Category Archives: Home

Wild Lizard in the House

There has been a five-lined skink in my house for 4 days now. He’s about 6 inches long and is apparently enjoying himself too much to leave. I opened the back door almost a week ago to fetch a rug that had been washed and was laying out on the patio drying in the sun. As I flipped it to get a few leaves off, the skink ran out from underneath and into the house before I could shut the door.

About once or twice a day I spy him but each time I am inevitably trapped under a toddler being rocked to sleep or I’m nursing the baby. Either way I can’t just jump up and catch him; and by the time I’m available, Mr Lizard is nowhere to be found. 😦 Last night I was carrying Julie to her room to change her diaper and the not-so-little lizard ran across my path, scaring a shriek right out of me.

What’s more aggravating is that my 130-pound dog is too lazy to care. He doesn’t notice the lizard running across the carpet, doesn’t search for it after he clearly watches him slither under the sofa. He didn’t even so much as lift his head when I pointed the lizard out to him and excitedly told him to “Git It!”

At this point I might as well name the lizard and start feeding him like part of the family since he seems to have made himself at home. If I can’t get him to go back outside maybe I can lure him to the garage somehow, that’s where the roaches and spiders hang out during the summer and the skink can have a buffet.

Update: Yeah, there’s nothing like having the thing scare the poop out of your toddler when it runs *over his foot*. We were watching Cat in the Hat cartoon (for the umpteenth time) and I saw it hurry out from under the big chair and right across Jesse’s foot. Jesse about leaped out of his skin and flung himself into my lap. I walked with him to the kitchen where we just barely saw the little guy slide under the fridge. Now Jesse is holding on to my neck refusing to let me put him down. It’s a little bit funny to ask him “Where’s the lizard?” He gets a worried look on his face, breathes heavily for a couple of pants, and tightens his hold around my neck. At least I don’t have to worry about Jesse finding the thing and playing with it. Eew.


Strawberry Math

In preparation for our upcoming outing to the U-pick farm for fresh strawberries, I did some quick math to double-check that it was going to be worth the effort to pick them myself.

quart pound gallon
Oak Hill Farm $3 $2 $10 ($2 discount)
Winn Dixie grocery $4.49 $2.99 $17.96 + tax
Sam’s Club $3.74 $2.49 $14.96 + tax
* bold prices are those advertised.

According to Circle S Farms, a quart of strawberries weighs approximately 1 1/2 pounds. Using that information, I figured out that picking our own berries will definitely yield us the best price for our money. Looking at the per pound price it appears that Sam’s Club would be a decent choice because for only 49¢ more per pound I won’t have to stand out in the sun and pick them myself. That’s the premium we’d pay for convenience.

However, hand-picked berries will be much fresher and sweeter because they weren’t picked days or weeks ago and packaged up to sell at the store (much like a vine-ripened tomato tastes far better than a big fat one from a pile in the store). Aside from that, what really pushed Oak Hill Farm over the two stores was that they give a $2 discount when you pick and purchase by the gallon. Since there are 4 quarts in a gallon, that should run us $12 per gallon but they advertise that you can buy a quart for $3 or a gallon for $10. In that case, I’d be saving about $5 over the Sam’s Club price and about $8 over the Winn Dixie price. That works for me!

I really wish that I had a child old enough to do this math for me. Jeremy’s 5 and still working on addition/subtraction. Complex multiplication and division are far beyond his abilities at this point. It’s a good thing I’m blogging about this because then I can pull it out a couple of years from now to help as an example of why we do indeed need to learn how to do this type of math.

When I started, I had the following table and information:

quart pound gallon
Oak Hill Farm $3 $__ $10 ($__ discount)
Winn Dixie grocery $__ $2.99 $__
Sam’s Club $__ $2.49 $__
1 qt. = 1.5 lb. 4 qt. = 1 gal.

To find the missing information for both Winn Dixie and Sam’s Club is easy. We are given the per-pound price. Easily multiply that price by 1.5 (pounds per quart) to come up with the per-quart price. Multiply the per-quart price by 4 (quarts per gallon) to get the per-gallon price.

Winn Dixie: $2.99  x  1.5 = $4.49  x  4 = $17.96

Sam’s Club: $2.49  x  1.5 = $3.74  x  4 = $14.96

Now this is how far we’ve filled out the table:

quart pound gallon
Oak Hill Farm $3 $__ $10 ($__ discount)
Winn Dixie grocery $4.49 $2.99 $17.96
Sam’s Club $3.74 $2.49 $14.96

Since we are given completely different valuations for Oak Hill Farms pricing, a different approach is required. I had to re-teach myself Equivalent Fractions, fifth grade math.

$/quart $/pound
Oak Hill Farm $3 $__ numerators
Winn Dixie grocery $4.49 $2.99 denominators (using known pricing)


The fractions: 3/4.49  =  p/2.99 (I’m using “p” as the unknown numerator)
The math: 3  x  2.99  =  8.97 Multiply first numerator by second denominator.
4.49  x  p  =  4.49p Multiply first denominator by second numerator.
8.97 ÷ 4.49  =  1.9977 (round up to $2) Divide each cross multiplication total by the same number.
Always check your work! Divide to get the whole number for each fraction: 3 ÷ 4.49 = 0.668   2 ÷ 2.99 = 0.668   If the whole numbers match, you’ve correctly completed your equivalent fraction.

We’re finally finished!

quart pound gallon
Oak Hill Farm $3 $2 $10 ($2 discount)
Winn Dixie grocery $4.49 $2.99 $17.96
Sam’s Club $3.74 $2.49 $14.96

Loving Previously-Owned Items

I just love Craigslist!

We made some quick money today!

A couple of days ago Jason put some various spare furniture up for sale. We were hoping to get it sold before we participate in the massive group yard sale at church this weekend (mostly because we didn’t want to have to lug a bunch of furniture to the parking lot).

Last night Jason happened to do a search for “swing set” and came across the exact thing that we’ve been wanting to get for our boys. New sets like this go for about $1000 at home improvement stores and there’s just no way that kind of purchase was going to fit into our budget any time soon, but $150 for a 3-year old one? Absolutely!!

It’s got a slide, two individual swings, and a tandem glider swing, as well as a little half picnic table and bench seat on one side (can’t see it in the picture). The bottom can be used as a sandbox but we won’t be doing that as we don’t want to attract fire ants which are already a big problem where we live.

I was telling Jason that between this new-to-them swing set and the pool, our boys are never going to come inside the house this spring and summer! Also, there are lots of inexpensive add-on items available (periscopes, rock climbing walls, chalkboard kits, replacement roof kits, steering wheels, etc.) that would make excellent birthday gifts for the boys for years to come. Someday maybe the bottom half could be turned into a playhouse area for our little girl. So many possibilities!

There are a couple of boards that need replacing ($20 investment in wood) and we’d like to purchase a bucket-seat (about $30) to replace one of the regular swings because Jesse is still to little to use the big-kid swing. Otherwise, this is in great condition. What a deal!

As we were driving the hour down the interstate to pick up the swing set this afternoon we got a call from a guy wanting to come look at the 6-piece bedroom set as well as the wine rack we had for sale. Sure thing, see ya later man!

No later did we get home from putting out $150 for the swing set and Jason partially assembling it in the backyard did the man and his son show up and give us $560 for a ton of furniture that we had up online for sale. All that’s left now is one headboard and a dresser from a different bedroom set. He also took pictures of our china cabinet to show his new wife and if she likes it he’ll be back for it as well.

We are so happy! The money for the swing set was already set aside in our budget to spend, so the money from everything that we sold this evening just goes right back into our pocket. Some of it will be spent on getting a new dresser to match baby girl’s bedroom furniture and another dresser for the boys since we sold the nightstands that they had been using, but the rest will be going straight to our emergency fund. It feels so good to be building that back up again after having to deplete it over Christmas when Jason’s motorcycle needed repairs.

Hopefully the china cabinet sells soon and we do well at the yard sale this Saturday, it would be great to get all of this spare stuff out of the way and have less clutter around the house and taking up space in the garage.

I went to lunch this morning with some girlfriends and our kids and we got to talking about Craigslist. When we were kids we didn’t have internet and I don’t ever remember going to a yard sale. Everything we had was brand new from the store and our old things were either donated or thrown away. I felt terrible when the playhouse and wooden fort and swing set that we had in our backyard growing up were torn down and thrown in the trash after several years of sitting unused when my sister and I outgrew them. I don’t think we ever thought to run an ad in the newspaper or Pennysaver offering them for sale before they were so weathered that they were reduced to trash. If we’d sold them as soon as we had stopped playing with them instead of letting them sit out there to rot and rust, other children could have enjoyed them and my mom would have had some spare cash in her pocket.

Jason and I have been lucky to have had good experiences in using Craigslist lots of times to both buy and sell various things. Even though I didn’t grow up buying used items, I am very glad that this free listing website exists so that I can buy a used-but-still-in-great-shape swing set for our kids and save $850 in doing it. Like I said, there is no way we’d be able to shell out a thousand dollars for a brand new one (at least not without going into debt for it – which is not an option we’d consider) and our kids are 5 and 2, they wouldn’t know new from “previously loved” anyway.

Moving Again, Third Time in Mobile

About a month ago Jason was asked if he’d consider moving up to Cape Cod to help open a new hangar at the Coast Guard base there which his type of aircraft will be moving into sometime next year. We’re not due to move again for two more years, but an early transfer isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility. We thought about it for a couple of days and initially thought “Heck yeah, sounds awesome!” and put our name on the list of people that the command would choose from. Then we heard some things about the new hangar’s construction schedule, realized how many wonderful friends we’d be leaving, and how much we love our church. Considering all of that we decided that we are super duper happy here in Mobile and really don’t want to be moving across the country again quite yet. Yes, being in the military means that you are signing up to move several times, but we’re not ready yet.

However, we will be moving this summer anyway. Though instead of up to Massachusetts, we’ll just be going a couple of miles west to a bigger house here in Mobile. Since last summer we’ve been renting a cute little 3-bedroom home that is just barely big enough for two adults and two kids, except that we have Jason’s great-uncle Frank and my mother-in-law Carol living with us as well. We love having our big family all together, we just need more space. Four grown adults and two busy-body kids under 5 years old shouldn’t be crammed into about 1,000 square-feet.

We expressed some interest in a home via email. The pictures were beautiful but, you know, seeing a place in person gives you a better idea of how your furniture will fit, so we went to see it. The house is 4-bedrooms on a split floor plan, 3 bathrooms, 2 car garage, a big backyard with a new above-ground pool and a deck. It even has a formal dining room that we envision as a play room for the kids (mostly so that their toys won’t over-run my living room anymore). The breakfast area off the kitchen is plenty of room for our dining table and chairs.

If you remember, almost two years ago we moved from California to Alabama. We rented the first house that we saw that was in our price range. It was a little farther out of town than we wanted, but it was humongous. Also four bedrooms, but it was really a 3-bedroom with a fourth one down in the finished basement. None of us liked having a two-level home. I am not a fan of stairs and actually fell down those stairs while I was pregnant (scary!). This new house is all one level. It has an attic with floorboards, so there is plenty of storage. Right now the only storage we have is in our closets and 1-car garage. Makes for very messy and cramped spaces!

Another wonderful thing is that we will be renting from a fellow Coastie couple. Jason actually worked for the husband for a few months when they were both in Kodiak several years ago. How exciting!

At first I was apprehensive when we started considering doing another in-town move. My gut feeling was to stamp my feet like a child and say “No no no!” I took a week or so, did some Bible study, and searched my heart. I cleared my mind and opened my eyes. Really, we are a happy family all living together in one house. We had some trials in the beginning (two years ago), but what can you expect? What we had done was get married, moved across the country, and welcomed two more people into our household all within two months. Oh, don’t forget that we also went from two incomes to just one and found out that we were pregnant a few weeks after moving. Enough to make any group of people totally crazy! Well, over the last couple of months we’ve worked out the kinks and smoothed out the wrinkles. Perhaps living in such a small space for a while was a blessing in disguise? Nothing like living practically on top of each other to force us to figure out a way to make the situation work.

So, our future living situation is settled, the lease is signed. Now we just have to wait three months to move in. Aw man! I want to start packing up things we don’t need now, get the junk tossed, and plan a summer yard sale for anything worth a dime.

Oh, and once we move in I plan on taking you all on another photo tour of the new house, just like I did with the first house. This time, with furniture in it! 🙂


Menu Plan: 4/25 – 5/1

Better late than never? Really, I’m not all that late in getting this post up. I just feel like I am because I took some time off from menu planning last week. While I don’t normally like being without a plan, it did feel good to just go with the flow and eat what sounded good at the time. This week we are back to a plan because we’re back to being busy.

Monday, April 25: Breakfast with the girls (and two baby boys and Kim’s bro). Ran a couple of errands and then back home for lunch and relaxing. Tonight we’re having One-Pot Pasta, we seem to have this about once a week or so. It’s quick, easy, and always sounds good.

Tuesday, April 26: Playgroup in the morning. For dinner we’ll have one of Jason’s simple favorites, Lemon Pepper Chicken with rice and carrots.

Wednesday, April 27: Always a busy day of the week since I have bible study in the morning, a few hours at home, and then right back to church for the evening service. I always plan a very fast meal so that we can eat before heading back to church instead of relying on drive-thru. Our quickie of choice this week is smoked sausage & diced potatoes.

Thursday, April 28: MOPS in the morning, then off to deliver a meal for a good friend who just had her third baby a little over a week ago. I’m very excited to meet little miss Ann Elise! For dinner we’ll have another current favorite, Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Chicken and Bacon. I’ve been trying to think of a new name for this meal because just listing the main ingredients doesn’t sound much like a recipe name. Jason decided “Summer Pasta” sounds good and I think it fits pretty well.

Friday, April 29: Meatloaf bowls (planning to use my new Better Baker edible bowl pan) filled with mashed potatoes, topped with gravy, and carrots.

Saturday, April 30: Trying a new recipe, Slow Cooked Sticky Chicken, an old favorite Crash Potatoes, and corn on the cob.

Sunday, May 1: We’re having a cook-out after church with our Sunday School group. Later on for dinner we’ll have Beef Stroganoff with rice and carrots.

It actually doesn’t look like much is going on, but I assure you – Jason and I have a To Do List that is about a mile long. I also need to keep up with my knitting. I’m making great progress on my current project and as long as I keep up this pace I’ll have it finished on time. Lastly (unfortunately it’s always last), I really need to finish writing up a few of the several posts that I have started. I’ve got so many drafts, they just need some fleshing out and I need to get the photos off of my camera to add to all these posts. Lots to do, but only one me to do it. Have a great week!

Dinner in a Hurry

It’s evenings like this when I am REALLY glad that I made a menu plan earlier in the week. Jason has line crew duty at work tonight, which usually means dinner at 7:00 or so instead of the normal 6ish. Since I was planning dinner at 7, I was spending a little extra time knitting on a new project.

Surprise surprise! At 5:13 I got a text message telling me that Jason’s dinner break was going to be at 5:30 instead. Oh no! All I had done to prep for dinner at that point was take the ground beef out of the freezer to thaw. I could have easily picked up the phone and called the pizza man to deliver, but keeping our budget in mind I flew into quick cooking mode.

Just about a half an hour later we had a scratch-made dinner on the table. Hamburger steaks, mashed potatoes, and seasoned corn. Yum! The only shortcut I took was leaving the skins on the potatoes instead of peeling them. We happen to like our mashed spuds a little rustic anyway, not to mention all the vitamins and flavor in the skins! 🙂

Dinner wasn’t anything special and it certainly wasn’t gourmet – but it was tasty, filling, and homemade. Those are the three most important things to me when I make a meal. We are very blessed to live close to Jason’s work and that he chooses to spend his meal breaks at home with us rather than in the galley or drive-thru line. The least I can do is make sure there is a homemade meal waiting for him when he gets here.

Luckily, tonight’s dinner happened to be one that I could make from start to finish within 30 minutes. Other nights I have meals planned that take more time. If this had happened on those nights I could have swapped meal plans from different nights – it’s very handy having planned for a whole week at once.

I know some people have done the work to do some freezer cooking and have meals waiting in the freezer for just these type of nights.  I have grand plans for a freezer cooking day in my future, but it hasn’t happened yet unfortunately.

What do you do in this situation? Do you have any freezer meals ready to go, a couple of go-to meals that you can make in a flash, or do you have several take-out menus hanging out by the phone?

Preparing to Travel Again

I’m so very behind. It seems I always am. Then I get caught up for a few glorious days and revel in my clean kitchen, mostly picked-up house, finished laundry, and everything running on schedule. Then I notice what happens when you take a few days off… The laundry piles up to crazy mountains overtaking your bathroom floor. The dishes stack up in the sinks and cover the countertops. Kids toys come creeping out from their hiding places with great stealth. My RSS reader is backlogged with 211 unread blog posts. Suddenly I’m back where I started and feeling quite defeated. I start running all over the house trying to play catch-up with everything again and get very little accomplished. Since I’m not optimizing my time, our schedule gets off track, we eat a lot of thrown-together meals and frozen pizza, and the family gets crabby (mostly me).

Well, this week I’m flying with the boys back to California for a quick 5-day trip. It’s Monday night now and we’re flying out Thursday at 6 am. I glanced at the calendar today, looked around the house, and nearly fainted when I realized how much I need to do in such little time. I feel bad leaving Jason with a disastrous house, no clean clothes, and nothing to eat. I am now close to caught up on laundry, the kitchen is very nearly clean, and the toys are tamed.

Tomorrow I might need to skip our usual playgroup in order to finish getting things together and start packing. Our schedule on Wednesday is totally packed, so tomorrow is my only real time to get anything done before we leave on Thursday. Thank goodness we live literally across the street from the airport we’re flying from, so we can pull out of our driveway at 4:55 am and get to the airport at 5:00.

All before bedtime on Wednesday I need to:

  • Complete at least some of the homework from last week’s bible study class.
  • Finish laundry.
  • Cook a few meals.
  • Pack for 2 boys and myself.
  • Try to squeeze in playgroup (so Jeremy can see his friends again before he’s gone til June).
  • Bible study.
  • Bake 3 or 4 batches of lemon bars for Jason’s cook-out at work on Friday.
  • Wednesday night service at church.

I was also hoping to bake some cookies to leave behind with the rest of the family (and take some with the boys and I for the flights), but I really don’t think that will be happening. I’ll be incredibly lucky to get all of my list completed and still go to bed at a decent hour on Wednesday.

All in all, I know that everything will come together just fine so that I won’t have to worry and the boys and I will have a nice mini-vacation at my mom’s house. Hopefully we’ll get to see some more family and perhaps a few friends if any of them are available (hint hint, nudge nudge). I’ll just have to light a fire under my behind and work really hard tomorrow. Jason’s really great about keeping the kids entertained during the time he’s here til he leaves for work after lunch, but it’s the afternoon time that I’m worried about. I wonder if anyone wants to watch Jeremy and Jesse for a couple of hours so I can work on my Must Do list?