About Us, Family Fun

Day 3: Deck the Halls and Decorate

This is Day 3 of the writing prompts on Sue at Sizzling Toward 60 & Beyond’s advent calendar.  Today we are to “deck the halls and decorate.”

Our Christmas decorating fluctuates.  There have been years where we have gone all out, and years where we have kept it simple.  We always have a tree and stockings, but the rest will vary.

I know what I did not want to do, was allow Christmas decorating to become stressful.  Rob and I both have known people who have been so particular about the decorating of their tree, and so concerned with decorating their homes perfectly, that it took the fun out of the process.

When we moved to Texas, we did not have room to bring our ornaments and Christmas decorations.  So that first year, in the apartment, we made new ornaments for our tree.  The ornaments we have now are all either hand made or acquired since we made the move nearly 6 years ago.

While boat have ample room for lights, finding room for a Christmas tree was challenging when we lived on a sailboat.  On our first boat, we removed a cushion from the settee.

On Loco Lobo, however, we have room for a full-sized tree!

Iliana still placed the star.

Rob enjoyed some coffee.

And we played the fireplace video on the TV!

We chose to forego lights this year, but we did put a wreath on the bow.  I’ve set up a decorating activity for Iliana each evening.  Last night she made snowflakes.

And, noticing that our larger tree could use some more ornaments, I had Iliana make sandpaper ornaments tonight!

We will continue making decorations in the evenings, and I still need to pick up some more stockings from the dollar store.  Otherwise, our halls are decked!

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you decking the halls this Christmas season?

About Us, Boat, Family Fun

A Black Friday Story

We have a very cushy life, even though we live on a boat.

We have apartment-sized furniture and appliances, Iliana has her own bedroom, Rob and I share a queen-sized bed, we have our own shower, and, once they are repaired, we will even have our own laundry facilities.  Living on Loco Lobo is a lot like living in a small mobile home.

Yet our lifestyle is not without adventure.

We lose electricity whenever the tide is too high, which usually happens at least once a year during a storm surge.  Last winter we had a deep freeze, which caused us to lose water for many days after the pipes froze.  We take these challenges in stride, because they are just a part of living on a boat.

However, this Thanksgiving, we had an adventure that was equal parts horrifying, baffling, and, in the end, kind of funny.

Meet Popcorn, the (Somewhat Lazy) Cat-of-Prey

This story begins with our kitty cat, Popcorn.  We rescued Popcorn when she was about 4 weeks old, in the Amish country outside of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  Her mother had been run over, and she was sitting, lost, in the middle of the road.  We posted ads, but nobody claimed her.

After a few years of being an indoor kitty in Harrison, Michigan, Popcorn joined our family on our move to Texas.  A year later, she was living on a sailboat, and we started allowing her to go outside.

At first, Popcorn enjoyed hunting.  Everyone on the pier loved her, because she killed a large number of wharf rats.  Occasionally, she would leave a rat by the door, for her family.  Rob tried to humor her, and pretended to eat the rats, but that was not enough.

In order to better feed her family, Popcorn decided a more aggressive approach was necessary.  On Easter morning, while Iliana was hunting for hidden eggs, Popcorn triumphantly jumped through the open hatch, delivering a dead rabbit and depositing in in the middle of the floor.  Luckily, Iliana was just starting to get into science, and excitedly proclaimed, “Popcorn has captured her prey!”

As Popcorn got older, we moved onto Loco Lobo, on the marina’s very laid-back island pier.  Everyone adored her and started leaving out snacks for her.  A family on a catamaran nicknamed her “Poppy,” and she became somewhat of a celebrity.  Our neighbors keep a box with a blanket in it out on their aft deck, so she can come over for a nap and a snack whenever it suits her fancy.

Loco Lobo came with a cat hole cut in the companionway door, so Popcorn frequently enjoys going outside.  Instead of hunting down rats and bunnies, however, she likes to lie down on the main pier and wait for her admirers to come over the pet her.

In the winter, however, there are fewer people staying in the marina.  So Popcorn has been keeping herself entertained by playing with the rodents once again.  One morning, she surprised us by leaving a litter of dead baby rats on the side deck.  More recently, when Rob came home for his lunch break, she had brought in a still-alive rabbit.  She had lost interest in it before killing it, so Rob let it go and boarded up the kitty door.

The fall is a lovely season in Texas, where we need neither air conditioning nor heat, and we love to leave the companionway door and hatch open most of the time.  Our aft deck has doors on the sides, so our dog can’t escape.  But Popcorn is nimble enough to come and go as she pleases.  We enjoyed a number of pleasant nights, with the boat open as we slept in the fresh, fall air.

A Nighttime Visitor?

The first time it happened, Rob noticed a horrible cut on Iliana’s pinky finger, when he woke her up in the morning.  There was blood all over her sheets.  She had two puncture wounds on the front of her finger, and one in the back.  We googled “rats” and learned that rats  do not carry rabies, but they can carry other bacterial infections.  Iliana had just finished an antibiotic for an ear infection (one of the few antibiotics she is not allergic to), so I continued giving it to her, until we decided what to do.

Our boat has a headliner, like a car, for the ceiling.  In Ili’s room, it was torn in two places, where she had kicked it from her bed.  We in in the process of replacing it.  We figured that the creature who bit her, must have come in through the tear, since it was so cold outside.  There was no evidence of a rat living in our boat, so we figured that it was a freak incident.

We repaired the tear and had Iliana sleep facing the other direction.   We all figured that the problem was solved.

Until Iliana woke us up at night, screaming.

Right next to her eye, she had two deep bites on her face, bleeding a great deal.  Horrified, we immediately cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe and gave her a band-aid.  She brought her favorite stuffed animals into our bed and fell asleep quickly.

In the morning, her face was bruised and swollen.  Which meant that whatever bit her was strong.

Stronger than a bat, was my immediate thought, because bats are the primary carriers of rabies in our area.

That day was Thanksgiving, and we called every urgent care clinic in our area.  Nobody was open until Friday.  I gave Iliana some antibiotic ointment and another dose of her antibiotic.

Black Friday, Part 1

We allowed Iliana one trip into her bedroom during the day, so she gathered up every single one of her Beanie-Boos.  Then we set up rat traps and closed the door.  Iliana surrounded herself with Beanie-Boos and fell asleep in the middle of our queen-sized bed.  The dog and cat took their usual places at the foot of the bed, leaving Rob and me a miniscule amount of real estate.

Which is fine, because I couldn’t sleep.  I woke up at night a couple times, and continued researching rats, rabbits, bats, and rabies.  Which didn’t make sleeping any easier.  What I did learn, is that whatever we did, we had a little bit of time to decide.

Urgent care opened at noon, and Iliana had her heart set on shopping at Black Friday.  In my minimalist blogging years, I extoled the virtues of Buy Nothing Day and urged my readers to “rethink Christmas.”  I encouraged them to make it about more than the mountain of gifts.

And then, in the wee hours of the night, I would make sure that Santa delivered a mountain of gifts to our house.  Because….Christmas….

Back in those days, I also said that only children were not spoiled.  So I was wrong about a lot of things!

Grateful that Urgent Care opened so late, and that an animal bite was not an emergency, I excitedly took my only child to Black Friday.  We scoured the ads ahead of time, and just ended up overwhelmed by it all.  Then I remembered that I had gift cards for Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  I saw that Kohl’s had a sale on toys, so Iliana agreed that we would look for Beanie Boos there, and if they didn’t have any, we would go to Five Below.

Together, we eagerly hit the mall!

Iliana’s first find was a sequined pillow at Macy’s. She has wanted one for a long time.

Before heading to Nordstrom’s, it was time for some Dipping Dots!

And, of course, a mirror selfie on our way out.

Here is Iliana, all gussied up with her new hair and fashion accessories!

We ended the day with a Happy Meal, and got ready for the next leg of our adventure.

Black Friday, Part 2

While Iliana and I were shopping, Rob texted me, saying that he had done some investigating and found lots of rabbit poop throughout the bilge…and a few newly deposited next to the dog food dish.  His googling told him that rabbits in the wild are very aggressive and territorial.  So it still looked like we were dealing with a non-rabies carrier that was unlikely to spread infection.

We made plans to set a live trap, baited with dog food, and after lunch, I took Iliana to Urgent Care.

Iliana had a lot of health problems early in life, but, before this year, she had only been to the doctor twice since we moved to Texas in 2013.  One of those times was for a check-up and vaccines.

When I left my job, Iliana qualified for Medicaid.  We have been navigating the bureaucracy of that, trying to figure out how to keep her current doctor (which we likely will be able to do).  In the meantime, Iliana has been to Urgent Care twice, with pink eye and with an ear infection.

Doctors become very stressed when Iliana needs an antibiotic, because she is already allergic to Penicillin and Clindamyacin.  She had a mild reaction to the first one, and a serious reaction to the second.  For her ear infection, she was given a Penicillin derivative, which did not cause any problems.  That is what I continued giving her, after the bites.

So off we were, to our third Urgent Care visit, the day after Thanksgiving.  I expected it to be quick, which maybe a Tetanus shot, but not much else.

Of course I had to tell the story about how she got bitten by a feral rabbit in our home.

I told the story to the receptionist when we checked in.

And the nurse who took Ili’s vitals and triaged us.  She was very concerned, and said that this sounded like a rabid animal, and we may need to go to the ER.  She said she would be right back.

Twenty minutes later, we had still not graduated to seeing the doctor.  The nurse returned with a map and Mapquest directions to the nearest pediatric ER, which also happened to accept Medicaid.

Iliana was very displeased.  As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I reminded her that she used to love going to the hospital.  She went there a lot when she was younger, and she would start smiling and laughing when we pulled into the parking lot.  She loved the nurses who paid attention to her.  I used to joke that she wanted to have her birthday party there.  When we lived in Michigan, Iliana had three ER visits and two hospitalizations, all of which she enjoyed.

Ili wasn’t buying it.  We were scheduled to visit her best friend at 5:00, and Ili remembered how long ER visits often took.  It was already 3:00.

We were triaged as soon as we walked in, and they directed us to a gurney sitting against the wall (next to pirate decals!) in front of the nurses’ station.  I took it as a good sign, that they didn’t expect us to stay long enough to even get a room!

Iliana was unhappy, but I did get her to put on her sunglasses for one “diva” picture…

It was 10 minutes before the (rather attractive) doctor arrived.  I got to tell yet another person our bunny story, and he seemed unphased.  “Well, you did the right thing,” he told me. “We would have prescribed the antibiotic she is taking and given her antibiotic ointment.  You don’t have to worry about rabies with rabbits and rats in this area.”

He made sure there was no bat evidence in the boat and directed me to keep giving Iliana the antibiotic until it runs out.  And he gave us the name of an infectious disease specialist to call if Ili starts having any symptoms, which he said, she likely will not.

10 minutes later, a nurse showed up with our discharge papers, and Iliana and I were on our way!

Here she is, ready to visit her bestie!  She ripped off her hospital bracelet as soon as we arrived!

Meanwhile, Iliana is banned from her bedroom while we try to catch the crazy bunny.  Stay tuned…



Frugal Living

Mommy-Daughter Beauty “Date”

Today I shall tell you a shory about hair.

I really like my hair.  When I’ve liked nothing else about my body, I liked my hair.  It’s thick, baby-fine, and super soft.  It doesn’t like to curl in the humidity, but it otherwise behaves well with minimal maintenance.

Before I moved to Texas, my hair looked like this:


The very day this picture was taken, I had decided that, since I had an impending job change, I should have short hair, in order to have a more commanding presence.  I had a great stylist in Michigan, and she did this for me:


After moving to Texas, I wanted to continue with that look, so I went about the gruelling work of finding a salon.  Most salons where we lived initially, could not deal with short hair.  So I eventually walked in to a TCF.  The stylist attempted to cut my hair dry, but was surprised at how thick it is.  She kept spraying it with a squirt bottle and saying, “My lady, my lady!”  I wanted it no shorter than chin length, but she ended up having to go shorter, in order to even it up.  The end result added 20 pounds to my face and looked like it had been cut by a lawn mower.


So I grew it out.  And then dyed it red.  Then candy apple red.  Then I started wearing pigtails and hair flowers.  And finally dyed it pink.


Last fall, I decided that I needed to grow up and be more professional.  So I stripped out all the red and pink, which caused damage that still persists to this day.  And I found a nice salon, where my stylist gave me a proper bob.


I dyed it ash, and we were good to go!


I returned to this stylist a few times, to recreate the magic, then I found a nearby salon that could do the same.  Then, I quit my job and money was tighter than it had been.  It was then that I started investigating beauty colleges.

I had gotten my hair cut at a beauty college a few times in Michigan, with meh results.  But I wondered what would happen, if I were very specific with the student stylists?  And at least the teacher would not let me walk out with the TCF fiasco!

I researched, and found some beauty schools that were cheaper than upscale salons, but too much, in my book.  Then I found a salon at the local community college.  $8 for a haircut, $13 for cut and style, and $18 for more advanced styling.  Definitely worth a try!

I was paired with a student named Alexis, and she artistically created a beautiful bob!  I asked when she would be in school again, and made a follow-up appointment.  Unfortunately, after that, she flew away and I would have to meet a new student.  I made an appointment anyway.

Happily, I am not the only one on Loco Lobo who likes hair.  Iliana has decided that she might want to be a hair stylist when she grows up.  I thought it would be fun to schedule appointments for both of us, with students whose stations were near each other.  So today I picked her up from day camp early, to do just that.

Ili was really excited when we arrived on campus, and she declared, “This is my future!”


She excitedly pushed the elevator buttons…


And waited patiently while I signed us in!

Her stylist was Miss Tanya.


She enjoyed getting shampooed!


And we both loved our results!  Kudos to our star stylists!


Here I am with my stylist, Keira, who rocked the bob!


Iliana took that picture, by the way.

And after our day of beauty, I took Iliana to Barnes and Noble to pick up a book she has been desperately wanting.  Yes, she wants a book!  Today was wins all around!


And now, a take-away!

Tips for Becoming Beautiful at a Beauty College Salon

 1.  Bring a picture.

Find the picture that is very close to what you want.  If you want a haircut replicated, take a picture of your previous cut and bring it.  Today, I thought I was getting Alexis, so I did not bring a picture, but fortunately the teacher looked up pictures on Pintrest and had me choose the front and back pics that were the closest to what I wanted.

2.  Be very specific about what you want.

Learn the lingo.  Do you want a blunt cut?  An angled bob?  Look online and learn the right terminology, and your experience will be easier.  I got an angled bob, with the front no shorter than chin length, with the back textured.

3.  Shop around.

A haircut at the Paul Mitchell school in our area is $14-$18, which is much better than the $30 I was paying at my salon.  However, more research led me to discover that a haircut at the local community college was only $8.

4.  Give feedback during the process.

If you are not happy with the way things are going, speak up, before you end up with a haircut you don’t like.  I like my hair very short in the back, so I will let my stylist know that she can cut it shorter.  It’s a lot easier for the stylist to fix things early in the game, and they can even call the teacher over to help get things back on track.

5.  Get to know the teacher.

The teacher at this salon knows my haircut, so she can help the stylist get started with it.  She is also more able to give feedback throughout the process, because she is familiar with what I want.

6.  “Splurge” on extras!

When the haircut is only $8, why not get it styled too?  This time I got it blow dried and curled with a flat iron, for a total cost of $13.  Last time, I got it curled into fun, bouncy ringlets for $18.

7.  Be a generous tipper.

Remember, these are college students who are probably living off of Spaghetti-O’s.  I tip 25%-ish, but never less than $5.  And it’s still way cheaper than a salon.




About Us

17 Years!

Today is Rob’s and my anniversary.  I wrote a post about our wedding and newlywed life on my old blog, but today I wanted to share some of my old pictures of the two of us together.

Here are some from while we were dating, back in high school and college:

At that time, I was a “big sister” to a boy named Eddie, who was included in many of our adventures!

On New Year’s Eve, 2000, right at midnight, we got engaged!

We were married July 7, 2001, at Zion Lutheran Church in Freeland, Michigan.  My mom told us not to smush the cake, so of course we had to!

Newlywed life!

At our first “tiny house!”



On May 27, 2007, our family grew by one person!

It’s been 17 years of adventure, and I am grateful to have found someone who has been willing to explore, learn, and grow with me.  Today, the weather is supposed to be beautiful, and we have many plans for fun activities outdoors.

Happy anniversary, Rob!  And here’s to many more!