Sunday, July 31, 2016

We Moved!!

On July 12, 2016, we packed up all our life's possessions, hopped in our car, and moved up to the Bay Area. It has been an exciting (and tiring and sad) last few months, preparing for our 359 mile move from LA to Bay Area, settling into our home in Fremont, and getting our LA home ready for sale.

Our home officially went on the market on July 27th and had its first open house today (July 31).

We worked really hard the last 3 months fixing up our home and giving it a face-lift.  My home was practically my 3rd baby and I cannot feel prouder of it.  You can check out the photos and details of the home here:

We are also currently looking for a new preschool for Caitlin and house hunting for our forever home.
Jeff also has been working at Facebook for two weeks now.  It seems to be a pretty cool place to work at.

Lots of stuff is happening and I couldn't be more excited.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Paradise Point Resort - Nov 14-16

We haven't done much traveling ever since we doubled the number of children we have. For my birthday celebration back in November (the big 3-0!), we decided to do a small weekend getaway at a resort.  That way, we will get the vacation "feel" without the hassle of actually traveling with 2 young kids.

Paradise Point Resort in San Diego fit the bill.  A resort with a lot of amenities on site, such as a beach, bike rentals, mini golf, pools and jacuzzis, spas, fire pits with smore kits, tennis, croquet, the list goes on.  Big bonus: they cater to families.  The resort is located on their own private island and they are located a few minutes away from SeaWorld, if you are into whale and dolphin torture.

 the resort grounds

Due to some not-so-great planning, we actually planned the trip on a chilly, drizzly weekend.  So we did not get to utilize their swimming pools much.  We quickly had Caitlin take a quick dip the afternoon we arrived because the remainder of the trip was forecasted to be cold and rainy.  The following day, we rented surrey carts, tanned by the beach, played ping pong and croquet, fed ducks, and relaxed. 
Me playing ping pong while Logan is strapped to my body

Logan was a week shy of 6 months of age during this trip.  We discovered during this trip that Logan was able to sit unassisted. He even sat up front in the surrey cart unassisted as well, with only a lap strap keeping him contained!  He's a strong boy.
 surrey cart rental

I would most definitely go back again.  Except next time, I'd recommend going not when it's chilly and drizzly.  Sucks to have a November birthday.
We had so much fun on this trip, that we all returned home with a nasty cold.  Our entire family was knocked out for a good month.  It sucked.

Paradise Point Resort & Spa, A Destination Hotel 
1404 Vacation Rd, San Diego, CA 92109

Oh, and funny story.
We actually left Caitlin's beloved tiger, Koss, at the resort.  The afternoon after returning home, I realized Koss never came home with us.  I made a phone call to the resort, asking them to ship Koss to me as soon as they can.  That night, I was hoping that Caitlin simply wouldn't notice that Koss was not around. 
Caitlin was crying and inconsolable. It was awful.
Jeff was such a good dad and drove all the way back down to San Diego that night and recovered poor little Koss.  Driving to and from San Diego twice in one day is so taxing.  Caitlin is lucky to have such a great Dad.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Welcome Logan 凱淇 Yang!

After an incredibly fast and wonderful labor on the evening of May 19, 2015, Logan 凱淇 Yang was brought into our world at 11:26pm . 
6 pounds 15oz, 19 inches long

At home, we all adjusted to a family of 4 easily and there has not been a dull moment!

Detailed birth story coming soon on our Raising-Family blog very soon!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hawaii 2014 - Kauaʻi

The 2nd half of 2014 was busy for us as we did quite a bit of traveling!

Our last trip that I wrote about on here was our Providence/Cape Cod/Boston trip back in August.  Since then, we did a 3-day trip to Carlsbad for Legoland in early November (coincided this with a termite fumigation of our home), a 4-day trip to Las Vegas for a wedding in November (Thanksgiving weekend), and 7-day trip to Kauaʻi trip during Christmas/New Years vacation.

We have done more traveling these last few months than we have in the last 3 years since Caitlin is FINALLY fit to travel and not a complete terror.  She is a great flier and overall, a great traveler.  And of course, we are great parents at continuing to stick to her sleep/nap schedule while on vacation so she doesn't turn into a complete monster!  =D

Sadly, I won't have time to talk about our Legoland and Las Vegas trip, other than, they were both fun and such a whirlwind. 
No lying, I actually had Legoland withdrawal the week after returning from Legoland.

For Hawaii, the idea was first thrown out this summer when I said I missed Hawaii and I wanted to go for my birthday.  Jeff's answer?  "Ok. Let's do it".

My birthday is in November but we eventually decided that it was best to take advantage of Jeff's 2 weeks of holiday vacation at work by moving the Hawaii trip to December.  In early November, we finally sat down and decided which island we wanted to visit and which resort.  Last time we went to Hawaii, we cheaped out and stayed at a privately owned condo that we found on  The furniture smelled, the carpets were old and stained, and there was no central air (crucial for Hawaii in the summer time!).  Windows and doors weren't completely sealed and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes.  We also cheaped out by grocery shopping and cooking majority of our meals at the condo.  While I was glad we did the vacation-on-a-budget experience that time, I know I didn't want to do it again.  After watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I knew that I wanted the Hawaii resort experience.

After deciding that we either wanted to stay on Kauaʻi or Oʻahu, we looked at resort pricing. 
Hmm, apparently booking a resort almost 2 months in advance was way too late during the holidays, as most places were completely booked!  Argh!  All that was left on Oahu were resorts that were $1000+ per night.  I'm sorry, I'm not rich like Sarah Marshall, so no fancy all-inclusive resort for me.  On Kauaʻi, we found a resort that seemed like the best bang for our buck.  Plenty of amenities (including free breakfast if you book through Orbitz) for $200-something per night.  (or maybe it was high $100s per night? I forgot).  We booked 7 nights at Aqua Kauai Beach Resort in the city of Līhuʻe.

Christmas time rolls around and I still haven't had a chance to look at what activities we will do while in Kauaʻi.  With Legoland and Vegas and the holidays and the pregnancy, and Caitlin's preschool preparation, and the release of DragonAge 3, we just had zero time left!

Wednesday - Dec 24, 2014
We boarded our direct flight to Kauaʻi on Christmas Eve.  We upgraded our seats to first class the day before (at $250 additional per person.  not bad!), and first class was spectacular.  We were well fed, kept hydrated, and our every needs were tended to.  Caitlin had fun and she did the impossible:  she actually took a nap during the flight!  omg! 
First class truly works miracles!  Could I fly first class every time?

6 hours later, we landed in Līhuʻe and we picked up our rental car.  We reserved a modest compact car but were given a Mustang convertible.  I can't complain.  Our drive from the airport to our resort was about 10 minutes.  I love not staying too far from the airport so I could crash on the bed immediately!

But no.  No crashing for me.

Upon entering the resort for check-in, Caitlin immediately saw the pools at the resort and begged begged begged to go swimming.  Jeff checked-in as fast as he could and hired the help of a bellhop to move our luggage to our room so we could quickly unpack our bathing suits and take Caitlin into the pool for a dip. 

After swimming and showering, we were hungry and realized we all hadn't eaten since breakfast on the plane.  I once had a bad experience with resort food so I desperately wanted to avoid eating at the resort.  I don't know about you but I'm not a fan of overpriced yucky food.
I called the first 10 search results on Yelp -- all closed for Christmas Eve!
Argh!  What's the matter with this small town?!

We finally found a mom ahd pop saimin restaurant (it's similar to ramen, but it's hawaiian) that was open so we ate there.  I don't know what all the raves reviews on Yelp and all the travel brochures were all about.  It wasn't that great.  A step up from the saimin I ate at a Hawaii McDonalds back in 2010, but that's about it.  Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to the super rich broths of Japanese ramen back home in Los Angeles, that I've been spoiled.  Jeff also agreed that the saimin was not that great.  (Jeff is turning into quite the critic, like me!!)

After dinner, we all retired to our beds and were asleep by 8pm.  Hey, in LA time, it's 10pm!).

Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
331 Kauai Beach Drive, Lihue, HI 96766

Thursday - Dec 25, 2014
Mele Kalikimaka!!
The resort has koi fish that gets fed at 8am every day and they let kids come and help feed the fish.  We were the first group to arrive that day (since Caitlin started her day at 5am... 7am LA time) to feed the koi.  C loved it !
After our free breakfast buffet, we stopped by the nearby Safeway (a 15 min drive!  what the hell!  I'm not used to the closest grocery store being 15 mins away).  Caitlin requested blueberries (omg I spent $5 on a teeny box. Why must my daughther have expensive taste) so I had the wonderful idea to buy sandwiches, chips, nuts and fruit from Safeway and do a picnic at the beach!

We went to the nearby Kalapaki Beach.  It was a perfect beach day.  The water wasn't too cold, it was very sunny, and the beach had a decent amount of people!  Caitlin had a blast jumping the waves.  I enjoyed our picnic food and got a tan.  Jeff was on toddler duty =)
After the beach, we all took our afternoon nap (hey, we are all on toddler schedule. hehe), watched the movie Nut Job (YES! Our resort has free movie rentals!! I love resort life!), and when out for Chinese food for dinner (It's a tradition! Going out for Chinese food for Thanksgiving and Christmas since they are the only places that are open ^_^).

Kalapaki Beach:
Shoreline Access, Lihue, HI 96766, USA, Off Highway 56, Lihue, Kauai, HI

Friday - Dec 26, 2014
The big item on our todo list for that day was to visit Wailua Falls.  It's a very well known water fall that is featured in movies and TV shows and has great reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp.  But first things first, we got our free breakfast buffet and did our koi feeding before we left the resort.

We drove up to Wailua Falls to find that you park at the dead-end of a road, walk to the side of a wall, and look over at the waterfall from a distance.  You can't even hike to the dang thing!  I had a mental image of me flinging myself into the crystal waters of Wailua Falls.  After taking a few photos, we were done within 5 minutes.
Gee.  Now what?
I don't know what came over me but I declared that I wanted to go to Walmart! (It's my thing to always visit a Walmart when we travel because I don't have a Walmart where I live in Los Angeles). 
At Walmart, I bought some odds and ends (snacks, toys, serving tongs for my home..) and then we decided to grab some lunch to-go so we could eat it back at the hotel while we watched a rented movie.

One of the restaurants on my eating list was a mom and pop pokē shop (pokē is a hawaiian appetizer, made of raw ahi tuna), that is closed on holidays, weekends, and dinnertime.  The place is called "Fish Express".  This was my only opportunity to get some pokē! 
I pulled up the address of the pokē shop and found that it was literally across the street from the Walmart.  It's like all the stars had aligned!
After shopping, I strapped Caitlin to my back (using my ErgoBaby), walked across the ginormous Walmart parking lot, crossed the street, and entered the Fish Express while Jeff drove the car over.  I ordered a half pound of pokē, the chicken katsu bento box, a spam musubi and a grilled opakapaka.

Back at the hotel, we happily ate our Hawaiian meal, watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (so good!  Ben Stiller never disappoints), and took our afternoon nap afterwards.

Post nap, we took Caitlin to the sand pool that is at our resort.  I never even heard of a sand pool before!  It's basically a man made lagoon (I have no idea if they use sea water or chlorinated water, or both?), where its a shallow pool (maybe 1.5 feet deep?) with sand on the bottom, and the perimeter of the pool is all sand as well.  So kids have fun bringing sand in and our of the pool and you don't have to worry about them drowning.  After the sand pool, we walked along the beach that the resort is on.  There were a lot of rocks and waves!  Definitely not swimming material, but it was still a great view.  I saw a random coconut floating in the ocean.  I called him "Wilson".

We had leftover Fish Express for dinner and we called it night at 7:45pm.  I guess we were still on LA time.

Wailua Falls
Maalo Rd, off Hwy 580, Lihue, Kauai, HI

Fish Express
3343 Kuhio Hwy Ste 10 Lihue, HI 96766

Saturday - December 27, 2014
Back when we visited The Big Island in 2010, I bought some rambutans from some farmers off the side of the road.  They were life changing.
They were sweet, delicious, juicy little fruits, encased in a funny furry little red shell.  I came back to Hawaii to get my hands on some more rambutans. 
No one get in the way between me and my rambutans unless you want to lose an arm.
I reviewed the list of all farmer markets on the island and found the closest farmers market to us: the Kauaʻi Community Farmers Market, open from 9:30am-1pm every Saturday.

After our daily routine of free breakfast buffet and koi fishing at the resort, we arrived at the farmers market in Lihue at 10am.  It was bustling!
We did a once-over first, seeing the selection, price shopping, and eating samples... And then it was time to buy.  I don't know what compelled Caitlin to point and insist on eating a starfruit (she's never seen or had one before), but I bought her one.  The kind lady manning the stand heard me telling Caitlin that it was too dirty to eat right then and there and washed the starfruit for us.  Caitlin chowed down and loved her star fruit!  I bought 2 more (at 50 cents per piece, what a steal).
I also ended up buying 3 bags of rambutans (totaling $12).  Right before leaving, I saw these odd short bananas called "apple-bananas" being sold at most stands.  I grabbed a small bunch out of curiosity.  Eating it, it tastes like a firmer banana, almost reminiscent of a banana-celery hybrid.  I'll stick with my regular bananas, thank you.  
I scored a free reusable shopping bag using a coupon I found in the Kauaʻi coupon book (grab these when you travel!  Doesn't hurt to save a couple of bucks here and there).

After the farmers market, we continued on south, towards the south side of the island.  I read about this secret glass sand beach online.  After reading a few blog posts about it, I went in with very low expectations, since the blogs said that very little glass were to be found (since people have taken the glass over the years).  After using directions described in the blog post, we found the location of the glass and beach (I'll put directions below).  And I was impressed!
There was a ton of glass on the beach!!  Brown glass, clear glass, blue and green glass, it was great.  And underneath the glass pieces was black sand (I love black sand!).  The beach itself wasn't swimmable (too rough) and pretty rocky.  I took a little bit of glass and there were a couple of others also collecting glass.
glass sand

After we were done picking up glass and taking photos, we headed over to the nearby Salt Pond Beach.  Salt Pond Beach is a great place for toddlers since there is a shallow area with virtually no waves.  We splashed, ate rambutans, and headed home after an hour.
We needed to rush home for Caitlin's afternoon nap but we still haven't had lunch, so we hit up the mcD drive through.  We purchased a Happy Meal for the very first time and we were sooo confused on how to order one!  We also ordered the haupua pie -- a Hawaiian specific McD dessert.

Caitlin didn't nap.  =(  We left the beach early and ate mcD for lunch for nothing!
The movie we watched on Saturday was How To Train Your Dragon 2.  It was meh.. The first movie was really good but this one was just plain bad.  Don't bother.

For dinner, we went to "The Eastside" for dinner.  It had good reviews on yelp and the photos looked drool worthy.

That place was awful.
Such a dud.
Don't go. 
Even if you haven't eaten in a week.  Don't go.

The live music (some solo dude singing) was way too loud for such a tiny building and the servers were nonexistent.  They took forever to tend to us and we had to ask for things (like water refills or the check) 2-3 times before they finally brought it over.  The food itself was delicious but terribly overpriced.  Caitlin was also in a pissed mood because she was tired from not napping and the music was too loud, so I couldn't enjoy my meal.  In the end, I did not tip at all.  There was no excuse for their awful service.

Glass Sand Beach
To get here, on Google Maps, route directions to "Glass Beach Cemetery, Aka Ula Street, Eleele, HI".  The cemetery is at the end of the street "Aka Ula Street".  Park where the paved road turns into the dirt road, then walk towards the ocean on foot.  You will reach the glass beach before you reach the cemetery.

Salt Pond Beach Park
Lokokai Road, Hwy 50, Hanapepe, Kauai, HI
Take lokokai rd westbound (toward the ocean), until the road ends

Sunday - December 28, 2014
This day was such a slow day.
We spent the morning at the Kilohana Plantation, mainly to ride their train ride (Caitlin loves trains). We got to see all the animals, veggies, and fruits at the plantation and the train also stopped midway for us to get off and feed bread to the pigs and goats.  Caitlin talked about the pigs and goats for several days after the train ride!  She said that the goat didn't want to eat bread (the goats rejected our bread) and that the pigs were still hungry (the pigs happily ate our bread and wanted more).
I'd say, skip Kilohana Plantation if you or your kids aren't a fan of train rides. Caitlin thoroughly enjoyed it though.  We also used a 15% off coupon from the Kauaʻi coupon book.

Afterwards, we went across the street to the Kihue Shopping Center, which is the largest shopping center on the island.  The verdict?  It was tiny and lame.  I guess I have been spoiled on the mainland.

We ate leftovers for lunch and dinner on Sunday, and watched Guardians of the Galaxy.  Great movie!  Very funny.  But nothing can top Walter Mitty.

Kauai Plantation Railway at Kilohana
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI 96766
They take reservations, but I don't think they are necessary. We walked right in.

Monday - December 29, 2014
We spent the morning in old town Koloa, a quaint town that dates back to the mid 1800s, visiting old shops.  I also got my Hawaiian shaved ice fix here as well.
We spent the remainder of the day at nearby Poʻipū Beach Park, once named America's Best Beach by the "Travel Channel".  I gotta admit, it probably was my favorite beach during my trip: calm, warm, crystal clear water, perfect for my toddler to play with minimal supervision.
I needed to get my Hawaiian lunch plate fix  so I sent Jeff back to old town Koloa to pick up some lunch to-go (at Koloa Fish Market) .  We munched on laulau pig, roast port, kālua pig, and poke on the beach.  So good!  It was such a relaxing day and the 3 of us returned back to our hotel looking much more brown and crispier.

Back at the hotel, we watched Days of Future Past and ordered room service pizza for dinner.

Old Town Koloa
5424 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI 96756

Poʻipū Beach Park
 Hoona Rd, Poipu, Kauai, HI 96756

Koloa Fish Market
5482 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI 96756

Tuesday - December 30, 2014
The day before our last day in Hawaii.  I felt so much pressure to do something good on this day.  Unfortunately, rain and 65-70 degree weather was on the forecast so I was uneasy about doing a hiking or beach day.
After much back and forth, we decided to go on a hike anyways and we will simply turn around if the rain gets too hard.  After reading up on local hiking trails, we decided on the Ho’opi’i Falls hike because it is a easy-moderate hike with little elevation.  We wanted to make sure it was a hike that Caitlin (and pregnant me!) could handle.  Ho’opi’i Falls was used as a filming location in Jurassic Park for the fictional site of the "Mano de Dios Amber Mine" in the Dominican Republic

We parked right outside the trail head (ample residential parking), wore Caitlin on my back using the ErgoBaby, and embarked on the hike.  We had such a wonderful time chatting, singing, and taking our time.  The trail followed along the Kapaʻa Stream the entire time.  And the trail actually leads to 2 waterfalls:  an upper waterfall that is perfect for photo opts, and a lower waterfall that is perfect for swimming and swinging on rope like Tarzan (yes, there is an actual rope). 
Read detailed information about the hike here:

I wore Caitlin on my back for most of the walking but she did come down to walk around at each waterfall, and she also walked a bit of the hiking trail herself (she even did this one very steep section! I'm so proud of her).

The rain started during our trek from the upper waterfall to the lower waterfall.  By the time we reached the lookout point for the lower waterfall, the rain was pounding so hard!!  The ground was incredibly muddy and slippery so we decided not to hike down to the base of the falls since it wasn't safe and we had no plans to swim (too cold!) anyways.
 the view of the lower waterfall
I wore Caitlin on my back, covered her with the hood of the ErgoBaby, and walked back to the car as fast as my 2 little legs could take me.  We are all utterly drenched when we got to the car.
Overall, I really enjoyed the hike and it was one of my favorite parts of our Kauaʻi trip. 

We grabbed lunch at a Filipino Hawaiian hole in the wall (Kauai Family Cafe).  I loved it because I love filipino food and filipino food is absolutely impossible to find in LA.

We had leftovers for dinner and didn't watch a movie on our last night.  We tried to watch Wolf On Wall Street but turns out, that movie is 3 hours long!  No way we would have finished that movie that night.  I spent a good chunk of our evening drying our wet wet clothing on the ground using a hotel iron!  I didn't want to pack wet muddy clothes home!

Ho’opi’i Falls hike
Address:   GPS Coordinates  22.103024, - 159.343316
Its a muddy hike and bring bug spray!

Kauai Family Cafe
4-361 Kuhio Hwy Kapaa, HI 96746

Wednesday - December 31, 2014
Happy New Years Eve!
We flew back home on this day so we wanted to do one last good hurrah before we go.

After deciding whether to visit Waimea Canyon or Princeville, we decided Princeville was better because we didn't want to risk being late for our flight (psst.  we were still late).
After breakfast and our last koi fish feeding, we checked out of the hotel and drove northbound to the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge.

There actually isn't' much going on at the lighthouse and refuge, other than the fact that it's situated on a peninsula so you get great views and photos.  I guess you can also feel good about yourself that the admission costs goes towards a bird refuge (save the birds... yay).  

After the refuge, we drove to Hanalei Valley Lookout, one of the most photographed lookouts in all of Hawaii.  Here, we saw the Hanalei River and taro fields flanked by the mountains and waterfalls.  We took less than 5 minutes here, then we drove across the street to the Princeville Shopping Center for a quick lunch at some bar.  Then we hightailed it to the gas station in Kapaʻan to top off our car rental then moved as fast as we could to the Lihue airport! We were running late!

We checked in our baggage late, ran to the gate (and of course, we had to scan our luggage and carry ons a gajillion times because Hawaii is super strict about taking fruit out of the state, and TSA also slowed me down 15 minutes because they thought my sand samples were actually bombs.  Seriously, TSA?).
Alas, we make it to our gate, boarded the plane, and the plane door shut behind us.  The 3 of us sighed a huge sigh of relief.
After a 5 hour flight, we made it back to LAX at 10pm local time.  After waiting nearly an hour for our luggage in baggage claim while trying to keep Caitlin content (she was on the verge of a meltdown for being utterly exhausted.  Travel days are so hard on babies), we waited in 35 degree weather outside of LAX for taxi (YOU try going from beautiful 70-80 degree weather to 35 degrees! It's hard!).  Caitlin complained that she was cold so I did my best to wrap her in a blanket -- it was all that I had, and I held her close to my body.
A taxi ride later and $45 poorer, Home Sweet Home!  We had some snacks in lieu of dinner and all collapsed in bed, way past midnight.

And that's how we rang in 2015!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Kilauea Lighthouse and Refuge
Kilauea Light Station , Kilauea, HI 96754

Hanalei Valley Lookout
Kuhio Highway, Princeville, HI 96722

Overall, I was very happy with our trip.  And I was very happy with the resort we chose.  I got no mosquito bites, the furniture didn't smell, we had central air, the free on-site breakfast was so convenient (since, when Caitlin wants breakfast, she needs breakfast NOW), the on-site pools were also very convenient and the activities like koi feedings and free movies were great.  But at the same time, our resort wasn't so over-whelming where we felt like we didn't have time to leave the resort to explore the island on our own.  It was the perfect balance. 

Kauaʻi is great.  It is the island for those who don't like to do all the touristy stuff and just want to enjoy nature.  We didn't get to snorkel since we had a 2-year-old to take care of, but I hear it's a great place to snorkel.  The beaches were clean and beautiful, and there are a ton of waterfalls, canyons, and hiking trails to explore.

I will try and get photos up on Picasa soon. I will post an update on this blog when I do.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New car! Honda Fit 2015 EX

We bought another new car! 
4 months ago, our Toyota Camry when kaput so we replaced it with a 2014 Honda Accord lx.

We have been meaning to replace our 2005 Honda Civic for a while now but it has been a low priority since the car still works great.  Low miles, engine is still in great shape.. it was really hard validating getting rid of it and spending more money on a different car.  It's just that the manual locks and manual windows are such a hassle. 
However, it just so happens that a family friend is currently shopping around for an affordable car for her to take to school so it was the perfect opportunity for us to sell the car to the friend and for us to replace the car!

Our requirements for the new car were:
  • gas efficient
  • reliable
  • repairs won't break the bank (so hybrids were out)
  • hatchback (or something where seats can fold down and haul cargo)
  • a great value. preferably something under ~$18K msrp
This car is soley intended for Jeff to commute to and from work.  Nothing fancy and nothing big. 

The preparation:

We also considered looking at used cars but the difference in price between used cars and new cars were very small.  I think right now, a lot of people aren't buying new cars so dealers are handing out killer deals.  At the same time, everyone is buying used cars, so the price to buy a used car is fairly high.  Just to give you an idea: when I purchased my Civic used 5 years ago, I purchased it for $8,000, which had a kbb value of $8-8.5K.   Right now, when we checked the resale value of my Civic on kbb, the resale value is still $8K.  Other car sites estimated my Civic would sell at $7.5K.  So the point is, it's a great time to sell a used car but it is a great time to buy a new car.

Off to the dealer we go.
We test drove a Mazda 3 hatchback 2015 and a Honda Fit 2015 and we decided that we preferred the Fit.  It felt better and the price tag was a couple thousand dollars below. 

Now it was time for us to do our online "homework".
With the Accord, I used to get an idea how much cars were selling for in my area, but the TrueCar guaranteed price wasn't the cheapest.  I also looked at the Costco auto program but that wasn't a deal at all.  Using the Edmunds Price Promise tool, I was able to get a very very low quote on an Accord, then I took that quote and went to my local Honda deal (0.5 miles away from my home) and asked them to beat that price -- they did.

So I tried to do the same approach this time:
I went to Edmunds and did their Price Promise tool.  Odd.. I was only getting quotes right around the same price as the MSRP for the Honda Fit: $17,115.  I never expect to pay sticker price!
After getting several quotes and also manually contacting dealers directly, I was getting quotes at or above MSRP.  One dealer even quoted me a price that was $2000 above MSRP.
What was going on here???

As it turns out, since the year 2015 isn't here yet, manufacturers aren't giving out many Honda Fit 2015s to dealers.  As soon as a dealer gets 1 or 2 Honda Fits, buyers come and buy them right away because the 2015 Fit is pretty dang awesome (it really is.  You get so many features in the base model that the 2013 Fit doesn't have.  The Fit did not produce a 2014 model).
Because the 2015 Honda Fits are selling like hot cakes, the dealers are able to sell them at sticker price or higher.

But I didn't give up!

I went on TrueCar and got quotes from several dealers, and one dealer located all the way in Woodland Hills (about 30 miles away) quoted us a Honda fit for $16,744, which is almost $400 below msrp. The great thing about TrueCar prices are, the price they tell you is the price the dealer has to honor.  No haggling, no hidden costs. 
We called the dealer and they said they had the colors gray, blue, and passionberry in stock (we were picky about our colors: no white, black, red, yellow, and silver for us.  Yet every dang dealer in town only had the reject colors like white, black, and yellow since people snatch up the decent colors fast).

We ate breakfast and drove off to the dealer on Saturday morning (Nov 1). 

At the dealer:
We arrive and we were promptly offered juice boxes, hot teas, hot coffees, and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.  I liked this place already.  All the other dealers we have visited in the past gave us water at best.
Caitlin played in this awesome kids play area while we waited for our sales associate.  Did I mention I liked this place?

Jeff test drove the Honda Fit LX (we decided ahead of time that we wanted the LX) while I sat and drank tea and ate cookies with Caitlin in the kids play area.

After Jeff was done test driving, the sales guy had Jeff start with the paperwork.  How pushy! We didn't even say yes/no yet!
But we mentally already said yes, so we began the paperwork.  He asked us so many questions about employment and income background and about 25 minutes in, I asked the sales guy "um, is this background check truly necessary, since we are paying in full for the car?". 
Oh.  Apparently we didn't need to do all that!  We just wasted 25 minutes!
I'm going to assume its rare for people to walk in and write a check for a car, which is why he assumed we were getting a loan or leasing.

Once all the paperwork was complete, the topic of money came up.  I showed the sales guy the TrueCar price (the manager was nearby and he seemed utterly insulted and angry at the TrueCar price we were promised....  but... they have to honor it! that's how it goes!) then the sales guy left to tally up the out-the-door price.

When he returned... I reviewed each line item on the bill.   Something was amiss! 
In addition to the TrueCar price of the car ($16,744), and the gov taxes & fees, he tried to charge us $1,590 for accessories!  This sh*t happened the last time we tried to buy a car too.
We said we weren't paying for anything more than what TrueCar promised us.
The sales guy brought over his manager who told us what a great deal we were getting with the accessories (typical spiel) and we still said "no, we don't want to pay for the accessories.  Either give it to us for free or rip it off the car".   The manager left to go talk to his "manager" about this.  Of course, that is all a lie.  They just want to make us wait and make us impatient while they leave and go watch some TV or something.  Manager eventually returns and says he can charge us an even $1,000 for the accessories.  We said "no thanks, we just want to pay the price TrueCar promised us".  The manager is unhappy and leaves again to go watch TV talk to his "manager".  A while later, he returns and says he can give us the accessories for $450.  Jeff and I had a telepathic conversation with each other where we decided that rather than spending another 30 minutes haggling down the price of the accessories down another $200 bucks, and another hour to haggle it down to $0, let's just agree to the price of $450.  So we said "ok" and we signed the document saying we agree to pay at that price.
The TrueCar price was $16,744, the accessories was $450, and all the gov taxes and fees was $2423.72.  Bringing the out-the-door grand total to $19,617.72.  Not bad!

Now.. we bring up the topic of colors.  What colors can we choose from?  Last we heard, there was gray, passionberry, and blue.  The sales guy leaves to check the colors.
A while later, him and the manager returns informing us that they have none of those colors on the lot and all they have on the lot is a red Honda fit that is used for test-drives (and the AC is broken).  What the hell?
We pack up our bags and get ready to leave.

Then the manager quickly changes his story: "wait wait.  we see a gray car on its way". 
See?  Where does he "see" this car?  I looked out the window.  I don't see a gray Honda fit LX.

Maybe he got nervous and didn't want us leaving the dealer without money.

The manager later says something like, the gray car is on its way from another dealer.
Ok. so we wait for the car, while we handle payment in the meantime.  Jeff leaves for the bank to get a cashier's check because we forgot out checkbook at home.

15 minutes in (while Jeff is still at the bank), the sales guy sheepishly informs to me that the gray car was actually just sold at the other dealer, so there is no gray Honda fit LX for us.
I was already packing up my bags at this point and getting ready to leave.

But wait wait! 
The sales guy tells me they have 1 gray Honda Fit EX on the lot, that his manager is willing to sell us for $1000 more [than the agreed on price of $19,617.72].

I said I will have to call Jeff and discuss. 
I wanted to take the time to research online if $1000 more for an EX was a good deal or not, but Caitlin was bugging me about having to go pee for the last 5 minutes, and I kept ignoring her, and then she peed her pants and all over the office chair as a result...... so I called Jeff and told him to figure it out while I took Caitlin to the restroom to clean her up.

We already knew that the EX is a more expensive model than the LX, and we were aware of all the cool new features you get on the EX model, like a bigger screen, right lane camera, hdmi input, ally wheels, etc .  But it has one big feature that we weren't so thrilled about: the push-start engine.    That is one big compromise to consider.

5 minutes later, Jeff calls me and says he thinks it's a good deal and we should move forward.


I told Jeff to get the cashier check  then get his butt back to the dealer.  While we waited for Jeff's return, the sales guy asked me if we decided.  Even though I knew our answer was "yes", I told the sales guy "please sit tight for a few more minutes.  Jeff is on his way back to the dealer and we will decide then".   I said this to buy me some time to do some research on the internet.

I quickly checked the MSRP for the Honda Fit EX ($19,025) and I got some TrueCar quotes ($18,650), and since we were being offered the Honda Fit EX for $17,744, I felt much better knowing we made the right decision.

Jeff returns, he gives the Honda Fit EX a test drive (even though we already test drove one 2 weeks ago), then we agreed to buy it.  We paid for the car (they made the total cost of the car an even $20,500.  So we actually only paid an extra $883 to upgrade the Honda Fit from an LX to an EX. YES!!!), got the keys, and got our butts out of there (but not before I grabbed 2 extra cookies for the road). 

Overall, this car buying experience was a lot more positive and and faster than our process 4 months ago when we purchased the Honda Accord.  Using TrueCar helped a lot, and just understanding the whole car-buying process helped a lot too. 

It was 4pm and we were starving (we didn't have lunch yet!) and we were exhausted (none of us had our naps yet!).
We went to Red Robin 0.5 miles away since I get a free red robin burger on the month of my birthday, then we drove home. I sent Jeff and Caitlin home in the crappy ol Civic while I cruised along home solo in the fab new Honda Fit! 

The rest of the evening was so so odd.
Since we had lunch at 4pm, none of us was hungry for dinner.  Caitlin dozed off during the car ride home so I didn't know what time to put her to bed.  And Jeff and I didn't get to take our naps so we were zombies.  I hate when our schedule is thrown off. 
Let's not make car-buying a habit.  It's so much work.

 Our gray Honda Fit EX 2015. Exact same color as our 2014 Honda Accord LX

Now our old 2005 Civic is ready to be sold to our friend. 
Unlike other car-sellers out there, I have the courtesy to professionally wash and vacuum the car, rotate the tires, change the oil and get a smog check (actually legally, it is the owner's responsibility to get a smog check but some sellers will still refuse to do it)  prior to selling it to our family friend.  More car sellers out there should be more like me   =)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

5th wedding anniversary & our last 5 years

It feels like we have been together for a lifetime, yet it also feels like we just got married yesterday. Happy 5th anniversary to my husband, my best friend.

And who doesn't love infographics?
Here's our life in the last 5 years:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cape Cod trip part 2

It appears we have returned from Cape Cod for exactly a month and it completely slipped my mind that I never wrote about the rest of the trip!

It has been a whirlwind ever since returning from our little vacation, with lots of entertaining and catching up with friends and family. Jeff also just celebrated his birthday and we have our 5th wedding anniversary later this week.

Here it is!!

Sunday Sep10
We left Providence and drove to Newport Rhode Island to visit Mansions and do the Cliff Side walk.
Apparently there are a ton of mansions in that area.  I really know nothing about Rhode Island.
The mansions were meh. I'm not big on big dusty homes that I can't sit down or take a nap in.  And geez, the museum/mansion staff were really uptight.

Then after the mansions, we drove to our final destination, Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  With all the driving and sight seeing, Caitlin did not nap at all this day. =(
the view from the Breakers mansion

the Cliffside Walk.  You really walk along a cliff.
We actually did the walk because Uncle Bruce was GeoCaching, looking for GeoCaches

Monday Sep 11
Lots of settling in and unpacking in our lodge.  The lodge is lovely, with a lake view.
We all went to visit a lighthouse not too far from our town.
After lunch, Jeff, Caitlin , and I retired to the hotel for our afternoon nap while the rest of our party drove 2 hours to the tip of Cape Cod.
Nobska Lighthouse

Tues Sept 12
Martha's Vineyard day!
Funny story. 
We originally were supposed to spend the entire week in Marthas Vineyard rather than Cape Cod, and we even booked our flight and rental car to go to Marthas Vineyard.  But after some issues regarding some people in our party dropping out and us not being able to get a ferry ticket to get our rental cars onto the island, we made the decision to stay in Cape Cod instead (and subsequently changed our flight and rental car).
And you know. I'm glad we stayed in Cape Cod.
I think I would have gotten claustrophobic in Marthas Vineyard. It's tiny and there is nothing to do.  It's very similar to Catalina Island off the coast of LA. 

Sure, there isn't much to do in Cape Cod, but at least I don't feel trapped and I don't feel separated from civilization.
To be able to get a seat on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard (since you cant' reserve seats), you need to get there at 8am to get tickets and wait in line.  Of course, Jeff, Caitlin, and I were all still on Pacific time and we were still sleep deprived from the plane ride from hell, so it sucked getting our ass up at 7am.

We were able to get on the first ferry out to Martha's Vineyard.  When we arrived, it was basically: ok, now what.
We walk around, got  some hot tea, rode the oldest carousel in the world, walked around town some more, grabbed lunch, hopped on a bus to..... AN ALPACA FARM!!! OMG ALPACAS!!!

he caught me trying to take a selfie with him

There is a small farm in the center of the island that breeds alpacas! It's pretty unknown but thankfully, Alice knew about it.  You get to pet them, and you even have the option to take one home for $200. Caitlin loved the alpacas, and she learned the word "alpaca" immediately!  We bought home a mini  stuffed animal alpaca for her, which she sleeps with often. =)
Despite sleep-deprived Caitlin being up so early that morning, we weren't able to leave the island until close to 5pm.  As a result, Caitlin was TIRED (most likely hungry too, and she also didnt want to leave the alpaca farm). She threw the biggest tantrum we've ever seen. I felt sorry for everyone on the bus.  When we finally got back to our hotel past 6pm, and we let her take a late nap and go to bed late.  

Traveling truly is difficult for a baby/toddler that still requires naps.  I give Caitlin kudos for putting up with us adults.

Wednesday Sep 13
Boston Day!
Alice flew out of Boston on this day so we tagged along to Boston, which is a 1-1.5 hour drive.
Of course, Caitlin (and Jeff and myself) wakes up in the morning, while the rest of our party enjoyed sleeping in til 11am.  So we sat around and watched morning cartoons until everyone woke. We finally headed out to Boston around 12:30pm. We arrive at 2pm in Boston and went to the aquarium first. We waited in a long line for tickets, paid well over $100 for tickets for everyone, walked around the aquarium for less than an hour, then we left because Alice had a flight to catch, and it was past 3pm -- Caitlin was tired and ready for her nap.
 Myrtle weighs over 500 pounds.

Upon leaving the aquarium parking lot, we had to pay $38 for parking our car there for 1.5 hours.
And I thought LA parking was steep. 
In total, we paid a little under $200 to play for 1 hour in Boston.  So glad we don't live in Boston. I'm too poor for that place!!!
Jeff, Caitlin, and I picked up Burger King drive thru for lunch and we drove in rush hour back to Cape Cod while Caitlin napped in the car.  It was a cold rainy day in Massachusetts so on our way home, we stopped by a Walmart to buy some warm clothes for me and Caitlin. I was so happy! We dont get to have. Walmart in LA.

Thursday and Friday Sep 14-15
Relaxation time! 
After a hectic and busy last several days, we spent these days living life slowly, the way folks in Cape Cod do.  We visited the beach, ate some local fare (LOBSTER and more LOBSTER), and lazed around.  Now that's my idea of a vacation! woot!!

Saturday Sept 16
I can't believe a week has passed already.
We had a flight out of Boston in the afternoon so we all went out for brunch as our final Cape Cod meal. On our drive to Boston, we stopped by Plymouth for some photos of the faux Mayflower ship and Plymouth rock.
the famous rock.

Our flight back home to LAX went off without a hitch! Thank goodness.

An update regarding the plane ride from hell:
I wrote Delta a firm email complaining about the hell they put me and my family through, and I was pleasantly surprised that 1. Delta actually replied to me and 2. Delta tried to compensate me with something that wasn't miles.  The provided each flier (so Me, Jeff, and Caitlin) with a $125 gift card (so a total of $375) to any merchant on the Delta Gifts website. We chose Amazon since we shop on there almost everyday.  I am happy with the compensation, so, happy ending. =)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cape Cod trip Part 1: the plane ride from hell

We are currently in Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the week to attend a wedding and squeeze in a little vacation at the same time.

The trip started off with a plane ride from hell, but we somehow made it to Providence, RI in time for the wedding and we are now nicely settled into the Cape Cod lifestyle. hehe.

It all began last Friday morning, when I got up at 7:30am to do last minute packing and house tidying before the trip.  Prepared breakfast, got everyone up and dressed, and we were out the door at 9am.  Right on schedule.

We dropped off our car at FlightCar next to LAX at around 9:30am.
For those unfamiliar with FlightCar, you can park your car there for free as long as you agree to let others rent your car while you are out of town.  You get paid if someone drives your car and if no one does, you still get a free car wash and free airport parking. Win-win.
We needed to either do FlightCar or pay an exorbitant fee for longterm airport parking because it was difficult to find someone to drive us To and From LAX (nobody wants to drive there), AND have that someone have a toddler carseat installed for Caitlin to use.
FlightCar took our car and whisked us away to LAX in a blackcar (courtesy of Uber).  So far so good, we arrived at LAX right on time.

Caitlin was cheery the entire time.  She had a blast sitting in a fancy blackcar for the first time and we let her ride the 1.5 mile ride without a carseat.

The line to check in our luggage at Delta moved swiftly, and TSA wasn't too bad either.  I initially intended on wearing Caitlin in my ErgoCarrier through the airport but Caitlin was actually really independent.  She didn't run off and disappear and she didn't fuss or cry.  She just walked along with us and helped us pull our carry-on luggage.  It's like she was another human or something!

We arrive at our gate maybe 30 mins prior to boarding time.  We sit down and eat the breakfast I prepared, then used the restroom, filled up our water bottles, window shopped, then hopped on the plane!  Jeff and I remarked at how smoothly our entire morning has been.

We had no idea what we were in for.
All smiles!

Caitlin spent the entire plane ride in high spirits.
She sat in the window seat, read the safety brochures stuffed in the back of the seats several times over, ate snacks, and entertained crying infants on the plane.
Caitlin was the model toddler flier. I spent the 2 weeks prior to our trip preparing in-flight entertainment for Caitlin, and as it turned out, I didn't even need them.  Caitlin was fine at entertaining herself while Jeff caught up on some much needed napping while I caught up on my magazines.

We touch down in Detroit, 3 hours early of our connecting flight to Providence.
That's fine.  We will stop, stretch out, eat some dinner, and catch the 9pm EST flight to Providence.

After eating a subpar dinner at Chilis (that was a mistake. lol) and riding the super cool red train from one side of the airport to another, we arrive 30 mins before boarding time at our gate.  9pm rolls around, and the gate still has not opened yet.
9:10pm rolls by.. 9:15pm rolls by... still nothing.

Jeff goes and inquires what's going on: apparently, the flight attendants scheduled for our flight weren't available.  The flight attendants were still in Nashville, Tennessee and the flight has not left yet due to weather.

Our flight was delayed to 10:30pm.
I have another 1.5 hours to kill with a toddler!

10pm rolls by and the flight was postponed again to 11:00pm! The flight attendants were still stuck in Nashville. We were assured by Delta that the Nashville plane will leave as soon as possible and are estimated to arrive at midnight.  Due to the delay, Delta was not sending people to hotels since we will board our flight shortly.

The pilot and co-pilot that should have been flying our 11pm flight were also standing around, waiting for the flight attendants.  Unfortunately, they eventually ended up leaving too, because they had to go fly another plane to Managua and couldn't wait for our flight attendants any longer.

Still no flight attendants. Our flight was delayed again to 2:10am.

My heart sank.
Caitlin has not napped all day, it was late at night, her energy was running low, we already killed 5 hours at the Detroit airport, and we have to kill ANOTHER 3 hours.
Thankfully, between the 3 of us, Caitlin was the most optimistic and kept on a smiling face.

Can you imagine how difficult it us to be up so late, in an uncomfortable airplane terminal, with a 2 year old to take care of (one that hasn't napped all day)?  Not to mention, we were freezing cold (why is the airport so damn cold?), my phone was low on battery, and my teeth really needed a brushing.

Of course, since my backpack was full of in-flight toddler entertainment and my carry-on luggage was forced to be gate-checked because the overhead compartments on my 1st flight was full, I had no clothes, no phone charger, and no toiletries on me.

An hour later, we learn the flight still has not left Nasheville, so the ETA for our flight attendants to arrive in Detroit was moved to 3:05am.
Remember, no one dared leave the airport to get a hotel, and Delta did not provide us hotel rooms, since our flight "should be here within a couple of hours"!
Our new pilot arrives and I see him entering the plane, making preparations.  The light at the end of the tunnel was near.  The 3am flight was going to happen!

Between 1am and 3am, Caitlin ran around, ate the complimentary chips Delta provided, played with her jigsaw puzzles, and doodled on her notepad.  Almost every person waiting at the gate with us remarked what a wonderful baby she was, acknowledging how difficult it must be for Caitlin, but she's taking it all in stride.
Jeff and I were very proud too.

3am, the plane from Nashville arrives!
We all rejoice!!

The flight attendants and the Nashville fliers emerge from the gate and us folks waiting this entire time all stand up, preparing the board our plane.
Minutes pass, and no one is able to board yet.  The gate door never opens.
Uh oh.

Then the Delta associate on the loudspeaker informs us that the flight attendants arrived 30 minutes too late and our pilot timed-out.  Meaning, the pilot is no longer legally able to fly our plane.
First we had a pilot and no flight attendants.
Now we have flight attendants but no pilot.

Our flight was marked as "canceled" and Delta created a brand new flight, scheduled to leave at 7:30am.  We were all issued brand new boarding passes.
Delta associates apologized profusely, saying how this was all our of their control, and even though they understand our frustration, there is nothing they could do.  We were each issued a $10 voucher for breakfast, but no hotel room since, we will be on a plane headed to PVD in less than 4 hours.

At this time, Caitlin was very exhausted. She tried as hard as she could to play with her puzzles and paint her crafts quietly, but she kept rubbing her eyes, and she was smiling less and less.  Jeff held Caitlin on her lap and asked if Caitlin wanted to sleep. Caitlin nodded yes and asked Jeff to "turn off the lights" in mandarin.
The airport terminal was brightly lit in that harsh, blinding, white light, and there was no way to turn it off.  I gently told Caitlin that we were unable to turn off the lights and Caitlin responded "I want to go home" in mandarin.

That statement really broke my heart.

Caitlin tried really hard, since she woke at 8am Friday morning, to be really accommodating for us, and now she wants to go home, and we couldn't even do that for her.  There wasn't one thing we could do for her.

We tried hugging her, draping a blanket over her head, telling her to go to sleep, but Caitlin did not like any of it.  She wanted the lights out, in a quiet room, on a bed.  No blinding white lights, no loud announcements on the airport paging system.
After playing jigsaw puzzles for another 30 minutes, I sat Caitlin on my lap, and she passed out on my chest for about 2 hours.  I was unable to move, lest risk waking her, so I let my tailbone get crushed and my arms go numb (I still have DOMS in my arms as I type).  Caitlin woke up at around 6am, in REALLY MISERABLE shape.
She was really whiny and did not allow us to set her on a chair.  We had to carry her in our arms the entire time.
Boarding time for our 7:30am flight was at 6:45am, so we decided to cash in our $10 meal vouchers (we had $30 to use among the 3 of us) despite us having zero appetite.  But hey, free food is free food.

We ordered some breakfast platters to-go, and we were ready to board the plane.  We walk back from the restaurant to the gate, with our breakfast all nicely packed in plastic bags, to hear a giant uproar from our gate:

Our 7am flight was delayed to 11am because Delta couldn't get ahold of enough crew members to fly our plane.

At this point, I truly believed that I was not going to make it out of Detroit alive. I truly believed we would not make it to the wedding in Rhode Island.

Jeff was beyond fed up.
He needed to find somewhere for our 2-year old to sleep.

Jeff went and asked the Delta associate if Caitlin could board the plane (which has been sitting at the gate since 8pm the night before) and sleep on there, because it's quiet and dark on the plane.
I already knew the answer was "No" but Jeff insisted on asking.

I sat on a chair and watched Jeff ask the Delta associate from afar.
I knew the answer was "No" from afar.
I knew that it was against FAA regulations from afar.
I watched Jeff not take "No" for an answer and started punching numbers into the keypad, trying to open the gate to board the plane, from afar.   Sleep deprivation and frustration does unspeakable things to a person.
I mumbled "jeff. god. don't do that... seriously" to myself, from afar
I saw the Delta associate threaten to call security on Jeff from afar

Jeff came back to me and announced that he was taking Caitlin to the family bathroom and letting Caitlin sleep there.  The family restroom is a single restroom which has a lock button on the door, a light switch to turn off the light, and has a diaper changing station that Caitlin can sleep on. 
Caitlin was quiet this entire time, clinging onto Jeff for dear life, with miserable look on her face.
I said "ok, take her too the bathroom".

Getting a good nights rest on the baby changing table in the public restroom at DTW

The family bathroom idea was brilliant.
Caitlin slept from maybe 8am-10am in the family bathroom.
Me, I dozed off for maybe 15 minutes, but the loud overhead paging system and the blinding light from the morning sun woke me up and prevented me from falling asleep again.

The Delta manager arrives, bearing breakfast burritos and coffee.
Once again, none of us wants food; we want to get our asses to Providence.  We all complain to her about our frustrations. I even heard other people tell the Delta staff about a "darling poor baby that was here all night" (referring to Caitlin).
I go to the manager, venting my frustrations, and  I inform her that my 2-year old did not sleep all night and is currently sleeping in an AIRPORT BATHROOM!!! The manager simply kept apologizing, reminding us to complain to the Delta company via email rather than to her -- there is nothing she can do for us, there is no compensation she can provide us.  She also told us to use Twitter to complain, which I already did, before my phone died.

At 10:20am, Jeff woke Caitlin up (poor Caitlin) since it was near boarding time.  We all clapped and cheered as each crew member arrived and boarded the plane.  By 11am, us patrons boarded the plane with a large sigh of relief.

Jeff, Caitlin, and I were one of the last people to board the airplane.  As we walked down the airplane aisle to take a seat at the end of the plane, a lot of people looked at Caitlin with a big smile, remarking what a behaved baby she was and how impressed they were.  I said "thanks" and joked "who knows. she may have a meltdown during the plane ride".  One patron replied "let her! She can do whatever she wants!!".
I couldn't be prouder of Caitlin.

The plane ride was a short 1 hour 25 minutes (typically a 1 hour 45 min flight).
Caitlin wasn't in the best of spirits but she ate a little bit of breakfast burrito and played on the ipad.  When it was time to put away the ipad during landing, Caitlin fussed a bit but I was able to curb any complaining buy giving her a lollipop.

We landed and that concluded our 25 hours of traveling (due to the 14 hour delay in Detroit)
 All frowns.  Caitlin has bags under her eyes.

Caitlin helped me get our 3 pieces of luggage (we had 1 suitcase that was checked-in, and 2 carry on bags that were forced to be gate-checked) off the carousel while Jeff ditched us to find out which way to go to the rental cars.

After I collected our 3 pieces of luggage, I put on my ErgoCarrier (it got gate checked with my rolling carry-on, which sucked because I really could at used my ErgoCarrier at the terminal during our overnight-stay-from-hell) and Caitlin was never happier to see that Ergo Carrier. She jumped on into the carrier and I strapped her in, while I waited for Jeff to return.

Jeff comes back and tells us that the rental car place was 0.6 miles away and there were no shuttles -- we had to walk it.
Too cheap to rent an airport luggage cart, Jeff pulls our 48 pound suitcase, wore his backpack, and carries 1 duffel bag.  I pull the rolling carry-on suitcase, wore my backpack, wore Caitlin on my front side in the ErgoCarrier, and carried my handbag, and we walked those 0.6 miles.  We probably looked like some kind of traveling circus.

We arrive at Dollar Car Rental, got our crappy compact rental car with a beyond crappy rental infant carseat (You heard that right.  We booked a reversible toddler car seat and all they had available for us was an infant car seat.  Don't rely on a car rental place since they don't understand baby/toddler/big kid car seats the way parents do.  They think they are all one and the same.  And yes, I know we could bring our own toddler car seat from home and gate check it for free, but that's another 30 pound item we didn't want to bring along on our cross country trip).

We high tailed it to our hotel in Providence, arrived at around 2:30pm, took a shower, brushed our teeth, and all collapsed for a 2 hour nap.  We decided to skip the 4pm wedding ceremony and just attended the photo session + wedding reception at 6pm.

We wake Caitlin up at 5:30pm and OMG SHE WAS PISSED.
With good reason.
I don't know the last time I saw her that angry.

We get the screaming baby dressed, threw the screaming baby into the car seat, and drove the screaming baby to the wedding.

The photo session was almost done and we had missed the group photo, but they squeezed us in for the family photo.  Caitlin stink-faced the photos but at least she wasn't screaming. Caitlin did not allow anyone to put her shoes on, so I covered her exposed foot with my hand during the photos.  

I was glad that most to the wedding guests, including the bride & groom had heard about our plane ride from hell, so they were understanding that we were incredibly late to the wedding.

Caitlin cheered up and was back to her normal cheery self during cocktail hour because she was able to refuel and raise her low blood sugar (we all had a very small breakfast and zero lunch).
Cocktail hour was great (I actually had a cocktail, omg!), the first dance and the toast speeches were brilliant, and the buffet reception dinner was beyond amazing.  And did I mention how beautiful the bride was?
I had a feeling going in that it was going to be a really nice, and lavish wedding.  and it was!
 Meet Joe Black was filmed here

On one hand, seeing how happy and in love the bride and groom looked really made me miss being a newlywed.  This look you give each other, knowing that the other person makes you feel so happy and complete, I miss that.  I'm not saying Jeff and I no longer are happy and complete.  We are.  But we also feel like we have been married for a million years.  Something about being a newlywed on your wedding day, how everything feels so brand new, it's a feeling that only happens once.
Of course, on the other hand, I remember what a heachache it was to plan a wedding, and how sick I got immediately after the wedding due to all the wedding planning stress... I don't miss any of that. =)

The day following the wedding, we drove 2 hours to visit the large mansions in Newport, RI, then we drove an additional hour to our final destination in Cape Cod.  We will be relaxing here for 1 week, and we fly back Saturday afternoon!

The Cape Cod trip continues!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Our new Honda Accord lx 2014

We recently had to get rid of Jeff's Camry, which meant it was time to buy a new car.  After deciding whether we wanted new or used, hybrid or traditional, and after reading up on the top recommended family cars for this year, we decided it was best to buy a brand new Honda Accord 2014 lx.

This was my both Jeff and my first time buying a brand new car from a dealer (my current car, I bought used from a friend and Jeff bought his Camry used from Cerritos Auto Square).  What an experience this was!

Why we had to get rid of Jeff's car:
The big headache started a year ago, when Jeff's check engine light went on.  Busy with demanding-needy-Caitlin in our lives, we never took it to a mechanic and instead, continued driving with the check engine light on. Come September 2013 and it was time to renew the car registration and get a smog check. 
The smog check failed.  We take Jeff's car into our mechanic and he is unable to determine what was wrong with the car because the error log was completely flooded with bogus errors due to us driving with the check engine light on for months.  Whoops.
The mechanic cleared the error logs and told us to drive on the car again and when the check engine light comes on, bring the car back in, as the error log should show the appropriate error code.  Although he suspected there was something wrong with the catalytic converter since the car was emitting a yucky smoke.

With the car error code free, we brought the car back to the smog check, and voila! we passed!  You can ignore the part where the car is emitting yucky smoke.  Since the error log is clear, the car passed the smog check and we walked away with a renewed car registration.
And then we got on with our lives
The check engine light went back on and we never brought the car back to our mechanic.

Fast forward to June 2014. We probably all have lung cancer by now from inhaling the yucky smoke.  Jeff drives to work one day and notices that the car has trouble accelerating and the entire car rattles!
Hmm.  Perhaps it's time to bring the car to the mechanic.  (This happened right before our Palm Springs trip, so we had to take my lame-o car to Palm Springs. Such terrible timing).
Our mechanic examines the car and says the catalytic converter needs fixing (for the smoke) and the rattling may be due to an axle issue.  He doesn't handle catalytic converters nor axles so he sends us to a different guy.  However, Jeff takes the car to a place walking distance from his work instead.  This new mechanic says he isn't able to fix the catalytic converter and we would need to take it to the dealer.  He estimates that job would cost $2,000-$3000.  As for the rattling, he opens the hood of Jeff's car and saw that the engine mount was broken!  Everytime the car rattled, the engine was *this* close to falling out of the car.  He fixes the engine mount, charges us $100, and sends the car home with Jeff.
The car still rattled on the drive home.
It was obvious that the broken engine mount was a side effect of the rattling, but not the cause of the rattling.  The car was still unable to accelerate as well.  Since when do we pay people to not get a job done correctly?

We bring the car back the mechanic and he takes over a day to examine the car further.  Finally, he discovers the issue.  The power to the front right wheel was broken so the car was powered on a one-wheel drive! That was why when the car was moving at high speeds, the car would rattle: a car running on a one wheel drive is like a person trying to run on a limp -- very wobbly.  On top of that, the part that connects the wheel to the car was broken too.  To fix the right side of the wheel and replace the power on both sides of the car,  it would cost $750.

So we are looking at potentially spending $3,750 to fix Jeff's car.

We had to decide whether it was worth it to fix all the issues and try to sell (or trade in the car), or to just scrap the car.
If you go to, they can give you an estimate of how much they think your car could sell for, and they will also help you find a buyer for your car (and they take 5% commission from the sale of your car). estimated that if we fixed everything in our car, we could get ~$6,000 (really? that seems generous).  After talking to a Carlypso agent, they said to get the $6000, this would also mean that we would need to fix all the dents, dings, and scratches in our car.  Fixing the dent and a new paint job would run us... what.. $500 to fix the dent, and $2000 for a new paint job (I'm just throwing ballpark estimates here)?  So $2,500 + $3,750 (for the mechanic to fix the catalytic converter and the front wheel drives) comes out to $6,250.

More than the value of the car.
Not to mention, not worth the time and headache.

So now what? 
We cannot trade-in the car in it's current state.  In CA, if you are selling or trading in a car, the car needs to pass a smog check within the last 90 days.  For us to pass the smog check, we would need to pay $3000 to fix the catalytic converter.  But trading it in, we may only get about $2000 for the car.

Not worth it.
What other options are left?

We could scrap metal the car for ~$300.  But that would do such a disservice to Jeff's car.  It's worth more than that.  I mean, passing a smog check is a CA thing.  If we lived in a different state, we would just pay the $750 and the car would be driveable and sellable.  The smog would not be an issue at all. So I didn't want to scrap metal the car.

My mom told me about this gov program where they pay you $1000 to retire your car if your car failed a smog check within the last 90 days.  We thought that was a good plan, EXCEPT Jeff was not comfortable driving the car from the mechanic to location where you surrender your car because with the front right wheel not powered and not properly connected to the car, the wheel could fall off at any minute during driving! And I could imagine that the driver could easily lose control of the car if the car is completely powdered by it's front left wheel.    For Jeff to safely drive the car off the mechanic's lot, we would need to pay the $750 to make the car driveable.  Then pay an additional $50 to get a smog check certification, showing that we failed the smog check.  That's $800!  That means, after getting $1000 from the goverment, we would only have $200 in our pocket. 
Would be more worth it to scrap metal the car.

Instead, I asked Jeff to propose this deal to the mechanic that is holding our car hostage:
instead of fixing the car, we will sell the car to the mechanic for $1000, and this would include the cost of his labor for investigating our car further.
The mechanic countered with $800, and Jeff wanted to accept, but I counted with $850, and he accepted.

and that was that.  We got $850 in cash and handed the title over.

Our Honda car buying experience:
I started by doing a ton of homework at home.  Thank goodness we can do almost everything on the internet.  Gone are the days where we have to drive from dealer to dealer getting quotes.  You can find quotes online all with one tool.  First, I used to determine how much I should expect to pay for a car in my area.  You put in the car you are looking for, your zip code, and they tell you the lowest, average, and highest price paid for your desired car in your area.
For Honda Accord 2014 lx with cvt transmission:
The factory invoice is $21,828 (this is the value that dealers pay to the manufacturers)
The MSRP is $23,545 
The average price sold is $22,020
The lowest price sold is somewhere in the range of $20,089 - $20316
The highest price sold is somewhere in the range of $23,497 - $23,724 (now why the hell are people paying over sticker price).

Ok, so now I know that I ideally want to pay between $20,089 - $22,000 for a car.  I have no idea if this is the out-the-door price or the base price. It would make most sense if these values are the base price.

I went to the website for the 3 nearest Honda dealers near me and filled out their "contact us" form, saying I want a Honda Accord 2014 lx, and to give me a quote via email.  I got 2 quotes via email ($20,228 at Honda Airport Marina  and $20,663 from Honda Santa Monica) and 1 dealer phone called me (they didn't follow directions (I said I wanted a quote via email) so I never returned their call). I made an appointment for Honda Airport Marina for the upcoming Sunday morning.
I also went to the website of this Chinese car dealer place that my parents referred me to, and I also filled out their Contact Us form. I never got a response.  Oh well, their loss.

After that, I went to, and at the top of their site, I clicked on the "Price Promise. Get upfront pricing" button.  I filled in the car I was looking for and the zip code that I lived in, and they pulled up the upfront costs for my desired car of all the dealers in a 25 mile radius.  The lowest quotes I got was $19,837 from Nelson Honda (all the way in El Monte.  Jeff didn't want to drive that far) and $19,891 from Gardena Honda. I printed out these quotes and kept them in my purse so I could use them for leverage while haggling  at a dealer. I made an appointment for Gardena Honda for the upcoming Sunday afternoon.

I learned from both my mom and my brother-in-law that Costco also has an auto program where they sell cars at a no-haggle price.  It may not be the lowest price but it's a decent price and you can get in/get out with a car in a snap.  It's great for those wanting a deal but are too busy to take the time to price shop (we tend to fall into this group).  Jeff contacted the nearest authorized Costco auto retailer and made an appointment for the upcoming Saturday morning.

So great, we were armed with 4 prices and 3 appointments.

Saturday morning comes and we go to the authorized Costco auto dealer (Culver City Honda.  walking distance to my home, which was nice).
The sales rep first shows us the car selection and I decide that I liked the gray with the gray interior the best (What can I say. in my mom's words, I am a "gray person".  Ask me in person what a "gray person" is, if you are really curious to know). Jeff tests drives it while Caitlin and I rode in the back seat and we all had a jolly good time.  The bluetooth connection to smartphones was cool and I really like the "economy" button on the car.  It helps you save gas.  And I couldn't get over the new car smell.

We were really happy with the car.  Then, it was time to talk no-haggle pricing.
The Costco price for the car was $21,278.15
Unfortunately, the car has accessories installed on the car (they get installed at the manufacturers so the dealer doesn't have a choice about this) and they wanted us to foot the cost of the accessories: $1,295.  With costco membership, we get 15% off parts, so the accessories came out to $1100.75.  We wanted to add on the "remote start" feature (you can start your car from 400 feet away and get the AC running, so by the time you arrive to your car, it isn't nasty hot in there), for $2,300.
In total, with the Costco pricing, it would have come out to ~$24,679, and this isn't including the cost of sales tax, titling, licensing, etc.. (which is roughly about 10% more).

Sorry, but the Costco price wasn't good enough.
In addition, I was not happy that they were forcing me to pay for accessories that I never asked for.  They cannot remove the accessories since the cost of the labor to remove it is more than the cost of the accessories themselves.

That was when I busted out the quotes that I printed out earlier.  I showed them that other dealers were selling the exact same car for $19,837.  $1441 less than the Costco price.

This was when the haggling began and we no longer were shopping through the Costco auto program (since Costco prices are haggle-free).  We were simply shopping through the Culver City Honda dealer.

the text below is the cliff notes of our haggling process.  there were even more numbers and counter offers flying around in the conversation, but I just highlighted the main points below:

Our sales rep called up the Nelson dealer to confirm that their ridiculously low price was final, and didn't have any hidden costs.  Turns out, that price is the price that people "could" get for a car.  Meaning, if the right requirements were met, such as, financing the car (we planned on paying cash), and if you qualified for rebates like military and recent grads discounts. 

So the sales rep said he couldn't match the price of the other dealer since their price truly wasn't that low, but he could lower the asking price from the Costco price of $21,278 down to $20,879.  But that would mean that I no longer get the Costco discount on parts, and instead of paying $1100 for the accessories, I would have to pay the full price of $1,295 for accessories. However, for the remote start add-on we wanted, instead of $2,300, he would sell to us for $2,000.

That will wasn't good enough for me. 
Jeff was actually ready to say "Yes", so I handled all the talking.   What can I say, even though I hate haggling, I'm a cheapskate.
I reminded him that I still had other appointments set up at other dealers and I wanted to hear what they had to say too!
I had him ask his manager if he would be ok with the asking price to be an even $20,500 (instead of $20,879), to give us the Costco 15% discount on the accessories, and give us the remote start for $2000.

While he was gone, I called Honda Airport Marina (remember they gave me an internet quote of $20,228 over email), and asked him if that price was contingent on things like financing, or if it included rebates I may not qualify for, like the military discount.  I also asked if the cars on his lot included accessories that I would be stuck paying for, even if I didn't want them.  His response was no, no, and no.  I could pay in cash or finance, the price for the car is the same.  It doesn't include any rebates and the cars on his lot were accessory free.  He told me the out-the-door cost for the car would be $22,406.47 ( Selling price 20228.00 , tax 1827.72 , DMV Fee 233.00 , 80.00 doc fee 8.75 CA tire fee).

It sounded too good to be true.
I was this close to walking out of the dealer right then and there.

Hey, wait a minute. 
Where was Jeff and Caitlin during this 4 hour haggling process?  Oh, they were goofing around inside one of the cars on displays.  I was all on my own. =|

When the sales rep returned from talking to his manager, he tried to sell me the car for $20,500 the accessories for $300 dollars (instead of $1100) and 3 free oil changes in addition.

Jeff was ready to say "yes".  Well, he was ready 2 hours prior, so, it was all up to me.
But to me, that offer still wasn't good enough.
I tried to get him to understand that I really didn't give a rats ass for those accessories so I didn't want to pay a dime.

Then I told the sales rep that I just got off the call with Honda Airport Marina.  I was completely honest and upfront with my sales guy and told him that the guy offered me a car for $20,228, no accessories, no payment restrictions, it doesn't include rebates I didn't qualify for, and it would cost me $22,406.47 out the door.
This sales guy needed to beat Honda Airport Marina's offer.
I told him that I had an appointment with Airport Marina the next day and I requested that he lock in his offer price for 24 hours, just to give me enough time to go talk to Airport Marina in person.  He refused to lock in the price.  If I walked out that door, the last 4 hours of haggling would be out the window.
With Caitlin 3 hours past her naptime, I really didn't want all of this for be for nothing.

My sales guy left to talk to his manager.
A few minutes later the manager showed up and explained that he really wanted our business, as, it was not only the end of the month (it was 2 days before the last day of the month), but it was also the end of the quarter.
The manager offered me:
Selling price for the car: $20,279 ($51 above the selling price for Airport Marina).
Accessories: $0 (woot woot)

Remote Start: $2000
A grand total of $24,655.06 (which includes tax, titling, fees, etc..) out the door.

I accepted the offer.
I'll be honest. I'm not 100% happy with the offer, but after being there for so many hours with a toddler so many hours past her naptime, I had to throw in the towel at some point.

I think Jeff was mentally checked out at this point too.  His body was merely an empty vessel sitting inside a showroom car. Caitlin was still going to town, turning on and off headlights and pressing buttons.
 After an hour of doing all the paperwork and exchange of monies (we paid $22,000 via check and the remainder on our AMEX card.  The max they allow to charge on a credit card is actually $2,500 but he let us do $2,655.06 to make the amount due on the check easy), the keys were ours and I had to draft a heartbreaking email to Honda Airport Marina, thanking them for their time.

I drove Caitlin home in my ratty ol Civic and Jeff drove the beautiful new car home.