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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Easter Sunday

I hope that you all had a very blessed Resurrection Sunday and know the love and sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus. He died so that we may live. Rejoice in Him!

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After bringing Zack to church with us, we returned home to welcome our friends from church, Michelle and John.

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After enjoying some appetizers on the lanai, I put some sirloin steaks in the smoker.

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While they cooked, we played some Camp Cards.

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When the steaks were ready, we enjoyed a delicious low-carb feast with steak, mushrooms, cauliflower potatoes, brussel sprouts and salad.

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Then John took a nap in the hammock :).

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He eventually joined Carl for a dip in the pool.

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Actually, that was about as far as they got. Water’s still a little brisk!

We played a few more rounds of Camp Cards while the food settled and we made room for dessert. It was a very relaxing day spent with good friends, good food, conversation and cards.

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We are very blessed!

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Brilliance of the Seas

Thanks to the very generous Christmas bonus from my favorite client/boss (that I work for on a weekly basis), Carl and I just returned from a 5-night Royal Caribbean cruise on the Brilliance of the Seas.

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We did the usual things that we do on a cruise ship….we relaxed on lounge chairs and read books.

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We dressed up and had lovely, relaxing dinners every night in the main dining room. All but one night we sat at shared tables and made many new friends.

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We even ate carbs this week!

 

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Although for the most part, we were very good with healthy eating choices, we did enjoy ourselves with special treats this week.

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We were visited by towel animals in our stateroom.

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We explored the ship, watched great evening shows, took part in some trivia contests and listened to some really bad karaoke.

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It was a great mini-vacation and we were very blessed with this fun time away. Tomorrow I’ll share a little about our two ports-of-call.

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A Return to Paradise

…for Anthony that is!

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If you recall, Anthony was blessed with an amazing opportunity to be a camp counselor at Camp Homelani on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii last summer. This week he was again offered a position with the camp for this coming summer. However, instead of being a camp counselor, Anthony will be the “Surfer Lead.” This position does not mean that he will be in charge of surfing but that he will be in charge of a cleaning/maintenance crew. It will give him more free time (that’s where the surfing will come into play) and a slightly larger stipend each week. Hooray for Anthony!

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He will be finishing up his sophomore year of college in about a month and then heading to a friend’s house in Seattle, Washington for a week. From there, he will leave for Hawaii for the summer for more visiting with friends before camp begins. At the end of the summer he will return to Jacksonville to visit us before Anthony and I get to bond during our 3-day road trip back to Phoenix with his pickup truck. Good times!

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We are very proud of Anthony and excited for his second summer in paradise.

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Congratulations, Anthony!

(Photos “borrowed” from Anthony’s Instagram account from last summer.)

 

 

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zAcK

I forgot to mention here that Zack got a new job after the new year.

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After a full year at Chick-fil-A, he has moved on to Lowe’s Home Improvement Center. He is working every Monday through Friday from 4pm until 10pm each night unloading the delivery truck.

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He is enjoying his hefty paychecks and not having to deal with the public. It’s good, hard manual labor at it’s finest!

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As far as what comes next after his high school graduation in May, he has no idea...looks like he may be working at Lowe’s full-time until he makes a decision.

Congratulations on the new job, Zack!

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More Free Food

In July, 2015, on my previous blog, I told you about my score with Secret Dining. At that time, in my first year as a secret diner, I had dined out 12 times for a total of $945 in free dining.

Since that time, between July, 2015 and the present, I have dined out 23 more times for an additional total of $1500 in free dining!

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There have been a few other people that have dined with me on occasion (Zack went to Sweet Frog with me, my neighbor Susan went with me to Painting with a Twist, I took Leslie to Famous Toastery during her visit and I took Anthony to lunch at Miller’s Ale House this week) but for the most part, Carl has been my dining companion.

We have had some amazing meals…Seasons 52, Capital Grill and J. Alexander are our favorites and not places that we would typically dine at if it weren’t for free. Miller’s Ale House is a great, casual place and with so many locations we can eat there often for free (since you have to wait 7 months between visits at each location). It’s still a lot of work to complete the dining report but it’s worth it to me to have these great FREE experiences.

I am grateful for this fun opportunity. Thanks A Closer Look!

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Happy 2017!

For New Year’s Eve, Carl and I volunteered at the St. Augustine Beach Blast.


We got there early, parked in a distant parking lot and took the free shuttle to the pier. Since we had never seen the St. Augustine pier, we walked down to the beach to check it out.


It is a really nice beach and we look forward to going back in the summer. After eating our free volunteer meal, it was time check in for our shift. We spent 4 hours in the ticket booth. It was steady busy which made time pass quickly.

Halfway through our shift, we had a perfect view of the pier for the 20-minute firework show.


It was one of the best we’ve seen!

We were also right by the bandstand, where we got to hear three live bands. Unfortunately, two out of three of them were pretty bad and along the “screamo” line. The other bad part was trying to get the shuttle back to our car. With at least a hundred people in line ahead of us, we decided to just walk the 2.5 miles back to the car. It was a beautiful, pleasant evening and we were glad to get some exercise so it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

In addition to our free meal, we received a t-shirt, drawstring bag and 10 tickets for drinks for volunteering. It was a fun event and we would do it again.

I wish you all a blessed year filled with God’s love, peace and grace. Happy New Year!

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