Category Archives: Shopping

home prices around here

In June, I wrote an entry complaining about the high cost of houses in our area.  High housing costs are highly problematic even if you are already bought in because:

  1. High property taxes.  (Our property taxes have more than doubled since we bought our house in 2014.)
  2. High transaction costs to move.  If you move from house A to house B, and they cost the same amount, you’ll be taxes on any “profits” exceeding 500K from House A even if you turn around and put that money straight into House B.  You also pay 7% transaction costs (more tax plus realtor.)
    1. If House A and B cost $650 K, like when we moved in, transaction cost would be $87,500.
    2. If House A and B cost $2,000,0000, like in June, transaction cost would be $518,000
      1. Just writing that down is enough to make me cry.

However, wonderful things have happened since then.  Housing prices have come down, dramatically!

Basically, our house was sitting around 900K for a few years and then nearly double in value.  Now, it’s back to 1.3M.  Still too high, but better.  Houses around the area have trended similarly.  My hope and prayer is that interest rates continue to go up and housing prices continue to go down.  Obviously, this makes mortgages more expensive, but we frankly can’t afford a mortgage anywhere near the cost of a house, so we’ll be using equity to purchase and will take out a mortgage that’s significantly under 50% the price of the house.

If our home value went down to about 1.1, I’d feel better.  However, this past month, house prices did not drop AT.ALL in our local area.  So I guess we will see.  But all I can say is that something is broken when it costs over 1M to get a modest house in a good school district.

We are not necessarily going to buy a “modest” house – houses we like are closer to 2M.  But even an unambiguously modest house runs seven figures right now.  Note that our current house is not in a good school district and is therefore more “affordable.”  It’s very nice but worth “only” 1.3M.  An identical house a few miles away in Bellevue would run around to 2.3M.

car contemplations

We are talking about maybe getting a new, larger vehicle.  It’s difficult fitting all three kids in the back, and I’d really like to be able to pick up a fourth kid.  Basically, I’d like at least 5 passenger seating.  The law says kids shouldn’t ride in the front seat until all other seats are full.  So, in theory, if we needed to pick up one extra kid in a pinch, we can seat Isla in the front seat with a booster.  Which is good to know, but not a good solution for regular car pooling.

I consider AWD a hard requirement, as I drive over a small mountain to drive the kids to and from school every day.  Also, we go skiing occasionally and live on a very steep hill ourselves.  AWD gives me peace of mind, and I’m definitely willing to pay for it.

More earth-friendly would also be attractive.  We currently have a Subaru Outback (26 / 33 mpg), and an old Ford Focus (23 / 29 mpg).  It’s interesting to me that our Outback, which is a much larger vehicle, is so much more fuel efficient than the Focus.  I guess that’s the outcome of Obama’s fuel standards, mostly, and time to technology development.  I felt pretty good about buying the Outback for this reason, even though it’s not a Hybrid.

Minivans and 3-row SUVs are harder.  When you start looking at AWD, things get pricey, fast.  Some options I looked at today:

  1. Subaru Ascent, AWD 21/27 $36K 3RSUV
  2. Chrysler Pacifica, AWD 17/25 $44K Van
  3. Toyota Sienna AWD $43K 35/36 Van
  4. Toyota Highlander AWD $44K 35/36 3RSUV

Chrysler does make a hybrid electric van, but they don’t offer it in AWD.  Perhaps that will change.  I can’t really see buying a car that only gets 17 mpg around town.  The Subaru Ascent isn’t much better.

The Toyota Sienna is the lowest rated van in its class by many.  They specifically knock it for having limited 3rd row space, even with the 2nd row seats all the way forward.  Since we’d have at least one person in the third row most of the time, that’s a pretty big deal.

We paid about 28K all in for our Outback, so the idea of paying more than 40K for a car definitely gives me sticker shock.  Even 36K for the Subaru sounds a lot more appealing than 43 / 44K for the two Toyota options.   Isla will be old enough to sit in the front seat in 3.5 years.  Maybe we just need to stick it out.

I guess the thing to do would be to test drive a few different options.  Any thoughts from van owners or 3 row SUV owners?  If you have one or the other, how did you decide which to get?



I read an interesting article in the WSJ about the outsize impact of clothes-buying on the environment.  Apparently, the average American purchases 54 articles of clothing a year.  54!  Some quotes:

Wardrobes take a much smaller share of the household purse than they used to. U.S. consumers spend just 3% of their disposable income on clothing, down from 10% in the 1960s, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The downside is that readier access to inexpensive garments encourages shoppers to buy in greater quantities.

 Of the roughly 100 billion items of clothing produced each year, more than 50 billion are thrown away and subsequently burned or landfilled within 12 months of being made, according to a recent UBS report.

The fashion sector’s long supply chain cuts across multiple countries and sectors, including petrochemicals for fibre manufacturing, making it more complex for governments to rein in. That is despite the fact that the fashion industry contributes up to 10% of global carbon emissions. By comparison, commercial aviation generates just 2% to 3%, according to Citi analysts.

Reducing the amount of clothing sold globally will become an even bigger challenge as consumers in emerging countries develop a taste for fast fashion. In 2006, Chinese shoppers bought 14 items of apparel every year, but this number had more than doubled by 2019, according to UBS. Americans’ purchases also increased over the period, but not by as much—from 48 to 54 items a year.

So, how many articles of clothing did YOU purchase in the last year?  I bought probably more than usual because the year started with me 6 months out from pregnancy and giving birth, but also less, because, like most people, I wasn’t going out as much.  Since I track all my expenses for budgetary reasons, it wasn’t that hard to look this up.

  • 5/11/21 – Gap shorts $36
  • 4/21/21 – JCrew socks $10
  • 2/5/21 – Gaiter $11
  • 2/11/21 – Running shoes $143
  • 1/10/21 – Running socks $15
  • 1/7/21 – Socks $20
  • 1/4/21 – Outdoor Voices Sports bra $26
  • 12/30/20 – Lululemon tights $100
  • 12/30/20 – Lulu sports bra $44
  • 12/19/20 – Camisoles (4) $43
  • 12/8/20 – Running shoes $121
  • 12/4/20 – Amazon shirts (2) $44
  • 12/1/20 – Eddie Bauer shirt $33
  • 11/28/20 – Pink button shirt $18
  • 10/15/20 – Sneakers $94
  • 7/17/20 – Sandals $77
  • 7/6/20 – JCrew shirt $26
  • 7/3/20 – Boden shirt $41
  • 5/31/20 Running shoes $132

So, I bought 23 articles of clothing if you count shoes, 18 if you don’t.  If you exclude socks as well, I’m down to 15.  Not bad, until you consider how unfashionably I dress.

How many garments did you buy last year?

If I were in a shopping mood . . .

If I had more money than I knew what to do with, I’d buy . . .

1.) Lots of Cafe Du Cycliste stuff.  Like these flowery bib shorts.

2.) 28″ Fast and Free tights from Lululemon

3.) Lots of Jellycat stuffies for all the babies and small children in my life

4.) A Garmin Edge 530 so I could get turn-by-turn directions while cycling

5.) A fancy mattress topper

6.) White button-fly shorts from JCrew

More JCrew linen T-shirts.  So comfortable!

All the cute kid and baby clothes from Tea Collection.  Now that S is almost 2, I can theoretically buy things in threes so all three of the kids can be matchy-matchy.  Given that L will likely put her foot down on this sooner rather than later, there’s clearly no time to waste.

This dress, or this one, from Anthro.  Not that I have anywhere to wear a dress.




Winter running attire – 2020 edition

Winter is here and with it, the joy of cool weather running.  Since I’m still doing the stay-at-home mom gig, winter running has been much warmer so far.  Running in mid-morning gives me a good ten degrees over running at the crack of dawn, as I’ve done in past years.

While a cold gray day or rain makes it a lot harder to run, I think correct attire makes all the difference.  I can’t claim to know much about running at temperatures under 30 F, but for cold, gray rainy days, I feel like I’ve got things dialed in.

1.) Start by buying an indoor-outdoor thermometer.  Everyone is different in terms of attire preferences, but the best way to dial in your own choices are to at least know how warm or cold it is.  Online weather services are often off by up to five degrees, which is huge.  I received mine as a gift, but it looks a like like this one.   At this point, we have two indoor-outdoor thermometers, and I always look at it before dressing to go running.

50 F +

If it’s not raining or extremely windy, temperatures 50 and higher, even if it’s overcast, call for shorts and short sleeves.  Since motherhood, I mostly wear tight shorts, but any kind of shorts will do.

These shorts from Lululemon are have a pocket big enough for my phone at the back of the waist (where I prefer to carry it) and side pockets on the shorts for a key.  They’re quite stretchy.

For loose shorts, I’m a fan of Zoot.

I really like these short-sleeve Nike running tops.

If it’s rainy or windy, I add gloves and/or a very lightweight headband that I can take off once I warm up.

High 40s

If the temperature is in the high 40s, I consider switching to capri tights and will generally bring along a lightweight headband.  I prefer my Capri tights short – just below the knee, ideally.  Oiselle sells a number of “knickers” that meet this spec.

If it’s windy or rainy, I’ll probably switch to a long-sleeve half-zip top.  NOT quarter-zip, not one-third zip – a full half-zip, so I can unzip it fully if I get warm, which I usually do.  One of my pet peeves if retailers selling “half zip” tops that are really quarter zip.  A half zip top should unzip at least to the midpoint between the collar bone and belly button.  I love my Sugoi half zip tops, but unfortunately, they are no longer sold.  This Lululemon top meets all my specs – tru half zip, thumb sleeves, pockets (to store gloves and headband), not too short, too tight, or too long.

Low to mid 40s

Often, in the low 40s, capri tights plus a LS half zip top, gloves, and a headband are sufficient to keep me warm. However, if it’s raining or threatening rain, I sometimes like to wear a lightweight water-resistant vest and a hat with a brim, or a visor.  (I have a different lululemon vest that’s no longer sold – mine may be a bit more lightweight than this one.  The more lightweight, the better.)  Keeping the rain off my face makes a huge difference.

Around 40 degrees

At around 41 or 42, I switch to full-length tights.  I am a fan of the Epic Lux line by Nike.  Like Lululemon and Amazon, Nike has free shipping and, crucially, free returns.  I don’t remember paying this much for my Nike tights – maybe they’ve raised their prices?  It looks like they’ve added some pockets, so they’re not quite the same as the ones I own.

If it’s raining with the temperature around 40, I like to wear a super-lightweight Gore-tex jacket without a hood.  Vents a must-have feature.  The Patagonia jacket I own is still available on eBay, and if you live in a cool rainy climate, it’s a 1000% worth it.  Note that it comes in men’s and women’s sizes, so make sure you know which you’re buying.

Near 40 degrees, I like to add a more robust headband, like this one.  It’s a couple layers and makes a big difference.

Low to mid 30s

When the weather drops into the 30s, I like to switch to Sugoi MidZero tights.  Be careful to buy *mid*zero tights, not SubZero tights, which are for much colder temperatures.   Near 30 degrees, I might add a light layer over the tights if it feels particularly chilly due to wind or something like that.

In the 30s, I switch from a headband to a hat.

We rarely have temperatures below around 30.  If it gets that cold, I just stay home.