Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Peace, love, and joy!

We are enjoying the holiday this year together. It's the first time ever that I have not spent the holidays with my parents, and I do miss them terribly! But we are having a wonderful time with just our little family :)

Last night Santa came to visit...

The boys went to the mall to see him (no pictures) and Wesley asked for a "James" (a train from Thomas and Friends that was recalled over a year ago, so we had to take it away from him), and a Baby for Diesel.

We made cookies last night, with the boys doing most of the work, and they were thrilled to see that Santa enjoyed his cookies and milk, and that Rudolph was happy to get a carrot as well!

Then they inspected their stockings where Santa left a couple furry finger puppets, Wall-E cups, chocolate santas, and of course an orange in the toe! I crocheted Wesley's stocking this year, and will do one for Diesel next year. I just ran out of time! Oops!

Grandmama & Grandaddy sent three wooden construction vehicles, Eve from Wall-E (goes with the Wall-E we bought a while ago, they communicate with each other and the boys are beyond thrilled!), and a "not" wood train that is made from foam (Diesel has been having a blast with this!).

Nana & Papa sent them the Wall-E Movie and a couple sets of reading software with their favorite movies. They also sent cash for us to spend on them, and we decided we would take them on a train ride to Chicago in the Spring. They are going to love that!

From Mom & Dad they got some wonderful handmade items such as wooden rolling elephant & zebra, a wooden tangram set, shirts embroiderd with robots, and a robot wallet... They also had a couple store bought items such as a Mini-Tribot, the Wonderpets Fly Boat, and Leap Pad (bought used!). They are absolutely thrilled with their loot, and keep thanking us and letting us know how much they love us.

My wonderful husband saved links I'd sent him and did some handmade shopping for me.. I got some beautiful crochet stitch markers, and a gorgeous purple patchy purse.

I was able to get my husband a polo shirt w/ some lamborghini embroidery on it, and I handstitched him a little felt penguin ornament. Each year I get him a penguin of some kind, and we have several ornaments, it's tradition!

We are so thankful to be together this holiday season, that we are happy, healthy, loved, and secure. Happy Holidays to everyone - may they be merry and bright!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Solstice

"And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everwhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling,
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise awakens in the sleeping land;
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace,
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year,
Welcome Yule! "

~Susan Cooper

The first day of winter is when we put our winter and holiday decorations. The boys were excited to get the tree up, as it means Santa will be here soon. We put up the tree and the boys had a blast decorating it. They did a surprisingly good job too! As high as they could reach, the purple and silver bobbles and crocheted snowflakes were hung evenly around the branches. They picked out little wooden ornaments that I remember decorating our tree with when I was a child, and I think those are their favorites. James and I hung the more fragile and special ornaments higher on the tree, and I'm working on some more snowflakes, since we don't have nearly enough in my opinion.

Then I cut up a couple of felted wool sweaters and the boys strung them on some twine - which we then tied off in a circle to make a wreath. They are just the perfect touch and we love the new addition to our winter decorations!

We needed a place for all the holiday cards we've recieved, so the boys and I braved the frigid cold and blasting winds to gather a few sticks. I arranged them in our vase for the table's winter centerpiece, and hung our cards from them with ribbon. A nice touch and it brings a smile to my face when I see it.

Only a couple more days until Christmas! From our family to yours - we wish you peace, love, and joy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Giving

The holidays always remind us that there are many many people in this world who are cold, hungry, and lonely. Whether it is a temporary hardship, or life circumstances, our hearts go out to others more during the holidays. A dear family we know has been having a hard year, and when I learned more details, I knew there was no way I could stand by and not try to help them. I started planning things I would make and shopping with my coupons and co-ops for things they might be able to use. Then I spoke with my parents about the cause. They spoke with my brothers, and our side of the family decided we would not exchange gifts this year, but would do some act of charity instead. This warmed my heart! The spirit of giving was alive, even in one of the toughest years our economy has seen in a long time. The amount of selfless giving I have seen this year has touched me deeply, and also reminded me that there are people who are hungry or in need all year long...there are people starving to death as I have a pantry full of food and the ability to run to any restaurant or grocery store for any craving I may have...there are children who would give anything for a simple cup of rice, something we throw away. I know I can't save the world from war or hunger. But it is certainly a cause that is on my mind quite often, and I've vowed to do what I can when I can. Every little bit does help.

I watched an episode on Letterman a few months back that just left me ...speechless.

"It would cost three billion dollars a year for the world to say no kid goes to school hungry."

Christmas Bonuses for Wall Street CEOs = $36 Billion

Watch the video to get all the details of what they can do:

Another worthy cause is Heifer International. This is a wonderful organization that works not only to feed the hungry - but to give them a way out of poverty. An example is that they provide sheep to a community and teach them to spin the wool - which gives these people a way to bring in an income to become self-sufficient. Really amazing organization.

My own mission was much smaller, but I know it touched hearts and eased a little bit of a burden. We were able to provide gifts to a family, some clothes, and paid a good amount on their power bill. I also sent off several of my chalkmats to other children who needed gifts for the holidays.

Whatever I can do, that is within my means, I will do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Forray Into Halloween Crafts

You'd think with as many education classes as I've had, as much experience with children that I've had, not including my own, that I would know to double check that a craft is actually going to work before doing it! Alas, I'm too impulsive for that these days.

I had a wonderful idea for making spiders with the boys to decorate the doorway for Halloween since they seem especially excited about the holiday this year. I spent just $3 on pipecleaners, pom poms, and googly eyes yesterday, and was ready to jump in to crafting these little critters today!

Yeah.... um.... 3 & 4 year olds do NOT have the patience to wait for glue to dry....especially when the glue doesn't seem to be working too well and spider legs are falling off. OOPS!

Well I had good intentions.... unfortunately I ended up with googly eyes glued to my fingers, spider legs that were falling off, and two impatient and disappointed kiddos!

Thankfully I had an idea! I took the remaining pipe cleaners and used one long one to wrap around 4 short pieces - and they turned out to be cuter than my original idea. Glue two little eys on, they are even cuter! Unfortunately, little hands aren't googly eye-friendly and they keep coming off. I might fix that with some superglue over night ;)


Monday, July 28, 2008

The Office in the Sunroom

When we moved we left behind our very well used computer desk. It had been my parents when I was in school...probably middle more than 14 years old. It was a little scratched and battered, but we found it a new home. It wasn't serving our needs any more and we thought we would be happier with a new desk. Since the computer is a huge part of what my husband and I do, it was important that one of the first things we get for our new home was a desk. I scoured Craigslist and found some that would work, some were already taken, some never replied. Finally I found a really nice corner desk for a steal...we really liked the color and shape/style of it. AND we were lucky enough to score it!

Here are some pics of the "office" side of the sunroom. We still need to get some shelves and filing cabinets for storage, but you get the idea. We will also get a flat screen monitor at some point to take up less space on the desk. Please forgive the piles, we'r'e still unpacking as we go! I like this desk so much I told my husband that I wanted one just like it for my sewing machine & serger! You can see my husband's monster of a scanner on the desk... no comment from me LOL... just a roll of the eyes on that one!



That's only half of the sunroom. I still have to set up my half, which is the sewing room. I'm slowly working on it, dragging my feet and hoping for a new desk before I really set it all up. But I do need to get to sewing, we need some curtains and I have stores to stock!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Curio in the Dining Room

When we moved we left behind an antique curio. It was really nice, but not quite what we wanted. It had originally been my parents' and we gave it back to them. Now that we're here, we realized that we probably could have used it and it would have looked nice in here, but we decided to look for a new one - off to trusty Craigslist! I probably looked through a hundred listings for curios in the area, and finally found one that was just what I wanted. Tall, darker/cherry wood, a little decoration at the top, glass shelves, etc. My husband trekked out to where it was and brought it home for hour long trip from his work finally to home. He loves me!

I love it and it really goes well in the room! I wanted something with some height in there, and I think it goes well with the trim and the whole feel of the room. We still need another table/cabinet in there...a buffet or bookshelf or something. It will go on the right hand wall, and my strawberry lamp will go on it. My aunt gave me that lamp, as well as the toile vase on the table... I really like both those pieces. So once I get the dining room decorated it will be black & white toile w/ red accents, and strawberry details. It soudns like a lot, but it does look really nice together. I need to do curtains and table linens, and get some red flowers for the vase. Also in the room is a trunk my grandfather made. He gave it to me when I graduated high school and means a lot to me. It's full of my yarns, but that doesn't matter, you can't see them! You'll find my strawberry lamp tucked away from little hands on top of the curio for now.


After (but still in progress):

I love how clean and simple it looks!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

Well this has been an interesting journey! We were given six weeks to relocate, and we took 4 days to come and check out the area to find a place to live. We're renters. We had a list of apartment complexes to check out that were in our price range and the right size in the right areas.... however when we got here we found out that every single one of them had income guidelines, and for the first time in my life I was told we made too much to live there!

So we only had two other places to look at. One was a nice 3 bedroom townhome, but it turned out to be really tiny. We kept it on our list, but we really needed more space. The other was an older 3 bedroom house in a not so great area. It needed some work, but it was charming... then I saw evidence of rats, not mice, rats...and I couldn't get past that. We were also told that it was a rough area, and with two small children we decided to keep looking. So we asked the landlord of that place if she had any others for rent and it just so happened that she had a 3 year old 4 bedroom, 2200sq ft, full basement, 2 car garage house for rent! Wow, dh and I were awestruck. We could do it, we could make the payments, sure let's check it out. It was beautiful, such a nice clean space with tons of room we could never fill up. But we talked and talked and talked since it was outside our range by a little bit, and ultimately decided that it was in our best interest to pass on this house and keep looking. We didn't want to have to stress about making rent each month, and while we could have made the payment, it would have been tight. Also, I've never been a huge fan of subdivisions or cookie-cutter houses, but I was temporarily blinded by how clean and spacious it was. We had been crammed in about 800sq ft for 3 years, so I'm sure you can see why it appealed to me at the moment!

We also scoped out some more apartment complexes...the ones that were big enough were out of our budget, same price as the house. So we were feeling pretty down as we headed back home ready to settle for something that was just OK.

Then once we were home we realized we still could find something else. So we checked out Craigslist again and there it was! We had first come across this place when we first learned we were moving, just to see what was available in the area. We loved the pictures we saw of it, but it was too early to really apply for it, so we let it go. But there is was again! The right price, the right space, good area...beautiful! So we went for it, and we got it :) It's a beautiful historic duplex on what once was a major military base. All wood floors, dark wooden trim on windows and doors, full basement, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, with a sunroom that is huge! There is a park just a block away that has a water play area for the kids. nice sized yard... it's just perfect! It was built in the 1930's to be quarters for the officers.

The living room, w/ a gas fireplace. Through the french doors is where our sunroom is and it's huge! All the windows are so big here and let in tons of natural light so we don't need to turn on any lights during the day. Once the weather cools down (and we've gotten rid of all the mud dauber and paper wasps nests in the windows) we'll be able to open the windows and have beautiful cross breezes. The sunroom (3rd pic down) is where our computer office and sewing room will be.

Dining Room:

Kitchen. Our landlord replaced the stove with a brand new gas stove, and there is a new (I'm assuming!) microwave over the stove. Most importantly - A DISHWASHER! We are thrilled after three years of washing dishes by hand and always being behind on them. There is a good amount of storage space, but we could use a bit more. We'll be seeing what we can find in order to store a couple more things that need a home. We've scaled down a lot, but I guess it wasn't enough. The back door opens onto a nice little porch and the back lane where we can also park. The door next to the fridge opens to the stairs to the basement and has a little built in pantry area to the right.

View from the living room towards the front. We have a front entryway, that I guess would be a mudroom. There were two doors that at one time opened but have been sealed shut...however there is an entry door there as well as a nice sized closet. I really like that little room! Also you can see the stairs up to the 2nd floor.

This is one of the is tiny! The other two are a really nice size, but this is maybe 6'x8'. We decided to make this one the playroom for all the boys toys. We put an area rug down, but it's really not working, so we're looking into other options. We found a recycled rubber flooring that would be perfect. We're looking for something to protect the wood floors from the boys rough play, and something that is a smooth surface for all their cars, trucks, trains, etc.

The master bedroom. It's HUGE! We fit our king size bed w/ two nightstands, a huge 6ft long dresser in there and it still looks almost empty. Our son asked to move his bed to our room, it's a new place and he's a little timid about sleeping in his new room, and even with a toddler bed in there we still have plenty of room to walk around and it doesn't feel crowded at all. Plus, with us all in one room, we only have to run one window a/c unit at night.

The boys' bedroom, also a nice size. Nothing really in it yet, but we'll be furnishing it eventually.

The upstairs bathroom. The decor leaves a lot to be desired, but overall it is a nice space. There is a built in cabinet from floor to ceiling with TONS of room for storage...we don't even have it 1/2 full. It is so nice to have all that space though. I guess one complaint would be that there are separate faucets for hot and cold in the you can't really make "warm" unless you fill up the sink. In addition to the cabinet there is a nice sized medicine cabinet too. The tub is small, and showering is difficult since it's a handheld shower head... it's not mounted on the wall so it's kind of awkward, but not awful. There is a second bathroom in the basement - toilet, sink, and a shower. It's nothing special and I haven't taken pics of it yet. My husband prefers to shower down there, which is fine. I'm ok with either one.

The outside - you can see our yard better, it's a pretty nice size. There is a walkway all the way around, a nice sized porch on the back, as well as a little terrace in the corner behind the sunroom... we also have one of those neat storm door entrances to our basement. You go down the stairs and there's a little area there for storage, then a locking door that leads to the actual basement. Pretty cool!

I'm sure you've noticed all the radiators in the house, and yes they are functional. We have steam heat from natural gas for those. I'm not sure we'll be using them a whole lot... the gas fireplace in the main room will be enough most of the time. We like the cold and it doesn't usually get much colder here than it did in TN. We rarely had to run the heat there, so we might be ok here. We have three window a/c units...quite a change from our central a/c in TN. But there is one large unit in the living room, and as long as it doesn't get above 95, it's nice! We run a couple fans too in order to circulate the air. We've had a couple days of extreme heat - 99, 102, etc - and the living room unit was hard pressed to keep it cool in here. There is a smaller a/c unit in the master bedroom and the boys bedroom and they keep it ice cold in there. We turn off the downstairs unit, and only run the master one at night. Hopefully this will prove to be efficient and keep our electric bill down.

I'll be switching from focusing my blog on my garden, to putting together my new house. We hope to keep it nice and simple and clean!