Friday, August 5, 2016

Work in Progress - House Projects

We've been really busy alternating between working really hard on house projects (and life in general) and then resting and recuperating from all that hard work. Add in swimming lessons, soccer practices, church stuff, and Russell getting a job out of the house and things have been crazy around here. I thought I'd share the progress of some of our summer projects to 1. Feel some sense of accomplishment on projects that are taking way longer than anticipated, and 2. Get some accountability on finishing them. 

Garden Fence

Our garden has been surrounded with chicken wire since we got our dog. We've gone through various layouts of the garden over the years, but these beds with wooden paths have been working pretty well. It hasn't been a great year for actual growing in the garden - my RA was acting up in the spring and we didn't get a lot planted. But I thought I'd work on making the garden look more charming and official.

The plan is to put a couple gates and arbors. As with everything, this has turned out to be a lot more difficult in practice than it was in theory. The summer heat is very demotivating. It's turned into a job that I just go out and work on for a couple hours in the evening every once in a while.

Using 2x4's and my kreg pocket hole jig. Slow work.

Gwen came out the other day while I was working on it and said "It's cute mom, but I don't think that it's gonna keep out anything with those big holes." Haha. Planning on filling those in with chicken wire. Jonas says we need a fence to keep out the bugs. Good luck with that one.

Hoping to finish this one in the next week or two. Phew!!

Laundry Room Folding Table

The laundry room has long been a wreck. I've never really gotten my feet under me since having Tess, then getting RA. This room was the one hit hardest. There was piles of junk, tools, dog food bags, etc. The kids and I cleared all that out and then I made a plan for a table that would hopefully make the room functional.

Tess lives to unfold laundry. In a blink of an eye she can wreak havoc on an hours worth of folding. Combine that with my aching back from bending over laundry baskets and you've got a recipe for Russell doing the laundry, and our bedroom being full of baskets of unfolded laundry. This table is great because it's got enough room to fold and sort, out of reach of chubby little fingers.

We bought the counter top from Ikea and built the base out of wood recovered from the brooder box we made for the chickens when they were growing.

Painted blue with leftover paint from our cabinets upstairs. Oh man, I love this table. So awesome! The plan from here is to paint the floor, get a new rug, hang pictures, hem curtains, and get or make a new ironing board cover. 

Clearing Out Old Stuff

Tess is going to be turning two in September and we're officially done having kids. Do you know what that means?!?! I get to clean out all this stuff from my storage room. I cannot even begin to tell you how good it felt to get rid of these things. The baby phase is a really hard time for me. It's a huge relief to say goodbye to all this stuff.

Jonas and Tess played with it all one last time. Jonas was surprisingly attached to this play toy. haha. Good memories for him I guess.

Master Bathroom

This is in what you could call the research and development phase. The counter in here is awful. It's stained laminate that never gets clean. It has permanent water marks and weird linen-y detail. We're not to the point where we're ready to replace with granite counter tops, although that's in our future down the road. For now I'm going to throw caution to the wind and try painting. Playing with the idea of a wood accent wall too. We shall see...

Plum Jam

Russell's parents have a very successful plum tree that is old and epic. We picked bags there the other day and yesterday I spent hours cutting the pits out. Mind-numbing work.

I thought it was ironic how the juice from the plums turned my fingers into prunes. ha! Proof that I was cutting for way too long.

Today I took the plunge and canned 40 jars of plum jam.  Aw, what a beautiful sight. There's nothing quite as satisfying as a counter full home-canned jars. I'm thinking these might make good neighbor gifts for Christmas. Green ribbon and a quick card and we're ready baby! I'm determined to make Christmas more laid back this year, and this may help.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

This Week on the Internet

Raising kids in the modern techie world is great. It does present challenges that are unique and new. We have so many devices floating around that there have to be limits to keep us from living a completely virtual life staring at screens. But it also has a lot of opportunities for bonding, learning, and fun. Our kids have had fun with Pokemon Go this week. Have you heard of it? You walk around your neighborhood looking for virtual pokemon. Dream come true, almost real life pokemon! Russell, Jonas and Gwen have had a lot of fun.

Onto the Internet!

All the shootings this week are on my mind a lot and wondering what part I play in all of this. Sad troubling stuff. Thinking a lot about privilege and change. No link, just feels wrong not to at least mention it.

We have a little asteroid pal in a similar orbit to us. Not a second moon by any means, but still cool.

Signs of dementia can include a sense of humor that changes, gets darker and more inappropriate. Thought this was really interesting and good thing to be aware of.

Interesting idea about a possibility of a health issue that might have driven Mary Todd Lincoln's erratic behavior. A good reminder that we really don't know what people are going through, to not judge, and cut others some slack. Liked this quote: "History should regard her with sympathy regardless of the cause, he said. A physical illness that can affect the mind — like B12 deficiency — is no more deserving of compassion than one that is strictly mental."

The typical American lives less than 18 miles from Mom. Because love, sunday dinners and free babysitting are awesome and irreplaceable. Of course!

I read and generally liked the book "The life-changing magic of tidying up" and thought this article was an interesting read. I definitely wouldn't call myself a "Konvert" but I did think there were some helpful ideas. But kids, man. Kids. They kinda throw a kink in the works. I love a drawer of laundry folded just-so. But unfortunately so does Tess... she loves throwing its contents over her shoulders in a rapid fire stream, watching order dissolve into chaos at her tiny chubby little hands. Time will help to heal my wounds.

Someone recommended this talk to me. Thought it was a good start towards changing the stigma in the church about questioning. A life of faith is a struggle, a wrestle. Maybe not for everyone, but it certainly is for me. I'm learning to be okay with it.

Something very gratifying about seeing someone hand-carve a piece of wood into something beautiful and usable. 

I like this. Would make a great phone background.

Thunderstorms are cool from every angle. Especially from above. Awesome.

And finally, Scary and I love poutine too.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Carrot Ginger Soup with Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

This dinner was a weeknight miracle. A miracle in that I actually made dinner on a weeknight. It was delicious! Even better - it was easy with simple ingredients and came together in an hour. I really was tempted to lie and say it took half an hour. But no, an hour. It didn't feel that long because the soup simmers for 40 minutes giving you time to make cornbread and even clean up if you're so inclined. 

I make this cornbread all the time. I'll do variations on the box instructions on the back and it always turns out great. I always have the ingredients on hand, and it's something that I can whip up quickly without too much thought. I know that it's tacky to use a box - and you can totally make cornbread from scratch. But this is a quick weeknight dinner that's one of those afterthought, last minute things. This box is great for that. Sometimes I add some chopped fresh corn to the mix instead of cheese and jalapenos. Mmm good.

The soup recipe is from the Our Best Bites 400 calories or Less Cookbook. I've loved all of their cookbooks and they've been the ones that we use the most. Jonas actually picked this soup out for dinner. I was surprised! I was a little suspicious of the recipe at first, it seemed too simple to taste really good, not really having much in the way of seasonings and spices. But it was great!!! I changed things a little bit, but not much. Mostly by adding bacon to bump up the calorie count. :) So so worth it.

Carrot Ginger Soup

slightly adapted from Our Best Bites 400 Calorie Cookbook

1 Onion, diced
2 Tbsp Butter
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Ginger, minced
8 - 10 Medium Carrots, chopped
2 Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 cans Chicken Broth (14 oz)
1 cup Water
1 1/2 tsp salt
Black Pepper to taste
1/2 C Greek Yogurt
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Real Bacon Bits

Saute Onion, Butter, Garlic and Ginger a few minutes. Add in the Carrots, Tomatoes, Broth, Water, S&P. Simmer for 40 minutes until soft. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup greek yogurt or sour cream. Puree (carefully, it's hot) in a blender until completely smooth. An immersion blender isn't going to cut it. Top with Sour Cream, green onions, and real bacon bits.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

1 box Krusteaz Honey Cornbread
2/3 c Milk
1 individual package of applesauce
1 T canola oil
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for the top)
Deli Style Jalapenos

Combine the mix, milk, applesauce, oil, and egg until well blended. Mix in the cheese and pour into a sprayed 8x8 (or similar) sized pan. Top with extra cheese and jalapeno slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.