Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What's Up Wednesday

It's a good thing having a blog isn't like having a pet - or a houseplant. If it were, this thing would be dead from neglect. It's just hard to squeeze in an unbroken thought (or written sentence) around here. As I type this, Michaela is in the tub asking me what I would do in case of a "fire drill" in the house. She wants to know that if she were asleep, in the tub, or playing with her toys if I would get her. And if the fire burned up her toys would she get new ones...

Anyway, here's my attempt at blogging this month week.

Making: One pot meals on Sunday, and enjoying the leftovers again at least once during the work week. I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. If I can make something that makes leftovers so I don't have to cook again another night, that makes me happy. Here's a recipe for Skinny Turkey Taco Soup that Michaela and I really like, and it's super easy. I totally blew it this past Sunday and could not come up with anything that sounded good to me. We ended up going out...

Drinking: When I was doing the Arbonne 28-Day Detox, I fell in love with their pomegranate fizz drink mix. Not only does it taste great, but it has a little green tea extract (or something...) that gives me a boost in the afternoon. Sadly, I am out of that and nothing else I've tried compares. I might have to splurge and buy another box of it. On a side note, I've lost ten pounds since I did the detox. Yea, me! A protein shake in the morning, and a salad with chicken for lunch is my trick.

Reading: Named of the Dragon, by Susanna Kearsley. It's kind of slow, but kind of good. It's sort of a historical mystery. Not like anything else I've read recently. I'm reading it on my newish Kindle. I resisted the whole reader thing for a while, but I have to say that I like it.

Wanting: I've been wanting a new sofa for several years. The one I have is more than ten years old. It's threadbare, stained (potty training...), torn (cat prior to his, um, procedure), and all around awful. I've covered it with one of those Sure Fit slipcovers, but that is not all that great. That kind of slipcover gets messed up the first time you sit down on it. The cat put a hole in that, too. So I broke down and ordered a new sofa the other day from Pottery Barn. They were having a 20% off sale! Then I went back on Tuesday and ordered a new armchair (still 20% off!) They won't be here until sometime in December, so I'll be wanting them for a while longer.

Listening: I try to start my first period class with a happy song every day. It's good for me and good for them. Last year's class liked to dance to the happy song, but this year's class isn't ready to do that. 

Playing: Now that school is back in session, we haven't had too much time for games. However, we did play lots of "No Stress Chess" over the summer. It's a great way to learn how to play chess. I did not know how to play chess before we started playing this. I still don't really know how to play chess, but I do know how the pieces move. Ha!

Wishing: I'm wishing for rain. It's been too long since it's rained. We've had some cloudy skies and light sprinkles the past couple of days, but I haven't seen a real shower.

Using: I got a super cute teacher plan book from May Designs this year. That's not an affiliate link. I just think their planners are pretty. 

Loving: I'm loving the idea of fall. We have had cooler weather than usual for September, but it looks like it will be warming up this coming week. Did I mention that I'd like it to rain? To kick off fall, I picked up some inexpensive decor from Home Goods and Goodwill. I focused on pops of yellow, red, and white - yellow accent pillows for my ugly sofa, artificial apples in a green ceramic basket, and a couple of owls. I love pumpkins, but they can wait until next month.

Watching: I'm not watching anything. The second season of Outlander concluded in July, and I'm not expecting it to return until spring 2017. Maybe I'll break down and watch the debate on Monday night. I'll have to pour myself a generous glass of wine to endure it, though.

What's up with you?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Find & Flip - Summer Edition

I have to be more consistent with these kind of posts. I think the last one I did was during winter. Ebay has become such a big part of my life that I should post about it more often!

Anyway, I learned that most of July and the first part of August are super S L O W for the types of items I sell the most - clothing and shoes. It was depressing! But things have really picked up in the last ten days or so. I am averaging two sales a day, and while that doesn't seem like much, it actually makes for a really nice amount of sales by the end of the month. My average sales price per item is about $35.

Even though sales were down, I used the time to increase the number of listings in my store. I also focused on things I thought would do well in the fall, and things besides clothing and shoes.

Here are some of my best flips this month so far:

I found these NEW at the GW for just $6.99. All of my listings are Buy It Now, but I add Best Offer to my listings so that buyers can negotiate price with me. This buyer did not want to negotiate - she paid full price! If these shoes had been my size, I would have kept them. They are so cute!

This shirt was also new. It even had the original tags attached that said it retailed for $90 originally. I had a couple of lowball offers on it earlier in the summer, but I didn't accept them. It sold for full price the other morning. I had paid just $4.99 for it at GW.

Like I said, because sales were slow, I ventured out of my comfort zone. I found this at GW in great condition (just a couple of tiny chips) for $5.99. It sold overnight for full asking price.

I found this on a shelf in the GW. I didn't know it was Coach until I picked it up and opened it. The Coach emblem was on the inside of the billfold. I paid 99 cents for it. It sold in a couple of weeks for a Best Offer of $35.

All great finds and flips! However, the absolute best find happened last night when Michaela (after a summer of looking!) found an American Girl Doll. She was/is so excited about her find - Molly a retired doll. I will not be flipping Molly and that's okay!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dance, and Other Extracurricular Activities

Our city has an award-winning parks and recreation department. Prior to having children I took an art class (with a teacher who didn't appreciate my lack of artistic ability experience), and a dog-training class. I was in way over my head with that one. I had two, large, kind of dumb/but sweet dogs at that point. They didn't make me look good. I'll just leave it at that.

Anyway, last summer we started to take advantage of the classes offered for the youngsters. Michaela tried art, dance, and ice skating then. She wasn't crazy about the art teacher, but she really enjoyed the dance and ice skating classes. This summer we tried to get into a cooking class, but it booked up fast; and we successfully signed up for a ballet class.

I told Michaela that she could take the same dance class with the same teacher as last year, or we could try a new teacher with a slightly different syllabus. Last year's teacher was very experienced and she had those little ones all ready for a little recital by the last week. But I figured she'd be doing the very same class again this year. Instead we decided on a class that incorporates pretend play and ballet moves. Michaela loves it! Last week the ballet dancers reenacted "Cinderella". So cute! I posted the above photo to Instagram and gave it the hashtag "ballet class" and we actually got a like and a comment from Andreas Kaas who is a soloist with the Royal Danish Ballet!

As fall approaches, I am trying to figure out which extracurricular activities to choose, but I do not want to over-schedule Michaela (or me!). She is already committed to attending the children's program at our church on Wednesday nights. She did this last year and had a great time, and I like the hour or so of free time it gives me.

We are considering another round of ice skating, soccer (with a new friend), or more ballet. So many fun things to do, but so little time. 

How many extracurricular activities does your little one participate in?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Week In Review

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook earlier this week:

Right?! Whether you're working this summer, or not, summer is slipping away. I'll report back to work in three and a half weeks, and school will start for Michaela the week after that. Where does the time go?

I had so many projects I wanted to get done this summer; but at the beginning of the week, I had not done any of them. The weather was really hot when we returned from our vacation, so that was a deterrent. Thankfully, this last week has been much cooler. So Monday morning I took on the task of cleaning out and organizing the laundry room portion of my garage. This is not only where I do the laundry, but it's also where I store my ebay inventory and shipping supplies. Things were all over the place before, but now they are neatly stored. It also revealed to me that I'm approaching the maximum amount of inventory I can house -  between 250 and 300 items.

I did take some photos of my hard work, but I can't seem to locate them just now. You aren't missing out on much. Besides, even in its new, organized state, my laundry room is no beauty. At least it's more functional now.

I also spent lots of time sourcing this week for ebay. I anticipate that sales will be very good in the fall, and I want to have good inventory on hand and listed. June was a great month in sales, but July wasn't. August has started out well enough, but I don't know what to expect at this point. Hopefully people will start their fall wardrobe shopping soon.

On Monday I also started a detox/cleanse program with Arbonne and my friend, Kara. She has done this successfully earlier this year. In fact, she lost twenty pounds at that point. I'm not looking to lose twenty pounds, but I am interested in dropping some weight. The program doesn't allow me to eat sugar, dairy, gluten, corn, caffeine, etc., and I drink a couple of protein shakes each day. There are other supplements in the program. I had a dull caffeine headache the first four days, but I'm over that now. This is a 28-day program, and I'm pretty sure it's something I can stick with for the duration. I don't usually feel hungry, and there are lots of options for clean snacking and cooking.

I had my first day off this summer on Thursday this week. Michaela spent the night with my parents on Wednesday night, and she spent the following day with them. They were going to take her to the county fair, but she chose to stay home and swim instead. She loves the water.

Yesterday, we went to the movies to see "Nine Lives". It reminded me of "Freaky Friday" (the original one!). Overall, it was a cute movie. I will have to say that I did not appreciate some of the language in it. Obviously, it's a movie for children, so why foul language has to be used is beyond me. This is why we go to the movies infrequently! I take Proverbs 4:23 seriously: 

And I've learned that exposure to a lot of pop culture (movies, television, music) is not the best source of healthy examples for Michaela and me. In the end, the main character learned a good lesson about life and the importance of family. So it was funny and it did have a positive message.

Have a blessed weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Oops! I did it again...

I let a month go by without blogging at all. Sheesh!

Summer is racing by. The first two weeks after school got out were all about preparing for our trip to Mammoth Lakes. While my parents have vacationed there multiple times, it was my first time to the area. I was really impressed by how beautiful it is there, and how much there is to do.

Off the 395 on our way to Mammoth - the backside of the Sierra Nevada.

My parents LOVE the Sierras!
Lunch in Lone Pine.
My dad rented a pontoon boat on Lake Mary twice and we attempted to catch some trout. I think we do everything right, but we had no luck - this is somewhat of a family tradition. Even so, I really enjoyed our time out on the lake and could have spent more time fishing.

Lake Mary from the shore. We tried fishing from the shore the first day.

Michaela was so excited to use her FROZEN fishing pole that Papa gave her!

One of my students who spends lots of time in Mammoth had recommended several things to do while we were there. On her recommendation, we took the tram up to the top of the mountain and had a really good lunch there. The views were amazing!

Just enough "snow" left for a little fun.

Another of her recommendations was a horseback ride. Unfortunately, Michaela was too young for a group ride - so, we couldn't ride together. However, the stables offered a ride for little ones where the parent leads the horse on a wooded path for about 20 minutes. Michaela's horse, Pablo, was gentle enough but he was also a bit stubborn. I had no luck getting him to walk with me, so I handed the reigns over to my dad who also had limited luck. Thankfully, the cowboy wasn't too far away and he got Pablo going for us. Michaela didn't mind the extra minutes spent in the saddle.

Our condo faced a picturesque meadow, and I enjoyed the view early each morning. Even without Koa waking me, I was still the first one up. In the evenings, my mom and I took our chairs and a glass of wine out on the lawn in front of the condo and enjoyed the sites and sounds of the meadow. One evening we were even treated to a visit from a deer in the meadow.

My view each morning.

Best buddies! Michaela really enjoys palling around with Papa.

It was windy and cool our first day there when we explored the meadow - had to bundle up a bit.

We spent a lot of time in the Sierras camping when I was a kid. One of my favorite day trips was going to the Bodie ghost town back then, and I wanted Michaela to see it. Thankfully, the road is now paved for a much greater distance than it was back in the 1980s! We only had three miles of dirt road to traverse this time. Not surprisingly, nothing had changed in Bodie. Ha!

After a couple of hours in Bodie, we continued north to Bridgeport. We used to camp outside of Bridgeport, but I hadn't seen it in 25 years. Dad loves to get a Jolly Cone in town there, and we had a late lunch there, too. It's a real small town and charming.

Jolly Cone!

We stayed for ten days, but I could have stayed longer. I absolutely love getting away from the hordes of people and traffic here at home, and having the natural beauty outside our door. It's good for the soul.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hello There, Dear Reader

Okay, so it's been a while since I posted. A looooong while!

Today was my first day of summer vacation, and I'm looking at 77 76 days off. School got out so late this year that it almost felt like it would never end. It was one of my best years ever, but even good things must end.

As for the blog, I just didn't have enough time to collect my thoughts in the last couple of months for a post. Life has been so busy and, quite honestly, kind of out of balance. But, I'm taking steps to get things back in balance. It seems like almost every endeavor of mine ends up with me in a leadership role. However, as the leader of this little family, I need to remember that being an only parent and breadwinner is enough responsibility on my shoulders. So, I relinquished one responsibility for the coming school year that didn't have an entirely positive impact on our family life. Hopefully, with that off of my plate, I can be a more focused parent and take better care of myself physically. 

Our plans for the summer include a trip to the Sierras with my parents, ballet and ukelele lessons for Michaela, working out and dropping a few pounds, lots of afternoons swimming in Grammy and Papa's pool, a few projects around the house (especially organizing - I looove organizing!), and ramping up my little ebay business for a successful fall. By the time I return to school in September, I hope to be satisfied with how we spent our time and refreshed for another great year in the classroom!

I also hope to blog our summer adventures. So check back soon!

P.S. Can you see my blog's header? I can't...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mrs. Then - Mrs. Now

I think I have written about this before. If I haven't written about it before, then I guess I'm just recalling when something similar happened in the past. I didn't like it then about two years out, and I don't like it now six years out.

So consider this a public service announcement.

Please don't call me "Ms. Labrador."


I am Mrs. Labrador to those who don't call me by my first name.

Thank you.

Losing my husband...

Becoming a widow...

Did not make me "Ms. Labrador."

I don't know "Ms. Labrador."

According to Emily Post, you should refer to a widowed woman as "Mrs." if you don't know the widow's preference. The default is "Mrs." Easy peasy!

I have had multiple professional correspondences with another Mrs. this year, and despite the fact that I always sign my correspondence with "Mrs. Labrador" this person continues to address me in written form as "Ms. Labrador". However, she has referred to another colleague (whose husband is alive) as Mrs. So-and-So. She's making a judgement call based on whose husband is here and whose husband is not.

I lost a lot when I lost Michael, but I didn't lose my "Mrs.". Widowhood painfully redefined who I am in many ways, but my "Mrs." is not something that has changed.

Update: Speaking up was a good thing. I don't think I'll be addressed as "Ms. Labrador" again, and the other person was very apologetic and understanding. I should have said something sooner - I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Find & Flip: January - February

As I stated in a recent post, January was pretty slow. There would be entire weeks where I wouldn't have a single sale. That didn't mean I wasn't working the business, though. I had heard that January was a great time to be thrifting because so many people had made donations at the end of the year. So I did a lot of sourcing in January.

One day my mother-in-law and brother-in-law took Michaela to Disneyland, and I had the entire day to myself. I spent $220 at the Goodwill and came home with 35 items. My cart was full. It was fun.

What's even more fun than thrifting for items for sale (which is fun!), is hearing my iPhone cha-ching when something sells. That's when my hard work literally pays off.

Here are some of my favorite finds and flips from January and February:

This was one of the items I purchased that day at the Goodwill. I don't usually buy jeans because they are $9.99 and it's hard to make a decent profit after that. But if they are new with tags, and a good brand, I will happily spend $9.99. These sold in less than two weeks. Cha-ching!

Anthropologie labels sell well. I paid $4.99 for this pretty top and it sold in just a few days.

Here's another item I found new with tags. Dresses at my Goodwill are usually $8.49 as was this one.

Such a pretty sweater. If it had been in my size, I might have kept it. Sweaters are $6.49 usually.

One thing I noticed about my February sales compared to the previous months was that the average sales price dropped. Previously, I had an average sales price of $36 per item. But in February my average sales price dropped to $30 per item. So sales were up, but people were spending less overall.

I have also learned to shop my own closet for inventory. There are things I am not wearing for whatever reason, and they are destined to be donated anyway. Why not make a few bucks instead?

This was something I purchased from Stitch Fix last year. It's cute, but I wasn't that excited about it anymore. I paid a lot more for it than I sold it for (there are no deals on Stitch Fix), but I recouped some of my investment - and it sold quickly.

I purchased this from ThredUp not that long ago. It's super cute, but I decided that it's a little "young" for me at this point. I'm sure I paid less for it than I sold it for.

March is off to a great start. I've found some great items and sales are good so far. I'm hoping for 40 sales this month. Come on eBay!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Six Years

Today marks the sixth anniversary of Michael's passing.

Last night we had dinner with Michael's parents and his aunt. It was good to be with some of the people who love him and miss him.

The night Michael went home, his mom and his aunt were here with us. They almost went home for dinner, but after attending mass in the neighborhood here, they came back first. Within a very short time of their arrival, Michael took his last breath on Earth and took his first glimpse of Eternity.

I say it every year, but it really is hard to believe that it's been six years already. It just goes to show you how brief life is, really. Time continues it's relentless march into the future no matter what happens in our lives. I am grateful that my future is in the hands of the One in whose presence Michael now lives.

Today is a day to take a break from the daily grind, and be with Michael's best gift to me - Michaela. We are enjoying the rainy weather and a quiet morning in our little home.

And for those who haven't seen this memorial video, here it is again. If you didn't know Michael, then you will see why he was so loved.

Updated to add my first "vlog":

Saturday, March 5, 2016


February has come and gone, and I neglected to post anything here on the blog.

One of the things I like about February is that it has two long weekends thanks to the observances of Lincoln and Washington's birthdays. Every time I have a three-day weekend, I think that is the perfect schedule for me. Three days gives me enough time to get my household chores and related errands done, and still have time for rest, relaxation, and time with family or friends. Two days just isn't enough time.

I took Michaela to see a movie on that first long weekend. We saw Kung Fu Panda III. Neither of us had seen the other two Kung Fu Panda movies, so we didn't know the backstory at all. Nevertheless, we both liked it a lot. Michaela has only seen three movies in the theater, and she is still a little nervous about them. I'm not sure why as I've never exposed her to anything very scary, but she always anticipates that she will be scared. She hasn't gotten used to the fact that every movie (well, almost every movie) has a "bad guy". When the bad guy shows up, she gets nervous. I remember feeling that way when I was a kid, too.

Michaela took another session of hula during January and February. She really seems to enjoy that form of dance. I'll be signing her up for another session this spring, but she'll move up to the older kids' class. The little ones were super cute, but they were all over the place because their attention spans are so short. I think Michaela is ready for a slightly more focused group.

I spent a lot of my non-teaching time on my little eBay business. Sales were really slow in January, and I was slightly discouraged. But things picked up in February, and March is off to a great start. I will have my first debt paid off before summer, and I am more confident that I will be able to make Michaela's tuition payments. I intend to post my sales numbers and favorite sales in a coming post. In sharing, I hope to inspire others to consider something like what I'm doing to tackle debt, or have greater financial freedom.

(Some of my recent finds to flip on eBay!)

The weather in February was pretty amazing. El Nino has been slow in showing up here in Southern California. So we were treated to summer-like weather most of the month. I haven't run my furnace in weeks and weeks, and I've been sleeping with the window open a little bit and even the ceiling fan on some nights. It's crazy!

Professionally, I am having one of my best school years. Sixth grade is a great age to teach, and I love the way my new school is run. Every day it is a pleasure to be there. As part of my teachers association's executive board, I have been a part of a new collaborative effort for the district and the associations to work together in decision making. It's very refreshing and satisfying to be included in the process of rebuilding our beleaguered district.

So that's February in a nutshell. Here's hoping March brings El Nino rains and lots of eBay cha-chings!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Another Milestone

Last Thursday night I attended the "Prospective Parent Night" at the school I intend to enroll Michaela in for Kindergarten. This particular school has been in the plan all along, but when you're finally within a few months of it all coming to be it's kind of overwhelming!

I can hardly believe how fast the last (almost) five years have gone by.

From this:

To this:

... in a blink of an eye.

Before I lost Michael, I always thought Michaela would attend school at one of the schools in my public school district. But since Michaela was born, I began to want something different for her education. I want her education to support her growth in her faith. My faith has helped sustain me through so much, and I want to give her the best start I can in her relationship with the Lord. 

The school I've chosen is affiliated with my parents' church, and it is a Christ-centered and academically excellent school. I believe she will thrive there. In addition to music, art, P.E., and other extracurricular activities, Michaela will attend chapel once a week and have Bible class four times a week at this school. Another nice thing about her school is that several of my mother's friends from church (who knew me as a child) work at the school teaching art and music, and providing before and after school care. I love that they will have a role in Michaela's education.

I am sad to be leaving her early childhood behind, but excited for her to have new experiences and friendships. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Thrift 'n Flip

So last summer I was thinking about how I could increase my income. You see, in the first twelve years of my teaching career, I had enjoyed a step-increase and a cost-of-living increase yearly - those were the good old days. However, the last cost-of-living increase took place in 2008, and my last step-increase occurred in 2011. There was a small (1%) increase last year, but that's hardly enough to even show up in my take-home pay. Ugh!

With the cost of health insurance (and pretty much everything else) increasing each year, my paycheck was actually decreasing every year. I am hopeful that there will be a more significant raise this year, but we are halfway through the school year and that hasn't happened yet...

I had to do something to create another income stream.

After some research, I came up with two viable options - monetizing this blog, and/or selling on ebay. You might have noticed some of my posts last year in which I recommended various products (and I still think they're good ones!), and included affiliate links. I know there are bloggers that make a nice income even part-time that way, but it never paid off for me. No biggie.

Concurrently, I began learning about selling preowned clothing on ebay and decided to give it a try. Michael and I had sold used books on Amazon in the past, and I'd really enjoyed that. So last summer, Michaela and I began visiting the Goodwill and picking up a few things here and there. I also started reading everything I could on the Internet about selling preowned clothing on ebay, because not everything will fetch a profit even if it's stylish and in good shape.

I have been cramming my head with product information pretty much every chance I get, and thrifting as often as I can since September. Surprisingly, thrifting does qualify for "retail therapy" for me. But, let me tell you, it's even more exciting to pick something up for a few bucks and flip it for five or ten (or more!) times the amount you paid for it. I will admit that I occasionally keep something for myself, though. And I've picked up some nice things for Michaela, and my parents, and my brother-in-law, too. There are treasures to be found at the Goodwill, dear reader.

What's a post without some pictures, right? Here are some of my proudest flips recently:

That was my best flip by far. I found this sweater at the GW the day before Thanksgiving. It sold in about two weeks for $205. I had paid just $12.99 for it. I had never heard of that brand until a few months ago. Certainly not my thing, but these are very popular.

Ah, cashmere. Come to me! Actually, I can only wear cashmere over something else because even though it's super soft, it makes me itch. But cashmere sells well, so I pick it up every time I see it so long as it's in good shape. I paid $6.49 for this lovely sweater and sold it for the asking price. I have sold a lot of sweaters in the last couple of months.

Okay, these were mine. I had two pair from last year, but they were always too big. I learned that Nick and Nora jammies sell well on ebay, and I listed mine. They sold for about $5 less than I paid for them when they were new, so I almost made my money back! Selling things you already have is a great way to get started on ebay, or to make purging your closet profitable.

Okay, this is one of my favorite brands to thrift and to wear. I have never actually owned any new CAbi, though. All of mine is second-hand. The reason CAbi sells well is because it's only available through a sales rep - kind of like Tupperware or Pampered Chef. Women who love CAbi can't go shopping for it in the mall. I almost always put CAbi pieces in my cart when I find them at the GW. Oh, I almost forgot! I paid just $8.49 for this piece.

I have a long way to go before my ebay store does what I need it to do for me financially, but December was a really good month. I have high hopes. In the coming year, I hope to build my store up to about 200 items. I'm just under 120 items now.

Financially, I want to generate enough profit to pay off several debts, and be debt-free (except for my mortgage). I also want my ebay profits to help pay for Michaela's private school tuition - yep, that's starting in September! If it also can help with the home improvements I've put off, and a trip to Scotland one day to see my niece, that would be lovely. Time will tell.

Click here, if you'd like to see what's in my ebay store today.

In the future, I will try to post my favorite flips here on a monthly basis.