Using the Southwest Companion Pass Card to Its Fullest

6137177888_7593112732_zA couple months ago, you may remember that I posted about the Travel Credit Cards You Need to Pay Attention To Right Now, and extolled the virtues of getting two Southwest Airlines Visa cards in order to get yourself 95% of the way to earning a Companion Pass.

Always a fan of taking my own advice, that’s what we did, and a couple weeks ago we got the long-anticipated email telling us that we’d earned CP status through December 2016.  Woohoo!

So now what?  Now that I’ve earned this legendary status in the travel hacking world, what do we plan to do with it?

Well, the answer to that question goes back quite a ways – you see, we began planning our 2015/2016 travel roughly a year ago so that we would know what credit card offers to go after. Here’s what we knew when we started thinking about it around 18 months ago:

  • We visit the hubby’s family in Kansas once a year (either for Thanksgiving or the 4th of July) regardless of other travel plans.  Every odd-numbered year, we also spend Christmas there.
  • We wanted to see Alaska, and soon, since climate change is killing it.
  • We had two friends who were engaged and would be getting married in California in 2015.
  • We want to try to take two of our nieces, who will both be graduating high school in 2017, to somewhere in Europe.

With that framework, two things quickly became obvious: one was that we would need a hefty stockpile of points to get four people to Europe by 2017, and second, that we were looking at at least four domestic trips in 2015 already.  Knowing that we’d be doing a fair bit of domestic travel, it made sense to go after the Southwest Companion Pass again. And the two year period while we were enjoying cheap/free domestic travel with Southwest would also provide a good timeframe for stockpiling other points that could get us to Europe.

Another interesting development popped up though, just as we were within grasp of the card – Southwest announced vague but menacing sounding “changes” coming soon to the Rapid Rewards program, set to take effect on April 17, 2015.  Not knowing what these will be, it also became imperative that we book as much travel as possible using the 110,000 points we’d racked up to earn the CP before that date.

So here’s what we’ve booked so far: (Click “Continue Reading” to see our plans) Continue reading “Using the Southwest Companion Pass Card to Its Fullest”

So…how much honey does a beehive produce?

photo 1 (9)It’s about the eight-month anniversary of this blog.  Hooray!  And since that time, one thing has been very consistent. I get a LOT of search traffic from the terms:

  • “How much honey does a hive make?”
  • “Beginner Beekeeping Guide”
  • “How much does honey weigh?”
  • “Backyard beehive setup”
  • “Laws and restrictions backyard beekeeping”
  • “How hard is beekeeping?”

So, I figured I’d set up a little FAQ to keep the search engines happy while also providing some good ol’ fashioned education.

1.  What’s our beekeeping setup?

We have a pretty standard backyard beekeeper setup – two brood boxes, two honey supers.  We got the bees as a “nuc” mean “nuclear family” – essentially we bought a smaller group of bees that could, with the help of a productive queen, build a very large hive if given the right amount of time and resources. We hope that by next year, our hive is big enough that we can do a split and/or catch a swarm to set up a second hive.

(Click “continue reading” to see more beekeeping FAQs!) Continue reading “So…how much honey does a beehive produce?”

Becoming More Mustachian…

We’re taking financial advice from this guy? Yeah. Yeah, we are, actually.  Photo credit: Twitter..

This post may be old news to those of you who are already long time fans of the Mr. Money Mustache blog.  But the hubs and I recently started reading it and found it really jived with our existing philosophies on work, hobbies, and money.

If you’re not familiar, MMM’s basic idea is that most retirement and savings advice is wrongly geared at an overly-consumerist lifestyle.  If you can cut down your spending (by walking and bicycling instead of driving expensive cars everywhere, by enjoying the outdoors and recreation instead of expensive entertainment, by doing your own chores and home improvement projects instead of hiring others to do so) you can dump that money into aggressively paying off your mortgage and investing in low-fee index funds. Doing this can allow you to retire early – way early, like, in your 30s.

(Click “continue reading” to see more Mustachian thoughts!) Continue reading “Becoming More Mustachian…”

DIY Garden Signs: Grilling Skewers + Wine Cork

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As I bragged about yesterday, we’ve finally completed our wicking raised bed garden – a project I’ve been wanting to undertake for a couple years now!  When all was said and done with veggies in the dirt, the hubby pointed out that it might be nice to add garden signs for what each thing is.

We looked online, and while there are plenty of options out there to buy, they all seemed somewhat pricey to me considering I was just going to stick them in the dirt. So, I started looking around the house at what we might already have – and because we like our wine and recycle our cork, we had tons of old wine corks sitting out in a ziploc in the garage.

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Add a sharpie and a wooden grilling skewer (we had these in the pantry, but you can buy them for a couple bucks in the grilling aisle of your grocery store) and voila!  Garden signs were born.

Yay for upcycling and not having to go over the budget for my garden!

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Building a DIY Wicking Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

IMG_20150308_130917_959This spring we decided to do a little spring garage cleaning in order to fund some hobbies/projects we’d been wanting long term.  I sold our big, old wine fridge that we never used on Craigslist for $400 and put that money towards building a wicking, raised bed vegetable garden in our front yard.  And it turned out great!

If you’re not familiar, there are numerous benefits to gardening in a raised bed versus a traditional in-ground garden.  First, you can control the soil quality (since you bring in your own soil) and can choose something with the right PH for the plants you’re actually growing.  Secondly, the raised beds are easier to work – you don’t have to be on your hands and knees, stooped over the ground to do your gardening tasks.  Third, you don’t have to weed as often, since you have a barrier between your bed and the ground.

Even better than just a raised bed garden, however, is the wicking raised bed garden.  Imagine putting the end of a paper towel in a cup of water – see how the water will “wick” up the part of the paper towel that isn’t in the cup?  By putting a reservoir of water at the bottom of the raised bed and soil on top of the reservoir, the water is absorbed into the soil slowly through this same principle.  Building a raised bed in this way allows you to water your plants less frequently, improves drainage, and helps to avoid overwatering.

That being said, building this type of garden bed does require a bit of investment.  Our cost broke down like this:

  • $202.49 – Materials & Supplies
  • $90.38 – Gravel/Rocks
  • $109.99 – Dirt & Compost

TOTAL: $402.86 –> That’s pretty darn close to our projected budget!  However, if you were able to use reclaimed materials, you could probably get the cost down a lot more.

So how do build one, already? (Click “read more” for step by step instructions.) Continue reading “Building a DIY Wicking Raised Bed Vegetable Garden”