Oct 31, 2015

Sydney's 3rd Birthday Party

Until the girls have opinions, we've sort of just done for Sydney's birthday what we did for London at that age. Which meant, for Sydney's 3rd birthday, we returned to Fairytale Town. I remember how surprised and easy London's 3rd Birthday party was, which was perfect that year as Sydney wasn't even a year old and we were toying with the idea of selling our old house and moving, so we'd already been doing a lot of work on it in preparation. 

And while Fairytale Town is still a great venue, this time the party required more work on my part. Unlike when London turned 3, Fairytale Town no longer offers food as an option with the party package and they no longer provide the cake. While they would have noted who gave what gifts during present opening, we opted to take the presents home and open them there. 
This little girl could hardly wait to get her hands on this cake - baking it the day before was agony for her!
I was glad we scheduled the party on Sunday versus a Saturday so that I could get all the prep done the day before versus trying to do it all in the evening before after a long day and week of work. I did kept the food to a minimum and mainly to snack foods. I've discovered kids don't eat at birthday parties. The only hiccup in this plan was that our oven died on me in the middle of baking the cake. Thankfully, I was able to finish it in our Toaster/Convection Oven, but it ended up being dryer than I like cake to be as a result. 

The biggest hassle was transporting the food into the park. Thankfully, we shop at Costco each week and get the big boxes to transport the food back home in the back of the car. I was able to use that week's box to carry the majority of food from the car into the park. The only problem there is that the parking lots are a bit of a hike to the park entrance. Only when we were leaving was I informed that they did have a roller table or wagon I could have used, but at that point there wasn't as much to transport and I had more help since we were all leaving. When we had arrived, only Cameron and I went back to the car to get the food. I had my parents staked out at table within the park so that we had a place to keep the food until the party in the castle took place while Vicki took the girls around the park to play. 

The girls and their friends had a blast, of course, going down all the slides, climbing on the playground equipment and seeing the animals. 

And it really was worth it when Sydney lit up at her crowning within King Arthur's Castle. Or when she finally was getting close to eating her cake. She did have a little trouble getting all the candles blown out. 

And this time, while they had games for the kids like at London's our hostesses also did some wand and sword making with the kids. The only gripe I have there is that the materials used were cheap and the girls' wands barely survived 5 minutes at home. I'm not sure if any of the boys' swords did. For the amount of money we paid, some sturdier materials should have been more reasonable, but then again, I know most of the money goes back into the park, which they are improving and adding to more and more. 

This year, we also kept the guest list small, which worked out well. It was just the right amount of people and the kids had fun, especially Sydney, which is all that mattered.

This was taken after Sydney left Mckenzie high and dry in the crooked mile alone. McKenzie wanted to walk it. Sydney thought running would be fun! 

Oct 29, 2015

Annual Visit to Bishop's Pumpkin Patch

Even though I grew plenty of pumpkins myself this year, I still wanted to take the girls to Bishop's Pumpkin Patch. It's been a tradition of ours since we found out I was pregnant with London, and I wasn't ready to let it go. Plus, while we had plenty of pumpkins, none of my second-harvest Jack-o-lantern pumpkins were very big and this year I want to carve pumpkins with the girls. We may not have trick-or-treaters come to our house out in the country, but that doesn't mean they should miss out on this fun, festive activity. 

We're going to go trick-or-treating this year in our old neighborhood with Sydney's best friend McKenzie, so maybe we will take our carved pumpkins there to light up the porch there. 

Last year we went on a weekday and it was fabulous. No parking fee and fewer people. This year we decided to go on a Friday, thinking parking would be free again, so we were a little shocked and unprepared for the parking fee. Luckily, my mom is one of the few people who still carries cash. At least there were still fewer people than on a weekend, but it was definitely more crowded than the weekday we went last week. 

For the first time, we took the hay ride out to the actual patch to pick out two pumpkins. The girls had fun and found some nice shaped and sized pumpkins. We tried to stay for the pig races that evening, but the girls were hungry, and we were all tired. The girls got to go down one slide and that was about it. The trip out to the patch had been a bit time consuming, too. But we did pick out a giant white pumpkin, which I will harvest for seeds. I've never seen them this big - almost the same size are the orange giant pumpkins. And Cameron got his gallon of Apple Cider. 

And it was nice that we were able to go with my parents since they were in town for Sydney's birthday party that weekend. And I think that Friday was the last real warm day we have had - we're finally had some cooler, fall-like weather and even had a little rain drizzle on us on that Saturday. 

Oct 24, 2015

Happy 3rd Birthday Sydney!

Dear Sydney,

Your 3rd birthday has definitely been the first one you have been excited about and it started at London's birthday back in June. You have been asking at least once a week, since then, when your birthday is, or when brought up in conversation, you say "it's not for a while".

We held your birthday party a week early since Fairytale Town is busy with Halloween festivities this weekend, so they weren't booking birthdays. We kept it small, but you had a blast just the same. You loved all the attention put on you, for once, as you have had to be in London's shadow a bit the last couple of months with her graduating preschool and starting kindergarten. 

The last year has brought some major changes for you. At Thanksgiving last year, you transitioned for your crib to a big girl bed. You were more than happy to say goodbye to the crib and be a big girl like London. Though now your dad and I are dealing with your ability to get up on your own. There have been several months where more times than not, you have gotten out of bed and come to ours, either for something to drink, to cuddle with us or to just be put back to bed. I'm pretty sure this all started when you started realizing dreams. Things have gotten better and you have gotten sneakier. Just last week you snuck into our bed and settled in between us. At the same time, I know your dad and I aren't the best at putting the kabosh on this, since you are such a good cuddler and we know this won't last forever. 

Over the July 4th weekend, we spent the long holiday cooped up inside, potty training. But it was a success and you have not looked back since. You barely need pull-ups at night either. 

The last big change for you is not having London at day care with you anymore. While you two weren't in the same class, I know you two say each other throughout the day and I can tell you both miss each other - while at the same time you like the special time you get in the car with your dad each morning and afternoon. The first time I drove you to school since London went to kindergarten you cried since we were in the red car and not the black truck. 

You've also moved from the Barnyard and Ducklings Class onto Sea Turtles, which was formerly the Friendly Froggies Class London started out in at daycare. You even skipped over the Zoo Crew class, which you should have gone to after Ducklings. Your speech and communication skills are growing exponentially it seems. Full sentences are no problem for you and you are fairly easy to understand. 

You and London share a great bond already. You both miss each other throughout the week and enjoy seeing each other back at home. You definitely wish you could be with her too. You actually pouted and said "I'm never going to kindergarten" when I told you you couldn't go to school with her, yet. You've also got a great pouty lip - I've never seen someone get that bottom lip out so far. Of course, you and London still have your squabbles, all the same. 

Your independent streak has continued. While you still need help getting dressed some days, you are still trying to do it yourself, though you are more quick to ask for help. At the same time, you get very upset when I don't let you where what you want or have picked out. You also say "I do it myself" often, for everything!

Another thinking you love to do is to help, except when it comes to cleaning up your own room and toys. When grandma is in town, she often gets your help washing dishes or cleaning the table or windows. Any time you have a chance to use a spray bottle, you want to help. You'll even come into the kitchen and try and help me any way I can find for you. But you especially love helping with the chickens or garden. Whether its collecting eggs or "matoes" or spraying water into the chickens' water bowl, you love to be out there right by our side. Luckily, you are getting big enough to truly help. Now if I could just keep you from eating all the tomatoes you pick. I definitely need to plant more cherry tomato plants next year. 

It's hard to pinpoint anything that is your absolute favorite, as everything is your favorite. Even if it is a show you have never seen or a song you have never heard. The enthusiasm in which you say "This is my favorite" is adorable. 

You get more and more energetic every year and less and less shy. Now it takes less than 3 minutes to warm up to new people. And your energy is contagious to every one you meet. 

I can't wait to see what the next year brings out in you. We love you. 


Oct 20, 2015

Pantry Update

The pantry renovation is coming along, although somewhat slowly in some of our friends' opinions. It's just how we function on projects I guess. But I like that we take our time as plans for the pantry have changed considerably. 

First, let's take a look at where the pantry renovation sits today. Cameron has completed all the demo, which involved a lot of drywall removal. And before he headed off to go deer hunting, he completed all the framing. 

This is the view from the family room. The barn door will be here. 
We've even had an electrician come out to get the info he needed to provide us with a quote for the electrical work that is needed in the pantry and around the house. We've received that quote and now have the electrician scheduled to complete the work on Monday, October 26. 

That door leads into the master bedroom and shows how small the master closet will now be. But it will still be larger than the closet in the hall that I am currently occupying. 
Cameron has even gotten some of the new drywall up on the outside of the pantry. But I don't have picture of that yet.  

This shows nicely how much we extended the wall in the dining room. And those that have seen this in person agree that we really just extended out into an area of wasted space so the lost space isn't really noticeable. 
Minus some nail and screw removal that still needs to be done from the original drywall removal, we're pretty much at a standstill on the pantry until the electrician portion is complete. Cameron does plan to get the taping and mudding of the new drywall done before then. 

Now for how plans have changed...

Originally, we were just going to have a giant walk-in pantry using Ikea's ALGOT system to create shelves everywhere. The only design element was going to be the barn door to hide the chaos. Now, the only thing that is the same with that design is the barn door. We even have the barn door hardware and have a door picked out - we just need to order it, and then stain it!

We have now decided to build more of a butler's pantry with closed cabinets on the lower portion of two of the walls and have nicer, open shelving on the upper half of those two walls. And the walls won't be drywall. They'll be horizontal wood planks. 

Some of these design changes developed after watching our latest favorite HGTV show, Fixer Upper. That's definitely where the horizontal wood planks idea came from - we have fallen in love with shiplap. Shiplap is basically horizontal wood boards that overlap to provide a protective seal. Chip & Joanna Gaines, the hosts of Fixer Upper, often find it behind drywall when they renovate old homes built in the late 1800s around Waco, Texas. If it is in good shape, they usually keep it too, like they did in their own Farmhouse. You can see it in this gallery on HGTV.com. We do plan to paint our boards white. 

We're still going the Ikea route for the cabinets too - we're just going to use their SEKTION kitchen base cabinets instead. The main part of the cabinet will be the wood effect brown and the fronts will be the Laxarby brown-black. I love the Ikea Kitchen planner tool, too, as I was able to use the dimensions of the pantry and create a 3D view of the cabinet layout. And with the power of Paint, I can show you that plan: 

This is what it would look like as you walk in. To the right of the cabinet in the center will be our wine fridge. And ignore the oven image, we have some large, bulky things to store in here and it just happens the cheaper option from Ikea is to use a tall cabinet built for an oven and microwave combo, then just their high cabinets with full doors. I'm also showing you in a lighter cabinet color as the color we like doesn't show nicely. 
This is a better view of the the left wall. 

The right wall really won't have anything on it for now, except wine bottle storage. 
The cabinets will be covered by Ikea's butchblock, KARLBY, in Oak. The upper open shelving will be based off of this design that I saw in a Houzz.com article and is apparently a kitchen used on the set of The Intern starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. It's also a movie on my "Want to See" list, but I'll likely wait til its on Netflix like most of my list. 

I think I have found the same shelving brackets at Homedepot.com and then we'll get 2-inch thick pine boards for the shelf part. I'll stain them, and the barn door, to match the counter-tops as best I can. 

So while this project is taking some time, I know it will be all worth it in the end. I'll admit though, I can hardly wait, especially as the pile waiting to go into the new pantry grows!