Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Decluttering Life

Here's an interesting fact, money, they say, cannot buy happiness. It can buy stuff, and there is some misconception that "stuff" equals happiness. And I suppose for some people it does.  I think I may have been one of those "some people" at different points in my life.

I've recently been introduced to this blog called the minimalists. Their blog is essentially about decluttering your life. That having "stuff" isn't what will make your life fulfilled. That perhaps there's more to it, like adding value to someone else's life, or volunteering, or *gasp* doing a job you love instead of job to earn a pay check.  It's all very interesting to me, and something I think has landed squarely at the forefront of my attention when it's most needed.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a person who hangs on to stuff. Just ask anyone who knows me. I'm constantly getting rid of things.  Sometimes its things I've out grown - either physically or mentally. Other times, its just stuff I no longer feel I need/want. And then sometimes its just stuff that's been replaced with bigger/better/brighter stuff. Either way, I'm constantly donating my unwanted stuff to either a garage sale or a local charity.

And because I am not a keeper of things, I am amused when I can clean out a drawer in the kitchen and still find stuff to get rid of. No lie. I just did it this weekend. I opened my utensil drawer and started pulling everything out.  With each item I thought about when I last used it. (I'm a big fan of 'if you haven't used it/worn it in a year - get rid of it). And then I saw things that didn't make sense. I had three...THREE miniature spatulas. THREE. Who needs three small spatulas (you know, the kind you'd use for getting cookies off a cookie sheet).  So I tossed two.

Today I listened to a TED talk by these two guys who started the blog I mentioned above. There's plenty of interesting tid bits in this talk, but one thing really resonated with me.  They talk about how when you make more money you buy more stuff. More gadgets, more decorations, more furniture, etc. And at the end of it all, you have stuff, but that stuff does not equal happiness. Which, logically I know.  Here's what else I know...

I know that for so many years I made crap for $$ in my career. Then one day I got fired from a job I just sorta liked.  Then I got a contract job that suddenly paid me $30K more  a year than I was making. Within two months I had gone from making $60K to $90K. That's a HUGE influx of cash for me. And suddenly I was able to walk into a book store and buy a book without thinking about a "budget".

I was in debt from making nothing, so I got out of debt. And before I knew it, I was in debt again. I kept asking myself, "How can you be making so much more $$ and be in debt?"  The answer, it turned out, wasn't easy.

Instead, I figured out that the "being able to" is what I was addicted to. I could buy something, so I did. It makes no sense to me now, but I can totally see why it did then.

Fast forward several years, I'm at a good place financially. I have just about everything I want or need, and I spend money on things that may or may not be something I should spend money on.  I save, I have a 401K etc, and I still find $$ to spend. And I'm ok with this.

Here's what I'm not ok with, I'm not ok with spending said $$ on something I may toss out in a year or more. I'm not ok with spending $$ on something that isn't exactly what I want and then NOT returning it.  I'm not ok with accumulating stuff to have stuff.

So how do I get out of this circle of stuff? I toss stuff. I buy stuff. I toss more stuff.

Today I challenged my FB friends to the 30 days of decluttering. I created a FB group for anyone who wanted to join in. I have no rules for this decluttering - I think decluttering will have different meanings for each individual.  If in 30 days any of them get rid of just one box of stuff and feel like their life is better because of it, then I'm ok with that.

I will be working on not only going through my drawers, closets, scrapbook room (gah) etc to really determine what I need.  Furthermore, I am going to really focus on my spending habits. Truly think about the items I may be purchasing. We'll see where this goes.

So I challenge you too.  Think about taking some time to declutter.  Clean out that "junk drawer" in the kitchen.

My list of things to declutter and simplify:
1. My house cleaning supplies
2. My Tupperware drawer
3. My closet
4. My book shelf
5. The scrapbook room
6. The junk drawer in the scrapbook room

I'll be pondering this more.

One last question...are you a keeper of stuff?

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Rest Rest of the Story...Sunday's Adventures

Oh yah, hi. It's me. I totally dropped the ball on finishing the NY adventure stories. But alas, here I am to finish it up...or at least try.

Now that you're up to date with our Friday adventures in NY, I'll catch you up on the Saturday adventures.

One of the things I think people should consider doing in NY is going to the 9-11 Memorial and Museum. We had visited the memorial 2 years ago when we were in NY. The process to get into the memorial was nothing short of secure. There were reservations with your name on it, IDs that had to be checked, security lines etc to see the memorial. This time, none of that existed.

The museum wasn't open last time and was this time. I had made reservations a month or so before.  We got there within plenty of time to view the memorial before we went into the museum.  The memorial itself is moving and we had no idea what to expect from the museum. We all figured it would be a sad, moving, humbling type of day and we would be correct.

After viewing the memorial, we went to get in line for our museum tour. I handed the ticket agent our tickets and she said, "these reservations were for yesterday."


I think I lost all the color in my face. The other travel companions would later say the look on my face was priceless. I was stunned and worried that I had blown our opportunity to see the museum. It was the ONE thing we all wanted to do without a doubt.

So we got directed to the ticket counter and I asked if we could swap them for today's tickets. I was prepared to pay again for the tickets for all of us if they wouldn't transfer our tickets. Thankfully, the agent was very friendly and helpful and she gave us tickets for that day and time.


Off we went. The best rule to employ when visiting a museum with multiple people, let everyone go at their own pace and plan to meet at the end. I knew from experience Blueberry and I go through museums at very different paces.

Inside the museum is overwhelming, to say the least. It's such a beautiful tribute and memorial of the events of that day, what led up to them, and stories about the victims. 

Many of the items in the museum were items you'd never think you'd see. There was the spire that was on top of the south tower.  A fire truck that was crushed when the south tower came down.

Images of the "missing".
And so many other wonderful, and tragic things to see. The museum was really done well and I feel honored to have been able to see it. The pain the families have gone through, and the community as a whole, was so traumatic, that it was hard to understand fully from Seattle, until you were standing in the footprint of those towers.

After that experience, we headed off to lunch. I won't bore you with how long we sat outside the museum waiting for Blueberry to get through it, but suffice it to say my stomach thought my throat had been cut...I was THAT hungry.

After lunch, we hopped on the bus again. And as I mentioned yesterday, our "tour guides" - and I use that word lightly - sucked.

We did get off to have dinner in Little Italy. To this day, I'm still thinking about those half moon raviolis I had. Oh ... my... god.

Little Italy is slowly shrinking they say. It's about 2 blocks now. Chinatown is taking over. I hope it  never really fully goes away, cuz I'd miss Angelo's.

And even though we were stuffed beyond believe, I "made" them walk around the corner to Ferrara to get cannoli. Best...cannoli...ever...My nephew who got married had introduced me to Ferrara on my first visit to NY in 2006. Now it seems tradition to me to 1) eat in Little Italy and 2) walk to get cannoli.

Monday we headed home. We had just enough time in the morning to walk over to the Brooklyn Bridge.  It's such an iconic and beautiful bridge, I just love it.

So until next time NY....I say adios! I'll be back, there's no doubt about that.

The Rest of the Story

Apparently I'm a blogging slacker. I just realized I haven't even bothered to fill in the remaining blanks of what else we did in NY.  And I know you all are waiting with baited breath...

This was my 3rd time to the Big Apple and each time I'm there I'm reminded that it's a great place to visit, but not a place I want to live in. So much to see and do. And the people watching...whew...that's worth any trip to NY.

When last I wrote I told you all about the wedding and our drinking.  The plan was to leave early so we could get up early on Saturday to get to the Empire State Building before the crowds.

I'm an early riser almost all the time, so we didn't bother to set an alarm. They relied on me to wake us up. I woke when I heard the MomUnit was up scurrying around the place like she was late. I reached over and looked at the time on my Nook which said 6:47am. I couldn't figure out why the MomUnit was in such a hurry at that time of the morning.

Then I thought maybe the Nook hadn't caught up to East coast time. So I got up and checked the iPhone. "Holy crap," I yelled, "It's a quarter to 10." That got Blueberry and Seattle SIL up quickly.

So much for getting to the Empire State Building early.

We dressed, stopped at Bucky's for coffee and grabbed a cab to the Empire State Building.

The traffic was horrible and I'm convinced the cabbies take certain routes so they will be backed up and we'll sit in a cab and pay to do that. Finally we had had enough. We hopped out of the cab and hoofed it to the building. When we got out of the cab, the driver said, "Good luck" to us and I couldn't figure out why.  Only then did I remember that "objects appear closer than they are."  I think we walked a good 7 or 8 blocks, which was fine.

When we got there, I was thrilled to see the lines were still short.

We got quite a few chuckles when we put on our crab hats.

I love seeing an area from above. Some cities it really isn't that big of a deal, but others it's mind boggling.  Manhattan from above is just that. All you see is concrete and dense, dense, denseness. It's such a beautiful view. It had been recommended to go to the Top of the Rock instead, but the two NY Newbies wanted to do the famous Empire State Building.

After we, and thousands of our closest friends, viewed the city from 86 floors above, we headed to the Time Square area to catch up with the MomUnit and The Gnome Niece and her fam for the hop on hop off upper loop tour.

First we had to get lunch. In Time Square, the food options are all rather vanilla to me. ALL are really chain restaurants and nothing I'm very interested in while traveling.  While in line to get our bus tickets, the worker guy recommended this burger place just a block or so away. I hadn't ever heard of this place, but the guy "swears" it's great food. The MomUnit and I are always down for a good burger.

The place was called Schnipper's and oh my goodness was it good. AND they had Fanta. So naturally, while on vacation, I feel obligated to have Fanta.

Afterwards, we hopped ON the bus.
Me, Blueberry, Seattle SIL, and Great Niece N

Pseudo nephew, The SL Niece, The MomUnit, and Teenage Great Niece
Now let me just say, I'm a big fan of the hop on hop off bus in new cities. I like to do the tour within the first day or so to get a feel for the area and what I may want to see again. And it often works as transportation as well.

I've been on the hop on and hop off in NY twice before. This time I purchased tickets to a line called City Sightseeing. I usually hop on the Greyline tours instead. But this time to save a bit of cash, I chose this other line. What a mistake that was.

First off, the buses had seen better days. This first loop bus the tour guide hopped off and said we'd be picking up our tour guide at the next stop. Which proved to be incorrect. Instead we were given ear plugs and no further instructions. Obviously we had to plug them in, but we weren't told which channel. After adjusting to the right channel we were set...or so we thought. The audio was off. We were behind the audio. It was saying we were looking at one thing, but we were no where near that one thing. So annoying. It bugged the crap out of me the entire time.

Side note: The next day we did the lower loop and had tour guides. The first tour guide appeared to wish he was elsewhere. He was monotone and really didn't seem like he was interested in being on this bus. The second tour guide we couldn't understand. He was an older Asian guy who's English wasn't so great. AND the microphone wasn't working, so anyone sitting past the first couple of seats couldn't hear him. Those of us who could hear him didn't get anything useful. All he did was tell us where the next stop was. And yes, I've sent a complaint to the company. Not too surprising I haven't heard from them.

Anyhow, once the upper loop was done, we had some time to kill. I was ready for a beer and a bathroom. Blueberry and Seattle SIL took off to go walk into Central Park to "see it". The rest of us found a restaurant and had some beer and chips/salsa.

Dinner that night was at Guy Fierie's restaurant American um...what's it called...American Kitchen, I think. Yes, yes that's what it is...Guy's American Kitchen & Bar. We had met Guy Fieri there the last time we were in NY. And by "met" I mean accosted to get photos with.

The food was pretty darn good and frankly decently priced. I had the ribs and Oh my were they delicious. And it was great to spend some more time with the family.

From there we went back to the hotel via Time Square and the subway. And for the record, Time Square is pure and complete chaos.

 More later on our Sunday adventures. Right now I need to go find something to eat cuz the thought of those ribs have made me hungry.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Weddings and such

I'm not generally a fan of weddings. I can't really put my finger on why other than they are almost always over the top and, well, boring for me.

Two weddings stand out as not being the case.

The first was Mr & Mrs. Braspir's kid - Jesus we'll call him - getting married. Their ceremony was 5 minutes AT THE MOST, and then they had a feast of BBQ viddles. One big ass party after the ceremony. It was perfect.

And then of course this happened...

 I don't try to explain what BigBro did, but my word he made me laugh all the time.

This past weekend's trip to NY was all about my oldest nephew's wedding. We adore his new wife and are so happy to welcome her into our family. I'm not sure she really understands what she's gotten herself into...but she didn't run from the altar screaming.

This wedding was probably the best...wedding...ever in my book. For a different reason than the one above.

For starters, this wedding gave me an excuse to go to NY. They get big kudos for that. The wedding was at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and my goodness was it beautiful.

The ceremony was relatively short and to the point. I didn't realize my new niece was Jewish so was somewhat taken back by a Rabi coming in to perform the service. He was hilarious and kept the nuptials moving along and entertaining.

After the ceremony they had a cocktail hour. Open bar...and The Wraspirtini. Two deadly combinations for me.  I didn't know the Wraspirtini existed at first. My other niece, bless her, filled me in on them. So it's her fault I had 5.


Anyhow, the cocktail hour had appetizers that included lobster, crab, oysters, shrimp and all sorts of salads and fried goodies. The music played and it was a good time.  Thankfully I found the lovely couple and forced them to take a photo or two with me.

My oldest nephew...all growd up now. Note: I do not have a Wraspirtini in my hand yet. That would be a rum and coke.
The new niece and the oldest nephew.
 I figured it was a good time to snap a photo of the MomUnit and I along with St. Louis SIL - mother of the groom.  

Once inside to start the actual reception, they had a HUGE dance party. The Nephew and Newest Niece came bee-boppin in to 80's music...I'm not quite sure they were alive yet when this music was popular, but whatever.

There were more Wraspirtini's...and then this happened...

That would be the niece who introduced me to the Wraspirtini.  See how much we look alike...?

Anyhow, back to the wedding.  After some dancing, we sat and had the salad course. Then more dancing and then dinner about an hour and a half later. Our options were filet mignon (yes please!) or Seabass. The food was out of this world. I must say. The meat was cooked perfectly and was so tender and delicious.

After the dinner course, you guessed it more dancing. Then macaroons, then dancing, then a small dessert of grilled pineapple, ice cream and chocolate, then dancing, THEN the cake.

By then, the MomUnit and I were two sheets to the wind so we opted to take a cab back to the hotel.  It was just after 11:00PM I think...and we were beat.

Of course snagged these pre-wedding photos from the Niece.  Such a beautiful location for photos for such a great family.

Welcome to the family KIM JAM...you're one of us now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Wanna Be a Part of It, New York, New York

Oh Frank...he had such a great voice. And now I'm sure you are all singing that song.


So our trip to NY started on Thursday, Aug 14. We were up at the butt crack of dawn for our 7am flight. We flew Virgin America and kids, if you haven't flown Virgin America, give it a try. They were amazing. The flight crew was, astonishingly, happy to be serving us. The cabin environment is unlike anything I've seen. I kinda felt like I was in a dance club. Purple and pink lighting. It was amazing. But the best part for me was, you can order your drinks "online" - if you will. Each seat has a touch screen on the seat in front of them for viewing movies, etc. AND for ordering food or drink. I seriously heart them.

We landed at JFK in a different terminal than mom, so after much debate and not really knowing what was where, mom took a taxi to the hotel, as did we. We all pulled up at the same time. Crazy.

After a short problem with our reservation - they thought we didn't have one - we got to our room. Room 205. Turns out it's the EXACT room we stayed in during our last trip to NY. What are the odds? I think we should get a plaque that says, "The Wraspir Suite" on it.

We dumped our belongings, freshened ourselves up a bit and hopped in a cab for The Dubliner. The bride and groom was having a post rehearsal dinner celebration.  This joint was hoppin for a Thursday night. Which, frankly, I'd expect in almost any joint in NY. That city is always alive and awake.
Its not a great photo, but my niece Sarah (also in the wedding) was there too and we got a chance to get caught up over some libations.

We stayed long enough to greet the natives, have a couple of bites of the yummy viddles they had there and a drink or two. We were all pretty much exhausted so we turned in "early".

The next day, Friday, we had a limited amount of time to do/see things since we had the wedding that night. So being the logistical queen that I am, I suggested we go to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty and then up to Chelsea Market for lunch.

Once at Battery Park, Blueberry felt the Statue wasn't close enough for her liking, so we hopped on the Staten Island Ferry for a closer view.

What a riot that is. It fells much like what I assume cows feel like, or any animal, when they're being herded. Squish everyone together and every starts moving forward as one giant person.

If you look closely Mom and Seattle SIL are in that crowd.
The trip over and back was about an hour - give or take, and it was a perfect day for this journey. The weather was beautiful and the people didn't annoy me nearly as  much as I expected them to.

The MomUnit, Seattle SIL and Blueberry on the Staten Island Ferry.

Staten Island Ferry, Statue of Liberty, Manhattan and the coast guard all in one photo. Not sure why the coast guard escorts the ferry back and forth, but there they were.

What a skyline!
Once done with that adventure, we hopped in a cab (we did that a lot) to Chelsea Market. Packed with people would be an understatement. Still, it's a fun place to see if you've not been to NY and since I'm a Food Network fan I kinda feel like it's a must.

We went our separate ways for lunch - mostly. The MomUnit wanted a lobster roll and the rest of us wanted Thai. So the MomUnit was to come and find us. We were stalking a table full of old ladies waiting for them to leave. When they got up, Blueberry pounced. Another lady and her family tried to pounce too, but Blueberry put on her NY panties and would have none of that. Though admittedly she felt slightly guilty - as all good North Westerners would. I, however, figure when in Rome...or in the case NY do what they'd do and not feel guilty at all.

I'm no fan of tofu and I swear they put all the tofu in the world in our pad thai. Blech. Being the picky eater that apparently I am...I picked it all out. Blech times two.

We walked the market for another hour or so and got a chance to see all that there was. I would love to live in that area and shop there. So many amazing things that are completely over-priced. But in my fantasy world IF I could live in that area, PRICE would not be a problem.

We stopped for not only doughnuts, but gelato too. I figured I'm on vacation and should be allowed both treats. No guilt here.

After our stroll through the market and the up above garden stroll, we headed back to get ready for the wedding. More on the wedding later. Suffice it to say, I got a wee bit drunk thanks to these:
A Wraspirtini!!!