Archive - February 2017

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» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston
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» Southwest Airlines Companion Pass (Our Taste of Travel Hacking)
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» Moments
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» REVIEW: LIFX Z Light Strip

» Pi Pizza and the 2017 Hyundai Elantra #Houston

Special thanks to Hyundai USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. As always, these opinions are my own.

Trips to Houston are always hard. With only nine meals to plan and so many places to eat, it creates quite a dilemma. Usually they’re filled with old favorites topped off with one new hot spot. When we found out that Cherry Pie Hospitality had ventured into the pizza business, it was an easy decision on where to go this time around. Pi Pizza wasn’t the only first for me, so was Driving a Hyundai. The Scarlet Red Elantra was surprisingly fun to drive and has totally changed my perception of the car brand.

Here are some of our favorite things about the car followed by my first (but not last) visit to Pi Pizza.

2017 Hyundai Elantra

My first impressions of the new Elantra was it’s sleek design and roomy interior. The inside fits four comfortably (five technically) with decent sized trunk space. I know I’m always in for an adventure driving the streets of Houston so the sport mode was a necessity.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

Things we loved:

You had me at CarPlay – Finally got to drive a car with Apple CarPlay! Built-in car GPS systems are so inferior compared to maps on smart phones. CarPlay was able to mirror Apple Maps onto the car’s display along with Spotify. iMessage is also another major component of CarPlay which took more time getting used to. Nonetheless, having the car’s display look just like my phone, squashed the learning curve and I was ready to go right away.

Style – Hyundai has come a long way with their designs. I have to admit that in the past, I might’ve been embarrassed with driving a Hyundai but those days are now gone.

Power – The Elantra has a 2.0L Atkinson cycle engine that delivers more standard horsepower (147 HP) than the 2016 Toyota Corolla (132 HP) and 2016 Nissan Sentra (130 HP). There’s no reason to just sit there when you can get up and go in an Elantra.

Conclusion

A car with CarPlay is a huge selling point for me. The car was perfect for our trip and would make a fun commuter for anyone. The additional horsepower (vs. some of the other vehicles in the same class) is a benefit in a city that gives little grace for those that can’t keep up. The lane assists is a natural extension of the car and keeps anyone safer on the road.

Pi Pizza
181 Heights Blvd, Houston, TX 77007

Although I never got to enjoy Anthony Calleo’s Pi Pizza food truck, this brick and mortar is proof that Pi has come a long way. Linking arms with Cherry Pie Hospitality, this new concept brings a great atmosphere (punk rock but warm and welcoming) with ample seating and fun decor featuring custom-painted skateboards on black-and-gold calavera wallcovering. You can definitely find unique combinations and flavors of pizza, on paper you might be a little skeptical, but just give it a chance.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

My favorite part, Pi uses the highest quality ingredients in their pizzas, boasting a 98% “from scratch” kitchen meaning none of their pizza toppings come from a bag. Do yourself a favor and make sure to get the Mac n’ Cheese balls, the jalapeno ranch dip takes it to another level.

» Southwest Airlines Companion Pass (Our Taste of Travel Hacking)

*Updated 2/25/2017

Our Timeline

NOV 2016: Apply for First Card (Southwest Visa Premier)
DEC 2016: Apply for Second Card (Southwest Visa Plus)
JAN 2017: Meet the Minimum Spending Requirement for First Card
FEB 2017: Meet the Minimum Spending Requirement for Second Card and get to 110,000 points
end of Feb 2017: Enjoy the Companion Pass until December 31, 2018!

Share the Luv

After reading this, if you decide to “go for it”, sign up HERE (last updated 1/26/2017) and you will get the 50,000 point incentive (this referral link was provided to us by Southwest).

According to Nate Buchanan (self-described travel hacker) of karaandnate.com, the Southwest Companion Pass is “the holy grail of travel hacking”. For us, we thought it would be valuable because we would like to travel to our families in Texas and South Carolina more frequently and Southwest is the best option for the cities we needed. Plus we thought it would be a fun experiment to see if Travel Hacking was a real thing.

Please remember that this is our own personal experience and our unique credit history. I understand you may have a different philosophy on credit cards, spending habits, and have a different credit background.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows a companion to fly free with you on any Southwest flight regardless of whether you’re paying with cash or redeeming miles! In order to reach Companion Pass status, you must earn 110,000 Rapid Reward points in a calendar year, or you must fly 100 flights in a calendar year.

How Long Does the Southwest Companion Pass Last?

If you plan well, the Companion pass can last for almost two years! Below is the explanation from Southwest’s website.

“Rapid Rewards Companion Pass qualification will be based on the calendar year. Once it is reached, you will begin enjoying the benefits immediately. You will maintain your Companion Pass for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualified and the entire calendar year immediately following the year in which you qualified.”

How We Were Able to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

In November 2016, we signed up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card. This way, we could make sure to get the 50,000 bonus points by January of the 2017 calendar year (this is important to get the Companion Pass status as early as possible). The next month, we signed up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card to get another 50,000 bonus points they were offering. After meeting both card requirements we had at least 104,000 points. To get the other 6,000 points, we did a variety of things; One big thing that helped was delaying large purchases in order to make these charges in the early months of 2017 to go toward the 110,000 point goal.

 

 

southwest-credit-cards

» Moments

Lately I’ve been thinking about moments. About the ordinary and extraordinary moments that make up our days. About the long days and the short weekends. About the ways we are connected with friends, family and even strangers.

I’ve been thinking about moments because I’m watching my children grow. I’m counting up our moments… the tummy aches, scraped knees, night-time coughing, arguing, stomping, mess making moments. How can we ask for more than to mother?

I remember holding Elliott for the first time and thinking, wow, I’ve found it. This is the thing I was made to do. Motherhood fit perfectly. Even in the midst of overwhelming postpartum anxiety I knew that I had landed the best job on earth.

I knew that this was the most amazing gift ever yet I was terrified. I didn’t fully understand what I was going through at the time. I washed my hands until they were raw, I didn’t want to take Elliott out in public and I was terrified that something terrible would happen to him. I didn’t even want to let friends and family hold him. I did… but I was afraid the entire time. When Elliott was a couple months old he contracted pertussis. Yes we vaccinated him. He still got it.

We ended up in the ER with a blue-faced infant and stayed there for some time. Something about those hours and the first serious illness with my precious baby helped me move out of postpartum anxiety and into a mom that was ready to fight. I saw firsthand the fragility of life and the strength needed to live fully.

Moms have to be strong and brave because we manage all of the moments. We manage the hard moments and teach our kids to manage them too. Because their moments, the extraordinary and ordinary, are coming. The moments when they make big choices and the moments when they fail. And what we model in our moments with them will determine how they handle their fears, failures and successes.

Life is really beautiful and life is really hard. We don’t know what waits around the corner. That is more evident to me every day. It scares me sometimes and I have to take a deep breath, a really deep breath, and remind myself to be brave. I want all the messy, sad, hard moments just as much as I want the happy ones. I remind my kids that the rain makes things grow. It’s not their favorite weather, it keeps us from playing outside and sometimes it’s cold and unpleasant… but it brings life. I grow, they grow and you grow when it rains.

I guess I just want to show them that I can make it through the rain and they can too.

And that rainbow after the rain? Promises. Joy. Faith. Extraordinary moments.

» REVIEW: LIFX Z Light Strip

With the open floor plan in our house, it feels like we spend over half of our family time in the kitchen. We’ve permanently set up a LIFX Z strip in our kitchen to help brighten the mood in the morning, calm things down at night, and celebrate special occasions. LED light strips aren’t really a new thing, but LIFX Z light strips make things even more fun with the ability to use multiple colors all controlled by your smart phone.

Set up

Out of the box, you will you need to connect and plug in the unit, it’s as easy as it sounds. The (2 meter) light strip itself has a sticky 3M adhesive that can stick to practically any surface when you’re ready to commit. Behind the TV, underneath counter tops, or in the eaves of your ceiling are the most common places we’ve seen. I decided that above the cabinets was the perfect spot for our home. We already have LIFX Color 1000 bulbs in the house so setting up the light strip on our iPhones was super easy.

iPhone App

Once your light strips are set up and you are playing around in the LIFX app, you can do simple functions such as creating your own light combination to more complex things such as linking your light strip to an Amazon Echo, a Nest Thermostat or IFTTT.

New Motion Setting in App. Light looks 100x better in person.

For our home, we’ve created schedules via the app for the light to turn on/off during certain times of the day. In the morning, a nice warm glow followed by a calming blue for the evening. If you want to leave the light on overnight, you can bring the light brightness down to make a beautiful kitchen nightlight. Personally, I love creating color combinations to cheering our favorite team on game day, celebrating holidays, and letting the birthday/boy girl choose the color on their special day.

Kitchen is ready for @clemsonfb to start thanks to @lifx z light strip! #smarthome #fun #home #gotigers #clemson

A post shared by Erica Ho (@goodbye_normal) on

Conclusion

I tried not to overwhelm anyone with the possibilities of the LIFX Z on purpose, however they really do seem endless. If you are willing to learn some of the advanced features, you can do more helpful things like have the light change different colors if rain is in the forecast or turn on when another one of your smart devices (Nest Cam) senses movement. Just like the bulbs, the light strip is expected to last 28 years (based on 3 hours a day)! For families, the LIFX Z definitely isn’t a necessity but it does bring joy and awe to the kids.

Buy on Amazon

Lifx website

Disclaimer: The folks at LIFX kindly provided us a LIFX Z Starter Strip for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

 

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal