Monday, March 30, 2009

Parade of Homes Part 10: 2006-2008

Another year, another move. There was no question about trying to purchase a house this time; we looked for a rental back in our old neighborhood. The church house was occupied, so it was not an option to move back in. How I was kicking myself; we should’ve just stayed there to begin with, paying $600/mo rent and saving money.

We looked at several properties and narrowed it down to two. They were similar in style (3 bed, 2 bath ranch) and age (30-40 yrs). One was in beautiful condition, cost about $100/mo more, and no painting or decorating was allowed. The other was a little more run down, closer to church, and they told us they would pay for the paint. We went with that one.

As it turns out, I don’t have a lot of photos of this house. Mostly just pictures of people that happen to be in the house.

p 051 This is the only full exterior shot I could find. The front door is behind the flag; the window to the right of the flag is the living room, and to the left of the flag (partially hidden) is the dining room. The window on the far left is the garage; there is a door in the garage entering the kitchen.

lemon 008

Here is a view from the other end of the driveway, which was a half circle in front of the house. To the right of the lemonade stand (it was neighborhood garage sale day) at the base of the house you can see the anemic air conditioner, I’m guessing original to the house. If it got over 90 degrees (and it does a lot here during the summer; we have several days 100 or above) it couldn’t handle it and the house would not be below 85.

pic 057 There were a couple of pretty spring-blooming trees in the front. Craig and the kids built a tree house in one of them.millers 029

pics 406There was a large backyard with shade trees and a brick patio.pic 040 Stepping inside the front door, there was a decent entry area with a tile floor. To the right was the living room and to the left, the dining room. This shot is taken standing in the dining room doorway with the front door to the right.

p 050 This is the dining room. We used it for the computer, kids crafts etc, and part of the time a homeschool room. The door way on the right goes to the kitchen and you can see the hinges of the door to the garage.

picts 002

The kitchen was a pretty good size. I liked having the peninsula with breakfast bar. I did not like the blue countertops or the lovely white/gray faux wood cabinets. (That’s my niece talking to Skippy. She’s about 2 feet taller than me.)

You can orientate the photo below by the trash can in the above photo. This is Christmas morning and we didn’t normally have the bench there. I mainly just wanted to point out that there really was room for a little dinette in the kitchen, but instead I put my island there and used it for storage.DSC00006

picts 008

Open to the kitchen was what I guess would be considered a family room, but we had our dining table there. The vertical blinds are sliding doors to the patio. That’s my sister, brother in law, and their youngest.

pic 041 We did have a chair and piano in the room too (the dining table is to the left, the entry/front door is to the right).

I don’t have any good pictures of the bedrooms. There was a full bath in the hallway and three bedrooms. The boys shared.

pics 011 I do have this before picture of the master bathroom. More blue counter, faux marble this time. Dingy ditsy floral wallpaper, a dropped ceiling, and a homemade light fixture. Behind that yellowed plastic panel (the kind you find in an office building) was a wooden box that housed one florescent tube. That’s why there are two dark stripes on either side of the bright yellow one.

Craig took out the dropped ceiling, which raised the ceiling a foot to a normal 8ft. He tore down the wallpaper and painted a light aqua blue (there were one inch tiles on the floor in a white and aqua pattern). He crawled up into the attic to fish the electrical down the wall and put in a normal light fixture over the medicine cabinet we put in place of the mirror. We took down the oak cabinet over the toilet and put up decorative white shelves. He even replace the faucet. But I don’t have an after photo.

This neighborhood was two connected cul de sacs, with a total of 25 houses. There was only one way in or out, off a very busy street. In fact, the house from Part 3 was directly across that street from this neighborhood. There were a lot of older couples in these older homes, but there were three children that became friends with ours.

We put Firstborn, and then after Christmas Skippy, into public school for the first time while we lived in this house. The following year Pinkerbelle started kindergarten at the same school. I have since come to realize that that was a particularly nice school, with involved parents and friendly staff. Leaving that school may be my one regret.

In January 2008, we sort of stumbled into an opportunity we never dreamed would be possible, and one last time, a move was in our future.

To be continued…

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

Five Dollar Challenge

Living with Lindsay is hosting a Five Dollar Challenge today. The rules are that everything must come from the Dollar Tree or other dollar store. She began promoting it several weeks ago, giving us plenty of time to come up with our creations.

I must admit, I had a harder time with this than I would have thought. I had seen an arrangement in the Pottery Barn store and thought I could recreate that. The problem was, once that was stuck in my head, I couldn’t get around it to see anything else creatively.

Here’s the finished product, and the run-down.

  • two glass containers $2
  • river rock $1
  • fake flowers $1
  • easter egg picks (taken off the pick) $1

I already had the moss in my craft drawer from a previous project.


I have them on my mantel, alongside my remade Dollar Tree birds from last week.


Well, it’s not earth-shattering, but a nice little touch for my springtime decor. It'll be fun to see what everybody else came up with!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Souper Saturday---Chicken Tortilla

We haven’t had soup the last several Saturdays because it’s been so warm and spring-like.  Today was cold and rainy, and at one point there was actually snow in the forecast (!), so it was a good soup night.  It may very well turn out to be the last one of the 08-09 season.

I found this recipe online:

  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, well washed (leaves only)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small can of green chilies
  • 6 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of water
  • Corn tortillas (about 10) cut into thin strips
  • vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups cooked chicken (2 oz. per serving)
  • Monterey Jack cheese (1 oz. per serving)
  • 1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
Puree cilantro, garlic, onion, chilies, and tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Heat stock and add pureed mixture into cumin and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 1 hour. Stir dissolved cornstarch into stock. Often I don't add the cornstarch since I like a thinner soup.

Fry tortillas in oil until crisp; drain well. Add chicken to stock and garnish with shredded cheese, tortilla strips, avocado, sour cream, salsa, or whatever else you prefer.

I just realized that I forgot the garlic.  I didn’t have avocados, corn tortillas, or jack cheese, and I used flour rather than cornstarch.  I served it topped with crushed tortilla chips and cheddar.


This was excellent soup!  Pureeing the onions, tomatoes, cilantro and chilies was genius in my book.  I usually puree the chunky stuff anyway, and this just really melded all the flavors together.


  • Craig- 8
  • me- 8.5
  • Firstborn- 7.5
  • Skippy- 6
  • Pinkerbelle- 10

Average- 8  One of the most successful of the year!

Friday, March 27, 2009

You Decide

Last week when I was at the Dollar Tree buying my little birdies, the cute teenage girl at the cash register was delusional. That’s all I can conclude. She asked me if anyone ever told me that I look like the girl from The Notebook. Rachel McAdams? Um, no. Nobody has ever told me that.

I thought it would be fun to do a comparison. Here is a picture of me on that day, just as the checkout girl saw me.IMG_2394

And here is Rachel McAdams. rachel mcadams If I stand back and squint, after having a few drinks (jk--I don't drink), I can kind of see a little something. Maybe. I don’t think I’ll be getting a job as a celebrity impersonator any time soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thrift Store Thursday

This was a pretty good week at the shops. Come to think of it, I got everything at the same shop this week too, on a couple different outings (but not Goodwill this time).


Four Webkinz, $.50 each. They, of course, did not have the codes attached, so these cannot be brought to life online. Skippy and Pinkerbelle both just really like the stuffed animals and don’t do the online stuff too much anymore anyway. (These can be machine washed, BTW. Just put them inside a lingerie bag or zippered pillowcase; I've never had any problems.)

IMG_2460 This hoodie from Target was on the dollar rack. I’m pretty sure it was unworn; it really looked brand new.

IMG_2465Books are some of my absolute favorite thrift store finds, and I lucked out this week. Five Beverly Cleary books (four of them in the Ramona series) $.30 each. A hardcover Magic Treehouse, $1, and book number three of Francine River’s Mark of the Lion trilogy, $1. This is the only one of the three I haven’t read. They are really good and I highly recommend them.

I also got two wool sweaters for $1 each, for felting and repurposing, a la Betz White. Look at the trim on the red sweater: that will make a cute Christmas stocking, something like this.

That makes my total for the week $8.50…nice!

Now it’s your turn. I love seeing what everybody else finds!

Not to get all mean and bossy, but I’m going to need to enforce the rules this week. Last week I had several link-ups that did not link back to me. I let it go, but this week I’m going to have to delete any of those. That’s the linky love, folks…you can put your link on my blog, and you thank the hostess by linking back to me in your post. It’s win/win! (You can use an old post, just edit it to add my party info and link.)

So, here are the Mr. Linky rules again. If you’re not sure how to do any of these things, I will be happy to help you. It’s super easy; trust me, if I can do it, anybody can!

1. Please link directly to your Thrift Store Thursday post, not your home page.
2. Please mention and link back to my Thrift Store Thursday post.
3. Please put my button in your post, and I'd really love it if you'd use the code to do so :)

Oops! I guess it would've helped if I'd put Mr. Linky in the post, huh? I think I've got it right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WFMW—Dollar Store Decor


Last week I was at Dollar Tree and I spotted these two little birds. They were the only two I saw. I’m not sure what possessed me to pick them up and put them in my cart, because…well, let’s face it, they are hideous. They look cheap and ugly. Actually, they are quite photogenic, because they look worse in person than they do in this picture.

My original idea was to give them the look of stone, using gray primer spray paint and some dry-brushing with white and gray acrylics (similar to the technique I used on this finial).

That very afternoon I was just doing a little online browsing, and completely by accident, came across these at Ballard Designs.


My vision immediately changed, and I pulled out the bronze spray paint instead. After a good coat and a little dry-brushing with very light gray acrylic, my ugly ducklings became this.IMG_2458

Ballard’s sell for $25 for the pair. I think my $2 version is just as nice. Dollar Tree Works For Me! Visit We are THAT Family for more ideas.

I'm also linking up with Thrifty Decor Chick's Spray Paint party.

Parade of Homes Part 9: 2005-2006

Although I really liked the church rental house, and the rent was ridiculously low, I still wanted my ‘own’ house. My hobby was looking at real estate listings on the internet. I would often show houses of interest to Craig, but he was adamantly opposed and insisted that this was not the time.

Hind sight is 20/20, and of course he was right. But somehow or other one of the houses I showed him eventually caught his eye enough for him to tell me to make an appointment to see it. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two this time around was having the listing agent, who also happened to be the owner, show us the house. We looked at a couple of others with her as well, but naturally she was very good at pointing out how superior her property was.

The long and short of it is that we signed a lease/purchase agreement for the house. Basically we would rent from them for a year, at which time we would purchase the house at a specified price ($8000 higher than the list price when we signed the contract). The one wise thing we did was insist on a clause that stated that if the house did not appraise at that price we could either purchase it at the lower appraisal or cancel the contract.

530164_1 The house was a two storey, with four bedrooms and two and a half baths, a full walk-out basement, large fenced back yard, and a deck. It also had an above ground pool but we had them remove it.530164_2

The agent and her husband, also an agent, had purchased the house about a year previously as an investment, a flip, and totally redid the inside. It really did look almost like a new house. These photos are from the internet listing, and we didn't do much to the house other than paint some of the rooms.

house 001

The kitchen had tons of cupboards and counter space. 530164_3

Just to the right of the dishwasher was the dining area and sliding doors to the deck.530164_4

The door on the far right is the pantry, to the left of that is the entrance from the garage, to the left of that a coat closet, and the open door was the steps down to the 002

Opposite the basement door was the half bath. It was quite large for what it was and almost seemed like some wasted 004

Past the basement door and toward the front of the house was the living area with a gas fireplace. 530164_7

Toward the back of the house was technically the dining room, but the whole area was not very large (15x25 or something like) and we just used the whole thing as living room.530164_8

Upstairs was a vaulted master bedroom with two closets and a bathroom.530164_10

There were also three other good-sized bedrooms and another full bath, but the best thing was that the laundry room was on the second floor as well.

Outside, there was a nice big back yard. 530164_17

The house was very nice, but what turned out to be its best feature was its location on a cul-de-sac and the neighbors. There were lots of good kids in about a five-year age span and they all played together every possible moment. I felt so comfortable that I even let three yr old Pinkerbelle run around outside with the pack. The parents were friendly and helpful and it was the most neighborly neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. To this day, that is what I miss about this house.

For of course, it didn’t last. This isn’t the whole story, but it’s enough to tell you that one year later, the house did not appraise for the contracted price. They wouldn’t sell it for less, and we could not get a mortgage for more than 100% of the value of the house. Which actually was a blessing, because it turned out that the mortgage payment was going to be $500 more a month than the estimate we had been given a year before, and that would’ve put us in the poor house.

So for the fourth time in four years, we packed everything up and moved yet again.

To be continued…

(Epilogue: the house was put back on the market before we even moved out. It didn't sell, and about six months later I saw it listed again and they had done more work on it. They finished the basement, including a half bath, removed a dying tree, and redid the whole deck. The list price was $7k higher than our contract price, and dropped several times until it sold at less than it appraised for before they did the extra work. As much as we were naive to get into this deal, I think the agents were pretty naive in their investment, and their flip turned out to be a flop for them.)

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Monday, March 23, 2009

Serenity Now

I realize, and am also dismayed, that by using a quote from 'Seinfeld' I'm dating myself. But for you fans out there, you may remember the episode where the catch-phrase was 'serenity now'. How many of you also recall the second half of it? Serenity now, insanity later.
There have been more times than I care to admit when that describes me to a T. Mostly involving the children and my impatience and lack of consistency. I let something go, even though I'm seething inside and holding it in, until finally I blow! Bad mommy.
This week is our spring break. I love my children and it's nice to have them home, but I also knew I needed some kind of guidelines in place so the kids and I know where the line is drawn and the week doesn’t turn into pandemonium. Here's what I came up with.


I wrote this late last night, and upon review it sounds kind of harsh, but none of this is new to them. These are all things they are supposed to do everyday, but tend to be a little lackadaisical about. The only new things are the consequences, which I am historically poor at doling out.IMG_2442

We’ll see how it goes. I don’t typically use timeout, and I’ve never done the bedtime thing before.

I’m also planning on doing some special things which are out of the ordinary. This afternoon we are going to library so every one can pick out some books and I’m going to get one to read aloud (that’s the unusual part). I asked each child to choose a dinner for the week. We may do some baking, go to the park, play games etc. Stuff that we don’t get around to much during a school week.

So far, pretty good. While I’ve been writing, we’ve had an incident and two are going to bed a little earlier. Up until then they were playing well together.IMG_2446 A welcome ceremony for some new Webkinz, complete with red carpet. Yesterday they had a stuffed animal March madness competition with a bracket created by Firstborn.IMG_2447

The winner was Squeakers the mouse! I’m hoping our ‘system’ will be a winner this week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring has Sprung!

This week I’m hooked on spring! We had some nice days here and there in the last month or so, but this week it really seems to be here to stay. And of course, today is the first official day of spring, so it seems fitting.

I’m hooked on buds on the one little tree in my yard.IMG_2415

And a forsythia wreath on my door. I had the wreath, bought the forsythia branches on sale at Michael's, pulled them apart and stuck them in.IMG_2429

Hooked on birds, especially the real ones that are twittering and tweeting now after a winter of silence.IMG_2431

Remember these beauties from Williams-Sonoma?nests

I’m hooked on my recreation of it. I mentioned before that I wasn't sure where everybody was getting their little nests, but I found this one, just the plain nest, at Walmart. The next day I saw them for less at Hobby Lobby. Moss from Walmart, twigs and fuzzy weedy thing from my yard, little blue flowers from a faux lavender plant I had.IMG_2439


Visit Hooked on Houses to see what everybody else is hooked on today. I’m just guessing, but I bet I’m not the only one in love with spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thrift Store Thursday

Links are closed for this post...please come back next Thursday Mar. 26 for another chance!

Here we are…my first blog carnival! I thought it would be fun to share our thrift store finds with everybody. My rules are pretty loose: it can be a thrift store, a resale or consignment shop, or even a garage sale. The items just need to be used, meaning not purchased at the original store. I know that Goodwill often has unused items from Target, or that you might find something with tags still on. It still counts if it was purchased second-hand.

I go to thrift stores pretty much every week. Sometimes several times. There are a number of them in my vicinity and I just pop in when I’m out and about. I try to be fairly picky, in that I don’t just scoop up armfuls of stuff just because they’re a dollar each. I look for things I like and can use and are in good condition.

I’ve even given gifts that were purchased second-hand. Just last week I gave my stepmom eight monogrammed Pottery Barn napkins for her birthday. They were $.50 each and she loved them! I also keep an eye out for new-in-package items to have on hand for birthday parties.

I have a vague dollar amount ceiling. It just exists in my head, and is different for each item. When I see something I like, I evaluate the marked price and decide whether I want to spend that much on it or not. A couple months ago I saw a cool bread tin at Goodwill, something like this one:


At the time I thought it might actually be a vintage one (it looked well-used). GW’s price was $25, probably not bad if it was indeed vintage, but too much for me, so I passed it up. It just depends on the item, and to a certain extent the dollar amount in and of itself. It would be very rare for me to spend $25 on anything at a thrift store.

This week I did a little extra thrifting, with this post in mind. Nevertheless, pickins were slim, and this is the total of my finds.IMG_2410

Though I went to a number of different stores, all of these were found at the same Goodwill, different times.

  • large, sturdy wicker basket $3. Also had a $6 sticker on it and the girl gave it to me at the lower price. I wouldn’t have paid $6.
  • one 84” tabtop panel and matching valance, $4 each. Same store that sold me a pair of Pottery Barn panels for $4. Sometimes it depends on who’s ringing you up. These are for Skippy’s room.
  • Hardcover Amy Tan novel $1 (recommended, good read)
  • vintage Boy Scout handbook $.70 (c. 1980, which doesn’t sound vintage to me, but was nearly 30 years ago!) Thought this would be neat for the males in my household, all scouts either past or present.

How about you? What goodies did you find?

Links are closed for this post...please come back next Thursday Mar. 26 for another chance!
1. Please link directly to your Thrift Store Thursday post, not your home page.
2. Please mention and link back to my Thrift Store Thursday post.
3. Please put my button in your post, and I'd really love it if you'd use the code to do so :)