Top 10 Tips and Tricks for surviving Paris

It was a last minute decision to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Paris and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. Though I still can’t figure out how we got out of the holidays with my in-laws or my family, but I digress. After giving up a planned vacation for a new job it had been 18 months since a proper vacation, and needless to say we were both thrilled to be on a plane to the City of Lights for nearly 2 1/2 weeks.

New Year's Eve at the Eiffel Tower

New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower

Since we’ve been back stateside we’ve been asked numerous time “What was your favorite part?” or “What would you recommend?” and honestly it’s really difficult to answer. Most in part because there were sooooo  many favorites and so many recommendations.  Since I’ve had some time to mull answers over, I’ve decided to do a 2 part blog-series on our faves and the recommendations. In this post, I’ll share our  top 10 tips and tricks to navigate through Paris during the winter.

1.  First and foremost, Kyle and I fell in love with experiencing another culture’s holiday season and would highly recommend it to everyone and anyone.

Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris

There’s less tourists, the locals are out, and the people are in high spirits. Paris is definitely one of the cities you must experience and explore during the holidays. From the Christmas markets to the hot-mulled wine to the lights hung around every street corner, it was amazing on so many levels and unfortunately this photo doesn’t do it justice.

2. Speaking of hot, spiced, mulled wine. Make sure you get a cup or two or three of “vin chaud” to keep warm during the cold, windy, wet (and possibly snowy) winter season. It will keep you warm long after you’ve drained the last drop.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

Vin Chaud: hot, spiced, mulled wine.

We fell in love with this beverage, so much so that we made sure to have a cup everyday. It was that good.  Also, avoid asking the proper wine folks about this as this is considered ‘beneath’ them. We were even told on one occasion that it wasn’t ‘popular’ only to find out 25 feet away were two carnival-like kiosks selling them.  Keep an eye out for sandwich, kabab, and sweets (churros, donuts, etc) kiosks….they have the best vin chaud. The cafe versions are twice as much and don’t taste nearly as good.

3. Trust me. Get a Museum Pass.

It’s 42 Euro/Person for the two-day pass and is totally worth it especially if you’re only in town for a few days. But be sure that it gets you into the Musee (museums) you want to go since it doesn’t work for Eiffel Tower. Also, these must be used in consecutive days, so plan your Musee routes in advance to get the most out of it.  Finally, all Musee (museums) have two lines; security and entry. Typically security is the longest and the Museum pass lets you bypass the second line (entry) so don’t get frustrated when you’re standing in the first line with the ‘non-museum pass’ folks.

4. If you’re in need for some tchotchkes (keychains, magnets, old books, old magazines) to give to your friends, co-workers, and family be sure to buy it from the locals instead of the hawkers. The latter stalk tourists in front of the Louvre, Versailles, and all the major tourist sites. The locals are located on the Seine River by the Notre Dame Cathedral.  These sellers only have green boxes to sell from and have to fit all their belongings in 4 crates. We learned that by law there are only 250 sellers allowed per year and the average wait list time is eight years. Which basically means that someone needs to pass-away. It may be the PNW in me but there’s something to be said for supporting the locals.

5. As shared in a previous travel post, eating out can get expensive even if it’s for the simplest things like water, fruit and coffee. MonoPrix is a local grocery store chain (more like Fred Meyers with clothes and toiletries) we visited at least every two days to grab bottled water and snacks that’s significantly cheaper than the museum, cafe, or restaurant food. A smaller, more express store associated to the Monoprix is the Monop…..less selection but still you can grab the essentials.

Monoprix

They  saved us when Delta lost our luggage and we needed beanies and umbrellas. Also, both the main and express stores take credit cards with no spending minimum which is a huge life saver esp if you just want a bottle of water or a coke.  Besides, this is where the locals shop and it’s always exciting to see the variations of products available in different countries.

6.  You’ll inevitably use the metro lines while you’re in Paris. Make sure you purchase the carne in packs (10 tickets for 13.30) at any metro station, as it’s significantly cheaper than buying individual tickets.

 

Paris Metro Stations

Paris Metro Stations

Be sure to download these two apps and you can thank me later.  “Paris Metro” app and  “Google Maps” for Paris. Download the latter to access without wifi connection in advance. You can zoom in and identify where you’re at (using your phone’s GPS) along with the nearest metro stations. Once you have this, figure out where you want to go and open up the Paris Metro app. Click on the “route” tab and enter were you are and where you want to go. It will automatically offer you the metro links you need to take. This app  saved our lives.  Note: The #1 line (Yellow) is the main line to all the main tourist attractions. 

And for goodness-sake don’t even consider renting a car unless you want to die.

7. The RER lines are separate than the Metros and depending on the line, and where you want to go, can only be accessed through certain Metros stations.  Use the “Paris Metro” app that I noted above to help you. For example, if you want to catch a train to CDG airport, you need to head to the Chatalet metro stop to get to RER B.

Paris Metro App

Paris Metro App

Also, the RER runs every 15-30mins and they are more confusing to figure out what platforms you need to be on, so plan more time for these, especially if you go to Versailles or to the airport. If you’re staying in the city, your carnet ticket can get you on the RER and the metro (for example if you’re going to see the Moulin Rouge in the Monmarte arrondissement (neighborhood) you don’t need a separate carne. But if you’re going to and from outside the city like Versaille, you’ll need to buy different tickets at the metro counters that cost a bit more.  IE) Versaille RT is 13.30.

8. Parisians get a bad rap for their stiff-arm, cold shoulder attitude. But, honestly that’s instigated from the tourists. Going up to a Parisian and speaking English isn’t going to win you points just like a Chinese person coming up to you in Seattle speaking Madarin won’t get them very far either. For the most part, Parisians are polite and you don’t need to be purchasing a new Louis Vuitton purse to be on the receiving end of this. From cafes to boutiques to bakeries Parisians will always say “Bonjur” and you respond accordingly. After 7pm “Bonjur” is now “Bonsoir.”

Get into the habit of saying “Parlez-vouz anlais?” (Do you speak English) or “Je ne parle pas francais” (I don’t speak French). It will be a headache saver. The “Speak Easy French” app is awesome to learn how to pronounce the phrases correctly. The only bummer is that you can’t access the app without wifi.

9.  Create a routine . Get into a habit of popping into your local, corner cafe for a cafe au lait (cafe latte) or cafe (espresso) on a daily basis for your morning java fix and then head around the block to your boulangerie (bakery) for a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant).

Morning cafe au lait

Morning cafe au lait

If you can, grab a sandwich to for an afternoon picnic while you’re grabbing your croissant.  Regardless of how long you’re in Paris, these establishments and their staff will recognize you and give you better service. You’ll become a local in no-time!

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

Impromptu picnic with a veiw

This also means you should try to spend as much time in Paris if you can. We recommend a week or more. With so many museums, cafes, gardens, etc to experience, anything less is crazy!

10. The Eiffel Tower is a must and you can’t experience it from the ground. Reserve your tickets at least one to two months in advance through their website.  If for some reason you forget about this, you can can either stand in line for three to four hours (I’m not kidding) or you can pay double the price and go through a reputable third party vendor (what we did) to get in as a group. We recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours. They were great, prompt, and easy to use. The only downside was the price and there was a massive windstorm on the day we were scheduled to go up the Tower that the Summit was closed.  So be sure to book in advance and save your euros for a lovely, authentic dinner.

Have you visited the City of Lights? Post your tips, tricks, and advice below and be sure to check back for Part 2: Our Favorites.

 

Five Year Anniversary: Does wood cutlery count?

When celebrating one’s five-year anniversary, tradition says that gifts should be paper or wood. “Wood represents strength solidity and warmth- are the traditional material on the fifth anniversary.” A modern gift is cutlery. Does wooden cutlery count? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. 

This past August 16th, we celebrated our five-year anniversary. I still can’t believe it’s been five years. It feels like yesterday when we were toasting the bubbly, smashing cupcakes in each other’s faces (I believe I started it), I was in the most expensive dress I ever owned (still own, and still the most expensive), and it was the one of the happiest (and most expensive) days of our lives.

My favorite photo from our wedding day.

My favorite photo from our wedding.

Due to some major life changes…ahem….me starting a new job at an awesome company, I had to start earlier than planned and gave up my month of vacation that we originally looking forward to. I say that like it’s a bad thing but really it’s not.  I actually started with three weeks paid vacation and there’s no accrual. I can’t believe I just typed that. I’m not gloating, bragging; okay maybe I am, in the tinniest sense. But, after working for my old company for nearly eight years just to get three weeks of vacation, this feels like a gift from God.

I digress. Gone is a month filled with backpacking, road-tripping, camping on the beach, and possibly being eaten by a bear.  I’m now working (and loving it) at a fab company and Kyle’s on summer break. We decided to head out of town on a four day holiday to a four star campsite  (that’s like a five start hotel) for some down time to celebrate.

But this isn’t a post about ratings, stars and screaming children– I’ll save that for another day. It’s a post to celebrate the 5 glorious years we’ve called our own. While hiking up to Rachel Lake (my new favorite hike and lake), I decided to start a “Top Five” list of sorts. This was partially self motivated because Kyle had shoved a can of bear spray in his day pack and knowing I had no idea where we were going, it was safe to assume we were taking a jaunt into  ‘bear country’ and thus I decided we needed to talk the entire time to keep away The Bears.

The Top Five Lists

 

Though we did have a lot of similarities, we had more fun re-living the last five years with ‘remember that one time…’ than we did actually putting them into these lists.  Regardless of these lists, I know what you’re really thinking about….

No,I did not get Kyle wooden cutlery but I did think about it.  Instead, I got him a rad, new, minimalistic wallet for his ‘green paper.’ He’s been eyeing out these wallets from Bellroy which I do have to say, make some amazing, quality leather goods. I fully endorse this small company especially since their wallets arrive beautifully wrapped so you don’t have to do it!

Kyle in typically fashion out did me. He spoke to the wood-sey girl in me with gaiters and the girly-girl in me with a gorgeous Kate Spade necklace. I see these gaiters lending me to my passion for the outdoors… in the woods. And my necklace is green, which is the same color as the trees! DUH. See, we totally have it together.

Photo Credit: www.rei.com

Photo Credit: http://www.rei.com

 

The 5-year bling

The 5-year bling via @jackieostlie instagram

 

But, honestly I’m really not that high maintenance as these gifts makes me out to be.  Proof? Rainier and Freezer-Dried Beef Stroganoff for our 5-year anniversary dinner. Does it help that I picked it out?

The celebratory grub

The celebratory grub

Sometimes $20 makes all the difference

In the last month, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s been a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series has also been a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started.  I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories as  much as I have! 
My bestie and "third" sister.

My bestie and “third” sister.

Today’s post comes from Oregon and my best friend Meeka. She’s one of the funniest writers I know and I can always depend on her for her honesty, humor, support, and transparency. Meeka’s the mother of two beautiful boys and shares her adventures, mishaps, and daily life on her blog, Surprised by Joy

 

I’m not a big bargain hunter. As a mom of two little boys, I find a lot of my time {and money} dedicated to them, versus shopping for the best deal. And I’ll admit, sometimes, I see a small mistake on the receipt or a missed deal and I just let it go, because though it might cost me a couple dollars, seriously, the time spent explaining, haggling and waiting for the fix, while also wrangling my kids? Depending on the day, that might just cost me my sanity.

I should probably just build that into my budget.

This is why company customer service attributes that impress me as a consumer usually have to do with response time and accessibility.

Customer service line waits longer than five minutes? Or I can’t call you? There’s no email? No online chat? No response to the online chat? Done, man. I probably won’t be back. Because there are just too many companies that are ready and available.

And even if I do have to pay a few dollars more, well, as mentioned above, a few dollars is nothing compared to the fact that my kids just disassembled my washing machine while I was sitting on hold.

Which is why a recent interaction with home furnishings giant Williams-Sonoma hooked me as a loyal return customer, and it only cost them $20.

My in-laws had gifted me a generous $150 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and after looking around a bit, I’d decided to use some of it on a Cuisinart Griddler. It was already on sale for $70 when I ordered it. After I clicked purchase, I sort of forgot about it. That is, until I got an email three days later that they were now having a “20 percent off electrics” sale. Of course they were. And on the day my now overpriced griddler was set to arrive.

Photo Credi: William Sonoma

Photo Credi: William Sonoma

I opened the box and it was great {a panini maker and a griddle all in one!}, but the situation kept gnawing at me, I mean, seriously, if I’d only waited, I would have had $20 extra dollars to spend! So I decided to give them a call. I mean, it never hurts to ask, right?

While looking for the customer service number, I found a handy internet chat icon. Have you ever used those? I’ve had minimal success with them. The lag time {if they answer} can be really atrocious and in general, I find people are nicer on the phone than on the internet {as we all know from reading YouTube comments}.

But I thought I’d give it a try, and imagine my surprise, when right away, a nice customer service representative named “Justin” popped up. I explained my issue and after a few moments, he came back on and explained that though they do price adjustments for a

certain period of time after purchase, they do not honor email code promotions after the fact.

I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised. But I was disappointed. And a little annoyed.

Williams-Sonoma is high end and it’s not like their prices are the best around. In fact, if I didn’t have the gift card, I probably wouldn’t even have been on their site in the first place. However, that’s when Justin’s chat box popped up with the second half of his response. He went on to say that although they don’t usually honor email code promotions, for this time only, they were willing to and would be sending me a gift card in the mail for the refunded $20.

Well, let me tell you, that totally made my day. Williams-Sonoma is a billion dollar company, but the fact that they enable their employees to be generous with consumers over such a small amount, absolutely won my heart.

As my husband said, “Of course they did, what can you buy at Williams-Sonoma for 20 dollars? They just garnered themselves another way to get you to spend more money there.” And yes, he’s absolutely right. But I will happily be back and I’ll tell all my friends, because even though they are a large and often expensive store, they still treat their customers with respect.

And I have the $20 to show for it.

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 28: Changing the world one white mocha at a time by Stacy Wong

July 18: A Stranger in a Strange Land by Sandra Boedecker

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Changing the world one white chocolate mocha at a time.

Over the course of  July, guest bloggers from around the world share their good, bad, or ugly customer service experiences. It’s a place to complain, rant, and highlight opportunities for companies to improve. But, this series is also a place to celebrate when companies do well, processes work effectively, service representatives are our advocates, and we leave a situation as stronger believers in the product or service than we started. 
Stacy: Lover of Starbucks and birthday wishes

Stacy: Lover of Starbucks and birthday wishes

Today’s blog comes from Nebraska via Hawaii. Stacy is a good friend from high-school, has the most infectious laugh, and is one of the most positive people I know. I think it also helps  that her older sister is my life-long BFF. 

 

So I am sitting here in my local Maui Starbucks working on my pile of “to-do’s” from work.  As I glance over at my cup, I noticed the barista spelt my name right, which most people don’t since it’s not the most common way of spelling, “Stacy”. There’s something about your name being spelt right that just makes you smile.  It then reminded me of my awesome customer service experiences I have had with this company.  A company which many believe is too corporate or commercialized.

The first goes back to January.  It was my birthday, and my birthday drink didn’t pop up in my Starbucks app yet.  I was looking forward to my drink, along with all the well wishes a birthday usually entails.  Well, the app hadn’t come through and neither did the well wishes.  It was probably the worst birthday I’ve had.  Though I’m not the type to like to be in the spotlight, for some reason, it bothered me that no one remembered.  To top it off, work was stressful and I just wanted to go home and have my free birthday drink.  But it still never popped up.  I went home and my husband told me to call customer service and ask them about my birthday drink.  I was so fed up with the day by that point that I almost didn’t call.  Eventually I called and spoke to a customer service representative (I wish I knew his name).  After explaining the reason for my call he said, “Well first of all, Happy Birthday!”  He was the first person, besides my husband, to tell me happy birthday.  He had just made my day! And to top it off he said he would also load three more drink rewards and $15 as a birthday gift!  I was floored by his kindness and generosity, and quickly exclaimed, “You just made my birthday!  Thank you!”  I’m sure he didn’t fully understand what that meant to me, but it was the kindness of this stranger that turned my whole birthday around.

It's all about the personal touches.

It’s all about the personal touches.

My other experiences have to do with the joy you feel when someone remembers your name or simply spells your name correctly as I shared earlier.  I am a Maui girl transplanted to the land of corn in Nebraska.  I had gone into my local Starbucks in Grand Island and I had another discrepancy in my Starbucks Rewards account.  The date on my drink reward was the previous day, but it still said “available.”  I went in to ask, not expecting much since the date was actually expired, but it doesn’t hurt to ask right?  So they tried using the code, which of course showed up as expired and unavailable, but before I said anything the barista said he would just put the drink order through.  Having originally ordered a hot drink, he asked if I had ever tried the frappuccino version since it was so hot out.  I pondered the offer, but initially declined since he had already written on my cup.  He insisted that if I wanted the frappuccino he could easily change it and that it was no big deal.  So I said okay.  It was almost 95 degrees out, so why not?  After I got my drink I thanked the baristas for being so awesome and friendly.  As I walked out I noticed that they had written my name on my cup, as they usually do, but then realized that he hadn’t even asked for my name!  And to top it off, he spelt it correctly!  It made my day that I was recognized by my local Starbucks baristas (I’m sure your name pops up when they scan your card, but it still makes me feel special), bringing a personal touch to what feels like such a commercial world.

And now that brings me to today.  I’m home on a short vacation, but that can’t take away from my typical routine of finding a Starbucks to sit down and get some work done.  Yes, it is a simple thing to get the spelling of your name correct, but that’s probably the most personal and defining thing about yourself…besides maybe your birthday!  So, I suppose Starbucks has gotten two things right.  They’ve touched me on a personal level through their customer service and I appreciate all they have helped me get through:  from countless all nighters for exams and projects, to my past birthday, one white chocolate mocha at a time.

 

 

Have you experienced such positive and uplifting experiences from a company like Stacy has? What was your experience and how has it reinforced your support of the brand or product?

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There’s no exchange of moolah behind these blog pages, pro-deals, or freebies with this series. What you see is what you get; real stories from real people who are sharing their experiences to challenge the status quo, inspire companies to take action, and ultimately build a life long customer. Be sure to check back this week!

July 18: A Stranger in a Strange Land by Sandra Boedecker

July 15: I have renamed my WiFi network “TimeWarnerisHorrible” by Chris Miller

July 13: Our love affair with the world’s most hated airline by Kayla Robertson

July 12: Treat others how you would want to be treated. by Kristin

July 10: Where’s the Line? by Kristin McGunnigle

July 8: Do customers dream of electric sheep? by Stephen Ellis

July 5: Nike earns an A+ by Jackie Ostlie

July 3: How to Please the Queen by Katrina Taylor

July 1: Are you kidding me? by Evelyn Wolf

Top 16 Highlights of June

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s practically July. I feel like we just started June and I’m sure I’m not the only one. But it’s been an eventful, fun-filled month. So eventful in fact, that I had to increase my  highlights from 10 to 16! What can I say, June was a great one. Without further adieu, Here’s the top 16 highlights of the past month.

1.  Life is only better with Minnie in it.  Besides nothing says, “June is going to rock” than a birthday part on June 1st with a piñata and La Palomas.

Lindsey's Birthday Party

The infamous pinata

2.  Father’s Day.  It warmed my heart that dad opened the door with a “Kailua Boys” shirt on.  Thought it was quite fitting since we were looking at his completed ’67 bug for inspiration for Kyle’s bug.

Father's Day 2013

Father’s Day 2013

3. Rachel is getting married. I’ve been blessed to have been ‘adopted’ by her and her family in college.  Holidays and life wouldn’t quite be the same without wheat-thins and cheese ball. I’m thrilled to see her start a new adventure with her soulmate in a few weeks!

Rachel's Bridal Shower

Rachel’s Bridal Shower

4. Survived my first bike ride in the city.  I got into cycling while we were living on the east-side and fell in love with the Sammamish River Trail. Unfortunately, the closest trail is the Burke and I’m trying to build up the courage to get further along in the city on two wheels. I just need to figure out how to avoid getting freaked out by cars and stop signs.

Survived my first bike ride in the city.

Survivor!

5.  The blender that will change your life. And your pocketbook. But seriously, we love our  Vitamix. It’s made us adventurous in our recipes and healthy too! So far, we’ve been on three weeks of green-smoothies!   I can’t wait to share more about how we’re using it in a later post! Be sure to check back!

The Vitamix

The Vitamix

6. Care packages from Hawaii. This box of goodies arrived from back home as a thank you. Nothing says “homesick’ that the good stuff.

Love the Naito's!

Love the Naito’s!

7. Patty’s Eggnest. This breakfast joint is a must-stop experience in Seattle. We only stumbled upon this “classic” when we moved in. I’d say more people commented on Patty’s then our home. But who’s counting? I’m not, especially when you get this grub for $8!

Patty's Eggnest

Patty’s Eggnest

8. New Mattress. It’s a long story. But after not being able to get our boxspring up the stairs, our mattress was  on the hard-floors for nearly 4 months. We finally bit the bullet and invested in a new mattress from Macy’s. Let’s just say this bed has changed my life and my back.

New Mattress!

New Mattress!

9. My new twin. This four year old is amazing. Brilliantly sharp, sweetest heart, obedient, hysterical, and OMG all around awesome. I could go on. We were meant to be soul-mates. I mean, seriously, who plans outfits like this in advance? Need I say more?

My new best friend.

My new best friend.

10.  The Pet we never asked for. Herbert. There’s quite  a funny background to this highlight. Be sure to catch it and his friend, “The Gnome” here.

Speechless.

Speechless.

11. SUP Yoga. This is the second event I survived this month. I’m sure that says something. In all seriousness, Katie and I signed up through Groupon for three sessions. Today was our first session and we made it!  We have SUP boards and love it but let me be honest, adding the yoga element brings a whole new definition to the word, “balance.” We can’t wait for our next classes!

Surf Ballard

Surf Ballard

12. Greenwood Fair and Car Show. This was the first time we’ve ever attended, even after living here for 13 years!  There were so many great cars and people. We even got to hang out some with some locals from Hawaii who have their own VW bug club. I’m secretly wishing that we can get in regardless of the fact that I am Hawaiian but don’t look like it and Kyle is a haloe. Who knows? Maybe I need to bust out by family tree.

Taking "shut the front door" a bit too literal.

Taking “shut the front door” a bit too literal.

14. Surprise reunion! These peeps are some of our faves and they just got back from China. Needless to say, we were shocked to run into each other at Naked City while checking out the Greenwood Car show. I guess great minds think alike when it’s hot and you just need a beer.

The Boedeckers!

The Boedeckers!

15. My surprise office! Kyle is the best at keeping secrets and my office decor was no match for this tight-lipped hubby of mine.  Read the ‘surprise that ends all surprises’ here!

Completed Mur Decal DIY by Kyle.

Completed Mur Decal DIY by Kyle.

16. Friends. It’s great to be back in Seattle and catch up with dear friends. Living on the eastside made it so difficult to maintain and keep up with those closest to us. I know, it was only 45 mins away but you’d be surprised what that extra time does to your relationships!  Times like these are the confirmation that we made the right decision to move back.

Love this girl!

Love this girl!

Finally, I’m excited to share that for the month of July, there will be a series of guest bloggers who will be sharing their customer service experiences here! Stories will range from the good, the bad, and the ugly. But one thing is true, is that it happened and it happened to these people. Be sure to check back over the course of July and comment, like, and give your thoughts on what customer service should be like!

Top 5 things that will consume your life… if you let it

For the last five months this blog has sat idle. But rest assured, I have not. In fact, life has never been more full, more busy, and more insane than ever.  I’ve also realized that there are things that I’ve allowed to consume my life because I’ve let it. Which has also led me to reluctantly putting things that are important to the back-burner….like this blog.  I can’t promise it will get better but I can promise I’ll try.

1. New home ownership:  The moment  you realize you can paint the walls whatever color you want and you can buy nice, new furniture. Cue: multiple trips to Home Depot and Ikea.

One of the top contenders for a sleeper sofa bed.

One of the top contenders for a sleeper sofa bed.

2. Pinterest: Did I mention we are new home owners? I finally know what it feels like for brides who have multiple inspiration boards. Now, I just need to convince Kyle to let me get an hanging chair for our master topped of with fur-lined seat cover.

3. Work. With some recent changes in the office, it’s become all consuming all the time. I love what I do. I love the peeps I do it with. But, I need to bring balance back into my life.

 

4. The James Patterson Book Series’. Yes that’s plural. I’m addicted to all of his murder mystery crime novels. In fact, I think I caught up to Tac Anderson’s goal of reading a book a week with this crime series alone. Now Kyle can insist I do something product other than read and search Pinterest.

Photo Credit: Amazon Kindle

Photo Credit: Amazon Kindle

 

5. Nike+ Fuel Band. It’s changed my life. Originally, I bought this because I thought I’d have to give up my gym membership when we bought our home. Luckily, we were able to keep it but this little doo-daa, helps me maintain a healthy, active life. It’s gamification…or competition at it’s finest. Nike really has the best in class user experience, social + web + mobile + digital strategy I’ve seen to date. Oh and their Nike Training Club app is now my personal trainer, for free. I could go on and on and on about how much I love them, but I’ll save that for another post.

Nike+ Fuel Band Facebook App

Nike+ Fuel Band Facebook App

Think I can add to this list? Add a comment and let me know what needs to be added to this list.

Day 29: Home Sweet Home

The theme for the 29th is quite fitting, especially since we’re in the middle of the entire house-hunting process.  And I’m taking this one literally….oh and a day late.

Home Sweet Home

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com….Home Sweet Home

Whomever said buying a home is easy and fun is lying. It’s not. Easy is planning a month long trip to Europe. Fun is learning a new language. This has been one of the most mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausting experiences of our lives. Yes. I speak for the both of us.

I was naive in thinking that all my hours on Pinterest looking up “Inspirational Spaces” or home decorating ideas would be equally as inspiring. Nothing can prepare you for the house hunting, especially when you’re envisioning yourselves “at home” in every single home. Visit eight homes in one afternoon and that’s alot of “envisioning.”  So here’s our top twelve things you need to know before you decide to take the plunge. We wish we had someone to walk us through this process so that we’d be better prepared.

12. Find a great realtor. This will make or break it for you. We love Jamie and Sarah Reece. They’ve been in the business for decades, but aren’t stuffy. They’re honest, transparent and will have our best interests at heart….even if it’s telling me that the townhouse I fell in love with is a total compromise and we shouldn’t buy it. Also, if your realtors knows “Nightime-Daytime” from BBC’s animal voice overs, you know have a winner.

11. Make a list of the Must-Haves for your home. Don’t negotiate or compromise when you start….no matter how beautiful that garden is. If it doesn’t have “your kitchen” don’t settle for it.  Garage? Lots of storage? Location?

10. Make a list of the Nice-to-Haves. These are the negotiables. Covered Parking? Fireplace?

9. Pack your own food. It sounds lame but house hunting is exhausting and time consuming. Oh and you’re investing in something that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. We packed our own snacks and meals while we went on longer house hunting trips. I think I scared away my realtor with a “hangry” meltdown. Also, we knew that we’d have to get back into the habit of being on a budget when we bought our house. Gone are the days of unlimited access to Senor Taco.

Packed Lunches

Photo Credit: Familyfreshcooking.com

8. Downpayments. Unless you have 20% down don’t expect your mortgage payments to be similar to your rent. It won’t be and don’t be surprised.

7. Plan for closing costs. Depending on the home, plan for anywhere between $5000-$8500 in closing costs. This is in addition to your down payment. I realize this will totally vary per situation  or you may be lucky to have the seller pay this but don’t count on it. The point is that someone needs to pay the people pulling together the paperwork, sending the emails, running the figures, and locking in your interest rates. And that person is you! If you don’t have it, it will come out of your down payment which means a higher monthly mortgage payment.

6. Redfin is in, Zillow is out. Use a recognized and updated website. Redfin’s inventory is updated at the same time Windemere’s is which makes working with your realtor that much easier.

5. Compromise. You’re rarely going to find a home that has your entire list of must-haves.  Figure out what you’re going to compromise on.

4. New Home Buyers Part 1. Sock away a few extra thousand dollars for appliances. We’re finding that not all the new homes come with them and it’s not required. For example: One of the homes we were serious about didn’t come with a washer, dryer or refridergator/freezer. It would cost well over $3500 for appliances.  You can go to the laundry mat, but you sure as well need to store your food somewhere.

Smeg Refridgerator

Photo Credit: UKhomeideas.co.uk…Smeg Refridgerator

3. New Home Buyers Part 2: Get a home inspection. Yes, it’s new but you still need to fork over the money and get one. We did and dodged a bullet. At first glance the home was immaculate and drop dead gorgeous. Upon inspection, we learned the builder cut A LOT of corners. The roof wasn’t installed properly and there was  water damage in the ceiling, the siding wasn’t installed correctly and would need to be replaced along with the roof in less than two years, and the list goes on. For $425 we saved ourselves a massive headache and a waste of money.

2. Patience is a virtue. We found that we were creating a deadline for ourselves that didn’t need to be created. Maybe you have one and that’s totally understandable. But if you don’t have one, don’t settle. Ensure your future house is meeting 60-70% of your “Must-Haves.

1. Remember the purpose of your house hunt. It’s about you and your partner finding a home that will be a part of  your family, celebrations and memories. Don’t get caught up in the ancillary stuff and focus on what is most important.

Wherever we are together we are home.

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com…Wherever we are together we are home.

Current Homeowners: Have advice for newbie and/or soon-to-be homeowners? What advice have you found to be the most valuable as you’ve experience buying-selling homes?

Disclaimer: We are not realtors. We aren’t experts in the housing market. We don’t pretend to be. This is just a list of things we’ve learned along the way. Good luck! 

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 13: Top 10 Must-Haves for International Travel
Day 14: Hi my name is Jackie and I am addicted to Senor Taco.
Day 17: Daily Life in the Ostlie Household…in Rhyme

Day 19: Superpower = Life without pain
Day 20: The Beautiful Life
Day 22: The Kullbergs
Day 23: Dessert for Breakfast
Day 24: TV Teachers — Five Life lessons from the small screen
Day 27: Debt Regret

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Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.