Monday, August 8, 2016

Five Reasons Cruising is an Affordable Way to Vacation

It's no secret that our family loves to go on cruise vacations.  My husband and I took our first cruise in May of  2003, and since then, we've been on more than 15 cruises.  Completely hooked, addicted, whatever you want to call it... we are cruise enthusiasts!

There's just something about those beautiful sunsets on the water that draws me back to the boat over and over again.  Well... that and... the fact that cruising is about the cheapest way for our family to vacation!

Here are some reasons why it's so affordable:

1.  It's All Inclusive.  Your very comfortable lodging and all your food (well most) is included in your cruise fare.  There are some specialty restaurants, coffee shop foods, and some room service items that aren't included, but for the most part, anything you could ever want or need is available to you and is included in your price.

2.  Free Entertainment.  There is usually something going on somewhere on the ship at any hour of the day or night.  There are Las Vegas style musical shows, magic shows, comedians, musical bands of all types, and karaoke all over the ship.  Not to mention most ships have an outdoor movie theater where they show movies at night.  There is always something to do, and unless you are playing Bingo or in the Casino, it's all included in your price.

3.  Conveniently Located Ports.  In the past, if you wanted to take a cruise, you had to travel to Florida or California.  Today, you can cruise from ports that might be located closer to home, like Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, Louisiana, New York, Alabama, Virginia, Washington and more.  That means less travel expenses to and from debarkation ports.  We live just under 5 hours from the port in Texas, so driving makes more sense for us rather than flying a family of six to the port.

Cozumel during the month of December
4.  "Off Season" Pricing is Reduced.  At most vacation destinations, they have "off season" pricing, which is sometimes reduced a small percentage.  But with cruising, "off season" pricing is sometimes about half the price of what a summertime cruise would be.  If you are able to vacation during the winter months, just remember, it's still great weather at most Caribbean ports of call and sometimes you can get pricing that is very affordable, even for a large family.

On a cruise during the month of February
5.  Payment Plan.  When booking a cruise, we try to book at least one year in advance.  That way, we are able to pay the deposit and then make a small monthly payment to the cruise line to get our cruise paid for well in advance of our sail date.  In addition, some cruise lines will credit you for price drops that affect your booking.  So in other words, your price can't go up, but it could come down.

These are just some of the reasons I think cruising is super affordable.  I know that we have taken road trips to Colorado, and spent tons of time in the vehicle, slept in less than comfortable beds, and eaten frozen pizza and corn dogs all week, to keep expenses down, and we still spent more than we would have if we had cruised.  Cruising isn't for everyone, but it sure is an affordable way to spend a week being pampered and spoiled!  And we love it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


We recently returned from a long 15 day road trip to California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and many other states.  My favorite part of the trip was our drive up the coastline in California and Oregon on Highway 1.  The views are amazing... the cliffs are steep... the road is treacherous... but it's so beautiful!  You can look to the left and see the beautiful ocean and look to the right and see grand mountains... all God's wonderful creation.

On our second day of traveling up this highway, we saw some beautiful seagulls.  Now, the seagulls we have on the Texas coast are pretty small.  The seagulls in California are HUGE!  They are the size of a small German Shepherd.  I took photos of some beautiful birds.

As we drove, we would pull over into some turnouts to take a better look at the views.  At one of these turnouts, as we were taking pictures, someone else pulled over and dumped out a big load of birdseed to feed the gulls.  The problem was, they dumped it out very close to the highway.  So as the birds were eating, there wasn't enough room for this group of birds to all eat at the same time, and a couple of the birds started to walk backward to get out of the way of other birds.  One bird walked backward right into the lane of traffic in the highway, and a car came around the corner and hit him.  It was the most horrible sound and sight.  And as the car left the bird in the roadway, I thought he was dead.  But no ... the bird tried to get up and walk away, but he wasn't fast enough, a truck came up next and ran over him with his tires.

I was a little relieved actually because I thought, "Okay, he's dead now.  He won't suffer anymore."  But that wasn't the case.  Again, the bird tried to get up with great determination, but he was too injured and just fell back down into the roadway.

By this time, I was completely in tears and the boys were horrified at seeing all of this transpire.  A man pulled over into the pull out and ran over to him, picked him up by his feet and carried him over to the guardrail and placed him on a rock just beyond the rail.  The bird didn't make any attempt at escape.  He was dying.

I glanced over at the pile of birdseed, expecting to see a swarm of birds eating away.  But there were no birds eating.  Not one bird was eating from the huge pile of seed.  I looked up into the sky, and saw that every single gull from this group was in the air, flying in a circular pattern and screaming out.  They were circling the dying gull.  They were mourning his loss.  They didn't want to do anything else.

This must be what it feels like when a loved one dies and you have no hope.  You don't know where their spirit will go when it leaves the body.  But I'm so glad that as Christians, we do have hope.  We know that our loved ones who die with Christ will be with Him in heaven when they die.  Of course, there is mourning ... because we will miss them here on Earth.  But we have a promise from God that we will see them again.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.    -- John 14:1-4

Friday, March 25, 2016

Vintage Finds

I love thrift store and garage sale shopping!  You just never know what you are going to find.   I love to find vintage items that can be repurposed or reused and I love to find vintage items that I can sell to make a little profit.  I've been selling a few items on Ebay for a while and I'm seriously considering renting booth space at an antique mall in addition to what I already do.  So my eyes are peeled for just the right items that I think will go well in an antique booth.

I have my favorite thrift stores around town, which I try to go to fairly often, but I recently went to a tiny garage sale near my home and when we drove by I thought, this isn't even worth getting out of the car, but we did ... and man was I glad!  I found several things and paid a total of $3.00 for everything.

First, I found a stand up metal puzzle from New York that is worth about $35 new, and it was only $1.00.  I ended up selling it on ebay last week for just under $20.00.

I also found a Pyrex divided dish that is probably worth about $15 and I only paid a quarter for it.  I think this will be a good addition to my future antique booth.

Another item that that cost me just a quarter, was this Thomas Kinkade hanging plate from The Bradford Exchange.  I just thought it was pretty.  We'll see if it sells.

I found an unopened Spanish edition of Scrabble there also and it cost me .... you guessed it .... 25 cents!  These are selling on Ebay for about $15.

My last quarter item was this old metal sign with the alphabet punched into the tin.  I thought it had character and would look good in my antique booth.

The last thing I picked up at this yard sale was a brown paper shopping bag full of fabric scraps.  I just peered in briefly and saw a couple of, what appeared to be, vintage fabric swatches.  It had a price tag of $1 for the entire bag.  I snatched it up quick and went to pay.  When I got home, I couldn't wait to dig into this bag and get a better look at what was inside!  I was shocked to find 6 different vintage flour sacks, one of them was still made into a sack.   They all had the stitching holes around the edges and the fabric was in very good shape.  I just love the look of these.   I listed these all on Ebay and so far I've sold two of them.

Searching for old things and selling some of them is just a hobby for me.  In all honesty, I love to shop for things, and selling some of them on Ebay, helps finance my habit!  I love searching for vintage finds!

No More Babies ... What Will You Miss?

Josiah - Age 4
I just realized that our youngest child is about to turn 5 years old next month.  That can only mean one thing ... no more "babies" in our house!  When kids are under 5, you can safely say, "he's the baby" or "that's my baby", but no more!  He's turning 5 and that means he's a big boy!

There are good things that come along with having no more babies, and there are things I'll certainly miss.  But change is good ... it is a sure sign of life.

I won't miss diapers and potty training!  I thought that stage would never end.  I won't miss washing baby bottles and the hundred thousand pieces that go in them because I used Dr. Brown's.  I won't miss teething babies and the sleepless nights that go along with all that.

Joshua at 6 months
I will, however, miss lots of other things ... like that first baby smile.  I remember back when Josh (our first baby, but third son) was about six weeks old, we went on a long road trip to Colorado.  On the trip home, we pulled over for a quick stop and I took him out of his car seat for a little bit and was using a baby wipe to wash his hands and face.  He was on my lap and when I brushed his cheek with the wipe, in a circular motion, he smiled the biggest baby smile - his first - I'd ever seen! I'll miss baby smiles.

I'm really gonna miss bath time in the kitchen sink.  I have a big farmhouse style apron front sink and it's like a small bathtub.  I've bathed the kids in that sink many times.  I'll miss that.

I'm sure I'll miss playing "PeePie" with the babies! Why is it that they laughed so much when I'd do that?  Do they honestly believe you actually disappear behind your hands?  All I know is, it's a big hit with babies and I'm gonna miss that.

There's just something about the innocence of a baby.  They completely trust you to take care of their every need.  Babies can make you smile, even when you're feeling down, and their joyful giggles are very contagious!

Take advantage of every moment you have with a baby.  The time goes by so quickly and the only thing you'll have of that time is memories.

What will you miss most?

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