Front Porch Painting

Tony and I typically divide and conquer on house projects, and painting the front porch (which was badly needed for years!) was no different. Last summer (2018) my mom and I took the children to Green Bay, and Tony stayed home to work on school work. He also did his part of the porch project. So, while I was doing this:

Tony was doing this:

He scraped, primed, and sprayed all the pillars. He rebuilt and repainted the railings and spindles. When we got home, I helped him roll the floor (along with Teeny Baby Gem Gem!) and reinstall the railings.

And that’s where the project stopped for the next 12 months. It was my job to complete the accent paint, and I just could not get motivated. I couldn’t even decide on the colors! Then I was at the store in late July looking at paint samples for a school project, and I grabbed some for the house too.

I am so happy with the results!

If you look in real life, you can easily see all the wear and tear on these geriatric pillars. One was in particularly rough shape though – entire chunks were missing, right next to the front steps. We kicked around a number of ideas to fix the pillar, but the winning strategy was to trim down a large round block to fit the holes. Tony attached it with liquid nails, and I caulked as best I could.

Once the paint was on, you could hardly tell anymore!

Here’s another before, when it was all white, and after, with the accent colors.

Now we just have to become brave enough to carry these colors up to the decorative clapboard at the top of the house!

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Weekend in Toronto

Tony was presenting at an Educational Research conference last weekend, and I decided to tag along. He actually presented at the same conference last year, but Gem was only 10 days old at the time, so he didn’t stay for much of it. This year’s conference was in Toronto, so we left the kiddos with Mimzy and hopped on a plane!

It’s been a long time since we’ve traveled without children and their massive amounts of luggage – this was a breeze! Someone even commented that we seemed like TSA pros. Clearly they didn’t see us on our way to Oregon last summer…

On our first afternoon we went down toward the water to check out the sites, like the CN Tower and the old train roundhouse. There was an itty-bitty restaurant called Indian House Roti – it was incredible! I had the butter chicken roti and Tony had lamb curry. Basically, a roti is like a burrito shell with delicious filling. One of our old coworkers from Guyana used to make them for us. These were more Indian flair than Caribbean, but they were fantastic! Later that night we tracked down an ice cream place called Sweet Jesus! They serve gigantic soft serve cones loaded up with toppings. Ours had cookie dough pushed into it and was then coated with three different kinds of cookie crumbs!

Turns out there’s not that much to see in Toronto… so we decided to continue eating our way through the city. Sunday started off right with a massive, and delicious, breakfast at Cora’s. I had eggs and toast, bacon, blueberry pancakes, potatoes, and fresh fruit! Tony attended some conference sessions, then we went exploring with our Metro pass. On weekends you can get a family pass for up to 2 adults and 4 kids for just $13CD. We crisscrossed the city on subways and trams. In Kensington Market we ate empanadas and gelato. Then we went to the Distillery District – they don’t distill there anymore, unfortunately. In Chinatown we had noodles. Then we finished the night with nitrogen ice cream – it literally smoked!

Toronto is a nice city. It’s easy to get around the downtown area. Trams and subways cover most of the downtown area, and its very easy to walk all over. The city’s population has exploded over the last 50 years, so the skyline is quite modern, and we were amazed by both the stunning amount of glass and the sheer number of tower cranes on top of buildings still under construction. Clearly there’s still a lot to build! There are awesome old buildings interspersed among the modern high rises and lots of cool architecture.

We didn’t find Toronto to be nearly as clean as we’d heard it would be, and the ubiquitous pot smell was unappealing. It did make for a “fun” game of taking a big breath before leaving our apartment and trying to hold it until we made it through the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door!

While I don’t expect we’ll visit Toronto again anytime soon, it was great to get away for a few days and to see a place that was new to us!

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First Birthday Party

Our little Gem stone is almost one year old! This morning she got all dolled up for a birthday brunch with all her friends.

I tried my hand at a semi-naked four layer cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.

After quiche, potatoes, cinnamon rolls, and yogurt parfaits, it was cake time!

I think she liked it!

Happy birthday Sweet Lady! And thanks to all who helped us celebrate!

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White Christmas

Happy New Year! 

Ushering in 2019 means saying adieu to the holiday season of 2018. Today’s the end – my Christmas tree has come down!

I LOVE sitting in the dark living room and just looking at our tree. It’s become one of my favorite things about the holiday season. After the presents are wrapped and the cookies baked and dinner is put away, I like to sip a beverage, play a little Rat Pack Christmas on Pandora, and just sit for a few minutes. It’s a little bit of peace amid all the hustle and bustle.

This year I was making a little adjustment to Sinatra’s lyrics though: “I’m dreaming of a white (sand) Christmas…” Yes, the Snethens returned to Florida for Christmas this year, and that may just be the other best part of the Christmas season! 

Each day melted into a comfortable rhythm: big breakfast, morning at the beach, late lunch, and LONG naps (sometimes for all 4 of us!), before dinner and bed. Perfection! 

We spent the week in the most adorable little cottage, just across the street from a public beach access point. I mean, this gal and I are totally on the same page decor wise. She took this ramshackle old fishing shack and transformed it into bliss!

Edmond’s little room was teeny – just big enough for the antique twin bed, but it was perfect for him. The owner even lent us a Pack’n’Play for Gem so we didn’t have to bring ours. 

This year we went a little further north than we have in the past. Treasure Island is situated between St. Pete and Clearwater near Tampa. The first couple days we were questioning our choice. It was wam – mid 60s and 70s, but the winds were up to 18 miles per hour. It made for some chilly days on beach. On the windiest day we skipped the beach altogether and went for a sailing venture with our neighbor, who happened to be a charter boat captain! 

Captain Glen was the best! He let Edmond take the helm for awhile, which he LOVED! And he even drove us to and from the boat dock! Talk about service! (One of the major advantages to staying in Treasure Island over other spots was its walkability. We saved $500+ by not renting a car for the week. We could have taken the beach taxi to the charter boat dock, which was a 15 minute drive away, but it was much easier to load up in Captain Glen’s truck!) We found a family of dolphins while on our voyage, and it was great fun watching them splash and play near the boat. Since it was windy, we actually got to sail, and that made Tony very happy too!

Gemma wasn’t too keen on the sand and water on our first couple trips to the beach, so she spent a lot of time on the blanket and under the tent.

Eventually, though, she discovered how great sand tastes and feels between her toes! I did have to fish a seashell out of her mouth at one point…

And she went for her first paddle board ride!

EO’s favorite activity this year was burying his feet in the sand and jumping out.

He also learned how to jump in the waves and even went under the water!

But most of the time he looked just like this – covered head to toe in sand!

The majority of our meals were made in our little cottage – it’s just easier with the two littles, but we did venture out a couple times. The Middle Grounds Grill was about 10 blocks away along the paved beach “boardwalk,” and had fantastic food! We stopped along the way to watch the sunset and play at the park.

Caddy’s by the Beach, on the south side of the island, was a short bus ride away. It’s a great beach bar that serves food all day and has beach chairs and umbrellas right in front of the restaurant.

While the kids napped in the afternoons, Tony and I did all kinds of things. One day he took the wagon down 12 blocks for groceries to load up our refrigerator and pantry. We both read books – for fun! That doesn’t happen much these days. I got a fantastic massage at the Paradise Spa – it was such fun to ride a bicycle down Gulf Blvd to my appointment! And I found a delicious sangria at the supermarket to sip on while sitting in the garden outside our cottage.

We finished most evenings with a sunset viewing (if the kids woke up in time) and a trip to the Shake Shop – a fantastic soft serve ice cream place just a block away. If you’re ever in Treasure Island, I recommend the Strawberry Shortcake or the Vienetta (twist soft serve with waffle cone pieces, hard shell chocolate, and whipped cream.)

I must admit, returning to the frigid cold has not been pleasant, but it all worth it to have had such a great Christmas with our little family of 4!

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Christmas pillows!

Remember a few years ago when I made His and Hers pillows for the library? Well, now the kiddos will have their own too! These are the Christmas presents I was working on last weekend.

I had forgotten just how easy these pillows are to make! After sewing the envelope covers, I used my machine to design and cut stencils of the kids’ names.

Then I used a Sharpie to color inside the lines!

A Sharpie!

It took longer than I remembered to color in, but I think that had something to do with the age of my marker!

Both covers went into the dryer for 20 minutes to set the ink, then I added the pillow forms.

Charlie Puppy has his own pillow too, but I couldn’t find it for these photos. I just might need to make him a new one!

I’m so excited for EO to open his pillow at Christmas. I think he’ll love it!

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Family Photos

Kids are napping, Christmas music is playing in the background, and I’m taking a break from making Christmas presents (more on that later!) to share our latest family photos. My Facebook feed has been packed with others who took advantage of the beautiful Fall color, and now we get to join the crowd. Our pics were snapped at the end of October, but it was worth the wait! Get ready for photo overload…

After we got the flash drive with all the images, I narrowed it down to my top 50 or so faves. Don’t worry, I didn’t include all 50 here!

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Thanks and Stockings

Look who’s 8 months old tomorrow!

We never travel for Thanksgiving, but the kids won’t see their grandparents this year at Christmas. So, last week we loaded up and made the drive to Tony’s hometown in South Dakota.

You can see we had a full vehicle (Thanks, again, Wagner Fam for the use of the van!) with both kiddos and Uncle Ben. Charlie was back there too!

The 500 mile drive went really well! EO’s backpack was loaded with books, play doh, and crayons, and the snack bag had plenty of cheese and clementines to occupy a little boy. We only had to stop twice, so we made the trip in about 9 hours.

Yes, he’s wearing his socks on his hands. I had him all tucked in with a quilt, but when I woke from my own power nap, this is what I saw!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving visit with the grandparents, and I even had time for a project!

I bought these stockings with all my Christmas ornaments 13 years ago, and I love them! They’re not a family heirloom or anything, but I still love pulling them out each year. Anyway, now that our family is complete, it was time to personalize the stockings. I mean, Santa has to know whose is whose, right?!

Using a tip I found on Pinterest, I traced over the script directly from my computer screen onto tissue paper (made more challenging with a touchscreen!), pinned the paper to the stockings, and sewed right along the lines.

I don’t have extensive experience with hand embroidery. My mom used to buy me craft kits when I was a kid, and I know just one style of stitch. It was enough to complete this simple project, though. The paper did rip quite a bit as I stitched, but what was left at the end pulled off easily.

Now the stockings are all hung and ready for Santa to fill them later this month!

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Reflections… and Halloween!

Time. Oh goodness, people! Someday I will have time again! Someday I won’t need to spend hours each night on the couch feeding the baby. There won’t be so many loads of diapers to wash and prep. There will be fewer loads of spit-up induced laundry to do, period. I hope! And when that day comes, I know I will desperately miss these days, no matter how exhausted I am right now!

So, there haven’t been many projects happening around our house lately, but there has been lots of snuggles and hang-out time!

EO is now sleeping in his big boy bed full time, and he’s loving it! He cracks us up daily with all the things he says. Today he told me, “You not sad, Mommy [because I won’t hug you], you is perfect.” Gem is crawling, for goodness sakes! She’s enthralled with the world around her, and most especially, with her big bro.

Recently I did carve out time to work on the kids’ Halloween costumes. EO loves Curious George, so he’s going to be The Man in the Yellow Hat and Gem will be George. Here they both are before a party we attended a couple weeks ago. It’s no easy feat to snap a photo of these two, and I think this is the best one I got!

I found a white shirt and pants at the thrift store and used a double dose of Rit Dye to get The Man’s lemony-yellow digs. The hat was a little trickier, though. First, I fashioned an XL compass with the side of a cereal box, a screwdriver, and a Sharpie. Using the circle I drew, I cut out two circular pieces of yellow felt to make the hat’s brim. I sewed those together on the outside edge and flipped the seam inside out in an attempt to strengthen the brim flat. It didn’t work, so Tony cut me a big circle of cardboard to stuff inside.

And for those of you who think I never make mistakes, I learned the hard way that you can’t iron felt! So I got to repeat that first step… and clean my iron! Oops!

For the body of the hat I sewed a cylinder of felt and pinched it inward at the top to create the taper. It’s far from perfect, but EO was psyched when we showed it to him!

Scraps of felt for the tie and a pair of Tony’s old socks repurposed as boots complete the ensemble.

Sweet Gem’s costume was a deal on eBay. It’s basically a sleeper with ears and a tail! Way better than what I could have done myself, and warm so she’ll be ready for a cold Kansas Halloween.

This year will be EO’s first time trick-or-treating. I can’t wait to see his face when he finds out the neighbors are going to give him candy!

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Oregon with the Fam

Tony and I love to travel. And we’re good at it, too! You may remember that a few years ago we traveled through Europe for a month with just one carryon bag each.

Then we had children, and this happened:

I had the two children, EO’s backpack, and the diaper bag. Tony had our two suitcases, the two car seats, the double stroller, our Pack’n’Play for EO to sleep in, and the Stand Up Paddle board! Traveling light is not something we can do these days. Nonetheless, we had an excellent time on our recent trip to Oregon!

The first part of our vacay was spent in the Columbia River Gorge area. Just over an hour east of Portland and nestled between Mount Adams in Washington state and Mount Hood in Oregon, the Hood River Valley is beautiful and lush. Here’s a view of the mountain as we drove to our first hiking spot:

This road is part of what’s known as The Fruit Loop as there are fruit farms all along the road. During nap time one day I actually went and picked fresh cherries at Draper Girl’s Fresh Fruit Farm!

I estimate it took me about 45 minutes to pick approximately 9lb. of cherries, and the only reason it took that long was I had to climb both trees! Totally worth it – they were delicious!

The highlight of our time in Hood River was definitely the hiking. Edmond loved seeing all the waterfalls. This one was right off the scenic Historic Highway and a short walk up a steep hill – Latourel Falls.

We spent one whole morning hiking to the Tamanawas Falls, a waterfall at the end of a gorgeous 2 mile trail. As we set out in the morning we thought, “Hmm, it may not be the smartest decision to take our 2 year old on a 4 mile hike…” but EO was a trouper. He walked the whole thing by himself!

The falls at the end of the hike were gorgeous, and the mist was refreshing as the day started to warm up.

On a different day we stopped at the Gorge White House, an old farmhouse along the Fruit Loop with a food truck.

The food was fantastic, and we really enjoyed sipping our hard cider flight with this as our view.

While I’m not sure we’d stay in Hood River again in the future, there were a lot of great things about the town. On Friday night they closed a couple blocks of Main Street for a big block party. The ice cream shop was delicious! And they had an incredible Riverfront Park for kids.

On our way to meet up with the rest of the fam, we stopped to see my brother! We hadn’t seen him for years, and EO was psyched to meet Uncle David!

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Diaper Drying Rack

We’ve been cloth diapering for just over two years now and have gone through no less than 3 of those darn metal drying racks! Finally I started searching for other options and came across some old crib rails on the Marketplace. They have been fantastic for air drying diapers, especially now that we’re washing every other day with two kids in cloth!

Well, EO’s recent rocker project inspired me to pull out a couple more cans of paint.

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE a good spray paint project?

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