Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Zealand, Part II

New Zealand is often billed as the "adventure capital of the world". This being the case, we decided that we should take the opportunity to try out some more thrilling activities. Although I couldn't convince Heather to try Bungee jumping (which has origins in NZ) I did manage to get her excited to go sky diving.

We drove up to the a small airfield to inquire about making arrangements and within an hour we were on a plane headed up to 15,000 ft.

New Zealand - Sky Diving from Aaron Wimmer on Vimeo.

We loved it. After we landed I jokingly asked heather is she was ready to go up again, she seriously responded, "ok, let's do it". We didn't go up again that day, but after we got back to the states I started researching sky diving more in depth. I was amazed by what I found. I guess I shouldn't be suprized that there is always someone who is taking things one step further. The next step in sky diving is "wing suits"

These are pretty much flying squirrel suits that allow you to glide at very high speeds (while still plummeting towards earth). These suits also allow base jumpers to maneuver away from cliff faces or to hug the tree line as they glide over mountaintops.

I found a quote that went something like "Normal people think Sky divers are crazy, Sky divers think Base jumpers are crazy, Base jumpers think these guys are crazy." My mind has been blown.... (see below)

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Zealand, Part I

Aaron and I have been dreaming/talking about going to New Zealand since we were in college. To be honest, the things that first attracted us to the country were that it was somewhere on the other side of the world and they mainly speak English. But then we started learning more about it, and it sounded pretty amazing. Ocean? check. Moutains? check. Tropical forests? check. Adventure capital of the world? yes, please. And so it was decided: someday we were going to go to New Zealand.

Fast forward 6 years. We got off the plane in Auckland, and picked up our rental car. Driving on the left side of the road - that was fun. And confusing. And stressful! Eventually we got (somewhat) used to it, and we successfully made our way into the downtown area for some city exploring. We spent a couple days in Auckland, "the city of sails", and while we were there, we went to a farmer's market, took a tour of a Kiwi (fruit) farm, and relaxed at a beach. We also took a ferry across the bay from the city to a village, Devonport, where we climbed a dormant volcano and got some neat pictures of the city.

We then headed on our way to Rotorua (or "RotoVegas", as it is affectionately called by the locals). Here we saw a Kiwi (bird) farm, learned more about the native Maori culture, and tried the "Mordor Special" from a great pizza place, "Hell". Far and away my favorite thing we did in RotoVegas was Zorbing.

We weren't sure exactly what this would be like since we had really only read about it, but it turned out to be crazy fun! So basically what they do is inflate a giant ball (or Zorb), take it to the top of a huge hill, throw a few gallons of water into the Zorb, toss a few people into the Zorb through a beach-ball-sized hole, zip up the hole, and push the Zorb down the hill. The inside inside the Zorb involves sliping, sliding, trying to stand but failing, and a whole lot of laughing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Of Spending and Such

When it comes to money, I've always been more of a saver than a spender, but it's hard to know precisely what's happening with your money if you don't track it. As Galileo said:
"Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so"
So starting in the summer of 2008 I began tracking our spending on a great website, yodlee.com (similar to mint.com). We have linked all of our bank accounts, credit cards, investments, loans (back when we still had loans, abooyah!), and other assets all in one place. And whenever we would make a purchase or a deposit, it would be automatically picked up by the application and categorized based on where it came from. Then every month or couple weeks we do some maintenance - we just have to go in there and make sure everything is being put into the right categories. So after almost 3 years, we pretty much have this down to a system, and we've got some pretty sweet (and accurate) data to show for it.

Here's some interesting data on what we spent in 2010.

After seeing this chart for the first time, I took the opportunity to point out to my wife that she was our 6th largest expense in 2010...

The "Other" category is made up of things like: Cable Services (Internet), Cell Phones, Utilities, Health & Hygeine, etc that were much smaller slices on their own. So we know exactly what this slice represents, but it just didn't make sense to leave them broken out in the chart.

Necessities (Red) - 45%
Luxuries (Blue) - 31%
Travel (Green) - 24%

This chart provokes the question: would we rather have that big, green slice back in our savings accounts or have the experiences we've had this year on our vacations? Hmm...

Some other great finance resources:
Interesting Census data
Money Strands

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Best Ever PB&J

I know this is kind of a silly thing, but the other day I was making myself a PB&J sandwich for lunch and I realized that I am very particular about how I make it. Then, I realized that I've had whole conversations with others about the best way to make said sandwich. It's strange, but it seems like everyone has an opinion when it comes to this delightfully simple recipe. And this is just my 2 cents.

What you'll need:

2 slices of Whole Grain bread - You know, the more expensive kind that comes in the shape of a rectangle, not a square - there's more to enjoy this way...
“You know that Pepperidge Farm bread, that stuff is fancy. That stuff is wrapped twice. You open it, and then still ain't open. That's why I don't buy it, I don't need another step between me and toast.” - Mitch Hedberg
Unlike Mr. Hedberg, I think this bread is worth the extra effort.
1 jar of CRUNCHY Peanut Butter - I'm not even going to dignify the opposing, "Creamy Peanut Butter" argument with a debate here - Crunchy is definitely where it's at. End. Of. Story.
1 jar of Jam - Personally, I'm a fan of Strawberry but the flavor is up to you. The only real requirement is that you use jam, and NOT jam's under-achieving, texture-less, watered-down cousin (jelly).
1 Butter Knife - I'll address the "cross-contamination" issue later, but I've heard the 2-knife argument and there is just no need for that ridiculousness.


Start with the jam. For oh-so-many reasons, this is the absolute only acceptable order. First reason: if you start with jam and you scrape the knife on the sides of the jar before moving onto the PB, you can avoid almost all of the contamination risks! Second, even if you do end up with some contamination (I, for one, welcome it!), having a little jam in your PB is the right way to go! PB in the jam, however, is just gross! And, if someone in your family has a peanut allergy, and you always make your sandwich in this order, you don't have to worry about mistakenly sending them into an allergic reaction when they go for their toast w/ jam at breakfast!

I like to spread about 2 "globs" of jam on to the bread. I'd give you this amount in Tablespoons, but c'mon, like you're going to get your measuring spoons out to make a sandwich. Spread the jam out to make a nice even layer across the bread. I like to leave a little room from the edge of the bread so that when the sandwich starts "squishing", the jam doesn't drip off the edges. This is especially important if you are, despite my expert advice, going ahead with using jelly.

Now add your peanut butter. I shoot for about a 60/40 ratio between the PB/Jam. However, I have had hankerings some days for more of a peanut-buttery, 70/30 ratio. I find that those sandwiches are still excellent, just make sure you have a tall glass of milk handy.

Now, assemble your creation and prepare to be amazed. Enjoy! I'd love to hear your comments/arguments on this topic!

Friday, March 11, 2011

House: Ready to Throw in the Towel!

Remember when I excitedly posted about the great house we found? Well, after an agonizing two-month wait, we finally just heard back from the seller's bank, and we did not get it. Apparently, they won't approve anything unless the sellers cover the remaining balance on the mortgage, i.e. "we're forcing this one to go into foreclosure". Bummer.

I am just so very ready to finally settle down in a place, that is ours. And plant a real vegetable garden. And play music without the worry that the guy living below us will be annoyed that I'm playing the same 3 songs on repeat for 8 hours. And mow the lawn. And paint rooms. And give my dog the leash-less freedoms that come with a fenced in yard! And meet our neighbors. And finally unpack, for real this time.

Ok, whining over. Resting in El Shaddai, "the all-sufficient One", and moving on.

We're seeing more places on Saturday. And we've got 3 more months left on our apartment lease, so there's still time. (And, we could go month-to-month on our lease after that, if we need to....)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Australia, Part II

I told Aaron before we got to Australia that if we came back with nothing else, the only tangible thing I wanted to get on this trip was a picture of me holding a koala. After our diving adventure, we went in search of a koala to hold. We found one at the zoo in Cairns. To be more specific, we went to "Night Zoo" where they bring out all the nocturnal animals.

Here's the little fella I got to cuddle:

His name is Kai, and he was super cute and sleepy.

At the zoo, we also saw crocodiles and kangaroos!

After we got back to the city, we turned on the news and heard about the earthquake in Christchurch. We watched the coverage on the devastation, both to the city itself and the people. So many lives lost and missing. We watched with heavy hearts. Then we realized that we had a lot to be thankful for.

When we were planning this trip way back in August, we were polling our friends and family on what we should do - either go to the Great Barrier Reef or visit the south island of New Zealand. We decided to do the GBR, obviously. But, had we decided to do the south island, we most likely would have flown into Christchurch and still been in the city when the quake hit. Scary stuff.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Australia, Part I

Aaron and I just got back from our trip last night, and we are tired! A full day of flying along with a 19-hour time change is a lot to get through.

But, our trip was amazing. I had the absolute best time of my life. I am so glad we did this.

I'm slowly uploading pictures and writing blog posts (as well as getting back into the swing of things at work and home), so this is just the first part of our trip recap.

We were only in Australia for 3 days, but it feels like we packed a lot in. We spent 2 of those 3 days on a boat in the Pacific, floating right on the Great Barrier Reef. We did a 2-day "liveaboard" diving trip, where you actually spend a night on the boat so you can save time by not having to head back to shore. We did 6 dives in total, including one dive AT NIGHT!

It was like an underwater playground. So much to see and explore, I loved it. Each dive was no longer than 45 minutes, and they all ended far too quickly. We saw countless beautiful fish, fantastic coral formations, bright-colored giant clams, plants that danced and moved, bioluminescent algae, etc etc! The best part, by far, were the sea turtles. I've ooh'd and ahh'd about this on facebook already, but I thought I would share the actual story here.

By the last dive of our trip, many of the other folks on our boat had seen various super cool animals: turtles, sharks, sting rays. But Aaron and I had not seen any of these! (not completely true - we had seen 2 turtles on our night dive, but they were sleeping and we couldn't really get close to them) We were definitely on a mission to see something really cool before we headed back to shore. We were at the end of said last dive and I had just signaled to Aaron that I was almost out of air and we should head toward the surface. We slowly made our ascent, just checking out what was going on at the very top of the reef we were on.

We were only at a depth of about 3 meters, just about to surface, when I saw the large sea turtle swimming a circle around the top of the reef. He had just gone behind a rock, and I was trying to point him out to Aaron (the camera man), who was still ascending. Now, trying to get someone's attention when you're diving (and they're not within arm's reach) can be pretty difficult because you're not usually looking at each other and your peripherals are limited by your mask. I basically just flailed my arms, screamed into my regulator, and started knocking on my tank. It worked and I just started pointing at the rock he was behind and frantically gave Aaron the underwater sign for "turtle". Eventually, he came back out from his hiding place, and we actually got to swim with him for a bit & snap a few pictures.

It was amazing. I just felt so lucky to have that experience with nature, however brief.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...