Happy almost November, Dia De Los Muertos and Halloween! 

Sal's Tacos in West Sacramento

Reading: All Together Now by Mike Carter, which is a book about a man who decides to walk from Liverpool to London in honor of the 1981 People's March For Jobs which his Dad participated in. The original march was a protest to the Thacher government and the high unemployment it brought. I am learning a lot about the little towns in England as well as some of the politics. 

Loving: Collagen (I use this one). I put some in my coffee every morning and my fingernails grow so fast! I can't say that I have noticed other changes, but maybe the lack of certain changes is enough for me! 

Thinking: About traveling. I took the Amtrak on Friday to go to my parent's house and it was so fun. I mentioned it to my coworker and he started looking into longer trips and the conversation made me want to book a train vacation! 

Frustrated: With people who play their music out loud in public places or trails etc. This happened a few times this weekend. One was on the Amtrak when the guy next to me put his music on out loud on his phone. The other times were on a bike path and the street. I just find that rude and am not sure why they don't feel the need to use headphones (the same applies for out loud phone calls). 

Feeling: Unmotivated to start working on my Christmas cards. I know once I get started and get in a groove it will be fine, but getting started is evading me. 

Anticipating: This weekend when I will be auntie to A. I will take her to her soccer game on Saturday but before that we will also do some fun things like watch an old movie (maybe Spaceballs, which she has not seen), bake some things and play games. 

Watching: Anne With An E on Netflix. It is very cute and is bringing back memories of the books, which I have not read in ages. In fact, it is making me want to go back and read them again! 

Working: NOT on my Christmas card! 

Grateful: That my family is all happy and healthy and that everyone can still do (and wants to do) our annual Thanksgiving hike before dinner. 

Listening: To the audiobook The Perfect Marriage as well as the Adventure Sports Podcast

Wishing: There were more summer weekends still, so I could go out for one last Sierra backpacking trip! 

What are you listening to? What are you anticipating? Have you started your holiday cards yet? 


My Last To Do List: In Case of Emergencies

As I mentioned in my 2022 recap post, one of the things I completed last year was what I call my last to do list.  Actually it is more of a file with a bunch of documents and a to do list in it, so let's just call it the In Case Of Emergencies (ICOE) file. If you have not read my first post of this series about trust and estate planning, you can read it here

This is basically a file that you can tell your emergency contact the location of so if something happens to you, they can go and get it and have a one stop shop of where things are and what they may need to handle for you. This is something that my grandmother had and after she passed away, it was so easy to arrange her affairs, since she had already done most of the work for us. After that, I decided to hone and combine a couple of the lists that I already keep for myself and update my file so that my loved ones would have a roadmap for me. Obviously this changes over time, so I have put it on my yearly purge and organize task list as something I revisit and update once a year. 

Important Docs: I basically have a big thick plastic ziplock bag (like this one) that I keep all of my grab and go important documents in. This includes the lists I will reference below, but it also has things like my trust documents, birth certificate, passport, deed to my house, title for the car etc. I also keep a paper copy of each of my bills so that the account number and phone number to contact are handy. Obviously this could be found online but I like to take the "belt and suspenders" approach. 

Vaccinations! (this can be uploaded online now too)

Other Important Items: This is also not on a list, but I keep any old memory cards or external hard drives with photos etc. in the same bag. I know most things are in the cloud now, but I have a lot of older photos that I have not put in the cloud so those are kept on hard drives for the time being. 

List of bills: This is a printout of an Excel spreadsheet of what bills I have, how they are paid, when they are due, and how much they normally are. Most of my bills are on autopay, so I have also noted whether it comes from my bank account (like the mortgage) or the credit card that I use for autopay. I only use one credit card for anything I have autopay on and use a different card for any online purchases and a third card for brick and mortar purchases. This way if the card that I carry around with me gets lost or stolen, I do not have to go back and update all of my online and/or autopay details. I also have this list saved in a Google drive folder that I share with my emergency contact so that it can be accessed online as well. 

List of bank accounts, retirement accounts etc.: This is also an Excel spreadsheet; I do not put account numbers on this, but it is a list of where the account is, what type it is, and who is the beneficiary. This includes my loan for my mortgage. 

List of properties: the deed or deeds should be in the file anyway, but it could also help to keep a list of the address(es) of any properties in the file too. I have also noted who my mortgage is with and approximately how much I have left on my loan (to be updated once per year). 

List of email address and passwords: this is also up to you and can be stored electronically and shared instead. You can also get a password vault app that can be shared. However, my list is not long; it only includes sites that I think people would want to have access to, such as my Google account, which is where all of my photos and such are. Also this can be retrieved in some cases after your death, although I did read that the Apple iCloud data is not transferrable. To be safe, I would share your login with someone if the information is important! 

Where is this file? Most importantly, tell someone where this file is and how to access it if it is in a safe or somewhere locked. 

Just a side note, as I have mentioned in the past, this file is also the very same one that I would grab if there were a fire heading my way, and because of this, it also has cash in it. I also have a box of photos (hard copies) and a go bag with a change of clothes and some food as part of my emergency prep kit, but if the fire were coming fast, I would just grab the ICOE file and skedaddle. So it satisfies two different purposes. 

Do you have a ICOE file or a Go Bag? Is there anything that I do not have on my list that you have on yours? 


A Scale of Loose to Clenched

A few months ago, my car got broken into. Unbeknownst to me, there was a viral TikTok video about how to hotwire my particular brand of car, which caused a rash of break-ins across the US. I do not watch TikTok, nor would I have watched a "how to hotwire a car in 5 seconds" video, nor did my car dealer send me anything warning me that this was an issue, so I was caught very unaware when it happened. I won't get into all of the details; the short story is that it was inconvenient and expensive and I was without a car for about 10 days. However, the good news is that four of those days were weekends and I had group trips planned so I did not need the car then. 

For the other days, I went back to my pre-pandemic method of biking to the train station! I used to do this every day but when the pandemic hit, first I drove to work and then when I started taking public transit again, there was no early train from my station so I had to drive to a further one to get to work, and then there were earlier trains but I was out of the habit. So the vandalism was a blessing in disguise and since then, I have ridden my bike to work about 99% of the time that I have gone into the office! This increases my weekly riding by about 12 -15 miles per week. 

Marina Green, San Francisco

This also spurred me to ride sometimes on the weekends, or do a longer loop after work on my way home. However, riding in a city is sometimes more of an adventure than you bargain for and there are some things that cause my butt cheeks to clench a little bit and I thought I would share with you my clench scale. Think of it like a normal scale of 1 - 5, with one being loose and comfortable and five being clenched and tense. Here are a few examples. 

1 - Loose and comfortable. Riding along on a nice bike path, or very smooth street, road or trail with no cars, the weather is good, the birds are singing and everyone is in the lane they are supposed to be in, going the direction they are supposed to be going, calling out etc. 

2 - Small pucker. Bike path or lane where cars are using their turn signals and giving me at least three feet of room, if not more. But there are groups of people taking up the whole path, or that have dogs with a leash that covers the entire space or with kids that are unsure of which way they are walking, so I have to take it slow and be careful. Or getting to a four way stop where everyone is stopped, but now that I am there, even though they were first, they wait and then they wave at me to go first and my armpits start to sweat from the pressure of having to get going from a stop in front of everyone, even though I am the slowest vehicle, and I grunt my way across, hoping that nobody gets impatient and just decides to gun it through the intersection. 

3. - Sweaty and tight. Google tells me to turn left at the next intersection when I am on a five lane street in the far right lane and it is rush hour. I contemplate veering left across four lanes to get to the far left lane but when I look up ahead you realize that the left lane takes me onto the freeway. I do not get into the left lane; instead I drop an F bomb at Google and go find the grocery store to buy ice cream. 

4 - You could bounce a quarter off of it. Dude comes from the left turning lane, across three lanes to turn right on a green light with no blinker or any warning, as I am attempting to go straight at said green light. I literally stop myself by putting my hand on his jeep as I nearly careen into him. He does not stop or give one of those "I'm so sorry, I did not see you" hand waves. Luckily I was just getting going on the green, so I was not going too fast yet. After this I ride through a tunnel on a street that Google told me to take, and there is not only no shoulder, but this is also the main thoroughfare for the semi trucks going to unload in the Oakland shipping yards, so I am passed by several of them while I am in the tunnel. I put all my energy into pedaling through as fast as possible and hoping that my little red blinking light is bright and these semi drivers are patient and awake. 

5 - Clenched and tense. Dude opens his car door without looking first, almost sending me ass over teakettle in the middle of a busy pothole laden street with no bike lane, causing me to swerve into traffic. Then I narrowly miss getting hit by a bus that is pulling over to pick up passengers. The bus clearly did not see me, nor did they use their blinker so I would know they were getting over. I get ahead of the bus and 30 seconds later they are passing me again, and I feel the wind from their bulk as they speed by, about six inches from my left elbow. Add pouring rain to this and I may need to make an appointment with a proctologist. 

So yes, some days are kind of fun and others can be a litany of near misses, sweaty armpits and holy-crap-what-did-I-just-dos. Yesterday I saw three cars run red lights on my two mile commute home. These were not turning from yellow to red lights; they were fully red and the people just decided to ignore the rules. Having said that, I just learned that the following states have a law called the "stop as yield" law, which means that bikes do NOT have to stop at the stop signs, but can instead yield (it seems many Oakland car drivers follow this premise too), and in some cases, can even treat red lights as stop signs, and can go when it's safe/clear. FYI, as you can see, California is not one of them. I do wonder how well these states do with educating car drivers of these rules. I also wish that I knew this before I rode across Washington! 

So...next time I tell you that today was a five, you will know exactly what I mean! 

Have you ever ridden a bike in an urban area? Do you have any pucker stories? Do you live in a stop as yield state and if so, did you know about this rule? Do people follow traffic rules where you are from? 


The Joke Is On Me: ATM Cards

Last time I was an idiot, it was travelers checks that almost did me in. As I grew up and got smarter and more with the times, I stopped carrying traveler's checks and almost exclusively used my ATM card. A lot of countries take credit cards now, but there are still some countries where having cash is a necessary thing and sometime the rate is better through the ATM (unless you get charged ATM fees, but we can talk about how to avoid that in a different post). So I always take an ATM card and a credit card with me when I travel, no matter where I am going. 

Gratuitous Slovenian mountain scene. 

Last year I went to Slovenia. The plan was that I was going to be in a city probably four or five of the fourteen days and would be hiking a point to point hike for the other ten days. This meant that I would not be able to leave things somewhere to pick up; I would have to carry everything I needed for the entire fourteen days on my back. Needless to say, I wanted to pack light. So I carried a lot of items that I could use for both trail and city and I pared down a lot of things, like my toiletries and my wallet, so that I would not be carrying extra stuff. I got rid of my work badge, my extra credit card, my AAA card. I brought bar shampoo. I brought my multi adapter charging station. I was ready and I was excited and I took my pack to work the day before so I could ride my bike to work the next day without the huge pack on my back. I was prepared! 

Then I left the office, got on the BART to the airport, and realized that in paring down my wallet, I had taken out my ATM card. I had only wanted to carry one credit card and I do not think I screwed my head on all the way when I visualized what this meant. I always use a list but this time it was a bit of a hybrid backpacking/city exploring and I did not think about both of them fully. 

You may think that I was headed to Europe, which is not a third world country; why would I even need cash? Well, mon ami, I was going to be backpacking in the remote Alps and there are huts where you can sleep but in my prior experience those huts only took cash. Many of them had no online reservation system, so I could not even reserve them in advance with my credit card. You may think that I could just get out cash with my credit card. That would be true if I knew my pin, which I don't because I have never ever used my credit card to get cash. 

So I sat on the BART as it hurtled towards SFO, wondering how I was going to solve this issue. I did not have time to go home and get the card; I had my emergency $20 with me, but that would not get me far. I knew there were solutions, but what would be the best one, given I was going to be on a plane for twelve hours and then out of the country soon!? I noodled for a minute while sweating slightly due to my own stupidity. 

The solution ended up being the following: luckily (or stupidly, you choose) I had taken a photo of my ATM card, which I kept in a travel folder on the cloud. I would like to say that it was a protected folder, but it wasn't. However, I did use this photo to get the number off of the card, which I then typed into Google wallet. Then, when I got to the airport, I used the tap to pay from Google wallet to get money out of the ATM! Can you believe the technology today? Sometimes when I am wishing that we did not spend so much time on our phones, I think of hacks like this and am so glad that our phones are so dang handy. 

But wait, the story is not to the happily ever after stage yet! I arrived in Amsterdam and went straight to the money exchange counter. A slight side note, I like to cram as much as I can into my vacations, so had booked a flight to Vienna with a layover in Amsterdam. Once arriving in Vienna, I would need to get on the first train out to get to my destination. However, my flight into Vienna was kind of late at night and if I missed the first train, I only had one other option, so I probably would not have time to get money out there. I love to live on the edge, people. 

I work in finance so I know what the exchange rates are and let me tell you, the kiosk at the airport in Amsterdam was NOT a good rate. Of course, what options did I have, given I would be basically going straight up into the mountains as soon as I got to Slovenia. So I got completely ripped off and my dollars barely got me enough to pay for my estimated cost for ten nights at a hut in the mountains. So I knew I was going to have to be frugal. 

Fast forward to day ten of my fourteen day vacation and you will find me at the end of my hike, ensconced in a small guesthouse in the hills near lake Bohinj, one that I booked using Booking.com. Little did I realize, since I booked it from the one spot that had cell service on my way down the mountain, that I did NOT read the fine print and this place...you guessed it...only took cash! Luckily, some of the mountain huts had taken credit cards and I had taken advantage of that to use my card instead, just in case I needed the cash later. However, I had used most of my cash and I literally had to pay the last lady with all of my pocket change, leaving me with about 2 euros to my name. I hoped that when I was in Lublijana I would not need ANY cash or I would be screwed! 

Literally the last of my cash!

Luckily I did not need cash, but this experience made me realize that we have become way too dependent on our phones, upon being able to get things easily at any time and to having the convenience of tap to pay pretty much everywhere in the US (even the street vendors sometimes have a credit card pay option!) As I may have mentioned, my trail name is Prepper because I am generally overprepared, but even I have my moments. So, bottom line is, make a list and always have an emergency stash of cash!! 

Do you use cash when you travel? If so, what is your procedure for getting it? If not, have you ever run into any issues due to not having cash? 


Looking Back: Purging Progress Report Q3

And just like that, the third quarter of the year has come to a close! As you know, earlier this year I talked about doing some purging and it's already time for the accountability check in again! My three areas I wanted to work on for the months of July, August and September were bedroom/shoes, kitchen/dishes and living room/hall/spare room. 

Bedroom/Shoes: As you know from my story about my unsuccessful side hustle, I have tried to sell some of my more expensive shoes online and have had only okay luck. However, I sent a batch of them to ThredUp and had some success! For four pairs of shoes, I made $80.00! Yay. 

How am I doing? Since I am trying to sell some, many of them are still in my house, so there is a large pile of shoes that I will get rid of one way or the other. I am going to call this a win. I am not in any danger of going back through them and them making their way back into my closet, believe me. I am now down to a couple of pairs of running shoes, a couple of sandals, a couple of boots and a couple of fancy dress shoes. I will probably cull it even more, but you know how it is; when you find a nice pair of knee length black boots that fits you well, you sometimes just have to keep them! 

What is next? I am going to still try to sell some more online; if those don't sell by the end of the year, they will either go to ThredUp or to Salvation Army. My goal is to have them all out of my house by the end of this year

Kitchen/Dishes: Two things I had too many of...vessels to drink from and baking dishes! 

How am I doing? I went through my glasses, mugs and water bottles and pared it down to only about four of each. I think I was keeping some just in case I had a party or a bunch of people over or something, but if and when that does end up happening, people can drink wine from a coffee cup; I do not need to have a full set of 12 wine glasses just taking up space. The baking dishes were a similar story; will I ever need to make 48 muffins at once? Will that even fit in my oven at the same time? The answer to both of those questions is likely no, so I got rid of my old muffin tins and baking sheets, several casserole dishes and a few bread pans. I also culled my plates, bowls and serving dishes. How many things do we keep for "just in case" but we never use? For me, it was a lot. 

I feel like Old Mother Hubbard.

Don't worry; I have two more coffee cups but they are in use.

What is next? I would also like to simplify my cleaning products (these live under the kitchen sink). I bought a gallon of Simple Green when I first moved in almost 9 years ago and it is still probably half full. I bought bleach at Costco (sucker!!) and it is a three pack and I have a LOT of dish soap (and vinegar and hand soap and Windex and Bronners etc.) I would really like to pare these down to just a few items under the sink if possible. 

Living Room/Hall/Spare Room: I don't have a lot in the living room or hall, but my goal was to clear out any shelves or drawers in these rooms. For my spare room, that is where I keep my linens, so I wanted to also clear out that dresser. 

How am I doing? I feel pretty good about this. In the living room, I have a catch all by the door which his supposed to only be for my purse and whatever leaves each day with me, but it tends to gather items. I cleared this out, as well as my coffee table drawer and the shelves near my living room fireplace. In the hall, I went through the linen closet, which also houses extra cleaning supplies and toiletries, hair stuff, jewelry and travel items. I gave a bunch of the jewelry to my friend's daughter and it is so cute because she actually wears the earrings a lot! I took inventory of my cleaning products and toiletries (shampoo, lotion etc.) and my goal is to NOT buy any more until they are completely used up. For the spare room, I got rid of all but one extra set of sheets and blankets.

Don't judge - Bertha lives in my living room.

What is next? I am currently still in the middle of cleaning out the spare room closet, which is a jumble of my work clothes, bags, stuff to go to the thrift store/sell online/send to ThredUp/give away, old electronics (these will also go to the thrift store), did I say bags (so many bags! bags full of bags!), my vacuum, etc. As I mentioned above, I would like to have all of my thrift/sell items out of there by the end of the year, so this will be much improved by then! 

My last three months will be the reading nook, health check ups and plants...and then the year will be over (again)! I would say that three quarters of the way in, I am feeling very good about what I have done so far and after doing it this way for years, I also really think that a monthly purge is so much less daunting than a once a year one! 

Do you have a go-to all in one cleaning product? How often do you do a home purge? What kitchen item do you have multiples of but you rarely use more than one or two?