Archives for July 2014

the danger of ‘while we’re at it’

I’m following my daughter Erika’s lead and doing a post on what I’ve been doing this month.

The project I’m most excited about is the remodel in the boys’ bathroom.  It’s been needing an update for awhile.  Leaking shower =damaged floor. We decided that while we’re at it– watch out for that dangerous word, all ye who remodel!– we might as well upgrade from a little tiny shower to a full tub.  And to make space for that, we needed to move a wall. Here’s a sketch-up of the planned change in floor plan.  It’s actually only a 20 inch by 6 foot long addition.  But it made space for a tub and a quarter turn of the sink.  That change will allow a bit of standing room in the bathroom, something it was very short on before.

bath layout change

So a 20-inch wall move?  Not a huge deal if you have a competent woodworker for a husband, right? But it turned out that the sink vent stack was in that wall.  AND the shower plumbing is also going to be moved around the corner to a different wall, to accommodate the new tub.  Grand total on the plumbing alone? Somewhere in the $1200 range.  Yikes.    But the work has needed to be done for awhile and it will be a wonderful upgrade, so we are doing it.  The new tub got dragged upstairs today by my strong sons.  🙂  And here’s a pix of my handsome hubby in that sliver of new space in the midst of the adding-on.

New space

I’ll keep you posted.

Teens and expenses: how we do it

The winner of last week’s book giveaway Tokens of Affection is commenter #1 Stefani.

Thrift store shoes

I thought it might be interesting to some of you to hear how we work all the ‘extra’ expenses that teens tend to have.  We have a moderate budget which allows us to supply all of our kids’ needs, but it doesn’t always allow us to fund the ‘wants’.  So that’s where they come in.  If they want something badly enough, they work for it.  Here’s how it currently works at our house.

I will often buy kids some new clothes for Christmas. They also have a grandma who gives them new clothes at birthday time. At other times in the year I will grab them items at the thrift store  or on sale as I find them and I see that they have need. When we go thrifting together, I will often tell them I’m game to buy them one item, and then they can buy whatever they find beyond that one item.

When it comes to shoes, the girls have so many, and get so many hand-me-downs that I don’t buy them much beyond what we occasionally find at the thrift store. In the photo you can see some thrift store shoe finds from a couple years ago. The boys wear out their shoes much faster than the girls, which I replace at the cost of up to $30. If they want to buy something that costs more, it’s up to them to pay the cost beyond that first $30.


We don’t really have a big entertainment budget these days, and our teens (like typical teens) have lots of wishes. In general if the activity is less than $5 or so, and we’re all going, we pay.  If it’s more than $10 or so, and/or if it is something they’re doing on their own with friends, it’s their deal. Some examples: a couple of our teens have done judo at our local rec center, which they’ve paid for themselves, though I have several times paid for a month or bought them a judo gi as a Christmas or a birthday gift. We are willing to spring for dollar theater movies every few weeks.  We also will pay for them to go to a couple other new-release (full price) movies during they year.  When we went to the water park this year, the teens paid their own admission.  But we had several half-price coupons, which made the cost a lot more reasonable.  A few times our kids have done paint-ball, which they’ve paid for themselves.  But we paid to take them all ice skating awhile back.  This seems to work pretty well, and it also makes kids think about how badly they want to do any particular activity.


We have a minivan that has been our ‘teen’ car for years.  We  pay those expenses and the kids can drive that vehicle for free to necessary activities.  Our daughter who currently uses the car most is doing a one-year dental assisting program at the community college this fall, and to assist her in that goal, we are letting her use the van for free, and will supply the gas.  Once she gets out of school and gets a job she will be able to save and purchase a car for herself. We have also been driving our teen sons to their jobs this summer, which has allowed them to build up enough savings to buy cars of their own.  Our teens typically don’t buy cars til they’re at least seniors in high school, but we currently have three 16 year old teens and one 18 year old.  There just won’t be enough car to go around between all four of them.  So it is actually a good thing that our boys are so eager to buy cars on their own. Once they have their licenses and their own vehicles (bought for cash– no loans allowed) they will be paying all auto expenses, as well as half the cost of insuring their vehicles.  My dad has typically helped us out by fixing broken vehicles very affordably.

College Expenses:

Some of the teens have taken college classes in high school, which they pay for themselves.  They’ve also been helped out by a dual-credit scholarship that our local community college offers to high school students interested in taking college credits during high school.  Once they are in college, they will continue to pay their own way.  So far two of our kids have graduated from college with no debt.  We are hoping it will work that way for the younger kids as well, and are encouraging them to apply for scholarships and keep grades up.  Thanks to our large family, the kids do also tend to qualify for Pell grants.

Housing for College and Beyond:

Kids can live at home for free as long as they’re in college and are being responsible about their studies.  Our current 18 year old is planning to stay home while she gets her one-year program done, but most of the other kids have opted for dorms and later apartments.  We are willing to let kids stay home beyond college for a small amount of rent, but so far all the kids have been eager to get out on their own and live independently.

Sometimes I wish we had the finances to afford this or that special activity for the kids– I’m a momma, after all, and want to give good gifts to our kids. But then I have to remind myself of the good growth that is coming from this; the limits of our budget are teaching our kids a lot about their limits of their own budgets.  I’m sure there will be budget stumbles for them along the way— we all have them.  But I think that having to work and pay for some of their own wants from an early age will help them have more realistic ideas about budgeting as young adults.

What about you?  If you have teens, do you pay for all their expenses, or do you encourage them to pay some of their own?

If you’re interested in reading more about teens and money, you might enjoy our $20 Grocery Experiment



Everyday Your Love Is New

Flowers in the redwoods

Frugal Friday: Teen Car Edition


This week was a big one for one of our teens.  After a couple years of working and saving, he was able to buy his first car.  He found this 1995 Cadillac for the princely sum of $1100.  Of course that didn’t include the new battery and oil change it immediately needed, or the price of that first tank of gas. He’s feeling pretty broke right now. But we are pretty proud of our boy for saving and working to buy this car on his own.

How did frugality go at your house this week?  I’d love to hear some of the ways you’re teaching your kids about wise spending.

Which three words would you choose?

FriReunion (17)

Recently the adoption community was rocked by the news that an adoptive mother of many children was killed in a car accident.  It is so hard to process news like this.  That’s when faith has to come in, I guess– faith that the God who knows everything knows better than we do.  But oh, it’s hard to trust that God really does have a good plan for those precious children.

My friend Carrien recently wrestled with a similar issue when friends of theirs died, also in a car accident.  She talked about how a lot of times no matter how hard we try, we can’t change everything we’d like to change in this world, and how futile that can sometimes feel.  When she shared those feelings with her husband, here’s what he said:  “You are a very minor drop in the bucket, just as I am, just as we all are. We have no ability to predict the outcome of our actions, positive or negative. We do what we do, because it is who we are, not because we are changing the world.”

She said that for a long time she’s made choices in life in this way:  “I ask myself who I want to be, and then I act the way that person would act.”

Isn’t that a great thought??  I love it.  It’s taken me years to truly understand that I can’t really change other folks. I can’t solve all the problems I want to solve. But I can work on myself.

Who do I want to be?

My friend Tisha, a fellow adoptive mom, has also been doing some thinking about life-legacy.  When she heard about that adoptive mom who died, who left a tremendous legacy of love to her family, Tisha decided on three words that she most wants to represent her.  She chose brave, reflective, and impactful.  Aren’t those great words? She even asked her children to choose words of their own– you really ought to go read the whole post for a fuller picture of her thoughts about all this.

After reading her words, I just had to choose some words of my own.  I hyphenated to get a bit more in there, but here’s my three.  Joyous. Grace-filled. Giving.

Oh, I want to be all that to the ones around me. What about you? How would you like to be remembered when the time comes for you to leave this world?

“…being confident in this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6

A giveaway and a favor

I have a book giveaway for you today! Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming Your Marriage After Postpartum Depression is billed as a book for couples recovering from postpartum depression, but I chose to review it thinking it might encourage adoptive families as well.  Adoptive moms can struggle with depression in just the same way that bio moms do. Bottom line– adding a child to your family can be a very challenging adventure.  And in times of stress it can be easy for people to grow apart.

As I suspected, a lot of the advice in the book did translate very easily to couples who’ve adopted. But I didn’t expect the ideas in the book to apply so easily to almost any challenging yet important relationship in life– whether that be with a spouse, a friend, or maybe even a teen who’s having a hard time seeing you as an ally instead of an enemy.

The author calls these ideas ‘tokens of affection’– basically gifts you freely give to your loved one because you desire for the relationship to grow and improve.  Chapters talk about each of the tokens: esteem, collaboration, selflessness, sanctuary, expression, tolerance, and loyalty.  As you read this list, you might have a gut feeling about which of these tokens might be hardest for you to offer your loved ones.  The book explains how each token builds the relationship in a different way, and gives ideas for offering each of these tokens to your spouse.  And the awesome thing is that both partners don’t necessarily have to have read this book– just one partner offering these tokens will begin to improve the relationship, offering both partners incentive to come together and work more at the relationship.

I’m not quite done with this book yet, but I’ve found it to be worth every minute of time I’ve given it.  I recommend it very highly. If you’d like a chance to win a copy, comment below and tell me which token sounds most intriguing.  Is it one you’d like to receive?  One you’re good at giving?  One that challenges you? I think I’m good at loyalty and collaboration, but probably could work on being more tolerant, especially of differences of opinion.  I personally would love to get the token of expression– to be able to express what I’m feeling without judgement or without having to worry that expressing myself will upset the equilibrium.

OK, so that covers the giveaway.  The other thing that I wanted to do in this post is ask a favor of you in regard to my Owlhaven facebook page.  First, if you haven’t already liked it, would you follow this link and do so? It’s one way you can support my writing. Second, Facebook has recently made changes so that even when you ‘like’ a page, you don’t always see all of the updates on that page.  (They want folks to pay for advertising.) If you would like to receive a fb notification each time there’s a new post here, what you need to do is go to the “Liked” button  here on my facebook page, hover over it, and then click on “get notifications.” That way you’ll know if I have a new post up.  Thanks so much!

Remember to comment below if you’d like to win a copy of ‘Tokens of Affection’ and as always, thanks so much for reading here!

Frugal Friday

Some of our campers

It’s Friday again. How did your week go? I can’t believe how fast the summer is flying by, with driving kids to work, weeding the garden, swimming, and just living.  The short story with me and frugality this week is that I guess you can’t win them all.  Here are the details.

  • We went camping over the weekend, and somehow managed to leave our lunch in the fridge at home.  So that meant a stop at the grocery store on the way to the mountains to buy bread and lunch meat to replace that lunch.  The bonus was that we had an easy sandwich meal already made when we got home.
  • We had to replace two tires on the minivan and one tire on John’s car, so that was a ding to the budget.  Thankfully the flat tire on the wood trailer was free to fix at Les Schwab.
  • One victory over temptation: I went frugal this week with my Stitch Fix package.  I really like 4 out of the 5 items, but I only had credits for 2.  So I chose #2 the striped dress and #3 the striped tank top, for a grand total of zero money out of pocket.  My family has a running joke that all Stitch Fix has to do is send me something in stripes and I will buy it.  I kinda think they’re right.
  • This week I made a dozen jars of apricot jam. The apricots on our tree are just getting ripe, so there will probably be more. This past year we ran out of jam before early spring, so this summer I am trying to make enough this summer so that won’t happen again next year.  Some of the apricots were mushy or had bugs in them.  But those went to the chickens to peck at, so nothing was wasted.
  • John planted flowers in a side flowerbed that he’d grown from seed himself.  He even planted a basil plant for me that I’m hoping will thrive.  We have the new flowers in a flower bed under the swamp cooler, which drains water all day long.  So the plants should stay good and wet without us having to remember to water them–a bonus in dry Idaho in July.
  • Speaking of the swamp cooler, these days that’s what we’re using instead of the air conditioner.  It is able to keep the house a good 20 degrees cooler than the outdoors.  So by late afternoon on 100 degree days, it still feels kinda warm in the house, but it is much cheaper to run than our A/C, and also seems much less likely to need repairs.
  • We still have two steers, which is a bit more than our two acres of pasture can easily feed in the heat of July.  We do have three pasture rotations to move them through, giving a chance for pastures to grow.  But basically in July and August they eat two sections before the third section has a chance to grow up. A week or two ago we decided to start feeding them our lawnmower clippings, something we hadn’t done in the past because we’ve heard that feeding them large piles of grass sporadically can make them sick, especially if the piles ferment.  So we decided to mow about 20 minutes every day, and feeding them just those clippings freshly cut clippings each day. Since we’re mowing about an acre, that’s plenty big enough to mow a little a day.  It looks a little odd to have only part of the back yard mowed at a time, but the clippings delight the cows.  They’re looking fat, and they now are trained to come mooing up to the fence whenever someone turns on a lawn mower.
  • A minor frugal fail this week came on Thursday.  I was having some people over for lunch, and thought I’d have enough time to do soup and bread, or something homemade anyway.  But then a doctor’s appointment for one of my kids went long, and I ended up getting chicken at Albertson’s to serve instead of actually cooking.  It was a perfectly fine lunch and not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.  But I’d wanted to fuss over my guests a bit more than that, and was disappointed that a long appointment plus not planning ahead left me at the deli counter.
  • Another money guzzler this week was opting to drive our largest vehicle on errands, simply because it is the only one with A/C.  But hey, in 100-degree heat, I figure momma’s comfort is worth a little extra gas.  At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.  I did try to minimize my outings, though, and combined errands to use gas most wisely.

One plan that we have for August is not frugal, but needed.  The boys’ bathroom shower has a leak in the wall that John temporarily patched with duct tape and a shower curtain several months ago. (So pretty!  😉 )  While we’re replacing the shower stall, we’re also planning to bump out a bathroom wall to enlarge the bathroom and possibly fit a full tub up there too.  I think it will be a nice improvement, and if we do most of the work ourselves, it shouldn’t be terrifically spendy.  (I know, famous last words, right?)  I’ll keep you posted.

How’d your week go?


Recipe: Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Spicy BBQ'd Shrimp
For our 4th of July party several years running we’ve done spicy grilled shrimp on the barbecue.  Here’s the recipe we used this year, and I thought it was really yummy. Since I forgot to get a picture either year, though, the photocredit belongs to a different recipe I found on  As pretty as this shrimp is with the tails on, we did go ahead and take the tails off ours before skewering them, to make them easier to eat.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Spicy Grilled Shrimp


  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 pounds medium or large shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced


  1. Peel and devein shrimp and remove tails.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag and marinate for 1 hour.
  3. If using wooden skewers, soak in water while shrimp marinate.
  4. Thread shrimp onto wooden or metal skewers.
  5. Heat grill to medium-low.
  6. Grill shrimp for 3-5 minutes per side, or until they are opaque and pinkish in color.



Down by the river side

This past weekend we took some of the kids camping in the mountains. ‘Some’ because with three teens working and one taking a summer class, it’s becoming just about impossible to find a time everyone can get away. This weekend we left two teens home with my folks, and took four kids with us, which felt like a ridiculously small number of kids in our big ol’ van. We missed the ones who couldn’t come, but we had fun with the ones we brought, and ended up feeling like it was still worth going. My mom and dad had fun visiting with the other kids, and then they were able to go to work and school as they needed to do. Still, it felt sad to think we’re past the era of being able to easily pack everyone up and take off on an adventure together.

In the summertime we almost always camp on John’s mom’s land, which has been John’s family’s summer gathering place since the 1970’s.  It’s along the edge of a sweet little river where we go fishing and swimming. Both John’s parents and his grandparents have owned land along that river.
John’s granddad built a a big open shed to shelter their travel trailer so they could leave it there on his land year round.  For years after he died, that old trailer stayed there under the shed.  Then a couple years ago someone outside the family expressed an interest in the trailer, and so off it went to a new home, leaving the shed empty.

But not for long.  We discovered the space was just right for our own travel trailer, so for the past couple summers we’ve parked under the shelter for the summer. Parking is tricky–we (meaning, John) have to get everything lined up exactly straight, because there are literally only inches to spare on each side.  But once it’s in, it’s like the shed was made for our trailer.  The most delightful bit of the shed is the little deck that granddad built along one edge, with its perfect view of our beloved river. 

Our family place

Our trailer is few feet shorter than grandma and granddad’s, leaving a bit of unused shade under the cover behind our travel trailer. This year, at the tail end of our stay, we decided on the spur of the moment to get some lumber and add just a bit more deck in that empty space behind the trailer.  John built the framework, then set the kids to pounding nails.  Within a couple hours, we had a whole new addition to the space that has been so very well loved for so many years.

Always, whenever we stay here, I think of the previous owners and creators of that space.  How Granddad lovingly thought of every little detail to make his beautiful bride comfortable when they came to the mountains to rest and relax and visit. How Granddad would zip around on his motorcycle, and Grandma would sit fishing at her favorite little fishing hole.  How John as a little boy would walk through the woods from his parent’s cabin to visit the grandparents and to play with them.  How they’d all gather together around the campfire in the evenings and laugh and swap stories. How one year just before we were married, John brought me along and showed me around the place too. How we’ve come all these years too, first with tiny babies and toddlers, then with school kids and teens.

Even in this busy phase of our life, it is precious to me to think that our children all have sweet memories of this place, of spending time with us and with siblings and grandparents and cousins. Of riding motorbikes and carrying fishing poles and splashing in the river and occasionally chopping trees or hammering nails to keep everything together and functioning well. I can only imagine that Grandma and Granddad would smile to see us here.

Maybe that river of ours does too– that ever-changing but also somehow changeless river– trickling along, watching our family growing and living and loving our time together here.



Stitch Fix #10


I got my latest Stitch Fix in the mail yesterday and I was so thrilled with these items as I pulled them out of the box. There were so many pretty details and colors I love.  Just look at the details on these tops.  So much fun.




I approached this stitch fix with a bit of trepidation, however.  In the juggling act that is my life, I’ve dropped the ball lately in the fitness department. I have only been exercising 1-2 days a week for several months and am not at my trimmest– bah.  I just last week got back to counting calories and exercising more–and hope to be back to a better weight by winter.  I know all that I’ve been doing lately, and am trying to extend myself grace.  But still I’m not loving the way I look, even in these adorable clothes.

1. Kaleidoscope pattern top

This top is cotton and comfy, with a back edge that goes longer than the front, a feature I like.  It felt really nice on, and I thought it was a sure keeper, but looking at the photo I’m not sure.  Does it look old-lady-ish?  Or cute?  The style card suggested that you could wear it with a jeans jacket, which means it could wear it into fall, something that appeals to me.



2. Maxi dress

I LOVED the style of this straight out of the box, including the way it is made to be a little blousy under the bust.  It actually has an inner bodice layer that is shorter than the outer bodice so that the looseness stays.  I wasn’t sure how it would look on me, but I ended up liking it on me way better than I thought I would. My husband absolutely loved it and called it a keeper.  I could picture wearing it out on a date as-is, especially since he likes it so much.  But most of the time I’d probably feel more comfy wearing it with something over top, maybe a v-neck tee so that some of the dress’s stripes show still, or maybe even with a lacy t? A shrug?



3. Stripe tank

This top is one I am absolutely going to keep. It flows nicely, fits great, is bright and cheery, and is very cool for summer.  A sure winner.



4. Beige Cardigan

This soft knit cardigan appealed to me very least of all the items.  But at least one of my teen daughters loved it, so of course that made me doubt my instincts.  It is soft and comfy, but I’m not sure if the looseness is flattering, or just makes me look wider.   It feels like overall in need of a color boost– maybe a turquoise tank top underneath would be better than the peach one I chose to model it with.


Here I experimented with tying the front of it in a knot, to make it feel less wide and boxy.  Again, I’m not sure.


5. White Top

I love, love, love the details  and length of this sweet white top. My husband was less certain and said it made him think of a dutch girl.  It is soft and feminine and I think would be nice and cool to wear in the heat.  Plus the accents are turquoise, my favorite color in the universe.  But it is a little fluffy.  Maybe too young for me?


Overall, I think my Stitch Fix stylist did a great job choosing styles I love.  If I choose to keep all of the pieces, I will get a 25% discount, which basically breaks down to the same as choosing only 4 of the 5 items.  So if I like 4 of them enough to keep, I might as well just buy them all.  And I do have some Stitch Fix credits, which makes it doable.  But I’m still on the fence about 2 (3? 4?) of these items.  I’d love to get your feedback.

If you are interested in getting a fix of your own, or in earning Stitch Fix credits by referring your friends to Stitch Fix, just click on the box below to tell Stitch Fix about your style preferences and schedule your first fix.  If you enjoy Pinterest and have a style board there, I highly recommend linking to your Pinterest page with your Stitch Fix account, as that really helps your stylist choose things that you will like.  (If you’re curious, here’s my Style board on Pinterest.)

Stitch Fix