Travel There: Good Luck or Good Planning

Refreshed and Ready for the Road

Refreshed and Ready for the Road

When you’re traveling, is a good night’s sleep good luck or good planning? Or could it be because you’re too exhausted to do anything else?

We Gotta Get Out of LA

As we surrendered to Navi (the GPS) and headed north, I was fantasizing about pillows and linen,but my job as navigator wasn’t over.  About the time we got to Thousand Oaks, Bill wanted to eat.  Food was just about the last thing I wanted, but through experience I’ve learned, when Bill wants food I’d better find a restaurant.

Gastronomic Detour

Do you remember what life was like before our electronic traveling friends?  You drove along hoping to see a sign on the side of the road, but you’d never just pull off the road, because you might never figure out how to get back.  Using that method, I might have made it to Carpenteria without having to stop, but no, Bill tells me to get out my phone.  Lo and behold, Google Local tells me there’s a BJ’s in the neighborhood and Bill takes the next exit.  We kept Navi pointed towards Carpenteria and used Local to get to BJ’s.

Now I really want to whine and complain about how awful it was, because I was really tired and not very hungry, but we shared BJ’s new Roast Beef Dip Sandwich, and I’ve got to be honest with you, it was really good.  In my day we called them French Dip Sandwiches, but I guess in this new politically-correct world, that might have some negative connotation – like all French people are dips.  Either that or some teenager planning their menu didn’t know their au jus from their assembly line.

A Reward at the End of our Drive

Sandwich happily consumed, we drove on to Carpenteria and found the Holiday Inn Express where I’d made our reservations.  This was an older property, but completely renovated, so you had all the charm of the old with all the convenience of the new.  The desk clerk checked us in like a champ, then we found a parking place close to our room and we moved ourselves in.

The room was wonderful.  A small seating area and mini-kitchen were separated from the bed by an attractive divider.  The furniture was new, but some older decorative touches were carried into the new design to add character.  We were very happy.

I would have loved to crawl in bed oblivious to everything, but I knew the drill.  I wake up at six and Bill doesn’t. I’d get up raring to go and Bill would be livid at my rattling around, if I didn’t get things ready ahead of time.  So, with a foggy brain I started re-organizing everything and getting ready for the rest of the trip, because packing for a flight and packing for a road trip are two different things.

Those gifts that took up half my suitcase? Well they were moved to the tote-bag.  All my shoes, belts and accessories?  I’d packed a fold-up nylon bag for them.  Pretty much everything else we packed needed to be shuffled around, too.  When I’d reorganized everything to suit me, I pulled out my exercise gear and an outfit for the next day, then fell into bed.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

A Bright New Day

Yes, I did wake up at six.  I slithered into my workout clothes and found the exercise room – a nice one I might add.  They didn’t have a recumbent stationary bike, like I do at home, but the treadmills were in good working order and I slammed out an hour of cardio.  Then I was starving, so I went to the breakfast bar.

Cinnamon Rolls from Heaven

Cinnamon Rolls from Heaven

Let me tell you this – Holiday Inn Express rocks their breakfast buffet.  My particular favorite is their cinnamon rolls.   But they have everything from bacon and eggs to a pancake machine to hot biscuits.  They also have healthy things, so with my single cinnamon roll I had a boiled egg, yogurt and apple juice.

I returned to the room and Bill was stirring, so I returned to the breakfast bar with him – not to eat, just for companionship.  He got breakfast down, we got ready for the day and headed out.

Vacation Day One is ahead and it was a great one, so come back next week.

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Travel Here: Frankie’s Mexican Cusine

From Frankie's website

From Frankie’s website

Here’s a local hangout in Richardson, near Custer and Lookout, you probably didn’t know was there.  Even though we were looking for it we missed it, because it’s hidden away between Canyon Creek Square and Valley Glen Drive.

Frankie’s Found Through Friendship

When I was in the throes of locating a rental to tide us over between the house we sold and the house we were building, I made a cry for help on Facebook.  Several friends made viable suggestions.  One had just bought a house on West Lookout in Richardson and was willing to hurry up his renovations in order to provide us with a place.  This was just the latest in a series of assists he offered, so even before we’d decided what we were going to do about our living situation, we knew we owed him dinner.

Our friend recommended a local hangout for dinner and it was perfect for catching up.  See, I’ve known this friend for about thirty years.  We used to work together and he was the roommate of one of my boyfriends.  The boyfriend is long gone, but the roommate and I are still good friends.  However, we travel in different circles now, so our paths rarely cross.  We had a whole lot of catching up to do.

Good Food and Awesome Margaritas

Anyplace would have been a good place to catch up with my friend, but as is often the case with him, that little restaurant he knew about was just the sort of place everyone else is looking for.  He is from New Orleans after all and New Orleans folk know food.  Every time I think of him, I think of a muffalata joint around the corner from Jackson Square.

The meal at Frankie’s started out right.  My husband considers himself a chips and salsa connoisseur.  He proclaimed the chips beyond satisfactory – some of the best he’d ever had, I believe, or something along those lines.  (I’m still on the El Fenix has the best chips team, but different chips for different folks)

Friend and I ordered Margaritas, on the rocks with salt.  Let me tell you, the drinks alone are reason enough to make your way to Frankie’s.  I had two and was a very, very happy camper.

For our meal, Hubby had chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce and I had flautas.  Friend had some kind of enchiladas with fried eggs on top.  Friend cleaned his plate.  He thought it was because the food was so good, but it might have been the spin class he’d just been to.  I ate way too many chips, because there was still guacamole left when my flautas were gone and it was very good guac.  Hubby ate up his meal, too.

So do I think you should go to Frankie’s? Absolutely!  The atmosphere is very casual and so are the prices.  We had a great waitress who got us everything we needed without being intrusive.  The food is yummy – and did I mention the Margaritas?

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Heading to Heath: Sold by Owner

2014-06-08 20.01.23

Well, we sold it, but it was a job!  Now will it stay sold?

Welcome to Our Open House

The real fun of selling our house started one Saturday morning when we put our custom sign out in the yard, with a box of full color flyers attached, and sprinkled a trail of open-house-signs (some custom, some from the home improvement store) from the major thoroughfare a couple of blocks away to our front yard. I filled the air with Glade and baked some chocolate chip cookies, then opened the front door.

That first weekend we were only on the ForSaleByOwner site, because we wanted to see what kind of traffic we’d get. They were also filming the virtual tour that day.

During the weekend open houses, we were overrun by neighbors, had a few drive-bys and were visited by one guy who saw us on the FSBO site.  We were surprised to discover we’d missed the price point by $10K. By the end of the first day we’d raised our price. This was another part of the reason we hadn’t gone very wide with our online presence. We wanted to test the water a little bit.

By the next weekend, we were on more sites with our higher price, but we were still getting mostly neighbors at our open houses. We did have a couple of folks set appointments to see the house during the week, but most of the calls were from agents trying to list our house.

One of the last people to come through that second weekend, came with an agent and made an offer, but the offer was ridiculous and I got pretty depressed.

The third weekend brought two very interested couples, but no offers. One of the interested parties wore us out with emails during the next week and said he was going to make an offer, but he just kept asking questions. Finally, the fourth weekend rolled around and we opened our doors again, but only on Saturday, because we had plans on Sunday.

Bill was excited by some of our visitors, but I didn’t put too much stock into people who wouldn’t leave an email address or a phone number.

Narrowing the Field

All along our question-asker kept asking questions, but then he got very, very quiet. So, we were gearing up for the fifth weekend of open houses, when late on a Thursday afternoon an agent called and asked to show the house. I’d planned to spend Friday perfecting my housekeeping, but Bill and I performed a whirlwind cleaning and opened our doors a couple of hours later.

The couple and their agent stayed forever, but when they left they said we’d get an offer the next day. Bill and I were both thrilled, but we were also afraid to be thrilled.  Lo and behold, the next morning we had a full price offer with no strings attached. We negotiated a few details back and forth throughout the day, but by dinnertime, we had a deal. We were going into escrow!

Due Diligence and the Loan Contingency

We’d sold the house, but we had some hoops to jump through. Right off the bat was an appraisal and a home inspection. We’d already planned a vacation and as we boarded the plane, the buyer’s agent was calling us about warranties and flood zones. We thought we might be fielding real estate calls all vacation long, but what we told them as we found our seats seemed to satisfy them.

Will the Money Go Hard?

One item that we negotiated hard for was the condition that if the loan was approved, then the buyer had to up their deposit and the funds would go hard.  That meant, even if they backed out, we’d have a nice compensation for it. Was the loan approved? Did the money go hard? Find out next week!

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Travel There: The In-Between Time

suitcaseJust to be at the airport, headed to California, was something of a miracle.  We tiptoed through the minefield of an excess baggage charge without derailing the vacation, but there were still many long hours ahead.

Hello Security

In the past, I’d never felt the need to carry a laptop on vacation, especially since Bill always carried his.  However, since Bill and I vied for computer time on a recent trip, we decided it would be smart to bring separate laptops this time.  (Note to self:  The only time I took the second laptop out of my bag was going through security.)

Bill’s laptop is a sleek number of the latest fashion.  My laptop lives on the handlebars of my exercise bike and was handed down to me several year ago by Bill.  The battery is shot, so it has to be plugged in all the time and since the plug unplugs itself from the laptop indiscriminately, we’ve plastered the cord in place with electrical tape.

As you can imagine, I looked very uncool dragging the laptop and its taped-up cord from my carry-on.  I also looked very uncool stuffing it all back in.  And speaking of cool (or unclool, if you will), I almost lost it when Bill told me the security people didn’t need for me to take the cord out.  How soon he forgot the joys of owning our second laptop!

Hello LAX

Still and all, we were not detained at DFW for any reason and the flight was uneventful.  When we arrived at LAX we discovered, that in spite of United’s expensive baggage fees, they weren’t very nice to our luggage.  Bill’s bag had a pretty serious ding, so we detoured to the lost/damaged baggage department.

Their people were quite nice about it and since we’ve been home they’ve let us know they’re sending us a new bag.  Still, it all takes time and I was supposed to be enjoying my vacation.  We drug our luggage out to the curb to wait for the rental car shuttle.

Hello Midway Car Rental

When we made it to the Midway car rental desk, the travel gods tried, once again, to trip us up.  When I pulled out my reservation documentation, the agent informed me my reservation had elapsed.  I must have given him a look, because he explained the reservation was for 10 AM.  My look must have become even more menacing, because his fingers started flying across his keyboard.  He looked relieved when he told me he was able to retrieve my reservation.

We got a car, but I spent the next couple of days trying to figure out the elapsed reservation.  Right there on my paperwork, it said my reservation was for 10 AM, when I knew I’d put the correct time into Expedia’s search engine.  I wouldn’t have made the reservation for 10 AM, when our plane didn’t arrive until after five.  For the trip planners among you, I figured it out.

I dutifully plugged Wednesday at 5:30 PM into the pick-up time when I researched my rental, but I also plugged 10 AM into the drop-off time for the following Wednesday.  Somebody’s software automatically changed the pick-up time to match the return time so I’d get a weekly rate.  I guess it didn’t really make any difference since they honored my reservation, but it could have been a disaster.  I can just see us being told they were out of cars and we were out of luck and money, since I’d paid in full.  So keep and eye out for that if you’re the one booking a car.

On the Road Again

When we headed out of the rental car facility, there was a sliver of light left, so I suggested we take Highway 1.  That way we could watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean as we drove to our hotel in Carpenteria.  I should have asked what sunset.

Within minutes it was pitch black and the GPS was really angry.  Navi (that’s what we named our GPS) insisted we take Sepulveda to 101.  Usually, after we ignore a few of her insistent commands, she decides to try it our way, but this time she was having none of it and kept insisting we turn.

I was too tired to do battle, so we acquiesced to her instructions.  Within a few more minutes the sun wasn’t the only thing to set.  The travel adrenalin which carried me through the baggage fees, laptop cord, damaged luggage and elapsed car rental, also went dark.

Why in the world had I thought I wanted to drive all the way to Carpenteria to spend the night.  I wasn’t exactly giving myself an A+ on this trip – at least not yet.  Come back next week to see if it gets any better.

 

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Travel Here: The Dallas Museum of Art – Right Now

Invitation from the DMA

Invitation from the DMA

 

Looking for a way to get out of the house, but don’t want to fight the heat?  Go to the Dallas Museum of Art.  Along with air conditioning, they’ve got some interesting special exhibitions right now.

 

Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne

Right inside the front door, in the Chilton Gallery, is an exhibition of works on paper – primarily drawings and sketches.  Since the the exhibition focuses on the period from David to Cezanne, you’ll see a lot of names you’re familiar with from the popular Impressionist Era, but that’s certainly not the extent of it.  You’ll also see a lot of French artists, because the French sort of dominated the scene during that period, but you’ll also see English, German and Spanish artists, to name a few.  In other words, the drawings come from a specific period, but represent a wide variety of styles and artists.

I’ll just be honest with you.  I am not a big fan of drawings.  For me, they seem like watching a video on You Tube when I could be at a live opera at the Met.  However, I found plenty to entertain me while I was there and Bill thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bill’s always interested in the “how” of things, so when the DMA began the exhibition with examples of vaious mediums and what it looked like when you used them, Bill was fascinated.  Items like graphite, charcoal and waterpaint he was familiar with.  Gouache was something new.  That simple demonstration greatly enriched his appreciation of the works he viewed.

Now for me, the good news was that not everything in the exhibit was a sketch.  Sketches can give an insight to the artist’s technique, but after about the tenth one, I’ve gotten all the technique I can handle.  I want to see some bright colors and interesting textures.  There were pastel drawings and pretty watercolors spread through out the exhibit rooms.  There was one gouache floral on paper that I would have been tempted to think was an oil on canvas.

Bottom line, you’ll learn something and see pretty things at this special exhibition, so you should go.

From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith

While you’re at the DMA seeing the Mind’s Eye Exhibit, don’t miss From the Village to Vogue.  Art Smith was a jeweler creating unique pieces in his small shop in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Eventually he was discovered and became a national sensation through the fashion magazine Vogue.

This is not your mother’s wedding ring!  Unless your mother wore modern art pieces with an African influence.  These things are gorgeous.  Though not necessarily the most practical things you could put around you neck.  Think large minimalistic sculpture.  Worth seeing though!

The DMA is my suggestion for a hot day.  What’s yours?  After visiting the exhibits, we faced the heat and took a stroll through Klyde Warren Park, then visited Starbucks and had one of their new Fizzio Hand-crafted Sodas.  For me, the jury’s still out.  Have you had one?

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Heading to Heath: For Sale By Owner

tourI didn’t want to do it. I’d been a residential real estate agent and knew all the reasons I shouldn’t sell my own house, but I forgot to consider the Mr. Bill aspect.

For Sale by Whom?

There’s a lot about selling a home that’s the same, whether you sell it yourself or engage an agent.  You have to get your house into shape. That means fixing all those little preventative maintenance items you’ve been postponing.  That means planting lots of seasonal color and getting the landscape into good shape.  That means getting your house clean enough for the “white glove” test and staging everything so that it looks ready for a magazine spread.

However, if you’re going to sell your home yourself there’s even more you have to do.

Learn the Market

Learning where your home fits into the marketplace is not for the untrained or the optimistic.  Knowing how to price your home is very important, but knowing how to market it is even more important.  Though Bill and I had spent several years as successful agents, I knew we couldn’t just depend on what we knew back then,  we had to get out there and look around.

We drove all over the DFW metroplex.  We picked up a million flyers, made a zillion calls, went to a trillion open houses, scheduled several thousand showings and wore out our computers looking at Zillow, the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and Realtor.com, to name a few sites.  Price was the least of our worries.  We needed to know what other agents were doing to market their houses.  We wanted to know what trends were up and coming, as well as those that were over the hill.  We’d go look at million dollar homes and then come home and look at ours with a critical eye.  Then we consulted agents to see what they thought about our home’s place on the market.

Sell, Sell, Sell  

Then we got busy.  My husband sweated out in the yard, while I sweated in the house.  When every blade of grass was perfect and the house was both smudge-free and dust-free, we started loading up boxes with all the clutter, so we’d be magazine ready.

When we  weren’t perfecting the house and the yard, we were setting up a unique website for our home, www.HomeOnTheCreek.com.  We didn’t settle for the pictures we took, we hired professional photographer, Jack DiMaio of Virtual Tours Dallas,  and got a virtual tour, just like real estate agents have for million dollar homes.  We didn’t settle for that red and white FSBO sign they sell at the home improvement store, we custom designed a suite of signs, both “For Sale” signs and “Open House” signs, to compliment our unique website with Signazon.com.

Knowing that you can have the best website in the world that no one ever sees, we spent a lot of money to direct buyers to our house.  To compliment our website, we signed up with ForSaleByOwner.com, Reator.com and Zillow.  We even put the house on Craig’s List.

Did It Sell?

After all that hard work, did we sell the house?  Well, you’ll just have to come back next week and find out.

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Travel There: The Pitfalls of Last Minute Packing

One thing I always pack for road trips!  Who knows when the GPS is going to freak out!

One thing I always pack for road trips! Who knows when the GPS is going to freak out!

My husband laughs at me, because I usually plan my vacation wardrobe weeks before a trip, but last minute packing can be dangerous to your travel.

The Primary Packer

My husband laughs at my packing procedures because he can pack minutes before we leave and do fine, but he’s a guy.  Guys can get by for days with nothing but jeans and a few shirts.  Add a nice pair of pants and a jacket, and they can travel the world.  It’s harder for us girls, but it’s more than mere wardrobe challenges.  At this house, I’m the primary packer.

The primary packer is the one who has to answer the “Why don’t we have…” questions throughout the duration of the trip – a tie for a swanky restaurant, a kite for a windy beach, even a gift for someone you didn’t know you’ll be seeing.  The primary packer has to weigh all these possibilities, as well as have clean underwear and a toothbrush.  If I wait until the last minute a million what-if’s assail me.

The Time Crunch

Truth be told, this is one trip I never thought we’d actually take.  Something always came up and I was reluctant to get too attached to the idea of going.  So I never actually thought about packing until a few days before we left and then I had so much going on that all I could do was think about it!  I didn’t even have time to go shopping for gifts until the night before we left – and if you’re visiting Egyptians the gifts are important.

The night before our departure, I ran out with my best friend in-tow and bought gifts for all the kids I’d be seeing.  I took my friend, because I’m clueless when it comes to kids and she’s had some.  After a power shopping trip that pleased my credit card company immensely, I drug my friend home with me and made her help me put together a bunch of possible outfits for the trip.  I pulled out all my favorite clothes, matched them together in a series of outfits and counted out the best eleven of the bunch – with a few extra in case I needed to dress for dinner.  Exhausted, I let my friend leave and promised myself I’d have time to pack the next day.

Less May Actually Be More

Less time planning what to pack, can turn into packing more – at least that’s what happened with me.  Or maybe I should say more planning time results in less stuff to pack.

For instance, the gifts I chose were great, but they took up almost half of one suitcase.  I thought about how much the gifts weighed, but didn’t think through their bulk.  If I’d planned better, I could have found things that would have been just as well recieved, but would have taken up less room in our bags.

Also, the more time I have to think about my clothes choices, the less of them I need.  I had at least three pairs of shoes that I never put on.  Two swimsuits and cover-ups, but no time for swimming.  I threw in a travel iron and travel blow-dryer, when all the hotels I booked provided them. My jewelry roll alone weighed two pounds.  (I know because I weighed it when I got home.)  If I’d really thought about my choices, I would have picked a single color to plan around and I’d have needed a lot less of everything.

Our $170 Hickey

So, as the time to leave neared and I couldn’t fit it all into two checked bags and the allotted carry-ons, I grabbed a tote-bag and filled it to the brim.  I figured the extra bag might rack up a $25 or $30 charge, but it was worth it to me to quit stressing.

NEWS FLASH!  

United Airlines charges EIGHT-FIVE DOLLARS for a second checked bag per person!!  Round trip that was ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY DOLLARS.  If I’d really known it would have cost $170 I would have planned things a lot better.  But then again, if I’d planned things a lot better, I would have already known that I needed to fit everything into the allotted baggage.

So, that’s one lesson I learned on this trip and I learned it before we got out of the Metroplex.  Come on back next week and see what other messes I can get myself into.

 

 

 

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