Friday, December 11, 2015

DIY Rebel Alliance Tshirts

I made something!!!

It is so much harder now for me to do anything creative. We are in a smaller house and my only work space is the dining table where we eat. So I can't leave any projects out!

We have three birthday parties this month. Money is always very tight so I tried to think of something I could make as a present. All three boys like "Star Wars" and I thought it might be fun to make something "Star Wars" related since the new movie is coming out.  Recently, I saw a man walking down the street with a Rebel Alliance tshirt on. I loved the graphic quality of the image and felt confident I could make something using the Freezer Paper Stencil technique.

There are freezer paper stencil tutorials all over the internet so I won't go into too much detail.

Freezer Paper
Rebel Alliance image (there are lots on the internet)
Fabric paint (I used Tulip's Matte True Red)
Black tshirt
Foam brush

First, I searched for an image of the Rebel Alliance symbol and printed out an enlarged version.

I then laid a piece of freezer paper over the image and traced it with a pencil. I cut the image out of the freezer paper to make a stencil.  Once you have your stencil, you will need to place it on your tshirt with the shiny side down. Use a hot iron over the paper to get it to stick to the shirt. Make sure all the cut edges have a nice seal.

Time to paint!

I placed a paper shopping bag inside each shirt to prevent paint from soaking through. You will probably get some bleeding and you don't want it to soak through to the back of shirt. You want a nice sharp edge to your image so I prefer to dab the paint on with a foam brush. It is much better to dab paint on from above than smooth it on within the stencil. You don't want any paint to get under the edges of the stencil.

I don't like the black to show through so I did a first pass when the paintbrush and let it dry. Then, I went back over a second time. Once the paint has fully dried (don't rush this!), carefully remove the stencil. When you are peeling, bits of the freezer paper can sometimes get left behind. I pulled some off with tweezers. The rest will eventually come off in the wash.

I think the shirts look pretty cool! Hopefully, the boys will like them!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feeling Lots of Feelings

I know I haven't checked in in awhile. My life is at a very strange point.  When we moved in May, I lost my office so I am now down to a baker's rack in the kitchen. My only space to create is the dining table. Since the dining table is our only eating space, I can't leave any projects out. I have felt completely uninspired for a long time.

I look at photographs of all the things I used to make and it makes me sad. When Noodlebug was little, I sewed him handmade clothes and costumes and knitted him things and made him toys. Somehow I even found time to create mixed media canvases and other projects. Now, I don't do anything creative. It is as if the stress of life and constant financial worry has drained all the creativity and drive out of me.

I did mange to pull together some Halloween costumes. This year, our little family went as some of the Feelings from "Inside Out."  Meet Sadness, Anger, and Fear.

I'm not sure how to get my creative mojo back. I'm feeling a bit lost right now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Am Changing

I have felt for awhile now that I am on the edge a big change in my life. It wasn't just the fact that I turned 40 in May. Many of my peers spent the time leading up to their 40th birthdays getting fit and losing weight. As much as I would have liked to focus on that, I spent the time leading up to my birthday losing my home and starting over yet again. This latest move has forced me to re-evaluate many aspects of my life. I spent the Summer getting rid of a lot of stuff. I'm almost done cleaning out. This is not a konmari approach but more something driven out of fear and necessity. If we have to suddenly move again, I need to limit how much we have to pack and move. This blog has been idle because I haven't been creating anything.  Instead, I have been dismantling things. I have yet to open all the boxes from my old workroom and make tough decisions about getting rid of craft and art materials. It has been so long since I have sat down to create anything at all. I used to paint. I used to collage. I used to sew.  What happened to that person?

The last five years have been tough. Our lives completely changed when my husband lost his job.  Although we are both employed now, we are not making the money we did back then. Our new rental costs us $600 more than the old one.  Almost all my paycheck goes to cover rent and we usually run out of money by mid-month. We are trying desperately to dig out of the debt accrued while my husband didn't have a job. We'll get there.  It is just a painful process in the meantime. I am working towards the goal of owning a home again. That is my sole focus right now.

As we work through these difficult times, I am starting to think about who I really am right now. I find myself attracted to surprising things and people. I am drawing inspiration like never before from Instagram. I am feeling called to start a Bible journaling practice to re-focus my faith journey. I am changing my style and how I look. I am trying to figure out ways to get healthy while working full-time and taking care of two households. Things are happening.

I decided to join Brave Girl University to re-take some of the Brave Girls Club classes that meant so much to me several years ago. I think I need to spend some time figuring out who I am and what I really want. I feel myself withdrawing from a lot of things that used to give me joy and turning away from the company of others.  It is as if I am building a cocoon and isolating myself to start the painful process of becoming someone else.

I am not sure what is going to happen but recently I have been turning to Rainer Maria Rilke who meant so much to me in my college years:

"How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
     So you mustn't be frightened...if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. "

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Brave Girl University

A few years ago, I was looking for inspiration and guidance. I knew I was experiencing a lot of change in my life and I needed a way to gather my thoughts about everything that was happening. My friend directed me to Brave Girls Club. I loved it because their classes combined some really great self-help guidance along with creative instruction. Best of both worlds!  Over the years, I have taken several of their classes.  I feel like my life is changing yet again and it may be time to retake some of my favorite BGC classes like Soul Restoration and Life Restoration. When I went to investigate signing up, I discovered that the wonderful people at Brave Girls Club were embarking on a new adventure!

Starting TODAY, Brave Girl University is launching!  For a $25 per month subscription, you get access to online courses by over 80 different teachers!  And many of my favorites! I can't wait to take classes from Junelle Jacobsen, Mindy Lacefield, Stephanie Ackerman, Tamara Laporte, Jeanne Oliver, and so many more! I love online classes because I can do them whenever I find a spare moment. And I love knowing that as long as I am a subscriber, I will have access to these classes. No deadlines!

I can't wait to see what this new adventure is like!  Maybe I will actually get a moment to create something. It has been awhile and I think my soul needs it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Why I Love Evy's Tree

(This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and 
I received no compensation in any form for this post.)

In January 2012, like many others, I was closely following Ashley Hackshaw's cancer journey. Ashley is such a creative spirit and I had received so much inspiration from her blog. I prayed for her and marveled at her strength in the face of such extreme adversity. It is a testament to Ashley's impact on the blogging world that so many bloggers and shop owners came together to create a special auction that would benefit Ashley and her family.  Leading the charge was Amy Miraflor of Evy's Tree.

I had never heard of Evy's Tree before but was immediately charmed by Amy's embellished hoodies. I loved that she had developed this cottage industry out of her home. I didn't win one of Amy's hoodies but I did become a customer.

(Vintage Brilla)
In 2013, Amy decided to grow her business and launched a manufactured line. It was about this time that I FINALLY realized that Evy's Tree was in my own backyard!!! I kept buying hoodies and anxiously awaited the day when Evy's Tree would expand enough to open a storefront in Sonoma County.  That finally happened during the last year.

So, why do I love these hoodies so much?  I am a plus-size girl. It can be very very hard to feel good in anything when you are plus-size. Every time I admire clothing on FB or IG, I will invariably discover that it does not come in my size. I can't even do Stitch Fix which so many of my friends are crazy about. My size isn't available. So, when I find something that makes me feel good when I wear it, it's a BIG DEAL!  I love that Evy's Tree offers XS through 2X. (or 0/2 through 20/22).  Another problem that many women have with online and catalog orders is that it is hard to know how something will fit if you aren't the size of the model wearing the clothes. Evy's Tree is so great about having all their lovely employees model their hoodies. Fans of ET tend to have their favorite "fit model" that they always look for on FB and IG.  (I love Nicole and Harmony)  Seeing these hoodies on women of all shapes and sizes is not only inspiring but very helpful in ordering!

I also love how the company is supportive of families. They seem to take care of their employees. When I visit the showroom, I am always impressed with how kind everyone is. Every employee that walks through introduces himself or herself to me and makes me feel welcome. That is pretty darn special!

The hoodies are pricey. They are considered a luxury brand with lots of wonderful little details. I can't always buy them when they come out. But I watch for sales like a hawk! The team releases 2-4 hoodies per month. The brand has quite the cult following that has even inspired FB groups like "Evy's Tree Styling, Resale, Chat."

Here are some of my favorite Evy's Tree moments.  I am 5'7" and wear a size 16.

(Ashley Stripe in XL)

(Blush Diana in XL)

(Sea Glass Reece in XL...although I will be sizing up to 1X if I get another one of these)

(Josie Tunic in Vintage Grey in XL)

(Here I am in the ET Showroom wearing the new Lisa Golden in Large)
(Cognac Brilla in 1X)
(Addyson--unbelted--in XL)

(Christie in Mauve in size 2X--Slightly too big but definitely size up unless you want it super-fitted)

(Side view of Christie--a size 1X would have been perfect)

(Sienna Ashley in size XL worn with Grace and Lace extender)

The hoodies allow me to be comfortable and casual while also being slightly more dressy and put together.  Plus, they layer so nicely!!!

Recently, Evy's Tree realized the need for a rewards program. If only I had had that two years ago!  This referral link will get you 10% off your first purchase. From time to time, I will post photos of me wearing new releases just because I like to drop by the showroom!

It is always great to be able to support a wonderful company filled with wonderful people!

For the most up to date info on Evy's tree, follow them on Instagram @evystreeofficial or on Facebook.  If you live in Sonoma County, I HIGHLY recommend you follow @evystreeshowroom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Inspiration from Hymns

(Beautiful Piece from Take the Cannoli)
I haven't done anything creative in awhile.  I just got a few materials to start Bible Journaling recently but have not had a moment to sit down and begin.

I have been thinking a lot about hymns lately. I grew up in Texas and spent a lot of time in my grandparents' Baptist church in Waco. My grandmother would often walk around the house humming hymns and they make up a great deal of the soundtrack of my youth.

A few of my favorites:

"Blessed Assurance"
"Just a Closer Walk with Thee"
"The Old Rugged Cross"
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus"
"I'll Fly Away"
"O Christ the Same"
"How Great Thou Art"
"Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling)"

Have you ever noticed how many classic hymns address trouble and strife?

Many of my favorite childhood hymns are not in my current Lutheran hymnal but I am making an effort to collect them into a list. I would like to do something creative with these hymns. I'm going to keep on collecting hymns on this post and then I to put some of the lyrics into a new piece.

Do you have any favorites?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CBC Guide to Disneyland: Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my series about Disneyland!

Plan on getting to the park at least a half hour before it opens.  It can take many families awhile to get out the door in the morning so you can get in a lot of rides if you go early. Cast members will let the crowds into Main Street first before the rest of the park opens. One the rest of the park opens, plan your strategy. If you have more than one adult and it looks like the park will be crowded, send one adult to a Fast Pass ride to grab passes for later and then meet up with the rest of the family at your first ride of the day. Expect long lines at rides like Peter Pan. 

Fast Passes are so great for busy rides! They are an absolute MUST for Radiator Springs Racers. If you are going to California Adventure, be there before it opens and head to the left hand side of rope drop.  Once they drop the rope, head directly to the Radiator Spring Fast Pass machines. They WILL run out of passes so get this out of the way first.

Although Disney does a brilliant job with lines, plan on bringing a small activity to keep the kids busy while waiting. My son had a small "Cars" tractor that kept him completely occupied. My friend's little one had a small lunchbox-sized container with little plastic figures. Although there are lockers with charging stations throughout the park, we decided to conserve energy on our phones and did not let the kids use them. Charging stations are often full and we wanted to keep our phones charged up in order to check the wait times at different rides.

Kids ages 7 and up can ride on their own.  The rides with the strictest height limits are California Screamin' and Tower of Terror.  My 7-year-old was able to do all the rides this year. 

Do not miss the evening parades and fireworks!!!  Each part of Disneyland has something special. Disneyland has its evening parade and Fantasmic! show as well as fireworks.  California Adventure has the Pixar Parade and World of Color.  We have found the Pixar Parade to be less crowded than the Disneyland parade.  

We always indulge in a World of Color dining package that gets you preferred viewing for World of Color.  There are various packages but we typically get the Carthay Circle package.  It is a fixed price dinner.  At the end of dinner, you get Fast Passes for the preferred viewing area.  It is still standing room so prepare accordingly.  There is now also a Fantasmic! dining package but we have yet to try that one.

When it gets hot and crowded, take the time to explore the many other entertainment options in the park. Although we haven't seen it yet, the Aladdin show is supposed to be amazing!

Stop by City Hall when you first enter the park and ask for a button.  They have all kinds such as a Birthday button, an "I'm Celebrating!" button, First Time Visitor buttons and more.  They are free and make a great souvenir.  When they write your name on the birthday button, cast members will tell you Happy Birthday all day long!

You can always buy Disney themed t-shirts and other merchandise in advance to save money but there are some things you will only find in the parks. My one souvenir from this last trip was the Disneyland "I am Here" Starbucks mug because you can't get it anywhere else.  I also happen to believe that every visitor needs a pair of mouse ears.

Even though it can be pricey, make sure and take advantage of the various Disney photographers throughout the parks. After they take your photo, they will give you a Photopass card. You can reuse this same card every time you get your photo taken.

If you have a Star Wars fan, do not miss the Jedi Training Academy!  My son loves it!!!  Try to hit the very first show if you can. Go early and make sure your kids sit in front. If they are wearing Star Wars apparel, it can help them get chosen. And enthusiasm goes a long way! If your child get picked, they will participate in the show and get a special certificate at the end. **2016 UPDATE--You must now register your child for the show as soon as the park opens to ensure a spot!**

One of my son's favorite souvenirs this year was his Autopia driver's license. After riding the ride, you will exit past the booths where you can get this card made. I think it costs about $5.  He carries it in his wallet all the time!

Little girls will most likely want a makeover at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique.  They have a knight package as well. VERY PRICEY. But it may be an important one-time experience for your child.  ($60-$195)

My family also loves pin trading.  You can get a starter package in the park or at the Disney Stores.  They usually come with a lanyard and a few pins.  My son loves to trade pins!  It has been good for his self-confidence. We only trade with Cast Members.  Trades are one-for-one and cast members will not turn down your child.  Just watch for cast members wearing pins.  Some people buy giant lots of pins through eBay and other discount outlets to save money. I do not recommend this because the pins are almost always fake. Invest in a few inexpensive ones and let your kids trade for ones they really want.

I bought my son an autograph book from the Disney Store for our first trip. Any book will do.  He loved getting autographs from all his favorite Disney characters and it has been a special souvenir for him.

Although this isn't technically a souvenir, don't miss rubbing Aladdin's Magic Lamp in the Bazaar shop in Adventureland across from the Jungle Cruise. And have your video camera ready! For 50 cents, my son got his fortune told with great theatrics!

In California Adventure, grab a newspaper on Buena Vista Street.  They are free and make a fun souvenir. If you need a break for your kids to run around, head over to Grizzly Peak for the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  Kids figure out a variety of challenges in order to earn their Wilderness Explorer Badge. It feels like being in a really fun park right in the middle of Disneyland!  Kids can run around and climb and do zip lines.  A great hidden treasure.

There is so much to do and see at Disneyland!!! Make sure to take in all the little details around the park.  Do not force yourself to try and ride as many rides as you can.  You will all be miserable.  Take your time. Don't stress.  Focus on the rides with the shortest lines and the ones you absolutely must do because your kids love the characters.  Don't worry about the rest.  Have a great time.  Because it really is one of the happiest places on Earth!

Monday, July 13, 2015

CBC Guide to Disneyland: Part One

It is no secret that we are big Disneyland fans in my family!  I celebrated my 10th, 30th, and 40th birthdays there!!!  I love it that Disneyland and I share milestone events.  This year, I turned 40 and Disneyland is turning 60!

When I turned 10, Disneyland was having a special promotion where certain guests were awarded prizes as they came through the gate.  I won a lifetime pass!  (You can see me holding it in the above photo)  My parents confiscated it so that I wouldn't lose it.  Instead, they ended up losing it. I never even got to use it.  But it was still an exciting day and a fun memory.

Disneyland is definitely my happy place.  One of the items on my bucket list is to be able to stay in the Adventureland Fantasy Suite at the Disneyland Hotel.   Of course, getting to stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite wouldn't be too shabby either!!! Maybe for my 50th birthday.  Until then, here are some of my favorite tips for an affordable and fun Disneyland visit.

If you have a smartphone, makes sure and purchase the Touring Plans app. This has definitely changed how I visit Disneyland. You can see real-time updates on lines and it can help you decide which rides to go on and which ones to get FastPasses for.


We love staying in official Disney hotels but they are pricey.  You do get perks!  By staying in a Disneyland hotel, you get the extra Magic Hour Early Admission on select days.  This can be purchased in addition to a regular ticket by non-hotel guests but not for California Adventure.  You can also take advantage of Pinocchio's Workshop for childcare as a guest of a Disneyland Hotel. This is a great option for families with kids ages 5-12 that allows grownups to have a night out on their own during their visit. And, of course, you receive all the outstanding Disneyland customer service and concierge service that comes with staying in an official hotel.

As much as we love those perks, we would rather save a few hundred dollars on a cheaper hotel that we could spend within the park. Our very favorite place to stay is the Best Western Park Place Inn and Suites.  The rooms have a mini-fridge and microwave and a light buffet breakfast is included right next door. For four nights, we paid $501 including parking. Parking is currently $10 per night.  We park our car and leave it there the whole visit.  Why? Because this is absolutely the closest hotel to Disneyland INCLUDING the Disneyland Resort hotels.  You cross the street and enter the main gate.  It is fantastic!!!  Especially when you are tired at the end of the day.  No messing with shuttles or waiting to get your car out of a crowded lot. Since we don't really spend much time in our hotel beyond sleeping, this hotel is a perfect fit for us. The property also has a pool in case you need a break from the park.


Since we save money on the hotel and breakfast, I like to splurge on a few nice meals during our visit.  Everyone must eat at Blue Bayou at least once.  You cannot beat the ambience.  I am not a fan of the food. however.  Very expensive for what it is.  So, if you have already had your Blue Bayou experience, I suggest making a reservation at Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue.  It is one of our family's favorites!!! It really feels like you have gotten away from the park when you eat here. The outdoor location is lovely and quiet and there is a petting zoo right next door.  The fixed price menu is simple.  It is table service and includes all you can eat barbecue chicken and ribs, ranch beans, coleslaw and cornbread. Desserts are extra.  We love the family-style eating arrangement and casual atmostphere.  **2016 UPDATE---Big Thunder Ranch BBQ has been permanently closed for the Star Wars expansion.**

Another favorite splurge is Carthay Circle in California Adventure.  The perfect place for a grownup meal.  We always get the World of Color Dining package here which gives us preferred viewing for the show.  The dining experience really feels sophisticated and the service is excellent.  Reservations highly recommended.

We did the character dining experience at Ariel's Grotto one time.  You are definitely paying for the characters with this one.  If your child is a fan of the Disney princesses, this is the meal you should book. However, I was disappointed with the food and atmosphere.  One time was enough for us. We also made a reservation for the Goofy's Kitchen character breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel. Again, very pricey.  You are paying for the character experience.  I liked the variety in the buffet. Definitely something for everyone. And my son was excited to see so many characters come by.

For a special snack, I like stopping by the Mint Julep Bar in Disneyland for beignets.  They are Mickey-shaped and make a fun (yet sugary) treat. Stay away from the Mint Juleps as they taste a bit like cough syrup. Another nice break spot is the Wine County Trattoria in California Adventure. We found you can get a great view of the Pixar Parade from the terrace. Plus, the grownups can have a glass of wine.

For another high-end experience, leave the park and head for Napa Rose in the Grand Californian. Everything is absolutely delicious. I had my engagement dinner here!!!

Part Two will cover some of my favorite attractions and souvenirs!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Greek Mythology Birthday Party

Noodlebug turns 7 today and we had a Greek Mythology birthday party in the park yesterday.  Because I am in the middle of a move, we kept it simple!

Noodle has loved Greek mythology for years. Ever since he went through my Barefoot Books inventory and found all the books on the subject.  For his party, my friend Susie created the wonderful Greek Temple backdrop from cardboard.  The perfect photo opp!  My son went as Zeus and I went as Medusa.

All Noodle's friends dressed up as their favorite mythological creatures and characters.  For activities, we had "Paint a Shield," "Paint a Greek Pot," and glitter tattoos.  For "Paint a Shield," I bought packages of 16 inch cake circles. They were the perfect size!  At $6.29 for a six pack on Amazon, it was MUCH easier than hand-cutting circles out of foam core.  I made handles on the back of each shield using silver duct tape.  The kids had a choice of using acrylic paint or paint pens. In retrospect, I would have only had paint pens out on the tables. Much easier and less messy to use.

(Noodle holding his shield!)
For "Paint a Greek Pot," I put out photos of ancient Greek pottery along with mini flower pots and paint.  I got the mini flower pots at the Dollar Store. They came in packs of 3.  Again, using only paint pens would have been best but the kids loved the activity.

I bought two kits of Glitter Tattoos and they were a big hit!  Super easy to use.  Much easier than face painting and less messy. Once the glue sets, the tattoos don't come off so there was no need to worry about them wiping off onto clothing. Plus, the stencils made it easy to get a perfect image every time.

For the grand finale, we had a pinata.  I just got a classic bull pinata and we pretended that it was the Minotaur.  Everyone loves a pinata!

For food, we did fresh fruit, cheese, and pretzel sticks and Noodle baked his own cupcakes.  It was a very simple party in the park but the kids had a great time!

As a bit of a joke, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and made a "burnt offerings" station for gifts.  I just propped up the cardboard in front of a big plastic storage tub.

For favors, we kept it simple.  Each child got one mythological character from the Mythical Realms Toob:

I also printed and laminated this free printable for Communications4all:

I think the kids had a great time.

I can't believe I have a 7-yr-old!

(This post contains some affiliate links to products that I used)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pinterest Fail: Mickey Tie Dye Shirts

We are going to Disneyland next week with some friends and I very much wanted to make some special t-shirts for us to wear.  I saw this fun tutorial from the Kids Activities Blog and wanted to try it.

So cute, right?  I bought similar colors because I thought the shirts could be reused for Fourth of July later on.  I was excited to see the final results.


Wow. Really really bad.  I followed the directions exactly.  100% cotton shirts.  Soaked them in soda ash.  Gathered the Mickey design with dental floss and tied off with one inch of rubber bands. Not sure what went wrong.  The red color seemed to leak a bit so the image became distorted. Looks like a giant bloody heart.  I cannot let anyone wear these ridiculous shirts. We will have to chalk it up to a Pinterest Fail.

Monday, April 27, 2015

ART IS YOU Petaluma 2015

It's that time again!!!  The amazing ART IS YOU Mixed Media Retreat on the West Coast!  I only got to take one class this time but it was terrific!

This year, I took a class called "Resin Heaven" with Jen Crossley.  Jen was a wonderful and patient teacher with a great sense of humor.

Here are some examples of Jen's work that we were attempting to recreate:

First, she taught us how to make our own molds using Pinkysil and rubber stamps.  These molds can then be filled with ICE resin to make the centerpiece of the pendant.  Since we didn't have time to wait for the resin to dry, Jen handed out a few ready-made pieces to complete our projects.

This was really working out of my comfort zone as I had never worked with molds or ICE resin before.  I'm not too great at wirework either!

I kept at it and, with some help from Jen, managed to finish my piece!

It is hard to see but my resin image says "Sixpence."  Don't look to closely at my wire-wrapping!

A really fun class and I learned a lot!

The West Coast ART IS YOU will be back next year in Santa Rosa!  The event will be in mid-April so start planning now!  Get all the details here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week Four: Renting in Sonoma County

I had to laugh a bit when I saw this article in a recent issue of the local ARGUS COURIER newspaper.

"Housing Crisis Squeezes Petaluma Residents"

No joke!  You are in a bad situation if you are looking to rent OR if you are looking to buy. There is just no inventory. I broke down and started looking into apartment living this past week.  One bedrooms at the Azure Apartment Homes begin at $2020 a month with three bedrooms going as high as $3480.  At the Park Central townhomes next to Azure, they have a waiting list with one bedrooms starting at $2000 a month and two bedrooms going as high as $3226.  Insane!

We are starting to get a feel for the rentals market although we are constantly surprised by how high rents are.  About 1-2 houses pop up each day.  Houses on the west side go for higher rent.  For example, there is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that is 1300 sq ft going for $2700 per month. Another house that looks like it is on the east side is 3 bedroom, 2 bath and 2200 sq ft and is renting for $2900.  More house but not much higher rent than the west side location.

If you are looking in the $1700-$1900, be prepared for 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartments or older townhomes with no amenities. MAYBE a house.  A tiny one. None have much in the way of outdoor space or storage.  When you hit $2500, you can get a three bedroom with a bit of outdoor space and garage.  Often very dated interiors. There isn't much in between.   We had hoped to spend no more than $2300. 

So, do you go for the cheaper option knowing you will be cramped and miserable without any decent outdoor space and will probably have to pay for a storage unit?  Or do you stretch your budget to the breaking point trying to find a place your family will be comfortable in?

We found a property that would definitely be a stretch for us but we like the neighborhood and it has a lovely backyard.  I submitted an application on Wednesday and we attended the open house on Thursday.  I did everything I could think of to give us an edge and I left feeling confident that we had a shot at the house.  I was definitely in better spirits over the weekend. Today, I saw that they are doing another open house on the property tomorrow.  I don't feel they would do this if they felt they had a good applicant.  I really thought this was going to be the break we were looking for.

With only a month to go, we are faced with some tough decisions.  There was only one house we could see over the weekend.  It was small and overpriced but I was willing to consider it. My husband was not.  So, we don't really have any options right now unless something pops up during the week.  I am starting to feel like we should take a less desirable approach.  There is a small 2 bedroom 1 bath duplex near my church.  No yard.  No garage.  Very little living space. But it would be LESS than we can afford.  It might be worth trying to tough it out there for a year and put our stuff in storage.  This is assuming we could even GET the property.  I am feeling like I would rather go small and be uncomfortable for awhile rather than spend a bunch of money for something that we didn't even really like. I think we'll attend the open house tomorrow.  

Time is running out.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week Three: Renting in Sonoma County

A realtor friend connected us recently with a homeowner whose rental was about to go back on the market.  Everything about it was perfect.  Great location near my son's school.  3 bedroom, 2 bath.  Small yard with planter boxes.  Garage with attached studio.  Porch and fireplace.  About 1700 sq ft.  And the owners were going to put the rent at $2200 which is at the high end of what we can afford but doable. It was going to be a step up for us and that would have changed everything.  We were so excited.  We had an appointment to go view it on Saturday and I had my "elevator speech" ready to go.

At 9:45am on Saturday, I headed over to the venue for the fundraiser that I was chairing that night in order to start decorating. On my way over, the owner called and said they had decided to sell instead of rent.  I couldn't contain my emotion.  I sat in front of the venue for about 10 minutes crying.  I saw the volunteers gathering and knew I had to pull myself together and focus on the fundraiser for the rest of the day. I had foolishly let myself get carried away with hope and daydreams.

There is a slim chance that there is a backup option available but there are already two applications pending.  It is smaller than our current home with no yard to speak of. It is also attached to another home.  Plus, it would be $400 more than we are currently paying. So disheartening to think of paying so much more for so much less.

I went through my morning ritual of checking the local property management companies and Craigslist.  Here is what I found:

3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home for $2700
4 bedroom, 3 bath home for $4750
4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home for $5495
5 bedroom, 3 bath home for $3900
3 bedroom, 2 bath home for $2700

Our absolute upper limit is $2300.

We spent the weekend starting to fill the POD that was delivered on Friday. It feels strange to pack with no idea where you are going to land.  When we moved into our current home almost four years ago, we downsized and got rid of a lot of stuff.  I know we will be downsizing again.  I can deal with that.  It is just hard to think that we will be paying so much more.  I'm definitely getting discouraged.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week Two: Renting in Sonoma County

We are starting week two of our search for a new rental home.

Here is what we are hoping for:

2 or more bedrooms
A bit of yard for gardening and play
A garage or storage space

Here is what I would LOVE to have in addition:
A fireplace
A porch
The possibility to adopt a cat

We don't need anything fancy.  Gary does a lot of work from home so a third bedroom for an office would be lovely.

Here is what we currently have:
4 bedrooms, 2 baths
1400 sq ft
Fenced in yard
Attached 2 car garage
$1900 a month

The fourth bedroom meant that Noodle and I had a workroom where we could create together. It was lovely.

Last week, I called about a small rental home on the west side of town. It was a 2 bedroom, 1 bath that was a little less than 900 sq ft. It had already rented. At $2100 a month.

This one came up today:
It is a very sweet 2 bedroom, 2 bath home.  A little over 1200 sq ft with garage.  My heart leapt.  Until I saw the rent.

$3000 a month with a $4500 deposit.

My family is not poor. Although we struggle, we have two working adults in the family and we are fine. We both have good jobs. However, even for us it would be difficult to come up with first month's rent AND an almost $5000 deposit.  Yet, this is what we are faced with.  Even if we could figure out how to find the money to rent this place AND beat out the other dozens of applicants, how would we ever afford $3000 a month?  And we would be downsizing yet again.

Then, I think about families who aren't as fortunate as we are.  How can THEY afford to live here? They can't.  Our homeless population is growing every day.

Here is another one:

This little 2 bedroom, 1 bath home is going for $2450 a month.  About 1000 sq ft. No garage.   $3200 deposit.

Over the weekend, I drove by another two bedroom, 1 bath house that was about 900 sq ft going for $2450 a month.

Many people have asked us why we don't buy.  First of all, we would be buying at the top of the market.  Houses for sale are just as bad right now with multiple offers and houses selling for $20,000 to $30,000 over asking.  Also, we don't have a good down payment right now. We are working on paying down debt and improving our credit.  The time isn't right for us to buy. I wish it was.  It would solve a lot of problems.

I am trying to push down fear and anxiety and put one foot in front of the other.  There is still time.  While we continue our search, we are dismantling our home of almost four years and packing boxes.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Renting in Sonoma County: A Personal Story

(Image Source)

Back in October of 2011, we were scrambling to find a new rental home.  We felt so lucky to stumble upon the little house we live in.  It is a modest four bedroom, two bath 1400 sq ft home.  It is $1900 a month and we loved that it had a big fenced in front yard and an attached garage.  The yard has been wonderful for Noodle and the neighbors are great. The four bedrooms meant that my husband could have an office and Noodle and I could have a workroom.  We downsized a lot when we moved in but it has been a great place to live and we hoped to live there for many years.  We have worked hard to take care of this house and improve the yard. I planted daffodils and we pulled up all the ivy that was choking the backyard.  On Sunday, we weeded and prepared the beds for Spring. I even built Noodle what I hoped would be a fun living teepee for Summer.

On Monday, I came home from work to a 60 day notice on our front door. Without any explanation, our landlord has asked us to leave.  We have been excellent tenants and have never been late a single time with the rent in the almost four years we have been there.  Our only thought is that the owners want to sell it.  We are devastated.

We are facing some difficult obstacles:

1) This could not come at a worse time.  I am chairing the school fundraiser on April 11 and Noodle and I both have birthdays in May. I am turning 40 this year and had hoped to go to Disneyland. Now, it appears I get to celebrate my birthday (and Noodle's) by moving.

2) The rental market is awful where we live. There is no inventory and tremendous competition for what few houses are available. My realtor friend told me that 25-50 applications are going in on each rental.

3)The few houses that are available are currently for rent for unbelievable amounts.  One 2 bedroom, 1 bath house that I had hoped to view just rented for $2100 a month. It is around 1000 sq ft.

4) We have a personal obstacle.  When my husband lost his job several years ago, we struggled to get by.  We had to resort to credit cards to make it through.  We have been paying off the debt but our credit took a hit.  There is no deliquency. Just high debt-to-credit ratio. This makes us less competitive as renters.

5) You all know my much-beloved feline companion died last month.  This has been hard for all of us.  We had hoped to surprise Noodle with a kitten for his birthday. Almost all of the current rentals do not allow pets.

Cost of living in Northern California is unbelievable.  Families are getting pushed out as few can afford to live here anymore.  We have 60 days to find a new home.  I am going to share my journey here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Story of Toulouse

Back in 2001, I had just turned 26 and had been through a rough breakup. I owned a three-story townhouse and it felt very lonely and big.  Katrina had just occurred and I heard in the news that many Katrina animals had been evacuated to Denver. They were right down the street from my house at the Denver Dumb Friends League.  Even though I had always been more of a cat person, I decided I needed to adopt one of the Katrina dogs from Texas.  I went several days in a row to look at dogs and each day the dog I was most interested in got adopted right out from under me.  On the third day, I decided to look at cats as well.  As I walked by the wall of cats, I saw one tuxedo cat that looked completely at home and comfortable.  I have always had a weakness for tuxies and black cats. I asked to spend some time with "Slippers" and loved how comfortable and confident he seemed.  I adopted him immediately.

I renamed him Toulouse because Slippers seemed a bit undignified. Toulouse had lived with an elderly lady the first three years of his life.  When she moved into a nursing home, Toulouse had to be taken to the Dumb Friends League.  He adapted to his new life and name right away. He never answered to Slippers but he would always answer to Toulouse.

Toulouse did have some naughty kitty tendencies at first such as using my furniture as a scratching pad.  The vet suggested Soft Paws and he wore those for years. I used colored ones so I could tell when they fell off. Everyone always asked me why I painted my cat's nails.  I would never do such a thing!

Toulouse was an indoor only cat and loved spending time looking out the window and luxuriating by the fireplace.  I would often light fires just for him.

He got me through my wild years in Denver and was there when I met my husband Gary. 

When Gary visited me during a blizzard, we opened the back door and let Toulouse explore a little bit. He came right back inside.

Like many cats, he wanted to be right in the middle of whatever I was doing. I think he is yawning in this photo but I think he looks like he is smiling or laughing.

He was not excited when Noodlebug came along and pretty much ignored him the first few years. Toulouse was never much of a lap cat but, for some reason, he spent a lot of time purring on my belly when I was pregnant.

Towards the end of his life, he liked Noodlebug more and would sometimes sit on him.  That made me happy.  This is one of my favorite videos of all time that was taken when Noodle was about 1.5 years old.

I was so blessed to have Toulouse for 14 wonderful years.  He really wasn't himself anymore over the last year.  Gary and I did everything we could to save him and make him more comfortable but I couldn't watch my beloved kitty suffer anymore. We said goodbye yesterday.  My constant companion of 14 years is gone and I don't know what I will do without him.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Friday!

Funny cats on Friday.You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Accountability Rings

We have been struggling in our little family with discipline and yelling. My husband has been failing in the patience department and I find myself struggling there as well. And not just with my son. Intellectually, I know that yelling accomplishes nothing. It isn't going to get my son or anyone else to do what I want. It is just such a hard habit to break and such an easy and comfortable pattern to fall into. 

I have gone back to reading some of my favorite parenting books including POSITIVE DISCIPLINE and I have been trying meditation classes at our local Buddhist center.  Anything to break me of this negative pattern I have fallen into!

Then, I came across this article.  The article talks about how a mom is using a set of rings to stop yelling. All five rings start on her right hand. When she has a setback such as yelling, she moves a ring to her left hand.  I liked this idea of a physical reminder to keep me accountable. 

Like the woman in the article, I am using this set of rings from Stella and Dot.  They are pretty affordable at $39 and I like how simple looking they are.

My sweet girlfriend knew I wanted to do this and she bought these for me.  I am so lucky to have such supportive friends!

I am not perfect. Far from it. But I am willing to do the work to get better. I want to be a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend. I am hoping this is one step in that process.  I will let you know how it goes!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day with "A Room with a View"

One of my all-time favorite movies is "A Room with a View."  I credit (or blame) this film for shaping my romantic sensibilities.  I first saw it as a young teenager and was convinced I was going to go to Italy and meet my very own George Emerson. 

I headed to Europe at the tender age of 17 and did not find George Emerson. I didn't find him when I returned a year later either. Although my friend and I did enjoy re-enacting many of the scenes from the movie. It took me a long time to find my own George Emerson.  I was 29 when I finally found him.  We honeymooned in Italy and spent one night at the Hotel Degli Orafi where we had a room overlooking the Arno. I can't wait to go back in a few years with my son.  Quite unintentionally, I am raising him just like Cecil Vyse wanted to raise his own children:

“Do you know, mother, I shall have our children educated just like Lucy. Bring them up among honest country folks for freshness, send them to Italy for subtlety, and then—not till then—let them come to London."

 This Valentine's Day, I am going to make my husband watch the movie with me again. And I created this little image because I think it sums up our relationships quite nicely. Because great romances don't stand the test of time without a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's Day

Noodlebug and I used the long rainy weekend to work on valentines. We used the rocket valentine from FAMILY FUN magazine as our inspiration.

We got about six sheets of glitter scrapbook paper from Joann's along with some fat Valentine's Day straws. I believe I got those at Target.  We already had a bunch of regular straws on hand for crafting.  Using the template from FAMILY FUN, we glued our rockets together. The fat straws needed to be cut in half to get the proper length so you get two rocket valentines from each straw. We closed one end of the fat straws with tape and then used tape to secure the rocket to the straw.  I didn't trust glue to hold it together.  We then stuck a colored straw inside the fat straw and we now Valentine rockets that can shoot to the moon!  I was worried that the inner straws would get easily lost so we made another trip to Michael's for some cellophane treat bags. I whipped up a quick bag topper in WORD and we stapled the bag shut. This will also (hopefully) prevent the 1st graders from getting out the rockets during class and shooting them about the room!

I have also thought of Valentine's Day as a day to celebrate lover rather than lovers.  I not only give little treats to my husband and son but I give them to my friends as well.  I used this tutorial and printable as inspiration this year. 

(Image borrowed from and owned by Tatertots and Jello)
I found some burlap pouches in Target's discount bins that had a heart image on them. I filled them with nice chocolates and attached the wonderful printable.  It is a small gesture but I hope it will be a nice reminder to my friends of how much I love and appreciate them!