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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Happy Birthday, Harry!

So, as you know we usually do a big party to celebrate Harry Potter on his birthday, but last year we had to do it virtually, and this year we're waiting to see how things go and have already moved it to September and turned it into game night instead of the usual big do up. We'll be celebrating Harry and the return to Hogwarts for wizarding kids. 

Photos from our two Harry Potter celebrations for The Boy Who Lived's birthday.
One of the staff at Kennedy School, dressed as a House Elf

That doesn't mean we didn't do anything for Harry on his birthday. We did. The week before his birthday I helped run the PDXpelliarmus Harry Potter Activists' booth for Wizarding Weekend at a local hotel that was once a school. For 3 days we have magical vendors, the movies going, themed food, and games. Considering we had to skip last year and we weren't sure how well received this would be with everything going on this year, we were blown away.

Usually, this weekend is the end of our back-to-school supply drive, but we pivoted this year to end Accio Books with this big event and were overwhelmed with book donations. With the money we made from selling our buttons, bags, and other HP-related goods, we were able to cover our entire book list for a charitable organization that works with the houseless, so we can provide them with young adult and adult books. 

Here are some pictures of our table, Diagon Alley, kids dressed up for the costume contest, and my own outfit. (Yes, this was an event where we encouraged masking and all volunteers had a mandatory mask rule.)

My last-minute, weather appropriate garb, as a Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes employee

Our 3 costume winners: Seamus Finnegan (complete with soot-covered face, Dobby, and Professor Trewlawney)

Putting together our gear for Wizarding tea

On Harry's actual birthday, Eric and I convinced some vaccinated friends to go to an annual Harry Potter tea near to us. We have gone every year except last year, where everything was still shut down for indoor dining. This year they had welcome cocktails, tea leaf reading (a must for every year), and a Muggle magician. If you've seen my IG reel, you can watch me volunteer. I wrote my name on a piece of parchment, we set it on fire, and then it reappeared inside of an orange. Amazing! Here are some of my favorite pics:

Channeling our love of Ron's love for the Chudley Cannons Quidditch team

Reading our tea leaves. I see a crow and a crown in the middle, and what might be a squirrel - I see a llama - over on the right. What do you see?

There was a Muggle magician!

Dobby follows me everywhere, I guess. Here's Eric and I with some fellow Potter friends

Cocktails: Butterbeer, Golden Snitch, Invisibility Cloak (color-changing gin drink)

There will be more photos to come once we have had our game night (with costumes!) and probably Rose City Comic Con (where I will volunteer with PDXpelliarmus again) and then Yule Ball. Cheers to August! 

How is your summer going? Did you do any Harry Potter activities?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

How To Get $25 for Saving for Vacation

Do you like free money? I mean, don't we all? Well, right now you can get a free $25 for doing almost nothing! Who's giving all this money away? Qapital! (use code rt7pa62x)

Qapital is an awesome app that helps you save for things in life you want, like that amazing trip to Greece you've been thinking about.
Photo by Vitaly Taranov on Unsplash

Normally, when you sign up using a referral link, you get $5, which is still pretty awesome, because that's five more dollars than you didn't have before, but right now, when you sign up through my referral link, you get five times that amount! 

Maybe you're thinking "what the heck is Qapital and why would I sign up for it?" That's valid. Qapital is an awesome app that helps you save for things in life you want, like that amazing trip to Greece you've been thinking about. Signing up is easy. You choose your preferred membership level, link up your accounts to it, create "rules" for yourself, and then start saving! Membership starts at just $3/month, but you will save much more than than in the long run.

Photo by Kody Gautier on Unsplash

Some of my favorite rules are the Round Up, the Payday, and the Spend Less Rule. Round Up rounds up all your purchases to the nearest $2, so if you spend $23.45, $.55 will automatically go to your Qapital account. The Payday Rule gives you a way to put aside a set amount of money each payday. The Spend Less Rule has you set a budget for certain things and if you come in under that budget, the remainder gets saved to your Qapital account. It's super easy to save, but also super easy to move your money back to your bank account (or your spending account if you use the Qapital debit), so you can use it on your goals. 
What if you don't have any money in your bank account? That's okay! Qapital monitors your accounts and pauses your saving when you get below a certain threshold so you don't end up in the red. They look out for you in all the important ways, and before you know it, you've got money for those things that are on the top of your list. So....not overlimit fees. 

There are TONS of rules you can set up, so there's always something that's going to work for you, plus you can pause savings when you need to, or you can add a little extra to your savings when you have extra to put away. When you make a milestone, Qapital throws you a little party on your phone to let you know how you're doing and make you feel good about yourself. I love it. I've been using it for 4-5 years now and have saved over $4,000 just by rounding up my purchases with my debit card. 

Start saving now (use code rt7pa62x) and soon you'll be planning that trip you've been dreaming about! What are you saving for right now? 

Disclaimer: When you sign up and get money, I also get money. Once you sign up, I encourage you to refer all your friends and make even more free money from Qapital!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

All Your Travel Info Organized

When you’re planning for vacation, do you end up with endless pieces of paper for hotels, car rentals and other stuff you’re doing? I know I do, but instead of printing out every last thing that I may or may not need, I now have learned that putting it all together online is a better method and helps me to know exactly where everything is and what I’m still needing. Once I go on my trip, I can print out the necessary things (3 pages vs 42 is easier to carry) and have a back-up for myself that isn’t attached to just my email.

When you’re planning for vacation, do you end up with endless pieces of paper for hotels, car rentals, etc? Here's how to get organized.

I also like to back-up and organize on-the-go, because if my camera gets stolen or I lose it, I will cry my eyes out over all the photos I’ve lost. This is why uploading at the end of each day to “the cloud” or an online program is fancy, convenient and helps eliminate the needless worry of impending photo loss. 

Don’t let tragedy make you sadder than it has to. Use a back-up – or several – to keep everything within your reach, even when you lose papers, cameras, your laptop, phone or all your worldly (travel) possessions are stolen.

TripIt.com – Don’t you hate carrying around a novel worth of confirmations and check-in sheets with you while you’re in transit? Sometimes, it takes up so much room, you could have fit in an extra outfit. I have a secret, which is not SO secret anymore, but if you don’t know about TripIt, then you will jump up and down for joy. Okay, maybe just on the inside. Not only can you add an infinite number of things to your itinerary online, but you have space to write in confirmation numbers, phone numbers, addresses, times, who you talked to and how much it all cost you (helping you keep track of your budget…effortlessly!).

Are you dreading now having to input all that stuff more than carrying the stack of papers around? This is the coolest part: You can email your confirmations to TripIt, via their special email address and they will suck all the useful info out for you and instantly updates your itinerary. It says it can take a few hours, but when I’ve done it, it has been a matter of minutes. It’s magic, I tell you! Now, it doesn’t work with all confirmation emails, but many of them. I haven’t tried dining reservations, but I’ll be doing it for sure on my next trip.

Once you have your whole trip planned and input into TripIt goodness, you can share it with everyone you like (although, you can do that anytime) and even post the less detailed version on Facebook, so everyone you know can be jealous…and start plotting the raid of your house. Print out your complete trip plan before you go and whittle down your paperwork from War and Peace to a funner version of Pat the Bunny. And if you want to go totally paperless, get the app and view it all on your smartphone.

Shutterfly – If you take a ton of pictures like I do, it would be a serious tragedy if you lost all of them while on vacation. You would not see a meltdown so big unless I was shot in the leg or found out I had some sort of incurable disease. This is why I do multiple photo uploads on my travels. It may not be every day, but it depends on how many I took that day. The more often you upload, the less time it will take. 

I travel with a laptop, so when I get back to my hotel/apartment/timeshare/ship cabin in the evening, I pull the SD card out of my camera and dump all my photos. Once I have internet, I select and copy all of them to my Shutterfly folder. This way, if something happens to my netbook or my camera or my SD card all is not lost. I have also started using SmugMug, which is a paid program online, but it organizes your photos much better.

Dropbox – I can’t even tell you how much I love Dropbox. You start with 2GB of space for free, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but you can save so much stuff in there. I use it for my blog photos, all my budget travel book info (media contacts, revisions, cover images, marketing ideas and everything else associated with it) and all my personal things I don’t want to lose, like my resume and important documents. And I still haven’t used up all my space. 

Essentially, all your files are on an online drive, but you can add the dropbox folder to all your computers, your iPad, your phone and whatever else you might have to store info and have access to it anywhere you are and on whatever device you’re using. If you are just out wandering around and need a file, you can log on online and still be able to get to it in a matter of seconds! You’ll love it, sign up.

It’s good for travel because you can make copies of your passport, visa, credit cards and add a document in there with all the important info you need, like hotel addresses and phone numbers, contacts you might need to get in touch with and anything else you deem important. This way, if something unsavory happens to your belongings, you aren’t completely lost. You can find everything you need wherever you are. And it’s more secure than keeping it in an email folder.

Evernote – I am a devoted Evernote user. I love it. Not only can you use it across all systems like Dropbox, but you can also edit and post to your blog from within it, copy links, pictures or full webpages with a click of a button and even share things to your social networks. I use it on my phone most often, though I’ve taken to writing blog posts with it, too. I have a long-running grocery list (paperless!) in a note, as well as party menus in another and add things that I find that I want to do on my vacations to another. If you see something that looks cool, but can’t really explain it, clip the whole page for later instead of writing down some code and months from now you don’t have to figure out what a Scottish Historic Monument Pub is.

You can have an endless supply of notes and access them anywhere. You can also speak your text into your phone for translation to type, but so far that has only be a source of amusement for me, because if you don’t speak super slowly, you get some really random things that do not make a good blog post. It’s pretty hilarious though!

Anyway, Evernote is great for everything and is a spectacular app for your phone, because you can jot things down if you think of something while you’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, waiting for a movie to start, getting your oil changed. Pretty much whenever it’s convenient to send a text, you can be making a list or blogging. So much better than the notepad, too.

Hopefully, you will get a lot of use out of these sites, as well as the two in my previous post. It’s never a bad idea to back up all your important info and things you like to have access to all the time. Emergencies happen, but you can be more prepared to deal with them now. 

What are some of your favorite apps you can use for vacations?
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