Sunday, February 28, 2016

Quiet Book

With our pending trip to Europe, I have realized that we won't be bringing a lot of toys with us and hope to come home without a lot of extra stuff.  I also recognize that sometimes kids just need something to do that doesn't involve walking around a city and quiet time with their hands so I decided it was time for me to make a quiet book.  Hyrum's mom is very good at making quiet books so I grilled her for information, tips and tricks.  I scoured Pinterest and the internet and I think I found a pretty good group of pages and made some up on my own.  I'm not completely done and I will add a post when I finish but this is what I've been doing a bit of this month.

The picture on the left was my mistake.  I am using fabric transfer sheets for any writing I want on the pages.  I'd printed a mirror image but I'd forgotten that each of the numbers were  individual boxes so when I flipped them for their mirror image they didn't flip across the clock face.  So I sewed another circle over it and put the flaps on that will cover the minutes. (You can kind of get the idea between the two.)  I have more printing to do so I'll wait until I'm all done and then add the rest of my words since they don't hold up well to the ironing and I'm doing a lot of that in making these pages.

Not pictured here are a jack 'o lantern page, Math, Blokus, and shapes.  I'm hoping to get a number page, patterns, colors and a few others.  I also made some marble mazes.  I'm hoping these will be light weight things that can keep my big kids and little kids occupied as we travel and days when we just need a break. 

I will put up a more in-depth post once I finish it.  I'm really excited about it though.  It's looking really good.

Wedding Reception

Adam and Rachel's Wedding Reception was the weekend of President's Day and Valentine's Day in New York.  Hyrum was out of town that week so we waited until Saturday morning to head up there.  the drive was a little crazy for a bit while we drove through snow and windy conditions.  Thankfully it stopped about 30 miles south of Erie and we made it in good time.   We then went to the fire hall where they were holding the reception and set up the decorations. 

 I made the hearts in coral and navy and then lined them in the opposite color.  I wrapped navy twine around the top of mason jars and made a small A&R for the jars.  My mom cut about 100 tree branches for us and we put those inside the jars in the paper shreds.  We then hung the hearts on the branches. 

These were vellum luminaries with small hearts printed on them.  We put battery operated tea lights inside to give a little glow to them.  There were navy and coral table runners and squares on the tables.  It all ended up looking nice.  A bit simple but still gave the room a nice touch.  I'm sad I didn't get pictures but that is one habit I'm not very good at. 

It was nice to spend time with my parents and Adam.  I haven't spent much time with him since I went to college nearly 15 years ago so it was nice to get to know him as an adult a bit better.  It was nice to get to know Rachel a bit better two.  They are a good pair and we're excited for their future together. 

We celebrated Valentine's Day with conversation hearts, and I made my family chocolate covered brownies with mint and orange filling.  We also attended church together.  Rachel's parents came for the reception so after dinner of reception leftovers we sat and talked with them for several hours. 

Monday we took our time getting ready that morning and enjoyed a tasty breakfast.  We broke in my mom's doughnut pans with vanilla and chocolate doughnuts.  After doughnuts,  Hyrum and I took our family, minus Ben, to a great hill and spent about 45 minutes sledding.  We'd forgotten a pair of boots so we had one unhappy child on our hands after the boots she was wearing feel off so we didn't last long.  It was fun though and after we got back to my parents' house, Hannah and Jonathan spent at least another hour playing in the snow. 

We packed up the car and headed out around nap time.  We enjoyed the weekend and it won't soon be forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

February marks the anniversary of my birth. I can't believe I'm 32.  I certainly don't feel that old.  The kids and Hyrum were good to remember my birthday with signs all over the house and special Happy Birthday wishes all day. 

I celebrated by going grocery shopping and ordering pizza for dinner.

I'm grateful for this mortal experience.  I sure learn a lot every year and I'm so grateful for the time I get to spend with my family. 


January passed by in a blur.  The month started out with a new experience for our family.  Both Spencer and Ben developed Hand foot and Mouth Disease.  We've not had the experience before and thankfully our bout with it was pretty tame.  We only had external blisters and congestion.  My kids slept fine and didn't have any blisters in their mouths.  I was really grateful for that although it is really hard to tell a kids who feels fine that he can't go anywhere because of his spots.  Spencer wasn't too happy to be left out of a few things for a week and a half.

Hannah had a violin concert.  I was able to accompany her and that was fun.  I didn't get to go at all last year because of Ben's birth and our trip to Italy so it was nice to see her play.  The difference in skill between the 3rd and 4th graders was amazing.

This is Jonathan on Dress Like your Hero Day.  He wanted to dress like his Dad and we had to find the best shirt and tie combination.  He was pretty proud of it.  Hannah donned an apron and went as me.  They're sweet kids.  I'm glad we can be their heroes. 


My brother and his wife had a reception in New York in February and I was in-charge of the decorations.   These hearts were part of the decor and I spent a couple days cutting and sewing them.  They turned out nicely.  

We kept warm and busy.  Thankfully we only had one two hour delay that month and so far not any super cold days. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Deck Work: Prep for Destruction

No project like taking down a deck is an easy task, and while I'm not yet ready to start cutting things apart, there were a few things that needed to be done.  Next week, I'll start pulling up deck boards, but right now, I have to do a little bit of prep work, namely taking down the light and undoing the existing electrical wiring to said light.  I don't want to have a problem when I start in with the saw next week!

The victim, with wiring visible to the left.

First step: figure out which breaker controls the outside lights.  While I went through a similar exercise with the entire house when we got the main panel replace a few months ago, I didn't know where this specific light was.  I eventually found it connected to a 20-amp circuit for the downstairs bathroom, presumably so it's GFCI-protected.  Not entirely the approach I'd take, but it's just another one of those "you've got to be kidding me" moments which happens whenever I open up a wall in our house.

After turning off power, I opened the face plate and pulled out the old switch.  Fortunately, there wasn't anything too surprising, and I was able to disconnect the switch from it's power source and cap both the wires leading to the outdoor light.

The light outside was a little harder to deal with, as the screws which fastened its junction box to the deck had long since been painted over.  After a couple of attempts with the impact driver, I decided it was worth it to just come back later with the reciprocating saw.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Deck Project 2016

As part of our ongoing series of backyard projects, we're having another retaining wall replaced this spring.  The problem with this wall is that it sits right under the deck footings (in fact, one of the posts was cut around the wall!)

Post built around one of the retaining walls to be removed.
Note the notch in the post, as well as the
lack of mechanical fastener to the footing.

The deck itself needs some work: one of the posts is seriously bowed; the stairs have a sideways slant; the attachment to the house is a little suspect; and the entire thing needs to be repainted.  The combination of all this means the deck is coming down as part of the wall building process, and after the walls are in, a new deck is going in.

The steps are 36" wide, with 2" of drop from right to left.

Being the hardworking, do-it-yourself type, I've convinced myself that I can manage the deck-building process myself, doing much of the work.  I've bought books, watched YouTube videos, talked to a number of handy people, and studied the relevant code guidelines.  I'm still uncertain about a few things, and the design of the new deck still has a couple of open questions, but I feel I know enough to know what I don't know, and get help when I need it.

In a tribute to the many resources that have helped me, I plan to document the deck building process in detail here.  (If that's not interesting to you, simply filter all the posts tagged with "deck".)  So over the next several months, expect various write ups as I finish the design, finish choosing materials, and then start in on the biggest DIY project I've ever done.  And all before we head to Europe for the fall.

One of the existing posts bows significantly,
and has no mechanical attachment to the footing it sits on.

But before we can build the new deck, though, we've got to take the old one down, fix some existing problems on the house, and then let the retaining wall crew can get in and start doing their work.

[Finally, a disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm doing, so use this content at your own risk.]

Monday, February 22, 2016

Christmas, Visitors and the Last Birthday of the Year

I was so happy to get back home after the wedding.  There was much to do to finish Christmas preparations.  Cookies to finish, presents to wrap and just fun things to do.   We enjoyed our typical Christmas festivities with just our little family which hadn't happened for a few years.

We enjoyed our holiday dinner, then the kids received their traditional holiday gift.  This year we mixed it up a bit with the gift coming prior to talking about the Birth of our Savior.  I feel like it helped preserve the sacred nature of Christmas just a bit longer than in year past.  They still went to bed anxiously awaiting the gifts Santa would bring.

Christmas PJ's

The older kids enjoying their gifts.
 Hyrum's brother, Nate and their family joined us Christmas afternoon.  We opened more gifts with them and enjoyed our appetizer smorgasbord.  The kids really enjoyed spending a few days together and we had a good time playing games with other adults.

After family home evening on Monday night we had a great time laughing while Nate and Hyrum battled it out at Twister.  It was a great visit and we're glad the cousins could come.

Margaret and I took the kids to the Science Center
Hyrum's Birthday falls a few days after Christmas and can be kind of a letdown.  I had vowed to try my hardest to make it a fun and exciting birthday for him.  We succeeded.  He spent the day working from home but we tried to remind him frequently it was his birthday.  I made him raspberry, lime, chocolate cupcakes (they were horrible) but the best part was as we were settling down to fold laundry the doorbell rang.  Surprise!!  I had invited friends over for treats and games.  He had his very first surprise party ever.  It was great.  He was so shocked.

Hyrum's cupcakes and a blue ribbon that says, "Best Dad Ever."  The ribbon was from Jonathan.
That was how we said goodbye to 2015.  Hyrum's mom called us late on New Year's Eve long after we had gone to sleep.  It was a great year and we are really looking forward to our 2016 adventures. 

December, sans Christmas

December was a busy month.  Our first big happening was the removal of Hannah's braces.   She only had this set on for four months and she was so excited to get them off.   We may have to get more later but I am crossing my fingers that she won't need a second phase. 

Hyrum and I went to a free concert at the Pittsburgh Symphony just before Thanksgiving and we loved it.  That night they were running a sale on tickets for some of their shows in December so we thought we'd take Hannah and Jonathan to a couple.   Hannah and I attended the Holiday Pops Concert.  We had a great time.  It was fun to be there and be together.

Hyrum and Jonathan attended a Star Wars concert where they played music from all of the Star Wars movies.  Jonathan has only seen the first movie but enjoyed being there with his Dad.  He's currently trying to pick out the Imperial March on the piano.

The day after that concert I flew to Washington State to see my little brother married to his Sweetheart.  They were super cute and though I hadn't met her and really didn't spend any time with her at the wedding, I'm glad they found each other.  It's always great to see a couple marry the right person, in the right place, at the right time.  I was glad to see them married but missed my family terribly the weekend right before Christmas. 

Adam and Rachel right after the wedding outside the Temple

Everyone getting ready to take their picture

Snow in Washington.  It was so cold that weekend and the first time they'd really had snow.  I wish it would have waited a week : )


Applesauce in process
 I brought back at least 3 bushels of apples from my parents and they needed to be processed so I spent the next week or so making applesauce.  Hyrum is a great helper and loves to turn the crank on the applesauce maker as well as watch the gauge on the pressure cooker.  We make unsweetened applesauce so it couldn't be easier.  We just clean, chop, cook, sauce and seal.  We made at least 40 quarts of applesauce.  It was a happy day when we finished though.

November brings Thanksgiving and we decided to stay home this year.  My parents were good enough to join us for a few days and we also celebrated Ben's birthday.  I can't believe he is 1.  I remember thinking a year ago, "I just have to survive this year and it will be alright".  We survived and life is good.  He is a great guy and we are so glad we have him.  That thought crosses my mind at least once a day right now.  He adds such joy and love to our home. 

Halloween, Happy Birthday and Dance Parties

Kids dressed up for the Ward Trunk or Treat
Halloween fell on a Saturday this year and a weekend Hyrum happened to be out of town.  The kids also had Monday and Tuesday off the next week so we decided a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's was in order.  We attended our church Halloween festivities on Friday and then loaded up the car and took off Saturday morning. 

We arrived at grandmas ready to decorate our ghost cupcakes.  I made marshmallow fondant and we stacked up some of the candy from the kids' haul the night before to make our ghosts.  I think they turned out rather cute.  It was a fun project. 

Ghost in the Graveyard Cupcakes
After a tasty dinner we had a Halloween party rather than going trick or treating.  We played games and danced to the Kid's Halloween Station on Pandora.  Even Grandma dressed for the occasion.  
Dance, dance, like nobody's watching!

The kids didn't want to leave on Tuesday

We also took the opportunity to celebrate Charlotte's birthday, again.  She turned Five this year and is so ready to go to school and hates being called a little kid.  She feels like she's crossed that threshold though she's only a bit taller than Spencer. 

Happy Birthday, Charlie Rae!
It was a fun and busy weekend but we were glad to see Grandma and Grandpa.  We missed Dad though.

Days Off and Blueberry Hill Park

I really wanted to title this post, "Saturdays, in the Park . . . " but alas, this was a Monday.  The kids have really random days off in October and November and this was one of them.  Hyrum took the morning off and we decided to go to the park and take a picnic.  The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time playing with the kids.  We even played a family game of tag. 

Ben was a  good sport through it all and just watched from the stroller.  We let him out for a few minutes but he didn't like the wood chips on the playground.  This was his trick for later though.  He loves to climb in the drawers, after he's emptied the contents on the floor, of course.