Monday, September 20, 2010

Living Room Updates

The world's slowest decorating project, which happens to be taking place in our very own home,
took a giant leap forward over the weekend. After officially living in our first home for over a year, we finally invested in some reasonably priced lamps for the side tables in our living room. Prior to last Saturday, the only light in the room came from a small floor lamp. The second picture has a better view of the lamp base.

Those of you who are familiar with our living room will also notice the addition of the green and gold suitcase on the shelf beneath the coffee table. It belonged to my grandmother (it has her initials on it!). I relocated it from the basement in August after we had our water problems. I kind of like it in this spot, though, so it will probably stay in this location for quite some time. The colors match and it adds a little more personality to the space.

Here's a close up of one of the lamps:

The base and post are antique bronze. At either end of the beaded post are glass balls that have gold flecks on them. The lamp shade is gold. This picture doesn't do it much justice. You'll just have to trust me when I say it looks good.

I also found (thanks to the 30 boxes of "memories" from my closet at my parents' house that recently made their way to our house) three brass animal figurines that I used to play with at my grandparents' house. When my grandpa moved from that house, I requested the trio and they must have sat in one of those boxes for the past twenty years. We now have a small owl (in the above picture), an elephant and a snail. I love having them in our living room.

All for now, and probably the next few weeks. Life is busy. Life is good. :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An update.

One-and-a-half weeks into the school year and there is much to report:

1. I am so blessed to work with such an amazing team of energetic, driven people. The classroom teachers I get to work with this year are fabulous, and I know from my short term subbing last spring that the sped coordinator is going to be an excellent mentor. We've spent the last 8 days in training and have our open house tomorrow night. I am really excited for next Tuesday!

2. Tomorrow also marks the first day that I get to dress up for my new job. G had absolutely no problem with me revamping my wardrobe (yes, MV, you read that correctly) and I am excited to cut the tags off of one of my new outfits:

I have some cute black flats with little ruffles on the toes that I'm planning to wear with the dress.

3. G and I are currently obsessed with Häagen-Dazs new ice cream Five. It is incredible.

We've only tried mint, but I have every intention of trying every flavor I can find. It's hard for us to admit, but it might surpass our love of Ben and Jerry's.

3. I finished another chapter of my dissertation. *Insert major sigh of relief here.* Two down, five to go. Keep sending me pictures of your smiling babies and small children. Excellent motivation.

4. Speaking of babies, the major highlight of the time that's passed since my last post was definitely meeting one of my nearest and dearest friend's baby girl, Harper. So tiny. So cute. I (rudely) arrived at my friend's in-laws' house earlier than I probably should have, but I really wanted to squeeze in some time with the baby. And my friend, of course. I couldn't focus all morning, so I finally just jumped in the car and headed south for Cleveland, MN. I managed to get in some quality QT with my girls before other people arrived so even though I had to leave earlier than I wanted (dissertation chapter deadline), I left with a happy heart. What a honey.

5. We've scheduled visits with G's grandparents for the next two Saturdays. I am looking forward to seeing them!

6. My dad has started working security for sporting events. The man just cannot retire. He loves being active. He emailed me tonight and casually mentioned that he's taking a bus to Kansas City to work security for a pro football game. I think he's serious. That's crazy.

7. G has been practicing his trumpet for a wedding in September. Rachael, you should know that he sounds amazing. Also, since Mary has given him permission to play whatever he wants as prelude, you should probably know that he's selected the following pieces (performed at the same or slightly better level as the featured performer): First, second, and third. No need to stress out about the accompaniments and rhythms. R has volunteered to run both the cd player and the metronome so V can focus on her dancing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My parents' new place...

G and I went to check out my parents' new digs last night. They don't officially close on the house until tomorrow, but their realtor is pretty awesome and unlocks the house for them whenever they want to show it to someone. My parents described the house as "retro" and reminded us - several times - to "look for its potential."

The house was built by a physician in the 1950s. He and his sister were the its only occupants. He died a while ago and willed the house to his church, but stipulated that his sister had the right to live in it for as long as she wished. She relocated to a nursing home and the church put the house up for sale over the summer. While I can't be certain, I don't think anything has changed - linoleum, light fixtures, counter tops, wood floors - since the physician built the house. I took a whole bunch of pictures but I haven't had time to download them yet. Maybe tonight. The coolest, most retro part of the house?

The vintage counter tops:

Yup. This is it, only the background is yellow and the boomerangs are blue and green (I think). Hanging above the peninsula in the kitchen is this amazing saucer-like light fixture that is brass colored and has a ring of small holes around the edge.

Some people travel and golf in their retirement. My parents? They take on remodeling projects. To each their own. Between their new home and our unexpected basement renovations, we'll have plenty of projects to keep us busy.

I'll try to post more pictures tonight or tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1. This is disgusting.

2. The look on my husband's face this morning after I reminded him that starting next Monday, when I go back to work full time, household chores go back to 50/50? Priceless.

3. I have so much laundry to finish before next Monday. And cleaning. Going to see how much I can tackle today...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Basement

Now that the basement has unexpectedly risen to the top of our "to-do" list, we need to start thinking about how we're going to tackle this project. We need to invest some time and resources into exploring the source of the problem, but once those tasks have been finished the fun can start.

The insurance estimate? Nonexistent. Apparently insurance doesn't cover water seeping up through the foundation.

While the basement will require some major time and and investment, the renovations don't have to happen within a particular time frame, so that's a big plus. That means we can take our time and do things right. I'm a little afraid, though, when I think back to how long it took us to finish the comparatively simple task of painting and installing new outlets and switches in our living room. Hopefully this won't take as long...

We have two big questions to think about as we contemplate the renovation phase for the basement:

1. Do we tackle the fourth bedroom since we're already finishing the main living space in the basement? This would involve installing two new small windows (the current windows are the only remaining "old" windows and need to be replaced sometime soon), installing new ceiling panels (as a temporary fix), ripping down the fake wood paneling and installing new flooring.

2. What kind of flooring do we go with? My parents installed tile when they remodeled their home's basement, and it looks really nice. Carpet, linoleum and vinyl are not options for me despite the cost benefits of the latter two. I just can't do it. That leaves tile and Pergo, which is the engineered wood-like flooring we have upstairs. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Last Thursday evening, we journeyed up to Park Rapids for my aunt's seventy-fifth birthday party. She and her husband planned a seventy-five mile bike trip for that Friday. They are both part of a cycling club in the area and in addition to the 10+ family members who made the trip to Park Rapids, there were about fifty other riders who biked at least part of the trip and even more joined us for a celebratory cookout after the ride was finished.

My aunt, a Red Rider, is a biking machine. She easily finished 80+ miles while G and I didn't quite reach the finish line. G wisely stopped at the halfway mark (my parents worked the food stop, so they gave him a ride back) and I suffered through a few more miles. I stopped seventeen miles short of the goal. There was no way I was going to make it too much farther. Despite the fact neither of us made the full route (note: the majority of the riders were 65+, and 21 of them all made it to the end), we were pleased, especially since it was the first time we'd cycled all summer. We spent Friday evening and most of Saturday nursing our sore butts and thigh muscles. I'm still a little tender, but G seems to have made a full recovery.

When we returned home on Saturday night, I went across the street to chat with our neighbor and ask if anything exciting had happened while we were away. He mentioned that he had heard we had over 5 inches of rain on Thursday night and that the sump pump in his house had been running ever since. I went back to our house and told G about the rain. He decided to go downstairs to see if our sump pump had been running, and soon discovered it hadn't done its job. We were welcomed home to a partially flooded basement.

[That box? Most of it was filled with my pictures from college. Oy.]

It could have been a lot worse. A whole lot worse. Fortunately, the water was restricted to a space covering about 1/4 of our basement. Unfortunately, our big storage closet was included in that space so several boxes, a few appliances and some other things - including most of my horn music (which is expensive when you add it all up!) - did receive some water damage. Some of our good friends immediately volunteered to come over and help us assess the situation. The boys ripped out the carpet and padding from the area that was damaged, sucked up the water that had pooled under the padding with the wet/dry vac, and carried the ruined materials to the garage to dry out. Now we're waiting for our insurance guy to assess the damage (we took pictures of everything as it existed when we first found it) so we can figure out the next step in the cleaning process.

So much for renovating our bathroom before the basement! Oh well, like I said, it could have been so much worse.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The electrician called.

He canceled, mentioning that "he'd try to reschedule sometime next week."

It is now 87 degrees in our house.



When our home inspector checked out our home, he mentioned that one of our priorities should be replacing the circuit break for our air conditioning unit. He said something about it being "over fused" and needing a "properly sized circuit breaker." Since we bought our home at the end of August, we weren't too concerned about following up on that recommendation and opted to tough out the remaining warm days of summer and early fall.

We did just fine. Spring came around, and with it some super hot days. We debated turning on the AC without having the circuit breaker replaced. Finally, G did some serious research and decided it would probably be okay to run it in the evenings. He's no electrician, but something seemed goofy when he compared the information we received from the inspector to our AC unit to the information he was finding on the interweb.

Over the weekend, my FIL asked about the AC and G was persuaded to turn it off until it could be checked. Last night, he called an electrician, explained the problem, and was not surprised to learn that the electrician confirmed his suspicions that the home inspector likely made a mistake (meaning everything is probably okay). He said he'd stop over the next day to check it out and make sure everything was working properly. Better safe than sorry, right?

So here I sit, waiting for Mr. Electrician to make good on his promise and show up. It's frickin' hot in our house, man. I usually prefer to be warm (note the jacket I'm wearing in the picture from yesterday's post), but this is ridiculous. Friends, it's 85 degrees in our house. I know it could be worse, but I am sweating from every crevice in my body and I cannot focus on my work. I'm too lazy to even take a decent picture of the thermostat, so you're stuck with an image I captured with my MacBook. It's reversed. 85 degrees. It's gone up 2 degrees in the last 1.5 hours.

All I can think about is how not awesome my run outside is going to be if I have to come home to a house that's 85 degrees inside. Blah.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I am Dissertator, here me ROAR!

Sorry I've been delinquent with my posting. Actually, I'm not really that sorry because I've been super productive with the dissertating process. I am no longer not so secretly wishing that my computer would blow up and destroy all of my dissertation-related materials so I could hang up my grad student hat (for the second time, ahem) and am feeling sooooooo motivated to finish this project. It's gone from being something I ran from to something I protect like my own child. It's amazing how things can change so quickly.

Fueled by two large glasses of freshly brewed iced tea, countless glasses of water, and a bowl of whatever soup is on the day's menu, I have managed to be über productive over the past few weeks. I'm hoping that the $7 I spend at Dunn Bros each day means I won't get kicked out any time soon. I'm so productive here - infinitely more productive than I am at Casa K - and $7/day is a nominal fee to pay for the use of "office" space that provides food. At least that's how I rationalize my spending.

Gift cards to Dunn Bros. in any domination are a great gift, my friends. Just a hint. A not so subtle hint.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Kettlebell, my new enemy.

Yesterday, after running 5K at the gym, I finished my circuit of weight machines and then ventured over to the stretching area. I was using a stability ball to do some sit-ups when I noticed a trainer assisting a client with an exercise involving one of these:


I didn’t know what it was, but it looked pretty small and manageable. Easy, in fact. Squat, lift, hold. Squat, lift, hold. The woman doing the exercise was older than I am so I figured if she could handle it, it couldn’t possibly be a problem for me.

So, today after finishing a bike ride and my regular weight machine circuit, I made my way over to the area where all of the stability balls, medicine balls and what I now know are kettlebells. I spotted the smallest one, debated whether or not I could handle a slightly larger one, and ultimately decided to go with the smaller one since it was my first time.

It turns out it was probably also my last time.

I leaned over the metal bars to pick up the weight and almost pulled myself into the equipment corral. Seriously. I must have made a noise because the personal trainers hovering around the area all looked in my direction. I'm sure I looked like an idiot. I was embarrassed, but having already made a fool of myself, I decided to just get the kettlebell and take it over to the stretching area. It wasn’t until I had dragged it out of the corral that I realized it weighed 55 pounds. That sucker was heavy. I couldn’t carry it in one arm without looking severely lopsided so I had to cradle it in both of them. I managed to do the squat, lift, hold exercise 10 times before calling it quits. It was super intense.

In other news, this morning I found a cute little independent coffee shop in the “downtown” area of our city. I was there from 8 this morning until 3 in the afternoon. I was one of maybe 20 - 25 customers during that time period and honestly I’m not sure how the place has stayed afloat for 2.5 years, but I hope it stays open until I finish my dissertation. I was so productive. They have excellent chai and sandwiches and it’s warm and inviting. I just love it. It will be the official site of Dissertation Boot Camp 2010 at the end of July.

I’ve spent the last three days in coffee shops and at the local library during the day (ending with a trip to the gym). It’s a great schedule and it’s really working well for me. I’ll probably put on 20 pounds in liquid calories (the grilled cheese sandwiches probably don’t help, either), but at least I’ve been good about going to the gym. Maybe I will have to spend some more time with the kettlebell…

Monday, June 21, 2010

Things I Like: Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade

The local organic market has an excellent sale this month. I've been stocking up on super reasonably priced Annie's Bunny Graham Friends (definitely not meant for our age group, but such a good snack) and Santa Cruz organic lemonade:

It's currently priced at 2/$3, which is an amazing price for this stuff. We currently have mango lemonade, strawberry lemonade and limeade in our refrigerator, and I have big plans to go back this week and stock up before the sale ends later this month. It's that amazing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekend Recap

As I type this, I have a pan of sliced cherry tomatoes, garlic, olives and capers tossed with olive oil and pepper roasting in the oven. It smells heavenly. I'm planning to serve it over pasta, but honestly, I'd probably eat it straight out of the oven sans pasta.

We had a busy weekend here at Casa K. I hung out with my dad on Friday and then headed up to a town north of the Cities for dinner and a film showing with my parents. The film, Pretty Much 100% Scandinavian, was right up my alley.

Saturday morning we were up early to get started on yard projects. G mowed the lawn while I ran errands. We had lunch and then I hit the gym for a while. Later that afternoon I bought a bag of mulch. We should have known it would make a drastic improvement in our yard, but I think we were both a little shocked at just how much of an improvement it made:

Seven bags later and the landscaping in the backyard was finished, including the areas around the trees and utility poles. G took the above picture because we were both so surprised at the difference. Pretty impressive, eh? Also impressive is that muscular pasty white calf on the left side of the image. Just kidding, although it is impressively white and there is more definition to my muscles than last year at this time. I have my new running routine to thank for that!

The vegetable garden is looking great. I've thinned the carrots two times and it looks like I might need to do it a third. The lettuce is ready to pick, there are small pods on the sweet pea plants, the beans are getting taller and the corn looks great. I put bird netting on the raspberry bush yesterday afternoon (this, by the way, was a huge pain in the butt). It appears as though we'll have an excellent crop of berries and I want to harvest as much as I can!

We went to our new favorite restaurant in our suburb last night for dinner and then played some tennis.

Our Sunday was pretty laid back. We worked on projects in the house, bought more mulch for the front yard, and are about to have dinner and go play tennis.

Not a bad weekend, my friends.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Catch-Up

Dissertating + working full time = minimal free time and consequently few blog entries and fewer pictures. Sorry.

School ended on Wednesday. I cried. For many of those kids, school is their safe zone and teachers are their protectors. When classes end for the summer, many of them fall victim to the lure of the streets and irresponsible teenagers and adults. Some of the elementary school-aged kids I work with will assume the role of parent and take care of their younger siblings while their guardians work their minimum wage jobs. Unstable situations at home make it difficult for most of the kids to progress intellectually and socially. Man, I get worked up just thinking about them. I woke up before 4:00 AM on Thursday morning because I was so worried about a few kids in particular. This, of course, is not the story for all of the kids at the school. Unfortunately, it is the story for the kids who gave the longest hugs and shed the biggest tears before they got on the bus. For once in my life, I hope summer break flies by so they can be back in the classroom.

I arranged to see the child, E., I work one-on-one with a few times each month. I don't want to weaken the relationship we've built, and I want to make sure he's surviving the summer. I'm spending next Friday morning with him, and while I'm not sure what we'll be doing it has to be educational, inexpensive, and something that gently pushes his communication skills. Any recommendations? I contacted a local animal shelter to see if we could come in and "volunteer" for an hour. E. loves cats, so I figure it might be a good place to spend some time - provided I can get the shelter to wave the age minimum for volunteers (16).

In other news, yesterday I saw one of my best friends from college. We had coffee and talked for almost three hours. He decided to give me access to his profile so I could help spruce it up and filter through some of the women seeking his attention. I made him remove all of his professional training and occupational goals (because, lets face it, most women will only see $$$$), changed bits of his profile and updated his picture. Here's to hoping he lands a fun, intelligent and classy lady. He totally deserves it.

I'm co-hosting a garage sale tomorrow with a friend of mine. Excellent prices and a decent selection of stuff. We're open rain or shine, so stop by starting at 7. We most definitely have at least one thing that you'll need. I promise.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bits and Pieces

1. Our poppies bloomed the day before Memorial Day. How fitting, right?

2. Yesterday we caught a bunny in our new live animal trap. We released it into the wild and are hoping to catch the mama bunny next. My husband looks forward to checking the trap with the same anticipation a small child has when s/he wakes up on Christmas morning and is eager to see if Santa visited. You can only imagine his excitement when he returned home from work yesterday and discovered a bunny in the metal cage. Joy. Elation.

3. Around this time next week, I'll have a contract signed to work full time for the upcoming next school year. Happy much? Totally. I feel so blessed to get to work with the kids at my school.

4. I started staining our "new" dinner table. The right side is the stripped side of the table. The left side has one coat of "cherry mahogany." I added a second coat on Sunday and will apply a third coat before I coat it with poly. The table has a lot of character (read: it is a little beat up), but that's one of the things I love about it. It's likely over 100 years old. I'd love to know who owned it, what kinds of meals they served, and what kinds of conversations took place while people sat around it.

5. I assembled the side tables and bookshelf. They work well in our living room. We need to drill some holes in the back paneling of the bookshelf so we can run wire through to the outlet, but first we need to figure out what kind of tool will make a large enough hole. Advice?

6. I worked on my dissertation for a while last night, and I'm taking tonight off. I went to the gym for a much needed bike ride and am about to respond to some letters I received from students in the language arts class I help out with. The students could write to any teacher and nine of my little friends decided to pen letters to me. They are incredibly cute. "You help people to do good. You are nice and awesome. You are a frenily teacher." "Think you for helping me spell words. You are the best teacher I had talk to. I loved learning wite you." How can you not love that stuff? My own student, of course, wrote me a lengthy letter explaining that he had let his cat in our house and that it not only drank all of our diet coke, but also made a "mees every wear" and "scach youre TV." Gotta love a good imagination.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Garden Update

Between work, my dissertation, playing tennis and working in the gardens, I haven't had much time to update my blog. Maybe posting will improve after the school year wraps up...

Here are the pictures I took of the garden early this week. The patio landscaping looks great, with the exception of the columbine. It looks find in this picture, unfortunately the rabbits that live under our shed have taken a liking to it and it's not looking nearly as healthy.

The round garden looks fabulous. The deep red peonies opened up last week and the white ones look ready to pop any day now. We also had some giant white irises open up (pictures later this weekend) over the past few days. The tall purple flowers, allium, are no longer purple. They might be one of my new favorite flowers. They were so pretty when they were blooming.

The circle garden also has a healthy crop of creeping Charley. I pulled a significant amount of it last night, but it was exhausting work. I'll have to go back out later this weekend and finish the job. I thought about using borax or another chemical to eliminate the problem, but I really don't want to kill anything else in the garden. The means my only option is to use my hands...

The front yard is looking pretty good, too. The hastas are unfolding their leaves and the poppy looks like it will bloom any day. Have I mentioned it's exciting to watch the perennials open? It is. You can also, just barely, see the hanging basket I put together. It's a wire basket filled with a layer of moss. My family has a tradition of planting red geraniums outside the front door of the house, so that's what I put in the basket. I also put in a delicate little purple flower, but I'm not sure what it's called. It looks better every day.

Lots of change in the vegetable garden. The raspberry bushes are very full. The corn is sprouting (up to 8 inches already). I added a tomato plant that appears to be thriving and plan to add two more later this weekend. The carrots and peas look great, but I think the beans and onions might need to be replanted. I'll give them a few more days before I do anything. I'm really enjoying watching the garden grow. I go out almost daily to check its progress. I can't wait until the plants bear fruit later this summer.

I put up a makeshift fence to keep the rabbits out. It appears to be doing the trick, although I might do something more permanent next spring.

The bricks alongside the fence are to help deter the rabbits. They are so stinkin' annoying. Earlier this week I saw a bunny hop through the open gate in our neighbor's backyard. I checked to make sure no one was looking and then I shut the door. I thought I had locked it in there, but this morning G saw a bunny crawl under the fence that separates our yards. Bummer. Our home's previous owner randomly showed up last Sunday to check things out and when we asked him about the bunnies, he said he shot them and buried them under the garden. Actually, his words were "there are a lot of bunnies under that garden," which just grossed me out. The consensus amongst our neighbors that the only way to get rid of them is to shoot them, but we're hesitant to do so because it's illegal to fire a gun in our city. We like to play by the rules. We've decided to buy a live trap. I'll let you know how that goes...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick Catch-Up

  • One of my closest girlfriends and her husband had their first baby yesterday. She texted me just before 2:00 AM to let me know she was en route to the hospital. I happened to have a coughing fit around 2:10 AM that resulted in my husband forcing me to leave the bedroom so he could keep sleeping. I grabbed my phone (alarm clock) on the way out and saw her message. It was hard to go back to sleep. Is it normal to get so excited about your best friends having kids? Anyway, Harper entered the world yesterday and I am trying to figure out how to get to Denver this summer so I can meet her and hangout with her mom.

  • In other news, the school I work at apparently doesn't believe in air conditioning and since most of my work clothes are for cooler temps, I had to go out and buy some new clothes yesterday afternoon. Today I'm wearing a shirt dress from Target with some ankle length leggings (it might be hot, but no one is going to be blinded by my white legs):

My husband calls this my "suburban camo" dress. I think that's hilarious!

  • Remember when I posted about needing to find coconut M&Ms? My MIL found them at Sam's Club. I now have 30 bags of them sitting on my counter top. They are good. So, so good.
  • I called my dad to complain about our rabbit problem (another post for another day), and after listening to my rant he asked if I'd rather have the creature that visited my parents' backyard over the weekend:

He thinks it was a bear. There was some other evidence not shown in this picture, but whatever it was toppled thick steel poles at their base and knocked several bird feeders around.
  • Last week I actually had to convince a kid that he had wet his pants. He didn't believe me. It was the weirdest conversation I've had in a long time.
Off to school. Have a great Tuesday!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Things I Like: Address Stamps

A few weeks ago I was awarded a research grant from my university's department. While not huge, the extra funds are much appreciated and will allow me to distribute a mass survey to my research site. In an attempt to get more people to open the surveys when they arrive in the mail, I'm hand addressing all 150+ envelopes. This morning I used some of my grant money to buy a return address stamp, which I think will come in very handy while working on this part of my research.

I looked at several options on Etsy over the past week or so and finally decided to go with SugarLetter. There were lots of other stamp designs I liked (check out the options here, here and here), but it turns out my husband has strong preferences when it comes to return address stamps. Who knew? Good thing I checked with him before buying the stamp. Actually he probably wouldn't have ever noticed since he doesn't do much with our mail...

Oh well! Still a good choice!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden Progress

I'm at home sick today. My throat felt funny when I woke up yesterday morning, but I just thought it was the result of drainage. Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting in the big city and whatever bug I have hit me hard. I drove home with the heat on full blast and I was still shivering. I went to bed dressed as though I was going outside for a walk on a brisk fall day. This morning I had to get up by 6:00 to decide if I was going to call the company I work for and tell them I couldn't sub today. I wasn't shivery and achy anymore, but my throat, ears and head told me to stay home. The kids at school may have generously shared their germs with me, but I decided to keep mine to myself. I made the phone call and then crashed for the next 5.5 hours.

Now I'm up. My left ear has popped, and I'm hoping for more progress. I want to go back to work tomorrow!

I took some pictures of our circular garden last weekend, but have neglected to post the pictures. I suppose this afternoon is a good time to take care of that task. Remember when our garden looked like death? I was so scared of the garden at that time. I really didn't think anything was going to come back.

...but it did. Last week I posted this picture of our garden:

...and during the past week this is what has happened:

I'm no expert, but it looks like we have quite a few bloom that should open up sometime soon. I am totally amazed by how quickly this garden has developed. I can't wait to see what it looks like next week.

This weekend my dad is delivering a hole digger and some chicken wire so I can fence in the vegetable garden. The beans, peas and lettuce are up and I want to protect them from the next of bunnies that have taken shelter under our shed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good Things: Lands' End Canvas

I drop by the Lands' End Canvas website every few weeks to see what's new. Earlier this winter, when I first learned of Canvas, I went from feeling rather "eh" about Lands' End to loving the store. I'm having trouble uploading more images to this post, but I'm currently drooling over this, this, these (I haven't worn shorts in years, it's about time I buy a pair), and this. I wish there was a store closer to MSP.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Weekend Recap

I just logged into blogger and noticed that my post from last Friday has a Thursday post date. Slightly confusing.

We had a nice, relaxing weekend so this post won't be very exciting.

1. My Friday morning started off with another early morning trip to the gym. While jogging on the treadmill I witnessed a 70+ year old man jump off an elliptical machine and rock out on the air guitar to celebrate what looked like a grueling workout. That was an excellent way to start a Friday.

2. Every day I with special needs kids I realize it's my true calling. I love the fact that I get up every morning knowing I get to spend the day with some awesome, severely disadvantaged kids. It is so incredibly rewarding. Meaningful work. I like meaningful work.

3. Every Friday I take my student to Burger King for lunch. He loves it. Last Friday we went to Burger King for the third time. As we entered the restaurant he looked at me and said "this is going to be so exciting!" I'd take him to Burger King everyday if I could. I can't imagine being born into his place in this world. He has a tough home life and some serious neurological issues. If taking him to Burger King for a kid's meal is a special outing for him, you better believe I'm going to make it happen. Anyone want to sponsor a meal for him? Or maybe buy him some Legos (he's so anxious to get some "colored Legos")?

4. I hit the gym early on Saturday morning, dropped off my car at the repair shop, had lunch with my husband and BIL, and spent the afternoon at Panera working on my dissertation. My evening was spent running errands and relaxing at home. Boring? Maybe to some, but it really nice. I made so much progress.

5. We spent Sunday afternoon at the state historical society. My dear husband was kind enough to come with me. He did his own thing for a few hours and after my motion sickness was unbearable (I get it from reading microfilm, but not riding in cars), he relieved me of my research duties and followed my directions to a "T." Husband of the Year? I think so. Especially considering the reward he gets if I don't finish my writing this year...

6. I really do have the most amazing husband on the face of this good earth.

7. I spent Sunday night weeding, planting a hanging basket (pictures soon), and working on a crafting project. I have a little less than half of that project left to finish, so I can't post pictures yet. Soon, soon!

It reallyw as a good weekend...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Friday Ramblings...

Guess who went to the gym both yesterday and today at 6:00 AM? Me! I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it part of my daily routine, but its gone pretty well the last few days. I'll try it again Monday morning and see what happens.

I'm loving the green goodness that's popping up in our gardens. Most of my excitement probably stems from the relief I experience each time I see some green poking through the perennials I cut back last fall/early this spring. We can take care of a yard!

The front walkway is nice, but the real excitement is in the backyard. The pear, apple and crab apple trees have all started blooming. Our crab apple tree (below) makes me incredibly happy, and I'm looking forward to more pink blossoms on our apple tree. There are lots of plants waiting to pop in our circular garden. This is the garden that really had me scared and now that I know I didn't kill anything I'm really looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the summer. I checked the vegetable garden last night and there were a few green shoots poking through the soil. The raspberry bushes are growing quickly and the rhubarb is looking very healthy.

Isn't the crab apple tree beautiful? If you look very closely you can see our patio furniture in the picture above. It's white, so it kind of blends in with the house. It's pretty small for the size of our patio, but it will do for at least this summer. Plus, I absolutely love it (I'll love it even more when it gets a fresh coat of paint).

I've never been into grilling, but for some reason - probably our lovely landscaped patio area - I really want to this spring and summer. I came across this grill at Menard's earlier this week and I think it might be a good fit for our needs:

It's small, portable and inexpensive. Now to convince the husband that we really need one...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Turf Wars

After several weeks of pulling up weeds with my hands, I finally bought one of these on Sunday afternoon:

It's been a blessing.

I may have used it last night to pull up some dandelions in our neighbor's yard. I was surveying our patch of mini trees, the seeds for which were deposited by a tree in the same neighbor's yard, when I realized there was a GIGANTIC dandelion on their property. All I could think about was hundreds and hundreds of dandelion parachute seeds blowing into our yard, landing in our fertile soil, and sinking their deep roots in our yard.

So I got my tool and I yanked it up.

And then I saw another dandelion in their yard, so I pulled that one, too. Seven dandelions later, I found myself almost in the center of their front yard. At that point I was a little embarrassed - there is a very large picture window looking out over their front yard - so I retreated to our garage and deposited my armful of dandelions into our refuse bag. G was embarrassed, but they had to go. I've tried to justify my effort to eliminate the dandelions by telling myself that they would probably be happy to have someone walk through their yard and pull up the weeds, but maybe G is right and they really do like dandelions. Was this a bad move?

...because there are three more plants I've noticed and I'd like to remove them tonight.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend in Review

Friday night I met my mom for dinner at the Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis. Omg, it was amazing. I will gladly go back anytime, so let me know if you want to go with me. So, so yummy.

Saturday was filled with errands and a potluck dinner for the PEO chapter I was initiated into on Tuesday night.

Yesterday, one of my husband's aunts carpooled with us to G's grandpa's birthday in Harmony, Minnesota. I love Harmony for a few reasons. Not only do G's maternal grandparents (who are fabulous) live there, the town is also home to a sizable Amish population. I love going to Harmony. I love G's grandparents, I love southeastern Minnesota landscapes, and I love looking for Amish. Seriously, when I see a horse and buggy rolling down the road or an Amish farm, I get more than a little excited. My reaction is probably similar to the level of enthusiasm a small child expresses when s/he opens the coolest Christmas present imaginable.

When I was 8 I wanted to go to Amish camp, and that's no joke. (No such camp exists, if you're wondering.)

So, yesterday afternoon when we drove by three buggies parked in the grocery store's parking lot, I was very excited. I made my husband go right instead of left and then drive down a back alley so I could get a closer look. Both he and our aunt were laughing at my enthusiasm. Then I made him stop so I could take a picture of the horses because they were tied to a hitching post. How often do you see that? It was so exciting.

Unfortunately, as I was taking the picture, G saw his parents drive by and I think he got a little embarrassed so I ended up getting a partial image and part of his car in the picture. Honestly, I just don't understand how people can't share my level of interest in the Amish. They're fascinating. Right, Mags?

Happy Monday!

Monday, April 19, 2010

How does your garden grow?

There are hundreds of seeds hiding under this soil:

I over-seeded with the hope that it would increase the chances that a good number of them would actually germinate. I planted 10 rows of vegetables (lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, two types of onions), a patch of chives, and some violas along the north edge of the garden. The back section of the garden was actually still partially frozen when my dad tilled it, so he suggested turning the soil every other day for a few weeks and then planting. I'm planning to plant some brussel sprouts and broccoli in that section, but don't mention that to my husband. I'm afraid he'd take some weed killer to the entire garden if he knows I'm planning to harvest a healthy crop of brussel sprouts.

Here's what I put in the north section of the garden:

In other garden-related news, our raspberry bushes appear to still be alive (yeah!) and are sprouting new leaves:

The rhubarb is coming up like gangbusters (if that's possible):

And the cactus I'm eager to remove from the garden is doing something interesting, so I've decided to let it grow for another summer. It's hard to see in this picture, but there are little sprouty things along the edges of the cactus. Yesterday I noticed that one of them had developed into a relatively large red bud (just a bit smaller than my pinky finger), so we'll see what happens...

And that's the news from our gardens. Hoping for lots of new growth this week!

Off to work. I was just assigned an EBD kid yesterday, so my job just got even more interesting.

Weekend In Review

Let me introduce you to my youngest niece, P:

We had the opportunity to spend Saturday with two of my favorite nieces (and their parents and my parents) at the Minnesota Zoo. P enjoyed the rest of her sister's bomb pop after eating a healthy sized portion of cotton candy. She just melts my heart. Such a sweetie. Her big sister, M, is also a little dear, but she's a little camera shy.

After the zoo, my dad spent some time tilling our vegetable garden and I finished clearing out the dead stuff from the flower garden. It feels so good to have finished that project! They stuck around for dinner and then G and I hit the local nursery to find some seeds for the vegetable garden.

G's parents took us out to brunch on Sunday morning. Our big brunch left us feeling pretty lethargic, so we spent the first part of the afternoon just sitting around and being lazy. Eventually, I ran some errands and then we spent a few hours outside taking care of more yard work. G mowed the lawn, and I did some more weeding in the flower beds and planted our first vegetable garden. We ended the day hitting some tennis balls at the courts near our house.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Decorating Our Nest: Living Room

[Note: This somehow posted without me knowing it...sorry for the missing pictures - I've added them!]

Last week G and I went to HomeGoods in search of lighting options for our living room. We ended up purchasing a rug that had been marked down to $100. It's not exactly what I had imagined for our living room, but the colors couldn't be better and the price was unbeatable, so we stuffed into our little Neon and brought it home. I still think it looks like something my grandparents would have owned, but it's growing on me more and more.

Now that we have the rug, we're excited to finish furnishing the room. I've mentioned before that I've been searching Craig's List for furniture deals, but we've finally decided to just go with a coffee table and matching side tables from Target.

They are from the same line of furniture as the console table in our entryway, so that will help to create a sense of cohesion between the two spaces. Additionally, they're currently 15% off and qualify for free shipping, so we like them even more.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Catching Up

I feel as though I owe my faithful readers some updates, so here goes:

1. I love my subbing assignment. If money were no issue, I didn't have my existing education loans to pay off and/or I had full funding for another degree, I would apply for admittance into a special education licensure program. I've only felt this certain about something one other time in my life (knowing that G was supposed to be my life partner), and I honestly think that special education is my vocational calling. I love the challenges I encounter with each new student I work with, I truly enjoy building relationships with my students, and I leave the school feeling a sense of fulfillment and joy.

2. Our gardens are starting to look more and more beautiful. In the past 5 days, our front garden has gone from looking like this:

to this - look closely, you'll see some change:

...and just yesterday these blossoms appeared on one of the bushes:

The light in the picture isn't great, but those flowers are a dark purple and they are lovely. I love coming home to them! I'm hoping to make good progress with gardening projects this weekend.

3. I'm not sure what's going on, but I have more pimples on my face right now than I ever did as a teenager. Earlier this week I bought a Burt's Bees' herbal blemish stick and I've been surprised by how effective its been. Definitely recommended.

4. I had my stitches removed on Wednesday morning, which meant I was back on the treadmill that night. After 8 days of no exercise running 5K wasn't as easy as it once was. I'm so glad I can exercise again - I feel so much better when I spend some time at the gym.

5. I've been working on a number of sewing projects, including some more booties. I'll try to post about them sometime next week. No promises.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prepping the Garden

This is how I spent my Thursday night:

The mountain of leaves that covered our garden has been reduced to a small hill. I'm hoping my dad's tiller will take care of the rest of the stuff this weekend. At this point most of what is left is blackened, heavy organic matter. One pitchfork of that stuff must be around three pounds. Twenty pitchforks full of organic matter into one bag yields an extremely heavy bag. Eleven full bags (ten are in the picture, and one is in the garbage bin at the end of the driveway) carried just under 1/2 acre from the garden to the mailbox equals one very tired, very fatigued me.

My husband is in for quite the surprise when he returns from tennis. When he left at 8:00, I had filled two bags and moved them to the patio. I managed to fill the remaining 9 bags by 9:00 and get them all moved to the mailbox. From this point forward, all lawn clippings and leaves will be removed fro our yard in the fall, and not just relocated until the spring. That was a dumb thing to do. Lesson learned!

Here's to hoping the rest of the crap on the garden can be mixed in with the soil. I want to get our garden started this Sunday!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I got nothin' for you today, except for this video. It's apparently been viral for a while, but - as usual - I just heard about it.

G took a picture of me this morning, mostly so I could see just how distracting my bandage really is. Yup, pretty bad. Maybe I'll post it later, because I'm also wearing a really cute Nick & Mo top I got on super-sale at Nordstrom Rack earlier this week. Until then, have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New look

Check out the look I'll be rockin' for the next 24 hours:

This is what happens when you have a cyst removed from your eyebrow area. I didn't dare take the picture straight on - having the entire upper right quarter of your face sterilized for a medical procedure doesn't exactly do awesome things for one's appearance. The kids at school (who, by the way, have big attitudes and no manners) are going to have so much fun with my temporary look. Fortunately, I didn't have to go to school this afternoon. It's a half-day, and since I'm a sub I don't have to go to any training sessions. Nice. Tomorrow will be interesting, though...

After my appointment I went to Target to pick up some Tylenol and the woman at the checkout counter asked me if anyone had ever told me I look like Julia Stiles. I told her that I'd heard that a few times before, but that it had been a while. That got me thinking that I should look at some pictures of Julia Stiles online while researching hairstyles for my haircut tomorrow evening. For those of you who know me, do you think I can pull this one off (sans highlights)?

I'm still not convinced I look like her, but it's a nice complement. Feedback on the hairstyle, please!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Recipe: Whipped Marscarpone Topping

My parents used to own an avocado green waffle iron. I remember thinking it was ancient back in the 1980s, and they didn't replace it until I was in college. When I was a kid, my dad would pull it out from the cupboard every Saturday morning and make a huge batch of waffles. We'd eat waffles until we were stuffed and then he'd freeze the rest for the upcoming week (Eggo ain't got nothin' on my dad's frozen waffles). Over the weekend I reminisced about those Saturday mornings. Not sure why those memories popped into my head, but I'm glad they did! G and I ended up having breakfast for dinner both Saturday and Sunday. We used our heart-shaped waffler, which my parents gifted me with for Christmas a few years ago:

The batch we made on Sunday were amazing. We topped them with the leftover whipped filling I made for our Easter dinner and drizzled a little pure maple syrup on top for good measure. So, so yummy. To make the filling/topping I combined 8 ounces of marscarpone, 1/2-3/4 cup heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Slather a little bit (or a lot) of that on your waffles and you will be in heaven. I'm so hungry for it right now.

Instead, I'm eating a toasted leftover waffle with peanut butter, bananas and pure maple syrup. Probably a better option, but I don't think anything could beat that whipped filling I made on Sunday.