Jaxty's Place

My place to ramble about my family, my crafts, my travels and life.

He did it!

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Zack actually graduated high school!

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We are so very grateful for Lighthouse Christian School for getting him through his last two years of high school and awarding him his diploma.

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We are not sure how he would have done it without the blessing of that school.

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The extremely small class sizes, personalized educational plan and love and patience of the teachers was invaluable.

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It was just what Zack needed to get through this major milestone.

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We are so happy that 3 out of 4 of his grandparents could be there for his big day.

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Since it was “Red Nose Day” for charity, Grandma Sandy thought it only appropriate that we got one picture with our red noses.

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Zack’s graduation present was his very first suit…something that he has really wanted for the past year. He sure looked good in it!

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Now Zack looks dapper when he asks “who wants to hire me?”

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Congratulations Zack on your accomplishment!

 

 

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Our Rental Properties

If you are related to me or have been a long-time reader of my blog, then you know that Carl and I have owned two rental properties back in Minnesota for 11 years now in an attempt to diversify our portfolio. We were going to buy some houses, rent them out for a number of years and then sell them later at a nice profit. We bought our first rental property, a 4 bedroom, 2 bath single-family home in a highly desirable rental market in August, 2006 for $256,000 (I showed a tour here and here and then revealed the new bathroom we put in the basement). In December of that year, we then bought a little 2 bedroom, 1 bath two-story townhouse in a great location the next town over from us for $145,000 (I showed a tour here).

And then the housing market crashed.

At the bottom of the housing market fiasco, the house was worth around $203,000 in 2011 and the townhouse plummeted to about half of what we paid to around $75,000.

We have waited patiently since then for the two properties to recoup their value so we could get out of the rental business. We have been incredibly blessed and are extremely grateful that we have had steady, decent renters that have covered all of our expenses and even put a little money in our pockets each year making this experience tolerable.  But with living in another state now, it is difficult in maintaining the properties (and relying on paying service people) and managing the whole rental process from afar. The final kicker was two major expenses at the rental house this spring, including a $2,800 bill for a new furnace and a $2,000 bill to replace the sewer main line.

So about a month ago, we had a realtor visit the rental house to give us an estimate of the value. And we were thrilled to find out that we could finally get our money back out of it if we were to sell it now. The only problem was we have tenants in there with a lease through the end of the summer. When I contacted them to inform them that we would be selling the property, they stated that they wanted to buy it! So after hiring an attorney and doing some negotiations, we now have a Contract for Deed with the current tenants. What this means is that Carl and I are financing the purchase for up to three years while they work on building credit and securing their own mortgage. They have “purchased” the home from us, are making monthly “mortgage payments” to us and our responsible for all maintenance, taxes and insurance. However, we hold the title to house until their final (balloon) payment is made. If for any reason they can’t make the final payment, we get to keep all money they have paid, including the down payment we required of them, and the house reverts back to us. So it’s a win-win and actually is a good financial arrangement for Carl and I.

Now, the townhouse is another story. I do not believe that we will ever recoup the money that we paid for that property. It has slowly climbed up to around $100,000 to maybe $110,000 (if you believe Zillow) but it will be many, many, many more years before it makes it back up to what we paid. Since that property does not have a mortgage, we just plan on keeping it and living there for the summer whenever Kelly decides to get married and give us some grandbabies. Ha!

Side story: The previous renter of the townhouse was actually on a month-to-month lease since his lease expired last summer. He contacted me a few weeks ago to give his required 60-day notice but stated that he was actually interested in leaving ASAP if I could find a new renter. Within one-hour of listing the property on Craigslist and posting the ad on Facebook, it was rented, sight-unseen by a friend-of-a-friend who was interested in moving ASAP. So we actually ended up with a new tenant in the townhouse less than 48 hours after the old tenant moved out with just one-week’s notice! I just love those little gifts from God.

So we have sort-of sold one of our rental properties and are saving the other one for our summer home in Minnesota during our golden years. YAY! God is so good.

 

 

 

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Mother’s Day 2017

Also known as the day Kristy decides everything that we do :).

So after church and lunch on Sunday, I decided that Carl and I would drive up to Talbot Islands State Park, where I went with my mom and Sis a few weeks ago, so I could show Carl the Driftwood Beach. Since we were driving about 45-minutes, I figured we would stop and take a nice walk in the area first and read online about a 4-mile loop trail just down the road.

After parking our car in the North Beach Pavilion area, the first thing we encountered was this guy cruising in the parking lot.

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Hi Mr. Turtle! We saw another one along our walk as well.

This was the path that we were supposed to take…starting from the pink star, head a short way over to the beach, walk north up the beach and then loop back through some woods.

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Instead, we were confused and starting walking south along the paved pathway, walking two miles in the wrong direction and ending at the southern end of the island, past the South Beach Pavilion Area. We enjoyed a nice, long walk back north along the beach.

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When we got to the northern part of the island, we were supposed to veer left into the woods on a marked trail. However, with the trailhead hidden behind coastal debris, we walked right past it and ended up at the very northern tip of the island instead. After back-tracking and keeping our eyes peeled for the trail, we finally found the entrance.

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Hidden down the path a bit was the sign that was supposed to direct us.

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Eventually, we made it back to our car. Instead of the 4-mile loop we were supposed to take above, we actually took a 7.7 mile journey with our various mis-steps!

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By that point we were too tired, hot and sweaty to even go see the Driftwood beach, especially since it would have involved another one-mile walk in and one-mile walk out. We decided that we would have to go back another day.

Instead, we headed back towards home and to Chipotle for dinner.

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We had initially planned to go to a nicer restaurant but that would have required going home to shower and change clothes and we just wanted some food and then to crash on the couch by that point.

Thanks to Kelly for the lovely hand-made card waiting for me at home. My husband had brought me the flowers the day before. So sweet!

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Zack also bought me a Hallmark card from the grocery store and paid an outrageous $8!!! I told him next year that he could buy me a card from the Dollar Store and give me the extra $7. Ha! It was a nice thought though Zack. And IT WAS a Hallmark, so there was that.

It was a lovely day spent with my husband and enjoying the gorgeous day. I am grateful for my family.

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Zack’s Post High-School Plans

My baby is graduating high school!

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I can’t believe we are almost empty-nesters (sort of…Zack won’t actually be leaving home for a while).

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Carl and I have been talking with Zack regarding his future plans for the past few years. We are all realistic that Zack is not college-bound due to his learning difficulties and lack of motivation.

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We have been steering him in the direction of the military or technical school. We have specifically mentioned that electrician, plumber or auto mechanic would be good fields for him to consider.

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After Kelly recently mentioned that she took the Strong Interest Inventory as part of a graduate class, it reminded me that that test was how I became a Speech-Language Pathologist. I entered college as a pre-veterinary student. After my first biology class, I quickly realized that blood and guts were not my thing. Unsure what to do then, I went to the guidance office and was given the Strong Interest Inventory. When Speech-Language Pathology appeared at the top of the list (home economics teacher and nurse were up there as well), I took an introductory class and decided that it would be a good choice for me (and it was)!

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So I looked online and found the test and had Zack take it as well.

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And boy did Carl and I hit it spot on…Military, Electrician and Auto Mechanic all appeared in Zack’s Top 10!

These careers did not….

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Ha! I get the sense that English/writing is not his strong suit. And having no filter and being very blunt doesn’t make for a great religious leader.

So Zack has decided to enroll in the local tech college for his electrical certification to pursue a career as an electrician. I hope that he finds much success in his chosen career path. We wish him all the best and are very proud of him for actually graduating!

I thank our friends, Michelle and John, for sharing their beautiful river-front property with me to take Zack’s senior photos while my mom and Sis were here.

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To see some more of Zack’s (unedited) photos, see below:

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MSP Weekend

It’s that time of year…dance recital season! Carl flew to Minnesota this past weekend for the first of three studio’s recitals on Saturday (three shows total). He was blessed to stay the weekend with our old neighbors and friends, Neil and Lou. We appreciate their hospitality so much…thanks Lou (who is a blog subscriber).

When he wasn’t watching hours of girl’s dancing, he was able to visit with old friends, including my former BFF, Deb.

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He stopped by our former church on Sunday morning and saw many familiar faces, including Andrew and Emily, who visited us in JAX our first year.

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But most importantly, he visited with Kelly on Sunday, seeing her new apartment, which is in a converted historic mansion turned into 16 rental units.

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They hit the streets of Minneapolis to watch the annual May Day parade.

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Because it included this performer….

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Kelly’s boyfriend, Avram!

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He was also able to meet Avram’s parents, who both participated in the parade, and see Avram’s mother’s “art car.”

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He met several of Avram’s other relatives as well, including his brother and grandparents.

He saw Avram’s family’s float called Mr. Chompers…

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and even got to ride it in the parade for a bit.

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It was a beautiful Minnesota day to spend outside with our lovely daughter. I wish that I could have been there too.

Oh, and Carl loved his rental “car” this weekend….

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I’m glad that he had a great weekend in Minnesota. One set of recitals down, two more to go!

 

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Final Mom and Sis post…for this time!

A visit to Jacksonville wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach.

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On Wednesday, we spent several hours at the beach relaxing.

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Some of us live in Florida and have plenty of time ahead to soak in the sun so I opted to sit in the shade and read instead.

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A visit to the Miklas family also wouldn’t be complete without plenty of game nights.

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We taught Sis Camp cards and played Rummikub, Sequence and Dominoes as well.

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We went to “Tuscan Tuesday” with some neighbors (at a local pizza/Italian restaurant). We enjoyed home-cooked dinners together the other nights, sharing some of our favorite low-carb meals with mom and Sis. Sis was such a sweet and thoughtful guest, always trying to help out where needed and she was a pleasure to spend time with all week. Mom is a good guest in other ways…always quick to open her wallet and provide lots of fun experiences and lunch/cocktails out. Thank you mom and Sis for a great visit. I had a great time and you are both welcome back any time.

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Bunco

At the beginning of March, I posted the following on Instagram…

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My mother commented that she wanted to play Bunco when she came to visit. Since we had such fun the first time, I decided to celebrate mom and Sis’ last night in JAX by inviting our neighbors and some friends over for another Bunco night.

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Seeing as we were without air conditioning all week* during mom and Sis’ visit, I kept my eye on the rising temperatures. Of course, it reached 92 on the day of the Bunco party.

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We did our best to keep our guests hydrated and it actually was not unbearable at the outside two tables.

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The inside head table was a little toasty so people would be rooting to lose so they could move to one of the tables outside…ha!

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After we completed 4 rounds and awarded prizes, with Carl winning $5 for getting the first Bunco and me winning $10 for the most wins, half the guests left but our favorite neighbors stuck around for a few more hours.IMG_6493

It was a fantastic evening of fun, laughs and a cocktail or two (or twelve in some instances)! I’m so grateful for great neighbors who make life in JAX so fun. And I’m glad that they enjoy spending time with my relatives as well. Good times!

*Some friends from church recently replaced our aging a/c unit, giving us a fantastic deal. However, right before mom and Sis arrived, they discovered an issue that needed to be addressed but couldn’t get to it until later in the month so we were without a/c for a few weeks. It really was not bad temperature-wise until of course, we had a houseful of company one night. We all managed to get through it and they will now have something to harass us about for years to come!

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Amelia Island and more

On Thursday, mom, Sis and I spent the day exploring parts of northern Florida together. Our main destination was Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island but I decided to make a few touristy stops along the way.

Our first stop was the Kingsley Plantation.

Kingsley Plantation (also known as the Zephaniah Kingsley Plantation Home and Buildings) is the site of a former estate in Jacksonville, Florida, that was named for an early owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, who spent 25 years there.  The longest span of ownership was under Kingsley and his family, a polygamous and multiracial household controlled by and resistant to the issues of race and slavery. Free blacks and several private owners lived at the plantation until it was transferred to the State of Florida in 1955.  The most prominent features of Kingsley Plantation are the owner’s house—a structure of architectural significance built probably between 1797 and 1798 that is cited as being the oldest surviving plantation house in the state

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and an attached kitchen house, barn, and remains of 25 anthropologically valuable slave cabins that endured beyond the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865).

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The foundations of the house, kitchen, barn and the slave quarters were constructed of cement tabby, making them notably durable.

It was a very interesting and informative visit that taught us a little about Florida history.

Our next stop was the beach at Big Talbot Island State Park. I had heard that this was a pretty place to stop and see driftwood. I had no idea what that meant exactly but it was way cooler than I thought.

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Words and photos do not adequately do it justice but it is an approximately mile-long beach covered in bleached skeletons of massive felled oak trees that gives a post-apocalyptic feel, like something right out of Planet of the Apes.

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It was well worth the stop and 15-20 minute walk from the parking lot down to the beach in 90-degree heat. And it was actually much cooler by the water.

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We then finally made our way up to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and stopped for a late lunch (complete with afternoon cocktails) on the inter-coastal waterway.

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We walked along the dock and visited some of the small shops.

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We couldn’t pass Florida’s Oldest Bar without stopping in for a drink, of course.

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After the 1 hour plus drive home, we had one last stop for the day, which was to show Sis Clark’s Fish Camp and it’s extensive collection of taxidermy.

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We stopped to say hi to the live alligator inside as well.

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And since we were there, we decided to have another cocktail…why not?!

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It was a very full and fun day exploring Florida with mom and Sis.

 

 

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St. Augustine with Mom and Sis

On Saturday, my mother and her cousin, Sis, arrived for a week’s visit.

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To take a break from hanging out at the pool and enjoying cocktails, we made the trek down to St. Augustine on Monday.

We did the usual St. Augustine must-sees, like Castillo San Marco

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and the San Sebastian Winery taste-testing.

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However, for the first time, we stopped and enjoyed an adult beverage at the Martini Bar, with view of the Mantanza River.

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Thanks to my “Local Flavor” half-price deals, we also enjoyed the Old Town Trolley tour around the city, with historic information about various aspects of St. Augustine life. It was very informative and I learned new information and discovered a few new “must-see spots” like the oldest Live Oak tree in St. Augustine, dating back to the 1500s.

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Notice how this massive tree has a palm tree growing in the middle of it, from a seed dropped by a passing bird.

At the Ripley’s Museum (the original, first Ripley’s location) lot, we also discovered a 14-foot in diameter Redwood tree stump that had been carved into a 4-room house.

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Ripley’s also had this hiding behind some bushes in the corner of their property.

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An exact replica of Michelangelo’s “David,” an 18-foot tall hand-carved marble statue weighing 20,000 pounds has made its way to Castle Warden, home of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! odditorium. It is one of only two in the world carved as the original was – from a solid piece of pure Carrara Marble quarried from Pietra Santa in Tuscany, Italy. It’s the same quarry where Michelangelo acquired the marble for his masterpiece.

After our exploring of St. Augustine, it was time for dinner at Aunt Kate’s.

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It was a great day showing Sis around St. Augustine and enjoying the really beautiful day (until dinner when the breeze was a little too cool and brisk to really enjoy sitting outside). Thanks for the fun girl’s day out, mom and Sis!

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Birthday Banner Card

Now that their birthdays have past, I can share the card that I made for my mom’s 75th birthday and Kelly’s 27th birthday.

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When you open it up, there is a fun hanging birthday banner.

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It is made with Washi Tape. If you’ve never heard of Washi tape, it’s fun, colorful, patterned crafting tape that has been all the rage for several years.

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This was a fun, cute project that I enjoyed putting together for two special women in my life!

 

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