Yesterday Clayton began checking out of his current squadron, and he put a really big dent in the list of places that have to see him before he can leave.  He still has a few more to go, though.  So tomorrow morning he'll probably finish that process.  Then he'll have to do it all again next week for the squadron to which he was originally sent upon arriving at Cherry Point.  If this doesn't make sense to you, don't worry about it.  It just means a bit of extra running around for Clayton.

Speaking of running around, this morning we went out to Jacksonville again.  We were slated to see five houses, but only ended up seeing three.  The first house was a very new one in a somewhat cramped neighborhood.  The area was a strange place to me, because half the houses were quite old, and the other half were brand new, nestled in among the old ones.  The real estate agent told us that this is a neighborhood that is actively being developed and renewed, by removing or renovating the old nasty houses.  

The second house we went to see had some awesome features in the pictures online, but we never got to see them in person.  The little lock box on the door didn't have a key in it.  We looked around on the porch for places where it might be hidden, but it didn't turn up.  The third house we were to see only had about six pictures, so I was looking forward to seeing the rest of the house, but it didn't work either.  This time, the lock box was giving us an error reading, but the real estate agent didn't know what it was, so we moved on.

The fourth house was super cute, with a huge yard that would have been perfect for us.  It was a bit older, but well maintained and with lots of character.  It was along the quieter part of a busy highway, but set back from the road significantly, plus it had that huge yard in back.  There were a few color schemes in some rooms I wasn't thrilled with, but Clayton agreed if were going to be there long term, we could paint the few things I didn't like.  

The fifth house we visited was in a developed community.  It had an open floor plan in the living room and dining room area, that flowed nicely into the small, but well-equipped kitchen.  The yard was nice, but smaller than the others we'd seen, and it had a very nice deck and huge grill there for our use.  Also, the double doors in the dining area opened out onto the deck, which had me eyeing this large space from the front door to the end of the porch as a great opportunity for parties.  The bedrooms were nice enough, well portioned, but nothing extraordinary.  A couple of them were clearly kids' rooms, as they were painted sorts of colors only someone under 13 would choose.  Once again, if we were going to be here long term, we might paint them.

All of our houses either viewed or eliminated, it was time for us to decide which was our favorite.  Pretty quickly, Clayton and I decided we liked the fourth house, which had a big, gorgeous yard, and on the inside all sorts of character perfect for our personalities.  Our real estate agent, however, reminded us that because that house was so much older than the other two we got to see, it would cost us huge amounts in electric bills, especially in the winter.  Since we haven't had much experience in paying for utilities in this area (they're basically included in the cost of base housing), we took his word for it and ruled out our favorite house.  So then it came down to two perfectly good houses that we were pretty much tied on.  

That's when we broke out the house score cards and tried to quantify just what it was we liked or didn't like about both houses.  We each scored one house, compared scores, and then switched and scored again.  Both times, they came to within one or two points of each other (heck yeah, we used points!), so that didn't help tons.  Basically, we liked the first house best, but its cramped neighborhood wasn't very exciting for us.   The last house was very close to Clayton's work, and it had a garage, but we didn't like the bedrooms or yard as much as the first one.  I think in the end what sold me was the kitchen.  Of course there were lots of other factors involved, but when you see this kitchen, I think you'll agree it's a really nice space.  

Since you're probably still confused, we went with the first house.  We applied to rent it, and hopefully they'll call us tomorrow, asking us to come down with a deposit.  If someone else snags it first, we agreed we'd be all right in its contender, too.  If both get snatched up somehow, then I guess we'll have to look again (eww) until the stars and planets align, or whatever it takes to find us a new home.  Until then, we're getting packed.  So here's another chance for me to say this: if you want our new address, please email me yours.  I'm hoping to send out moving announcements once we get to wherever we're going, and I want to have a nice fat address book by then.  

Oh.  Here's a picture of the nice kitchen I might be using in a week.
So today was my last day of work at Cherry Point's library.  I still have to check out (yeah, I get a check out sheet, much like the Marines themselves when they leave), but once that's over, I'm officially done here.  Everyone at work was super mopey about my leaving.  One of our retired patrons brought us cookies, and he gave me my own batch.  My co-workers and supervisors also signed an adorable card for me with really sweet notes.  I'll certainly miss them all.

Not only was it tough saying goodbye to the co-workers who have turned into friends today, but I also just said goodbye to my Corolla yesterday.  This has nothing to do with moving, but my lease on it was up today, so we washed it yesterday and brought it back to the nearest Toyota dealership.  They didn't examine it with a fine tooth comb as I'd expected, or charge me a "turn in fee," even though I wasn't buying or leasing a new car with them.  Believe it or not, this lack of fuss somehow made me feel even worse.  That little car was practically my home for two of the three years I had it, and I drove down the coast in it at least once, and all I had to do to surrender it was sign two pieces of paper?

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, this is the worst part of moving that doesn't involve boxes.  The box thing is pretty bad, but Clayton will do that part with me.  The whole leaving thing, he won't be doing that for a few more weeks.  Next week we're going to look at more houses.  We were just out in Jacksonville on Tuesday and saw three houses then.  The first was...ok.  The second would have been perfect for us, and the third one was just nasty.  Our real estate agent asked the rental company for the application for the second house, only to get the reply that it has already been let.  Clayton was really upset about this at first.  Ready to wait for base housing, in fact, but I showed him some pictures of the many other houses in our price range, and he has agreed there might be another good one out there.  I'll try to keep you all posted on any other updates as they come up.  In the meanwhile, if you haven't emailed me your address yet, please do so.  Sending out cute moving announcements is one of the parts to this I'm looking forward to, so please indulge me and help me update my address book.
Hello, everyone!  I hope you had as lovely an Easter as we did.  As you know, I had been planning our Easter feast for some time.  Just as I was hoping, I was able to have all of the food for which I was responsible done, as well as all of the dishes, before my guests arrived.  

This year, Clayton's parents, his brother David, and David's wife Rachel were our guests.  Merlin greeted them at the door, wearing a black bow tie; the rest of us were much more casual.  I decorated the living room with a purple garland.  Easter morning I set up our new table, added the green table cloth and purple runner, and set the places.  Clayton helped me fold our napkins (three were white and three were yellow) in the lily fold, which we then placed in the wine glasses.  All of the glasses were labeled with a person's name on a paper doily.  
Clayton insisted we needed to do Easter baskets for our guests.  I didn't really know who liked which types of candies, so we started with two family baskets and a couple of small, useful, non-candy gifts.  In the end, we did get candy, but we didn't put it straight into the baskets.  Instead, I set up a bunny buffet.  In the kitchen, along my highest counter, I set up some dessert stands and and brightly colored plastic goblets, and we loaded up the display with our candy, and later with the candy David and Rachel brought.  On my kitchen table, I used a vase Clayton bought me a few years ago, and we filled it with some pretty flowers from the store.  When our guests arrived, I put out the raspberry lemonade and deviled eggs.  Out of a dozen eggs, I made a dozen "regular" deviled eggs (egg, mayonnaise, and mustard), and a dozen wasabi deviled eggs (egg, mayonnaise, and wasabi paste).  Rachel later brought a tray of really cute, colored eggs.  She prepared hers with horseradish.  

After dinner, we cleared everything in the living room away.  We got comfy on the floor and the couches and played Hedbanz for hours.  It's your basic "Who Am I?" game, but with a timer and a simple way to keep score.  We all had a lot of fun, and played several rounds.  Eventually we put the game away and had our desserts.  Then David and Rachel went home for the night, and Clayton's parents spent the night with us.  If you want to see more pictures from Easter, head over to the Pictures page.
Here it is!  This is the menu I'll be putting on the table for Easter.  I designed these as quarter-page fliers in Microsoft Publisher, on two pages, and printed double sided.  The bunny and lamb graphics are from The Graphics Fairy, and I simply tinted them a soft gray and layered them behind the font.  If you like this menu and would like to use the template yourself, you can download it from the link underneath the pictures.  Bear in mind, you'll need MS Publisher to open or edit the file.
File Size: 708 kb
File Type: pub
Download File

A bunch of little things are starting to come together.  We're hosting a small Easter dinner this year, so several weeks ago I started my preparations by making up a menu.  I might embed the adorable menu I printed up later, so you can see what I'm making, and how I'll display it.  Right now, though, I'll give you a peek at some of my intended party design. 
 Yesterday, we picked up a table that would actually fit all of our guests around it.  Later, I sorted out my bins of holiday decorations and pulled out all of my current Easter decorations, as well as some crafting supplies I might need.  Once I took stock of what I had, I ordered the few decorations I still needed.  Well, not decorations, so much as a tablecloth, napkins, and dessert plates.  I did have to order some small plates for appetizers, but dinner and dessert are going to be served on my new plates!  Next, I set up the table and laid out my serving dishes and wine glasses, and I set one whole place setting (Quick aside: Merlin was SO happy when we set up the new table.  He spent most of the day curled up underneath it, like it was this new dog house that we bought just for him.).  This was to verify that I had enough room on the table for all of the food and plates, and to ensure that I had enough serving dishes for all the food I plan to make.  All that's left to do is wait for my orders to come in, and then go grocery shopping for my remaining dinner ingredients.

We've also made a bit of progress on our move.  I made an appointment with a real estate agent to look at some houses.  From the listings we've seen so far, it looks like there will be a lot of good choices that we can easily afford, so that's a big relief.  Now we're working ourselves into packing mode.  I brought home some boxes from work (at the library) that will perfectly fit our books.  We bought a handful of large boxes that should fit linens or kitchen things.  Just thinking about packing makes me tense, but Clayton assures me that he's pretty much an expert on moving stuff now, so he'll do most of the worrying about that.  He's just relieved that I'm a paperwork expert, so I'm handling that end of the move.  I even have an adorable moving binder, full of our print-outs of real estate listings, house score cards, and inspection checklists.  

If you haven't emailed me your address yet (and odds are good that you haven't), please do!  I'm so looking forward to sending out change of address cards, but I need an updated address book in order to make that happen.  Also, if you have suggestions for which pictures I should take while we're looking at houses, please email those to me, or leave them in the comments for everyone to enjoy.
Ok, I'm back again.  I am planning the heck out of this move!  I'm reading books and articles, printing real estate listings and talking to Realtors,  and of course, I'm making checklists and other forms.  Most of these are adaptations of forms in the aforementioned books and articles.  Now, though, I need your help making an original checklist.  I've been Googling, Yahoo!ing, and all day, trying to find a checklist of pictures I should take.  So let me break down to you what I'm looking for. 

In a few weeks we'll be actually walking into houses, trying to decide where we'll live next.  The books et cetera all say we should be taking pictures of the houses we inspect, mostly to help us remember details about them the next day.  So for this first stage, what things should I be taking pictures of?  Any hints in this direction at all will be SUPER helpful!

For the next stage, I'd like to take some pictures during the move itself.  So far my list has:
  • Stacks of boxes
  • Loaded moving van
  • Clayton wielding packing tape
  Please help me add more photo ops to my list.  This doesn't have to be the best documented move of all time, but I would like some cute pictures for the website, and possibly for our change of address card.  Speaking of THAT, I already have people emailing me addresses (thanks to those who have; you are on the ball!), but there are a LOT more of you out there who I know will be sad if you don't get our Christmas card.  As I said in my last post, I want your mailing address even if you're sure I already have it.  That includes you, Mom.  Just go to my Communicate page, copy my email address into an email, and shoot me a quick note with the names of the people in your family, your mailing address, and (if you want to be super helpful) your birthdays.  I mean it, if you want mail from us again (including a card with our new address, or this year's Christmas card), let me know your address.

As for the photo checklists, those can be emailed to me, or left in comments.  This should be fun, and it gives you a chance to tell me exactly parts of our future house you want to snoop around in before we even get there.  So go ahead, tell me any fun thing I can add to either list, and I'll try to make it happen.  Of course, once we get to wherever we're going, you can expect to see these pictures right here, on our site.  That's it for today, and please pray for us that we won't go crazy in the next two months.  Thanks!
This may go without saying, but when we move, our address will be changing.  I definitely have plans to send out change of address cards once we know where we're going.  You may wonder why I won't just plaster our new address on the front of the website, but if you think about it for a minute, you'll see why that's a really bad idea.  This website is primarily for friends and family, however I do link recipes and projects to Pinterest and other websites, so lots of strangers have access to the site every day.  If you happen to be a stranger, thanks so much for reading!  I'd love to hear from you sometime, but I'm not telling you my address.  Sorry!

All of this is to say, if you want a change of address card from us, I need you to send me your address.  Email it to me, and I'll add you to our address book.  If you're concerned about the security of emailing me, there really is no reason to be.  You'll just be sending me a private email at my own Yahoo! email address.  If any of you know someone who does not have the internet or an email address who should be in our address book, please ask them to let you send their address to me.  Honestly, I want to see lots of addresses come in, even if you think I have it already.  Just write your name(s), address, and maybe your relationship to us.  For bonus points, you can include the birthdays of the people in your household.  I really want to update everyone's address books with our new home, and I'm looking forward to sending Christmas out this year, so please email me!

P.S.  If you're wondering where to find my email address, just go over to the Communicate page.
Ever since Clayton came home with new orders, I've been house hunting.  It's kind of fun, but I hate when realtors only post one picture of a property, or take really bad pictures.  One house had such grainy pictures, I found myself searching each one for a UFO, or at least Big Foot.  Also, there is a place for the person creating the listing to check boxes for various "amenities" the property may contain, such as air conditioning or a fenced in yard.  Many of the properties I see, though, don't list anything to do with laundry.  They didn't check the box for laundry hook-ups, washer/drier in unit, or anything.  Is it really possible for a house with two or three bedrooms, and 1-1.5 baths, to not have any provisions for doing laundry at all?  I can't believe someone would build such a house and not include even the hook-ups for a washer and drier.  Any thoughts on this?
On Wednesday morning, Clayton came home with fresh orders in hand.  This means that he will no longer be stationed at Cherry Point.  Normally, I would be super excited about this, but these orders were for pretty much the worst place one could be stationed after being at Cherry Point.  That's right, he's supposed to report to Camp Lejeune no later than May 3rd, and no earlier than May 2nd.  If you're aware of what day it is (it's ok if you aren't, I'm not half the time myself), you'll realize that they only gave us less than two (2) months to get our butts over there.  People have been known to get less notice, but the average is more like 3+, so I'm not pleased.

The relatively short notice is not the worst part about this situation, however.  In fact, Cherry Point is considered to be close enough to Camp Lejeune that the service member can commute from their current home.  This means that the Marine Corps has no intention whatsoever of reimbursing or otherwise compensating us for moving closer to the base.  Commuting is doable (there are Marines living aboard Cherry Point who do it)...but just barely.  Even people who live in Jacksonville (the city in which Lejeune is situated) have a 30 minute to hour-long commute, because the traffic to get on base is so dense in the morning.  Clayton would be driving 45 minutes to an hour, just to sit another 45 minutes to an hour in a traffic jam.  So we're looking to move ourselves, even if the Marine Corps won't cover the costs.  In the long run, though, we might save some money by renting in town instead of getting base housing, so it won't be so bad.  Perhaps the most exciting thing about this whole situation, is knowing that Clayton is still flagged for a B billet, and we might end up moving again within a few months (so don't expect to see me painting walls this year).  

At any rate, in between fits of growling at the paper pushers, I'm diving into this.  As soon as Clayton explained the situation to me, I started looking into our housing options.  Packing up the house ourselves will be a pain, but we're already targeting things that can be packed as soon as we get boxes.  Actually getting things from Point A to Point B won't be too bad, since we'll have time to get out of our current house (this is possible for the same reason the Marine Corps won't pay for us to move; they expect us to stay here, so we have all the time in the world to find another place and move in), Clayton's Tahoe holds a lot of stuff, and we know of several U-Haul places in the area.  All in all this won't be a terrible move, but I am still a tad bit cranky that it won't be quite as smooth as a typical military move could be, and that I'll have to quit my perfectly pleasant job over something that might be temporary.  

Oh well.  On we go.  For the next few weeks, we'll be spending our free weekends scoping out potential new homes.  Hopefully that will be a bit of fun, forcing us to get out of the house for a few hours each weekend.  If anyone has any tips on moving; living in Jacksonville, NC; or anything else that could make this transition easier, please feel free to comment or email me.  I'll be sure to keep you posted on any other developments.
Hello, everyone!  Sorry I haven't been here in almost a month.  Eek!  I really thought I'd have more news for you at the end of January, though.  Well, hopefully today I'll be able to make up for that.  

First of all, Clayton has been flagged for recruiting duty.  He was screened at the end of January, and we have yet to hear anything more.  IF they do pick him to be a recruiter (which would plunk us into a civilian community for three years), the soonest we would be moving is December 2013.  So the big news that has come out of his B billet screening is that we'll be staying here for at least another year.

As many of you may know, my birthday was this week.  After slacking off last year, Clayton did a great job helping me celebrate this year.  We took our Merlin for his morning quest.  After we dropped him off at the house, we ran some errands on base, got some donuts and coffee for breakfast, and then ran errands in New Bern.  We came home, had a light lunch, and then I opened my presents.  Clayton got me something I've been wanting for a while- matching plates!  They're really quite lovely!  He had told his mother about his plans, and she agreed it was such a good idea, that she sent me another box of the same set.  Yay!  Now I have plenty of matching bowls, mugs, dinner plates, and salad plates.  We rearranged all of the cupboards to accommodate my new dinnerware.  I've come to the conclusion that if this were my forever house, I'd be making some changes to the layout of the kitchen.  As it is, though, I think I've got everything pretty well set up now.  Oh, I suppose you'd like some pictures.  Well, if you insist!
After all of our running around and rearranging the kitchen, we were pretty well wiped out.  Especially Clayton, who did all of this right after coming off his shift at 0730.  So we took a nap.  Well, I took a nap, Clayton got his sleep for the day.  We were going to go out for dinner, but it wasn't in the cards just then.  All the same, Birthday Part I was really great.  Birthday Part II will happen this weekend.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, so when I got back from church with my friend and her family, we had potato pancakes and apple sauce for dinner.  This morning is St. Valentine's Day, and once again, my husband learned his lesson from last year.  He made us a delicious breakfast of pink waffles, bacon, and cheesy scrambled eggs.  He is just the best!  Then we took Merlin for a quest, where our little dog found the matching antler to the one he found about a week ago.  Merlin is getting to be such a good little tracker.  Later today I plan on making a special Valentines treat for Clayton.  If it comes out well, I might just post it in the food blog.  
Just a little more before I publish this today.  A big "Great Job" to my youngest sister, Shannon, who scored a 100% on her permit exam on her sixteenth birthday.  OMG, my little baby sister is 16!  Speaking of little babies, our good friends Dan and Brittni welcomed their first baby into the world today.  He's a healthy baby boy, weighing in at 8lbs 7oz, and measuring 20.5 inches.  Congratulations to them and their newest family member.