Friday, December 31, 2010



About four years ago I became addicted to scrapbooking. Actually I’ve been doing some form of scrapbooking all my life. Whether it was just a few souvenirs glued in an old photo album or intricate pages with hidden journaling, I’ve scrapped, long before we worried about acid free items. We of course should have, but who knew?

As the spoiled, pampered princess my husband had made me I was given just about anything I wanted for my new “hobby” including a Cricut cutting machine, a Xyron adhesive machine and all the papers, stickers and tools I wanted. I played and had a great time.

I was just really getting into using all this equipment, learning the ins and out of it, along with learning Sure Cuts a Lot, and Inkscape. I had BIG scrapbooking plans. Then as you well know life changed drastically.

Oh I packed up my scrapbooking stuff and it traveled all over with us for 18 months, but I never seemed to have the time to scrap. We were either busy working or enjoying all the free sites we could visit. I just never seemed to drag that heavy black bag out of the camper closet.

Well the first week in October I drug that black bag out of the camper and back into the house where my son moved it back upstairs to what had previously been my scrapbooking room.

The reason I say previously a scrapbooking room is because now it has evolved back into an office, as it was when we first moved in. The business has changed, and so has the room. All the scrapbooking stuff is being set back up because it is now part of the business.

On the various lists I have mentioned repeatedly how we were working hard on a business plan, figuring out concepts, domain names, logos and everything else. I’ve kept to myself what the business is. Basically because I wanted to research to see if there was even a niche market for it. I like building small businesses to fill in the areas that some how have been overlooked by others. Especially when it works around something I like to do.

So what is the business you ask? The name of our new business is WEBFOOT TUB DESIGNS. Huh? You might say. A little background here. Many of you from the lists over the years have read many of my animal stories. I have been often encouraged to turn them into children’s books. So we are. Buddy the Bathroom Duck has evolved into Buddy the Bathtub Duck. Thus the Webfoot Tub (see logo photo at the left—designed and scrapped by my son). As time goes on our website will have Buddy and friends in a series of cartoons, drawn by Sean. We plan on self publishing the Buddy and other animal stories as well. But the children’s stories are only a tiny fraction of the business.

The main component will be greeting cards and specialty scrapbooking pages for sale. I know, I know there are hundreds of hobbyists out there selling greeting cards and such and they are not big money makers. We’ve researched the numbers, but we’ve also researched those webpages and that is where the niche comes in.

While we will, of course, make and hopefully sell all the normal greeting cards, birthday, Christmas, etc we are also going to try and provide a great variety of those hard to find cards that we all look for at one time or another.

One of our first “niche” cards will be adoption related cards. It has been brought to our attention (thanks Chrissey) that there is a shortage of cards not only to announce adoptions, but to celebrate Gotcha (the day the adoption became final) cards. We will also include cards for those who want to thank the birth parents for loving the child enough to give it up.

We plan on this and numerous other niche areas being highlighted as time goes on. So if you have a special card or scrapbook page you would love to see made available for sale please speak up.

We plan on covering ALL holidays for all religions and groups, not just the main few, as well as cards for hobbyists, sports enthusiasts and much more.

We will also be having a group of Buddy cards and merchandise as time goes on.

While some of our cards will be your basic folded cards we will also have shaped, pop-up, slider and other unique cards.

While all three of us love to scrapbook and create we realize not everyone has the time or the inclination to make their own. So we’ll create them for you. Our scrapbook pages will be made where all you’ll need to do is add your photos for those special moments in your life, as well as just day to day events.

This will be a family business, my husband Gary is the main IT person, plus he’ll help with design aspects. Sean is our artist. He can take even my roughest design sketches and turn them into gorgeous items. Me well I’m the budget keeper, one of the three designers, Buddy author, public relations and all other niche filler.

We are aware that a family business can be tough, we’ve had a few before. We are also aware that Dave Ramsey says stay away from partnerships. So we are working hard to make sure everything is, as recommended down in black and white, and no one person is making all the decisions. As for the last two years everything is done by family vote here. Please wish us luck,

The first few photo cards are now up on the website:

One more thing: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Jan whose family is working together once again to move forward in life in OK

Sunday, December 26, 2010


December 26, 2010

As a roast simmers on the stove and the air fills with the delightful smell of bread in the bread machine my thoughts turn to what I consider “the cooking season”. The weather outside is below freezing, so what better way to warm up the house than to cook?

Only cooking can be the biggest part of any household budget, beyond your house payment. It is also the easiest one to go over budget on, therefore special attention needs to be paid here.

There are numerous ways to cut grocery costs and there is absolutely no way I could even begin to list all the ways to cut those costs, but I can list several. It is my hope that you will add more cost cutting measures to what I’m listing.

So let’s get started:

LOSS LEADERS, as I explained in the previous post on the blog loss leaders are an incentive to get you into the store. It is also one of the best ways to cut your grocery costs.

The best way to use them is to first learn what day your local grocery puts out there weekly sales ads. In some cities it’s Sunday’s others it’s Wednesday, your town may be entirely different. It is important to know how long a sale will last, it could be very frustrating to go to a store on a Sunday and find out the ad you planned your shopping around ended at midnight the night before.

I personally do not subscribe to a newspaper, and I live rurally so I seldom if ever get sales flyers in my mail, especially since I have registered our address on the no junk mail website. So I must be a little more creative about getting my ads. It’s a simple tool called “the internet”. Yep, just about every store known to man has a website with their weekly sales flyer on it.

Once I’ve located where these ads will be for the stores I’m doing cost comparison at I bookmark the site and/or subscribe to their email ads. I do this not only for grocery ads, but for hobby stores, and my husband gets notices and fuel coupons from Murphy fuel stations in his email on a regular basis.

Once you get the sales ads take time to sit down and really look at them. Just because it’s in a sales flyer does not mean it is on sale. Read the ads closely. Even better get out your PRICE BOOK (more on this in a moment) and do some serious comparison of not just price, but sizes.

Now make a list of the things that your family will truly eat that is truly on sale. Store by store, it’s always better to compare various stores loss leaders. Here’s one trick you may not know. Many major stores like Wal-Mart, Target and others (not just grocery stores) will do price match for IDENTICAL items. So if your local grocery has say a name brand frozen food on sale that you want, but it’s not worth the drive to pick up just that one item, take the ad to one of the price matching stores and get it for the same price there. Not only do you get the item for a lower price, but you don’t burn extra fuel or time to pick up the item.

Once you get the list made, you can possibly plan a menu for the week around these loss leaders. You can also consider stocking up to help cut your food costs for future meals. Ideally this is what you want to do if you are trying to meet the $1 a day challenge. Some stores will limit you on how many of what item per person per purchase you can get.

There are, of course, ways around this limit. Shop more than one time, more than one store, or take a shopping buddy with you. If the store is out of an item request a RAIN CHECK. This can be a true help in cutting costs. Because it allows you to spread out the cost of those more popular items. It is simply a coupon to purchase X amount of that item at the loss leader price when the store once again has it in stock.

Now about that PRICE BOOK. What you put in a price book is entirely up to you. My personal one is a spread sheet. The rows are the items ie: Chicken, leg quarters per pound; chicken, boneless skinless breasts per pound; Green Giant green beans 14 oz can. Being who I am it’s alphabetized for speed in locating an item.

The columns are the stores ie: Wal-Mart; Target, Dollar General, Aldis etc.

Then I start filling in the columns with the non-sale (every day) prices for each store. This can be quite time consuming at first. I recommend using grocery receipts you have at home to start out doing this, you can gather a lot of information and fill in the spreadsheet as you watch tv. Then each time you go to a grocery gather a little information while you are there. Just spend five minutes or so on a single aisle making notes and after a while you will have all the stores done with little effort.

Another way to save money is couponing. I am a former coupon/rebate queen. In the 80’s I was like those ladies you read about. I did not pay for groceries, in fact a grocery store once paid me because they doubled the free food coupons I had. Back then I ate only name brands, worked hard at rebating and our stores doubled and sometimes even tripled.

Those days are gone for me. I use very few ready made mixes or convenience foods. I clean with basic cleaners and like I said I do not purchase newspapers or magazines any longer. What I do have is a large box of non-expiring coupons from those days on basic items. So as the loss leaders pop up I will use those coupons until they are gone.

You can also download coupons from the internet, but be aware many stores will not take internet coupons, so before you waste the time, ink and paper check with the stores you will be shopping at.

There are also several individuals who will, for a fee, send you sets of coupons via the mail. I personally have not used any of these services, so I have no idea if they are cost affective or not.

Remember, a coupon is only good if it is an item you will truly use normally and it brings the price down below similar items that are equally as good. Ideally you want to match your coupons to the loss leader sale ad for the best deal. Also if you shop at places like CVS they have special store credits they hand out for certain purchases that can be used to bring your prices even lower.

If you are blessed enough to live in an area that still doubles coupons, by all means read their rules closely and then take advantage of it.

STORE BRANDS. Quite often a store brand is produced at the exact same factory as a name brand. It is in fact the same item, just a different label. But not always. Know what your family will and won’t eat. It’s not a good deal if your family won’t eat it.

Example: My family will eat the store brand instant oatmeal just as well as they will eat the Quaker of the same flavor. The store brand is of course much cheaper (but not as cheap as making your own instant oatmeal—a recipe to post at another time). However, we find the store brand raisin bran cereal tough and unpalatable, so we stick with our favorite name brand.

BULK COOKING. I’ve already wrote volumes on this in the past, simply do a search in my blog using the search feature at the left using key words/phrases like bulk cooking, Once a Month Cooking, OAMC , OMC and you should be able to pull up the posts on it.

GARDENING. I’ve done a few posts on this in the past and as spring approaches I will be doing more. Anyone can garden, no matter where they live. Many a garden is grown in window boxes and flower pots. Remember even one tomato plant gives you garden fresh tomatoes year round (yes they are a perennial) even in the coldest climates if you bring the plant inside when the weather turns nippy.

PORTION CONTROL. My last post had a lot on this, but it needs to be pointed out again. Control the portions, control the cost.

PLANNED LEFTOVERS. Instead of trying to figure out what to do with a leftover after the fact, plan for it before you even cook. Then once the cooking is finished set that leftover aside before serving up the meal. I’ll do a post in the future on the numerous ways you can use leftovers you may never even have thought of.

This has ran on too long, so I’ll close for now.

Jan who is looking forward to your suggestions on cutting grocery costs in OK

Friday, December 24, 2010


When Ashley first mentioned her challenge to herself I never dreamed how it would snowball. Why I don’t know, I mean everyone is wanting and needing to save money these days so I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was.

Of course a lot of people had a lot of questions, which is a good thing. It helps us sort through our planning process as well. So in this addition to my ongoing blogging I’ll try to answer a few of those questions.

The number one question asked was

Q: Is that $1 per day period, $1 per meal or $1 per person.

A: Ideally it would be $1 per day per person in your family. I say ideally because costs on various items differ in different parts of the country. Plus each of us has different likes and dislikes, AND allergies or sensitivities so you may have to go slightly higher.

Q: What is a “loss leader?”

A: A loss leader is a sales ad item the grocery store will run to entice you into their store in hopes that while you will pick up that on sale item you will also pick up several more things that are more expensive. It is ran at below their actual cost for a limited time only. Often there will be limitations on how many you can purchase as a result. It’s a sales gimmick, but you can make it work to your advantage if you resist that urge.

Q: Besides loss leaders how can you get food items down to a more manageable cost?

A. There are numerous ways, including coupons, price matching, rebates, gardening, raising your own animals and bartering. I’ll expound on this more on another post.

Q: If you raise animals either for their meat or their eggs, or you garden are you going to include those expenses in your $1 per day?

A. There are currently four of us doing the blogs and many more who have accepted the challenge and we are each answering this one in our own way. I myself am not including those, nor am I including the cost of food storage or cooking because I’d be doing those things anyway. I have a budget for animal feed for my birds, they are our pets plus they are great organic pest control and supply fertilizer for the garden. I also have a gardening budget because we garden normally as well. Others consider the animals are being raised for food and therefore must be included in the overall cost. So you will have to make that decision for yourself. I personally would never eat Magellan and the gang, but I will eat Mama Sarah’s eggs, they are a bonus of having some great characters to write about.  The cost of those eggs will be listed as $0 in my cost portion of menus as a result.

Q: How do you calculate the cost of per serving/meal?

A. That is going to be a blog all unto itself, because it will require a long explanation. I will post it soon I promise.

Q: How about nutrition and eating healthy?

A. Some people think you cannot eat healthily while eating cheaply, but actually you can. It has to do with proper portioning and good choices. I’ll go into more detail on that now.

Eating healthy while eating cheaply can be a challenge, but it can be done. The first step is to realize what eating healthy truly means. Let’s start with the Food Pyramid.

When you really look at this it seems surprising that it actually suggests you eat more breads and grains daily than other things. Breads and grains are generally some of your cheapest groceries. Ideally you would want those to be whole grain items.

Moving on up the pyramid you have fruits and vegetables, followed by proteins, dairy and lastly fats and sweets. Unfortunately we as a nation tend to have those fats and sweets down with the breads and grains proportionally.

But say you do follow the pyramid to some extent and do eat the foods in that order, what size are your portions? Ahh therein lies the rub. When you go out to eat if your plate at the restaurant is not full you feel cheated. After all you are paying for a full meal right? Who doesn’t love an all you can eat buffet?

I know when we visit Walt Disney World on vacation Gary and I usually will split the meals and still have excess on our plates.

At home you are told to “fill your plate”. Plus we tend to comfort food eat.

However, if you look at the food pyramid you will see the portions are far smaller than you think. Heavens there are even commercials that tell you that you can’t eat as many fruits and vegetables in a day as needed so it’s better to “take a pill”, but they are wrong.

For a vegetable it is suggested you eat 3-5 servings per day. Wow! That sounds like a lot doesn’t it. Until you realize that a serving is:

1 cup of raw LEAFY vegetables (seriously who eats just a cup of salad?)

½ cup of all other raw vegetables. Which all cooks will tell you will cook down to about ¼ cup in size

Or ¾ c vegetable juice.

Spread that over 3 meals and 2 snacks (as recommended for your daily food consumption) and it’s not a lot. That’s ¼ of hash browns for breakfast, a SMALL salad for lunch and a small V-8 to drink during the day.

On to fruits now.

1 medium apple, banana or orange

½ cup of chopped, canned or cooked fruit

¾ fruit juice.

Again over the day that’s a fruit juice for breakfast, an banana with our lunch or for a snack and ½ cup of applesauce with dinner.

If you study the pyramid you will see that the portions in each section are actually pretty small. You spread those portions out over your day and you can eat healthily at a reasonable price. Again it’s all in the way you go about it.

If you don’t hit the food pyramid perfectly each and every day you will not die. We are all living proof of that already, but if you do try and get reasonably close you will be better off for it.

I know my family for one would lose weight (remember we like our sweets and fat). So in my section of the challenge I am going to try to find a balance between following the food pyramid faithfully and keeping my family happy with the down home cooking they so dearly love.

BTW, as of this morning there are now four of us blogging on this challenge. Angela has joined, Ashley, Alyeen and me in the challenge and will be blogging from another part of the country.

Here’s the location of the other three blogs:




Please join us as we work on this challenge during the next year.

Jan who is off to make Pecan Pie Bars (w protein servings—nuts and egg, too much sweets and fats, one grain--or more) for tonight’s dessert in OK

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


December 22, 2010

I’ve previously posted about how I am on the email list. Recently a discussion was brought up by Ashley that she would like to try working her food budget and meals for the year, while laying in a year’s supply of non-perishables based entirely on loss leaders.

I asked if she would like a partner in this challenge. She thought it a great idea not only because things go better if you have a partner, but because we live on the opposite sides of the US and each has a family of 3 to feed. While living in two different areas with different stores to deal with and different economic basis to work with in our areas.

We have agreed to write about our journey through 2011 in building our one year’s worth of food storage by purchasing loss leaders as they become available, while maintaining a very, very strict budget.

Ashley posted her first blog entry this morning, with her challenges to herself at:

This, of course, is my first entry on this challenge. With the cost of groceries going up the $1 a day may be a mite stringent for us, but I am definitely going to do all I can to try and meet her challenge.

The first thing to do, as Ashley pointed out, is to educate yourself. I too am reading various blogs by people who have done this. I’m also checking online information for all types of good basic information to aid me in the challenge.

My first stop on the information train was:

This website lists month by month what items are normally on sale, not just food, but various things. Of course for the task at hand the food items are what I am most interested in. Knowing ahead of time what “loss leaders” will be coming can be a real help in planning the menu.

Meeting the challenge at $1 a day with two meat and potato men in my household is going to be a HUGE challenge. I can get them to eat meatless occasionally, but not all the time. My husband, is NOT a huge fan of vegetables.

Doing so healthily is another challenge, especially when you include my son’s allergies to deal with and our true love of food.

So the first menu planning basic step for me was figuring out the entrées and dealing with them while also maintaining my busy schedule as a merchandiser and mystery shopper. All too often it is too tempting to eat out.

This means not only do I need to plan my meals on the $1 a day budget, but I need to plan on refilling my freezer with homemade “convenience” meals. Knowing we have foods in the freezer we could quickly thaw and eat will eliminate the temptation to stop and grab a calorie laden fast food item or six.

So following Ashley’s theme here is what I want to accomplish this next year:

1. Bring our food budget down to as low as it can possibly go.

2. Lay in one year’s supply of non-perishable food

3. Make up ALL of my Master Mixes, this in itself is a HUGE challenge.

4. Fill the freezer with homemade “convenience” foods

5. Raise a large organic garden and go to year round gardening.

Going back to the entrées listings. I started out trying to figure out an exact order of what types of entrees I’d serve and in what order for a month alternating meatless meals and leftovers in as often as I thought I could get away with it. That became hugely complicated and failed miserably.

So then I tried to do it for every two weeks, same results, I wasn’t getting the rotation I wanted. Plus when you do a very set in stone menu plan it does not allow for spontaneity and this family doesn’t do well with that. We want the foods we want when we want them.

So I finally decided on the following seven categories:

1. Beef

2. Chicken

3. Pork

4. Variety meats (hot dogs, smoked sausage etc)

5. Meatless

6. Leftovers

7. Fish

Gee look at that seven days worth of entrées with one meatless and one leftovers day built in simple, simple.

So I now can plan a week’s worth of meals with those items as the main ingredients, prepare what I can ahead of time and we can eat them in the order we want each week. One week must be completed BEFORE we start the rotation for the next week. That way if we score a free meal out with the mystery shopping (read free meals—great for the budget) then I still have a meal in the roatation to eat before moving on to the next rotation.

So then I started making a list of the various family favorites for each of those seven. An example of this is below.


1. Biscuits and gravy

2. Vegetable soups (I have a bunch of recipes for these)

3. Pancake suppers

4. Salad suppers

5. Macaroni and cheese

6. Cheese and/or veggie pizzas

7. Bean meals

My list included a lot more than this, but you get the idea. I did this for each of the seven categories. Guess what I came up with a year’s worth of meals without duplication quite simply.

Using the same example of the meatless meals I can also prepare a lot of this ahead of time.

1. Biscuits and gravy

a. Make up biscuit Master Mix (recipe is listed in my search engine on the left) while flour is on sale this month. Then for a quick dinner I only need to add oil and water and bake.

b. Make up gravy butter balls ahead of time and freeze. I’ll post this recipe when I do this.

2. If we do well in the garden the fresh produce will be used for this as it grows and the dried produce will be used when it is out of season.

3. Pancake suppers

a. Pancake Master Mix (recipe is listed in the search engine at the left as well), add oil, our home grown eggs and water as needed.

4. Salad suppers can be the green leafy type, or made with homemade pasta, or a combination of the two.

a. Make up pastas ahead of time

b. Homemade salad dressing Master Mixes (which will be added to the blog as time goes on)

5. Macaroni and Cheese

a. Homemade pasta

b. Freezer cheese sauce mix, recipe will be added at a later date

6. Cheese and/or veggie pizzas

a. Pizza dough Master Mix (recipe to be added later)

b. In season veggies from the garden, frozen or dried veggies from the garden off season

c. Loss leader cheese (April purchase according to link listed above) purchased and frozen.

7. Bean Meals

a. I have a bean cookbook, and there are numerous recipes for beans of all sorts on the web. Beans freeze tremendously well. So this is an item that will be cooked in bulk and frozen for quick meals as time goes on.

Add to these entrées loss leader fruits and vegetables, and keeping portions at a reasonable size should enable us to eat cheaply and healthy. Homemade breads will also add to the meals.

I’m now in the process of listing those various meal ideas on color coded 3X5 cards. Ie: pink for beef, white for chicken, green for meatless etc. This will allow me to mix and match menus each week without having to figure it out each week.

The 3 x 5 cards will also list the ingredients for that entrée so I can watch closely for the loss leaders for it. As I lay in a supply of the loss leaders I will then mark each one as I have it in inventory.

Having the menus all figured out in this manner will also let me see how much of what I need to lay in a supply of.

Can I do it on $1 a day like Ashley, in truth it seems pretty hard, but I’m going to do it as closely as I possibly can. Even if I spend slightly over that, I am definitely going to come out the financial winner on the grocery budget.

So will you join us to eat our way to a better state of health both physically and financially?

Jan who thinks the plan will work in OK

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anyone that has ever been me around very long knows I am a planner and a list maker. I’m big on planning things out. I’m not always great at following the plan, but generally I’m within the neighborhood of it by the time a project is finished.

For the last month or so I’ve been drifting. Simply mystery shopping and merchandising, letting others steer my path in this sea of life. As a result Thanksgiving was okay, but not the meal I wanted and my timing was way off on it. Let’s just say not everything finished at once like it normally does and cold mashed potatoes are not a big hit.

I could give the excuse I had a horrible head cold, but that would simply be an excuse. Granted I spent all of Friday in bed trying to kick the worst part of it and still managed to sleep almost until noon today. But it’s still just an excuse. It was lack of on organization on my part.

Well, I didn’t really sleep that late, the last hour or so I laid there thinking rather than getting up. What I was thinking was I needed a plan, a goal, something to get me back in gear on everything.

While I’ve been working hard at working I’ve let other areas slide. Areas we can’t afford to slide. I had fallen slack on cooking, keeping the budget up to date, cleaning the house and have not been carrying my share of opening the new business.

So as I laid there mulling it all over I decided it was time to get back to a plan, but what plan would spur me on the most. After all a plan has to be a goal you really want to achieve. Everyone plans on doing chores, but because they really don’t want to do them they often don’t get done if something better comes along.

I’ve got the Princess Plan and it’s good, but I needed more. I needed to have a carrot dangling in front of me, something I REALLY wanted. Then I realized that one year from today we want to be in Walt Disney World for a 2-3 week vacation. Only there were several barriers (mainly bills) in our way for this. So that is when my plan started forming. How to make that goal become a reality. So…

This next year you will be receiving reports on the goal and how we as a family are going to achieve it.

First I need a title, hmmm something catchy, but not to silly. Since the Princess Plan is included in this goal I think I will call it. “The Royal Getaway” or RG for short.

Now I need to decide what I want in the plan, what must be achieved to make this vacation not only possible, but relaxed and enjoyable. So sticking with the format of the Princess Plan I broke it down to 12 categories.

I. Finances, after all this is to be a cash basis only trip, that’s the number one rule.

II. Incorporate the Princess Plan

III. Actual Vacation Planning

IV. Menus, for the year and the trip (also part of the Princess Plan), but it needs its own category for this plan.

V. Sticking with the budget (I know this falls under finances too, but you’ll see why it gets its own Roman Numeral as time goes on.

VI. Mystery Shopping and Merchandising

VII. Getting our business up and running, as well as keeping it going while we are gone.

VIII. Gardening, a day to day plan. You’ll see why this is important for the coming year.

IX. Weight loss. If you have EVER been to Walt Disney World you will know why being in good physical shape is a major plus going there. That place is HUGE!

X. Wardrobe, ours is starting to look pretty ratty and a new one requires cash only. Plus if we lose weight…

XI. Animals, we have a lot of plans for them for the coming year. Plus there are two to go with us and the rest will remain home and all sorts of plans and actions have to be made for this.

XII. Miscellaneous needs prior to the trip. In other words, everything else I forgot to list.

This all sounds pretty general I know, but that is the way a good plan starts. You start with the general categories and then develop the sub-categories right down to the daily plan as you go.

Take #VI. Mystery shopping and merchandising. After doing it for around five years what planning should I need for that right? Actually a lot of planning needs done.

Sean and I have been taking it on a day to day basis and as a result we have ended up working weird hours, rushing to finish jobs, overbooking ourselves, wasting gas and then having days where we have no work. Trust me the reason Sean and I were both so sick for Thanksgiving was because we let ourselves get run down because we didn’t plan.

Plus now we have this business we are opening up and we need to allow time for it or it will never get off the ground. The problem is mystery shopping and merchandising are guaranteed money, the business is a maybe. So MS/M must be the priority of the two at this time. This could easily change in the near future, but for now we must get in as much of the first two as we can and squeeze opening the business in around the edges. That takes planning.

So on the overall plan it would look like this:

VI. Mystery shopping and merchandising.

A. Locate jobs to do

a. Check daily on the self assign websites for mystery shopping

b. Try to contract for as many weekly/monthly/quarterly merchandising jobs as possible.

c. Always take the higher dollar jobs first

B. Print the week’s paperwork as much as possible on Sunday

a. Print additional paperwork as soon as available

C. Try to stack jobs when scheduling as close as possible on locations, preferably in the same building.

a. Limit out of town trips

i. Only do out of town trips when there are numerous jobs for both parties to do and make a full day of it.

ii. Incorporate household and business errands into the daily ms/m schedule to save time and fuel.

D. Study all paperwork the night before so there are no surprises (this has been a big problem for us lately—too many surprises)

a. Gather any necessary tools or supplies the night before

i. Make a ditty bag of tools used often and leave it in the truck.

E. File paperwork immediately upon arriving home, no late nights allowed.

F. Store documentation immediately.

a. Assign a set place each set of paperwork must go as soon as it is filed.

G. Cull old documentation when the need to keep it has expired.

H. Keep a calendar up to date as to any long range jobs to avoid double booking.

I. Arrange for merchandising jobs to be done while we are gone on the trip ahead of time.

J. Set as many accounts up as possible for direct deposit or paypal.(This one is pretty much done)

K. Wash our work wardrobe as soon as we have worn it for the week in preparation for the next time it is needed. (Too many late nights of doing a hurry up load for the next day’s job).

So you can see that by the time I do this full list of 12 this is going to be a very long plan. Then I will take that list and turn it into a monthly, weekly and daily list like I did the Princess Plan.

Making a plan is pretty simple. AND once you have a plan it’s easy to follow.

So I challenge each and every one of you to make a plan and let’s work on our plans together. Why wait until New Year’s Day, why not start now? I’ve got my plan started, what’s yours?

Jan who says if we work together we can accomplish anything in OK

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


November 10, 2010

I haven’t forgot you all, we’ve just been super busy. Life is good right now, but then it generally is, you just need to know how to look at any given situation.

I thought once Gary went back to work life would slow down, but instead it has kicked into a higher gear. Something that I didn’t think was possible prior to this last couple of months..

Sean has become my mystery shopping/merchandising partner. We planned on doing mystery shopping on Mondays and Thursdays for just a few hours each day until the mystery shops died their normal death this time of year. Remembering this time last year when we had trouble finding mystery shops to do we figured we’d probably be down to one day a week by late November.

We started working on an idea for a small home based business and doing all the business plans and such required to make a knowledgeable decision on whether or not to do the business has been very time consuming—WHEN we have had time to work on that. More on the new business another time.

Because even though the mystery shopping has slowed down, it has not ceased like we thought it would and the merchandising has quadrupled in volume. We have been putting in 9-10 hour days 5-6 days a week for nearly two months now. NOT complaining Lord! Even better it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up between now and the end of the year.

Gary has not only gone back to work, but has been on overtime for three weeks now and it looks like that too may last through the end of the year.

We are so gazelle intense around here it is crazy! For those of you who are not followers of Dave Ramsey that means we are running from the debt cheetah at gazelle speed to become totally debt free. Every spare penny we make is going on our debt snowball. It has become fun to pay bills! No I am NOT crazy, I said fun.

The three of us now have our Step 1 Baby Emergency Funds fully funded and are now working on our Baby Step 2—the debt snowball (see Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”) and are making great progress on it.

Sean has paid off a medical bill that was eating him alive and nearly has his only credit card paid off as well. The credit card of course is long gone as we no longer use credit cards in our household. That will leave him with a few truck payments and his student loans and then he will be debt free. I’m so happy for him.

I am still paying on our first installment of the debt snowball, but it will be completed by this time next week. It was a $2,400 medical debt and we are paying it off over three years early based on the scheduled payments. Next will be a credit card that we hope to shave three years or more off the scheduled payoff on. It is truly exciting to see our debt spiral downward for a change. I am so glad we found the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover. By staying on this plan we should be totally debt free in 3 years or less including the house! Not bad for a family that was maxed out credit wise and unemployed this time two years ago.

If you are a user of yahoogroups, you should visit with the knowledgeable people at it’s a free to join list and I’ve learned so much from these people!

Now back to merchandising. I’ve never really covered merchandising when talking about mystery shopping so I thought I’d expound a little more on it today.

Most of us walk into a place like Wal-Mart, Target or any number of stores and take for granted the sparkling displays were all placed there by the store’s employees. NOPE! While the employees do re-stock and are responsible for certain merchandise many of those displays and what’s on them is placed there by merchandisers. Here’s how it works.

The store will receive a certain set of merchandise. For this scenario let’s use gift cards. The store will receive the materials to build the actual display case, along with the materials needed to set the display up and stock it. Sometimes they will set up the display themselves other times a merchandising company will send out a merchandiser—or two to set it up. That’s where we come in.

We go in, unbox the display case, assemble it, add the hanging pegs and then set the cards to a planogram and are paid for our services. Then either the store will keep the display stocked OR they will send the merchandiser back once every 1-4 weeks to restock it. Depending on the company the merchandiser gets paid anywhere from $8 to $15 an hour to do the job.

We have each acquired several repetitive weekly jobs. That means guaranteed income weekly until the project runs out. Once the project is set-up often times the hourly rate will drop slightly because it will simply be a short walk in to verify the display is still in good shape and the move onto another project. We’ve been blessed enough on some of our merchandising shops that we have been able to “stack” jobs. Meaning that Sean or I will have a job from one company in a certain store. The other of us (or sometimes the same person) will have 1-2 more jobs in that certain store from other companies. That makes the gas usage is far less and the possible income for each of us greater on a single stop.

I once spoke with a person who did nothing but merchandising and she said she cleared after taxes and expenses over $4,000 per month. We would like to achieve that goal. That could really speed our gazelle along! We aren’t there yet, but we are working toward it. Be aware though merchandising has to be done between certain hours, like a regular job, but generally you have 1-5 days to get the project done. So it is a great “part time” job if you are going to be staying home. We didn’t do these the last two years because we were traveling, but now that we are home for at least 2-3 years it is the best plan for us.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these merchandising jobs are HARD and tiring. Some sound simple to do—repackaging a product and do an inventory of said product—13 hours later you are worn out and the job still isn’t finished. So if you decide to do merchandising READ the instructions closely BEFORE you accept the work, including the fine print. Also be prepared to stand for LONG periods of time.

Another possible source of income is demonstrations. You know the people you see at Sam’s Club handing out samples. This is also contract labor work and can be applied for through several companies at as well. All three types of work are listed at

If none of the above is for you check out the legit jobs at Most of them are work at home jobs. There are all sorts of jobs for all sorts of talents. So if you want to become a earn a little extra money to survive unemployment, earn extra money for the holidays or become gazelle intense and may have the answer for you.

As always if you need more info or a referral to certain companies feel free to leave me a message and I’ll answer as soon as time allows.

Jan who has no affiliation with any of the websites she mentioned in OK.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Some of you are very aware of an on going project I have to clean out and get rid of a 12 X 6 cargo trailer full of unused household items from both my son's last apartment, before he moved in here, and my grandmother's estate.  Finishing the project has became more important to my son and I as we are working on a plan for a small home based business,(more on this another time) but feel we cannot start another project until we complete this one.  It's been a long job that has included a lot of tears brought on by memories of my grandmother, and a lot of laughter at the crazy things we've found.

Today's post is about one such thing.

As Sean and I TRY to finish up these boxes from the cargo trailer today (note TRY) I came across an old calligraphy sign my husband made while in college (he’s 62 so that will tell you how old it is). This sign hung first in his dorm room and then in his apartment, and then it went to Viet Nam and back.

When Sean was young he had uncontrolled asthma, he was constantly saying “I can’t”, it didn’t help with the doctor telling him and me that he would never be able to be an active individual with his asthma being so bad. As you have probably already figured out around here “Can’t died in a cornfield” (meaning Cant was a man who starved to death in a cornfield because he decided he couldn’t get food). Gary and I both come from a long line of determined people, and we were determined Sean would not turn in to an inactive blob.

So Gary drug out this sign and hung it in Sean's room. When Sean packed for college he packed the sign and it hung in his dorm rooms and progressive homes and apartments. It had got packed up to come here and has been in the cargo trailer ever since. We came across it this morning and it’s going in our “business” office to remind us of it's meaning.

This sign has spurred us along the way more than once. When Sean, the asthmatic, decided he wanted to join marching band he told the doctor and the doctor said, well maybe if he was in the pit he could. Sean told him “My mom says I can do anything I set my mind to”, My son went on to win many competitions and a scholarship both as a member of the marching band and as an individual performer playing the TROMBONE, and other brass instruments including tubas. Can’t died in a cornfield, and he wasn’t about to be can’t.

As an adult his asthma is under control and as you know from reading my posts he's a very active adult that does ranch chores, cuts and splits firewood and lives surround by the animals he is "allergic" to.  Can't doesn't live here any more.

That single sign has spurred us on many times when we felt "we can't" and helped us discover "we can" instead.

So what was this all powerful sign? It is a simple black and white sign done in a very nice display of calligraphy and it says something that could and should be a motto for all of us here. It says:

“Impossible Is Only A Word To Measure The Degree Of Difficulty”

Jan whose sign is a little battered, but will be hung again in her home office to remind her of all her goals and how to achieve them in OK

Saturday, August 7, 2010


As I waited for the update to my McAfee to download I suddenly realized I was smiling, not a little half smile but a big full blown smile. It was one that reached from one side of my chubby face to another.

“What in the world am I smiling about?” I thought. I looked around the nearly empty library to see if my husband, who sat across from me, or anyone else had noticed me smiling like the proverbial ape. Nope, I was safe.

“Surely I’m not that happy to be sitting in the public library and using free wi-fi” I thought to myself. “Maybe it’s because Gary got a job yesterday” I continued, “No that’s not it, I’ll miss all the time we spend together and I’ll miss traveling. That’s not it. Although I am delighted to have a steady income again”

Yes you read right my husband was offered a job after nearly 18 months of unemployment/retirement. It’s not going to mean instant wealth for us, things are still going to be tight. But if we stick to our budget we will be able to pay the bills and finally truly snowball as described in Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Not just once in a while, but each month. Only a few dollars at first, but it will be steady.

Our plan, as some of you already know, is for us to keep mystery shopping around home, and selling stuff to add flakes to that snowball until we are totally debt free. It will take us more than a year or two that is for certain, but we didn’t get so deeply in debt super fast either, so slow and steady will win the race in being debt free. Of course there will be several gazelle intense spurts of paying off debt.

So why was I smiling. The download wasn’t finished so I decided to mull over this weird grin on my face and the happiness I was feeling as I tried to discover its source. Then it hit me what it was “No, it couldn’t be that! “ I admonished myself, “surely not”. But then I realized that was exactly it and I grinned even bigger.

I was smiling about a single purchase I had just made for $1.92. I had purchased a quart of buttermilk. Yes I said buttermilk. No I’m not a buttermilk junky, well maybe I do cook with it a lot. The smile was because I suddenly realized our life had done a 180. No not the job, well yes the job, but not so much about it as what it meant.

It meant I had control of my life back. As you already know I’m all about frugal food cooking and storage. Since that day in 2009 when we had our first talk about how we would survive being unemployed our life has not been totally in our control.

Oh we have had the final say on all we did, but our life was ruled by when and where the mystery shops could be found. This was not a bad thing, we have had a blast traveling and seeing all sorts of things. But when it comes to frugal food storage it is a hard thing to do when you aren’t certain where you will be when. Certain food items that will help to feed your family frugally require a bit of attention now and again. So starting such food items when you may be leaving town on a moment’s notice is not a good idea. You could lose your original ingredients. There are all sorts of foods like that. Some you can refrigerate or freeze to save, such as sourdough starter, but others like Perpetual Buttermilk needs “renewed” periodically.

I cook a lot with buttermilk in my scratch cooking. I use powdered buttermilk in my dry mix recipes a lot, but I also marinade with it. You can use reconstituted powdered buttermilk to do that as well, but I prefer using regular buttermilk because you pour out just what you need to do the marinade, no mess, no mixing up too much, no waste, and fast.

That’s where Perpetual Buttermilk comes in. The premise is simple you purchase “a single quart of buttermilk”. Cultured buttermilk is what you need, you could even go as small as pint because here’s how you make a quart of buttermilk from just ½ cup of that original purchase of cultured buttermilk.


3 ¾ C water

1 1/3 C powdered milk

½ C cultured buttermilk

Mix well 3 ¾ cup water with 1 1/3 cup powdered milk (NOT powdered buttermilk) . Once this is mixed well add ½ cup cultured buttermilk. Then leave the container sitting on the counter overnight. That’s all there is to it. New fresh buttermilk will be waiting on you in the morning. Refrigerate and use as normal. Start to get low, use another ½ cup and repeat the process.

You can do similar things with live culture yogurt, sour dough starter and much more, but you need to be home to tend to them. Refrigerator bread dough either needs used within a certain amount of time or mixed up into a loaf and frozen. So for the last 18 months I’ve not been able to make these staples to our family diet.

Now I can, I am back in control. I smiled big. We were going back to good frugal eating. Homemade Artisan breads in less than 5 minutes a day, sour dough biscuits, onion strings, chicken nuggets, yes these would all soon be back on the menu. In fact I decided at that moment there would be onion strings on the dinner menu with charcoaled hamburgers and butterfly potatoes to celebrate the new job. That will bring a smile to my husband’s face too.

The next time my darling husband retires it will be permanently and I will still be in control because then I’ll know when we might leave town and can prepare my food storage accordingly. So for the next long while be prepared to see a lot more recipes and be told many a story about the adventures on and off the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.

Jan who is not about to give up traveling for fun in OK

Monday, July 26, 2010


A few years ago we were incubating and hatching hundreds of goose eggs. We’ve closed that business and since then have been letting the geese hatch and raise their own goslings, letting nature take its course as they free range. Unfortunately the last two years they’ve hatched out several , but none have made it to adulthood.

This year only four were hatched due to the strange weather we had and snake problems, not to mention a tree falling on one of our beautiful Sebastopols instantly killing her and the large clutch of eggs she was sitting on.

While we were gone Sean managed to get two of the family groups penned separately. He decided to protect the goslings instead of letting their parents raise them on the loose. He penned their entire family with them to help create bonding  with the gaggle. The third group he didn’t get penned in time and we lost the gosling almost immediately.

This weekend we released the other three with their parents to explore the world. The three are nearly adult size now and have gotten their names. Hopefully they will be the subject of many stories to come. They are already older than any of the “free range” babies were when we lost them. They are fully feathered, and nearly grown.

Because the birds free range they practice free will. So who hatches and raises the gosling is not always necessarily the biological parent, as you will see from the descriptions below.

The first family group is Fairy(White Chinese/Sebastopol mix), Freckles, Spot, Pebbles and Popcorn (all of which are White Tufted Roman/Brown Chinese mix). You met them in the Elf story that is one of the first blogs I wrote.

Their baby looks to be a White Chinese/Brown Chinese mix. We are pretty certain he’s a gander but we could be wrong. This little darling is a little brat. It is bossy, noisy and a bit of a bully. He is always stirring up a storm of trouble. He is white with varying shades of gray and black splotches on him. The ones on his wing shoulders look much like storm clouds. His personality and markings have earned him the name Partly Cloudy or PC.

The second family is Magellan—you’ve heard lots about him over the years, he is a large white Embden gander, and Mama Sarah a Brown Chinese goose. They are raising two darling babies.

When I asked Mama Sarah what we should call her little gander she answered “Alllllllllfred!” So that’s what we named this grey and white baby. He's a good gosling and never gives us any trouble, unlike PC.

The third is our “special” child. That’s Miss Pugsley. As you can see from her photo at the left Miss Pugsley has a birth defect. . Her eyes are different from most goose eyes and her body shape is slightly different as well. She is a gentle loving soul, who just wants to be friends with everyone. She doesn’t run from us like the other two goslings do and trusts us to make sure she’s properly fed. She looks to be a Toulouse/Sebastopol cross . Pugsie’s name of course comes from her pug nose/bill. We think she’s cute.

Unfortunately geese are like most wild animals and tend to shun those who are different. PC in particular is always yammering at Pugsie and being ugly to her. Magellan and Mama Sarah are good parents and have been keeping all bullies away from her. I’m afraid it will take Magellan establishing Alpha with the Knot Heads (five Tufted Romans) before they will accept little Pugsie into the main flock. The Knot heads are snobs and we’ve had trouble with them before. They would not accept Hairlip Harry (the gosling with the broken bill) last year and we lost Harry as a result. Harry didn’t have a dominate male to protect him. Pugsie does, Magellan is VERY protective of her. Magellan and his brother Frodo are the biggest and oldest of the birds we have. If Fro will stand by his brother there won’t be a problem. Some of the other ganders have already started siding with Gel-Gel so hopefully it will work out.

I know little Pugsie has already won all our hearts. But then Sean has always called this place Rock ‘n Tree Ranch, home of the misfit birds. We’ve had birds in the past live to old age that ranged from Kreb, a runner duck with a badly formed spine to Blind Annie, a completely blind Pekin duck who had a seeing eye banty chicken hen. Then of course there have been the tongueless guinea hen, and Sloth, a one toed guinea hen who is still to this day hopping around the ranch on her single enormous one toe on one of her feet.

We’ll make sure that Pugsie always has food she can get in her deformed bill okay and plenty of water to drink. We’ve been observing and have noticed Magellan and Sarah are teaching her how to preen, and pull grass despite only having half a bill. She does a pretty good job of it too.

Pugsley may turn out to be a real beauty in the long run. Her adult feathers are starting to come in and have a curl on the end. If they should curl and go long like a true Sebastopol’s does that might shut Fairy’s crew up real fast. After all, that would mean she’s from their family geneticly.

So that's our newest family members, we've lost a few of the birds this year, so these babies are extra special to us.

Jan who hopes to write hundreds of stories about Pugsley and the other new additions in OK


Long time no chat. We were on the road solid for a month and I have a few campground reviews to eventually add, but mainly we were at campgrounds we have previously visited.

We had several visits from Murphy over the last few months that managed to drain our emergency fund below the safe to travel amount, way below. Including having to purchase four new tires while on the road. Those adventures are to be reported on another time.

Right now we are home and probably will be for some while until we get the emergency fund built back up and where we are comfortable with the bills again. So time for a little bit of what we are doing to live frugally around here while working hard to make some money so we can get back on the road.

As all of you from the Dave Ramsey and other yahoogroups I’m on already know I’m becoming a selling machine. Over the years we have “acquired” a lot of things from one source or another. We are scroungers by nature and therefore have a unique collection of items. Our home, out buildings and even the land hold treasures of all sorts for someone. Some would call it junk.

Our days are currently kept busy with working with the produce from the garden, mainly tomatoes, finding items about the place to sell and listing them for sale. We are realistic in our prices and are willing to accept reasonable offers. We are finding that what is one man’s junk is truly another man’s treasure. The items we thought would surely sell fast are not moving at all and those we considered just giving away tend to sell, albeit at low prices, but it’s selling.

So that brings us to the theme of this post. Selling your excess to become gazelle intense, as Dave Ramsey calls it. For those of you not familiar with the Dave Ramsey method of becoming debt free the premise is simple. You pay the minimums on all your bills except the one with the lowest balance. This one you put every penny you can spare on and become “gazelle intense” to pay that bill off in record time. Then you roll the normal minimum for that bill in with any gazelle funds into the second lowest bill in a snowball fashion on up the chain until you have paid off your largest bill, not including your house.

By gazelle intense he means you should imagine a gazelle grazing along and moving slowly, much like the lowering of the principle on your bills are if you only pay the minimums on them. The gazelle moves slowly at that point, and so does your debt. However, when a gazelle looks up and sees a CHEETAH they sprint as fast as they can away because only a cheetah is as fast or faster than they are.

Bill collectors, Murphy and other such varmints are cheetahs in the financial world. To sprint away from them you need extra income. For some it’s delivering pizzas at night, for others it’s selling off all excess. As you all know we are already working weird hours, but it simply isn’t gazelle enough for us. So we are now selling off excess. In fact we are so gazelle intense we are selling off just about everything that isn’t nailed down because the thought of one slow month of mystery shopping putting us behind on bills really upsets us. So the bills need to come down, and come down now with gazelle intensity.

On some groups I’m on I am surprised to learn many people have no idea where or how to list things for sale. So here is a small tutorial in Question and Answer format:

Q: How do you determine what you want to sell?

A: There are several criteria I use when determining whether or not to sell/donate/trash something… as usual here’s a list:

1. Do I love it? Seriously, is it something you absolutely love and can’t imagine not having it in your life. Not, well that’s sort of cool to have, do I truly love it? Am I willing to insure it, pay to keep it warm, clean it etc.

2. Have I used it in the last year? No then you aren’t likely to use it again.

3. If I didn’t have one would I go into to debt to buy one? In other words is it worth staying in debt to keep it.

4. Do I have a duplicate of it? If so do I need two?

5. Do I remember where I got it or why I got it?

6. Why am I considering keeping it? If it’s because great Aunt Hettie gave it to me and I truly hate the item then Aunt Hettie will never know it’s gone. Another thing that falls under this category are cookbooks and craft books. Anyone looking at my listings on the various places I have things for sale will see I am selling 99.99% of our vast library because I realized most of those books we were keeping were for just one or two recipes, craft patterns etc. Well duh, I have a scanner and as long as I do nothing that breaks copyright laws I can keep that ONE pattern or recipe for my personal use. Thus hundreds of books and magazines are now being listed for sale from our home library. I can live with clean uncluttered bookshelves, in fact I’m looking forward to it.

7. Could I get by without it without putting a lot of extra work or strain in my life, in other words does it have a true purpose? Preferably more than one use.

8. If I find I need it later is there someone I could borrow or rent one from?

8. If I sold it what would I use the money for I’d rather have? The answer for me on this is simple, a debt free existence.

Q: Where would I sell it?

A: The outlets for this are endless, you can either go the pay for an ad or the free ad route.

First the paid for ad. Everyone who is on the internet has heard of ebay and know it has both auctions and buy it now features. Did you also know they have a sister site for books, dvds, computer and video games, vhs, blue ray and all other types of media. It’s called Listing there is fast and easy, you set the price and they lead people to your ad. Then you pay them a fee ONLY when the item sells.It is not an auction site.

You can also list on sites similar to at, Barnes Nobles’ website, and numerous other sites. If you have ever purchased a used book on the net chances are that company also has it where you can list your used books at that site.

There are also various other auction sites besides ebay, they are just lesser known. The important thing to know is with any site, be it free or be it fee is to READ the rules and regulations. Calculate your fees and determine if you will truly make anything using these fee sites.

You can also always run an ad in your local paper or Thrifty Nickel as well.

FREE sites are also in abundance they range from the well know to but did you also know there are free sites on yahoogroups? They are usually in conjunction with the freecycle lists and are commonly known as cheapcycle. What is freecycle? It is where you can give away anything LEGAL you want and all the person has to do is come pick it up. It’s a great way to recycle useable items when you don’t want to mess with selling them.

Cheapcycle is simply you are selling the items at a cheap price. To find the proper freecycle or cheapcycle for your area on do a search for your city, state, area or whatever on yahoogroups with the words freecycle , cheapcycle, selling, buy, sell, trade, barter or similar words and they will pop up for you. Then you follow the steps to join the group and list away.

Your ad on the yahoogroups is unlimited in size and you can upload photos to the photo section is an “album” for everything you have for sale on the group website OR you can upload the photo to something like photobucket once and put a link to those photos on all the ads at once.

The drawback to these lists is only the people who subscribe to them see your ad. If you want a bigger audience for free then you should consider listing on or both are free and you can upload photos for your ad for free as well.

There are a few drawbacks to this type of ad as well. The main one is your ad is only top dog for that section as long as no one else lists another similar ad. Then you move down the chain and soon your ad is out of sight. You cannot cross post your ads either. For example I want to list numerous lots of homesteading type magazines. This is a niche market item so ideally you would want to list them not only in books and magazines, but also in farm and equipment because they are more geared toward the farmers. But you must choose one or the other. Again read the rules.

Then there is the tried and true putting a sign up at the laundermat, grocery store or wherever. You know the ins and outs of that.

Q: How do you figure out the price for your item?

A: This is the tough one. There are several variables to consider and I’m certain I won’t cover them all here, but here goes.

1. When listing on a website that has similar items look for what the items are going for there. Not necessarily what they are being listed for but what they are going for. An example is ebay. To find out what an item went for there do an advanced search for the item. In that advanced search narrow to the search to completed auctions. You will quickly be able to see what the item sold for. Be sure and look at what type of handling fees were added in for the item as well. Something may have sold at a higher price because it was ran as a “free shipping” sale. We all know the seller didn’t completely absorb the price of shipping, so their original price was probably adjusted higher to accommodate the shipping. So just because their item sold higher than XYZ’s (who charged shipping) item doesn’t necessarily mean your item will sell that high.

On sites like they conveniently show you who else has a similar item in a similar condition and how much they have listed it for and then you can adjust your price up or down accordingly. Being cheapest is not always the best thing.

2. How much did you originally pay for it? Things depreciate quickly the minute you walk away from the cash register with them. At least until they become antiques then they MAY go up in price. The general rule of thumb is ask ½ of what you paid for it if it’s still in great condition.

3. Judge that great condition honestly and adjust your price down accordingly from the ½ price of new. Is it clean? Has it gotten scratched? Does it have an odor? All these things count. Don’t list an item in “like new” condition if it can’t meet this criteria. New things are not dirty, scratched up or stinky.

I personally will not knowingly purchase something from a smoker. Let me say right now if you smoke that is YOUR choice. We happen to have allergies to smoke in our home and can’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke. So it makes no sense for me to purchase something that I can’t use. And yes, even if you Febreeze the heck out of it we allergic non-smokers will still be able to smell it.

4. When it comes to antiques, collectibles and similar items I recommend getting a price guide from the library to figure out where to list these items and for what price.

5. Another thing to consider is will you make any money from it? If you are using a fee type listing place you need to consider what your fees will be and adjust your price accordingly. After all it’s too much work to do to go in the hole because your fees were so high. Consider all the fees from start to finish. I’ll use ebay for an example.

Ebay has a listing fee, an additional photo fee, a final sale fee. Then if you use paypal and the person uses a charge card there is a fee for the credit card usage. Again, read the rules!

At this point I might add don’t consider your time in calculating profit. This is a hard concept for some people. I know one couple in particular who are in deep financial distress and have literally thousands of items they could sell to rectify the matter and have yet to list a thing for sale because “I won’t get anything for my time.”

It’s all I can do to not scream at them “So you would rather be homeless?” Whether you are gazelle intense because the bill collectors are pounding at your soon to be foreclosed on door or to take that dream vacation the concept is the same. You can make very little per hour and add at least some money to your family coffers or you can sit down and give up. The choice is yours.. Me I’m standing up and digging out everything I can to sell.

Q: What do you put in your ad?

A: Anything about the item you know about it. Stress the positives, but do not lie about the condition of the item. My ads include if they have a stain or other damage, that they are from a smoke free home and similar information. If your items are coming from a pet free home, include that. A lot of people are allergic to cats and dogs and would prefer to purchase items that are dander free.

Also list any stipulations you have about payment, shipping or similar things. Any discounts you will give for multiple purchases or similar purchase requirements. Discounts encourage sales. I take cash and non-credit card paypal payments only.

If you are willing to sell out of the US then be sure and stress you want your payments in US currency only or you may find yourself paying to have the money converted from a foreign currency and that can eat away at your profit as well.  Be sure and read the rules about this on fee sites closely.  I am told that ebay now forbids you to make that stipulation, if this is so then I'd recommend not selling outside the US.  I once sold a high dollar item that if I'd had to pay the fees for the currency exchange I would have gone in the hole on the sale.

Q: I’ve sold the item now what?

A: Deliver or ship immediately upon receipt of payment, happy buyers are repeat buyers. The sooner they get what they paid for the happier they are. Sometimes it pays to go the extra step. Example: Media shipping for books and similar materials is sometimes actually higher or nearly the same as First Class shipping. Media rate takes 5 business days to most locations, First Class takes 2 business days. If the customer has paid for Media and I see that for only a few cents more it could go First Class I generally ship it first class. A happy customer is a repeat customer.

Package the item up well. Package it the way you would like to receive it. I tend to line all my boxes with a plastic bag just in case the mail carrier leaves the package out it the rain on delivery day. DO NOT use food boxes for anything going overseas. We once had a shipment get delayed for weeks due to the fact we use clean grocery store boxes to ship the item in. Health laws required the postal service open such packages and inspect them. Unfortunately during that inspection the collectible item we sold got broken and all sorts of hassle happened--a long ugly story and yes it was insured.

Insurance is another subject, always offer to let the customer purchase shipping insurance when applicable, get in writing (email) if they turn it down so if something does happen to the shipment you at least tried to get them to insure it.  In all the years we've been selling things here and there and shipping we've only had two items get lost/broken and luckily both were insured.

If it’s a website that has feedback options, leave feedback for the customer.

Q: Now that it’s all said and done what now?

A: Enjoy the fruits of your labors. Any money we make goes directly on bills. We have a goal we want to be debt free by spring 2015 or before. The sooner I put even $10 on a bill the less interest we will have to pay which in the long run will mean far less money needed to pay off the debt.

I will confess that small amounts each month go toward paying cash for our celebration trip to Walt Disney World once we are debt free. We plan on living large on that trip, so a lot of cash needs to be put back for it. But just a little at a time, I’d rather get debt free as fast as possible so 99.99% of our money is going on our debt..

If you have any further questions please fill free to leave a comment. If you are interested in what we have for sale please contact me directly at and I’ll send you links to my items for sale. You might just be surprised as to what all we have on this 90 acres with all its numerous outbuildings for sale.

Jan who is looking forward to a clean, well organized and paid for home in OK

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


June 2, 2010

I’m posting this a little out of my normal travel order because I want to get it down while it is fresh in my mind.

Yesterday started off with whirling near thud and went downhill from there. I was awakened with the feeling I was falling off the bed—a neat trick in a camper bed for certain. When my eyes flew open I realized I wasn’t falling but having a pretty good bout of vertigo. “Not today!” I moaned and closed my eyes with the hopes if I laid there for awhile the dizziness and accompanying nausea would go away.

We were suppose to move camp yesterday which meant there were a series of chores I needed to do, plus we would be traveling the twisting back roads from Branson, MO to Eureka Springs, AR and to be quite honest I have battled motion sickness all my life. I’ve not had any since we sold the last big van we had and moved to the dually truck. I am MOST thankful for that.

However, the dizziness I was already experiencing had me concerned enough that as we hit the road I had a plastic bag lined trash can between my feet in the front floor board. I am VERY happy to say I did not need it.

Gary and I figure I had a touch of some 24 hour bug because by evening I was recovering nicely. It’s what went on between the beginning of the day and the evening that made Murphy think he had us.

Gary did most of my chores to break camp while I clung to the sofa to overcome the dizziness and he drove gently as we traveled. Him watching the road closely, me with my eyes closed.

We listened to Dave Ramsey on the XM radio, first on channel 165 and then on channel 158 as we traveled. DR served as a great distraction for me as I listened to his 5 day a week broad cast.

About two hours into the trip I announced I needed a bathroom NOW! We were just outside of Berryville, AR at the time. Conveniently there was a large parking lot at a stockyard that Gary could easily get off the road in and I could run back to the camper quickly.

As we headed back out on the road from the pit stop I once again had my eyes closed and therefore did not see the large DEEP hole that was on the passenger side of the drive. Unfortunately neither did Gary and the thump that followed made both of us gasp.

Gary pulled back into the parking lot to examine the damage. One of the trailer tires was flat and the steps into the camper were a bit cockeyed—a whole lot cockeyed, as in unusable cockeyed.

So there we were in heat that registered as 104 degrees on our truck thermometer in a stockyard with a flat on a fifth wheel. Gary of course declined calling AAA—even though we have coverage for such service he says it takes them too long to get there. It’s an ongoing argument we have, but that’s neither here or there.

Instead he proceeded to prepare to change the flat the way our “angel” told us to many years ago. We don’t know the man’s name that showed us this trick, he appeared from nowhere one day as Gary struggled to get a flat fixed on our old fifth wheel in a parking lot near dark. He arrived without a vehicle or noise, he was just suddenly there and as soon as Gary got started on the suggested way to change the flat we both turned our back for a split second and he was gone, nowhere to be seen, and he made no sound as he left. Ever since that day over a dozen years ago we have referred to him as our angel. Because he certainly was a Godsend that day and several flats since then. RV tires are notorious for going flat because of the way they are made and the weight they carry.

For those of you that don’t know how a 30 ft fifth wheel tires are set up it’s a simple alignment of two tires on each side in or near the middle of the trailer. There is generally less than a foot between the front and the back tire. This sometimes makes changing a flat awkward. It is hard to get a jack on the framework just right without doing damage.

So here’s how we now lift the offending flat tire off the ground safely without using a jack. Anyone who camps a lot has leveling boards and/or Lynx blocks (imagine giant Legos, which is what we call the two sets we have) for setting their camper level in not so level campgrounds.

The angel suggested we create a ramp using those levelers to where we ran the good tire up the ramp just far enough the flat tire was safely lifted off the ground. Since the trailer is attached to the truck, which is then in park and with chocks behind the wheels there is no danger of the trailer rolling back down the ramp. It takes far less time to do this to change a flat than to dig out the jack, find the proper location to put it on, jack it up etc. It’s a lot easier too.

So Gary prepped the ramp and had me stay in the truck with the air running, something about I didn’t look good in the shade of green I was wearing on my skin at the time.

Only this time the ramp didn’t work because of the location of the now messed up steps. So As I dozed in the truck waiting on him to get the thing prepped he removed the steps and put them in the back of the truck. Then woke me from my upright slumber to back up the ramp. Once the tire was on the ramp it took him less than five minutes to change the flat.

Only by then I needed the facilities again. OOPS no steps to get into the trailer!!! So I’m standing there doing the pee-pee dance as my kids use to say and we are laughing at me trying to get up into a doorway that’s threshold is above my waist.

I am NO athlete, I am overweight, 5’1” on my tall days, 60 and have no real upper body strength. What I do have is a marvelous little collapsible folding step stool that we carry under the back seat of the truck so Gary got that, well that got me up about 8 inches, still not a doable situation. As we laughed harder Gary got the 4 X 4 boards we put under the front jack stands of the trailer and put them under the step stool.

I climbed up on this make-shift set of stairs and got one leg up in the trailer, but for the life of me could not get that other leg in. So now I’m hanging onto the door handle for dear life, one leg up in a trailer and the other one dangling in mid-air and it will NOT co-operate. I’m stuck!

I’ve now got the giggles pretty bad and Gary is laughing nearly as hard. He grabs the non-working leg and gives me a boost that nearly throws me headfirst into the recliner by the door.

Just as I finish the purpose of my visit I hear Gary inside the trailer and uttering one word “sh—“. I knew immediately what had happened.

“Did you knock the step stool over when you came in?” I innocently asked.

“Yes, we’re stuck, what are we going to do now?” he responded, as he laid down on his belly hoping to be able to reach the step stool, of course there was no way he could.

I went to the camper pantry and got a second folding stool out of it and handed it to him, saying “don’t drop this one too.” With a big grin on my face. He muttered something about me being a smarty pants.

He managed to get the step stool set on the two boards, but for some reason from the inside of the camper it looked a lot further down than it looked coming into the camper. We both mulled this over for a bit.

Gary is 62, and while he’s lost about 40 pounds this year he’s still overweight, so the idea of slipping and falling was not one we cared to entertain. Finally he sat down on his bottom and scooted out the door like a small child bumps down a flight of stairs. His legs were long enough he could get is feet squarely on the makeshift set-up and get out safely. He’s nearly 6’2”. This was not going to be as easy for me. Gary told me stay put while he reset the boards with both stools and created a small set of steps for me. WHEW! Made it out safely!

When we called Sean and told him about it later he said “you kids I can’t let you out alone any more.”

Once back on the road I said “That’s our one boo-boo with the camper for the year, we’ve got it over.” Gary said he hoped I was right. We generally have one incident each summer, so that is it I am certain. Fortunately this one isn’t going to be as costly as some of the others have been.

Once we finally chose a campsite and got set up at Parker Bottom Corps of Engineer campground on Beaver Lake in AR near Eureka Springs, we discussed going to purchase a 3 step-step stool to use until we could get new steps, or the steps repaired, because obviously we could not continue to get in and out of the camper in the afore mentioned manner.

In fact I told Gary once I got in for the night I was NOT getting back out until I absolutely had too. Which would create some problems with our four day stay scheduled for here as there are no sewer hook-ups at this campground and total use of the camper facilities will only make it three days. We had camped next to the campground facilities and planned on using them for most of our needs in order to make it the full four days.

Gary decided instead to see if he could fix the steps. Good old American ingenuity kicked in. Using leverage, a sledge hammer, and bolts and screws from the tool kit we carry the two of us worked the steps back from the trapezoid shape they were in to the rectangular box they should be.

It was one of those few times having a little extra weight on my body paid off. More than once Gary would use a lever while I applied my body weight to the opposite side of the steps. Quite frankly if you didn’t know they had been bent you couldn’t tell it now. They do need to be taken off and spray painted when we get home to keep them from rusting, but it was getting time to do that anyway.

Gary has suggested trying to beat out the bent rim for the tire too, because that is why we had a flat, but I worry it would be out of round and ruin tires, so we agreed to use the emergency trailer repair fund to purchase a new rim, and a tire if the tire is damaged instead.

We did all this labor in 90+ degree heat, so needless to say Gary really wanted a shower and headed for the shower house as soon as all the tools were put up.  He said the perfect ending to his day was being in a shower house all alone in the middle of the piney woods after dark and the lights going out!  He entertained thoughts of Freddie Krueger for a split second until he realized the lights and fan were on a motion detector and he'd been standing just letting the water flow over his aching body so long the lights thought he'd left.   As soon as he moved around a bit the lights came back on. Still he was glad that our camp was just a few feet away as he headed back through the darkened campground to the camper, where I had securely locked myself in. He made the short walk a little quicker than normal I might add.

So despite the ups and downs of the day we settled into a nice campsite for a good night's sleep pretty early last night knowing we were okay.

This is where I have to sing the praises of Dave Ramsey, prior to going on his Baby Step program of the Total Money Make Over, we would not have had that emergency fund and we would have had to drive home on an iffy spare and then been stuck at home, unable to travel and make money, until we had enough cash to pay for the repair.

Following his budget suggestions we budget so much each month for this fund, we have a similar fund for household repairs, and truck repairs as well. These are over and above the emergency fund of baby step #1 in his plan.

This budgeting is what allowed us to be in a stockyard in Green Forest, AR laughing at a situation rather than sitting beside the road and crying.

It combined with using our brains, instead of our emotions is what allowed us to tell Murphy to take a hike. So as I set here safely in my camper, with newly mended steps I suggest everyone check out Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book so you too can laugh at Murphy when he comes to call.

Jan who will be purchasing a new rim with CASH (no credit card stupid tax for me) this week while she’s still in AR

Saturday, May 15, 2010


As I have mentioned on more than one occasion I LOVE, absolutely LOVE having meals prepared in advanced, especially when we are busy on the road. So while home I once again hit the kitchen hard. I roasted a turkey, made a roast and all the general things of that nature. When I wasn’t cooking Gary was, have I mentioned before both he and Sean are excellent cooks? If not, let me put it on the record right now that they both are. It’s a good thing too because if they weren’t often we’d go hungry due to my lack of organization on certain days.

Gary made up the Moo Gurgle recipe, which after all was originally his, and Sean made up individual meals while we were home. We alternate cooking and cleaning and the system works well for us.

On my cooking days I also made up some Master Mixes both to take along in the camper and to leave at home for Sean to use. This round I made Cream Cheese Crust Mix, Lemon Pie Filling and Shortcake Master Mix.

I made lemon tarts one night with the first two and strawberry shortcake with the third another night.

So here are the recipes to share:

Cream Cheese Crust Mix

2 8 oz pkgs of cream cheese (I used 1 lowfat and 1 regular to help cut calories)

5 sticks butter

6 cups flour

Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature so they soften. Then blend the two well together. Add the flour and cut in until well mixed. Divide it into 9-10 balls. Individually wrap, label and freeze. This will keep about 6 months easily in the freezer. Each ball equals one pie crust.

To make it into a crust you thaw the dough then row it out as you normally would for a pie crust. If it’s a little dry you can add a small amount of water, but it generally is not needed.


Tarts of all types

To make individual tarts of any type I mash the dough into muffin tins and then fill and bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes or until light brown.

Pie Crusts both single and double layer

Layered cookie bases, just add your favorite topping to a layer of this crust for bar cookies and bake.


2 ½ C presweetened with sugar lemonade mix,

1 C cornstarch

1 ¼ C sugar, more or less for sweeter/tarter flavor

1 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together well and store in a labeled airtight container in a cool dark place. Shelf life is about 6 months.


Use any presweetened drink mix, limeade, koolade, whatever for unusual tarts, pies and sauces.


Lemon Pie or tarts

1 ¼ c pie filling

2 ½ c water

3 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs if you don’t mind the strings from the whites in your pie)

2 tbl butter

In a large saucepan combine the pie filling mix, ½ c water and the eggs. Mix until smooth and the slowly stir in the remaining water as you cook the mixture over a medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4-5 minutes or until it is thickens and is bubbling.

Pour into prepared and baked pie crust or several baked tart shells. Top with whipped cream or meringue if desired.


1 c water

¼ c pie filling mix

2 tbl butter

In a small saucepan stir the water into the pie filling mix as you heat it to boiling. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter is melted.

This sauce is good over a variety of desserts it and variations there of can be used for a sweet/sour sauce on just about anything you can think of.

Now on to the Shortcake Master Mix recipe…

I adapted this recipe from my old Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1969 publication) for a single recipe of shortcake to be a master mix that calls for just adding water. It’s great to take along in the camper for quick desserts, especially when we find great produce at road side stands as we go. I like it as a master mix because I can make just the amount we need when we need it by adjusting the pan size. I’ve even done it in muffin tins to make individual ones.

Shortcake Master Mix

Makes 48 servings—with recipe for 6-8 serving usage to follow

12 c flour

¾ c sugar

6 tbl baking powder

2 tbl salt

2 c powdered milk

2 c shortening.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a 20 c capacity bowl (pan, roaster whatever—I use a big metal popcorn bowl).

Cut the shortening in well, until it looks almost like cornmeal.

Store in a labeled and dated airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 6 months, longer if you want to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

TO USE: makes 6-8 servings

Mix roughly 2 ½ cups of the mix with approximately 1 c of water, using more or less of either to achieve the consistency of a sticky drop biscuit dough. Spray one or two 8 inch layer pans with cooking spray. Use one pan for a thick less crusty shortcake, use two for more crust the choice is yours. We prefer the lightness of the thicker one. Dot with butter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 450 for 12-15 minutes for the thinner layers approximately 20 for the thick one. You want a golden brown crust (like biscuits).

Serve warm topped with sweetened fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.

To use it for cobblers simply drop the dough on top of the hot fruit filling and cook as you normally would. I sometimes will add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or other fruit type spices to the dry ingredients before adding the water for a bit of variety.

Jan who has a goal to simplify her cooking life by having all her master mixes made up at once and doesn’t see it happening for a long, long time in OK

Friday, May 14, 2010

PART 2—Includes a Blast from the Past Story—“It’s not Charlie.”

Now about the potatoes and tomatoes. This late in the season it’s often hard to find tomato and pepper plants, or seed potatoes available here in OK. So I was concerned I’d have none of the above available for my garden this year. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

At first when I was checking Wal-Mart for the desired plants all I found were tomato and pepper plants starting at $3.50 each. Way too expensive for my shoestring budget.

Sean and I kept looking, finally pushed to the back we found some 9 packs of Beefsteak tomatoes. They had been marked down to $3 a 9 pack. They were tiny plants, but we kept digging around until we found the healthiest of the plants, PLUS many of the sections had two tomato plants in each one. So we purchased two 9 packs. I ended up with 25 plants to plant for $6. A great deal as far as we were concerned. Beefsteak is not normally what I raise for canning, but I could go $6 far easier than I could go the $3.50 PER PLANT!

Further digging around found some $3 bell pepper plants (when all others were around $3.50-$4 each) again there were 2 plants in each of the three pots we purchased.

So those went in the ground the next day and were companion planted with basil and carrots. The cages are already set around them and they are growing quickly, much to our delight.

The following week Sean dropped Gary and I off at Lowe’s while he went to do a mystery shop that demanded he do so alone. I decided to look for seed potatoes.

I found a location that had a sign that said the burlap bags of seed potatoes were marked down to $2 each. Unfortunately there were no burlap bags of potatoes in the bin. Instead there were 20# paper bags of red seed potatoes marked at $19.95 each—WAAAY too expensive and definitely more seed potatoes than I had planned on. In the same bin were peck baskets that contained mixtures that had potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb for $9.95 each.

Knowing that in the past I have on numerous occasions asked for and received discounts on items that are similar to items they have on closeout or the damage bin I decided to see if they would at least discount these items . So I approached the cashier and inquired about the burlap potatoes and the remaining products in the $2 priced bin. She told me they were out of the burlap bag ones, but since the others were now in the bin I could purchase those items at $2 each as well. So I did. I happily left with 2 peck baskets and a 20# bag for a total of $6.

Sean and I planted all the items the next couple of days. It was far more potatoes than we’d planned on and I had not planned on many of the other items, so we had to snug up the garden a bit, but I just couldn’t resist the bargain.

We already had asparagus and garlic growing in the garden, but we figured we could always use more. LOL!

While we were home we had a few visitors of the unwelcomed type. SNAKES! The first one was a king snake that Sean promptly removed from the area and re-homed far away from our bird eggs.

The presence of the second snake became well known when our best broody Banty hen started screaming bloody murder as she fled her nest under the front porch. Just as soon as he heard the screams Sean knew what was going on and ran out front to see if he was right. The water moccasin was just starting to swallow the first of her nearly hatched eggs when Sean spotted him.

We spent the next minutes scaring the snake away from the nest, first by waving things at it through the gaps on the porch to then spraying it with a jet from the water hose, then with a long pole we have for just such a purpose. This one was a fighter, and it soon became apparent rehoming was not an option with this snake. It had to be dealt with as it climbed a cedar that was taller than our two story Dutch colonial home. He ended up in the maggot bucket. Little Speck returned to her nest and all was well until…

Two days later we heard our favorite little wild bird that builds a nest every year on our back deck hollering like crazy. You guessed it a third snake—a rat snake this time. This too got rehomed.

All of these snakes made remember a blast from the past story I wrote about Sean being snake bit when he was much younger. If you don’t like snake stories just move on to part three of this long missive that contains some recipes to add to your Master Mixes stash.

So for your enjoyment here is “It’s NOT Charlie”


Again, if you don't want to read snake stories move on to part three. I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.

When I was growing up my grandparents always kept a king snake around for mouse and rat control. Whether they lived in the city or in the country. So having a king snake in your garage was nothing unusual to me. My husband had agreed it was fine and we released one we called Charlie in the garage one late summer day. On and off we saw Charlie and he grew plump with the field mice that tried to find their way into our home.

The next summer my two children Sam and Sean came into the bedroom of our home. Sam was carrying a beautiful speckled king snake. "Look Mom I found Charlie!" I said, yes it was another king snake, but it was not Charlie, who was used to be handled, and this one needed to be let go outside. Being a stubborn child Sam argued with me that she was certain this snake was Charlie despite it being smaller than the snake we had released the year before. All this time the snake is becoming more and more agitated. Doing as all snakes do, rattling its tail and hissing. Unfortunately at the height of its anxiety Sean, the younger super allergic to everything child, happened to walk by.

Charlie took the opportunity to strike, nailing Sean firmly on the thumb joint of his right hand. Dadburn it! Now we had to hang onto the snake instead of letting it go. I sent Sam to put the snake in something it couldn't get out of, and Sean to wash his hand and then to the living room to sit down while I called ER. Like I said, Sean is my allergic child. When the tested him for allergies for 103 known allergens he reacted to 98 of them. I could see what was coming, an allergic reaction for certain. This is basically how the ER phone call went.

"St. John's Emergency Medical, How may I help you?"

"I'd like to speak to someone who is knowledgeable about snake bites."

"One moment please"

"May I help you?"

" Yes, my son is very prone to allergies and he was just bitten by a non poisonous speckled king snake and I was wondering...."

"Are you certain the child was bit?"

"Yes, I saw it happen."

"Then you've killed the snake?"

"No, it's very much alive and in my ....just a minute" (at this point I realized the snake was crawling out the holes of the cat carrier and I had to shoo it back in with a pair of scissors they were the closest thing handy). "Sorry, it was escaping the cat carrier."

"Let me get this straight, you saw your son bit by a snake and it's now alive and living in your cat carrier?"


"Can you describe the snake?"

"It's a non poisonous speckled king snake."

"You said you saw it bite your son, how and where did it bite him?"

Folks I am sorry to say, but this is where I made my BIG mistake...

"My oldest child Sam, was holding what she thought was Charlie, the snake, we were arguing about it being Charlie or not and just as Sean, my son walked by the snake RATTLED it's tail and struck Sean on his thumb."

"RATTLED IT'S TAIL!? Mam, can you describe the snake?"

"It's a non poisonous speckled king snake, I just need to know if Sean could have an allergic reaction and if so how I should treat it"

"Where's your son now? Rattle snake venom needs to be counter treated immediately."

"Sean is in the living room watching cartoons and it NOT a rattle snake, it's a non poisonous speckled king snake."

"You need to get here immediately so we can give him anti venom."

"I'll bring him, but you can't give him anti venom, he's allergic to horses and that is made with horse serum. Besides it's a non poisonous snake!"

After that frustrating call I told Sam to put Not Charlie in a more secure container and Sean to get in the van. Sam did as she was told and also brought out her favorite reptile book with a very good picture of a non poisonous speckled king snake in it. Telling me to make sure they don't kill the snake just because it was stupid enough to bite her dumb brother.

On the way into Tulsa I observed Sean carefully, as he was trying to look at Not Charlie through the opaque 1/2 gallon ice cream container Sam had put him in. The thumb was starting to swell so I enquired about how he was feeling. His response was he was worried about what they would do at the hospital. I told him they'd probably look at the snake, wash his thumb and give him a tetanus shot then say "That will be $50 please." Sean started to protest he had just gotten a tetanus shot the month before when he had reached for something as Sam was cutting with a pair of scissors, accidentally cutting Sean. I promised I wouldn't let them give him another one.

When we got to ER I groaned, the parking lot was full, the waiting room was full and I knew this was a nonsensical trip. Now folks, I'm going to tell you right now how to move to the front of the line in a packed ER. Here's what happened:

They were, as I said, backed up. An ambulance driver had just brought a man in on a gurney and they were busy admitting him when someone asked if they could help us. I said I had called earlier about how to treat an allergic reaction to a non poisonous snake bite. They asked if I had killed and brought the snake. I said we hadn't killed it, Sean had Charlie in that container. Right on cue Not Charlie rattled his tail in that hard plastic container sounding like the granddaddy of all rattle snakes. Like something out of a cartoon all of the sudden the only thing left in the area with us was a few papers fluttering to the ground and the poor guy trying to get off the gurney. Staff, nurses, patients and their families had all scattered to the four winds. I'm sorry, but it was hilarious! Sean and I started laughing, and the more we'd laugh the harder that snake would rattle its tail. We were totally alone with the man on the gurney and the snake. I assured the man it was a non poisonous snake and it could not get out of the container.

After awhile one little nurse peeked around the edge of the door and timidly said "I got the short straw. Which one is Sean and which one is Charlie." I told her which one and she told Sean to bring Charlie and come to the back. Instantly the back emptied and I had all the out front help I could handle.

As I filled out paper work I heard a high pitched female scream and then Sean's throaty laughter. I could guess what had happened. That is the fastest I have ever been able to get paper work filled out at a hospital. They quickly led me back to my son who was standing at a sink washing his own thumb with betadiene. No staff was to be seen anywhere in that back area. I asked Sean what had happened.

Because the snake was in an opaque container it had to be put into something clear for them to see it clearly. Just as the nurse had poured the very angry snake into one of the clear canisters for the respiratory machine an orderly had poked her in the sides hissing. He later asked me for the snake, as he knew what type it was and he wanted it to eat mice at his house. Not Charlie went to live under a trailer house. So the scream had been her, and Sean had laughed at the whole situation.

We waited around for the "Snake Expert" for goodness knows how long. Everyone and his dog kept wanting to give Sean anti venom and I kept saying no. Finally the snake expert showed up. Took one look at it and said "It's a non poisonous speckled king snake, wash the boy's thumb good, give him a tetanus shot and send him home."

As Sean started to protest I said, "he was in here last month when his sister accidentally cut him with a pair of scissors and we got a tetanus shot then." The doctor looked square at Sean and said "Let's see, last month you had to have stitches, this month you get snake bit what do you have planned for next month?" "Going back to school" Sean solemnly told him. Everyone laughed.

The doctor grinned and said. "So I guess you can go home now as your thumb looks very clean, I guess this was the most exciting part of your summer wasn't it?"

Sean looked at me and grinned wickedly, taking my hand and pulling me toward the exit he said "No sir, them catching an alligator under our camper at Walt Disney World was!"

I was wrong about one thing, it wasn't $50, it was $54.

Jan who wonders how she survived raising her kids in OK