November 1, 2017

FinCon17 recap

FinCon2017 Recap: Dallas, Texas

Coming so closely after our massive renovations and moving, I was unconvinced I should fly off to Texas and leave PiC with a toddler for five days. I sure wouldn’t let him ditch me for five day, solo! ūüôā At least not without calling in reinforcements!

I didn’t leave him high and dry, though! I made them a crafts box to keep them busy: special crafts scissors, construction paper, glue sticks, play-doh, half price Halloween googly eyes foam stickers, a list of projects they could do. A meatloaf was baked and left in the freezer to make sure they could eat real food at least 2 of the week days since we all know it’s a huge pain to start dinner after you get home at 6:30 with a toddler also demanding that you play with zir. We scheduled zir favorite local person to come over for dinner one night, and a playdate with a favorite toddler friend for the weekend. Seamus wasn’t forgotten, of course. Our sitter was great, dropping by to take him out for the afternoon walks that I normally take care of, and we arranged a swap of walking favors instead of payment.

Thankfully, we all survived!


August 9, 2017

San Diego Comic Con 2017 recap

SDCC 2017 RecapOur travel cost breakdown

Food and lodgings, $125*
Gas, $143
Parking, trolley: $20
Car rental, $317
Books, $100
Badges, $240**

Total: $1,022

* We lodged with friends this year, and they never let us pay for that, so we paid for take out one night.

** This was for two days and two adults. SDCC has a great child badge policy – children are free up to age 11.

This year, the weather was so much better than last year when it was well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit!

The lottery systems this year

Badges: success for us by the skin of our teeth. A good friend wasn’t able to get enough days to make it worth coming out so this was only sort of a win.

Hotels: not necessary this year.

Parking passes: one of the 7 of us got into the lottery! (It was me.) I bought passes for all four days but on consideration, passed that along to my friend because we decided to try the trolley this year. And also because he missed the lottery. Now that JuggerBaby is mobile, it was a really big place we could save, assuming we survived the experience. Every parent of a toddler knows that they go boneless, right? This kid has been practicing that since infancy. It’s awful.

Anyway, the passes were $191.80, versus the $20 we paid for two adults, so it’s a big price tag. That convenience can’t be overstated some days, if you’ve been trudging along for 8 hours logging mile after mile on the exhibit floor! But we were already paying for a rental car to reduce wear and tear on our two cars that are incidentally due for service, so we survived without it this year.

On making it happen.

I found myself dreading the week, rather than anticipating it. This is the second year I’ve felt this way, this time it had everything to do with all the work we had to complete before and after, with the reno. Too much stress!

It was also a bit weird because many of our friends couldn’t come this year, so it was an awfully quiet year but I’m so glad we went. That’s the most relaxed and at home I’ve felt all year, eating with and catching up with Mama S.

On food.

We thought we’d try our hand at cooking with Mama S this year, but it wasn’t a good time for it. We feasted, still: my annual¬†pancit and lumpia, the original baked pasta and garlic bread.

We packed our PB&Js for lunch this year, avoiding the fancy deli meat and veggie sandwiches we used to be weighted down by, and snacks, as always, to avoid the atrocious and overpriced convention center food. I always think it might be better this year, but it never is. 

On having fun.

This was a funny old year. Half of our now-usual crew were in attendance, and we picked up a handful of first timer friends to escort around the exhibit hall. We have a Marco! Polo! system by text – we clump together when we find a good booth, we expand and filter out to explore, then text our location to re-cluster the group. There isn’t planning or rhyme or reason, it just works organically.

This year’s exhibit hall was chock full of cute things and fantastic displays. I was hard pressed not to go on a buying spree – only the knowledge that I didn’t want to pack another 60 pounds of detritus saved me.

There was an astonishing Tamatoa cosplayer, a life size Lockjaw promoting the Inhumans show, fabulous (as always) new Lego creations.

We discovered awesome artists, we visited awesome favorites, we laughed til we cried at JuggerBaby.

Empowered by the fantastic superhero costume my unspeakably awesome friends had commissioned, ze spent the whole first day “flying” in spurts through the crowded exhibit hall. No sooner did one of us catch up to the slippery scamp, ze would throw zir “wings” out and race off again shouting “uncle, look at meeeeeeeee!”

Uncle was charmed, of course, and threw over all his plans to run along behind my stampeding bull toddler all day.

I tell zir often that ze’s lucky to be cute but cute won’t last forever.

The second day, ze kept chanting “where is Spider-Man?” No one knows where that came from – we haven’t introduced Spidey to zir lexicon yet! All day, where is Spider-Man?

Uncle spotted a particularly good one and shouted back to me, whereupon I turned and pointed to our right, look, JuggerBaby! Spider-Man is right there!

Spidey heard us and went into a web slinging crouch for zir. As Spideys do.

JuggerBaby, face frozen in a rictus of horror, scaled my leg trying jump right back into the womb. “NO NO NO!”

Poor confused Spidey. He crouched further down to make himself shorter, inoffensive, non-threatening. He did a stupid little jig to look like a clown. Finally he cowered, hiding his head a little, apologetically, because JuggerBaby was having NONE OF IT.

Sputtering, I tried to reassure zir that it was ok and Spider-Man wasn’t going to hurt zir but my sincerity may have been muffled by the choked back laughter.

For the next twenty minutes, ze declared vehemently: I don’t want Spider-Man.

Never meet your heroes, y’all.

On family time.

This is the only place I feel at home away from home. At peace. I forget sometimes that this is the home away from home to retreat to, then I arrive in July and find myself breathing serenely again.

Mama S is the mother of my heart. She’s the best. Period.

This isn’t to malign my irreplaceable mother who physically raised me, just filling my heart with people who are still here so it’s not so lonely. It’s a strange feeling to grow up with tons of family and then be separated from all of them whether by distance or by feud. I’m related to terrible people so I have chosen to distance myself from them and fill that space with good people.

That means being welcomed with open arms, seeing your pictures mingling with the family pictures, sitting around comfortably chatting about old times or random events that have meaning. That means knowing Grandma’s got your back when the toddler is trying to pull a fast one.

Books books and more books!

Highly recommended books are great.

For the adults:

For the whole family:

  • Skottie Young and Eric Shanower’s Oz Omnibus Hardcover
  • Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy is highly recommended, I might pick that up even though JuggerBaby’s not ready for it yet. For investigative purposes, you know.

For the kids:

Little Golden Books does Star Wars books! And DC books! I did not know this. JuggerBaby loves:

:: What would you have your eye on if you made this pilgrimage?

May 31, 2017

Travel with toddler: going international! (Part 2)

Know what happened? We survived our trip!

It was a weird trip for me, not having prebooked every single item with my own hands, but that’s how some of these trips go. It’s been a while but I made myself just go with the flow as much as I could, and work on self preservation instead.

The flight there

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It definitely could have gone better. We enjoyed a relatively easy boarding, except for that rush to get a tag for our stroller that we had to gate-check, but ze was pretty happy to run down the plane aisles to our seat and get buckled in like a pro flyer.

It was a very long haul from there. Food was fun, airplane food trays are great, and so is knocking liquids off my tray like a grouchy cat. We did lots of stickers on windows and climbing over Mt Parents, and cleaning up spills.

JuggerBaby only had a few mini, thankfully brief, meltdowns. Ze hates being touched or cuddled when trying to settle down for sleep, though, preferring to fling zir arms wide open and flop like a half stunned fish out of water, singing like an alley cat for about 20 minutes before passing out cold. Good luck doing that on a plane seat!

We offered laps to lay on but Angry Cat was Angry. We spent 5 of the 8 “sleep” hours with PiC providing a bookend on the aisle seat and me being a human barrier on the edges of all three seats so ze could sort of flop safely in the remaining trough of the seats. Pretty awful, pretty much. I didn’t get a wink and ze maybe got four hours of naps pieced together.

The flight back

Peaches and cream, how I craved sleep on this trip! We kept waking up at 2 am, 4 am, 5 am.

You know what’s great? Baby safe melatonin! JuggerBaby had a bad cough while we were gone, and one of the things we discovered was that Zarbee’s also makes a nighttime version of their cough syrup. I timed it poorly, giving it to zir half an hour before the food was served so ze conked out without eating dinner. Whoops. That bought us a solid blissful six hours of non-wrangling time.

What we packed

Everything in ziplock bags as a cheap alternative to buying packing cubes. I can squash a lot of clothes in my pseudo cubes and they’re reused endlessly.


2 hard containers that are the perfect size to hand off to JuggerBaby to clutch, and refillable with the magic that is raisins. We’re not insane, we go nowhere without a pound of raisins. Everything else goes in disposable ziplock bags.


JuggerBaby still licks everything and thinks cleaning up / packing / unpacking is awesome fun. Therefore everything we pack is geared around that.

We avoid small bite size things that ze will just eat: paper clips, erasers, bottle caps. Instead I packed three ziplock bags o’ fun.

Bag 1: a deck of cards, a bag of hair bows, crayons and paper, watercolor play pad.
Bag 2: legos, 3 colorful strings of beads, 5 sheets of bubble wrap rolled into a zipper pouch, disposable stickers hoarded from every illicitly-baby free trip to Trader Joe’s.
Bag 3: reusable stickers, window clings, a notepad and pen.

We rotate bags: one is checked for the ride home, one per parental carry on.

Make use of your surroundings

Never underestimate the wonders of the seat back reading material. At 13-15 months, they were weapons to be brandished dangerously, or flapped to make floppy fan noises to the pure delight of a giggler. At 2 years plus, they’re great for spontaneous “what do you see” games. We went through a 22 page transit magazine in another language twice, spotting pictures. Still no idea what the magazine was about, but that was 20 solid minutes and now I know JuggerBaby has no idea what a pineapple actually looks like.


I missed his face excessively. I also missed our previous dogsitter excessively. It’s good to have a back up but as nice as these folks were, they’re just not the Original Best sitter. OB would send updates and pictures without reminders, and paid very close attention to his medical needs. She would even catch him licking when he was starting a flare up and take care of it before it got worse. She’s even bathed him and done his laundry when we’ve been on long trips.

The back up sitters fed him and medicated him, as far as I can tell, but his bedding was grubby, I had to keep reminding them to send me updates, it was just … not right.

:: What’s your favorite international destination? Would you go with or without family (chosen or blood)?¬†

May 10, 2017

Travel with toddler: going international! (Part 1)

Going international with JuggerBaby: Part 1 With a touch of Type A-ness, and as a chronic illness person who has to be very careful about allocating energy resources, I approach all travel with the intensity of an astronaut preparing to go into space.

I’ve had to get a lot better at this over the years.

I’ve made just about every mistake under the sun, starting with forgetting to pack my laptop charger and pants on a business trip, booking flights for the wrong travel dates in the early days of internet booking, and even going to the airport on the wrong day.

Trial and error has been a harsh, but mostly effective, teacher.

And yet when I booked a trip for PiC last month, I still had a moment of panic when the confirmation email landed in my inbox – had I accidentally booked it for myself??

(No, but it was a plausible error.)

I’ve developed a very involved to do list to follow before we travel but this was our first international jaunt. This trip wasn’t a vacation, it was mostly obligatory family stuff that I can’t get into, but it was still travel with all the inherent packing and planning needs of a vacation so I made what I thought were the appropriate adaptations for flying overseas.

Three months out

  • Check the dogsitter’s availability and save the date.
  • Research flight and hotel costs. Research also: best seats on various planes, best mileage earning options, lounge access (thanks to the Chase Sapphire Reserve).
  • Fill out passport application for JuggerBaby. Take the whole family on an adventure to the processing center and pay $80 to the U.S. State Department, and $25 to the processing center. Wait anxiously for the passport and birth certificate to be returned by mail.

Two months out

  • Make a final decision on flights and hotels. Book ’em, Danno!
  • Check everyone’s vaccine records, medications, and other critical supplies to ensure we have enough for the next 3 months. I don’t want to run out while traveling, nor to come back and find out that we’ve got one day of meds left! This has happened before, in unhappier days.
  • Scan a copy of everyone’s travel documents and back them up in two places in case we lose the physical documents.
  • Make up packing lists.
  • Find out that the sitter isn’t available for either this Big Trip or a smaller trip that’s going to happen sooner. Have a minor panic and spend several hours finding possible replacements. Spend more hours interviewing.

One month out

  • Get last check-ups. This round, only Seamus and I needed to be checked for clean bills of health.
  • Confirm dogsitter booking.
  • Decide that for 2 adults & 1 child, over 10 days, we’re taking 2 carry-on suitcases (9″ by 14″ by 22″), and 2 largeish backpacks. Redo packing lists. Pretend that we don’t go through more than one garment a day. Laugh because it’s utterly foolish.

Two weeks out

  • Put together Seamus’s vacation pack: dog food, medications, supplements, launder his bedding.
  • Order a refill of his medication from the mail order pharmacy – it takes 5-7 days to deliver.

One week out

  • Triple check Amazon subscribe and save order – make sure that all the essentials will be delivered the day after we return.
  • Ditto mail – put it on hold until the day we return.
  • Recall that JuggerBaby has been the Worst about going on walks, demanding to be carried at least half the distance that ze can easily run six times over given the proper motivation. Panic about traveling with a heavy well fed toddler without a stroller, having sold your awesome but bulky infant / toddler stroller on Craigslist three weeks ago (+$50). Buy an umbrella stroller that’s only a little broken (-$35) but still functional and only 1/3 the size of the last stroller.
  • Realize you’ve run out of time to have a night away for a trial run with the dogsitter. Realize you’re a neurotic dog mom who didn’t want to be parted from him for even a day, much less a week, and mentally stomp your feet about going without him. This is the second hardest part about travel.

The day before

  • Top up travel sized liquids for carrying on the plane. This was a masterpiece of jigsawing and make do. I rescued a sturdy plastic zipper bag, our free-with-baby package of hospital amenities from JuggerBaby’s birth, and filled it with rescued bottles. Motrin replaced liquid infant Vitamin D, Zarbee’s replaced now useless teething tablets, eczema lotion filled the 3 year old mostly empty jar of Noxema. All under the required 3 ounce liquid limit, all reused, nothing had to be bought! Tiny frugal victories.
  • Break the plastic zipper on my document envelope and curse the cheap plastic roundly. Force the clip back on and proceed with maximum caution because losing our passports at any point on this trip is a big fat No.
  • Overpack our carry-on backpacks: a change of clothes for everyone, a day’s worth of diapering supplies, all the medication for everyone, a sleep pack for JuggerBaby (pajamas, book, stuffed animal, blanket, lotion and nighttime chest rub), a thousand toys and “toys” (stickers, bubble wrap, Lego people, window clings, reusable stickers, Crayons, colored pencils, paper).
  • Print boarding passes because some airlines are stuck in 1993.
  • Wash, dry, fold two last loads of laundry so we’ll come home to clean clothes and towels. If I were really ambitious the sheets would have been done too. ¬†#Nope
  • Triple check the lounges we have free access to for departing and returning airports, make sure we have our lounge passes and be heartily annoyed that PiC’s has gone missing. If my desk weren’t a certified disaster zone I’d know exactly where it was. I think.

My policy is not to spend while traveling unless it’s absolutely necessary, but that has to be balanced with our ability to carry everything. This round of planning and packing went well. I had to replace a few things on the trip itself (cheap plastic!!) but overall I managed to pack only 15% more than we actually needed and part of that 15% was simply because the travel was overbooked and we didn’t have the leisure time we anticipated.

:: How do you prepare for international travel? Is it old hat to you, or do you get the giddy pre-travel anticipation that I do?

April 19, 2017

Singing the no-vacation blues

It's been 6 years since our last vacation: how should we break this drought?I’m a recovering workaholic and it’s been 6 years since my last real* vacation.**

*defined as a time where I wasn’t required to log onto work and I didn’t do it more than once out of worry that something had become a steaming pile of waste on fire.

**maternity leave doesn’t count as a vacation in any stretch of the word and I will slap you with a wet fish if you try to argue with me about that. Fair warning.

Despite my recovering workaholic label, this isn’t entirely a situation of my own making. I didn’t mean to go this long without a true break. We haven’t just been sitting at home, dully Kermit-flailing at our keyboards in an endless grind. We’ve logged more travel for fun days in the past few years than I have in my entire career before this! It’s just that I’ve been making it work by doing it all, at the same time: traveling, working, and now, also parenting.

It hasn’t been without its flaws but it has included some amazing food so it’s hard to argue against the logic that if I can have it all, by doing it all, why not?

Because when you’re a recovering workaholic, you shouldn’t be looking for reasons to keep your work strapped to your hip!

Truly, the trouble with knowing that you can’t coast on talent, knowing that you made it to this point in life or work by dint of unbelievable amounts of hard work is that it’s incredibly hard to care about the research that says taking a break and refreshing your brain is good for you AND your work. That was my problem, early in my career. Stepping away meant I was losing ground and will have to work harder to catch up on my return. Like Leo McGarry (The West Wing) who didn’t want to take out the time for his AA meetings, I don’t want to be a half hour dumber than everyone else!

But that’s stupid. For one thing, information acquired as it develops takes far more time than catching up on most situations to get up to speed. It actually only took Leo about three minutes to arrive at the same place everyone else was waiting, for their next update. Surely nothing at my job is so complex or critical as Aaron Sorkin’s fictional White House, The West Wing version! (versus the American President version which is a whole other thing).

For another, your brain is a resource and running it continuously without respite is shoddy brain ownership. Even actual machines need downtime and maintenance.

What’s my point? My point is that even knowing all of the above, it’s been six years since my last vacation.

Money is about to be anywhere from pretty tight to OMGTIGHT, but you know me, I’ve already made contingency plans. I have a stockpile of points / miles and I will plan a real vacation.

But my laptop may still come with me because my addiction to being connected is not on the table for discussion at this time. One problem per post, please.

Assuming a small budget and travel companion who varies from being an utter delight to a tiny terrorist, and a preference for being with Seamus rather than boarding him, I think we may be talking road trip!

Colorado? Canada? Washington?

:: Where would you head after a long vacation drought? When and what was your last vacation? 

September 28, 2016

FinCon16 recap

FinCon16: My first FinCon in San Diego!Money Blogger’s First FinCon!

Y’all. I haven’t shown my face publicly as a money blogger in ten years. Plus, I’m an introvert. FinCon16 seems like a Pretty Bad Idea for a pseudonymous blogger. But it also sounded like an awful lot of fun and so, with some persuading, the 6th annual year of the PTMoney FinCon was my year.

I met so many people and didn’t want to depart with haste, not even once.¬† Oh wait, I did, once but that was just from one session.

The thing about FOMO

When I finally got off the hotel shuttle and walked into the hotel, I barely suppressed the urge to raise my arms and bellow “TO ME, MY MONEY NERDS”. Only the knowledge that going all Professor X on the half empty lobby might end the fun Very Quickly stopped me.

Friends on Twitter were feeling the FOMO well before we left, and it’s certain that if I weren’t a veteran of SDCC and ECCC (comic cons, my other love), that feeling could have ruined the trip from the get-go. Heck, I was Right There, and by arriving late in the day, I was already missing out on all the Wednesday activities – the Experian dim sum lunch, the chance to meet and chat with people before the conference madness started.

The reality is missing out isn’t a risk, it’s a certainty. Even while on site, I was missing out because there was just simply no way I’d make it to every session, meet every person I wanted to meet, and achieve All The Things. For example, I almost got to say hi to Tonya of Budget and the Beach but she was moving too quickly, I never found Kathleen Celmins of Frugal Portland, Mr. 1500 Days was only identifiable on the first day in a sheep tee, and those are just the few that my sleep-deprived brain can recall right now.

The only sure thing about my health is I can never accurately predict if I’d be physically up to it. As my dear friend Abby knows only too well, chronic fatigue is an unpredictable, abusive drunk that can attack you at any time, without rhyme or reason.

Thankfully, a long history with SDCC has taught me that it’s not worth agonizing over that which you can’t do – enjoy the moment you’re in.

Hugging the stuffing out of old friends

I wasn’t prepared with a list of people that I wanted to meet but I tweeted reminders to myself each day to keep myself from going full-introvert and social-avoidance. It’s been too long since I saw Lazy Man and Money or J.Money. I just met Athena in person this trip, but I’ve been her sounding board for so long that I’d forgotten we’d never met. Thanks to Abby of I Pick Up Pennies, Donna Freedman of Surviving and Thriving, and Crystal of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, I had introductions to a plethora of people and made some wonderful new friends.

If you’re an introvert, I highly recommend getting adopted into an extrovert’s clan. Riding that extrovert’s wake makes a huge difference in whether you hide in a corner and pretend that plant is fascinating, or have an awesome Saturday ooohing over JD Roth’s puppy videos, and Pauline’s Great Dane.

Also, they’re way better at making introductions to others when my response to “Hi, I’m [Blogger you read].” was a halting “Hi! I’m .. uh … oh. What name do I use?”

Luckily, Joe Taxpayer, Maria Nedeva, Sarah Li Cain, Ms. ONL, Cait Flanders, Femme Frugality, Jessica Moorhouse, and Emma Lincoln were kind souls who didn’t hold it against me.

Highlights …

The best thing I did was have friends who understood my limitations existed and helped me stay engaged without pressure.

The best thing I did before coming was spending years forming deep friendships with people. Who knew that would make this meeting thing so much better?

My favorite quest was Abby’s and my quest to find a water bottle. She had lost hers, and I’d forgotten to bring mine, so we swept the Expo Hall in search of the perfect replacement bottle. In the process, we collected some other fun, decent quality, swag: a beach mat, Vanguard’s fantastic zippered tote, an insulated thermos small enough for PiC’s coffee when we road trip, an insulated tote that’ll be great when we picnic, a Swagbucks gift card, and a handful of unbelievably soft t-shirts. I’d sworn off collecting any more t-shirts but these were like cloud puffs. They had to come with me. JuggerBaby’s favorites were all from Donna’s picks: a squishy blue pig, a blow-up beach ball, the emoji plushes. PiC also loved the running socks I snagged for him. All useful things!

Ghost riding in the Vanguard bag, the infamous Ally cookies, one of our breakfasts

The best surprise was winning $500 in the PennyHoarder social media giveaway! I’d been concerned about the cost of the trip since AGSL hasn’t been generating income this year and this was an awesome offset.

The best unexpected edit to my agenda was that PiC braved TWO solo flights with JuggerBaby so that they could join me and have a birthweek dinner together.

My favorite session was a tie between the FIRE¬†talk and Grant Baldwin’s talk on booking speaking gigs (which, if you know me, is the opposite of what I’d be interested in). The former was just interesting chatter about how the panelists choose to live their FIRE lives, the latter was clear, great actionable information, and persuasive.

I’ve been going to San Diego for over ten years, but I loved seeing it through the eyes of other non-Californian bloggers. Everyone had a sunset photo!

…and lowlights

The grossest moment was that jerk security guard working for the hotel accosting me to say that if I ate that cupcake I was holding it would ruin my figure.

The second worst moment was understanding that I wasn’t the only one who had to hear unsolicited comments about our appearance. Other attendees commiserated with their reports of harassment after I vented my frustration on Twitter.

This shouldn’t be something we have to deal with.

In the words of Monty Python, “it got better.” I made an official report, PT Money and Jessica Bufkin (the event organizer) dealt with it, and though the hotel’s handling of the situation is purely crap, I am satisfied that FinCon doesn’t sweep the harassment of their attendees under the rug. Next step: heading it off before it happens.

Last, the final keynote speaker was bad. For a minute I wasn’t going to discuss that but if not here, then where?

The speaker sent an interminable period bragging about how he’s rich and oh by the way, SO rich. He was so over I was convinced it was some absurdist parody, but it wasn’t.

I walked into a business conference, and walked out of a frat house presided over by an entitled pontificating Frat Bro bragging on how he’s rich and had sex in the company bathroom. Such business. Very class. Wow.


The key points he made that would have been useful were:

  • making it as an entrepreneur takes time, work, and many failed attempts to pay off,
  • winning the lotto isn’t the way to get rich,
  • there was probably a third but it was lost in the grandstanding.

The point he really made was: When you have enough money, you can do and say anything you want. Remind you of any particular unqualified political candidate?

He clearly had some fans, particularly when he started flashing cash and stuffing it down the shift of his attendee helper, perhaps signalling the shift from a frat house to a strip club, but there were plenty of quietly disgusted attendees later on as well.

The money part

Airfare, $600
I planned for my flight, but then PiC and JuggerBaby flew down too! For a limited time, JuggerBaby is free as a lap infant. Boy howdy is it going to be painful to start paying for a 3rd seat always.

Dog boarding, $150
It was just too much for PiC to manage all of Seamus’s medications and supplements while chasing a child so he was better off taking a short vacation with our sitter. He got to run with the pack, and cuddle with a puppy, so you know he wasn’t missing us at all. And the sitter is great – she does all his medications, takes them for hikes, and washed his bedding for us!

Hotel, $760
I originally agonized over the decision to have a single room to myself but it was the right call, not least because of my surprise visitors, but also because I needed a bit of quiet decompression time each night. Which isn’t to say that my FinCon buddies wouldn’t have been good roommates, but sometimes you just need to be alone.

Also! I signed up for the SPG Double-Triple your points promotion just before we went, and opted for the Green Choice program, so my 4-night stay netted around 5000 SPG points.

Transportation, $75

The shuttle to and from the hotel was free for all of us. Free and they were pretty good – I didn’t fear for my safety going to and from.

We walked to the restaurant for dinner the one night we all went out together and to the deli for lunch but that was about it for accessible dining. We had to catch cabs or Uber to and from the Gaslamp.

We had to park at the airport at the other end (darn car seats!) and after a coupon, the cost was around $40. Coupons for airport parking, who knew? And before you ask, yes, I absolutely checked for cash back rebates on top of that but there wasn’t a stackable deal. Had to try!

Food, $100

I picked up some provisions, transport kindly provided by Abby, at the local grocery store but I should have grabbed more. Breakfast provided by the conference each morning was hit or miss. Each day, the provisions were fewer and ran out faster. As Ms ONL noted it was noticeably beige food: carbs, carbs, more carbs. I was hankering for some protein and roughable but it wasn’t happening at breakfast.

FinCon provided tickets for food truck lunch on our first day. Abby wisely insisted that we hit the lunch trucks first before the place filled up. To absolutely no one’s surprise, I had the BAT (bacon, arugula, tomato) grilled cheese sandwich. Bacon and tomato? I’m there. Tomatoes and greens? Taste bud heaven. I was so full that I had to pass on the Vanguard cupcakes that day. (Not the next day, though!)

As a birthday treat from Crystal, we had In’n’Out burgers for lunch the next day. Then it was all about the Mexican food: awesome chips and salsa to go with our carnitas for my birthday dinner, and enormous burritos on Friday night across the street from the Ignite event. I missed some hosted Happy Hours, unfortunately, let’s pretend the nibbles there weren’t amazing.

We need a suite with a kitchen so we can throw together some healthy meals. Too bad we couldn’t book out an enormous Residence Inn and host family style meals. Cooking for small scale groups is bonding, right?

TOTAL, $1685

FinCon17: Dallas?

As much fun as I had this year, this is too expensive a conference to attend two years in a row without business goals in mind and business income to cover it.

San Diego is on the same coast and our bill was a whopper.

I did pick up a badge during the Flash Sale but that’s no guarantee of my attendance.

At a minimum, the flight and hotel have to be booked on miles and points if AGSL isn’t earning enough to send me out. Say it isn’t, then I have about 7-9 months to amass enough points and miles to book in time, assuming our other travel commitments don’t eat into the stash.

I have to be able to take 5-6 days off work to travel as well. I’m still swamped under a mountain of work and the outlook isn’t good for the next six weeks. That’s got to change, or I might collapse under thousands of emails!

Making Connections

A great point that both Ms. ONL and Ms. Montana made was that a huge part of this blogging conference was meeting people. Whether just socially, or for specific mentoring, we grow, strengthen and deepen our relationships when we spend time with each other. Even for an introvert, this was a wholly enjoyable event because of the socializing, not in spite of it, and that’s saying something!

Not everyone can spend this kind of money or effort to attend, though – it’s a lot of money and a lot of time. Heck, obviously I’m not sure if we’ll be able to repeat the experience, Dallas-style, but I’m taking steps to making it happen.

:: How do you make and maintain connections to your people? Who are your people? Would you be interested in attending FinCon, as a blogger or a reader?

August 22, 2016

San Diego Comic Con 2016 Recap

SDCC 2016 Recap: Yet another year of conventioneeringOur travel cost breakdown

Food and lodgings, $200
Gas, $150
Parking, trolley: $100
Gifts and things, $150

Total: $550

I normally love San Diego Comic Con. Perfect weather, all geek all the time, lots of fresh air and walking and being surrounded by people who are just there to enjoy the goodness.

These days, it’s so much more fraught to prepare for. The lottery system for the badges. The lottery system for the hotels. The lottery system for the parking passes. Everything depends on luck and that has my insides clenched with worry that we’ll miss something this time. This year I did miss something. We didn’t get a slot in the lottery and forgot to secure parking passes after the lottery was over. I panicked, then a friend saved me with her extra passes. (They were pricey but uber convenient for our JuggerBaby needs.)

I found myself dreading the week, rather than anticipating it. I wondered if it was a mistake to go. By the time we were a week out, already having spent far too much time working and hosting guests, a probable panic attack set in and if I could have, I’d have cancelled the whole thing.

Thankfully, by the time we reached San Diego, most of that feeling had dissipated.

On food.

We have a tradition of staying with family friends – friends who have become family, over the years – and San Diego just wouldn’t be the same without staying with them. They’re not just good company, Mama S is an amazing cook and does a fantastic family dinner every night. I could eat that baked pasta and garlic bread for a week straight. I could eat the pancit and lumpia for a month. It’s probably a good thing that it’s not an option…

We packed our lunches and snacks, as always, to avoid the atrocious and overpriced convention center food and enjoyed leftovers for breakfast. Best week of eating all year long.


On having fun.

SDCC is just too big. It overflows from the convention center out to all the nearby hotels and their ballrooms. The whole area out front is usually packed with promotional booths for tv shows, with prizes and treats. This year it was an enormous Superman statue, the Batmobile, and a Kristen Bell show, with an ice cream parlor theme. The crowds and the lines and the noise and all of it don’t bother me. It should. I normally hate all of that. But for this? It’s just right.

The downside is that I logged far more steps than is healthy for me. We had to walk three miles to get to the Marriott to get our badges on Wednesday whereupon they insisted that JuggerBaby had to physically be with me to pick up zir badge. So that was a wasted trip and then we had to go back with zir on a busy Thursday, wasting precious time between naps.

We took it almost as easy this year as we did when I was pregnant, but this time we shared the extra load. JuggerBaby rode piggyback in our Craigslist-purchased ErgoBaby ($50!) with me in the mornings when I was fresh, PiC backpacked zir in the afternoons. We walked the floor together discovering all kinds of new cute things, and visiting old favorites. It was a weird year, we bought more art then anything else and that’s never happened before.

I caught a couple of panels while PiC and JuggerBaby went exploring on their own. That always feels a bit luxurious because, though PiC is happy to give me a break, I always have a tinge of guilt that he’s doing all the heavy lifting whether I’m there or not so we tend to stick together more than not.

:: Do you have an annual vacation destination? What would it be if you didn’t? 

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