2016 so far…

Since my last post (almost a year ago, ouch…), we’ve visited Maine, NYC, Japan together and are finally circling back around to getting this house presentable.

We’ve have a handful of family visits just in the past 6 weeks, so we’ve been working overtime to get our yard and guest rooms up to par.

We are now the proud owners of 6 small boxwood bushes, 3 fully-mulched flower beds, 2 porch topiaries with pots, a recently-trimmed 15ft. camellia bush, and a new trash can. It’s a super smart trash+recycling can, so I can’t contain my excitement.

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On the bright side, our yard looks great and you can tell all the afternoons we’ve put in are starting to pay off. However, like most home owners know, the work will never be completely done. Now that we’ve exhausted all the projects we can do on our own, we have  begin our long-term investments. These include:

  • New vinyl siding to replace the original wood siding
  • New thermal windows. All of the windows are original to the house and 100% of them have broken seals.
  • Deck refinishing. While the support structure is sound, many of the slats are cracked  and/or bowing. I’d like to replace these with composite slats that are waterproof and weather durable (and also not an ugly brown).
  • New garage doors. Along with the siding, these doors are original, made of wood, and are painted a rather unappealing  antique color.

Most of these projects should be done in the next year and I’m estimating a good $25-28K should cover it. Any idea where to find it?

While I know real estate investments can be very profitable if handled correctly, this house was not meant to be a short investment. We love out house, our neighborhood and our town, and unless something amazing comes around the corner, we are planning on staying in this house for the next 5-10 years. No need to have the return on investment, or how good the market is (or is not), or the what-do-we-do-if-we-have-more-than-two-kids talk.

More photos of the house to come, probably when more family comes to visit and we have to emergency tidy up again…

 

 

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The Americans, part 2

f504cdae11c3501f00451c035b990dd6We’ve been ready for this trip for WEEKS. All of those important details that everyone freaks out about? I handled those months ago. I don’t think I need to read another trite blog post about the importance of packing ziplock bags and compression socks.

Instead of the oh-my-god-could-you-be-more-obvious travel tips, here are a couple things I’ve stumbled upon:

  • Book the Travelers Lounge. We have a very long layover in London-Gatwick before our jumper flight to Rome. To help beat the jet lag, we have planned on buying a day pass to the travelers lounge. After 7 hours of sleeping in a chair, sleeping horizontal and not having to worry about my luggage sounds good. We can also use this layover time to buy International SIM cards, Oyster cards, get cash and freshen up before our next flight.
  • One Day at a Time. I had a moment last week when I was trying to map all of the metro stops for everything on our itinerary, forgetting that the Paris metro system is vast and not exactly straightforward. There was also no accounting for distance scale, how much we’ll be walking around, or weather. Instead of trying to plan out my every step, I stopped and decided to just take logistical planning one day at a time. Our hotels and apartment all have WiFi and the SIM cards give us Google Maps. The purpose of this trip is really to take everything in. If we spend a few extra minutes waiting for a train, it’s not a big deal in the long run.
  • Nice Americans. There are so many movies that show American tourists in foreign countries asking for Ranch dressing and refusing to speak the native language. Hate to tell you, but this is completely true. Be humble. You’re in someone else’s hometown. Plus, your traveling to experience somewhere other than America. Don’t try to Americanize everything.
  • Plan Dude Stuff. Europe has always been the place where I wanted to go shopping, look at priceless art and eat pastry all day. However, that is probably not what Troy had in mind. So I’ve planned some things that are more “manly”: A Gentleman’s Tea in London, whiskey and specialty cocktail bars, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and jazz clubs.

No surprise, but I won’t be posting anything for the next two weeks. In the meantime, check out the instagram @CoxswainPatti.

A Weekend in Chicago

This was my third time visiting Chicago for work and fifth overall. I’ve visited all the biggies: Willis Tower, Hancock Tower, Art Institute, the Bean and Museum Campus. This time I stayed above the River, right off Magnificent Mile, so my real goal was to try out some new restaurants. And that definitely happened!

I made stops at:

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On my first night, I met up with my stepbrother Ross and his coworkers at Mastro’s. This place specializes in steak, but they have a signature butter cake that is pretty impressive.
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After dinner, we walked to Quartino for drinks before they had to drive back out of the city.
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On my first day, I stopped in the newly opened Dylan’s Candy Bar on Michigan Ave. I came back with chocolate-covered gummy bears, chocolate-covered Swedish Fish, and these Red and Black licorice scotties. I also stopped at Vosges Haut Chocolate and tried some of their fancy experimental truffles.
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To celebrate the upcoming NFL Draft, these giant football helmets were on display. #DaBears
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Harrison loves the ‘Phins…

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Saturday afternoon, I met up with my friend Harrison at the She’d Aquarium. Only two more museums and I’ve done the whole Museum Campus. They had piranhas and anacondas, but this Arapaima was the longest, creepiest fish ever.
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Instagrammed Saturday night, Trump Tower.
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Before I left, I went to Illy Espressamente. Their Cafe Latte was the best coffee drink I’ve had. It makes me very excited to go to other Illy cafes in Europe.

Not too bad for a work trip. I’ve gotten lucky since all of my Chicago trips have been in the spring. Still hoping to get to the Chicago Zoo and Wrigley Field one day… 

M’s 30th Birthday in DC

I lived in Northern Virginia until 2010. My dad lives there, and my best friend, so even through college and now when I’m a Georgia resident, I don’t consider myself a tourist. This past weekend, my aforementioned best friend celebrated her 30th birthday and I got to ride shotgun. Here are the some of the highlights:

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These aren’t cherry blossoms, but definitely worth pausing my afternoon run for. Almost all the beautiful flowering trees bloomed Friday afternoon.
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We picked up the birthday cake at Baked & Wired, the best bakery in town. Sorry, Georgetown cupcake…

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Birthday Dinner #1: Dinner for 14 at B Too. Belgian steak frites and mussels all around.
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A birthday isn’t a birthday without a big green cow head.
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I ordered Fried Duck balls to start. Braised Rabbit for my main. For dessert, we split smoked Creme Brûlée, a fried apple waffle, Chocolate Eden, and Key Lime Waffle.
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Sunday Brunch at Teddy & the Bully Bar. Obviously a Teddy Roosevelt themed restaurant.
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Don’t you just love a mini Mount Rushmore?
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How about 100+ mini Mount Rushmores?
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… and a chandelier made out of monocles?
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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict with a side of Mac & Cheese Gratin.
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After Brunch, we went to see Woman in Gold at the Angelika in Fairfax. Picked up this present for Troy at the Swirl & Sip next door.
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DC Step and Repeat at the Dc Airport…at 5am…

More to come for tomorrow’s blog post.

Travel 101: In My Carry On

Patti Carry On

After 7 years of traveling for work and an entire lifetime of flying in between parents, I’ve got packing a light carry-on down to an art. No, I don’t have a tablet, but that might change by the end of the year. I always bring a small paperback on board, and if it’s a 5+ hour flight, I’ll splurge on an oversized fashion magazine. Yes, physical books and magazines are heavier, but reading on a screen is not good for your brain. Also, I can’t read books with substance on a screen. The only ebook I’ve been able to read and actually absorb is Fifty Shades of Grey. But that doesn’t have much absorb to begin with….

Now that the controversial book vs. tablet question has been answered, here are my other essentials for flying the friendly skies:

  1. Longchamp Le Pliage Tote. This is the absolute best bag I’ve ever had. It’s an all-purpose tote that folds up quite nicely.  The large tote is my go-to carry-on and it fits my laptop in case I bring it with me. I pack a medium tote to use as my purse when I land.
  2. iPhone and iPod Nano. I bring both, especially on longer flights. I’ll rent a movie on my phone or download some podcasts to pass the time. But if I just want to listen to music, I’ll use my Nano. There’s no point in wasting phone battery.
  3. Rechargeable Power Cell. I got this red Duracell (above) for work last year and it’s been great. I will charge it the night before I leave and it gives me a good safety net in case flights get delayed, or the plane doesn’t have a USB outlet. I can get back to a full phone battery in less than 45 minutes.
  4. Kate Spade Travel Wallet. This was a birthday present to myself a few years ago. The wallet is long enough to hold boarding passes, passports, etc. I also have a ton of hotel membership cards, Metro cards from different cities, stuff that doesn’t fit into an everyday wallet. I can also keep my phone in the outer pocket and use it as a clutch.
  5. Kate Spade Henrietta case. This was also a birthday gift. It’s a little small for makeup, so I started using it as an all-purpose pouch for all the stuff that ends up at the bottom of your purse. I keep business cards, extra pens, my phone charger, mints, spare change, hand sanitizer, etc. I also keep 2-3 teabags inside. Many places offer coffee, but their tea selection is terrible. Bring your own and you’ll never have to be stuck with Tazo tea. It’s the worst, don’t deny it.
  6. Kiehl’s Baby Lip Balm. This is my favorite lip balm of all time. It’s super smooth, not sticky, and it doesn’t evaporate super fast. I keep one in every bag, on my desk, in the bathroom and in every top shelf. I also use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial moisturizer. Both protect from super dry, recycled plane air.
  7. Snacks and an empty water bottle. Swedish Fish and almond M&Ms are my current favorite. I’ve also brought a snack bag of oyster crackers or a small single-serve cereal box before. The empty water bottle is to fill up once I get past security. If a flight is over two hours, one cup of water from the flight attendants is not enough. Also, I try to grab Chick-Fil-A or a small yogurt for protein before morning flights.

Happy Jetsetting!

The Americans, Part 1

Patti Travel_01 When Troy and I decided not to have a wedding reception, one of the compromises was that I wanted a two-week honeymoon instead of a one-week. That decision was made last June. In the eight months since, I’ve had blogs and spreadsheets and travelogues on the brain, trying to put together the trip of a lifetime. How many cities, for how long, and what exactly is our budget? I like to think I’m particularly gifted in time management and organization, because so far this trip is going to be a whirlwind. A European crash-course in London, Paris and Rome. Now that we are three months out and starting to actually buy things (flights, passes, hotels), here are some of the things that have saved my life and my time.

  1. Google Maps + Excel: I created a multi-page spreadsheet to track our itineraries and budget. From all of the articles and blog posts and travel books, I made a master list of everything we wanted to see and do in each of the three cities we chose.  I divvied them up by location/arrondisement and created a custom google map for each day. Now we can see explore each part of the city, see the main attractions, and not waste time in transit. A screen shot of our Paris Google Map is in the graphic above.
  2. TravelPro: I’ve been traveling for work for 7 years now. I’ve had two roll aboard bags and yesterday, I just order us new ones. In December, I stopped in to the TravelPro Outlet store to check out new luggage, since Troy’s bag was out of commission. My salesman was great and picked out two models that would survive the European cobble streets: the TravelPro Maxlite for Troy since he doesn’t travel as much and packs fairly light, and the Crew for me, the kind that pilots and flight attendants use. We were able to get the latest 22-inch models of each bag at a great price. They both have considerable packing space while still being considered a carry-on. If you are considering buying a new roll aboard, get the 2-wheeled models, not the 4-wheel spinner bags. Two wheels allow for easier transportation and they give you much more packing space.
  3. AirBnB: Thanks to work travel, Troy and I have accumulated an obscene amount of Hilton and Marriott Reward points. This will make our London hotel entirely free, and our Rome hotel deeply discounted. But for Paris, I wanted to rent an apartment not only to take advantage of the open food markets, but also to have a washer and dryer. We found a cute two room apartment in the 19th, six days for $650 on AirBnB. We booked the apartment 2 weeks ago, so now our trip finally feels real. This has completely freed up a lot of our budget, and we don’t have to pack nearly as much. Awesome way to travel light!
  4. The Paris Pass and the Roma Pass: Yes, the Paris Pass is expensive, but this is our honeymoon after all. A six-day pass for six days in Paris, the Paris Pass includes free entry and express admission to all of the museums and monuments on our list, as well as open access to the Metro and public transit. In this case since we’re trying to hit all the big things in a limited window, we do save money and time. On our next trip to Paris, since we would’ve already seen the major attractions, we probably won’t need to buy a Paris Pass again. The Roma Pass offers complimentary entries and fast passes to our first two attractions in Rome and discounted entry to the attractions after. This Pass is considerably less expensive and also perfect since we will only be spending three nights in Rome. Both passes make my trip planning so much easier.

What are your favorite MVPs for trip planning? Bon Voyage! ~Patti