July 25th, 2014

Those of you who know me IRL know that I am a travel fiend.  I constantly search out and try to find good deals on…well…almost everything.  Some people have asked me how I find such great deals and honestly, my answer is obsession.  You have to be willing to relentlessly search out a whole host of possible trip ideas.  Most people are just not obsessed enough to search out and find deals.  That’s okay because *I* am.  Here are a few of the best travel deals I’ve found lately and because I cannot take advantage of them, I want someone I know to be able to do so.


{These are all based on traveling out of or near the Atlanta area:}


–Looking for a steal of a trip to Washington, DC?  Can you go over Labor Day weekend?  I’ve found a rate that would have you leaving on Saturday and returning on Monday for $124 ROUND TRIP.  *That* is a deal and I wish we didn’t have plans that weekend otherwise I’d be finding something to do in DC. (Chicago is also on sale for that fare but I didn’t search specific days.)


–Feel like a trip to Paris?  Me, too.  You can travel from Orlando, Florida to Paris in September for a week for right at $600 in September.  That’s a GREAT roundtrip fare and you can save more money on airfare if you stay two weeks.  If I did not have that pesky thing called “I work as a kindergarten teacher so I can’t just jaunt ‘off continent’ for a week” to deal with, I would totally do this.


–If you’re interested in cruising and you have kids, Norwegian’s Kids Sail Free offer going on now is pretty irresistible.  Of course, the rates are for off-peak times but if you can squeeze the time away from work and school, it’s a great way to get awesome rates on a great cruise line that has plenty of programs geared for kids.  Of course, the holy grail of cruising with kids is a Disney cruise (which comes HIGHLY recommended by me, for what it’s worth) and while they tend to be more expensive, deals can be had if you’re willing to travel during off-peak times.  I am ALWAYS keeping an eye on Disney rates and am just waiting on the perfectly timed opportunity.  Last year, I snagged an unbelievable deal on a 7 night to Alaska.  The four of us scored a verandah room for a smidge over $4000.  So, deals can be had–even on Disney–if you’re willing to look around and jump on a deal immediately.


(Also, in case you’re traveling SANS kids or if you’re not a Disney lover, Disney Cruise Lines is not exclusively kid-oriented.  There are PLENTY of people who go without kids not for the Disney Magic but because it’s a high-end cruise with impeccable service.  And it doesn’t feel like Disney threw up in the ship.  Everything about the Mouse is understated.  Of course, the shows and such are geared toward Disney themes but I would NOT be afraid to get on one if I didn’t like Disney or didn’t have kids.  It’s clean, customer-oriented, and elegant.  Or…at least the Alaska cruise was.)


–Looking for something not as exotic (read: expensive)?  Try New Orleans.  It’s 7 hours from the Atlanta area and surprisingly affordable.  And hello, beignets.  We were on the verge of taking a jaunt over there with a great deal to stay here for $127 per night.  That’s a great deal for a hotel on Bourbon Street with as high of a tripadvisor rating as it has.  We decided against this trip as the kids are starting their sports seasons but it has definitely been added to my “places to go” working list I keep in my head.


*Definition of Dromomania here.

Someone else’s treasure

July 21st, 2014

I am unsure whether it is by nature or reverse psychology nurture that I am most assuredly a non-hoarder.  I grew up in a house where the paper on which I tested out marker colors or doodled while I was talking on the phone was immediately signed, dated, and stored away.  No, no.  My parents had no illusions of grandeur about my future fame status, it was just every thing was to be treasured.  Sentimentality was immediately assigned to almost every item that entered our home–whether truly worthy or not.  Memories were foisted onto items and those items were cherished as if they were living, breathing embodiments of those with whom they were associated.  Objects became the physical milestones of our lives and triggers for memories.  My parents have boxes and boxes of such things that they cannot bear to let go.  They NEVER let me close to them because I would smile fondly at my five-year-old self’s sticks-and-balloons interpretation of my family and then happily chunk it in the trash.

I have obviously gone the opposite direction from my parents in this regard, which is why it comes as no surprise but a rather karmic sense of irony that Bryan and I inherited a house full of such treasures.  Not inherited in the “designated as part of an estate” but rather “stuff that resided in the house we were moving into which became our problem”.  This did not come with the freedom to ruthlessly discard all of the items, alas, no.  Because that would be too easy.  All of this stuff is not ours at all but belonged to Bryan’s grandfather and therefore belong to Bryan’s parents.  We are merely the ones who have to store it.

I wrote about Bryan’s grandfather and what a paragon of…well…everything good he was.  He was an outstanding person.  His sacrifices for both country and family are staggering.  He lived life simply and well.  Upon his death, he left behind a legacy of love, devotion, and wisdom that I fear we will never be able to replicate.  I may have also mentioned that his legacy included all of his 89 years of accumulated possessions.  When he died, everyone was distraught.  Bryan’s parents could not bear to deal with a house full of the markers of his life.  This house we now live in is steeped in his memories and that sounds creepy but it isn’t, really.  We have chosen to keep and highlight a few of our favorite treasures but there are many, many, many treasures that we have neither the room nor the inclination to continue to store.  It’s sad how these items, so impregnated with assigned meaning and memories to symbolize the whole host of emotions, have now become little more than a bother to us.  I recognize how horrendous that is and I struggle with my guilt…


Okay, not really.


I am entirely too practical in this regard (no other, please note) to let it bother me too much.  I am honestly just thrilled to death that we are finally getting to the point that we can BEGIN to empty out the basement.  For the past 18 months, we have made what amounts to rabbit trails through the basement to get to things we need on an irregular basis.  There are hutches, tables, beds, couches, knick-knacks, tools, pictures, books, appliances, younameitwehaveit stored down there.  And it’s been driving me crazy.  Don’t misread me–we have our fair share of crap.  While I am definitely not a saver, I AM guilty of shoving things downstairs in a fit of frantic decluttering (I call it “clearing my space”) without really stopping to think if we still NEED the items.  I am also only one half of the adult part of this family.  Bryan leans more toward sentimentality and the “I may eventually NEED this” end of the spectrum than I do.  It’s fine.  We cope.


So, with my in-laws’ blessing, I’ve been going through stuff to get ready for that time-honored tradition of a yard sale.  We are sending the “good stuff” to an antique auction but there are things here that do not qualify as “good stuff”.  It’s just junk.  Or rather, someone else’s treasure.  I am sure if we were so inclined, we could clean up, refinish, repurpose, re-whatever this stuff to turn it into a fabulous what-not in the right home but none of us are inclined to do so.  I have neither the eye for those kinds of projects nor the desire.  I would happily take pictures of it from artistic angles but that’s about where my interest ends.


Getting ready for a yard sale is dirty, frustrating work.  I find that I generally think of yard sales as an opportunity for someone to pay ME to haul MY CRAP away.  It works well.  I do not make a ton of money but STUFF is GONE, which is my ultimate goal.  I always underprice stuff and I can usually be talked down from there.  This does not make me a good business woman but it does get rid of junk.  And I am ALWAYS inclined to just load up stuff to to take to the Goodwill immediately when the sale ends.  But I abhor getting ready for yard sales.  I would MUCH rather just throw stuff away.  I hate those awkward moments when people pull up and browse around and then ask if I’ll take $13 for the couch I’ve priced at $15.  I hate the whole process of it.  But here I am, spending these last, dwindling days of obligation-free summer sifting through other people’s possessions, trying to discern what to do with them.  My fingernails are dirty, my clothes are dusty, and I have been made uncomfortably aware of the number of spiders and bugs who are currently living rent-free in our basement.  Hopefully, we will widen the rabbit trails and bring a portion of the chaos into some sense of order.  Hopefully, the yard-sale gods will be smiling on us and we’ll break into the triple digits.  Hopefully, at the end of the day, our trip to Goodwill will be accomplished with the SUV as opposed to the trailer.  Hopefully, the big stuff will sell.  Hopefully, Bryan will get a break from the complaining his wife does as she does the basement Twister* dance to get to the junk WE have stored in our basement.


*You know, left hand on tool chest, right foot between old tax forms and tackle boxes, jump, twirl, right hand on yellow tub, left foot on rubbermaid container, scale the dresser, stub your toe, shake fist at husband, straddle wrapping paper container, snatch fall decorations before they fall on my head.  You know this dance, RIGHT?