Tinted window film for home

My office at home faces the grueling afternoon Texas sun. So, to keep energy costs down, and keep me sane, I got some tinted window film from Home Depot. I am in the process of putting on the layers. I’ve done two so far and will finish the rest tonight (maybe). Here is a comparison of the windows so far. Hopefully you can tell which two have tint on them…?

tinted windows 2 of 4

(ɹɐɟ os sʍopuıʍ oʍʇ ɯoʇʇoq ǝɥʇ uo sı ʇuıʇ ǝɥʇ)

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The new ride. ’05 Toyota Matrix

Toyota Matrix

I picked up our new car yesterday. When I saw “new”, I mean “new to us”. We scored a deal on a 2005 Toyota Matrix. It is funny because less than a week ago, we started searching for them around town and test drove the first one just 5 days ago. We also drove to Houston with a cashier’s check in hand, truly thinking that we had found the one. Boy were we wrong. But, that’s okay because I’m happy to have spend the money on a tank of gas over buying a nasty car.

We had seen the one we bought listed on Craigslist at the beginning of the week but overlooked it because it had somewhat high mileage. Turns out that it was the one. Very clean, only some minor cosmetic issues, and no major mechanical needs – just some work to plan for in the winter.

Which leads me to how I know what work it needs. That is all thanks to Auto P.I. and Yelp. I searched the web for “used car inspections” and came across Auto P.I. which I was surprised to find was actually here in Austin. They got superb reviews on Yelp, I was only debating on whether to spend the money for the inspection. I realized this would be better than just taking it to a mechanic, because this is what these guys do: inspect used cars and report back on them. They have a checklist and do a 600 point inspection. My money was well spent, because the guy who inspected the car really helped me feel good about the purchase. He said “it would be hard to walk away from a car like that”.

I am glad that this chapter of “automobile life” is coming to a close. There are a couple items still to tend to, but I feel the stress levels subsiding.

No more minimums

We are in the process of paying off school loans. After all the consolidation was said and done after graduation, I ended up with 3 different loans. One private and one government subsidized loan, and then another private loan that was technically in my dad’s name, but we had an understanding that I would make the payments. (He bailed me out in my last year of school, as I had maxed out all the private money that I could get access to). I think the total balance after 3 years at Baylor was around $70,000.

Fast forward. Just the other day, we paid off the 2nd loan – 2nd in the order of smallest to largest, à la Dave Ramsey’s baby step #2 (the debt snowball). So now we’re only staring down the barrel of ONE Sallie Mae loan. This is exciting, all things considered.

So, we are looking at one more student loan at a current payoff balance of $30,500. Here’s the kicker: I have paid on this loan since about December 2004. The other day I logged in to my account because I was curious what the payoff balance was: $30,500. Then I looked at the original principal balance. To my dismay, it was $31,200. This means, that after paying 5 1/2 years of minimum payments (approx $350 – $450 over the years), the principal balance has only come down by $700. Bottom line: minimum payments suck! I looked at my payment history and the split between principal and interest, and the principal is finally outweighing the interest. We don’t plan to keep paying the minimum on this loan since it’s our last one. We are ready to attack this one with as much intensity as we can muster up. Here we go…

Do you have school loans? Do you have an estimated payoff date them?

Cuvée Coffee Tour

Saturday, I had the privilege of visiting and touring Cuvée Coffee out in Spicewood, TX (west of Austin – even further west than where I live). Now, if you’re like me, you’re wondering how in the heck you pronounce the name and where it came from. It is actually a french wine term and sounds something like “koo-veh”.

It all started when Sarah replied to an email from Jodi (@tastytouring) and got on the short-list to bring a guest out to Cuvée for a little tour of the place which was organized by Jodi (kudos and thanks to her). Well, as it turned out, Sarah had to work and was not able to make it. She insisted that I (still) go, in honor of her. I am so glad that I did. There ended up being about a dozen of us there which made for a perfectly sized group.

Mike McKim is the owner and answered any and all questions about coffee, his business, his road to where he is now, etc. It is encouraging to hear his story, about how he went from a job in telecom, to roasting his own coffee for himself and friends/family, to selling espresso machines, to finally having his own coffee roasting company. He is “living the dream”, if you will, getting to do what he loves (it’s obvious).

On a business/marketing note, this was an awesome step forward for Cuvée. Mike and his wife spent 2 hours of their Saturday giving a tour of their roasting hub, which will trigger “word of mouth marketing” via the small crew that was there, to people that he may not have been able to reach on his own. I love that. He got me and others excited and educated about coffee and his business. We can’t help but spread that around – especially in a place like Austin.

Thanks for hosting us Mike & family.

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Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, that Cuvée also does 1-day barista training. How awesome is that? So coffee shops will send baristas there to get trained on techniques, etc. The goal is to ultimately use their current house as a sort of B&B for people to come from out of state and be able to get trained in the “skills of coffee-making”.

Collaborative Consumption


/via http://collaborativeconsumption.com

Some of the sites mentioned in the video are listed below. I can’t remember how exactly I found this video, but I do know that it was somehow tied back to Colin Beavan, No Impact Man. S and I started the documentary the other night on our Roku, and are really enjoying it. I look forward to sharing more thoughts from the movie.

Anyway, I think what this video here is talking about is quite fascinating. I can be such a selfish person and think that everything I own is all mine. But, nothing I have is truly mine. I think the type of collaborative sharing that is talked about here could really change a lot of things in the world. I need to let some of my walls down, and these are a great start.

Take AirBNB for example. This is a site where you can rent a house or a room from somebody else on the site. I probably wouldn’t think twice about doing this. But from what people are saying in some of the reviews, I think it could be a neat experience, and an awesome way to save money while travelling.

Happy Hour at La Condesa


S and I went out for date night last night. We went into town a bit early to dodge traffic, and I finished working at a coffeeshop. The shop just so happened to sell Love Puppies Brownies, which I have to say is a strange name for a baked good. We grabbed one for dessert and then hit La Condesa (@lacondesaaustin) for happy hour/dinner. Man was it good. We grabbed a table on the balcony and nestled on a pleasant Austin sidestreet tucked away from the hustle and bustle. I ordered the hanger steak and a mojito, and S got the tortilla soup and a chicken taquito. Overall it was a great date and great food.

Next on the list: El Naranjo which we have heard rave reviews about

I learned about spark plugs today

My one of a kind father-in-law drive 2 hours to my house today to hang out and teach me how to change the spark plug on my weedeater.
I am thankful for him. There is just something about learning a new skill that is like nothing else. And learning it from someone who has loads of knowledge … is that much better.

Facebook and Twitter, and technology for that matter, are not the same as a face-to-face teaching session. I loved it.

Two (cars) become one

We are considering becoming a 1-car family. I say “family” even though it is just S and I now. We expect kids to come along in the not too distant future so we have to take little ones into consideration when discussing a decision like this.

Our “better” car is 13 years old – a 1997 Honda Accord with 185k miles. Our other car is a 1996 Toyota Camry with 135k miles. I am somewhat attached to the Accord since it was mine before marriage. Lately though, S has pointed out to me some signs that it is just getting old. S had the Camry and overall it is a good car, just needs a little TLC – like installing the replacement door handles that have sat on my shelf for over a year.

I had thought lately about what life would look like with only one car between the two of us. Now, the main reason that I was thinking this could work for us is because I work from home, and S only works three days/week. I rarely go anywhere during the day unless I am meeting friends for coffee/breakfast. All that to say, there are very few times where we are both out of the house separately.

For example, a friend in Waco works from home and his wife stays at home with their 4 kids. They only use one car because typically one of them has to stay at home with the kids. I’m sure there are times when she could take the kids and he would need to leave the house also, but I think this is rare and it can be planned for.

So I mentioned the idea to S on the way home one afternoon. To be honest, I tried to make it sound like a loose thought that was more of a passing one, than one I had actually put some valuable thought into. She took to the idea more than I expected. We have since been throwing around the idea and need to get some things in order so that we may list our cars on Craigslist – like tracking down titles and getting cars washed.

Here is the financial breakdown of what we’re thinking:

$3,500 – Accord
$2,500 – Camry
$1,000 – money sitting aside from stuff we sold
$3,000-ish – money we have saved up that we’d purposed for a car, just haven’t been sure how to take action

Approx $10,000 total. Now, since our lifestyle permits this flexibility of only having one car, we both believe that we could be happier with one solid car than 2 slightly solid cards. I feel quite confident that we could get a really good card that meets our needs for between $9k and 10k – like maybe a Prius 🙂 Oh, and we do not plan to go into debt for an updated car, or even for a 2nd car. It is not an option, if you were wondering.

In the event that I were to get a different job where I had to drive to an office, we would definitely need a 2nd car, but we have time to save for that. I don’t know what that savings plan would look like at this point, but I feel confident that it wouldn’t be anytime soon.

A few other hurdles that come to mind:

  • Less flexibility
  • Plan ahead when we are scheduled to be somewhere at conflicting times

Benefits:

  • Save on car insurance – put the money towards 2nd car
  • Save on (some) gas
  • Opportunity to strengthen marriage through communication and selflessness

What are your thoughts on being a 1-car family? Would your lifestyle allow it?

Tomatoes are growing!

I planted two tomatoes in my Earthbox at the beginning of April. I had the box for a year but hadn’t been hit with the reality that I could grow my own vegetables at home. This year was different. Maybe it’s that we live near so many great farmers markets and near great local food vendors. Good, real food, is in the DNA of this city.

So, I decided to go to Natural Gardener here in town, and I picked up a cherry tomato plant, and a celebrity tomato plant. Then, my mother-in-law gave me one of her heirloom plants that she grew from seed. I decided to plant the celebrity plant in a 14” pot and put the other two tomatoes in the Earthbox. [The Earthbox comes with fertilizer that you need and a watering “pipe” if you will, that puts water into a reservoir at the bottom of the container, that the plants pull from when they are thirsty.]

So, a month into my gardening, I have several tomatoes growing and looking healthy. I am somewhat surprised that I have had such good results from my pot, considering I hadn’t done it before and wasn’t sure if the plant would have enough room to grow.

We also filled in our raised garden bed in the backyard this weekend. I built a 4’x4′ bed of 8” tall boards, topped off with some rich Hill Country Soil from Natural Gardener. In the bed we planted red bell peppers, green bell peppers, jalapenos, and more tomatoes.

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