Vacation: San Francisco

We just returned from our vacation to the San Francisco bay area!  We all miss the area but the week-long visit was enough to get us through until next fall at the same time.  ^_^  It was difficult deciding what we had to absolutely visit (Udupi Palace, Gather, Pier 39, Japantown, Fellini’s: the list could go on and on) and what places we just didn’t have time for this year.  We found a couple of neat new shops but also had a few encounters of, “you can never go home again” with some of our old favorite stops.

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco

Crab Statue @ Pier 39 in San Francisco


Things I Love, San Francisco Edition 

Trader Vic’s.  I always order a Menehune Juice so I can add another menehune to our tiki collection. | How easy it is to walk around in most of the towns | Daiso | Miso soup from Cha-Ya in Berkeley, CA. | Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco | The beaches | The public transportation!  The BART system puts the Austin-area public transportation to shame. |  The Soy & Tofu Festival.  If you are in San Francisco when this happens it’s worth the trip to Japantown. | The weather!  Coming from Austin, where it is still in the 90s, the bay area weather was a refreshing change, even though there was drizzle and fog. | This fog globe | The Presidio of San Francisco |  Pacific Redwood Wine by Frey Vineyards.  We stopped by the Whole Foods in Oakland and stocked up on these for the hotel!

Conlan Press Frustrations

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Last Unicorn.  When the kiddo was in Kindergarten we went to the Alamo Drafthouse to watch it on the big screen and meet Peter S. Beagle.  We all had a wonderful time, even though I was crying within 30 seconds of the movie starting.  It is overwhelming to finally see a movie you have loved your whole life on the big screen.

We heard that there was going to be another screening with Peter S. Beagle earlier this year so we immediately bought tickets for the show in town because it was being advertised as his final tour.  The show was this April (2015) and again, we had a great time (and again, I cried when seeing the movie on the big screen).  After the show we had Peter S. Beagle sign a few prints we purchased and we also pre-ordered a print.  At the time of purchase they told us that the delivery time would be approximately 4-6 weeks and that we would get updates via e-mail.  A few days later I ordered the new DVD on their website as well.

On June 19th we hadn’t heard anything, or received our print, so I sent an e-mail to them.  My first e-mail was ignored so I sent a follow-up email on July 3rd.  It was in the evening and  within 10 minutes I got a phone call from Connor at Conlan Press.  He didn’t really answer anything, but said that it would be easier to explain things over the phone and asked for me to call him back.  Phone calls are trickier for me than e-mail, so I wrote back about a week later explaining that and requested that he update me via e-mail.  The response to this e-mail was yet another phone call.  After responding that I cannot make phone calls happen easily I no longer got any responses from

I then started communicating with Ashley at Conlan Press on September 14th.  I will say that she has responded to my e-mails so far, but the situation is no less frustrating.  I was told that the items I had purchased would not be available and that I could get substitute items or a refund.  I opted for a refund and was then told that they would have to mail me a check since it had been more than 60 days since I placed my orders and that a check would be mailed out in a week.

I checked in today and am now being told that the checks aren’t really going to take a week, but four.  So now I am reasonably sure that Conlan Press has no intention of refunding my money.  In fact, if you Google “Conlan Press scam” you get a lot of valid responses: I, 2, 3, 4, 5

Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to update my blog with a, “Hooray!  I got my money back!” post.  Right now I am almost certain that I, along with many other Last Unicorn fans, have been scammed by Conlan Press.  My current advice is:

  1.  Go to Amazon and buy a new copy of the Last Unicorn.  Yes, I am reasonably sure that Conlan Press still gets some of the money (unfortunately), but is really is a beautiful version of the movie.
  2. Never, ever, EVER buy anything directly from Conlan Press.

For anyone who is interested, you can contact me and I will send you screenshots of all of my e-mails with Connor and Ashley at Conlan Press.  I will definitely write an update one way or another.

Water Communion 2015

Yesterday was the church’s annual Water Communion.  I got to put several things together for this service, which was a lot of fun!  I was asked to work on fidget activities for the kiddos, so I made some ocean bottles and bought some ocean themed water snakes from the local toy store.  I was also asked to provide coloring pages for all age ranges.  I found several neat coloring pages online (thanks, Pinterest!) but I wanted one that was specifically for Water Communion so I made one: please feel free to use this coloring page at your church’s Water Communion service, too!  

Download: Water Communion Coloring Page

The table in front of the sanctuary full of activities for Water Communion.


*SECOND* New Job!

I know, I know: I keep apologizing for the lack of updates.  Things have been so crazy for me recently!  We finally got settled in our first student house and BAM!  There was the flood and the mold and we had to move (and yes: a good amount of our stuff in still in boxes…)  I started working at the toy store and I *loved* it!  I got to do so many great things: I got to play with sparklers and confetti cannons, I helped grandparents pick out their gifts for their grand-kid’s first birthdays, I talked to tweens and teens about anime and manga, I helped mentors pick out end of the year presents for their mentees…the list could go on and on.

Sadly, thanks to my auto-immune issues I discovered that I am not physically able to keep up with a 40 hour/week schedule of constantly walking/moving/lifting.  It got to the point  where I would sit down in my car at the end of my shift and I wanted to cry I hurt so badly and I would drive home, take an extra B-12, soak my feet with Epsom salt for an hour, and then fall asleep on the sofa.  So one Saturday towards the end of my shift I had to tell them that I couldn’t make the job work for me full-time, despite my best efforts (and I had really, really been trying to make it work).  They were super supportive and understanding and worked with me, which I honestly was not expecting at all.  So, I still work at the toy store (yay!), just not very often (boo!).  I now do most of my work at a church – which I am super excited about, too!  I have done church work for years (and love it!) so I am grateful that I have been given this opportunity.  I obviously won’t be talking about the specifics of my church job very often here for privacy reasons, but I might share resources/printables that I create.

Life has been good.  Crazy, and busy, and unexpected: but good.  ❤

Operation Zero Debt – The Beginning

One thing that I would like to start talking about on my blog is how we have been working to pay off all of our credit debt while Andrew is in seminary.  The goal is to have all the credit cards and our two cars paid off by the time he is done with school, which is only 2 years from now.  I am not going to lie: we are not in a good situation financially right now.  However, in the last year we have made such tremendous progress that I am pretty amazed when I think about it (and tip!  If you are currently paying debt off like we are take the time at least once a month to take a few moments and think about how much progress you have made financially!  Even if it has been a not-so-great month.  Find the positives!  It helps re-frame everything, I promise.).  

Since moving back to Texas a year ago we have built an emergency fund and paid off over $20,000.00 in debt.  We currently have $31,661.40 remaining in credit debt, and unfortunately this does not include things like our cars and my husband’s student loans.  I wish at this point that I had some advice about how to pay off debt.  We paid off the $20,000.00 last year by massively downsizing our lives, throwing all of our extra income at the credit debt, and selling everything we no longer used.  We took a Financial Peace course, which was great for getting us to start working together as a team.  

However, we decided that the Debt Avalanche works better for us than the Debt Snowball.  We do small things to maintain our motivation since the Debt Avalanche is slower going at first.  I print out a new debt thermometer for each debt we are currently paying off and we make a big deal every month about the progress we have made towards filling the thermometer.  When the thermometer is full we have a special dinner at home complete with a sparkling juice toast to being closer to being debt free!

We definitely still have progress to make.  We still struggle with actually sticking to the budget every month and buy small things we don’t need.  We go to restaurants entirely too much.  I am still trying to work things into our budget that I used to be in denial about: like Christmas and the fall back-to-school expenses.

This month we will be starting to work on paying off our third credit card, and we currently owe this one $5,621.00.  We should have this debt paid off by the end of this year.

Questions:  Are you on a budget and/or paying off debt?  If so what methods work for you?  What didn’t?  Did you do things like extreme couponing, work a second job, or set up online stores?  I would love to hear some success stories!  

I would also love to hear what you think would be helpful to talk about if you are currently paying off debt, like me.  A lot of blog posts I read seem to say the same things like, “Don’t buy coffee!  Take all your lunches to work!  Become an Uber Driver!  Open a Fiverr store!”  Which is great advice: the first time you read it.  I would love to get your input/stories!

New Job + Things I Love

I started a new job!  When we moved back to Texas I decided to take a bit of a sabbatical to help the kiddo and Andrew both adjust to their new school schedules, and I am very thankful that I was able to do that.  But when I saw that our favorite toy store was hiring, I stopped by and filled out an application the next day!  Everything went really well so I am currently in the first few weeks of training at my new job at the toy store!  So, posts here will probably be pretty scarce the next few weeks while we are all adjusting to my new work schedule.  I haven’t had a full-time job (officially, anyway) since before the kiddo was born.


❤Things I Love❤

Fredericksburg peaches | Geoflux | Bob’s Burgers | Purple nail polish | Spa days with the kiddo and my best friend | This Gund bear (we named ours Marshmallow) |  Having a Trader Joe’s in town.  We got really used to this store when we lived in California!| Manic Panic (I am thinking my hair might be turquoise pretty soon) | Loquat season | Lazy weekend visits at my dad’s house | Finding a coffee shop that has almond milk as an option | Chameleons!  I want one so bad, but I know it’s not practical right now…

Youth Group Dinner – Breakfast for Dinner

This week our family had signed up to provide the dinner for our church’s weekly youth group meeting.  I love to cook, but it throws me off when I can’t get specific information about an event (mainly the number of people I will be feeding), so I had been putting it off.  After much self-induced food planning stress, I finally decided that 15 youth and teachers would show up, picked a date to provide dinner, and went from there.

I decided on a breakfast casserole (made vegetarian) along with hash browns and a basic fruit salad.  Everyone loves breakfast for dinner, right?  I made 2 casseroles, and I more or less followed this recipe, with a few changes.  I used about 1/4 cup of water instead of milk in the eggs (that’s just my preference), I used vegetarian sausage, and I cooked the casseroles for 30 minutes instead of 15.  However, I will say there were a few spots where the dough was slightly under-cooked, so I might be updating this recipe a bit more: stay tuned!

Action shot at the church!

List of Supplies & Cost

  • Biscuits (w/ coupons)                                     –   6.48
  • Vegetarian breakfast sausage                     –   3.99
  • 1 dozen eggs                                                      –   4.99
  • Shredded Cheese                                             –   3.79
  • 3 packages of hash browns                          –   5.97
  • 1 pound grapes                                                 –   2.99
  • 2 bananas                                                           –   1.50
  • 2 apples                                                               –   1.58
  • Two disposable trays                                     –   2.00

        Total Cost = $33.29 or $1.85/person

18 youth and teachers showed up for the meeting, so that put my total cost at $1.85/person, but  I am sure that you could lower the cost a little more if needed.  I know I spent a little bit more on the biscuits as well as the eggs.  You can also use casserole dishes you already own.  You may or may not decide to include a fruit salad: that is what I had the most left-overs of (but I thought that might be the case going in).  Definitely do not skimp out on the hash browns!  I calculated 2 hash browns per person and those were the first thing to go!  ^_^  There was about 1/2 tray of casserole left-over as well, and it re-heats well, which means we have breakfast and/or lunch figured out for us for the next few days as well now.

Overall, the youth group really enjoyed having breakfast for dinner, so I will definitely keep this in the rotation.

Vegetarian breakfast casserole.


Oh my goodness, the “joy” that can be student housing.  Things have seemed off at our house for about 3 months now in a way that is hard to actually describe.  Yesterday my husband received a call from the head of maintenance informing us that there are major plumbing/sewage issues and we needed to get out of the house.  Now.  So I spent the afternoon opening all the house windows to let some fresh air into house and then frantically started packing us up, pets included.  Oh, I also had to pack up Easter because the Easter bunny still needs to find KK this Sunday.

Crookshanks is one confused kitty right now.

Thankfully, the seminary has mission housing that they are letting us use for the moment so we have a nice, furnished space to vacate to.  Maintenance guesses that we will be here for about a week, and it looks like the seminary might let us move to new housing as well, so things are going to be a bit wonky for us for a little while.  Talk about a curve ball!

There may not be posts to Fort Poppin for the next couple of weeks as we are figuring out our housing situation.  But I will be back as soon as I can!