Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Saturday night we attended our neighbors' annual Halloween Party!  We have such a good time catching up with neighbors and seeing the fun costume ideas.  Maddie and Jake have a ball every year!  This year - no home-made costumes, but we did wait until last minute.  We will never learn.

Thanks for a fun evening Halloween Partiers!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trotting Along

For Maddie's birthday in July we bought a Living Social Deal for horseback riding lessons.  She was really excited and couldn't wait for her lesson.  It just had to be used by November 5th.

I completely forgot about it until I was cleaning out my emails the first week of October.  The lady was nice enough to squeeze her in for a lesson mid October.

We arrived and got a little tour of the stables while we waited for lessons.  We were intrigued by this horse:

I didn't catch him mid-slurp.  He just stood there with his tongue hanging out - almost like a dog.  The only time we saw him move was to lick his chops, then the tongue was back out.  I almost wanted to reach over and pull it - but gross.  We probably gave him a complex the way we were staring and giggling.

Anyway - Maddie's lesson got started.  After a little talk they were asked to lead the horse forward and backward.

After a short explanation on how to use the reins, Maddie was walking around on Dash.

A few circles later and the instructor was showing them how to get the horses to trot.

Maddie was very excited for that part!  She thought it was hard to remember to hold the reins down, but still use her legs to stand in the stirrups when needed.  Being the horse expert that I am, I think her reins were a little short because even holding them all the way to the end, she had to lean forward to give slack to the reins.  Still, that standing thing was hard work!

The trainer kept telling Maddie, "Stop smiling!  No smiling allowed!"  Maddie thought she was serious at first, but every time around the ring and especially when she got to break into a trot...big grins!

In all actuality, this 90 minute lesson was probably only about an hour long.  My sister asked if I called the trainer out on that, but I hadn't.  You could tell Maddie was exhausted, though she'd never admit it.  Plus, the lesson description had said they would be brushing and taking care of the horse afterward which I was great with.  However, that wasn't happening because the trainer said these two horses didn't like to be brushed by people they didn't know.  I don't know that I believe that, but I was fine leaving early if she wasn't going to do that work.

Still, one last ride around the ring: this was one happy girl!

The next morning Maddie came down for breakfast, poured her cereal and said, "My legs are So. Sore."  I guess happiness has it's price sometimes.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Mike was in Iowa the last couple of weeks working with his brother to clean out their mom's house and get it ready to sell.  Kay moved in some time around 1969; there was a lot of stuff collected over the years that they had to go through.  The kids and I headed down last Tuesday to help finish the actual cleaning.  Miraculously everything had already been sorted, dumped or donated, and a few things we took home with us.

It should be stated: neither Mike nor I are collectors of stuff.  In fact we are tossers and we are totally okay with it.  I love to have garage sales and Mike likes to scour our house for the 3-day gig throwing things into the sell pile at all hours of the day.  That being said, he did decide to save a few things that I think are kind of cool.

Item #1: This was really on my top list.  It's a clock that Kay had told me a story about that I thought was a little special:  

During the last couple years of their marriage, Mike's dad was pretty sick and really couldn't get out much.  There were a lot of medical bills and not a ton of extra money for fun things.  But, when their anniversary came around, someone (and, sadly, I have no idea who) gave them a gift of money to get something as an anniversary present.  Kay went out shopping for something special and came home with this clock and was so excited to show it to David.  It was their 24th anniversary present; their last one.

Item #2:  This old camera that belonged to Mike's grandpa, I believe.

Mike emailed me a link and said I would probably think it was dumb, but he thought this was kind of cool.  Me?  Think a vintage camera dumb?  Hardly.  Pat found the flash surround a few days before we left.  We plan to put it up on our shelves to display along with a beautiful old college photo of Kay, just barely color touched and a college photo of Mike's dad that Mike copied from his aunt's collection.  

Item #3:  This giant dictionary.

I's huge....

I think it's from the mid-60's as well.  Mike thought it was kind of neat.  I was happy for him; he's the world's worst speller.  I told him he would finally be able to spell things with more accuracy; surely spellings haven't changed that much since 1965.

Item #4: Ceramic Bunnies

One of Kay's favorite hobbies from the time she was married and into the very early years I knew her was ceramics.  There were approximately 9,763,000 figures in her home.  Mike and Pat laid every single ceramic figure out for family members to come and look through if they wanted any special remembrances.  Mike referred to that Sunday morning as "the Church Bazaar".  He pulled these aside beforehand.  I had no idea Kay had these, but I think they are pretty stinkin' cute.  We'll pull them out at Easter in homage to the roughly 4,000 bunnies Mike said she had.

Item #5: Pocket Watch

This thing took a lickin' and just stopped tickin'.  There were two pocket watches that Mike and Pat flipped a coin for.  Mike won the watch that didn't work.  I think we'll be heading to a watch maker to take a look at it.  We will also be toting along a wall clock with pendulum.  Mike thinks the date on back of it says 1911 and there are miscellaneous pieces that may or may not belong to said clock.  He was more fascinated with the history of these things than anything.

Item #6: Hand Carved Horse and Wagon

I believe his grandpa's brother carved this by hand.  The bottom says, 'Carved by...1947'.  We have to figure out how the heck a person cleans in between all the little grooves and we aren't totally sure where it's going to go that it will be in sight, yet out of tiny hands' ways, but it is definitely a cool piece of family art.

There were a few other things Mike collected: a few boxes of records no one knew existed, a couple pictures, and I'm sure a few things I have yet to discover.  But, I thought these were kind of neat.

Saturday night Mike finished cleaning the floors and Sunday we packed up with some final pictures taken in front of the 'ol homestead:

It's a house that's been witness to lots of memories.  Hopefully there's a family ready to move in and make all new ones for themselves!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Results Are In!

Last week Jake came up and asked if I thought he should run for Student Council Representative in his class.  I asked if he wanted to and he shrugged.  Last year he ran, but didn't get voted in and he was so disappointed.  I was pretty sure he was afraid of the disappointment if he lost again.  When I asked him, he said he was.  I told him we would always be proud of him for trying for something he wanted and not getting it than for not trying at all.  He perked up and said he wanted to try.

He said he would need posters, fliers, and pins.

So, we got to work...I love modern technology!  I remember the days of sitting around, cutting circles by hand and hand-writing each pin.

Thursday night he practiced his speech (no longer than one minute...his was 40 seconds) over and over and over again.  I think we all had it memorized by night's end.

There were two spots open for his class and Friday was election day.  The teacher knew who was going in the first spot, but there was a tie for the second spot, so they had to wait through the weekend for some absent kids to get back to school so they could vote and then she would announce the winners.

Jake came home yesterday with a big smile on his face!  He said he was one of the representatives!  I asked what it meant (meaning mostly time commitment, etc.) and he said, "It means I need to be more responsible."

Bonus!  I'm all for that!  Congratulations, Jake!  We are very happy for you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

That Time of Year...

The weather is cooling down...well, it's finally starting to cool down.  A couple weeks ago I headed out with my dad to get their pontoon out of the lake.  It was my job to drive it across the lake and get it onto the trailer.

This job is normally my mom's, but if I helped her, mom could babysit Tracy's girls so Tracy could attend a school event for Austin; it was a complete team effort.

While dad lowered the pontoon I sat on the side drinking coffee and taking an occasional picture.  This pontoon thing was really hard work, I tell ya!

They were one of the last people to get their boat off the dock.  Things were looking pretty skeletal.

Then my dad asked if I would help him get the canopy off the boat overhang.  Sure!  No Problem!  Except, we had to unhook these thing I didn't know about and I went to touch the first one and there were tons of spider webs.  Then the second hook had a giant spider on it and I turned into a girl and said, "Dad!  Aaagh...there's a spider on this one!!"  He said, "Of course there are spiders!"  Then I said, "Omigosh!  You SO owe me for his."

I'm sure my dad rolled his eyes at that.  He owed me?  How many times have my parents babysat our kids, or come and fixed any plumbing problems or helped with last minute sewing things?  But, I think we are close to having paid back...I mean, I touched spider webs.  (I did not, however, touch the dead spider.  Dad did have to handle that one.)

Anyway - dad gave me some last minute instructions for when I got to the other side of the lake, and then stood on the dock and looked at me like he was wondering what I was waiting for.  Then I admitted that this was really about the second time I'd ever driven the pontoon since they've owned it, and just got a quick refresher on what buttons did what.  I wouldn't be surprised if he had been wondering what he'd gotten himself into.

So, I took off at a slow pace because I had a short distance across the lake and my dad had to drive around it.  The leaves were just beginning to change and it was such a pretty view sitting on the calm, quiet water.

What more does a person need on a morning like we had...pretty sights, quiet time, and a cup 'o joe...

There were a surprising number of boaters/fishermen out on the lake.  Surprising to me, at least.

This was the other side of the lake and just as I got to that point, I saw my dad pulling into the parking lot.  Good timing!  I slowed way down to give my dad time to back up.

However, it was a long wait - there were, I think, two boats ahead of him getting in and out of the water.  I just kept puttering around and enjoying the view.

And realizing I really had to go to the bathroom.  Did anyone else see the size of that coffee mug two pictures up?

Finally after what felt like an hour, but was probably only 15 minutes later, it was my turn to try and drive up the trailer.

I'm happy to report that I did my job on the first attempt.  A couple guys waiting to get their boats in the water helped my dad make a few final adjustments and in a bit we were heading back to their house.

I told my dad we should make notes for next year so it goes a little smoother.  Note #1 would be to not drink a large coffee while driving across the lake.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Building Inspiration

I read a lot of decorating blogs.  I'm desperately hoping to learn something someday.  I came across a lot of posts that made artwork based off this Pottery Barn sign above the bed:

This sign did not float my boat.  Still, I saw people loving this sign and making their own versions all over the place.  I wondered what I was missing.

Then I saw this version at this site and actually started to like the idea and some wheels started turning (plus they gave a tutorial on how they made it!):

I knew I didn't want a list of things.  Actually, I tried making a list, but that was too time consuming and required too much thought process for that particular night.  During Thanksgiving our pastor always says a quote that I think is a good thought and decided that's what was going to go up on this sign.

A few weeks ago Mike was in Chicago and I decided to take on this project without him.  I'd done some window shopping for supplies and noticed that I could get the slats at Home Depot for $12 and the framing wood at Lowe's for about $4.  I already had the stain, and knew the paint would only cost me $2 most.

Happy shopping day!  I got to Lowe's and found some other slats - for $14.  They agreed to give them to me for the Home Depot price.  However, I was going to get 50 slats.  Ugh.  I really only needed about 13 as I'd planned for sizing.  I got to the back and discovered an open set of slats and because they only had 23 of the 50 slats, they gave me the set for $6!  Then I got to Michael's to buy a little bit of acrylic paint, and it was in the clearance section (perfect color!) for 47 cents!  If this sign didn't work out I was only going to be out about $10!!!

I got to building.  I managed to pull out the miter saw and the air nailer and loaded up the brads all by myself.  Turns out I needed 15 slats when laid out and with the 23 I'd gotten, I barely had enough.  These are NOT quality wood pieces and a quite few were not usable.

This was the result after staining:

That only took a couple days to wear off.  I "stenciled" on the letters after printing/cutting the words onto paper.  In hindsight I would have traced and painted them because some of the paint got under the paper and the letters turned out blotchy.  But, I wasn't really hoping to make this perfect and just wanted it done.  I'm terribly impatient when it comes to projects like these.  It's called "Immediate Gratification Syndrome" and I've got it in spades.

It was made for above our mantel.  I'm not totally sure this is the perfect place but for now it works.  I expected to be able to put a picture leaning in front of it, but the sign has to be set quite far out so it leans without falling; it's taking up a lot of real estate up there.  But, it's better than the blank mantel we've had for two years!

All the stick decorations are from Michael's with coupon and the hurricane was found at Goodwill for about $2.  The rocks were selected by Jake and had been sitting in a bucket because they were "the most interesting" from our rocks around the house.

All in all, this mantel setup cost us less than $20 and I love the reminder that this quote gives us every day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deliriously Happy!

I have a blog that I love to read: I Heart Organizing.  I would love to be a fly on the wall of this girl's home to see how she operates.  Everything is crazy-organized and pretty to boot.  Ahhh...stuff like that brings me such happiness.

Awhile back she wrote a post regarding organizing her freezer.  Her freezer.  Who organizes their freezer?

She does.

Well, the rest of the post was on general kitchen cupboard organization.  I got inspired because our cabinets have been less than inspiring since we moved in and I've never been able to figure out a way for them to work with how we use this kitchen.

Here's the main area I had a love/hate relationship with:

This is really our central cabinet area.  We have tall cupboards, so we were trying to keep everything we used at heights we could actually reach.  Because I really don't overstock our cupboards almost everything seemed squished into one or two shelves.  On top of that, I really have a problem with mixing different "categories" on different shelves.  The baking should really all go together.  Oils shouldn't be mixed with breakfast items, etc.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks like this.



Anyway - I emptied everything out and hauled it to the kitchen table.  There was very little to actually throw away - one of the benefits of not overstocking the cabinets in the first place.  I then sketched out a plan of which categories I'd like to go where.  The kids needed easy access to certain things and we only had so much shelf space concerning appropriate heights.

This is what I ended up with:

Breakfast/Lunch-ish side: The cereal/other breakfasty items are all on one shelf and easily reachable by all.  The bread is grouped together and the tea (for Jake and I) are all grouped easily within reach (they weren't within reach for either of us previously).  Crackers/snacks are located up high.  This isn't horrible.  If I have to stretch or get a chair to reach them, I'll probably not even try; my waist might thank me.

Dinner/Baking side:

This makes me so incredibly happy.  Baking items were overtaking everything.  Now they are grouped into baskets and other containers and things are LABELED!  Mike and Jake will no longer make something with powdered sugar when they are supposed to make it with flour.  All the oils/spices are together and the pastas that get used occasionally are put up higher where we don't need them as often.  We have a separate drawer where most ingredients we need for the week are placed so no one has to search when they're in charge of finishing out a meal quickly.  So, most pasta is extra that's located up high.

Now the part I'm truly loving...who organizes their refrigerator???



Every time we opened the door we had things falling on top of us.  We didn't know what we had and I was too lazy to search through all that to find out, so I'd just buy more.


I totally copied all the ideas from that blog!  I was only too happy to get to the Container Store and discover the same bins used in my inspiration!  The bottom bins are $1.29 plastic shoe boxes and they work perfectly!  The beer glasses (yes, we store these in the freezer) are placed in a container with a rubber bottom so they don't slip around every time we open the door.  Thank you, Target!!!

I did throw some things away, but not as much as I expected.  Corralling everything just magically made things fit better.

When I finished this, I took pictures and emailed them to Mike and my sister.  When Mike came up for lunch I made sure he opened up the freezer and he oohed and ahhed to make me happy.

When I had my parents over....I had my dad open the freezer.  He oohed and ahhed for me too.  Then my brother-in-law, Rob, arrived and my dad made him open the freezer.  He smiled and nodded and probably wondered (again) what kind of family he married into.  But, he played along nicely.  Thanks, Rob!

It's been over a month since these transformations and things still pretty much look like this; slightly less food right now though.  In cleaning things out I discovered we had three roasts.  Who doesn't know they have three roasts?  Mike grilled one the other night so only two more to go!

I think my next organizing goals are going to be under all the sinks in this house.  I'll be one happy girl when I figure out a system for that!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

They've Finally Arrived!

Last week I went out the front door to get our mail and noticed something new: our middle trellis finally grew the little white flowers I've been waiting all summer for!

I'm going to reiterate: tiny.  I expected flowers on the smaller side, but these are much smaller than I envisioned.  I thought the petals would be slightly fuller.  However, there are a ton of them popping up each day so maybe they'll be small but overwhelming in number!

In thinking back to my purchase of these, the gardener said that these flower types (Clematis) had to be kept in cool soil.  I replaced the rocky area these were planted in with mulch as they directed me to (rock retains heat and is too hot for these flowers).  I can only think that with the cooler weather we've had the last couple weeks, they are finally feeling in their element.  The other two vines are actually doing quite nicely too.  No quantity like this, but definitely more flowers than I've had all summer.

Next summer I'm going to need to be very regimented on the watering thing.  In my world I just water when I remember - which is rarely.  I'm really going to have to get in the habit of watering them every morning to help keep them cooler through the hot days.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Boys and Their Toys

When you walk into our family room there is a high probability that you will see either Legos or Matchbox cars strewn all across the couches.

Things had gotten too far when I walked into the kitchen and they were invading there as well.

All across the counter there were cars.  Jake was walking up carrying even more, complete with sound effects.

I asked what was going on and he proceeded to go into great detail about which car was being chased and which cars were chasing; who was bad and who was good.

This one was on the lamb and found a good hiding spot behind the blender.

I love that Jake still very much enjoys playing with these two types of toys.  I'll give Legos any day of the week as a gift before I'll give something with flashing lights or loud noises.  I love to watch him play and hear about his creations and the minute detail he puts into building these things.  I love to hear the stories associated with all the car chases.  Rarely do I fully comprehend them, but I'm fascinated by them all the same.

That being said, I don't mind the occasional car chase downstairs, but the kitchen counter tops are going to be where I draw the line.

When I came down for breakfast the next morning I noticed a stray.  He was hiding behind the coffee maker.  Apparently Jake didn't imagine a Caribou for this car to stop at to reinvigorate itself for a new day of running from the law.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Bet They Never Imagined!

When Mike's mom died, he inherited a stereo that had always been in their living room and something he'd been really curious to play around with and see if he could get it to work.  I mean, I think it always worked, he just wanted it to work with modern technology.

Mike's brother came across the receipt when we were all looking through old papers.  I believe Kay had purchased this herself back in 1968, possibly 1969.  She also purchased her own house around that same time.  From stories, Mike's dad's family wasn't sure he was ever going to get married.  Maybe Kay wondered too; she wasn't going to wait around for him to decide.  They got married and moved into the house Kay had purchased.

Anyway - the stereo has been sitting in our garage for a month now airing out.  I don't think the inside had been opened more than a handful of times in the 15 years I've been married to Mike.  There were old records (mostly Christmas) from Dean Martin, Perry Como, Tony Bennett and others.  I love this era; I'm going to enjoy those!

Mike was extremely excited ( excited as he's capable of getting) when he found out there was an input (or output?) jack on the back.  He was hopeful this meant he could hook this stereo up to our media center and he'd be able to play his own music through it.

The little black thing on top is his phone.  He told me I HAD to come out and see what he'd done.  I walked into the garage and heard Sting singing in the background.  Mike's phone was playing Pandora radio (Internet radio) through the stereo via those jacks in the back.

Does anyone know how awesome this is!?!? neither, but it seems to be a good sign that it will also hook up to our media center so Mike is a happy man.

I bet the designers of this stereo never thought they would see the day a phone would run their stereo.  I bet they also never thought they would hear a grown man named "Sting" singing through it.