Wedding season is just around the corner.  In fact, last week, Dave and I attended one of his friend’s wedding.  The wedding consisted of a ceremony in a church followed by a reception at a country club.  We had a lovely time and Dave was able to catch up with several friends he hadn’t seen for a while.  Whenever we attend these large weddings, I wonder if ours should have been grander.  Based on our wedding and ones we’ve attended, the following are pros of small and large weddings.

Our Wedding

Last year, Dave and I had a small wedding on Cocoa Beach in Florida, attended only by immediate family.  From our wedding experience as well as having attended friends’ weddings at venues ranging from hotels to backyards, I feel the following are some pros and cons of having a smaller wedding.

Pros of a Small Wedding

Easier to Plan

When you have a smaller number of attendees, there are fewer schedules to accommodate, which makes it easier for everyone you want to attend to be witness your big day.  We only have nine people and one dog, including the bride and groom, at our wedding!

We did all our wedding planning remotely, starting about five months before our wedding date.  We found several companies that organize, officiate, and host weddings on Cocoa Beach and e-mailed several of them.  We ended up going with Beach Weddings by Joanie as she was the most prompt to reply and prompt responses are important when you are trying to plan a wedding remotely.

More Flexibility

We didn’t have to worry about a venue for a reception.  With so few attendees, we just went to a restaurant for lunch after the ceremony.  It was great that we had a smaller group because we had to change our lunch place the day before the wedding because we learned that it would rain the day of our ceremony so outdoor seating wouldn’t have worked.  Also, we were able to avoid rain during our ceremony by starting our ceremony 15 minutes earlier than planned, since everyone had already arrived.

Can Be Less Expensive

The average cost of a 2017 wedding in Boston is $39,147 and even weddings in Florida aren’t much less!  The cost of our ceremony including photography and my hair and makeup was $863.75.  Of course, the wedding dress is a big expense.  After visiting a wedding dress outlet in the Boston area and trying on dresses that cost several thousand dollars and needed tailoring, I got my dress online from Ann Taylor for under $100 and fortunately, no tailoring was needed.  I was able to order several dresses, try them on at my leisure at home, and return the ones that I didn’t want.  Dave wore a shirt, vest, and pants purchased at Express and Macy’s, respectively.

One reason our wedding was lower cost is because the beach is public, which means you’re unable to reserve an area.  When we walked out to the beach and realized another wedding was taking place at the same time as ours near where we planned to be, we just moved a little further away.

Pros of a Large Wedding

Having Many Friends at Your Big Day

Having many friends attend wedding provides a more lively and fun atmosphere.  It’s also a good opportunity to see friends you haven’t seen in a while.  We didn’t have any friends at our wedding.  But when I attend large weddings, I always have difficulty getting more time to talk to the bride and groom other than to say “Congratulations” as they are so preoccupied making rounds.  It seems to me it’s more fun to attend a large wedding than to host a large wedding.  Also, it’s difficult for the bride and groom to decide which friends make the list of invitees.

What about yours?

Weddings are special days and most people hope to get married just once in their lifetime, so it’s understandable to want to splurge.  It’s difficult to know what size wedding will work best for you and no matter what you choose the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence.  We think we made the right choice for our circumstances and what’s important in life is to look forward and not behind you.  A wedding is a one day party, but a marriage is a lifelong adventure!

I ate my first box of Barbara’s Puffins cereal about a month and half ago and it’s been the only cereal we’ve eaten since then.  We’ve already gone through six boxes.  I’ve tried the peanut butter, original, and cinnamon flavors.  Peanut butter has been my favorite.  Whole Foods has been coincidentally collaborative in preventing my craze to purchase Puffins cereal from breaking the bank by offering sales the past couple weeks.  I have been able to purchase boxes at prices ranging from $2.50 a box to $3.50 a box.  Normally, they are $4.39 an 11oz box, which I think is a bit pricey. [Update: I just learned that Trader Joe’s has a 16oz box for $3.99.  Comparing regular prices, that’s about 50% more cereal for a lower price.  I think I will be visiting Trader Joe’s for my Puffins in the future].

Barbara’s launched a rewards program last fall, Wild Rewards, that will allow you to redeem 500 points a coupon for $2 off any Barbara’s product.  Some points can be earned for signing up for the program, downloading activity sheets, watching videos, and playing games.  However, most rewards members will be earning points by purchasing Barbara’s products — 250 points per product.  There seem to be occasional promotions as I noticed I earned double points on some of my purchases and currently, the activity book reward can be redeemed for 1500 points instead of 2400 points.

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Although it has been unexpectedly warm so far this winter, we are constantly being reminded that Christmas is just around the corner, from the Salvation Army bell ringers to the Christmas-themed candy at grocery stores. And last weekend, there was the Annual Boston Christmas Festival which Dave and I attended for the first time. The indoor festival was open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We went on the last day and I was very surprised how many attendees there were given the entrance fee was $15 per person over age 14, though there was a $2 off coupon available online. The entrance fee seemed steep at first, but overall it was a nice way to experience some Christmas cheer and get into the holiday mood. We spent 1-2 hours at the festival.

The festival featured specialty foods and crafts, such as BBQ sauce, honey, jewelry, ceramics, and dog treats. Many of the food exhibitors offered samples. The highlight of the festival was the gingerbread house competition. Below are some of photos of the elaborate gingerbread houses that were on display.

If the above photos haven’t inspired you to start making your own gingerbread house, here’s one that Dave and I made a few years ago :).

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I did make one purchase at the festival from Jan’s Clay Flowers. Ironically, my purchase was not Christmas-themed, but perhaps, it’ll brighten the winter days ahead for me as I look forward to next year’s gardening season!

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Most students in the U.S. are encouraged or required to take a foreign language class at some point in grade school.  I (Sharon) was one of those students.  I took French for a total of four years in grade school — two in middle schools and two in high school — three of which were to fulfill an academic requirement.  When I signed up for my first French class, I didn’t really think about when I would ever be able to use the French I would learn.  And it wasn’t until many years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, that I would travel to France for the first time where I learned that I had forgotten almost everything I learned from my grade school French classes!  It’s difficult to keep up with a language if you don’t have a chance to practice.

As we are planning on vacationing in France for a week at the end of this month (my 3rd trip to France), I have decided to brush up on my French language skills.  I started trying to re-learn my French before our previous trip to France in May 2014 and I have been trying to keep up with my French on and off for the past two years.

Resources to re-learn French

Here are some of the resources I have used to re-learn and improve my French in the order I have tried them.  I will discuss each of them in more detail below.  I will talk about my experience with the resource, what I think are the pros and cons of each resource, whether the resource is for beginners or more advanced learners, and which language skills (listening, reading, writing, speaking) I thought the resource was useful for.

  • Cambridge Adult Education Center French courses
  • Le Petit Nicolas books
  • Harry Potter books in French
  • Pimsleur: Learn to Speak and Understand French
  • Journal en français facile
  • French Cultural Center Private Lessons
  • Duolingo
  • Udemy course: Practice and Perfect your French – Intermediate Level (HD)
  • italki
  • Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It

Cambridge Adult Education Center (Beginner-Intermediate, All skills)

The Cambridge Adult Education Center offers French courses every quarter in a few different beginner to intermediate levels.  Classes are usually once a week for 1.5 hours each.

When I first decided to re-learn French, it was January 2014, about five months before our trip.  I signed up for a French Beginner Level III course at the Cambridge Adult Education Center.  Initially I had to do a little self-study to catch up, but I was able to do this quickly.  I feel these courses are reasonably priced averaging about $20 per weekly class, and the class sizes are small.  Usually the class is full at the beginning of the session, but the class size shrinks over time since some students aren’t able to make it some weeks.  Also, 1.5 hours a week is not a huge time commitment.  The French Beginner Level III course covered a bit of each of the four language skills — listening, reading, speaking, and writing — but with a strong focus on learning new vocabulary and grammar.  Taking this course was a good way to motivate me to continue re-learning French.  I probably could have self-studied most of the material covered, but it’s always more fun to learn in a class setting and you don’t have to struggle with a concept on your own.  Also, self-study requires self-discipline and it’s easy for one to make excuses and put off studying.  Having a regularly scheduled class, ensured that I was working on French at least during class time.

Because I felt that speaking would be the most important skill needed for our trip to France, after completing the French Beginner Level III course, I signed up for the Intermediate Conversation course the following quarter.  In this course, we were given a printed copy of an article at the beginning of the class.  We would then go around the room with each study reading a paragraph of the article out loud.  Then the instructor would read through the entire article out loud.  Afterwards, the instructor would ask some questions to start a conversation or debate among the students of the class.  Sometimes, if you were very quiet in the class like I was, the instructor might call on you and ask your opinion.  I enjoyed listening to other students speak French.  At this level, quite a few of the students in my class could speak fluently (at least to my ears!).   However, this was a bit intimidating for me.  I worried that my French speaking skills were not up to par and rarely spoke in the class, so I’m not sure this course helped me improve my speaking skills.

Le Petit Nicolas (Advanced Beginner, Reading Skills)

We read a chapter from Le Petit Nicolas in the Beginner course at the Adult Education Center and it reminded me of the two Le Petit Nicolas books I had bought but never read about a decade ago when I was taking French classes.  Le Petit Nicolas is a series for children, but is a good way for the advanced beginner to practice reading.  And according to the theme of this blog, you are never to old to pursue something.  Thus, you’re never too old to read children’s books!  The Le Petit Nicolas series is great because each chapter is a short story, so if you’re crunched for time, you can just read one story and not have to worry about forgetting what happened the next time you pick up the book again.  Re-learning French and reading some of the Le Petit Nicolas books has allowed me to relive the fun and creativity of the adventures that occur in children’s books.  If you like Le Petit Nicolas, you can watch some episodes “avec ou sans sous-titres” (with or without subtitles) on YouTube to further practice your French.

Harry Potter books in French (Intermediate, Reading Skills)
After I made my way through several books in the Le Petit Nicolas series, I decided to read the Harry Potter Books in French to challenge myself more.  Having grown up with the Harry Potter books, I have read each book of the English version a few times, so I was familiar with the story.  This familiarity helped me use context clues to guess the meaning of words I didn’t know.  If you aren’t a Harry Potter fan, or haven’t read the books, this method could be applied to any other book that you read in English that you can read in French.  If you do want to get started reading Harry Potter in French, here’s the first book: Harry Potter A L’Ecole des Sorciers.

Pimsleur (Beginner to Intermediate, Listening and Speaking skills)

This was one of the resources recommended by my instructor of the Beginner course at the adult education center to improve our speaking skills.  And after trying the program, I highly recommend it too!  The Pimsleur: Learn to Speak and Understand French course is an audio course that drills repetition and recall of phrases.  The course consists of 30 minutes lessons and are designed for the lessons to be done daily.  In each lesson, when new phrases are introduced, you are asked to repeat them after you hear them.  For phrases that were previously introduced, you will practice recalling those phrases.  The speaker will say a phrase in English, you will have some time to say the phrase in French, and then you will hear the answer in French.  Something that is very interesting about the Pimsleur approach is that they teach the initial words/phrases by starting with the last syllable, then adding on the syllable, and so on until the whole word/phrase is complete.  Often times, when learning new words and phrases, we focus on the beginning and have the most difficulty recalling the end, so this method of learning is very useful.  It’s helpful to learn other phrases in this manner, not just the ones in the Pimsleur course.

The Pimsleur French program has 5 levels.  Before our 2014 trip, I was able to work through Levels 1 and 2, which are more relevant for those who will vacation in France.  I have since worked through Levels 3 and 4 and am currently working my way through Level 5.  But simply working through Levels 1 and 2 made me more confident in speaking French.  I had a few useful phrases such as “Where is the bathroom?” that could just roll off my tongue effortlessly.  It was the first time I could say anything smoothly in French, despite all my years of French class in middle school and high school.  I feel the true test of the Pimsleur program was when we got off our plane in Paris and I marched right up to an information desk and asked in French where the TGV train station was (“Où est la gare TGV?”).  The employee responded to me in French and I was able to understand her!

I’ve been praising Pimsleur quite a bit, but there are also downsides to the program.  One is that you don’t learn that many phrases given the number of hours you spend listening to the CDs.  However, I feel that the phrases you do learn are more ingrained in your memory than if you can just tried to memorize a phrase book and I feel it’s better to be able to say a smaller number of phrases effortlessly than to be able to say a large number of phrases incomprehensibly.  I was able to listen to the CDs during my commute to and from work.  Another downside you might have noticed if you followed one of the above links to Amazon is that the courses are quite expensive.  You might be able to find some of the Pimsleur courses at your local library, especially Levels 1 and 2.

Journal en français facile (Intermediate, Listening Skills)

This resource is definitely not for beginners and more for intermediate learners who want to improve their French listening skills.  I started listening to Journal en français facile to improve my own listening skills.  This is a daily 10 minutes podcast of international news in easy French.  You can access these via the RFI website or subscribe to the podcast.  The website includes the transcript and the best part is that this resource is free!

Don’t give up if you can’t understand any of the podcast initially.  Learning a language takes time and perseverance.  When I first started listening to these podcasts in 2014, I had a very difficult time understanding any of it except maybe a few words.  If you are struggling to understand a lot of what is being said, this method that I used initially might help:

  1. Copy and paste the whole transcript into Google Translate.  Read through the French version and reference the translation for words that you don’t know.
  2. Play the audio and read along.
  3. Play the audio without the text in front of you and try to make out the words that are being spoken.

After my ears become more attuned to the French sounds and my vocabulary increased, I would first play the audio and read along, then look up any words I didn’t know and finally, play the audio without the text.

And finally, as I’ve progressed further, I now play the audio without the text, try to recall what I’ve heard, and then verify by reading the transcript.

French Cultural Center Private Lessons (All levels, Speaking skills)

After our 2014 trip to France, aside for the occasional listening of Journal en français facile, I let my studies slide as I couldn’t foresee an opportunity to use my French in the near future.  However, a year and a half later, I suddenly had the urge to study French again.

As speaking has always been the skill I’ve struggled with the most, and I had previously discovered that group classes don’t work well for someone timid like me, I decided to try some private lessons at the Boston French Cultural Center to maximize my time speaking.  I took a total of 10 lessons and speak French I did!  Majority of the lesson time consisted of speaking.  Sometimes we also watched a short video or audio clip and I was asked some comprehension questions afterwards.  Having a scheduled However, private lessons can be quite expensive and another downside is that you only interact with one native speaker – your instructor.  italki is a cheaper alternative and I talk about it below.

Duolingo (Beginner – Intermediate, Some of all skills but only short sentences)

Duolingo is a free language learning application available online and via a phone app.  I used the phone app almost exclusively.  I think the web application offers some more resources such a list of all the vocabulary covered and discussion forums.  I believe Duolingo covers all the verb tenses that most intermediate level students will have learned.  Duolingo starts out with very basic vocabulary, but you can test out of some skills if you already know them.  Working your way through Duolingo, you will type translations for sentences, match French to English words, select the correct word to fill in blanks in a sentence, type a sentence you hear an audio clip for, and record yourself saying short sentences.  I feel Duolingo is a great way to review your French.  But I feel it’s time consuming and definitely not a way to cram for your visit to France.  It took me about five months putting in 30-60 minutes most days to get through all skills, while trying to keep the strength bars for each skill full.  Also, the downside is that you only practice with short sentences and you don’t receive corrections on your pronunciation.  The benefit of this is portability – you can work on Duolingo anywhere.  I was able to work on this while commuting and even on business trips.  Since Duolingo is a self-study it’s easy to make excuses (“I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired”) and skip some days of studying.  The app does remind you daily to work on Duolingo, but despite these reminders, I still missed some days.

Udemy course (Advanced beginner to intermediate, Grammar-focused but some listening and reading skills)

After speaking, I think grammar is the thing I struggle with the most.  Unlike with English, I lack ability to hear a sentence and just know “something is grammatically incorrect”.  However, grammar is important as it affects your ability in all four of the language skills.  You would have difficulty saying a French sentence if you don’t know enough grammar to conjugate the words or put the words in the correct order, right?  Last November there was a Black Friday promotion on Udemy where many classes were only $12.  I had never taken an Udemy course so I decided to sign up for a French course.  This one caught my eye.  The course explains the imperfect, the passé-composé and the plus-que-parfait.  I liked how this course consists of many short videos all in French, interspersed with short quizzes.  At the end of each section, there is also one listening comprehension and one reading comprehension exercise.  This course was a good review for those who struggle with the three past tenses, but this only covers a very narrow subset of French grammar.

italki (All levels, Speaking skills)

As aforementioned, speaking is the skill I need the most help with.  So I decided to try italki as I had heard it is a cheaper way to practice speaking than private lessons.  You essentially have a private lesson over Skype/Google Hangout instead of in-person.  It took me about 5 months from when I signed up for an italki account to work up the confidence to give italki a try.  I was a bit apprehensive about meeting a stranger online.  However, our impending travel gave me the boost I needed to step out of my comfort zone and try italki.  I had two lessons with Anne-Olivia who is somewhat new to italki to brush up on some French that will be more useful for our upcoming travel to France.  Even though I felt I had been able to get around France without too much trouble last time, my lessons made me realize that there’s always more to learn when learning a language.  Many textbooks used in language courses only cover generic terms.  For example, we talked about ordering food in French as well as French dishes.  I thought I knew quite a few French food words, but I didn’t know how to say I wanted my eggs scrambled or sunny-side up; I only knew how to say ‘eggs’.  As for French dishes, different regions of France have different specialties and there were so many dishes I hadn’t heard of!  One of the dishes I learned about was choucroute, an Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and sausages.  My lessons also made me realize how new words are added to languages as fads change and inventions are made.  I learned that un Vélib’ was a bike from the bike share system in France, equivalent to Hubway here in Boston.  When I was learning French in grade school, bike share was definitely not in our vocabulary.  In fact, neither were mobile phones, although some of those did exist.  In addition to the benefit of a lower price, one benefit of italki is you also don’t have to travel to your lessons.  One downside is that you may face technical difficulties.  We had some trouble connecting via Skype during my second lesson, but we managed to overcome the problems by using Google Hangout instead.  Overall, I enjoyed my italki lessons and would definitely recommend it to others.  Although I used italki to improve my speaking, you can also use the italki tutors for anything you might use a private tutor for, such as correcting your writing or test preparation.

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget it

As I’ve been working on re-learning French, I’ve become more intrigued about language-learning and how our brains learn a language, so I decided to read this book.  Although the book Fluent Forever is not focused on teaching you French, it mentions some research studies that shed light on how humans learn languages and talks about techniques and resources that you can use to learn any language.  italki is one of the resources recommended by this book.  If you want to be a polyglot, you might find this book useful.  It talks a lot about how to make good flashcards to help you learn vocabulary and grammar concepts for any language, which you will then study using the spaced repetition system.  For example, it emphasizes adding images to your flashcards since it has been shown that associating images with words ingrains the words more deeply in our memories.  The book also suggests that you focus first on learning the 625 most common English words in the language you are learning so that you have a base vocabulary to build on.  Many of these words are nouns such as parts of the body, animals, food, etc. that are easy to visualize.  It’s been a point of debate as to how many words does one actually need to learn to be able to be fluent in language.  I think this really depends on the language and whether fluency means fluent in reading newspapers or fluent conversing, but being able to quickly learn those 625 most common words may give you a boost of encouragement and motivation to continue learning a language as you see or hear words you recognize.  I’ve always felt a twinge of pride when I can say “I know that word!” when I encounter a French word I know.

Regardless which resource(s) you choose to use or perhaps, you know of other resources (please share!), I hope you have fun as you embark or re-embark on your language learning journey.

 

 

We just adopted (technically, zoodopted) a kangaroo!  Technically, two kangaroos — a mama and baby joey!  Here they are.

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Yes, it was a symbolic adoption.  So why did we adopt a kangaroo?  Well, it started with our trip to see Beibei in D.C.. where I saw the National Zoo’s Adopt a Species program advertised.  As I (Sharon) am a big fan of pandas, I considered adopting one.  I tried looking for reviews from people who had participated in the National Zoo’s program.  I didn’t find any, but in my search, I learned there are a lot of symbolic adoption programs.  The most well-known is probably the World Wildlife Fund’s program, but many local zoos and aquariums also have adoption programs.  It turns out that Franklin Park Zoo, our local zoo here in Boston, has the Zoodoption program with packages starting at $25.  Even though we had never been to the zoo, we decided to support our local community.

Since the Zoodoption program doesn’t include pandas, we adopted a kangaroo instead.  We chose the Senior Zookeeper Level Zoodoption since it includes two admission tickets to the zoo.  What a great excuse for us to visit Franklin Park Zoo for the first time!  According to the Zoodoption website, here’s what the package includes:

  • Recognition in the Bird’s World Exhibit at Franklin Park Zoo
  • Zoodoption certificate, animal fact sheet, photograph, stickers and window decal
  • Adorable plush animal
  • Two transferable single-use admission passes to Franklin Park Zoo or Stone Zoo

And here’s the package I receive as well as its contents:

The package measuring 7" H x 10" W x 6" D.

The package measuring 7″ H x 10″ W x 6″ D.

 

The certificate with the picture of the kangaroo.

The certificate with the picture of the kangaroo.  Looks like your adoption is for a one year duration.

 

The admission tickets (expires in a year) and car decal (not that useful for carless folks like us).

The admission tickets (expires in a year) and car decal (not that useful for car-less folks like us).

 

Fact Sheet: Read this to learn about kangaroos.

Fact Sheet: Read this to learn about Matschie’s Tree Kangaroos which are a bit different than the stuffed one I received.

 

The stuffed mama and baby kangaroo who are inseparable! The kangaroo stands 9" tall from its toes to the tip of its ears.

The stuffed mama and baby kangaroo who are inseparable! The kangaroo stands 9″ tall from its toes to the tip of its ears.

 

The kangaroos have already made themselves at home with my ever-growing clan of stuffed friends.

One thing to note is that zoodoption packages can take up to 4 weeks to arrive as noted in the e-mail receipt you receive after you place your order, so if you are ordering this as a gift, make sure you order well in advance.  If you or the recipient gets really anxious, you can also try to contact the zoo to see if it can be shipped sooner.  For reference, I submitted my order online on May 3rd, my package was postmarked May 16th, and it arrived today, May 17th!

Was the zoodoption worth it?  Monetarily speaking, the Senior Zookeeper Level Zoodoption package costed $50.00.  Two admission tickets would have costed $39.90, and the other contents cover the remaining cost.  However, this has provided us with an excuse to go on a (hopefully) fun visit to Franklin Park Zoo together to see the animals and such shared memories are priceless.  Further, we are supporting our local community (including the animals).  We’re looking forward to seeing our adopted kangaroo in person!

 

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Today, Dave and I attended the 2016 Art in Bloom exhibition, an annual event at the Museum of Fine Arts, where New England garden clubs and professional designers put together floral arrangements inspired by art pieces at the museum.  The garden clubs do not get to pick which art piece to create an arrangement for, so floral arrangers need to be creative with their designs.  Floral arrangers took into account every detail, from the the color and type of flowers to the container that the flowers sit in.  One of the arrangements below is in an overturned bamboo stool!  The gallery of pictures below contain just a sampling of the many stunning floral arrangements along with the artwork that inspired them.

A year ago from today, I submitted my bid for the condo Dave and I are now living in — my first condo purchase!  It was the culmination of a 2.5 month search and my fifth bid for a condo in the Boston area.  It was also the second time I was searching for a condo.  I had briefly looked for a condo the year before. That search consisted of me going on a full day tour of four different condos in the Somerville and Cambridge areas and bidding on the one I thought looked best.  However, after completing an inspection on the place, the inspector found some structural issues and I backed out.  Discouraged by the outcome, I ended my search and didn’t consider buying a condo until the following year (2015).

Buying a condo was a long journey full of emotional ups and downs.  The most important lessons I’ve learned are:

  • Patience is key.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a place initially.  The right one for you will come along.
  • A good agent is very important.  My agent was very knowledgeable about all of the different buildings in the Boston condo market, and was able to help me find the options that fit what I was looking for. She was also upfront and honest and would often point things out – both good and bad – that I had missed or not considered.
  • Be flexible and don’t have narrow vision.  Be willing to listen to other suggestions, such as locations that weren’t your first choice or if your expectations are unreasonable for your price range.  Of course, recommendations should taken with a grain of salt.  The final decision is yours and you should decide what’s best for you.
  • Timing is everything.  I don’t know how the market is now, but the condo market was quite hot last year when I was looking, so I had to act quick when I wanted a place.  I thought it helped for Dave and me to see many condos to get a sense of what we liked and didn’t like, so later, we could see a place and quickly determine if its worth pursuing.

My journey is further detailed below with a summary of each bid I made during this search.

Bid #1: Given my prior experience, I decided I wanted be have a condo of sturdier construction such as brick or concrete.  At the time, many new construction condos were going up around Ink Block and the Broadway T stop (Allele Boston has some more new condos available now), so when I saw one in that area that I liked, I submitted a bid 60k lower than the asking price well before the open house.  The seller rejected the offer, and I resubmitted a bid offering the asking price that the seller still didn’t accept.  As the asking price was the max I was willing to pay for it, I didn’t bid again and the condo later sold for 40k over asking: 725k.

Bid #2: Dave and I saw this one at an open house without my agent.  The open house was sparse — there was only one other couple when we were there. My starting bid was 1k over asking.  It turned out there were a few other bidders, so I was asked to submit a best and final offer.  I upped my bid by 6k and was told I didn’t win.  However, the highest bidder must have backed out as the next day, I was told I could have the place if I wanted it. However, my agent mentioned to me that Bid #2 was located very close to Pine Street Inn, one of Boston’s largest homeless shelters, so I decided to pass. I had already moved on at this point and scheduled a visit to another condo that my agent had recommended I see.  This condo would later become Bid #4, although I didn’t bid at this point because it wasn’t in the areas I was considering at the time and it would need some work.  Bid #2 ended up selling at 1k less than my bid (6k higher than the asking price).

Bid #3: This was another condo suggested by my agent. It was in a very nice 3-unit brownstone in South End that had recently been remodeled. After seeing it at a very crowded open house, I bid 52k over asking and lost.  This condo sold for about 76k over asking.  Wow!

Bid #4: After losing out on Bid #3, I revisited the aforementioned condo that needed quite a bit of work.  By this time the asking price had dropped 25k.  This time I was able to see past the condition of the condo and realized how convenient the location was — close to the bus stop, the grocery stores, the post office, the pharmacy, and hardware store.  This is why it’s important not to have a narrow vision.  Also, my commute to work would actually be about the same as the places in Bid #1 and Bid #2.  But even better, if the T broke down or was shut down, I could still walk to work.  Although I could see the pros of this place, I still wasn’t excited at the thought of putting work into it, but I was impatient to get a place.  It felt as though I had been searching for so long!  I bid 50k lower than the asking price, but I was immediately notified that there were two other bidders and we were asked for best and final offers.  What a coincidence!  Time is everything. I raised my bid by 21.5k, but still lost.  The condo sold for about 21k higher than my bid, about 8k lower than the asking price.

Bid #5: I didn’t even see this place before I bid as I was out of town on a business trip.  I know that probably sounds crazy, but I did send Dave to look at the place and after looking at so many places together, I trusted his opinion (And he wasn’t wrong.  I still love the place!  Thanks, Dave.).  Dave went to look at the condo before it even had an open house and immediately texted me that I should bid.  This condo was located very close to Bid #4, so I knew the location was convenient.  I won with a bid 51k over asking and no inspection and mortgage contingencies.  I certainly don’t think it’s wise for everyone to waive the inspection and mortgage contingencies, especially after my experience with my first condo search.  But I had gotten a pre-approval letter (I highly recommend getting pre-approved!) so I was fairly confident in my ability to get a mortgage and this particular building has just been converted to condos less than a year before, so I wasn’t as worried about the inspection.  The selling agent still had the open house, which I attended to see the place for the first time and to pay my deposit.  When the representative at the open house told me that the place was already sold, I excitedly replied “I know. I put in the bid!”.

When I finally moved in, I felt like a million bucks.  Despite the emotional roller coaster that I rode while searching for a condo, I’m really glad I ended up with my current place.

My perception of growing up has changed throughout the years.  When I was younger I thought one grew up when they hit a certain age or stage in their life and they would cease certain behaviors.  For example, when I was very little I thought I was being grown up when I decided I no longer needed to sleep with stuffed animals in my bed.  And as I grew older, I gradually stopped doing many of the activities I enjoyed as a kid.  I kept telling myself that I didn’t have time and I needed to study or “work” instead.

Now, I’ve realized that growing up means you take on a different set of responsibilities, but it doesn’t mean you have to choose a different set of things to enjoy.  I have since re-discovered some of my interests, such as gardening and arts and crafts, and am discovering new ones as well, such as travel.  If there is an activity I want to try, I no longer limit myself by saying I am too old.  The start of my married life was no exception!

When my husband and I got married this past January, we had our honeymoon at Disney World.  We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which had animals on-site that you can view during the day and night (with night vision googles).  Can you spot the Ankole cattle in the picture below?

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The Animal Kingdom Lodge also have an array of activities for their guests.  A number of these activities are bead activities for guests ages 4 and up.  For each of these activities you attend, you can earn a bead and if you earn all of them you receive an extra Mickey Mouse bead.  You can read more about these activities here.  On our day away from the parks, I decided to go on a mission to collect all the beads.  My husband also came along for most of the activities.  We had a blast playing African drums, stuffing giraffe puzzle feeders, learning about African wonders, and more.  The fruits of our fun (and labor) are shown below!

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Our trip to Disney has rekindled the kid inside both of us.  Thus, we have decided to start this blog to share the adventures we are encountering as adults.