Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amish Tradesmen- the Workshop rises.

My husband gave up a huge barn to move here.
The compromise was to build him a workshop.
We decided to "buy local". 
Since we are less then 10 miles from a large Amish community, we went with them!

 600 screws in the roof!

 Hurricane straps?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eat Local

We have been working on eating local foods.
That has become very easy in the last few weeks.
We live very close to this large farm store
They give Senior (over 55) discounts on Wednesdays.
Now that they know my face,
I get that discount every day.
They sell what they grow
and what the Amish grow and make nearby.

My grocery store sells fresh fish and crab as well.
Since the Delaware River is about two miles away
and the Ocean about 30 
fresh is easy to come by
especially this time of year.

This is what we had tonight
Crab salad
I am in my own form of heaven!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Best and Worst travel experience

Laura, over at Occasional Nomad, asked about our best and worst travel experiences.
That set off a 30 minute discussion at my house.

We have had some wild trips-mtogether and alone.
All of them turned out fine, with chuckles now.

Here are my top three worst.
1) Getting stuck in a small Turkish lobby at the airport with my children.
    We had boarded the plane in London. I was not aware that we had to change planes in Turkey. Without a visa, we were not allowed to leave the deboarding area of one plane to board the other. I had to give our diplomatic passports to a pilot and ask him to secure a visa. He left. We waited- an hour- before he returned. He had eaten lunch and "forgotten" he had our passports!

2) "Don't get on that plane" said the Boeing trainers as they deplaned a new 727. Unfortunately, it was the only one headed for Hong Kong that week from Chengdu. We did board. The pilot took off. He then throddled back too soon and put the large jet into a stall. We were going down. Things were flying everywhere. I was saying many prayers. He fired engines  back up as we could see people in the apartment windows looking at us.

3)We went out to the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia to go arrow head searching. This is an area of sand dunes many stories tall. Normally you could tell if there was a drop off or a gentle hill to go down the other side. You guessed it. We went off the dune. Launched. When we landed Scott hit the gas and we spun so we could surf to safety. Unfortunately one of the other cars spun right into the empty lake bed instead and we spent the next eight hours digging out.

My husband wants to add his single worst. He was on a plane to Inner Mongolia. The co pilot came out to chat. Then the pilot came out to use the bathroom. The pilot returned to the cockpit door. Lots of quiet cussing. Then the pilot and co pilot went to the back of the plane. When they returned they closed the curtain between the cabin and the cockpit door. A number of slams were heard. When the plane was landed and curtains pulled back- the door had been chopped down.....

The best trips, there were so many.
My first glimpse of Tetons, Yellowstone geysers, Denali, pyramids, castles, places where Lincoln and Douglas debated.
Still, my best trip was taking the double decker bus through spice alley on the way to PokFuLam, my Hong Kong home. The smells, sights, people. I can see it like it was yesterday. It happened 24 years ago last week.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A place where women are not allowed inside

Standing by the dingy doorway of a market style restaurant,
I urged my small, blonde nine year old into the shop.
"Just buy us some juice."
Walking in, he is eyed by more then a few men
drinking tea while sitting on pillows.
"What kind of juice?" he yells back to me.

Standing fully in black,
 the temptation to run instead of answer was hard to push down.
Anonymous- at least they have no idea who I am beneath the abaya and veil.
My swishing hand points to the water bottles in ice.
It is 110 in the shade
the black is searing.

The small voice says, "how much?" in Arabic
The shopkeeper only deals with him,
Takes my money,
and he returns to me,
outside the restaurant.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Basic Budget

Settling into a new house creates a new budget.
We moved from a 3200sq foot house with a 5000 sqft barn with rural electric and water
to a house the same sized and a 1200sq ft barn in a town.

We have always been careful to budget monthly for expenses.
We use the envelope system and have been for 32 years!
Dave Ramsey was broke when we started- so were we! :)

This  is presented as percentage of spending vs income.

Taxes- 4% (Down  13% house and 4% vehicle in Kansas)
Insurance- 5% (down almost 6%)
Electricity & Propane- 6% (Guess.  We have not lived here a year yet. The electric is considerably less here because the source is nuclear!)
Auto gas- 10% (Up 2%- family is 70 miles away)
Food- 15% (up 5%- probably will go back down when we live together again!)
Phone/Internet/ TV- 2% (Down 1%)
Home repair- 5% (same)
Tithe -between 2-5 %

The basics are down 13% from our old house. We paid for both water and trash in Kansas.

To me those are the basics. It is about 50% of our budget right now.
It is the amount that we would need  if something should happen to pensions/SS.
Paring down the food and cable for emergency savings would be very possible.

Over the last six months that is what we have lived off us since we were paying a mortgage (32%) and had continuing moving expenses. Many moving expenses were taken from savings to be replaced at the sale of our Kansas house.
We both had personal savings from our allowances that saw us through the tighter times.

All of the rest of the amounts are considered "extras".
They can be eliminated from the budget pretty easily.

Gifts 7%
Pets 3%
Take out 10% (up 3% from Kansas- SEAFOOD!)
Allowance 20% (up 10% from Kansas)
PX/ Clothing 5%
Surprise expenses/ travel- 3% (No surprises=travel budget)

We have income tax and health care taken out before the check gets to us.
Together they are about 15% of income not shown.

We have saving accounts for :
taxes, insurance, house repair, propane (new), gifts, pets, travel and clothing.
Sounds like a bit of over kill- but it is an extension of our envelope system.

With the addition of SS this month we plan to split it:
30% savings for new cars
70% savings for dream trips or major expenses.
We have a good savings since our last five years of work we saved my entire salary.
Neither of us ever made more then five figure salaries- mostly low to mid five figures.

Do you budget monthly, weekly or yearly?
How do you save for the normal things that are billed quarterly or yearly?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sell that house!

The house closed about five hours ago!

We had been told there was no way we would be able to sell our house in less then a year. It was rural. It was the most expensive property for sale in the county (about 3x higher then the norm). The children in the area rode their little scooters and told us that their parents thought we were insane. NO ONE would ever buy the place.

This is what I did about that.

1) We hired a realtor who knew everyone. She was a home town girl. She worked in a very small company. I have to admit, this move made me very nervous.

      We then gave her $200 dollars of gift cards so she could throw a "realtor's party".  She took every    realtors' card and did a drawing for 4- $50  cards. Normally 5-7 realtors come to those things in our area. We had twenty.

2) We perfected Zillow.
 We staged every room so it looked elegant, livable and clean.
My realtor had a great camera and I gave her permission to move things to the advantage of the camera.
We made sure the pictures were all about the house and not the stuff in the house.
Wood floors were uncovered and polished,
Windows were scrubbed,
Lawns were mowed.
We had already updated the master bath.
The rooms we painted were the "most chosen color" for our area- arctic grey.
Clean lines, good colors, no junk.

3) St Joseph was put in the rose bush to watch visitors.

4) We treated every looker as "the one".

5) We lowered the price every two weeks by a little bit.
That seems counter intuitive
but that brings the house back up to the top of the list
on sites like Trulia and

It was on the market seventy days before we had a solid contract.
It closed in thirty more days- more because my husband said we could not possibly get out before then.

In an absolutely dead market, we also had two realtors ask if they could show the house for a back up offer.

The lessons we learned were:
1) We are not the only people who purchase a house from the internet.
The people who bought ours said they found it on Zillow
 and combed every pictures many, many times.
They had found the house themselves and then contacted a realtor.

2) It is important for your realtor to know everyone.
When we needed small repairs or fixes at a reasonable price.
She made those happen.

3) Clean like a mad man and get rid of stuff!

4) Zillow pays off for seller and realtor. My realtor saw a marked increase in business because her name was on our page! She sold about eight houses in the four months we worked together. Five were to people who had found her on Zillow. Mine was the only house listed by her on Zillow.

What is that noise?

This morning I was on the phone with my husband.
He stopped talking
then he asked,
"What is that noise?"

"That, my dear, are the thousand birds that live in our back forest.
I was sitting on this side of our screened in porch.
Enjoying the 70 degree morning.

He is ready to call this place home!

Thursday, July 16, 2015


We will be adding a picture to this montage in a few weeks!
The addition will be living with his parents and sister on the other coast.
In time, they will be out on this coast, but until then we are going to visit.

Grandchildren are an amazing addition to life.
I thought my children changed my life.
Grandchildren are the topping on the cake.

What do they add?
Joy in play
Board games
Hugs with no hesitation
Excuse to build fires
Walking the dogs for fun
A reason to remember kindness
A reason to keep the convertible….

And so much more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Learning a new home

 I have never had the pleasure of a proper neighborhood front porch or a wonderfully quiet back screened porch.  Here we have found both.
Nor have I lived somewhere that produced flowers with little effort.

I think this is a type of Hibiscus. I live on Hibiscus Street.

I am on a steep learning curve,
I think we are home once again!