Car Shopping


Well, we bought a car. I have done only two other car searches in my life. All of them have been for used cars. One was with my Dad when I was eighteen and the second was seven years ago. I can say with confidence, I HATE car shopping! Oh boy, did we see some clunkers!

Here is a few things I learned while searching for a used car:

1. Pay for the subscription to run checks on the vin numbers. This allowed use to see the history of the car, verify the mileage, check for any out-standing leans, and even see when the mileage was put on the car. The amount of information we got from doing this was well worth it and gave us signs of how the car was cared for.

2. Research the value of the car. We checked out the cars on and to see if the asking price was fair for that car. We were also able to read reviews about the cars and see the gas mileage and various statistics for each kind of car.

3. Search Craigslist, newspapers, community sites, and talk to everyone. We had tried out dealers, but a really cheap car won’t make them much money. The dealer who do make money on cheap cars either make their money by selling cars they buy from auction untouched which can be in pretty bad shape or they make money on the loans. Some of the people who advertise on Craigslists maybe a business but not have a car lot. You can get the best deal on a good car when you are working with individuals or small business people.

4. Check everything you possible can on the car. This seems obvious, but once I was looking at the cars I felt weird doing this. Everyone, I think looks at the engine, I hope. Rust on the body of the car is also a bad sign, but so is a brake pedal that is worn down and holes in the seats. It is also interesting to see what people leave in the trunk of the car. It isn’t a good sign when tools for fixing the car are left in the car. It makes you wonder what they fixed and how recently.

5. Drive the car. We found out a ton just by driving the car. Testing the brakes, backing up, sharp turns, running the air-conditioner, testing the lights, the windshield wipers, and playing with every button one can find gives you a full picture of the condition of the car.

6. Just pick. At some point, we just needed to pick a car. The older and cheaper the car, the more problems you will have to accept. We made some priorities and then just decided that whatever problems came up after that we will just have to accept. One person told me that when you are buying a used car, you are buying problems. That’s true, but if you budget for that and make the best choice you can then all will hopefully turn out well.

Pumpkin Pie


Recently I experimented with making pumpkin pie. I usually use canned pumpkin when I make a pie and love it. A week or so ago, my son wanted a small pumpkin to play with. I thought that once he was done this would be a good time to experiment since there was no holiday or special event I would be cooking for. The pies turned out great!

I had made some changes to the recipe I had found and so here is what I did. A quick warning: it turned out a little sweeter than the pies I was used to.


1 small pumpkin

1 tbsp butter

2 ready-made graham cracker pie crusts

1 can (14 oz) sweeten condensed milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

pinch of salt

Preparing the pumpkin puree:

Cut the pumpkin up into large pieces. Scoop out the seeds and stringy insides. Rinse and save the seeds for roasting later.

Line a pan with tin foil and layout your pumpkin pieces inside up. Put bits of butter on the pumpkin and place in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 mins.

Once finished, let it cool. Then scoop out the insides and throw away the skin.

I like to just mash it up and save it in the fridge to cook another day. Also, allowing the pumpkin to cool well will make sure you don’t create scrambled eggs in your pies. You will only need 2 cups of the puree for the pies.

Making the pies:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place your two pie crusts on a cookie sheet and fold the aluminum edge over to create a small hold over the edge to the crusts. The crusts I bought said they were “no-bake” so you want to keep them from burning too much, but I found that using them for this pie created my absolute favorite pumpkin pie crust!

In a large bowl (using a mixer if you have one would be helpful here) mix 2 cups of pumpkin puree and all the rest of the ingredients. Mix thoroughly until smooth in color. The texture may be slightly lumpy because of the fresh pumpkin, but it would be best if it is as smooth as possible.

Evenly divide the mixture between the two pies. Place the pies in the oven for 30 min or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the pies cool and enjoy.

You can freeze these pies until you want them. Once frozen, just let them thaw out at room temperature when you want to serve them. Place any leftovers in the fridge.

Roasting the pumpkin seeds:

I can’t stand waste! So let us roast those seeds too.

Melt a tablespoon of butter and toss our rinsed pumpkin seeds in the butter until coated. Pour the seeds onto a tin-foil lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and a little chili power. Put the seeds in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours stirring the seeds ever 30 mins. Let cool and store in a tupperware at room temperature.


Writing Contest!

I thought I would share this with all my writer friends out there. BookLookBlogger is having a book-writing contest for Christian writers from September 15, 2014 – November 30, 2014. Check it out!

What do you need today?

House (4)Today I helped some people move furniture and was asked if I needed anything they were getting rid of. I visited some people at their home and was again offered some furniture. In fact for the past year I have been generously offered a lot of furniture. This was not an unreasonable thing, since our furniture is pretty sparse. Even though at many points these offers were really tempting, I found myself saying no. Why? Because I didn’t need it today. Continue reading

What Color is Your Parachute?

ParachuteWhat Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles is a classic for job hunters for the past zillion years, so I won’t bore you with how great it is and how you need to go out and buy it. The fact is millions of people already have gone out and bought it. What I am going to talk about is what I have learned from it as a freelance Art Director/Graphic Designer. Continue reading

The Retail

RetailI typically don’t do a lot of fiction book reviews. Most of the books I read tend to be biography, improve-yourself-somehow non-fiction, or something-randomly-historical non-fiction. Most of my books also tend to be focused on living the good life somehow. The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake is a very funny fictional story that is probably the antithesis of all that. Since the main character’s choices are such a sharp contrast to what I aspire to create with my life and my blog, it somehow seems appropriate just to remind me why I am doing what I am doing. It is sort of like saying, “See that left road up there? Yeah, well don’t take it.” Continue reading

A New Look for Lara’s Wanderings


Lara’s Wanderings now has a new look! Why is that? Well, I have decided to update my professional presence in the word which started from needing new business cards. The whole thing exploded into trying to make every part of my online and world presence match in a way that only a completely obsessive graphic designer would possible ever fret over. There are lots of changes on the horizon beyond just our move to Texas. Keep an eye out for my weekly blog posts and check out my portfolio at

Houston, Texas

houston-businessWe are moving back to Texas! It isn’t the same part of Texas that we lived in before, but that is good. Part of the reason for our European adventure was to create a different life, but it will be good to be near the family and friends who live there.  I have done reviews of various places I have been, so here is a review of Houston, Texas. Continue reading

Car-less in the USA – part 3

carIn my first post on this subject (Car-less – Part 1) I covered my family’s dilemma on deciding whether or not to buy a car. My second post (Car-less – Part 2) talked about how it is possible to live without a car in many places in the USA, but this post is now intended to explore the other side: why a car is very often necessary, not only in the USA but also in most countries of the world. Continue reading

Chop the Sleeves!


When I moved back from Scotland, I quickly discovered that most of my clothes just wouldn’t work for Florida summers, but I kept the hope that I might use some of my favorite long-sleeved shirts during the winter. Well, I had forgotten how much most people used heaters in the winter in Florida. The best outfits ended up being my summer shirts with my leather coat so I could adjust for the changes in temperature. I ended up not wearing most of my long-sleeved shirts. As you know, I can’t stand to just keep something that I won’t be using regularly. These were also some of my favorite shirts. The only choice: chop off the sleeves!

Continue reading


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