Jul 31, 2014

A Desk For London

Back in Mid-March my mom came out for a visit. We both were attending a bridal shower for a family friend on that Saturday. The weekend ended up being a gorgeous one, so for some fun around the house that Sunday, I set my mom and London up with paint and brushes to take on the painting of London's new-to-her desk. 

Just like her dresser, this was a free hand-me down from London's Grammi. Knowing the weekend was shaping up to be a beauty, Cameron had prepped the desk by sanding it down. And after London and my mom finished planting sunflower seeds near the shed, they set to work getting the first coat on. 

London loved being involved and had a blast having her grandma help her with the project. Later that evening I got the second coat of paint on the desk, and a few days later, completed the two clear coats. By the weekend, I was able to paint the new, wooden knobs for it, and line the drawers with black drawer liner. 

We even got the desk moved into London's room rather quickly - but it's taken me this long to share it as it has taken me this long to complete & hang the bulletin boards for above it until now! The worst part is the desk still needs a chair. Hopefully we find one before the end of summer. 

London loves the desk, of course, and this is a great place where we can store her phonics and numbers learning tools, coloring books and cutting exercise sheets, safely away from Sydney's inquisitive (and sometimes damaging) hands. 

London got to pick out the color for the desk as a treat for being good with her chores that week. We haven't been so good at the chore board lately, since it's been sitting on the floor. Now it's finally hung so hopefully we get her back into the routine. At the same time, a lot of what she started working on when we started the board has stuck - she gets herself dressed most mornings and is about 50/50 on whether she remembers to clear her plate from the table after dinner. We have other areas we do need to focus on, like putting clean and dirty laundry away. 

At the same time, we're not pushing the chores too hard on her. London needs to be a kid too. We'd rather her focus on knowing her letters, numbers, days of the week and months. We shoudl find out soon if she makes it into the Transitional Kindergarten class at her daycare. If she makes it in, she will have homework every weekend, which will put this desk to good use. Now, time to find a chair!

Jul 30, 2014

A short funny story...

Just to make you laugh. Cameron and I tend to listen to country music - its where we meet in the middle when it comes to music. And we often play country music when driving with the girls. 

Yesterday, when I was dropping the girls at daycare, one of Sydney's old teachers, Ms. Neecy, said that she has an interesting conversation with London on Monday. Immediately I wondered what London had said. According to Ms. Neecy, London said the following: 

"Yesterday my mommy and I picked up my daddy from the airport. And he was getting drunk on a plane."

I about peed my pants and was slightly mortified that the teacher  would think Cameron was an alcoholic, and I actually quickly explained that was not the case. Except that she was laughing too. That's when I remembered she likes country music too. 

By the way, I still start laughing tears thinking about it. That's my girl! And the main reason I am writing this post is to solidify the memory somewhere!

Jul 29, 2014

Adventures in Food Dehydration

Add this to the list of things we don't like about our new home, currently. The Broiler. Or lack there of. 

At the old house we didn't use the broiler feature on the oven often, but there are some recipes that we enjoy that required it - including our Zucchini Lasagna recipe and my S'mores cookies recipe.

We lost the ability to broil with our new house's oven. Our oven has the function, but see, when you are on propane gas versus natural gas, the oven needs to be outfitted properly. And while the oven and stove-top were outfitted properly, (kind of - I can roast a chicken in the oven in just over an hour and things boil on the stove at the simmer setting) the broiler definitely was not outfitted, at all.  

During our house inspection this issue was brought up. Seriously, when the broiler is turned on the inside of the oven looks like it has a dozen blow torches on high. I've accidentally forgotten one time that the broiler was out of control and turned it on. One minute of listening to it and I remembered very quickly to turn it off and I haven't tried to turn it on again. Someday we'll get a proper oven and broiler, but I hope that day will be closer to the day we get to implement Phase 2 of the kitchen, so you know, that's a waaaays down the road. 

One day's Harvest back in May - we have so much more coming in now

But now our summer garden is producing zucchini in droves right now. Which has me wanting to make some Zucchini lasagna to freeze and eat this winter. But how could I prep the zucchini for the lasagna properly. Enter Cabela's. We earn points there with our credit card. A lot of points. So Cameron researched food dehydrators - even home-made, solar-powered dehydrators. Of course, the material costs for making a homemade version was just about as much as a commercial-grade dehydrator from Cabela's, and we had enough points with Cabela's to get the dehydrator for free. And all we had to do was order it and wait for it to be delivered versus find the time to build one. That was an easy decision. 

Image Courtesy Cabelas.com

Our dehydrator arrived a few weeks ago and the weekend after it arrived, Cameron busted out our commercial grade food slicer (another Cabela's purchase) and sliced up the giant zucchinis we had reserved for our lasagna needs. Three giant zucchinis, sliced, fit on six dehydrator racks. The dehydrator came with 10. And thus the adventure in dehydration began. 

Overall, we didn't have the dehydrator dry the slices to absolute crispness. Cameron got them to a dryness level he liked and then placed the slices in a food saver bag and sucked out the air and sealed it. As a precaution, we stored it in the fridge until I can get around to making a few lasagnas.

We also learned 1 VERY important lesson about the dehydrator. It needs to be run in the garage. It can take 5 hours to dehydrate the food. That's how long we ran it with the zucchini. So for 5 hours in the middle of summer, we had hot air being blown out the back of the dehydrator into our kitchen. 

But that wasn't all. It also makes white noise - like a fan in a bathroom does. Some people claim white noise is soothing, its recommended for helping babies sleep, blah blah blah. 

One weird thing about me? I HATE white noise. I hate bath fans, the sound of hot tubs with the bubbles on, etc. And, after 5 hours of the dehydrator being on, we discovered that not only do I not just like white noise, but it will actually affect my mood completely, in a not so good way, either. 

At the end of the 5 hours I was one irritated woman. Anything and everything was annoying me. I was literally on edge and it just felt like things were getting worse and worse. As soon as the dehydrator was turned off I felt a huge weight lift of my shoulders and my mood improved immensely. 

So while we could actually live with the hot air to some extent, we learned we can't live with ME with the dehydrator on. Which is now why if that thing is on, it can only be on in the garage - or I can't be home. 

Oddly enough, when I mentioned this idiosyncrasy of mine to a co-worker, I came to learn that she is the same way - and she thought it was just her; she was so happy to go home to her husband that night to say she was not alone. I have to say its the humming that drives us batty - we don't find it relaxing at all. That constant hummmmmm, just thinking about it makes me cringe right now.

But I am looking forward to testing this new toy out more. We just harvested a ton of tomatoes, so we may try our hands at some sun-dried tomatoes soon. I also read how you can dehydrate tomato skins to turn into tomato powder, which can in turn be used to make tomato paste or as a thickner in tomato sauce. All of this will be done in the garage, of course.

Jul 24, 2014

The Girls Bathroom

We bought the paint for the girls' bathroom before we bought the paint for the kitchen, and since we are trying extra hard to be money conscious, I decided my home project for the month of July would be painting the girls' bathroom. 



What a difference a coat of paint makes. (WARNING: You may hear me say this a lot as I complete each room.) Every time a room gets painted, it feels more like home. I did most of the painting of the girls' bath over the 4th of July holiday, but didn't complete it for another week. This meant a week of the girls taking baths in our bathroom as well as their shelving unit and decor hanging out in the master bedroom. What did it take so long? I'm not just adding paint to the main wall; I'm also painting all the trim work. 



Again, the color for the wall is "Bone" by Behr, this time in eggshell and the trim is "Bleached Linen" by Behr in eggshell. I also removed the absurdly high towel bar and ordered a robin's egg blue starfish hook as well as an ivory clam shell hook to hang on the wall for towel drying instead. Those arrived Monday & Tuesday respectively, so those will be going up soon.
Doesn't the trim look so much better with the new paint? The door is the old color. Dull!

This room has Phase 1 and Phase 2 plans just like the kitchen. 

Here is the Phase 1 Plan: 

As you can see, we are well on our way with Phase 1. 

Phase 2 is much more complicated. But it will also, likely, become the first room in the house that Phase 2 will happen in. 

The plan is to empty the two hall closets and demo into them so that we can increase the square footage of the bathroom, and center the door on the wall. The closet space that would open up next to the bathtub will then become half open shelving and half more cabinet space. 

And by moving the door, we can then reposition the vanity and make it a double sink vanity. This will be much better when the girls are older. There will be very few years when they won't be getting up and ready for school at the same time. 

We also want to rip out the horrible plastic bathtub/shower unit and install a larger bath with tile around it. I'm sure this will include an upgrade in shower head as well. 

When it comes to lighting, this bathroom has no natural light and awful florescent lighting. We'll take the current monstrosity, and place a can light over the tub area and lighting fixtures over each sink. I then want to look into the reflective skylights so that we can bring in some actual natural light. 

Here are some renderings of the current layout along with the proposed changes that I drew up when we started to discuss it. The only thing that we wouldn't be able to complete in the bathroom during phase 2 would be the floor. We'd likely get a cheap linoleum and live with it until we could do all the floors in the house with the same tile. 


The Future

Jul 22, 2014

Blast from the Past: Memorial Day Weekend

Catching up here. The weekend of Memorial Day was a fun one for Cameron and I and was one we were looking forward to for a long time. Since Christmas actually, as that is when Cameron decided to purchase two tickets to a Giants game as a birthday gift to himself. The game was schedule for Saturday, May 24!

We decided to make a weekend of it, as we were in need of a romantic weekend away. And yes, I count a baseball game romantic. It's the tomboy in me. Friday night we dropped the girls off with their Grammi. Then we headed to bed early, in our own bed and had a blissful, uninterrupted, full night of sleep. 

Saturday morning we packed the car up with our luggage and the dogs, heading the opposite direction of San Francisco, so we could drop the dogs off at the Petsmart Hotel in Folsom. Then we were off. Cameron had scored us a good price on our hotel room at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel - quite luxurious. The rooms are small but the hotel is gorgeous and right in the heart of Union Square, which then put us about 1 1/2 miles from AT&T Park. As soon as we finished checking in we headed out to find lunch. 

A day or two prior to the trip I declared that I wanted Fish & Chips while on vacation. Where better to get Fish & Chips than a pub. Cameron knew of one just a few blocks from the hotel, Johnny Foley's Irish Pub & Restaurant. It did not disappoint. My Fish & Chips hit the spot, as did Cameron's Cottage Pie. 

We went back and relaxed in our hotel room until it was time to head over to the park for the game. We went early as we wanted to stop into The Dugout store at the stadium. Cameron had promised me a new Giants shirt as my birthday present since the one he had originally ordered was tagged for copyright infringement before he could get it. At least he got a refund. We made a few other purchases while we were there too. Cameron got a new sweatshirt and we got Gibson his own collar, finally. It is reflective, so it really shows up against is black fur, especially at night when he & Tulley are in the backyard, it's dark and all you see if the collar on him. 

It was Dignity Health night at the stadium and the first 20,000 fans got Giants hats. I think because we went in the back gate, we were lucky and we got to be 2 of those fans. 

View from our seats
The Giants were playing game 2 of a 3 game series against the Minnesota Twins. The Giants had won the night before and would go on to win this game as well. During the course of the game, we splurged on hot dogs and nachos. After the game, instead of joining the crowds during the mass exodus, we instead went and checked out the game-played memorabilia store behind home plate. That's where Cameron spied a signed Will Clark bat. While it wasn't a game-played piece like most of the items in  the shop, it caught Cameron's eye. 
Yum! We're suckers for Nachos.
We capped off our night with a little wine from a bottle we had brought from home as well as some slices of cheesecake we picked up from the Cheesecake Factory in Macy's on Union Square. And again, enjoyed a blissful night of sleep (although we weren't too crazy about the pillows. We should have brought our pillows from home. We're not down-pillow fans). 

Sunday we headed out for breakfast on our way back to AT&T park. Between Christmas and Memorial Day, Cameron had bought some season tickets off some friends for Sunday's day game so that we could make it a game-filled weekend. Mind you, we hadn't been to a Giants game since I was 8 months pregnant with London. We were a bit overdue. 

And these seats could not be beat. Row 28 behind home plate. We had a fantastic time watching the Giants win another game, and Cameron went back to the memoribilia store and purchased the Will Clark bat. He was like a little kid on Christmas morning. 

We ended our weekend in the city with dinner down at the wharf, munching on crab legs and taking in a beautiful sunset. 

View of Coit Tower on our walk to the Wharf

View of the Bay Bridge all lit up from the top of Lombard Street

We need more weekends like this.

Jul 17, 2014

Swim Lessons: Round 1

Waiting for class to start the first day
Boy do I have some catching up to do! These pictures are from the end of May - and we started Round 2 of swim lessons this week!

Getting the run down on rules on the first day
Being able to swim is an important lesson we want our girls to learn in life. For one, by being able to swim they will be safer around pools and other bodies of water than if they lacked this skill. But more important, the ability to swim is a necessary skill where we live - when it gets to be 110 degrees outside, the best way to cool off and enjoy summer is by going swimming. I spent many a summer day throughout my childhood in a friend's pool swimming. And some of my first memories are of swimming, which also includes my first bee-sting memory. Never forgot what the breast stroke was after that - and the Coca Cola I got to drink after it cooled my boo boo. 

Any how, back to swimming. We had enrolled London in a parent-tot 6-week course way back when and had meant to get her in more classes as she aged but last summer just didn't happen, given all the painting we were doing, and then moving. That made me more determined than ever to get her enrolled this year. It had been recommened to me to check out what our local Parks & Recreation district offered. A quick Google search later, and I found a week of swim lessons located at a pool just down the street from the Girl's daycare for the last full week in May. And the cost was only $23!

London wasn't a fan of putting her head under water
The timing of the lessons was perfect too. 5-5:30 PM. Cameron happened to be out of town for work that week, so I was able to pick London up for lessons and then pick Sydney up on the way home given the close proximity to the daycare. That way I could focus on London and not be worried about Sydney's entertainment for a 1/2 hour around water. 

Shoulders voluntarily under the water - this was a huge step!
The first day of lessons was unseasonably cool and windy. Poor London got out of the water with blue lips and chattering teeth. But by the end of the week it was our normal toasty weather and London was loving the lessons. She even voluntarily put her shoulders under water by the end of the week. 

Of course, London made friends quickly. Here she is having a dance contest while waiting for class to start.
She has been asking to go back ever since.

Jul 15, 2014

Spring Portraits 2014

My mom sent my dad out in April with some adorable princess dresses. Since we had a wedding to attend at the beginning of May, I put the dresses away to be saved for the big day. But when the big day came, we forgot to get pictures of the girls in the dresses - partially because it was an outdoor wedding and it was windy. 

The girls were beyond adorable in the dresses, and since we hadn't gotten any pictures I was planning on taking the girls in to get professional portraits. Then their school announced that they would be bringing in a photographer for spring portraits. The photographer would be bringing in a standard outfit for girls and a standard outfit for boys to wear, but also provided the option for parents to bring in a special outfit. 

Perfect! On picture day, I brought in the girls dresses and then waited a few weeks to see the results. When we told the girls showing the pictures our kids names, they about ran each other over to get our pictures out to show us. They turned out amazing - so much so we had to wait another couple of weeks to get the CD of hi-res images. They finally arrived:

The pictures turned out beyond adorable, don't you think?