March 2017 Updates

It’s March!  Did you know that even though Spring doesn’t officially start until later this month, that from a meteorological standpoint, spring has started?  That’s right, from a meteorological perspective, the seasons start on the 1st of the month of the calendar change.  I guess they know something we don’t!  I hope that things are going well.  Here are some March 2017 updates and goals.

Fitness

I recently wrote about some renewed focus on my fitness.  So far this is going well!

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Planning Our Spring Break Trip To Madeira Beach, FL

Our last big family trip was to Disney World in November 2015.  It was great and we had a great time.  As soon as we were done, we started thinking about our next trip.  We didn’t want to do anything as big as Disney, but we wanted to do another trip to Florida.  This time we were thinking Spring Break.  In order to give ourselves time to catch up financially, we targeted the spring of 2017 for our trip.

Well, spring break is almost here, and we’ve gone ahead and planned most of our trip.  Here are some of the details.

Picking Our Spring Break Destination

We knew that we wanted to do a beach trip.  Our family loves camping in the summer and most of our trips seem to be centered around the beach.  We both have had various trips in the past to Florida, so we initially looked at two locations.

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Camping 2016 Season By The Numbers

This past weekend, we took our final camping trip of the year, and capped it off by getting the RV trailer shut down and stored for the winter.  We had a great season and I thought it’d be fun to recap by sharing some numbers:

137
# of Days in the Active Season – Our first night of camping was May 26th and our final day of using it was October 9th.

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A Week Long Camping Trip At A New State Park

=Since we started camping in 2012, we’ve camped exclusively at Michigan state park campgrounds.  For the most part, we’ve found a good rotation of campgrounds that meet our needs.  These include electrical hookup, within 4-5 hours of home, and a nice beach, especially for our week long trips.  We typically do two week long trips per summer.  For the past few years, we’ve stayed at the same two campgrounds for those trips.  This year we thought it might be time for a camping trip to mix it up a bit.

Our Old Favorites

One of our campgrounds was Ludington State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  It’s one of the most popular campgrounds, as it has access to Lake Michigan as well as an inland beach, lots of biking and hiking trails, and a pretty nice town nearby if you don’t mind the 15 minute trip each way.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with it as it’s pretty far away, it’s where our awning blew apart in a windstorm on one of our first trips, and we’ve always had bad luck getting sites, even though we’re online trying to book at 8:00:01 in the morning six months in advance of our reservation.

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9 Random Things On My Mind Or Going On – What’s New With You?

It’s a good thing that the days get longer in summer because you need every minute of light and then some.  It’s funny because I have found my ‘falling asleep before bedtime’ spot, which happens to be on one of the couches in the living room.  If you see me heading to that couch anytime in the evening, it’s a sure thing that I’m going to fall asleep.  Here are some random things on my mind that I wanted to share.  Let me know what you think and what’s going on with you.

  1. The mad rush of special events is coming to a close.

    -Starting with Mother’s Day, it’s one opportunity to celebrate after another, which doesn’t end until Father’s Day (which is often delayed from a celebration standpoint).  In between those two we have my wife’s birthday and both kid’s birthday, plus we also have a lot going on with the end of the school years, dance recitals, and everything else.  Don’t get me wrong, we love celebrating every single milestone, but when they come so fast and furious all at once, we have to remind
    ourselves to stop and take a breath so that we can really enjoy and make the most out of each special event.

  2. Orlando.

    What to say about the tragedy in Orlando that hasn’t already been said?  I think one thing that many people need to realize is that there’s not one thing to blame that we can grasp and use as a fix.  It’s not just an ISIS thing.  It’s not just a guns thing.  It isn’t just a mental health thing.  Shutting down the borders or taking away the guns or re-opening the institutions are not individual solutions.  In our complex world, there are so many variables with seemingly new ones popping up all the time.  And, what’s scary is that the ever growing polarization is not going to get us closer to figuring out how to stop these events from happening.  I’m dreading the day when we have to try to explain this to our kids.  So far we’ve been able to keep them insulated, but at 7 and 5, we’re running on borrowed time.  This thought gives me sadness on so many levels.

  3. The Costco credit card switch is almost upon us.I have never seen so much publicity over a credit card, but the days are nearly here.  We’re pretty much prepared.  I think there are just a couple of small automated payments that my wife needs to redirect, and I’m also thinking of creating a laminated cheat sheet that we can carry in our wallets to direct us on what card we should use to maximize our rewards.  We have a few different cash back cards, now it’s just a matter of maximizing our value!
  4. A possible culprit in my battle against eczema.

    -The other day I went to take a load of clothes out of the washer.  All would have been well except it never got ran.  When I reached in for the clothes my hands came in contact with Oxi Clean, which we use as a supplement for our clothes.  It wasn’t even five seconds in and I felt the familiar burn.  I’m thinking that maybe this is some pretty harsh stuff, and maybe even coming into contacts with clothes, sheets, and towels that have been washed in it have been aggravating my skin.  Perhaps it’s time for a ban?

  5. Amazon price matching policy

    Here’s a tip, if you want Amazon to adjust a price, don’t use their online chat capability.  Technically, Amazon does not have to match a deal if you find a better price after you make a purchase, but they often will as a courtesy.  No such luck when I found an item, on their own site, $20 cheaper less than a week after I made the purchase.  I had two online agents refuse to help and one even ‘hung up on me’ or whatever the equivalent would be for an online chat.  Not to be deterred, I initiated a phone conversation, and this went much better.  They didn’t give a refund, but we have a $20 credit on our next purchase.  That’s good enough for me!

  6. Basketball dreams

    Our son wanted a basketball hoop for his birthday.  These things are something else to put together.  I started, and am about 1.5 hours in.  I figure I have at least another 2-3 hours of work.  Then once we get it in place (it’s one of the portable models), we have to determine how to anchor it.  They want you to fill it either with sand or liquid (it’d be antifreeze in our case) but many people weigh it down by piling sand bags or something similar on top.  Filling it looks better, but piling stuff on it is easier, plus I’d think that emptying it would be a royal pain.  So, we’re not sure on the approach yet.  Any ideas?

  7. Homeowners association

    I served on our board for the last two years but declined to run again.  There’s a very cliquey group of people (think high school) that love to ‘run the show’ from a social standpoint, yet they refuse to run for the board.  It bugs me that they make many requests of the board, yet never include the board members in the social events, so I decided to take a break for at least a term.  I am still working on updating content on the website, which nobody else really knows well.  Since it’s WordPress based (like my blog) this is pretty easy.

  8. Anyone else nervous about the stock market?

    The market had a pretty nice run after the beginning of the year crash.  It seems like the market really loves the low interest rates that are seemingly now just standard policy.  But I’m a bit nervous, as I can’t imagine that will last forever.  Plus, the debt that all of the Central Banks are creating are injecting money that is being used to push the markets higher,mb-2015-06-fire but it’s still debt and what happens when that needs to be paid back?  Or does it? Who knows?  But in any case, it’s a bit scary to me.  It seems like we’re in a situation where everything is hunky dory….until one day it’s not.  I’m not going ‘bearish’ but I’m definitely keeping a watchful eye.

  9. Camping season is upon us.

    One thing that we’ve settled into is our routine for camping.  This is our fifth year with our trailer, and we now have a pretty good routine going.  We did one trip for Memorial Day, and we have another trip coming up this weekend.  After that we have two weeklong trips and a few more weekend trips.  Summer is short in Michigan so we try to pack it in!

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8 Things Your Travel Agent Should Be Doing For You

Planning a trip can be a very exciting time.  Still, there can be a lot of stress to go along with it. Sometimes it’s OK to plan things yourself.  This applies if it’s a simple trip or if you have made arrangements before.  But, if you’re taking a trip that involves going somewhere new and/or has a lot of detailed planning, you might find value in using the services of a travel agent.

We’ve used a travel agent twice in planning trips.  Both of them fit the criteria above, as the first was for our honeymoon trip to Hawaii back in 2007, and the second was for our family trip to Disney World last fall.

How Our Travel Agents Earned Money

In both cases, our travel agents worked for us and we got the same pricing for the services or goods that we purchased as we would have had we gotten them on our own.  (Trust me, I checked!)

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