Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade in Review—Part 2


  • First half of the year is uneventful, in a good way
  • Homeschooling going well
  • Craig’s clinic job hours are hard on young family (he gets home at 8:00 every night)
  • Craig is offered and begins a new job as head (and only) chiropractor for a new business backed by investors
  • My real estate hobby leads us to sign a lease/purchase on a house
  • We move in July (Parade of Homes #9)
  • Love our new neighborhood

xmas05 (1) Christmas card photo 2005


  • In the spring as we begin to look into the purchase part of our lease/purchase, things don’t go well
  • In June, the whole family travels to Duluth, MN for my brother’s wedding; we all stay in one big house
  • In July, we move again, back to our old neighborhood (Parade #10)
  • Summer vacation at Lake Michigan
  • In the fall, Firstborn goes to public school for the first time, 3rd grade
  • Skippy is homeschooled for kindergarten

duluth (42)Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota


  • After the first of the year, we put Skippy in public school kindergarten
  • In January, my paternal grandmother, and last grandparent dies, almost 3 years exactly since my other grandmother
  • We all meet in Detroit again for the funeral, again on my birthday/Superbowl weekend
  • In March I travel to Phoenix and meet my siblings there for a celebration of my Dad’s 50th year of preaching
  • We do not move this summer!
  • Pinkerbelle starts kindergarten, public school
  • We go to Phoenix for Christmas

pics 453 Pinkerbelle’s first day of school


  • In January, we put a contract on a house to be built
  • We drive out every weekend to see the progress
  • Move in end of April
  • Summer vacation in Chicago/Lake Michigan beach
  • Craig is given part ownership of the business
  • Kids start new school
  • For the first time ever, I am kid-free for 8 hours/day
  • I start a blog!

072 In progress


  • Lots of decorating
  • Lots of thrift stores
  • Lots of blogging
  • My sisters visit in the summer
  • Firstborn is homeschooling again for 6th grade
  • We have no plans to move!

IMG_3511 Posing with my sistas!

Looking back, I would say the one big lesson of the decade for us is that no matter what kind of…pardon me…cr*p you go through, God can use it for your benefit. But I should have already known that, right? It's right there in Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God..." (NLT)

Craig would not have the job he has now if he did not have the experience he gained in the school of hard knocks in Kentucky.

If we had purchased a house when I wanted to, we wouldn’t have built our own, and we would have bought at the top of the real estate bubble. We would probably have ended up being upside down on the mortgage; as it is, we are pretty much holding steady, which isn’t too bad these days.

Praise God for his merciful care!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Decade in Review—Part 1

My friend Lucy did this on her blog, and I thought it would be fun, so I’m copying. Of course, for her the decade started when she was in 8th grade, so she’s had some pretty big happenings in the last 10 years. When you’re my age, 10 years doesn’t seem like that long!


  • I remember watching TV as the new year arrived around the world, a bit relieved to see that the whole Y2K thing turned out to be a non-issue.
  • Living in a rental house, Parade of Homes #4
  • Skippy was born in July, my first homebirth
  • Finances were bad and getting worse, contributing to…
  • Emotionally, I was in a big funk (depression, really), especially after Skippy’s birth

xmas2000 (9)


  • The first half of the year was spent looking for an existing, profitable chiropractic practice to purchase and trying to get financing
  • Moved to Louisville, Kentucky in July to take ownership of said practice
  • Salary tripled over night
  • Felt relieved, and happy, but homesick
  • Surprise pregnancy
  • Bought our first house in December, Parade of Homes #6
  • Made once-in-a-lifetime (business) trip to US Virgin Islands in December



  • Unremarkable first half of year…things finally seemed “normal” for our family
  • Pinkerbelle born in June, homebirth
  • Right about that time, things began to get weird with the business (read about it here)
  • by Christmas time, it was really stressful and uncertain what would happen with the business



  • By late winter, everything was crumbling around us, the lender called the loan on the business
  • We began preparing to move back to Missouri and start over
  • Made the move in May with the help of our old church, lost our house, back to renting (Parade of Homes #7)
  • Salary effectively zero, overnight
  • Craig began practicing again, with a handful of his old patients from before KY
  • Began homeschooling Firstborn for kindergarten
  • Declared bankruptcy
  • Glad to be back “home”, everything else pretty much sucked

ebay 060


  • My maternal grandmother dies in January, we travel to Detroit to meet the rest of the family for the funeral
  • Because her death was within 6 months of the bankruptcy, my inheritance is confiscated
  • Craig is hired to run a clinic for his alma mater; we are getting a regular paycheck again
  • We remodel and then move into the church house in May (Parade of Homes #8)
  • I love the house, I’m happy with the paycheck, the rollercoaster is on the upswing again
  • Summer vacation at Lake Michigan beach for the first time
  • Between Christmas and New Year’s most of my family gathers at my house for a rare family Christmas…great memories

ray_wendy (27)

To be continued….

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One More Post About Christmas Gifts

Besides making gifts, I also got quite a few from the thrift stores, straight up. But you’re not surprised, are you?

Back in October some time, I was at United Volunteers with the kids; I think we were looking for Halloween costume stuff. Right up by the check out was this fabulous Melissa & Doug stable. Pinkerbelle saw it and wanted it. I agreed to get it, but only because I knew if I left it there and went back to get it so it would be a surprise, it would be gone. But I told her I would put it away and she would get it later, for some “event”.

I was hoping she might forget about it, and thought she might have, since she never mentioned it again. Until two days before Christmas, we were in the same store, and she said “I wonder if I’ll get the stable for Christmas!”. So it wasn’t a surprise, but she was excited just the same.

It sells on Amazon for $73; I paid $12. It’s missing the fence, but did come with several horses.


For Craig, I found Seinfeld SceneIt? new and still in the plastic outer wrap (actually Dixie spied it for me). The original price tag on the back is $39.99; Amazon sells it for $15. My price: $6.


The kids did the bulk of their shopping at thrift stores. Skippy got a baby harp seal from Firstborn, and a killer whale from Pinkerbelle. They thought that was funny (you know… killer whales eat seals). They were about 50 cents each, and yes, I washed them.


Skippy found the big hardcover Guinness World Records book for Firstborn, $1. Pinkerbelle got an unused-in-the-package paper weight for Craig, $1.75. We put in a photo of the two of them at the beach several years ago. (Craig laughed at his lily-white skin, but in his defense it was the beginning of the vacation. He can get very, very brown. I, on the other hand, am lily-white all the way.)

The others are a sampling of the stocking stuffers that I got. I found several McDonalds toys (Beany Babies and Build-a-Bears) still in the bags, 25-50 cents each. A mini jigsaw puzzle for each of them, 25 cents each. They also each got an age-appropriate book.IMG_5037

Firstborn got Craig a nice dress shirt for $1. I’ll admit, that was my suggestion. Firstborn wasn’t particularly excited about it, but he would have been hard-pressed to find anything else as nice or as useful for $1.


Last thing to show: Skippy got Pinkerbelle this old framed horse picture for $1.50. She loves it!


The moral of this story is to be open-minded about gift-giving. Especially for kids, who tend to have very limited funds, their options may really open up if you browse thrift and consignment stores rather than just Dollar Tree.

As for me, I intend to really be on the lookout as I’m making my thrift store rounds through the year for things that would make good birthday or Christmas gifts for next year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Handmade Christmas in Review

Now that the big day is over, I can finally share with you the thrifty gifts I made for my own family and friends. I guess this could be considered part of the Thrifty Gifty series.

First off, my kids wanted Snuggies. Now, they are not terribly expensive, but 1) I still knew I could make them for less, and 2) Firstborn particularly wanted the free booklight that comes with it, but that only comes with the adult sizes. When I started looking into making them I also discovered that the back is open, which neither my kids nor I knew. Since they are just as likely to lay on their stomachs reading as they are to sit on the couch watching TV, I knew this wasn’t ideal for them.

I looked for fabric to repurpose at thrift stores, but didn’t find anything suitable. I ended up getting fleece throws at Walgreens. They were on sale for $1.99 each for a 50”x60” throw, and I needed two for each Snug-EEE (my version).

Basically, I put the two throws together and sewed a T shape, leaving an opening for the head and cutting away the shaded areas (also leaving the ends of the sleeves open, of course). I should have had her stand with her arms stretched out, but wasn’t thinking ahead.IMG_5035b

I left them long to keep feet covered up, though I probably should cut a little length off since they’re tripping over them.


As luck would have it, I found book lights at Dollar Tree. I decorated the outside of the box, so they would “get” it. Cost for each Snug-EEE/book light set: $5.


For Craig, I made a felted hat from a $1 thrift store sweater, using this tutorial. It is grudgingly modeled here by Skippy.


For the kids’ teachers, I made the salt scrub. Hobby Lobby had scenting oils for body products in the soap making section. I did a peppermint-vanilla combo. Including jars, gift bags, etc, this came out to about $5 per teacher (plus I have lots of supplies left over). The kids didn’t really understand what was so great about salt scrub; when I told Skippy to write a note to his teacher on the card, he wrote “Mrs. B, this is some kind of salt”.


And for Dixie, who at Thanksgiving kept hinting that she was jealous of my sweater pillow, I made three similar ones, again from $1 thrift store sweaters (but I forgot to take a photo). I already was planning to and had the sweaters at Thanksgiving.


For me, Dixie made this adorable felted sweater pincushion, Betz White -style! I’ve been wanting one for a while, and then a few months ago the dog chewed up my old tomato pincushion, pins and all, so I really needed one! The dog, btw, showed no ill effects whatsoever.


It was a good hand-made Christmas!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Past

image source

Well, it’s all over. The day or so after Christmas I always feel a little bit like this picture looks…a little bit let down, a little bit droopy. But the older I get, the the shorter-lived that feeling is, and the quicker I want to get everything back to normal.

I hope you and yours had a lovely, fun-filled Christmas. We enjoyed our day, snug and cozy at home in our pajamas during a Christmas snowfall.

I know some of you will still have festivities and family get-togethers in the upcoming week. As for us, we are braving the crowds today to go buy some fish to put in the aquarium the boys got.

Whether you are still celebrating, or dealing with the aftermath, have a great weekend!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things, Take Two

This is a repost from last year. These are still some of my favorites, and it just felt like a cozy post, perfect for a chilly day four days before Christmas.

*My favorite new-to-me Christmas song: Christmas Children by SHeDAISY. I couldn't tell you even one other song that this group of sisters sings. Even though this song was released on their album Brand New Year in 2000, I had never heard it until a couple days ago. You can listen to a clip on iTunes.
update 2009: I also like Tinsel Town from the same album.

*My favorite hot chocolate recipe: Creamy Hot Chocolate from Eagle Brand. I replace some of the water with milk. With whipped cream and sprinkles is all the better!

Photo from flickr.

*My favorite winter comfort: flannel sheets and a down comforter. Heavenly!

*My favorite Christmas movie (other than It's a Wonderful Life, of course): The Bishop's Wife from 1948.

*My new favorite Christmas cookie: Blackberry Sage Thumbprints from Better Homes and Gardens. I'm going to a cookie exchange tomorrow and I wanted to bring something new and unique, so I went out on a limb with these. They are really lovely! The sage adds an interesting, almost floral note that pairs well with the blackberry preserves.

*My favorite family activity: Friday Pizza Movie Night. Virtually every Friday night we have pizza and watch a movie together, and have been doing so for about six years. Usually I make homemade pizza, but sometimes we order (like tonight). We throw a foam mattress on the floor for the kids, turn out the lights, and lounge around together. We do it all year, but it's especially cozy in the winter.
update 2009: since this Friday is Christmas, this will be a special Pizza Movie Night. Sounds like a good night for a Christmas movie marathon!

Photo from flickr.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thrifty Gifty #15—Last Minute Gifts and Linky Party

Linking up with The Inspired Room and Funky Junk's Saturday Night Special, and Frugal Friday at the Shabby Nest.

Click on the button to see all 15 Thrifty Gifty posts. There's still time to make a few if you still need some gifts!

Okay, guys, as I hinted at yesterday, I’m suddenly in a Christmas crunch…I don’t know how it always sneaks up on me like this! Plus, my creative well is running a little dry at this point. So I’ve just collected a few quick ideas for gifts from the kitchen.

Always popular, gifts of food can be very economical as well as delicious! I’ve never heard of anyone saying “rats! another plate of cookies/truffles/cinnamon rolls!” Well, maybe fruitcake, although I don’t know, has anyone really ever eaten fruitcake?

Here are a few ideas that are perhaps a little more unique than the usual:
How about pretty jars of homemade granola? Melissa at 320 Sycamore posted a recipe her whole family loves.

These Cran Crackle Bars from BHG have pretzels and salted nuts in addition to dried cranberries and chocolate chips. I love a sweet-salty combo!

Soup mix in a jar would be appreciated on a cold evening. Here is a list of about 2 dozen soup-mix-in-a-jar recipes.

Here’s one of our family favorites: my grandma used to make gumdrop cake every Christmas. It’s pretty, it’s delicious, and mini loaves would make nice gifts.
Grandma’s Gumdrop Cake
  1. Cream together 1 stick of butter and 1 c. sugar
  2. Add 1 egg and combine
  3. In separate bowl, put 2 c. small spice gumdrops, 1/2 lb white raisins, and 1 c. pecan halves (which have been fried first in a little butter)…set aside
  4. Sift together 2 c. flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  5. Put about 1/2 c. flour mixture over gumdrop mixture…stir well to coat
  6. Add remaining flour mixture, alternately with 1 1/2 c. applesauce, to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture…add 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. Dissolve 1/2 tsp baking soda in 1 1/2 tsp hot tap water and add to batter
  8. Fold gumdrop mixture into batter
  9. Pour into well-greased or lined loaf pans and bake @ 275 for 2 hrs
My recipe says this makes more than 2 regular loaves; I’m not sure how many mini loaves. You may need to adjust baking time for minis. I personally skip the raisins, but must have the nuts!

This picture is from MidWest Living; we don’t make it in cans, and I can’t vouch for their recipe, but gumdrop cake photos were scarce.

Last chance to link up!
Please follow the linky party rules. If you don’t I will have to delete your link, and that makes me feel like a big meanie. MckLinky will be open until midnight Sunday
  1. use the code on my sidebar (upper right) to put my button in your post
  2. your post must be an inexpensive (let’s say under $10, approximately) DIY gift idea or something you made using one of my ideas
  3. link to your specific post, not your home page

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thrifty Gifty #14—Jewelry Organizer

Here’s another one that has been around the internet in various forms. I’ve been meaning to make one for some time. I already had some thrift store frames in my stash; yesterday I went to Home Depot to find some kind of wire mesh.

Understand, I'm trying to do this for as little money as possible, a) because I’m cheap thrifty, and b) because my goal is to show you gifts that you can make for a pittance.

Therefore, I did not want to spend $7 or more for a big roll of chicken wire or wire mesh. I didn’t need that much, and I didn’t want to spend that much. After a couple trips around the store, I ended up with a gutter cover. It was about 10” wide and 3 ft long; it was also curved, so I had to flatten it out. It was just under $2.


I originally was intending to use a bigger frame and just make this work, by overlapping two strips of the mesh, but as it turned out I had a narrow frame that worked very well. I had paid 50 cents for the frame months ago.


The metal had to be trimmed some, then I tacked it across the opening of the frame with carpet tacks, because I couldn’t find the staple gun. I think this falls into the “fast, cheap, good” theory. Actually, most things do. You can’t have all three at the same time. If it’s cheap and good, it’s not fast. If it’s fast and good, it’s not cheap. And, as in this case, if it’s fast and cheap, it’s not good/done well .

After giving it a coat of Heirloom White and hanging it on my wall, my jewelry went from this (yeah, I don’t dust)….IMG_4969

…to this. Aha, I forgot to mention one very important step: the row of cup hooks for hanging items. I might add one more on each side of the frame for bracelets. Yeah, I don’t have a lot of jewelry either (although this isn’t all of it).

IMG_4971 (the paint job was also fast and cheap, but not good!)

Gutter cover, $2 (I could have made two this size with it), frame 50 cents, cup hooks, about $2 for 8. I had the paint.

If you or your recipient own(s) a lot of jewelry, you may want to use a bigger frame, which would require a roll of the wire grid available in the fencing area. It was about $7-$10 for a roll that would be enough to make quite a few of these. Or you could use lace, or just wires strung from side to side. I’m sure you could come up with other ideas.

I’ve been so busy coming up with and making thrifty gifts for my series that I’m no where near done Christmas shopping and all that! So, although I said the series would run through Christmas, I think I’ll end it with this Friday’s linky party. Now I just need to come up with something good for tomorrow’s final Thrifty Gifty idea!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It’s a Christmas Miracle! (Plus, a Winner)

(If you just want to get to the winner info, scroll to the bottom.)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that our cat, Daisy, ran away in early September.  We looked, we put up posters, we chased her in the middle of the night and she eluded us.  We borrowed a trap from the Humane Society, and Craig even kept a blog about his efforts.

A month later, when we had given up, we got another cat free from a Craigslist ad.  Well, that cat peed all over the house.  In baskets, in boxes, in a corner in my bedroom, and holy guacamole! did it stink!  We gave him several “second” chances, but ended up taking him to the Humane Society.  I didn’t tell you about that, because I felt really bad about it, and didn’t want you to think I was some kind of cat hater.  I’m not, but I like my house more.

Fast forward to yesterday.  A phone message is left by a man saying he thinks he has our cat.  His work in our area involves driving a truck around, and about 10 days ago in a field not far from our house, in frigid weather, he rescued a frail white cat about a day away from death.  He took her home and would have kept her, except a few days ago he happened to see one of our forgotten “lost cat” signs, tattered and torn.

So, 103 days later, Daisy is home, frail, weak, skin and bones.  She seems happy to be here.  In fact, I think the experience has humbled her.  She seems much more affectionate.  My kids are thrilled; their prayers have been answered, literally.

Here she is last Christmas:


This morning; yes, that is her spine:

She weighs 5 lbs; I know she used to be at least 10lbs, and the guy said she gained 1.5-2 lbs while he had her, so I can’t imagine what she looked like when he found her.

And now, the winner of the washer necklace “wardrobe” giveaway, as chosen by, is Bec4 of Beyond the Picket Fence!  Email me so I can get your info.  Here is a look at your prize package, which includes two 2-sided washers and one leather cord.washer1a washer1b