Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wholly Dazed

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from your friendly Hallmark Christian*!!

This holiday season has been filled with family, friends, and finally in the North East, SNOW!!!

My Runner and I broke out the snowshoes this past Monday to give them a whirl.  I huffed and puffed through the 2-ish miles in the woods.  We were (ok, mostly he was) breaking trail.  The wind was still gusting a lot and the trees creaked and cracked above us.    It was great!

Pops came up for Christmas as usual and came up (pre-snow) to My Runner's house and for a trail run in the woods.  I spent some time with my Grammy, Great Aunt, and Aunt for lunch on Christmas Day, and was able to put in a significant visit to my mother's large family for dinner.  Back to work for a few days this week, but it's nice and quiet with most people on vacation.

My Runner has put together a few posts of a year in review, along with a spectacular slideshow.  It's inspired me to actually take some time to look back on my year, highlight the high points, ruminate on the lessons learned, and set goals for the new year.  I'll do this throughout the month of January and over several posts.

I've also been putting off research for the next car on my list: the Ford Fiesta.  A cursory search says it's a good car that's well reviewed, but my brand perception of Ford is giving me researchers-block.  I might just skip it for now and head on down to the Nissan Versa & Cube....

If you're at work, I hope I've sufficiently distracted you for a few minutes (and playing on JibJab is totally fun).  If you're on vacation, get off this damned machine and go play!!

*Hallmark Christianity is a phrase I created to describe those that have a Christian heritage, and maybe were baptized once upon a time, but NEVER go to church- not even at Christmas or Easter.  These folks DO celebrate Christmas and to a certain extent Easter, but in the most superficial and consumer-based way, embodied by the Hallmark Greeting Card.  

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Update: 2011 Elantra

Thanks, Consumer Reports Blog, for a super-timely update on the 2011 Elantra!  Looks like the re-design for this year is even better than the quite good 2010 Elantra.  Hmm... maybe it will earn a higher place on the list?

First Look Hyundai Elantra (Video embedded in article webpage)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Why do you think I have this OUTRAGEOUS Accent?"

"... you silly English kin-ig-it!"

My original thought was to look into the VERY inexpensive Accent.

Seriously, the hatch version starts at $9,985.  However, it only comes in a 3-door (2 passenger doors and a hatch) version, and I'd really prefer true back-seat doors.  Also, it's cheap because it's, well... cheap.  The base model doesn't even have ABS as an OPTION.  Now, I know how to break so they don't lock up, but resale wise not having that pretty basic standard feature is kinda crap.  Needless to say, the Accent was eliminated from my list after about 3 minutes of research.

Onto the Elantra Touring.

Base Model MSRP: $15,995 (no additions)
EPA Milage: 23/31

The Elantra is Hyundai's compact sedan, the Touring is the hatch version.  It comes will all the safety features standard (unlike the Accent) and some of the perks I want in a car like keyless entry.  The only possible add-ons would be cruise control and MAYBE steering wheel audio controls.

Too bad it's totally a mom-mobile:

Reviews on the Elantra SE are quite favorable, though.  Enough to make me think about looking at the sedan model:

Pretty sexy, no?  With a starting price tag of $14,830 (more than $1K lower than the hatch) and EPA mileage 29/33, it seems to be a better buy.  But is it really?  Let's compare (thanks, Hyundai website!)

Elantra GLS, MT

Elantra Touring GLS, MT



EPA mileage 29/33

EPA Milage: 23/31

Anti-Trap trunk release

not an option

Auto Headlights w/ off

not an option

Remote Trunk Release

not an option

A/C option

A/C standard

Trip Computer

not an option

So, the only thing I'd *loose* is standard AC.  I'd gain the standard remote doors and trunk.  Some of the options, like Cruise Control, remain the same.  So, unless the AC is $1K, the sedan IS a better buy then the Touring.  Reviews? Consumer Reports video:

Popular Mechanics Review of Hyundai Elantra

End result: Accent is off the list as is the Elantra Touring, but the Elantra sedan has made the list; the only sedan in a sea of hatches.

Potential Cars:
1. Honda FIT
2. Kia Soul
3. Hyundai Elantra
? Ford Fiesta
? Nissan Versa (& Cube)
? Mazda MAZDA A2 (& A3 5-door)
10. Toyota Yaris

Kia Rio 5
Toyota Matrix
Hyundai Accent
Hyundai Elantra Touring


Thursday, December 16, 2010


To start, I still have faith in the Toyota brand even after the gas-pedal recall hullabaloo.  Recalls were widespread, sure, but they also resolved all the issues quickly and thoroughly.  My Runner and Face both drive Toyotas and are happy with their vehicles.  I've never heard anyone complain about having a "lemon" with a Toyota.  I'm a little over the typical Prius "I drive a hybrid so I can drive my car 1/4 mile down the road because I'm better than you" driver, but that's Society's fault, not Toyota's.  (I know not all Prius drivers are holier-than-thou- several of my damneder-than-thou relatives drive Priuses... just using a stereotype to save time.)

So, I like the idea of driving a Toyota.  The two hatch-back cars are the economy Yaris and the sedan Matrix.  Both have incredible standard safety features, like all Toyotas.  How do they stack up against the Fit, and my budget in general?

Toyota Yaris (5-door Hatch)
Base Model, ST, MSRP: $13,155
Est. MPG City/Hwy: 29/36

Need upgrade package for power locks & remote key.  Upgrade from radio also needs package.  Cruise control is an option.
Stability Control is standard.

Priced for my area w/convenience package (for CD player & aux jack, split fold-down back seats, and extra heating) price is $14,945.  Would want to add CC, but not an option on a "build a Yaris" so I'm not sure how that would affect the price.  

Consumer Report's video review.  Basically says outright it's a bit of crap for the money you spend, and the Fit's a superior car.  Other reviews (linked below) mention the same issues- pricey with options, noisy, sluggish response... Great mileage, though!  Breaking point?  Two measly cup holders for the front seats.  Pppphhhbbbbttttt!!!!!  Yaris, you're at the end of the list- yes, even below the Kia. 

Toyota Matrix 
Base Model, ST, MSRP: $16,700
Est. MPG City/Hwy: 26/32

As with Yaris, most convenience stuff is in a package- power locks, remote entry, etc.  It has a telescopic steering wheel adjust like the Fit, and at least the CD player/Aux Jack is standard.  Has the same great safety features including Stability Control all standard.  Have to go to the next model up, Matrix S AND get the AWD version for over $20k for AWD- not sure if it's needed, but would be interesting to drive the AWD model to see the difference.  Still, not really in the market for a $20k car.  Mileage kinda sucks, actually....

Priced for my area w/ "power package" which has extra winter stuff like a rear windshield wiper, plus power locks and keyless entry is $19,300.  Whelp, that's $20K which effectively prices the Matrix off of my list.  See ya!

The list as it currently stands:
1. Honda FIT
2. Kia Soul
? Hundai Accent (& Elantra Touring)
? Ford Fiesta
? Nissan Versa (& Cube)
? Mazda MAZDA A2 (& A3 5-door)
10. Toyota Yaris 

Kia Rio 5
Toyota Matrix


Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Kia Rio 5

Base Model (Lx) AT MSRP: $15,095 (w/ "value package" $16,540)
Estimated MPG City/Highway: 27/35

Silver's more my color... but the burnt orange is nice.

This one's pretty much ruled out by not having a standard transmission.  Still, it's worth considering a Kia due to their great warranty.  The Rio 5 is the SAME as the Rio Sedan, but with a hatchback.  It's a decent car, stuff-wise, for a decent price.  But it's coming out below the Fit... the prices are essentially the same but the Rio has less standard safety features, and the Honda will hold it's value longer than the Kia.

Oh, huh... look at this article about the 10 Least Safe Cars of All Time... guess you're out, Rio.

While browsing the site, I noticed the Kia Soul.  The Soul is in the Roller Skate vein of cars (think Cube, Element, etc), but it's got just about everything I'm looking for.  Here's the base specs:

2011 Kia Soul + (the base model was a little more basic than I wanted to live with)

MSRP: $15,495 (w/ my options $16,275)
Estimated MPG City/Highway: 24/30

Quality standard safety features including Electronic Stability Control (ESB).  This model has the power locks/windows/keyless entry type features that I like with the option added of cargo liner etc.  The mileage isn't awesome, but the rest of the car is totally comparable to the Fit.  I'm not a fan of the "logo seat covers" that is the ONLY interior option, but whatevs.

Edmunds Review of the Soul  Highlight quote: "There are other choices to consider, naturally, including ... the Honda Fit, which has livelier handling and surprisingly cavernous cargo capacity."

Car and Driver Review of the Soul Highlight quote: "Looks are the whole ballgame here, because beneath the radically angled window line and the buff fender bulges and the seat fabric that glows in the dark with the word “soul” is basically a good-sized but unspectacular economy box."

After research, the Soul falls above the Rio, but still slightly below the Fit.  


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Two Homes, One Heart

So this is a blog about life and love and dealing with problems and this post is about all three.  I just haven't posted something of such a personal nature in a while and thought it should come with a disclaimer, as it's a bit of a shift in gears.  (Get it?  Because of the car posts...)

I've often joked that I have a home in the city and a home in the country.  Now that My Runner has purchased his own house, that feels even more true.  But the reality is that I have an apartment in the city, and My Runner invites me to visit his home.  That's a subtle but emotionally important distinction.

 I know he's excited to have his own place, and settle into it.  "Hell, *I'm* excited for him that he gets the chance to live on his own, set things up the way HE wants it, and make all the home decisions.  I know it was a great growing experience for me, and I hope he finds benefit in it as well.  He has asked my advice on some things, but ultimately has made his own choices.  I've helped (or attempted to help) on some of the projects around his house.  However, there's a line that I worry I keep crossing.

I'm an over-share-er.  You want to borrow something I have, then help yourself.  Need extra storage?  I've got space.  Like my sweater?  Sure you can wear it Wednesday.  That's me.  I generally don't get annoyed until someone, say, borrows my underwear or has sex in my bed (ok, this was ONE college roommate, but yes, both happened).  And even then, honestly, the right person asking in the right situation I'd be like, well ok, go for it.

I don't always realize other people have different boundaries than I do.  I try to be considerate, but because it wouldn't occur to me that, say, leaving earrings on the table or a coat in the closet might be an encroachment, I just don't think about the earrings I left on the table.  I think My Runner doesn't mind one thing here or there every now and then.  But because I've been staying at his house so much, my stuff is spreading, and more of it is staying... The other night I got a text from My Runner: "You moving in?  I think you have more coats in my closet than I do."  I'm sure it was meant in a joking manner, but the message was clear- you're NOT living here, so please don't take advantage.

On the flip side, My Runner has offered a place to keep some toiletries, the bed stand on the side of the bed I sleep on is empty, and he, at one point, mentioned keeping a few things at his place for work-clothing emergencies.  I'm at his house just about every weekend from Friday night to Monday morning, and generally one more night during the week- ie, more than I'm at my own place.  So, where does the line get drawn?

I want to be considerate of his space without having to worry that I'm overstepping.  But I don't want to seem like I'm withdrawing.  And honestly, I know me and I know at some point I'll absent-mindedly forget a pair of shoes or a hair tie or something, and I don't want that to cause a major issue.  Ultimately, I don't want to worry about this all the time and have it be a "thing."

Obviously it's time for a brief chat about what's ok and what's not.  He's rarely at  my house, and with my non-borders, it's never been an issue when he stayed there anyways.  And honestly, while a discussion will help me remember a bit to keep my "stuff" tamed, I'm bound to forget.  So there also needs to be an understanding that I'm NOT "playing games" or being passive-aggressive, but just forgetful.

There is a darker side to this, and I'm embarrassed and a bit ashamed to admit it.  Of course my actions came from being excited for My Runner to have his own place, but upon examination there was some selfishness at play too.  I would often interject or respond as if I had any authority at the house.  Like, when the neighbor asked about cutting trees, *I* said "That shouldn't be a problem."  Or I would state "We just moved in," leaving out the necessary language to indicate that we had just moved ONE PERSON in.  I don't recall doing this on purpose, but I do recall replaying these things in my head after I said them, thinking, "that can't be good."  But I didn't make a very conscious effort to stop.  I guess part of me wanted it to be true, and part of me was so excited for him I just didn't care.  Not until he cared and expressed to me how much it bothered him.  I know this was rude behavior, and it's embarrassing to admit bad manners.

So now, I make a conscious effort to not answer on behalf of him, and to make sure it's clear that I'm not a resident.  But that doesn't mean I haven't screwed up.  It's possible that I wasn't paying attention while talking.  Actually, that's likely because I rarely pay attention to what I'm saying until after I've said it.  (I don't recommended this- it gets me into trouble A LOT.)

Maybe some day this will all be a moot point, but for now it seems like an important stepping stone in our relationship.  How do we express our boundaries?  How do we tell each other when we're hurt or bothered? What's acceptable behavior and what's not?  What can we forgive and learn to live with, and what's unforgivable?  The actual topic might not be incredibly weighty, but the practice of resolving this little thing might have implications in how we resolve the big things.

**Edit: this post was written and for the briefest of moments published before I spoke to My Runner about the situation.  Since he reads the blog (hi baby!) I figured it'd be best for our relationship if I brought this up with him before putting it out for the world- or the 8 or so of you that read this- to see.  The chat was quick and productive, and as per usual I blew the issue way out of proportion in my head.**

Labels: , , ,

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Perfect Fit

The 2011 Honda Fit.  Yum.  This is the car I will measure all others on my list against.  Still, buying a car is a Big Deal (note the capitols) and so I feel like I have to explore every option in a thorough manner to be comfortable signing away several thousand dollars and 4-5 years of my life.

4-Door Hatchback 5 person
Base Model, ST, MSRP: $15,100
Est. MPG City/Hwy/Combined: 27/33/29

The base model has A LOT standard, so that's sweet.  I've added splash guards, a liner to the cargo area and keyless entry because I am now spoiled and it's worth $150 to never have to search for the lock in the cold and dark.  I'll have to see how good the floor mats are in person, since I can get really great all-weather mats for about the same price as Honda retail.

It's got SPACE:

Back seat folds completely vertical.  Great for tall laundry baskets or hockey sticks.

Back seats fold completely flat.  Could fit a big ol' goalie bag o' gear in that pretty easily.

Viola!  Instant room for a full sized inflatable mattress OR room for Ultra gear & crew crap.

What's even better?  The 2011 model has Electronic Stability Control standard for only $200 more than the 2010 model.  Previously you'd have to get the Sport Navigation package which a)only comes with Automatic Transmission and b) adds $4,210 to the base price.  I don't really need the navigation option, and it seems silly to have a "sport" model with an Automatic Transmission.  So, I'm psyched that this recommended safety feature is now standard (has to be standard on every car by 2012, fyi).  Other sweet standard features are ten, count 'em TEN cup holders, power locks and windows, AC, Cruise Control, and USB/Aux jack stereo interface.

Relevant reviews:
US News
Car and Driver
(Consumer Reports update linked in the paragraph above)

Have you driven a Fit?  Any suggestions?


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Neeewww CAAARRRR!!!

In a previous post I detailed my new budget plan with the end-game of purchasing a new car.  In the next few posts I'll be going through some of the cars I'm looking at with stats, options, prices, and relevant reviews.  I'd love any input you have.

Background: I currently drive a 2002 VW Cabrio convertible.  It's effing ADORABLE.  It's great to paralell park, and nothing is greater than taking that top down on a warm sunny day and going ... anywhere.  The most mundane errands are fun when buzzing around in this cute little car.  And it IS little.  I can find a parking spot just about anywhere, which was a huge boon when I was still living in the middle of the city.  I bought it from a co-worker on the SUPER cheap, with low mileage and a pristine body (the car, not the co-worker).  I blame credit the Cabrio with getting My Runner and me together- if it wasn't for a dead battery the day of playoffs (and the subsequent week), who knows what wouldn't have happened?
 Hallo, Auto!
Everyone loves topless driving

So why the heck do I want to sell?  Well, it's a Volkswagon, so there's essentially zero cup holders.  I know that's a bit trite, but I'm really looking forward to driving without coffee nestled in my crotch.  It's an automatic transmission, and even though it has 1st-3rd as options, I miss having a manual transmission in the winter.  It doesn't get the awesome gas mileage you would think for a small car with a small engine.  It's SMALL.  I barely consider it a 4 person car and I feel like I could be accused of entrapment whenever I have to transport someone in the back seat (insert obligatory Mall Rats joke here).  The trunk space is nearly as sparse.  When My Runner and I took the Cabrio to VT for a long weekend our luggage took up pretty much ALL the extra space in the car.

What doesn't work with the Cabrio informed what I'm looking for.  I'd like a small hatchback with a manual transmission that gets good gas mileage and has a good sized interior.  And lots of cup holders, (though it seems that every non-German car realizes this need as new cars have an average of 27 cup holders per passenger.)  My budget informs my price range.  I'll be selling the Cabrio in the spring/summer (best time to sell a convertible) and using the cash from the sale and my savings as a down payment.  Using calculators from my credit union and on I was able to determine that I can afford a 4-year loan in the $15-$17K range.

I have a relatively broad list of cars to research.  I'd love any insight or suggestions you have!
Potential Cars:

  • Honda FIT (I *love* this car... the list is so long because I don't want to be too partial)
  • Kia Rio5
  • Toyota Yaris (& Matrix- concerned the Yaris will be too small and the Matrix too big)
  • Hundai Accent (& Elantra Touring- same concerns as the Toyotas, but these cars are CHEAP)
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Nissan Versa (& Cube- not sure I love the Cube's weirdness, but it's like an Element thats $8K cheaper)
  • Mazda MAZDA A2 (& A3 5-door- I see a LOT of A3's on the road)

Labels: , ,