Jaxty's Place

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

The Rest of our Chicago Trip

Some other highlights from our week in Chicago….

Kelly and Avram went clubbing downtown Chicago with Bryanna and friends. It’s nice to see cousins bonding over dancing and drinking.


Game nights!

Bryanna and her boyfriend even came for dinner and a game on our last evening. So nice of them to make time for Aunt Kristy.

Visiting with friends – Scott and family. We even ate REAL Chicago pizza and didn’t even feel guilty. Now the cookie cake for dessert is a different story.

Watched a few movies.


Relaxed around the pool at mom’s complex.


And Carl even got regular work-outs in!


It was a great week in Chicago and we are so grateful for the time spent with family and friends. I am so grateful Carl had the whole week off and we made the trip up north. Thanks for all the hospitality, mom!

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Architectural Boat Tour

On Wednesday, Carl and I took the Metra train downtown to take an architectural boat tour. After I did that last fall with my aunt Sandra, I thought Carl might enjoy it so we used the anniversary gift of money from my mom to buy ourselves tickets.


After getting off the train, we were going to walk a few blocks and then take an Uber to Navy Pier. However, it was a beautiful day and we had time to kill so we ended up walking the whole three miles to Navy Pier. Since this tour originated from Navy Pier, it included a speed boat ride up and down the coast, showing the skyline.


After cruising the coast, we went through the locks to enter the Chicago River. Then we learned about the many of the high-rises along the river. Since this tour included the speed boat ride, we didn’t go as far down the river as the tour with my Aunt Sandy, but it was still very interesting. It was a great anniversary present. Thanks mom!

After the boat tour, we walked down Michigan avenue and around the city.


We had really hoped to win tickets to see Hamilton on that day but it was not to be. Super sad face.


I discovered the soundtrack to Hamilton on Amazon Prime a few months ago and have been obsessively listening to it at least once a week (sometimes more) since then. I was so excited to find out that it was playing in Chicago. Until I found out tickets were running from around $300 on up each. Since we could go on a weekend cruise for $500, we just couldn’t pay that much for tickets. However, I found out that they have a lottery for 44 tickets for $10 each every show. So Carl and I had 7 opportunities while we were in town. But with an average of 10,000 people entering every lottery, we didn’t win. Darn it. The show is coming to Orlando in 2018 though so we WILL be going. In the meantime, I’ll listen to the soundtrack another 150 times.

It was a fun day exploring a beautiful city on an equally beautiful day.

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Independence Day

Carl and I started our Independence Day holiday by attending a local parade that we heard from friends was the largest in the area.


Carl and I were very sad that my sister-in-law, Lisa, and my two nephews (neither of which Carl has met, the youngest I haven’t met) were out of town with her family while we were visiting. But that didn’t stop my brother Rob from hosting a BBQ on the 4th of July.


Rob’s daughter, Bryanna, and her boyfriend, Jimmy, joined us.


Rob did an amazing job, grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, butterfly shrimp and vegetables. Nicely done, Rob!


It was nice to spend time at Rob’s lovely home. Nothing like good food and good company!


On the way home, we decided to take a small detour to visit the house we lived in with Kelly when she was ages 1 to 6.


The house looked exactly the same, with the same paint job from 20 years ago! We think it might be the same owners living there. I guess they must really like the house just the way Carl and I left it :).

Since it was so close, we also found the townhouse we lived in during my high school years.


After mom took us to a different unit and claimed it was where we lived and we repeatedly questioned the people in the clubhouse over the location of the clubhouse moving since it wasn’t where we remembered it to be, we walked over the hill back to our car and realized our former unit was right in front of us. Mom and I have the worst memories ever!

Then, since it was vacation after all, we decided to be naughty and get Dairy Queen.


If you are going to eat carbs, that’s a great way to go!

Instead of watching fireworks, since it was Kelly and Avram’s last night with us, we just stayed home and played some games. It was so good to spend time with them both and we are very grateful they came to Chicago. God Bless America!

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Chicago Trip

At long last…a new blog post. In fact, I have a whole bunch coming all week. Last week, Carl had the whole week off of work. So we decided to take advantage of the days off to fly to Chicago to visit family and friends. And even better, was the fact that Kelly and her boyfriend drove over from MSP as well to be with us through the 4th of July holiday.

On Sunday, my Aunt Gale hosted a BBQ for my dad’s side of the family. 

My dad and his new roommate, Tony, came. It was nice to meet Tony and I’m glad my dad has someone that seems to actually enjoy living with him!


Two out of three of Gale’s sons were there.

Jeff, the oldest, and his girlfriend, Jill

Justin, the middle son; Jessica, his wife; their boys


It was great seeing everyone.


We are grateful to Gale for hosting and to Carl for manning the Grill. Family time is the best time!

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MSP Weekend #2

Carl spent the past weekend in Minneapolis again for our largest dance recital. Six shows, 15 hours of dancing and 250 routines!! That’s a lot of dancing to watch…poor guy.

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When he wasn’t doing that, he was able to visit with some friends again. He had dinner with Kent and Julie and even got a ride on their boat.

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He saw his friend, Paul. He attended our former church.  He visited with Kelly and Avram.

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He also was able to stop by both rental properties to meet the current tenants at both places (who we haven’t met in person) and do some minor maintenance issues at the Bloomington house that came up in the inspection at the “sale” prior to executing our Contract for Deed.

Our former neighbors, Neil and Lou, were again gracious enough to allow him to crash at their house but again HE DID NOT GET A PHOTO! (Hi Lou!) Carl was actually in the neighborhood at the exact moment that the new owners of our former house were having a hot tub lifted over the top of the house and placed on the back deck by a huge crane. Very exciting!


And while he was doing that, I was laying on the couch watching hours upon hours of “Gilmore Girls.” I am obsessed! It was a good weekend all around :).

 

 

 

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Zack’s Graduation Weekend

Thursday evening was Zack’s graduation ceremony but we still had the whole weekend with the grandparents to celebrate Zack. On Friday, my cousin, Kim, from Tampa drove over for the night and we all spent the whole, hot and sunny day floating around the pool together and enjoying some cool cocktails.

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Zack requested Jucy Lucy burgers (a Minneapolis masterpiece) and french fries for his celebratory dinner #1.

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After dinner, I presented him with his stack of congratulatory cards that have been arriving for the past few weeks and he ended up with a nice pile of cash and checks thanks to his generous relatives and friends. He plans to buy himself a new computer and then spend the rest on Publix fried chicken.

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Then we all went next door to our neighbor’s house for a grad party since their daughter, Mckenzie also graduated high school this week.

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Zack got a congratulatory hug from Mckenzie’s mom, Susan.

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The adults all got congratulatory cocktails from Susan.

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After visiting at the party for a while, we returned home to play some camp cards until Carl couldn’t take any more celebrating and we all went to bed.

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On Saturday, we spent another day floating around the pool until Kim had to leave to return home and the rest of us went out for celebratory dinner #2 at Zack’s choice of Olive Garden.

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That evening’s game was a complete round of dominoes for which I accumulated the massive amount of 495 points and sealed the position as worst domino score in my life.

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On Sunday we had to say goodbye to my mom, Sandy. Carl’s parents are still here until tomorrow morning.

It was a really fun weekend with three out of four grandparents here to celebrate Zack. We are grateful that they all could come. It was a great time together!

 

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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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