$5 DIY Boot Tray

$5 Boot Tray

It’s been raining a ton here in TX– and by, “a ton”, I mean that the governor has declared several counties in TX a disaster zone because of all the flooding. Apparently, the satellites are even noticing a difference all the way from space because so much of TX is now greener than it’s been in a LONG time!

Now that we have a giant un-landscaped (for now) backyard, we also have a lot of mud. My boys are 4 and 3, so mud and puddles basically sound like Disneyland. We have a coat/shoe/outdoor stuff storage area in the Expedit near our front door, but we haven’t yet had a place for muddy boots.

It was starting to become a problem, and I kept thinking that it would soon dry up and we wouldn’t even need our rain boots anymore.

That was…weeks ago.

With lots of rain in the forecast all summer (thanks, El Nino!), I decided to finally get a boot tray.

Um…when did boot trays become SO stinking expensive! Has anyone but me noticed this? I wanted a galvanized steel one to match our house, but $30 was the cheapest I found at Target. YEAH RIGHT. $30 isn’t a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but just for a boot tray? Why? WHY?

After much looking, I realized that a boot tray just has to have two main functions: not be too shallow or deep, and also have ridges for letting the water/mud drain and dry. I decided that I would just find a way to make one.

So, given the fact that my grad classes are now DONE, I got inspired by Jenn at Clean and Scentsible, and adapted her tutorial to get the matching “galvanized steel” look I was going for. Instead of using a tray, I found a sturdy old rectangle cooking pan in our possession. Just like her, I realized that if I just dumped the rocks in there, it would be about two seconds before my boys started throwing them all around the house. Enter: Super Glue!

Using our neighborhood $ Store (this took $2 of rocks and $3 of glue), I was able to put this together in under 2 hours while watching TV with Jesse. Granted, the smell of the glue was a bit annoying so we had to put it outside to dry, but such a better idea than spending $30 at Target! Just make sure that your tray is sturdy enough– those little rocks may not look heavy, but trust me, all together they really are!

So, there you are! I hope you enjoyed our $5 DIY Boot Tray 🙂

Our New Van

Our new van

This last Saturday, we picked up our new -to-us-van. Back in 2011, we made the choice to be a one-car family, and have been ever since. Our last 3 homes (2 rental, 1 bought) were less than 5 minutes from our teaching jobs, so it made sharing a car pretty stinking easy.

The only time things got a little tricky was 1.5 years ago when we took our two foster boys-– all of a sudden, there were 6 of us and we only had 5 seats! Fortunately we had really awesome friends pitch in and lend us their second vehicle for the 7 months we had the boys. It did mean we needed to drive two cars whenever we went anywhere as a family, but it was nice not having to buy a second car for the short term!

When we moved to TX, we sold our Rav 4 before leaving CA (our stuff was shipped in a crate to TX and we flew), used a temporary solution car that my gracious brother let us have, then decided to lease our Nissan Leaf around Christmas time. We were still living 5 minutes from Jesse’s job at the time in our awful rental situation, but when we bought our house 15 minutes away, we knew a 2nd car was a necessity on the horizon.

Luckily, I have been teaching online from home for the past year, so a 2nd car was something we were able to take our time about purchasing. Yes, there were days where I went absolutely stir crazy, because having the car for the day meant waking the kids up and driving Jesse in to work at 7am, which meant we were all tired and cranky (my kids and I sleep late!). We only took advantage of this option once or twice a month, as a result, because an outing usually wasn’t worth all of the effort.

Sometime in March, a friend of ours told us about a co-worker who was selling a 1999 van for their disabled friend who was heading into a nursing home. Despite the fact that it was 15 years old, it only had 56k original miles! The woman was the original owner, purchased it in North Texas, lived 10 minutes away, and just ran errands in it for 15 years! Despite a few minor cosmetic issues (a bit of peeling paint/rust on the top, too dark of a tint on the windows), it was in great shape.

And, given how old the year of the vehicle was, the Kelly Blue Book value was super low. We were able to pay in cash, without even using up the majority of what we had saved for a vehicle purchase!

The only catch was that we had to wait nearly 2 months to close the deal because the woman’s Medicaid application was in the works, and nothing was allowed to be bought or sold during that time period. We used the time to purchase the Carfax (just to be sure), test drive it, and wait.

Just this past week, we got word that the vehicle was ready, so we picked her up the day before Mother’s Day! This car really is perfect for our family– we didn’t want to spend too much, as I will only be using it once or twice a week to take the kids to the library or the zoo. I knew that if we spent a lot of money, I would feel super guilty about it just sitting in the driveway, day after day. Now we have the best of both worlds! And we can now pick up the boys’ friends, when necessary, without being maxed out for seats.

The major downside to all of this is the precedent that it set for Jesse 🙂 On my birthday, we ended our option period on our TX house, effectively sealing the deal. For Mother’s Day, we bought me a car. I keep joking that the pressure is now on for our 9 year anniversary! 😉

Tornado Shelter

watching the storms from afar

Well, everyone, my grad school classes are almost done, which is good because I don’t have stamina like I used to! Late night studying (it’s impossible to get work done while the boys are awake) is taking its toll on me, especially since all the material we’re covering is very interesting and makes my brain pump on all cylinders.

But let’s talk about tornadoes for a moment.

Tornados are terrifying. And awesome. And terrifying.

They used to be mostly awesome, and only slightly terrifying the last time we lived in TX. We even lived in a more tornado-prone suburb back then (and even had a couple F-0s touch down a few miles away from us one time).

But now that I have kids? The Momma Bear inside does NOT like tornados, I’ll tell you that much.

We’ve had a week or two of rough weather (technically, Dallas is right at the bottom of tornado alley) where I’ve been glued to the weather channels trying to make heads or tails of it all. I’ve been trying to get my “TX feet” back underneath me, reminding myself of the difference between tornado “watch” and “warning”, trying to remember that the weather people always act like they’re on Red Bull as they jump around in front of the screen saying scary things.

One of the things people who don’t live in a tornado-prone areas of the U.S. need to realize is that the odds of getting hit by a tornado are very rare. People don’t drop everything they’re doing every time there’s a thunder storm rolling through just because they can’t, otherwise nothing would ever get done. It’s rained here 12 of the last 14 days, and 9 of those days were thunder storms. That’s called “normal” for TX spring.

And it’s not even necessary to drop everything and run for cover, every time the weather “could” be right for tornados, because there are thousands of knowledgable people who are glued to those storms, watching for any sort of rotation in the upper hemispheres that could later produce something that would touch down. They are able to pinpoint those hot spots down to a few miles radius, and warn people ahead of time. I kid you not– it sounds something like this: “We see rotating clouds that could produce a tornado, it will cross 5th and Main St. at 7:32pm, Laurel and Main St. at 7:34pm,” etc.

And “the natives” aren’t stupid. They know which types of weather to be on the lookout for. And when the time comes, they all have a plan.

Part of our confusion this time around in TX is figuring out what our plan is now that we have a family and a house. Our house is built on a pier and beam foundation, and we don’t even have a window-less room or closet to huddle up in when the winds get strong. Heck, we don’t even have a garage to protect our car from hail! (we’re working on that one).

Most of the scary weather happens about 1.5 hours away from Dallas to the southwest.

Take, for example, this monster tornado that roared through a very rural town a few counties away from Dallas last week:

tornado southwest of Dallas


Or how about the softball/grapefruit hail this storm sent raining down?

softball hail

We didn’t get much action up here in Dallas, not even hail. It did, however, rain around 12 inches in just a few days! People don’t realize that Dallas gets the same amount of yearly rain as both Seattle AND Portland. We just get our rain in short clumps, where it’s dumped from the sky, deluge-style (but, on the reverse, we gets lots of sunshine in between!).

And yet…we just had a guy come this evening to give us a quote for putting a storm shelter in our backyard. If we were on a slab foundation, they sell really nifty “panic” rooms that are also tornado proof, and you almost don’t even know that they’re in your house, they blend in so well. But with a pier and beam, our only option is to pour a slab outdoors or go underground.

They’re kinda expensive, like buying a used car expensive. And although FEMA is now handing out money grants for folks to get them installed, Dallas is not on the list of counties eligible. But the company that came and gave us our quote does have 100% financing, and the monthly payment equals out to less than our car insurance.

And, when you think about it, a tornado shelter really is a type of insurance– you don’t want to have to use it, but you have peace of mind knowing it’s there, just steps away from your back door. Tornados are like a really crappy lottery– probably not ever going to happen, but if it does and you’re not prepared, you’re going to wish you were.

This is the model we were looking at having installed. It can fit 7-10 people, along with some supplies. It could also double as a root cellar, something I’ve always wanted! The technician today said that he’s been in these things during the hot TX sun, and it only gets to 60 degrees in there.

tornado shelter 2

tornado shelter 3



If we really wanted to go overboard, we could make it look like this! 😉

cool storm shelter landscaping


We’ll keep you all updated as we make our decision!

Late Nights at the DMA


Life has been very busy around here! I’m in my final 3 weeks of grad school (which, for a procrastinator like me, means it’s doomsday around here), Pascha came (it was wonderful! but we’re still so tired!) and most of my family came to visit for a week (1 bathroom for 8 people…).

And now, to make matters worse, we have severe weather in the forecast here in TX, beginning tonight and lasting until Friday. And then we pick up a few more storms on Sunday and Monday!

As soon as we finally put up a carport or garage to protect our car from hail (of which there is plenty in the springtime) and perhaps a storm shelter in the house, I’ll feel a lot more secure as these storms are rolling through. Until then, we have a good friend whose basement we can borrow if things are looking dicey!

But back to last week: while my family was here, we took my little sister, brother and his girlfriend to the Dallas Art Museum. Due to scheduling overload, we knew that we weren’t going to make it before the normal 5pm close time on Friday, but when I looked at the website again, I realized that the 3rd Friday of every month is called, “Late Nights at the DMA”, meaning they are open until midnight!

What I didn’t realize until we got there was that “Late Nights at the DMA” doesn’t just mean it’s open late– it also means that they have fun activities and live music all night long! And since there’s no admission fee to get into the museum, it’s all for free!

First, we saw a harpist play jazz music accompanied by a spanish guitarist (I never knew this could happen, but it was awesome!).  Next, we saw a folksy band setting up on the main stage, but instead of sticking around we starting looking at some of the art. Little by little, as the songs drifted up to us (you could hear some sort of live music no matter where you were standing in the museum), we got drawn more and more towards it, so finally I looked at my sister and said, “We can see the art another time– would you just like to go downstairs, get a front row table and listen?”


So that’s how we wound up with a front row (just 5-10 feet away) table, listening to Ginny Mac perform live. She’s absolutely incredible! Picture Amy Winehouse meets a 40s sultry bar singer. She plays the accordion while singing as well! The whole show (she had a band with her) blew us away. Not to mention, they were also selling wine and beer. How many times does one get to kick back, watch some amazing live music, whilst drinking a glass of wine?

If you’re ever in Dallas on the 3rd Friday of the month, I highly recommend the DMA!