all trip cost reasonable.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gaining Time

Well I decided to deactivate my Facebook account indefinitely. I don't like the sounds of the new changes and am not thrilled with having to spend time figuring things out from a privacy perspective each time an update comes down the pipe.

Before I did so, I cleared out all my photos and any description on my profile, leaving just a bare bones profile to close down.

It may be naive to think somewhere my info still sits and I didn't really permanently erase everything I thought I did especially when I can come back anytime just by signing in. So should I need to contact someone, I still can while revealing what I think is minimal info.

I'm looking forward to gaining back more time.