Monday, April 30, 2012

New Toy

As I mentioned in a previous post, we recently purchased a new "toy" for the hubby. I've been meaning to write a post about it for a little while now, but with the pile of school work that has surrounded me (along with a serious case of procrastination), I haven't gotten around to it. I was talking to Dan about the posts I need to write, and when I mentioned that I was going to do one about his new "toy," he asked if he could write it. I was a little surprised, but also a little excited that he wanted to get his feet wet in the world of blogging. We've even gone as far as making him his own account so that he can contribute to the blog whenever he feels like writing. So, without further ado, I'm going to turn over the reins to the hubby...

My wife has allowed me to take the keyboard for this post. During our spring break I asked if we could start our endeavour of looking for a new vehicle for me. It has been something I had been putting off. Sure, I had been researching car information online but it is no comparison to actually sitting down and driving the vehicle. Now I do have to admit, I am bias towards Chevrolet, but my brother convinced me to try other brands. After reviewing with my wife what we where looking for we came up with:

-Four door or two door car
-Gas mileage equivalent to our other vehicle
-Low mileage (less than 30,000 miles)
-No more than 2 years old
-Cruise control
-Comfortable long distance driving
-Decent trunk space
-Had to be within our budget

Speaking of budget, we decided that if we could find a vehicle that met our criteria and we could get it with a monthly payments below $200, we felt comfortable getting it. Now that's a low monthly payment but we also had a cash down payment of $4,000. On top of that we plan on trading in my old Saturn, which we figured we could get $500-$1000 for it. 

So with the list together and budget in mind we set aside a day and drove to the nearest dealership which happen to be a Chevy dealership! Just my luck, maybe I can convince my wife right off the bat! We started to look around at the new cars on the lot to see if any would happen to fit into our price range. Unfortunately none of the cars would unless I wanted a very small car like the new Chevrolet Sonic, which I did entertain the thought of, but immediately came to the conclusion that it was too small. We made our way over to the used section where once again I thought we would be in luck. They had a wide range of Chevy Malibu's in stock with multiple colors and interior. Boy were we shocked to see the price of the car versus the mileage on each. Almost all where over our mileage and almost over our budget.  I happen to like one, it was a White Malibu LT Automatic with a lot of nice features:

This car looked great until we saw one thing! 42,554 miles! That's a little too much! Especially since round trip to work is 104 miles a day (yes, that is all highway driving). So I decided I would entertain the sales person and take it for a test drive - never hurts, right? The sales person gets the tag and we are ready to go... Until the Low Fuel light comes on (there will a trend to this issue). So we take it for a test drive and I fall in love with the car, all except for the mileage. At this point I was really considering the purchase of the vehicle. After sitting down and filling out the information and multiple times of telling the sales person the monthly price isn't good enough we ended up walking away. 

We made our way into town where more of the dealerships are located. As I said before I am not one for other car brands but I decided to take my brothers advice and take a look at some others. Our first stop was a Niassan dealership. My middle brother currently owns a Nissan Versa but has had multiple problems including what seems like a misfire condition, bad gas mileage, and a constant check engine light. With this in mind, I already had a bad taste in my mouth regarding Nissans, but decided to take a look at their used inventory anyways. After not seeing anything interesting we left. 

We made our way to the next dealership. The KIA dealerships have been running an advertisement that with any trade-in you get $5,000 towards any new KIA. So I looked at the Rio, Forte and Optima. Our salesman asked us what our budget was and let us know even with the trade in and incentive we could not afford a new car. So he takes us around the lot and found a 2010 Kia Forte. The price was right and the mileage was as well. I took the vehicle for a test drive and could not get comfortable. Once again we left the dealership. At this point all the dealerships started closing down so we waited until the next day to continue our search. 

Day 2 of our search started out at a Hyundai dealership. Still not a fan of foreign cars, but worth a try. We looked through the used cars and didn't find anything. The salesperson, much to our surprise, wanted us to look at a new Hyundai Accent. I never thought I would like the vehicle but I was pulled in. After looking at their stock, only one caught my eye, but I still wasn't feeling 100% about it. He insisted on us being able to afford it so I took it out for a test drive. We started to get a little worried when he did not ask for my driver's license. I also mentioned the car needed gas so he decided to give us a $10 dollar bill and told us to fill it up at the corner station and bring it back without him in the car.  At this point we where both totally shocked and suspected there were hidden cameras in the car catching this and we would later be told we are on some TV show. We arrived back at the dealership handing the keys over to the sales person. I had decided the Accent was not the car for me. I didn't care for the interior and, again, it wasn't really that comfortable. 

By this point I was starting to feel like we were never going to find the right car for me. We stopped at another Chevrolet dealership. Started looking around at the used cars, but only found one that had a price on it. I got with a salesperson and asked more about this 2011 Chevy Cruze. This vehicle was red with chrome accents (not my style) but fully loaded. I asked if we could possibly afford this car and he told us no. But he knew the Service Manager was using a 2011 Chevy Cruze we could possibly afford. Unfortunately, their service manager took this vehicle home for the day - just our luck.  Th sales person wanted to confirm if I would like the vehicle so we took a new 2012 Chevy Cruze out for a spin. After the test drive I fell in love with the vehicle and didn't want to entertain the thought of any other car. I scheduled a day to come back and test drive the car that had been taken home, just to ensure this was the vehicle I want. 

We came back, much to the dealers' surprise, and I took this black 2011 Chevy Cruze LT for a test drive. This car confirmed not only my love for Chevrolet vehicles, but also that this was the car for me. We went back and had to do some haggling but got the price down to our range.

So here it is, my new toy!

Our Final Deal
Total Vehicle Cost: $17,947.64
After tax, tag, title, gap insurance and etc: $22,687.58
Trade in value: $1,952.83
Down Payment: $4,000
Total Loan Amount: $16,734.75
Monthly Payment: $223.13

We had originally said that we wouldn't take a monthly payment any higher than $200, which we didn't. Basically, our monthly loan payment was exactly $200. But, once you add gap insurance on top of that, it came out to $223.13. The wife didn't want to get the gap insurance. I have never had an accident but I didn't want Murphy's Law to show its head in this case. Especially with how much highway driving I do. So, I convinced her that the extra cost was worth it in the long run.

Here are some more pictures, including the car I traded in!

My old car. Will sure miss my Saturn!

My favorite picture!

More Car Details
2011 Chevy Cruze LT
1.4 L Turbocharged engine
12,986 miles at point of sale.
EPA estimate: 24mpg City / 36 mpg Highway
Black on Black interior
Cruise Control
16" Wheels

I've owned the car for over a month now, and I still love it! I get about 35mpg on the highway. The only downside  is with spring time comes bugs - I do have to clean the front of the car almost every weekend to keep those darn love bugs from making a lasting impression on the nose of the car. But overall, I'm definitely glad we went ahead and purchased this new car to replace the Saturn, which was starting to crap out on us.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekend Adventures: Hero For A Day

Today the hubby and I got to play the role of heroes. We'll never know the people we helped, but that's okay with us.

Yep, we donated blood today. It's something we've both done a few times. Back in high school, we'd go out for lunch once classes were over, then head to the local donation location. We made it into a little afternoon date if you will.

Well, this past week the Big Red Bus, with the Florida Blood Centers, was at my school, and we both realized it had been a while since the last time we had donated. We made a plan to go out this weekend and find our local donation spot. Luckily, our closest location had Saturday hours, which works great for us.

The plan was to eat a large breakfast and then head straight to the center. However, other things got in the way, so we got there a couple hours after we had eaten. I made sure to eat something small before we left so that I'd have something on my stomach and I grabbed a bottle of water as we headed out the door. I am prone to nausea while/after donating; the more food and fluids I have prior to donating, the better.

So we got there and started the paperwork, which seems to always take longer than the actual donation process. Turns out it had been more than a while since we had last donated. My last donation date was January 2009! And Dan's was even further back - 2007! Ok, so we were slackers when it came to donating blood. At least we're donating, even if it isn't six times a year, which I think is what matters.

For anyone who hasn't donated and wants to know the process, here it goes. First, you fill out a questionaire about your travels, sexual partners, recent illnesses, etc. Basically its to determine whether you have an infection or have possible been exposed to some sort of blood disorder. Then they take you back into a little room and verbally go over some of the questions, and if needed, ask for you to elaborate. For example, one of the questions was if you had travelled outside of the country in the past year, which we both answered yes to. They asked us where we went, and they wrote down all of the locations we visited on our honeymoon cruise. Then, they prick your finger to determine your iron levels. And lastly, they take your blood pressure and temperature. If all of your levels are normal, they escort you to a lounge chair.

Then, they get everything ready. This is the part I hate the most. Needles and I don't get along. But, being the daughter of a lab technician, I've learned to just suck it up and deal with it. My phobia and momentary pain is nothing compared to saving someone else's life. So, as long as I don't look at the needle going in or it sitting in my arm, I'm good.

My phlebotemist was awesome! Little pain. Got it in the first time. And, he even put a little gauze pad on top of the needle (without being asked!) so that I didn't have to look at it.

Now, don't be intimidated by all of the tubing that comes attached to the donation bag. It's basically there to route your blood into different pouches for the different methods of collecting. They have to get four tubes of blood on top of the donation pouch. The purpose of the plastic tubing is to keep you from being stuck more than once. To collect enough blood (1 pint), it takes about 10 minutes or so.

 Then, they give you snacks. Like water, fruit juice, crackers, and cookies. 

They insist that you eat and drink something before you leave. One, so that you start the process of replenishing the fluids you just lost. Two, I think they do it to make sure you're not going to have any sort of reaction.

Once they are confident you're not nauseated, light-headed, or faint, they let you go on your way. We decided to go out for lunch afterwards and headed to one of our favorite fast food places for some chicken and milkshakes.

I love that donating blood is a fast and cheap date that you can do with your significant other, or even make a girls/guys day out of it. We're planning on going more regularly now that we know how closer and convienient our donation center is. We're even considering doing ALYX donation next time around. Smaller needle? Less likely to have reactions? Twice as many lives saved? Sounds like a deal!

Have you considered donating blood? Maybe it has been a while since the last time you donated. If your in Florida, and need to find a location, you can search here. Be a hero!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Office Gallery Wall

I've been on a roll. I did it again. I hung another gallery wall in our apartment. This time the office got the gallery wall treatment.

For my gallery wall inspiration, you can check out my pinterest board, or check the gallery wall we created for the dining room.

Here's what we were starting out with in the office space (sorry, I didn't get a shot of it head-on).

When we first moved in, I had thrown up a bunch of frames in a makeshift gallery wall. But I wasn't happy with it. The frames didn't coordinate. I didn't like the layout. And I felt like there wasn't any sort of flow.

We'd been talking about hanging up some of our degrees and awards in our office space. I received a really nice degree frame for my UCF degree from the hubby for Christmas. And one day while we were walking around Michael's, we came across these guys in the "as-is" bin in the back of the store.

Normally, this would come with four 8x10 frames for about $20. We were getting two frames for a quarter of that price. So it was like getting each frame at 50% of the normal price. Score! We brought them home and one of the frames had a crack in the corner. Nothing a little super glue couldn't fix.

Originally we planned on swapping out the hubby's Eagle Scout award with his community college degree, but the scout award didn't fit in our new frames. So, both of our community college degrees found homes in the clearance frames.

With the dining room, I played it safe with a symmetrical layout. But I was dying to try out an asymmetrical layout. This is what I came up with.

Not to bad if I do say so myself. The hubby of course likes to point out that not a single frame is level. However, they all slope at the same angle, so you really don't notice it unless (a) you are standing on the opposite wall, or (b) the hubby points it out to you and makes you take a closer look.

I like that, again, all the frames coordinate well together. Plus, there is a pretty common theme: everything within the frames has to do with either high school, college, or work. The only frame that doesn't is the round  frame (which is actually a photo Christmas ornament), which I threw up on the wall because I didn't like that gap.

I'm looking for a small "C" to put up on the top between our high school graduation and prom pictures. One, to add a little more of a personal touch to the wall. Two, I loved the initials in all of the inspiration photos and I think an asymmetrical gallery wall is the perfect place for a letter. But other than that, I'm pretty happy with everything.

Anyone else jumping on the gallery wall bandwagon? Or do you still admire from afar?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Teacher Workday

I love teacher workdays. Especially when I don't have to go to some sort of professional development. I get 8 uninterrupted hours alone in my classroom to get caught up on my ever-growing pile of work.

Today was a teacher workday. Our school was a ghost town. Pretty much everyone in my building was at one of those professional development workshops, so my building was really quiet! One of my neighboring teachers was there, but we both had plenty to work on, so we didn't waste each other's time with a lot of chit chatting. And half the people in my department (as odd as it sounds, I somehow ended up as the only social studies teacher in the math building; our department is a little spread out across the back part of our campus; we don't have a designated building like most of the other departments do) were also gone.

I showed up at school a little before 8 a.m. and by 11 a.m., this is what my desk looked like:

The pile of papers on the right is what I had graded in the first 3 hours of the day. I'll let you guess what the pile on the left is... Yep, that's the pile that I still needed to grade. But that's not entirely accurate either. You see, I have this little black bag...

I use this bag to transport papers and notebooks back and forth between my classroom and the apartment. Luckily it wasn't that bad when I looked inside of it. Only the loose-leaf stuff had to be graded. So this is a more accurate depiction of what my day was going to consist of.

I left campus around noon to grab a quick drive-thru lunch and pick up a few items that we needed from Wal-Mart. By 2:30, this was how my pile was looking.

And that's pretty much how it stayed until it was time to leave. By 2:30, I was sick of grading papers. I was sick of correcting mistakes. I was sick of sitting hunched over at a desk. For the last hour of the day I straightened things up around my room and started getting some things in order for next week.

When I look at the pile on the right, I feel like I made a ton of progress today. But when I look at the pile on the left, I get discourage and realized I didn't make enough progress. My AP course is kicking my butt again this year. But the kiddos are testing in 2 weeks and school is over in less than a month, so this chaos will be ending soon. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel... looking forward to a relaxing summer.

Cats Meow: Vet Visit

A couple of weeks ago, our female cat, Periwinkle, started showing signs of a urinary infection. It wasn't the first time this problem had occurred. First we noticed that we were having to refill the water bowl more frequently. Then, it happened. She peed outside of the cat box. And it wasn't as though she was emptying her entire bladder; it was just a tiny bit. And that's when I knew she needed a trip to the vet before things got worse.

Luckily I have an amazing administration staff at my school who not only gave me the name of a great vet in town, but also let me sneak out of school a little early to beat the after school traffic so I'd have enough time to get home, grab the cat, and get to the vets office. Seriously, I love the people I work with.

Anyways, so after the vet came in and saw Periwinkle, he said it could be one of three things. It could be a simple urinary tract infection, which could be solved with antibiotics and pain medication. The other options were a little more complicated. The first was that she could have bladder stones which would require surgery. And the other was some sort of inflammatory condition which would have to be treated with constant medication. Obviously, my wallet (and heart) liked the first option the best.

I talked with the vet about the budget for this particular visit, and he agreed to pursue the first option. If after taking all of the medication, the symptoms continued or reappeared, then we'd have to do blood work and xrays to determine what the underlying problem is.

My wallet breathed a sigh of relief. And, oddly enough, I think Periwinkle breathed a sigh of relief as well. As soon as the vet left the exam room to get her prescriptions, she was all of a sudden in a very lovey-dovey mood. Like rolling around on the exam table and nuzzling the edges. She would stop. When the vet came back in to give me the drugs, she wouldn't stop nuzzling his hands. I think it actually started to get on the vet's nerves a little bit.

Anyways, since we were in the exam room for a little while, I snapped a couple pictures with my phone of pretty girl's weird mood.

Wanna play?

Deep in thought 

Planking? Monorail kitty?

Looking to the heavens? Or just trying to figure out the noise coming from the other side of the wall. 

A rare moment. Periwinkle showing off her belly and wanting it to be rubbed. Beware though, it could be a trap!

I was worried about taking her to a new vet's office. But her mood before, during, and after the appointment settled any fears that I had. Like I said, it's been a couple weeks since the initial appointment. And she just finished up her antibiotics a couple of days ago. So far, so good. Keeping our fingers crossed that the symptoms don't show up again.

Do your pets like the vet's office? Usually our cats hate the vet's office. Shoot, they start hating the office the minute we have to put them into their little crates for the car ride. Any advice on how to make trips to the vet's office easier on both the pet and human?

Monday, April 23, 2012

That Time We Saw The President

Well, sort of anyways. According to my students, I never actually "saw" the president, but I think it counts!

Let' start at the beginning...

Remember when we went to Tampa for our friend's wedding? Well, when I was telling you about the hotel we were staying at, I left out the little detail that we just so happened to see the President of the United States.

We pulled up at our hotel a little early. Okay, about an hour earlier than we were suppose to be there for check-in. I got my travel times a little mixed up, sue me. As we were getting out of our car and walking through the parking lot towards the lobby, we noticed an unmarked police car, with their lights on, pulling out of our parking lot and into the road. I think what caught my eye more was the fact that the cars weren't moving out of the cop's way. They couldn't.

I looked towards the intersection (our hotel was literally right on the corner), and there was a cop directing traffic. Seemed odd. We had just driven through that intersection not even 5 minutes earlier, and there wasn't a cop then. I didn't notice an accident, but even if there had been one, there is no way the cops would have been able to respond that quickly to the scene.

Then, all of a sudden, the cop from the unmarked car jumped out and started to tell people to be patient, they were making way for the President of the United States. Someone in one of the cars screamed like a little school girl. I turned to the hubby with a look of disbelief. There was no way the president was actually in Tampa, let alone going past our hotel.

Another bystander said it was probably a drill. They had been practicing things like this for the upcoming Republican National Convention. He called out to the cop and asked if this was another practice drill. She said no, this wasn't a drill, and then told the guy to back away from the street.

So what did I do? Grabbed my camera out of my purse and waited for the motorcade to drive by. The hubby asked why I was getting a picture of a president I didn't even like. I said, "I don't care what his politics are, he's the president, and I'm getting a picture!" (I should probably mention here that I'm not a big fan of most politicians, regardless of political affiliation. I don't think our country is being run properly, and it has nothing to do with being a Republican or Democrat, but everything to do with a lack of common sense.)

So without further ado, here's Obama and his motorcade on their way to the airport in Tampa.

At first I wondered why so many motorcycle cops were needed, but then I realized that they were covering all of the smaller driveways along the route. They were so synchronized. It was really cool to see.

There were two identical limos. Not quite sure which one he was in. I'm sure it's like Air Force One - two identical models, but they switch off being occupied by the president.

Still not quite sure why he needed a fire rescue to follow him. And I'm pretty sure some of those vehicles weren't necessary. But, hey, when your job warrants an entourage, go big or go home, right? Unless it's costing tax payers some major moolah.

My students say that I saw the president's car, not the president himself, so it doesn't actually count as "seeing" the president. If you ask me, I think it counts. What do you think? Have you ever met a famous political figure

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beachy Catholic Wedding

Last week went by in a bit of a blur. Two our our friends got married to over the weekend, and the hubby and I were both in the wedding party. We (and our wedding) are actually the ones responsible for introducing the two of them. You might remember them from our wedding (which you can read more about here).

Aren't they gorgeous?! They even let me test out my photography skills (more like lack of photography skills) and take their engagement photos. This was their favorite photo from the day, and I think I'd have to agree.

But back to this past week... even though their wedding was on Saturday, all the festivities started Thursday evening. After work Thursday I headed to Orlando for the bachelorette party. First we hit up the Bead Lounge in Winter Park and all tried our hand at jewelry making. This is what I ended up with...

Ignore the fact that the picture is sideways... I made a simple necklace and matching earrings. I'm thrilled with how they turned out. The place was really cool - we got the entire shop to ourselves by booking the party after hours. And the people who worked there were really helpful. The only thing I would caution you about is the fact that you should expect to pay at least $10 more than you're anticipating. Even though the prices are marked on all the beads that you pick out for your jewelry, they don't tell you the price of the chains, hooks, clasp, etc. that are used to create the finished piece. Still, I ended up with pieces that I love for around $25. Not too bad if you ask me.

After that we went out to Smokey Bones for some food. It turned out to be trivia night, which is always more hilarious when you're out with a bunch of people who have been drinking. And then we went to a place called Cowboys, which is a country style bar/club. Even though drinking and dancing are not my idea of a good time, the bride definitely enjoyed it, which in my opinion means it was a success.

The hubby and I stayed at his parents house Thursday night and then drove down to Tampa later the next day. Stayed at Wyndham Westshore in Tampa. Definitely a bit on the pricey side compared to where we would normally stay, but we were able to use my teacher discount to get some money knocked off the room rate and we scored two free breakfasts. Being up on the 7th floor offered up some pretty cool views of the city and the airport.

Later that night we had rehearsal at the church. There was a definite learning curve for me. Sure, I've already gotten married and been a bridesmaid in one other wedding, but I've never been in or to a Catholic wedding. The only catholic service I had ever attended was a funeral, which is a totally different  ball game (for the obvious reasons). Although I didn't know all of the protocols of a Catholic ceremony, I think I winged it pretty well. The rehearsal dinner afterwards was at CBD's Southside Italian Restaurant. Let me tell you, the food was amazing!

Next morning we met at the bride's hotel. Most of the ladies got ready in the room. And the bride's friend from college played photographer for the day. These are some of the photos I snapped on my phone and camera, as well as stole off of Facebook.

Again, isn't the bride stunning?

After we got a couple of photos around the hotel, we all piled up into the cars and headed to the church. But not until we stopped at McDonald's right before the ceremony. The bride had to have an ice coffee before walking down the aisle. Let's just say, that was probably the most interesting trip through the drive-thru I've had.

These are the only photos from inside the church that I've found. I guess the catholic church frowns on photography during the ceremony? The photographer wasn't allowed to get close to the action up front - she had to stay back behind all of the guests in the pews. Maybe someone could shed some light as to the reason why? I'm definitely curious.

After the ceremony we headed back across the bridge to St. Pete to the Postcard Inn. The place was nice, but insanely crowded. I think there were three separate events being held there at the same time, not to mention the crazy amount of drunk spring breakers that were everywhere. Even though there were three separate events, it didn't seem to bother anyone.

I think the biggest complaint we had that night was the parking situation. With all those people coming, you think they would have been prepared for the amount of cars that were coming. We were initially told that if we didn't have a room at the hotel, we'd have to pay $20 for parking, even though we were guests of an event at that hotel. Many of us chose to park in neighboring parking lots, but it still was a pain to deal with.

Overall, it went well though. Minus an initial run-in with drunk spring breakers messing up some portraits on the beach, everything went really smooth. The food was really good - buffet with your classic barbeque foods. The couple managed to get photos taken of them for a full half hour on the beach while the sun was setting, and I can't wait to see how they all turned out.

But now that I've rambled on, let me share some of the other photos from that evening.

K & K, we wish you two nothing but the best! We have never seen the two of you more happy than when you're with each other. Although we're sad that you'll be moving further away from us, it just means more road trips and excuses to hit the beach.

Anyone else been to any weddings this spring? It seems like a popular time of the year for couples to get married. Luckily, neither one of us has to be in a wedding for at least another year (the hubby was asked to be in a hockey friend's wedding in 2013).


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