Ocean dreams

I’m sitting here in a sunny house with the roar of ocean in my ears, and sunshine flashing off water before my eyes, and all around me is my family.  It’s our week at the beach, a big long exhale of relaxation for us all in the midst of the busy-ness of life.

ocean view

Here my kids have time to play pinochle with their grandparents, and work on puzzles together.  Kids are playing video games.  This morning John and our youngest girls have been trying out a skim-board on ocean waves.  I’ve snuggled with grandbabies and carried then around long enough each day that my biceps are sore.  We’ve read stories and played games and eaten meals together and cleaned up afterwards together.  We’ve shopped and watched TV and lazed around eating too many snacks. We’ve taken long walks on the beach. We’ve even celebrated a certain kiddo’s third birthday.

Always this time is a highlight of my year, a time where we actually slow down for awhile and enjoy each other.  Ahhhhhh……

And now I’m sitting here trying to get brave enough to tell you about our big crazy-audacious ocean dream, one that John and I have held close to our hearts for a lotta years.

Ever since our very first vacation trip to the Oregon coast on our honeymoon,  we’ve been dreaming of having our own house near the ocean. It sounds crazy and pretentious to even write it, and–  I know, I know–  not frugal in the least.  But the beach has always been our happy place. One of the reasons we drive old cars and go to thrift stores and cook at home is so that we can afford this much-anticipated week or two at the beach each year.

For the past five years, as we’ve gradually gotten closer to paying off our own house, we’ve been looking at land on the Oregon coast, wondering if we could have a space here all of our very own.  And finally last fall we found a lot on a hill looking out at the ocean listed at a really doable price.

We bought it, and we’ve jokingly christened it our mid-life crisis.  It’ll be a few years before we build, but it feels really good to be moving from the dreaming stage (gradually) toward the doing.  First up is to pay off of our current house– 9 more months should do it!  Then we’ll save up a good solid down payment for the new build and go from there.  We’re so excited!

IMG_1984 (457x640)What we’re planning to do is build a house on the lot that would work well for large groups like our family.  Times together are so precious, and I love the idea of designing something that would wisely utilize a space for maximal efficiency for a big group, and make time together easy and comfortable.

In a decade or so of renting vacation houses for our clan,  we’ve learned a lot about what works and what isn’t essential.Sure, size is nice, but layout of the space, and location of bathrooms is a lot more important.  We’ve stayed in homes where the master suite is a palace, and all the other bedrooms are microscopic.  That’s not what we’re going for.  We’d like space where many people can feel comfortable, with great places to gather and also comfy places to be alone. It’s a different kind of frugality, I think, to make every square foot be functional for a big group. If you follow me on Pinterest you’ve seen some of the home ideas that have caught my eye.  I’ve also had help from a really neat computer program called Chief Architect Home Designer .  What fun it’s been to design and dream and rearrange on the computer screen.

The current rendition of our dream plan is 6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and 3200 square feet.  Big, yes. But there are no mega-closets, no mega-master suites, no two-story entries. It’s a comfortable two level home with kitchen, dining room and living room on the top level so we can sit and see the ocean while we visit.  (The very first photo in this post is actually a picture of ‘our’ view as close as we can get it so far, from the next door neighbor’s deck.  :)   And to tell the full story, we’ll be looking over the neighbor’s roof tops to see that view of ocean.  But it’s a big lovely view anyway.

We’re thinking to build the house with three master suites so several couples can have private space, with one of those suites being wheelchair accessible so folks can travel with their elderly parents or others who are in wheelchairs. We also plan to  install a stair-chair to make the entire home accessible.   There are bunk beds and extra sleeping spaces  for cousins, and John also has ideas for a really neat play space that I’ll tell you more about later.

KiteOur hope is to offer the home as a vacation rental during the parts of the year that we wouldn’t be using it ourselves.  Best case scenario: it could provide us a bit of retirement income.  Or who knows? Maybe it will only  rent out every now and then, and simply defray a bit of the cost of our own vacations.  We’ll be doing some of the building ourselves to keep the costs affordable.  And I’ve been doing tons of research about vacation rental properties.  I love the idea of making a beautiful welcoming space that would be a place where wonderful memories are made for many families, not just our own.

It’s SUCH a big dream that it feels audacious and nutty to even tell you about it.  But we’re going forward step by step, and waiting to see when doors open finance-wise.

I’ll keep you posted on the whole process. In the meantime– I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve rented homes before, or even considered it.  Do you ever vacation with a large group of friends or extended family? What features are essential to you?  What kinds of things are deal-breakers? I’d love to hear about what’s important to you when you’re vacationing with loved ones.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just stopping in quickly to wish you all a very blessed Mother’s Day, and to share a photo from our daughter Lidya’s graduation this weekend. After a year and a half of hard work, she earned her technical certificate in dental assisting, and we’re so proud of her!

Lidya's graduation

Frugal Friday- and free spring art

This coming Monday starts my orientation for my new job–yikes!  At odd moments  nervousness hits me– I’ve been at home SO long– how will everyone survive??  I’ve been coping by reminding myself that tons of people work, even with much younger kids at home.  Once we find our groove we really will be fine, I’m sure. But to feel proactive about this whole thing, and to ease my nerves, I’ve been planning obsessively.  I resurrected my trusty white board from where it was gathering dust behind the piano, and got next week’s menu all planned.  Super easy stuff, with  various family members all taking turns being in charge of a meal.

Wednesday I made a couple casseroles for the freezer, made a crock pot full of chili, part for this week and part for later in the month.  I also browned ground beef for  tacos one night next week.  I always feel industrious when I get meals in the freezer for later, and it will make it much easier to resist the lure of fast food.

menus and checklist

I also printed an April checklist for each of my kids, detailing the 6-8 things they each need to do daily for school and to keep the household running smoothly.  It’s all normal stuff, but usually I’m around to nag keep everyone on track.  So I thought a checklist was in order. To keep it more fun, I’m offering bribes for successful checklist completion– things like Dutch Bros. gift cards, movie tickets, M&M’s, and Color Me Your Way color books.  I don’t think the bribery will be a long term thing.  After the first 5 weeks, I’ll be going down to two days a week, and also school will be nearly done for the year, but for now I’m just focusing on making April as smooth and simple as possible– and a little more fun for the kids.

Last week I bought myself a cute little lunch box, complete with a freezer pack and a bunch of little storage containers– very fun.  And again, stuff like this will make it easier and more appealing to eat food from home instead of grabbing food while I’m out.

Let’s see….what else is happening around here? Each season I like to decorate our main living area with something seasonal– flowers, wreaths, etc. Emily, my resident artist, has been having fun decorating my chalkboard for me in a seasonal way.  Here’s my Pinterest board with fun chalk decor ideas that have been our inspiration.

And I wanted to tell you about some free stuff!  I have a picture frame in my kitchen, in which I like to rotate verses, pictures, and the occasional wise quote.  A couple weeks ago I was looking here Craftionary  and here One Sutton Place and found lots of cute free spring printables for my picture frame.

(And as fun and with-it as all that sounds, I need to confess that I just barely took down my last bit of Christmas decor which apparently I’ve been blind to for months– a wooden snowflake thing hanging where it was almost the first thing visitors would see.)

We have tulips in the front flowerbed here, but there’s still frost on the grass many mornings, and we still fire up the wood stove for a few hours each morning to take the chill off.  I’m looking forward to more spring and warmer weather.  Are you enjoying your spring?  Is it warm yet where you are?As always, I’d love to hear about your frugality efforts.



Caroline Ingalls and me

Funny how a character from a book can grab you in childhood and never ever leave you.  I found myself thinking again about the Laura Ingalls books the other day, and wondered what had so captivated me about those books.  First I thought maybe it was Laura.  Definitely there were times in my early life where I felt like I fit awkwardly into my world, which was also a common feeling of Laura’s.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls

But thinking deeper, I realized that it was actually Caroline Ingalls who made the biggest impact on my adult life.  She was always making the best of her circumstances, adding beauty to her home in all sorts of ways, and encouraging her family to learn and to be graceful and courageous in the midst of challenge.

One of the stories that comes back to me often is the way she used carrot juice to color winter-pale butter.  She got the juice by grating a carrot over an old tin pan pierced with nails, and then wrapping the carrot bits in cloth and squeezing the juice out.  She wanted her butter to be pretty even in the winter time.

There are stories of her making over dresses, and telling her girls stories from her childhood, and putting colored ribbons in her girls’ hair, and teaching them to read from the two books that they owned.  She treasured a little china doll that she kept on a pretty shelf, and was dismayed at first by living in the sod house built into a hill on the banks of Plum Creek.  Then, just like always, she squared her shoulders and made the best of it.

The book most memorable to me and my very favorite was ‘The Long Winter”.  Caroline had to call on every skill to help her family through that terrible winter. They ground wheat in a coffee grinder, and burned hay in the wood stove when the firewood was gone, and barely, barely lived through those long cold days.

It was not til adulthood that I understood another, equally powerful strength that Caroline possessed.  She was able to love her husband well, and support and treasure him even as he carried his family hither and yon to all the different places they lived during Laura’s childhood.  Charles was a dreamer, a restless soul, and (I think) not always a good decision-maker.  Very often he asked his family to move right as life was getting easier for Caroline– when the garden was getting productive and the children were enjoying school and the well had been dug and the house was cozy and warm.

How hard it must have been for Caroline to acquiesce to each move gracefully, to trust her husband’s judgement though she knew his decisions often brought her family great challenge.  Of course it was a different time, one where men were expected to lead and women just followed.  And Laura probably omitted some of the hard moments and hard conversations that his decisions sparked.

But what I read in those books, even now as an adult, is strength and grace and a powerfully honoring way about her.  I think it was she who helped him be the best man that he could be.

In my mind, she’s the real heroine in the Laura Ingalls books, possessing both skills that I’ve worked to cultivate and others that I don’t remotely yet have a grasp on.  I’m glad to have had such a strong woman to inhabit my mind, both in my childhood and even now that I’m all grown up.

What about you?  Do characters in childhood books still live in your mind?


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When you’re suffering


I’ve been thinking lately about the hard in life, how it lambasts you sometimes amid a stretch of tranquil days, surprising you with that ‘oh, it’s you again’ familiar misery.  How lying in the dark some nights the heart aches so hard it’s a struggle even to breathe.  There are moments you’re wild to talk it through with someone, someone who will understand the pain of it all, someone who will lift just a few ounces of the stifling load off your chest.  Someone who can sit with you and encourage you to keep breathing, keep trusting, keep stepping forward.

But who can we truly trust?  Who will not betray us?  Oh, it is scary to be transparent, to honestly unveil the shape of the ‘hard’ that is rocking your particular bit of the world on any given day.  The reasons not to speak are so many.

When it’s a loved one whose pain is savaging your heart, even in the middle of that pain you often still want to protect them from the uncharitable thoughts of others.

Or maybe it’s pity you want to avoid.  Who wants everyone feeling sorry for you, or wincing at just how un-together your life is some days?

Or maybe it’s judgment that you fear.  Always it seems there are people judging you for not getting this thing or that thing under control.  Judging you for not preventing this pain in the first place.  Not being wise enough, kind enough, dedicated enough, maybe even ruthless enough.

There’s also the problem of scale. Maybe despite the very real misery in your own heart, you know that others have it so much worse.  There are friends mourning lost children, loved ones coping with their cancer or their child’s cancer, friends facing financial ruin or relational ruin or spiritual ruin.  And all over the world, for the love of all that’s good, there are mothers whose dearest wish is simply to be able to feed their children.  So. much. hard.

How dare I complain?

And yet.  The heart aches.  Quietly breaks sometimes under the weight of the struggle just to keep breathing in and out.  What then?

The longer I live, the more I realize that pain is a familiar stalker of us all.  Some more than others, perhaps.  Each of us experience it in different ways, and some hide it deeper than others.  But oh, we all know hurt.  Don’t we, friends?

Our first and best and brightest hope in all of this pain-filled world is Jesus.  He remembers our weakness.  Sees every tear we shed.  Feels every ache. He promises to someday wipe all tears from our eyes.  He promises that His plan for us is good, that it is intended to give us hope and a future.  He promises that He will carry His good work on in each of us to completion.  He went to the cross and died to ensure that bright and complete and perfect future for us.

On those promises we can depend.

But when we find ourselves adrift in the abyss of suffering, I think most of us also long for the kind of friend willing to be ‘Jesus with skin on’ to us. The kind quick to offer solace and forgiveness and encouragement,  and glacier-slow to offer judgement.  We also need friends willing to share their own moments of struggle and pain.

Some of us have hurts deep and raw and evident, and we need no invitation to share.  It just bubbles out. But others of us are all too quick to paste on a smile and to say, ‘Oh, I have it so much better than so many…’ when really what we need most is a safe place to share honestly, to unburden those covered-up hearts. And for some of us that courage only comes when someone else is brave and honest and vulnerable and transparent, first.  Leading the way.

Oh, to have friends like that.  Oh, to be that kind of friend. It truly is one way to see Jesus at work in this hard and hurting world. We all know pain and suffering.  Let’s lift each other up whenever we can.

Flowers in the redwoods

My baby is 10!

No frugality post this week– sorry, today we decorated gingerbread houses instead. I did remember, however, that I hadn’t yet shared any pictures of a very momentous event in my heart– my sweet and sassy lil Julianna turning TEN years old.  Be still, my heart.  We ended up celebrating twice, once with friends and then again the next night with family. Here she is having fun with her sister and their friends who spent the night.

Here’s Julianna and her friends again, getting ready to pulverize a pinata.  They had lots of treats, including BBQ chips (her fave) and stayed up late to watch TWO episodes of High School Musical.  The next day we even fit in ice skating and frozen yogurt.  Whew.

10 Yrs Old

Here she is with her little nieces and nephews, getting ready to blow out candles at the family party.  As the happy birthday song was winding down, Ascher puckered up to blow Julianna’s candles out all by himself, which idea Ranger nixed by covering Ascher’s mouth just in time. We all got a laugh at him policing his cousin.  Crazy how much kiddos learn in less than 3 years on earth.  They are so much fun. I’m so glad that even tho my baby is getting so big, we still have plenty of little ones to enjoy.

10YrsOld (1)


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!

Happy 4th– and Frugal Friday

Raspberry Jam

Happy 4th of July!  It’s Frugal Friday again!

This week I cooked double batches of chili and pasta carbonera, so I was able to serve 4 meals for the effort of two. Thankfully my family does pretty well with leftovers, because they are a real help on busy days.  We also resisted fast food when we were out during dinnertime one day, instead waiting to eat til we got home.

On Monday we had our usual 4th of July party with all our kids.  OK, not really frugal, but I wanted an excuse to show you pictures.  We played all sorts of water games and had burgers and grilled shrimp and melons and jalapeno poppers for dinner.  Our married girls brought dessert– yay!– and our grown boys contributed to the treats that folks won as prizes for the various  games.  We had lots of fun.  Click on the various photos to see the enlarged version of each.  Bonus points if you spotted the new girl and wondered who she is.  Her name is Erika and she is Jared’s girlfriend.  :)  Slightly confusing since Jared also has a sister named Erika, but very delightful. :)

On Tuesday we took the teens to the dollar movies with friends. This year to encourage them to spend their money wisely, we decided to only allow three ‘new’ (full price) movies per year, and to wait for the dollar theater for other movies.  This has not been the most popular decision: some say since it’s their money, they should be able to decide, and in the spring it was painful for them to only watch SOME of the new movies their friends were seeing. But this summer there are lots of interesting options in the dollar theater that they now get to enjoy for the first time (or second) for only a buck. Not sure if this decision will truly lead to wiser spending later in life, but at least it is netting just a bit more money in each kid’s bank account.

On Tuesday I also canned 13 pints of raspberry jam.  The berries are coming on full force– hooray! — a really good thing since last year I didn’t can enough jam, and we ran out in about March this year.  Also of note, my husband had one of the boys spray our apple trees for the second time this summer, which should increase our yield greatly.  We’ll probably spray one or two more times between now and harvest time in September.  All our other garden produce is organic, but apples just need spray if you’re not into worms.  At least in our experience.

On Wednesday we brought kids to the God and Country Rally, an outdoor concert, fireworks display, and patriotic celebration in our area, where we got to see Audio Adrenaline, Esterlyn, and Ryan Stevenson for a grand total of $5 (to park the van.)  We ate before we went, brought dollar-store glow sticks with us instead of buying the overpriced ones they sell in the venue, and limited the kids to $6 spending each. Again there came mild grumbling about my spending cap, but I just told them no one ever regrets having money in savings. Right?

On Thursday I found a CUTE clearance outfit at GAP for my youngest daughter for less than $6 including tax.  Just about the only time I’ll buy kids’ clothes new is if the clearance is stupendous, and this time it was.  We also moseyed into Claire’s and found cards of earrings marked down to $2, with an additional sale of buy two/get one. So 6 cards of earring cost me less than $9, and will be good little stocking stuffer/birthday gifts here and there.  They were even earrings for sensitive ears, which is a necessity for one of my daughters.

On Thursday I made split peas and rice for lunch– super easy, moderately well liked by all, and very affordable.  I also made a menu plan for the next couple weeks, which should help me wisely use all the food we have stashed in freezer, fridge and cupboards. And one of these days we’ll have apricots, and later plums from our fruit trees– always a help in the produce department in the summer. All in all, a decently successful week in the finance department around here.

How’d it go at your house?  I love to hear about your successes.


Camping fun

Here’s at least some of what’s been keeping me away from the blog during the past week. I’ll write more later. Hope you’re enjoying your summer as well!






Games in the lodge



Sweet little Ascher
Too busy to blog today, but thankfully my lovely daughters have somehow found time to blog even with teeny ones!  Maybe you’d like to pop over and see what’s new with them??