Wednesday, August 31, 2011


OK, so I've seen those shows where crazy coupon people have 500 tubes of toothpaste and buy all kinds of crazy stuff they'll never use.  I've been a little hesitant about stepping out into that world because I don't want to be that crazy person.  So I started getting a google reader feed from a site called southern savers (here's the link if you're interested) and I've been getting their feeds for a few weeks and the whole concept totally went over my head...until a few days ago.  I sat down and actually bothered to read their section called 'how to coupon.' (I know, reading how to do something is a crazy concept) 

You basically click on which grocery store you want to go to, click on the post for which week you want to shop, and look at the list of what is on sale that is a good deal and put a check next to each one.  Then you tell it to print a shopping list and you have a whole list of what to buy (and which coupons to use and where to find them too!).  You go to the store, get the stuff on the list, hand them your coupons...done!  I went to Lowe's Foods and spent around $86 and saved $79 doing that...and all on things that we usually buy anyway...YAY!

Warning: It's addictive

I was on cloud nine.  I had already planned on hitting the commissary on Friday and I had my coupons all ready there.  The drug store coupons still confused the heck out of me, so I avoided looking at those.  Then my friend Sabrina said she was going to go to Walgreens and she'd show me how it worked.  Which was good, because it was REALLY CONFUSING and I would have probably cried 3 times without her. (So, Sabrina, I love you)  We hit the Walgreens and and hour and half later and I had all of this:

OK, I know you're thinking that doesn't look like much, right?  Let me break it down for you:

I spent: $165.83
These products(before sales or coupons) cost: $434.47
Total Savings: 268.64

Holy Crap, right!?  There is a lot of expensive stuff in that pile like razors and medications.  And 90% of it is stuff we would have bought anyway, another 9% is stuff we would have bought, but likely the generic brand.  The only thing I bought that we don't use was a vitamin that made me $3 every time I bought it...yeah that's right...they paid me to take it out of the store.  So I'll find someone to give it to. 

I'm floating on cloud 9 tonight.  The reality check is this: I'm not doing this every week...not this much at least.  Because 3 containers of body wash is enough for me for a good while, even if it is a really good deal.  I'm not going to have more than 5 extra of anything in my basement.  I will not hoard. (I needed to remind myself) The same types of deals come around about every 6 weeks, so you only need to keep enough on hand for a 6 week cycle. 

Definitely fun though, and exhilarating.

Have you ever tried couponing?  What do you think of those crazy people who have to build extra garages to keep all their couponed crazyness? 

Baby you can drive my car

Normally when we go visit my dad (who Bella calls Papadaddy) we usually go to his house and just hang out a little while at his house.  He is in a wheelchair and therefore can't travel much.  As a special treat for his birthday, we rented a wheelchair van and picked him up for a day out of the house.  He wanted to take Bella shopping, so we headed to Toys R Us and let Bella run wild. (scary thought, I know)  He was really set on getting her a Power Wheels vehicle of some sort.  Which is good, because when she saw them, she basically refused to leave.

We tried desperately to get her to love the mustang, but she was set on the jeep.  It had doors that opened and shut...therefore it was far superior in her eyes.  

 Then there was this gem, on sale at a whole 0 dollar discount!

Bella loved the jeep, even when it didn't move, so she was more excited when she learned what it did.

Unfortunately the concept of a steering wheel evades her still.  So I gave in and rode with her a little.  It was definitely not built for me.  But I rode down the REALLY steep hill on the side of the house with her.  Which was pretty scary but she loved it.  Finally we figured out that she was better off if we turned the steering wheel as far to the right as possible and let her ride around and around in little circles.

And a bit of short video for posterity's sake:

Have your kids gotten into the electric moving toys?  How long did it take yours to figure out a steering wheel?  Or peddles on a tricycle? Any tips?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Happy Birthday to Pippen

Our little Pippen turns 1 year old today.  He's such a goofball and loves to snuggle.  And he is so sweet with Bella, even though she isn't very sweet to him most of the time.  Happy Birthday Pipperdoodle!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene hits us in Eastern North Carolina

We're no strangers to hurricanes.  I remember hurricane Hugo hitting NC as a child (Vinny was living in Puerto Rico at the time and experienced it as well) and then he and I went through hurricane Katrina together in 2005.  We wavered about staying for Irene but ultimately decided to stay.  It was a little scary a few times when the big wind gusts hit the windows (that cover the entire back of the house), and it sounded like they might not withstand it.  We lost power for about 14 hours, but at the end of the storm, we're all safe, the house has some minor damage (which is the landlord's responsibility), we have some yard cleanup to do, and it's a gorgeous day outside.  I thought I would share with you some of the photos and videos I took during the storm.

This was just as the storm was beginning.  In particular, pay attention to where the water is on the dock next door and those three crepe myrtles in the center of the yard (you can probably guess that they now look like matchsticks).

A few hours later, the wind started.  This is the crepe myrtle outside the kitchen:

This is the same tree after the storm:

By Saturday morning, the waves were really rolling in, but the winds were still pretty manageable:

Here is a still of what high tide looked like with the storm coming in:

By early afternoon our power was out and it really started picking up and the rain was driving hard.

Once the storm started passing us by, I figured it would get better, but it was rough even on the backside.  It seemed to go on forever.

Our crepe myrtle in the front (which was probably the prettiest one we had) was cracked into pieces.

One of our bedroom windows is messed up and would lock at the top but not the bottom.  It was making an awful racket and driving us crazy.  Made it very hard to take a nap.  So naturally I want to share it, in all its annoying radiance, with you.  Also in this video, check out the crepe myrtle outside our bedroom.  It used to look just like one in the second video above that is outside the kitchen.  Eek.  It looks like fall has come early.

And pretty much every room had some sort of water damage on the ceiling or wall that looked like this:

Our landlord came by to assess the damage, so we'll see what he does for repairs.

We had an awesome dinner since we were trying to use up stuff in the freezer that would go bad if we didn't get power back quickly.  So we had grilled halibut and swordfish, beans and turnip greens, and cantaloupe.  Yum. Our stovetop is gas, so we still had access to that, we just had to light it with a lighter since the igniter is electric.

Once it got dark we pulled out the emergency flashlights and candles.  Bella went to bed relatively easy and Vinny and I sat up and I painted pieces for a project I have going on (I know the anticipation is killing you), and we listened to an MP3 book through Vinny's phone.  It was nice and cool outside so we opened the door and some windows to let the cool air in.  Power came back on about 3am on Sunday morning and we closed them then.

Today (Sunday) the river is like glass and the sun is shining.  We've put our patio furniture back out, cleaned up all the dishes we dirtied, took showers, and now we're starting yard cleanup.  Josie decided to help too:

Now I just have to wait and hear how our house in Rhode Island fared!  Wherever you are, I hope you and your loved ones weathered the storm without too much trouble!  

EDIT: just went outside to start picking up sticks that fell from the trees and realized we have 2 trees that got pushed up by their roots, a lot of the retaining wall boards by the water got pulled off by the waves, and the boat ramp is cracked and separated.  Bummer.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Since it has been so hot this summer, we've been trying to do things to keep cool.  When the folks over at NAMC suggested working with ice, it sounded perfect.  So we got out 7 cubes of ice (enough to fit in the tray I had on hand) and headed out to the porch.

Bella started off trying to move the ice cubes with the tweezers, but that was pretty tough, even for me, so I suggested maybe she try some other ways of picking it up.  

So she tried a teaspoon, and a tablespoon and finally, her hands. Which was still fun, and helped us cool off.  We counted, we laughed at how slippery the ice was.  She giggled trying to fit the ice cubes into the tray right.

We also played around using a sponge for each segment of the tray too.  Which was nice because it worked in the fine motor skill of squeezing in order to ring the water out of each piece. Definitely an activity we're continuing to modify and use.  Soon, I'm hoping to make her a big block of ice with little objects inside that she can get to by chipping away with a hammer.

How are you keeping cool?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fixing a Dryer

Recently our dryer has started making an awful racket when it's running.  Being super frugal (for the time being), I decided to see if I could fix it myself.

So, here it is before I started messing with all of it's 'I'm a regular ole dryer that makes awful noises when running' awesomeness.

So step 1 was to get inside so I could see what was up.  This was a GE dryer, so in order to open it, I opened the door and found the screws that held the top in place.
You can see the little hole there on the top left.  I unscrewed those two and pulled the top off:


So now I'm looking in there, very proud that I got it open.  Then it slowly dawned on me that I had no clue what I was looking for.  I think maybe I expected a little pink flag waving saying, 'look at me, I'm broken!'  Too bad, this whole thing would have been much easier.  You can see a thin black line running around the drum in the center...that is a fan belt.  If that had been broken, it would have been an easy fix.  Alas.  So the next step was to take off the front and remove the drum.  It was easy enough to reach inside and unscrew the front from the sides.

The thing to be careful of here is the light.  There is wiring that goes from the front into the electrical hookup, so you can't just yank the front off.  Watch those little cords.  Here is that front piece at a different angle.
If I had been paying attention I might have seen the problem right then, but I was still hoping for a broken pulley, so I went in to remove the drum from the dryer housing.  It needed this funky little bit on the screwdriver that I've always wondered what it was for.

So I reached in and unscrewed the back from the drum by removing those three screws in the middle.

Then I carefully removed the belt and pulled the drum out.

It may be hard to see, but no pulley's were broken during the dismantling of this dryer.  Darn.  OK, back to the front:

See that grey felt band thingie?  Yeah that was broken and all bunched up everywhere.  So then I set about trying to find that part.  No luck.  So I called a dryer repairman.  He said he'd be out the next day, and I was hoping that my efforts at opening the dryer would make his job easier and thus save me some money.  Next day came...and went.  I called, he said he meant late afternoon (it was already 6pm) but he was glad I called because he was running late and wouldn't make it that day anyway.  So we rescheduled for the next day. That day came and went.  ARGH!  So I called a different repair guy and told the first guy no thanks.  The new guy I called asked how old the dryer was (5 for those of you who care) and the brand (GE).  Then he proceeded to tell me that it wasn't worth repairing it and I should just go buy a new one.  So after 5 days, I realized I only needed one tool to fix the dryer, my credit card.  So here's the dryer:

All fixed!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We Give Books

We love to read.  Since I got the nook, I get through about a book a week.  So, at that rate, I'm happy to find ways to read on a budget.  The obvious choice was the library.  In addition to the standard paper books, most library systems have an online literature area now, where you can check out electronic books for various e-readers.  And there is more and more content now for kids as well.

Our library also has a connection with a system called Tumblebooks, which is semi-animated versions of kids books that are read aloud as each word is highlighted.  We've gone through lots of those.  Some books even have attached learning games and coloring pages.  It's a little hard to sort the books by age group, and occasionally one of the reading voices irritates the heck out of me...but overall a good option.

Then, I ran across a company called 'We Give Books' (the link here).  

These are online books, but unlike Tumblebooks, there is no animation or sound.  So it's basically a way to virtually flip through books.  And the best part: for every book you read to your child (or your child reads for themselves), they donate a book to a charity that you get to choose.  When you get to the end of a book there is a button that appears saying 'give a book,' and Bella likes clicking that button.  There aren't a ton of books, but we certainly haven't read them all yet, and there are many recognizable titles.  They even have the Skippyjon Jones books, which we love (see our post here), so we've gotten to read the ones that we don't own.  And I get to teach Bella how we're part of a global community and about caring for others.

So check it out!

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's a Buoy!

I finally got Bella signed up for the drop in day care at the base, so we're taking her in one day and week to give me a day off socialize with other children.  This past week was my first week with my day off and man it was heaven.  Well...for me it was.  I got to run errands...alone!  Seriously, the other moms out there know I'm not kidding when I say that it is an awesome feeling.

I slept til 10:30.  I took my time getting ready.  Then I leisurely drove over to Cape Carteret and stopped in at an antique store that has caught my eye every time I've driven past it.  It's called Secret Treasures (their website isn't much but it's here if you're interested) and I had an awesome time just browsing through all their things.

They have one room dedicated to just beachy themed things, some re-purposed antiques and some new things like soaps and mats.  I picked up a new work mat for the classroom in fun pastel beach like colors for Bella.

The rest of the store is sort of set up as little vignettes, almost like walking from room to room in a house with no walls.  In the kitchen area I ran across some antique cast iron pans, which Vinny has been wanting, so I picked that up for him.

Then, on my way to check out I saw this little guy:

I had seen these in the pottery barn catalog:

They aren't available anymore, but I at least recognized that it was a buoy of some sort, though significantly smaller than the ones Pottery Barn offered.  This one is about the size of a baseball.  Also, the Pottery Barn ones were super expensive (no surprise) and my find was only $17.  They had 2 but I grabbed the one that was greener because I knew I wanted to put it on the mantel with some other green things.  So, there is still one more for some lucky buyer!

This buoy is about 75 years old and is from Japan.  Handblown glass, this one was used sort of like a fishing bobber:

But, oh so much classier.  And a bit bigger.  And heavier.  And more expensive.  Anyway...

It's a buoy!!!  And I love how it looks on the mantel with the other greeny stuff.

I also got tons of other errands run, primarily buying supplies for other upcoming home projects, so stay tuned.

Have you ever found something in an antique store that you just had to have?  What do you do when you get a day off from the kiddo(s)?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Where in the world is...well anything?

We realized, not so long ago, that we don't own a map of the world.  Almost trivial given the age of the internet, but sometimes it's cool to look at a giant map of the world and see the relationship various countries have to one another.  And I think that's still important for our classroom.

Bella's Grandpa offered to get her one and it came in the mail and boy was she excited!

Here she is demonstrating where we live:
Josie and Pippen have apparently decided to mark the poles.

And it took both of us, but we finally got it onto the wall in the classroom!

Monday, August 8, 2011

It Ain't Easy Bein' Green

In my post about painting the bedroom (seen here) I alluded to my having been sick recently.

The sort-of fast version of the history is: I had a branch retinal artery occlusion (a stroke in my eye) in my left eye a few years ago.  It was basically a pain free sun spot that wouldn't go away.  It got better in about 3 months, scared the crap out of us, and despite tons of testing, they never found a cause, other than to say that maybe it was caused by migraines.  ie: I have small vessels and maybe they spasm-ed down during a migraine, cutting off blood flow to part of my eye.

Fast forward: I thought I had another one in my right eye.  Ended up in the on-base emergency room on a Sunday night.  They gave me meds to reduce the pressure in my eye.  Checked me out the next day and there is no sign of it.  So maybe I was imagining it, or maybe the meds just corrected it.  My eye sight is better now a week later, and that's sort of all that matters.

The only reason I bother telling you any of this is to sort of snicker at myself. They did a Fluorescein Angiogram where they gave me this dye through an IV line and took tons of pictures of my retinas while the dye was going through my veins. I think I know how celebrities feel when they're hounded by the paparazzi now. The flashing was crazy. And the dye left me feeling a And looking it too. It didn't help that I was wearing a greenish shirt either. Or big buggy sunglasses.  So, as my mom was laughing at me for looking green (which we needed to do to get out the tension from the day's events) she took a picture of me in my alien froggyness:

I rather blend right into that bush, dontcha think?  Don't worry, it went away :)  But Kermit had it right: it ain't easy bein' green.

EDIT: it lasted about 5 hours...glad it wasn't longer!

Friday, August 5, 2011


All around the base, you see signs welcoming various soldier back from their deployments.  I usually try to ignore them because they make me a little weepy honestly, but this duo caught my attention and I've been laughing for hours over it.

In case you can't read it.  The white one reads: 'Hey Gunny! Are You Ready For SEXYTIME'  and the black one to the left in response reads: 'My husband fought to defend this sign -->'

No caption necessary.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sea Turtle Hospital

We got some random magazine in the mail last week from our electric company.  Now, normally, this would have ended up in the trash without a second glance, but we've had a severe lack of random magazines and catalogs since we've moved (they haven't found us yet), so I was desperate enough to pick it up.  There was a little article in there about a sea turtle hospital in a town south of us, Topsail Beach.  It sounded pretty neat, so I checked out the site and we made plans to go. (Their website is here by the way if you're interested)

It's was about an hour and a half ride, which we did during naptime, perfect.  We got there about 10 minutes before it was set to open, excellent.  Then I parked and walked around the corner....eek...there was already a MASSIVE line.  And being the perfect mom I am, I chose a day when the heat index was in the triple digits, and I didn't bring sunscreen.

At least I managed to grab an umbrella before sprinting walking quickly to grab a place in line.  We were lucky that we had some nice folks in line with us for decent conversation and they were a big enough one of them ran to their car and got sunscreen and offered it up to my poor fair skinned child so she didn't roast...yay, back on awesome street.  Well, til maybe an hour into waiting.

At that point I certainly wasn't getting out of line, but Bella was (almost literally) melting down.  I tried the ipad.  I tried snacks.  I tried a drink.  I tried holding her.  I tried suggesting that she check out the really interesting gravel at her feet.  Actually, that last one sort of worked.  In all we waited about an hour and 15 minutes, but boy those last 15 minutes were painful.

They take people in groups of 6 so that there is room for everyone around the tank as they tell that turtle's story.  While we were waiting in our group to go in, they laid the big bummer on photography.  Not even 'no flash photography,' but no photography, period.  Sadface.  So you'll have to do with my descriptions and we'll have the memories.  This was the best I could do:

Then we went around the building and inside where they are currently caring for 21 turtles.  They showed us the 5 tanks on the edge, where the walking area was for easy access.  The first turtle was bigger than Bella in length and I was already pretty wowed.  They can get to be 500lbs or more.  I think that guy was around 400.  He was a loggerhead who got tangled in fishing nets and beat up pretty badly.  Apparently, these wounds are very slow healing.  They said he was doing well and they were hoping to release him in 1 to 2 years.  Yeah...years.  The next 2 turtles were Kemps Ridley turtles, some of the most endangered in the world.  They were significantly smaller, but were still probably 150lbs or more.  One had her front fins cut really badly by a fishing net, estimated time to recovery: 2 years.  The second was a male who had been beaten in the head when fishers tried to get him out of a net, cracking his poor little endangered skull and rendering him blind.  No recovery for him.  He's expected to live at the rescue center for the rest of his life: 80-100 years.  The 4th turtle was the smallest by far and was a green sea turtle who had a case of hypothermia.  She's expected to be released in September.  She was about the diameter of a medium beach ball.  The last guy was a big loggerhead named Boater.  I guess they wanted to leave a lasting impression with these big turtles at the beginning and end...or maybe they were too heavy for the middle...who knows.  Anyway, Boater had 3 big cuts in his shell from a boat propeller.  They screwed metal plates over the openings to let his shell re-grow and the plates have now been removed.  Now the long process of letting them fully heal is in progress.  He still has about 2 years left in the hospital.  All that took about 5 minutes.  Bella didn't want to leave.

I appeased her by offering a stuffed sea turtle from the gift shop.  There was no entry cost, donations only, so that was ok (Don't get the wrong idea...we still donated too).  She chose one from the various ones they had and I also picked up a pack of sea turtle erasers to use as counting objects in the classroom.  She happily patted him on the back and tossed him in the air and caught him all the way back to the car...after one last goodbye to Boater.

On the walk back I asked her what her turtle's name was, expecting Boater, or Josie, or Pippen, or Turtle.  And she responded very precisely with, "Bushy."  It took me most of the ride home to determine that Bushy is a boy, since Bella is still working on her pronouns and went back and forth calling him a "he' and a 'she' interchangeably.  I think my favorite moment on the ride home was the moment I realized how much she had learned about respecting wildlife and how special turtles are:

Bella: "Mommy, can I eat Bushy?"
Me: ""

OK, maybe we still need to work on that whole respecting nature thing.  I'll get back to you :)

When did your kids start really naming their stuffed animals?  Any idea where their names came from?  Ever seen a sea turtle up close not through aquarium glass?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Painting the Master Bedroom

Ever since we purchased our first home in Louisiana in 2003, in every house we've lived in, our bedroom has been painted blue.  So coming in to this house, we knew that we would want to paint the bedroom.  And you guessed  The color was Olympic's Blue Silk in a no-VOC eggshell finish.  It's from their palate called welcome and we're hoping to stick with that palate throughout the house to give it a nice cohesive feel.

This bedroom is the largest one we've had so far, so while I thought this would take a few days, it became a week long project.  I decided to tape off the room to give me some wiggle room in case I got lazy (which totally happened) or in case I just slipped (which also happened).  I decided to use frog tape instead of the standard blue painters tape.  It has a special chemical on it that forms an impenetrable bond so paint can't leak under the edge if you have it pressed down well.  I think it works better, so I used it.  That took me a few days because I was doing a little here and a little there.  I also removed all the switch plates and moved the furniture away from the walls.  So here are some before shots (you can also see pictures of the room without green tape and with the furniture in proper position in this post):

The room just barely held our furniture with it all in the center of the room.  So, once that happened, I felt the need to get it painted quickly.  We started on the wall with the bed on it first so we could move the bed back into place first.

That was night 1, and it took us about an hour and a half to do 2 coats on that big wall and remove the tape and clean up.  Big plus to the no-VOC paint, we were able to sleep in there that night without any trouble.  The paint dried really quickly, so we didn't have to wait between coats and the frog tape did a beautiful job.

The next night we did the walls behind the 2 dressers, mainly so we could get all the furniture back in place.  That was also when the first gallon of paint ran out.  That took about 2 hours, because I did some more edging to use up the last of the gallon.

We had to take a few days hiatus due to health problems, but Saturday I was back on my feet and I finished all the edging during the day (in between running through the sprinkler with Bella) while Vinny took care of Bella.  There are a TON of doors down the hallway and 2 coats on the edging took me about 3 hours to do.  I was pretty zonked by the end of it.  After Bella went to bed, Vinny came in and finished the rolling in about 30 minutes...both coats.  There really just wasn't much left because of how much edging there was.  We ended up  using a little less than half a gallon to finish it up, but I got a whole gallon because I anticipate using the color elsewhere in the house at some point.  You know, once my hand relaxes out of its 'bent around a paintbrush' position.

So, here are the afters!

I hope you like it.  We fell like this is the color the room should have always been.  ie: we LOVE it.  Subtle, soothing, and it brings the blue in from the water outside.

Have you noticed what we didn't do yet?

We didn't paint the wall that has all the windows and the door to the porch on it.

It's more noticeable at night that during the day, but for now I think I can live with it.  Here is the reason I didn't paint that wall:

While the windows are evenly spaced off the walls, that door isn't evenly spaced between the windows, presumably because of the space needs of the electrical stuff on the left side of the door.  I was concerned that painting that wall a contrasting color would draw attention to that off-centeredness that I'd prefer to forget.

I also still want to paint the molding on the corners in the almond paste color similar to the trim.  Ah how the to-do list grows!

So here is a before and after back to back:

And a little different angle:

What do you think?   Do you like the color?  Does that one white wall drive you bonkers?  Should I just paint the top section of the wall horizontally and ignore the little off-centered vertical pieces of wall or is it fine as is?