Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy One-Year Chick-fil-A Anniversary, Ben!

Yep, that's right. Ben has been working for Chick-fil-A for one year today. WooHoo!

We love this company. We love that they are God and family and community oriented. We love that they close on Sundays. We love that they sponsor college sports. And we both cheered when we noticed that Chick-fil-A sponsored the movie Fireproof. (A Christian movie about marriage starring Kirk Cameron. It's fantastic. You must see it.)

Beach Cheap tip-
Borrow the DVD from the library. I LOVE our library on 3rd Street in Neptune Beach. Turn west at the Cedar Street traffic light.

My husband is my role model in many ways, but especially when it comes to perseverance. No one can match him in stick-to-it-ive-ness.

Way to go, honey! I'm looking forward to many more years with my Chicken-Man!

Monday, September 28, 2009

My First HomeMade Journal

I made a journal!

Here is the bookpress my Dad made for me. Isn't it beautiful? I adore it.

Hey! It looks like an actual book!


It lays open flat and the pages are lined to record beautiful and plain and happy and angry thoughts.
All of your thoughts are important enough to write in a pretty journal.

And here is my first-ever home-made with-my-very-own-hands journal.I used a shirt for the cover. Can you see the black & white beads?

Merry Christmas, Heather!
Lots of people are getting these for Christmas this year from me.
They're frugal and cute and useful.
(Let me know if you'd rather have bath salts or homemade granola, everyone). ;D

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Considering Lyli

Two year old Lyli was running on the beach along the edge of the water. I, her loving mother, followed behind, my footsteps heavy on the sand.

A lady passed us and smiled at me. "She's so cute!"

It took a moment for me to return her smile. My frown had become entrenched on my face.

Why was I frowning? Was it such an inconvenience to frolic on the beach with my baby girl? Her joy of freedom and sun and sand shined in her smile. Her breathless laughter floated across the sand. Why wasn't I laughing? Why wasn't I smiling? I had lost my joy.

A stay-at-home-mom's work is never done. I wake with my daughter, stumbling around, trying to find the remote control with sleepy blurry eyes. I turn on Elmo hoping to distract my bouncy bright-eyed child while I locate the coffee. The day is filled with tasks and chores and email and reading and learning and shopping and cooking.

But when someone asks me, "What do you do all day?" I cannot find the answer. Most of my time is spent cleaning up messes that my daughter and dog have made. Mindless menial tasks that keep me from accomplishing anything of importance.

And at the end of the day, all I have to show for my 20 hours of nonstop motion is my happy healthy family-- asleep in our clean, organized efficiency apartment.

Lesson #5: (note that I have not yet mastered this one)
Relax and Enjoy the Time You Have Been Given.
Beach Cheap tip-
The beach is free! Enjoy it every chance you get. There are places to wash your sandy feet at 18th N, 5th N, and 7th S (and probably others that I haven't spotted yet).

Before the Reality Comes the Dream

I want to be a writer. Although, as the technical definition of "writer" is "one who writes," I am a writer. I just don't get paid for it. Yet.

I've been a writer ever since I turned twelve and realized that pen and paper was a terrific outlet for all my teenage angst. At first, I wrote poems and short Christian prose. Then, at thirteen, I wrote a novel. Ok, it wasn't actually a novel. But it was a book. And I did submit it for publication. I mailed three manuscripts (this was pre-internet for us). I remember standing at the tall counter in the post office trembling. I sent it to DoubleDay and Random House, I think... I don't know. That was many years ago. And I can still quote the single rejection letter I got, "Sometimes what authors think is great is not the same thing publishers think is great." At the time, I cried and fretted and threw it away before anyone could witness my rejection. Now, I am sincerely grateful for the person who took a moment to write a short note to a girl with big dreams.

Fast forward to February of this year. I turned 28. And it dawned on me: whether or not I finish my novel, I will still turn 29 next year. In other words, stop waiting for life to begin. It has begun. And it will continue on with or without you. So get moving, Lainie!

And I did. I wrote 45,000 words (actually 45,500 hehe) and started letting friends and family read it. Ugh! Judging by their responses, it wasn't ready yet. But I didn't know what was wrong with it. After all, this was my baby, my finished product. In my mind, it was perfection.

So I took an internet writing class. And began checking out books and websites with writing tips. And I am learning SO much that my mind is totally exploding. I have a special journal just for stuff I learn about writing. Hopefully this will help me keep all my newly learned material in one easy-to-access place.

And now, I am about to begin again. Yes, indeed, I am going to write the whole thing again. And make it better. And slightly longer, as most publishing companies (I am finding) like longer novels. [Not sure why. If you know, please comment the answer.]

And that, my wonderful bloggy friends, is lesson #4:
if you live in an efficiency, and don't have extra money to spend,
you realize that life is precious and finite.
And, if you don't want to remain in said efficiency forever,
you get off your booty and get to work.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Make Soap

Back when we lived in our house, I made soap for my family. Now, in this limited space, it isn't so easy. But I have just enough ingredients for this batch and one more, so I thought I'd go ahead and make some.

Always wear protective gear. In addition to the goggles and gloves, I wore an apron. I had a close call awhile back with lye in my eye. I was fine, but really scared. Now I always take a moment to "gear up."

I put 16 oz. of Great Value (WalMart brand) Olive Oil and 16 oz. of Coconut Oil (found some for cheap at snowdriftfarm.com) in a pot and heated it until the coconut oil melted. Then I set it aside to cool.

I measured 12 oz of water into the big white bowl and 5 oz of lye (Sodium Hydroxide) into the little plastic bowl.

Then I grabbed the water, lye, and wooden spoon and went outside to mix it. Always add the lye to the water, stirring gently and constantly. Never add water to lye.

And leave it outside or in a windowsill to cool. The fumes are toxic, but, more than that-- they stink!

When the oils and lye-water cool enough that you can hold your hand to the outside of the pot/plastic bowl without getting burned, they are ready to mix.
I put a towel on my washing machine and pour the oils into the food processor. Then I turn it on and add the lye water through the spout. It takes about ten minutes for it to "trace."

This is the best photo of a "trace" I could get. Basically, if you take your wooden spoon and drag it through the mixture, it should leave a lumpy trail behind it. If not, the soap isn't ready. Keep mixing.

When it traces, you can pour the soap into molds. I got these at Michael's, but I saw some cheaper ones in Hobby Lobby the other day. (I pour some soap into a small sauce-pot with pour spouts, then use the small pot to pour into the molds. Trying to maneuver the huge bowl is too tiring and difficult to control.)

And here is my finished product! I let them sit in the molds overnight, then wrap in plastic wrap. They need to cure for about two weeks, then they are ready to use. And it smells SO good!

Are we Poor?

When I was younger (and childless and student-loan-less and had a decent disposable income) I thought that those ten pound bags of chicken leg quarters were for poor people.
My family has been living on beans, rice (yummy), ground beef (when it's on sale for less than $1.89/pound) and those ten pound bags of chicken leg quarters. Sometimes I miss the rest of the chicken, but I have learned a lot from this very-tight-budget-time. And my list of recipes has grown.

Lesson #3: Beans & rice tastes better with a little hot sauce.

Even the cheap foods can be super tasty!

Beach Cheap tip-
Terry's Country Store has amazing deals on groceries. And you don't even have to cross the ditch! Be sure to watch the Beaches Leader for Terry's weekly sales ad.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting Out Of Debt

It is my personal belief that debt is a tool used by Satan to discourage God's people. When drowning in debt, especially consumer debt, we are so depressed and downtrodden that it renders us ineffective for the Kingdom's Work. That's my opinion. And, in my situation, it is SO true. I mean, how can I remember to pray for people when I am completely buried in debt and fears about money?

Now for the hope.

In August of 2008, Ben came home one day from work telling me about this guy he heard on NPR-- Dave Ramsey. Ben asked me for two or three days to please check out Dave Ramsey's website and read about him. Because money was tight, I borrowed his book The Total Money Makeover from the library. {Have I mentioned how much I love the library?}

It was great. A lot of the things Dave said, I already knew and agreed with. And then some other things he said knocked me off my feet. Dave said, "Debt is not a tool." Well, blow me down! As a real estate broker/investor, one of the first things I learned was to use OPM (Other People's Money). Of course, looking back (and looking around at successful investors), I can see that the way to success in real estate is to operate a cash business.

Basically, don't buy what you can't afford.

Dave's plan for getting out of debt is simple:
  1. Save $1,000 as an emergency fund (so that you don't have to go into debt to fix the car/ go to the doctor/ repair the plumbing).
  2. Spend less than you earn and throw all extra money at your debt, starting with the lowest balance. (Called the Debt Snowball).

And that's as far as we've gotten. lol. Dave's plan has six baby-steps. And it works. And it's simple, but NOT easy. I totally recommend his book. And we are both looking forward to continuing with the rest of the steps. One day, we will move beyond Beach Cheap and become truly Beach Chic.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Ahhh, our chosen goal: to join the team of Chick-fil-A as an Operator.

[Ben has his nametag and Chick-fil-A tie on.
He was supposed to take a break for the party, but they got really busy right as we came in, so he was only able to join us
for some pictures and the candle-blowing.]

Ben's Dad encouraged him to consider Chick-fil-A years ago. Even before we met in 2002. But, back then, Ben was a Domino's man. And Domino's was great. But God didn't bless us with an opportunity for advancement with Domino's. Now, and this is very important, Ben loves food service. Ever since his first job as a dishwasher at Chizu in Jax Beach, Ben has enjoyed his time spent in the food service industry. But, as a husband and father, he needed more than just a job. He needed a worthy goal.

Enter, Chick-fil-A.

Ben and I visited a few Chick-fil-A's in our area, watching the interaction between team-members and customers. We were impressed. Chick-fil-A seemed to focus on making people feel special (such as by placing fresh flowers on the tables).

The employees were better than polite. They were courteous. You won't hear, "You're welcome." in Chick-fil-A, rather, they say, "My pleasure." And it makes you feel fantastic. Valuable. Important.

We read Truett Cathy's books and researched his charities. We were impressed again. Here, finally, was a Godly man who had his priorities in the right order.

At last, we had found a company who truly put their "principles before profits." The fact that the stores are closed on Sunday was/is very important to us. We believe that God designed human beings to need a break. He gave us the Sabbath to rest, to connect with Him, and to be with our families.

On the Saturday before Labor Day, 2008, Ben and I sat together at the computer and filled out the "Expression of Interest Form." Then, on Labor Day, we wrote essays and filled out the Operator Application. Well, Ben did, and I helped by distracting our daughter and keeping the office quiet. (Our old house even had an office. *sigh*)

On September 29, 2008, God blessed us with a management position at the Rivercity Marketplace Chick-fil-A with long-time operator Chuck Campbell. (Near Jacksonville International Airport) We jumped at the opportunity. During his time there, Ben has learned a lot about Chick-fil-A. He works with a wonderful tight-knit family of team-members. Since he has been working there, the store has improved, profitability has increased, and they even made the top 20% in the Raving Fan Index, which is a measure of customer satisfaction.

We are nearing Ben's one-year anniversary at Chick-fil-A, and we hope to hear from the company soon regarding progress on Ben's file or an interview or something. God-willing, it will be something good.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What ?

What exactly is our living situation?

Well, it's crowded. When all three of us are here at the same time, it can get tight. When my parents come to visit, two adults have to be sitting at all times. Only two people can stand and/or walk at once. This is when the elementary school lessons of "walking in a straight line" come in handy. Our two year old daughter, unaware of those lessons, jets around us and inbetween legs to reach her desired destinations. And when she's riding on her tricycle, everybody LookOut!
Here's a very rough sketch that I made quickly with paint.net We are totally blessed with what we have:

This is the kitchen/dining/office from the corner by the TV. On the left (outside the photo) is the entry door. You can see the door to the bathroom on the right (left of fridge). We have a full-size range/oven, a full-size sink, and a regular-size dishwasher. The fridge is full-size as well.

The main inconvenience is the lack of counter space. Anything on the table is within toddler-reach. If I need the table for rolling out pie crust or something like that, I do it during my daughter's bath time. Haha. If you look closely, you can see my laptop on the table and our daughter watching home videos on it.

I stood in the same spot by the TV, turned to my right, and took this photo of the bedroom. These pictures were taken last December, soon after we moved in. At the time, my daughter was sleeping on this sleeper sofa, but she outgrew it. We moved a twin bed in and put it right next to our queen sized bed. Now the curtains separate the rooms inbetween our daughter's bed and this sleeper-loveseat-couch thing.

This is our closet. Seriously. I also have two long dresses that I hang in the laundry room. My daughter and I share the tall chest of drawers and my husband and I share the other chest of drawers. Our shoes are piled onto the white wire racks inbetween. You can sort of see the window above the shoes and the A/C unit in the window. The closet shelf is great because it has storage space above it.

One lesson I've learned: Waste No Space.

This is the dining/office area, taken from the bathroom door. The room had few lights, but large windows, so we use a lot of lamps at night. The diaper bag is kept on the back of the front door.

This is the living room, taken from the kitchen. You can kinda see the chest of drawers that I use for storage-- linens, tools, office stuff, kitchen stuff. Anything I don't have room for gets put in that chest of drawers on the left. The unit on the far right holds more office stuff and anything we don't want our toddler getting into. I had some storage bins and put them to use on top of the unit on the right and also on top of the fridge.

The photos of the bathroom didn't turn out well. The main thing in the bathroom is that every available wall space is hung with shelves. And we are highly selective about what "things" we keep in our house. With space being at a premium, it is easy to weed out (put into storage or throw away) the stuff we don't use/don't like/ don't need. I suppose that's Lesson #2.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why ?

Why did we leave our three bedroom, two bath house? We have 1,500 square feet of country charm with a fenced backyard and a garage. But it is in the country. And Chick-fil-A is in the city; roughly a two hour drive from our house.

So we moved. We rented out our house to a wonderful family. For $500 LESS than the monthly mortgage and escrow payment. Yes, that's right, we pay $500 every month for a house we do not live in. And that, in a nutshell, is why we live in a small efficiency apartment.

But, wait! There's more.

We love Jacksonville. And our apartment is not too far from a nice beach, a neighborhood grocery store, and a neighborhood park. And my daughter and I can ride our bike two miles to visit the library. We love the library. Our church is three blocks from our home. And my husband's family and many of our friends live close by.

The main reason for our move, however, was Chick-fil-A! Moving into this efficiency and cutting our expenses drastically, was the only way for us to pursue a spot on the Chick-fil-A Operator Team.

We have had trials and arguments. We have been tired and stressed out. We have had tremendous fun. And through it all, God has blessed us.