Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oct / Nov

  • Our hot water heater at the house pretty much kicked the bucket while I was in Dubai.  D, who was hoping to have a relaxing week, came home to the surprise pool of water on the basement floor.  It actually tripped the breaker too, alongside setting off the pressure release valve. 
  • Turns out replacement of an electric hot water heater is easier than installing a washer.  The next day, D finished the job after work, at a fraction of what he was quoted by area contractors.  We have the fittings for a gas heater as well but decided to stay with the type we had.  Total cost:  $322 for a 40L tank, downgraded from our 60L.  Obviously had we decided to go back to gas, we'd need the services of a professional.
  • I was surprised that it needed replacement.  The tag showed it was 12 years old.  The cottage had an ancient one (rental) that was only replaced a couple of years ago.  But contractors told D that 10 years is the average life expectancy.  The new tank is also much lighter and does not need an insulating blanket.
  • I had been holding my breath since D started his new job, wondering if his judgement of this new area was true.  That the work could be just work, not fighting and anger and stress, without anything really productive coming out of it.  Well, I'm happy to report that he is significantly different in this role.  His work hours are longer but he is pleased with his new team and is relieved that antagonism isn't commonplace in this environment. I cannot be happier for him. 
  • I'm ending the year with good work focus and physically stronger than last year at this time (outside of the inability to mix concrete...).  Area for improvement include being more disciplined with my food choices as I've found myself cheating more this year because I don't seem to get the stuffed up cranky allergy symptoms with certain foods anymore.  If I push it, I still will, so it isn't over over.  Am thinking of you, Mr Peanut Butter Cup x 3 over Halloween...
  • Rain and wind made the leaves of our trees at home fall quickly this year.  Usually we rake 3 times before winter.  This year it started off like usual, so an easy 6 leaf bags the first time.  Then the 2nd time needed 10 bags and it looked like a couple of trees were still holding about 1/5 of their leaves.  I'd already declared leaf raking season to be over.  Thankful that our city comes around and picks up all those bags.  D's since used the snow blower twice already.
  • I've been spending more time than I ought to helping people on various travel forums.  It has mostly been enjoyable mixed with a bit of exasperation plus it eats up so much time!  Thus the abbreviated blog format as of late.  I've learned a lot too.  Been surprised with how many really busy savvy travelers take time to help out.  It's great to see.
  • I've been systematically clearing my schedule for next year as I've been starting to feel like my perpetual over scheduling and scheduling too much in advance may actually be dampening my creativity.  By the time things come up, I've either already moved on and am no longer interested or something else has come up in the meantime I'd rather do or I've figured out how to do something better and now need to make a change.  I've paid $675 in change fees for this privilege.  Some of my lessons cost more than others (sigh).  Next year I'm trying out the plan of no booking further than 3 months ahead and see how it goes.  Am trying not to be too hard on myself and automatically labeling my previous actions as "mistakes" because it is a learning process.  I'd like next year to be a reflective one and am keeping life open for that purpose. 
  • 2014 was the last year for Delta's Skymiles program as we know it and the New Year will usher in a dramatically different result.  For example:  My flight to Bangkok in 2014 earned me 40000 miles; 25000 can buy a ticket anywhere in the continental North America; 60000 gets me a flight to Europe; if you are lucky and book early enough 80000 can get you to Asia.  Not bad, right?  Well, 2015 will mean the same flight to Bangkok will earn me 7000 miles, a Huge difference.  Thus my moving some of next year's trips to this year.  So if you are looking for some nifty "travel hacking" advice, you won't find it here.  The best I got is "fly more now"...I know, earth shattering...
  • We've cooked more than any other year.  Am using the collective "we" but in reality D does most of it and I enjoy that very much.  He seems to like it whereas I would eat something simpler if I had to cook it.  I follow a few blogs where the writer is a master in the kitchen, growing stuff, cooking everything by scratch and most of all loving the process.  I used to but since finding out about all this food allergy stuff 3 years ago, the fun has been taken out of it for me though my taste and appreciation of food hasn't.  I'd make a terrible homemaker.  Thank goodness D has stepped up.  He makes a mean bolognese sauce that takes hours with multiple boil downs.
  • Even with all the travel I did this year (expected and late add ons), in the end, I managed to only work 2 days less than last but have earned more money.  What we usually do with that financial fact is: The remaining extra - the extra tax implications = bonus money / 2.  
  • A fraudulent charge showed up on my credit card.  It's amazing what credit card companies can find out.  They knew that the card was swiped which meant there was a physical copy (somewhere in NJ) and that they tried to put something through 3 times, twice in the $500 range and once in the $350 range which ended up making it through.  I had to shred the card and the replacement didn't make it to me in time before I left for the build.  Good reminder that back up cards can play an important role.
  • I got the email while away and knew we'd be making a decision about D's vehicle when I returned home.  Turns out the yearly check up revealed a serious issue with the engine (head gasket leak) and ball joint and bearing.  He drives a 2004 Subaru Outback (187000 km) and we were hoping to still have it around for another 4 years.  Not to be, without some fairly serious work done.  As the timing belt and new summer tires are due as well, the total cost of what is to come will be around $4200, more than we'd get on a trade ($1000).  
  • As we happened to have spent some time looking around this summer, we had an idea of direction.  D has gotten his head around not necessarily having a wagon as my SUV can haul stuff and I have from my last car, an indestructible Thule rack system that can be fitted onto any vehicle, but we would still like AWD.  So we narrowed it down to Subaru, Volvo, BMW, Audi, Infiniti.  In the end we signed for an Infiniti G37x with 58000 km, costing us 20K, taxes and fees in.  Insurance will be $15 more a month and we are on the hunt for winter tires and rims.  Considering my first car cost 20K 17 years ago for a 1 year old Honda CRV with 19700 km, it's neat to be spending the same amount for vastly superior technology.  
  • I feel like the luckiest person right now because just the act of being able to make a largish financial decision is something most if not all of people in the countries I've traveled to this year would not be able to do in their lifetime, not even by finance.       

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