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City meets Country

In the years away there have been plenty of changes… but the biggest change…we left the city and I talked the Mr. into buying a house in the country. While I admit, of the things the new homestead affords… most are mutual goals…but it was a hard sell not having capitol city running paths. Its now been a little over six months in the new house and we have an endless string of things we’d like to accomplish but here are our first impressions of life in the country…

  1. Creatures– No doubt moving into the country you will be dealing with endless animals, and we knew this…but now we know this. Of course there was that bird falling down the chimney, into the wood stove and flying around the room. But, besides that, we really didn’t prepare for having to catch and kill the mouse that our apparently adept cat won’t…this is generally between 1-3 am. Lesson learned-get a real cat or keep “barn cats” ours may be pretty but he also may just be defective… nuisances aside-the birds have captured my attention…I find myself patiently (or creepily if you ask the Mr.) staring into the magnolia tree or a random bush waiting for a glimpse of the cuter side of our new surroundings.IMG_5537
  2. Rural Internet this is probably my biggest beef. Moving here we kept thinking its 30 minutes from the city and its right by the interstate, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a provider…WRONG oh how wrong, after living here a month we finally found one that would provide a large enough data package for streaming…you know because at that point we still had this naive thought that we would be streaming. As time went on we’ve gotten rid of Netflix and Hulu- were basically off TV with the exception of movies from the library and an occasional amazon show on the desktop. While this was an adjustment we never had cable and this seemed like the natural next step to decrease our connection to tech
  3. Weather there is something to be said for watching the storm fronts roll in and out with no ones roof or building blocking my view. We’ve seen double rainbows, lightning storms, flooding, downed trees and some pretty amazing sunsets/ sunrises…. still doesn’t make up for the shitty internet though…
  4. Flowers flowers everywhere. I love flowers as much as the next, but I need to decrease the amount of weeding…and also things to maneuver a mower around… we will be condensing
  5. Apple trees– yes, yes they are beautiful and all… while in bloom… for those few.short.weeks.  But, you didn’t spray? BUGS ruin your crop… forgot to trim?  overgrowth-it doesn’t produce and you cant reach product easily… didn’t get to picking back fruit early season? gross, mealy or tasteless fruit oh and did I mention the ENDLESS windfalls….  Its best to not put these guys right next to other shade trees or buildings so they get the full sun they want- but also avoid putting them in the middle of the lawn as mowing over a golf ball sized rock hard apple isn’t great but trying to rake them out is even worse…one apple tree closest to the garage will be cut down and were replacing (in a full sun spot) it with a Honeycrisp tree from an orchard we pick at.
  6. Cherry trees– similar to above and when it comes to many fruiting trees- long term placement is one of the biggest things to consider. These guys specifically got HUGE here and we have more product on one tree then we will ever be able to get to. It was a bitter sweet moment taking one of the old  cherry trees down last week but without adequate sun it didn’t bloom and since we have what must be a 3 year cherry on the opposite side of the driveway (and shadowy pine), we were ready to remove and replace it. Plum and Pear trees– so its fair to say if you get a place with fruit trees know your trees …..but if you have sellers like ours that kept putting off providing the info and apparently didn’t know what they planted…wait a year or two- some trees are biennial bloomers if they are not tended to. We were told to cut some trees that were “duds” but come June I have picked over the same trees four times and the weight of the fruit still seems to be too heavy for some limbs. This was a days worth of pre-season picking of the icky fruit. 20170610_161457.jpg
  7. Raspberry & Asparagus patches– again unless things are well set up for the long term and tended to you are, in all likelihood, getting into a huge mess come summer. I thought I tended to the raspberry patch taming a 30 ft long row in the February warm snap we had….. was I wrong. The sheer amount of creeping charlie is choking out the rasp. and the rasp. are choking out the asparagus. And lets not even mention the rasp. running out into the yard…those we just mow over…We will be pulling out the whole patch in fall and moving the raspberries into way better containment up next to the grapes. As for the Asparagus…well… yeah, I’m not really sure where that will go yet…..  this was the patch last fall right after move in you see the bushy asparagus on the rightIMG_0354

    first of the raspberries June 2017!

  8. Trees– while there is something to be said for a wooded lot that can provide all the fire wood you need to stay warm- in all likelihood you will in some way need to clean the mess immediately around the house. For us this means taking down a few old trees and making sure nothing is falling on us or the neighboring barn, a never ending task with 5 massive Willows lining our lot….lucky us A & B love picking up sticks and we have bonfires on a regular occasion
  9. On season and off season tasks, in reality we do most things year round just some seasons are more intense. Chopping wood is one of those things we do more in winter but we do save what we cut and the big limbs that fall for winter firewood.IMG_2179
  10. Inside we really wanted to decrease the amount of honey oak . The rails/banisters through out the house, the built in pantry, and the beams on the ceiling …its a lot. The wood stove room beams came down last weekend we’re now retouching the ceiling holes to remount the fan. Maybe we’ll aim at the pantry next but I’m not sure either of our carpentry skills are that advanced yet…
  11. Locals– this has been one of the most bittersweet things of moving away from the city. Locals are more friendly and often are willing to lend a hand…yes please to the neighbor with the cherry picker who will be helping remove a willow tree. But they can also be up in your business in no seconds flat- lesson learned things can get weird…

    I am amazed at what we can find locally now though! 90 pounds of strawberries later…

  12. Tradition the most interesting part for us was learning about the area-ours specifically was known for Tobacco production an odd crop to see among the corn and beans- it is still traditionally farmed and a skip in time to watch. IMG_5282baby tobacco  more later …… maybe 😉
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Carpenters 2015 Edition

It has been FOREVA since we have had any family pictures, that is…with all 4 family members in the shot not doing something strange. Needless to say we hoped to get a few nice ones of all of us. Thus began our photographer search…well, that was 2013, I was hard pressed to find someone with my style on a realistic budget. And by realistic budget I only mean that I didn’t have to foot their studio rent that month. But…..late in 2014 a friend forwarded information for silva photography timing was perfect and we immediately set up a session for mid January. We wanted the feel of the third ward in MKE but there was an art show the day of our shoot. The photographer suggested cedarburg and that was perfect. We have some beautiful shots, I just had hoped we’d get them back on time. Anyhow, take a look!
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~all pictures taken by silva photography~

My Christmas wish

Ok, a while ago- specifically 3m ago, right after my car accident- I went by the neighbors. We had gotten a piece of their mail and I needed to talk with them for some quite selfish reasons. They are home quite a lot, as both are retired from the fire department, and since my car was gone I was often stuck-I had hoped to be able to call on them in emergencies. So, I ran out while the boys napped carrying that airline flyer completely unprepared for what I was about to hear.
They were moving. And not only that they had to be out in less than a month….as she slowly told me the story of why her nephew-who owned their home- wanted them out I wondered why she was home that day, normally her husband was home. She said “he just wants the money” referring to her 25-ish year old nephew who, let’s just say, sounds like a real winner…all sarcasm implied there….her voice shook and she broke down. Tears began to form in her eyes and I asked how she was handling everything, my selfish desires to stop by were now just a fleeting thought and I listened, thoroughly stunned. As the story unfolded I came to learn that in recent days not only had a close family friend passed, but she had also had a stroke, which explained her slow speech. She had been in the hospital for almost a week when her nephew had said “pack up.”
I couldn’t think of anything else to say but, “aww, that sucks” and “I’m sorry.” Knowing that those words are hollow but not have much else to offer we finished up our conversation and I went home I feeling absolutely terrible. I had been that person, Scott and I experienced that HARD time, and without the generosity of a few key people we really have no idea where we would be right now. I sat for a minute and then picked up the phone….who could I call to get this off my chest….then it dawned on me. This kid selling the house wanted money-and fast- he didn’t care that he would drop the place for a fraction of its worth, he didn’t want to fix it up to get the best price possible, and he surely didn’t care that he was leaving his now disabled aunt and her husband homeless, meaning, this place was a steal. I thought for a few minutes and soon came to the conclusion that any property investment company would love this. Yet who did I know that bought properties aside from my parents? Now divorced with a difficult enough time splitting the properties that they managed…there was always our landlords….wait, our landlords! They were good to us, great about the pets, fixed things in a timely fashion, and had already “flipped” our place completely gutting and renovating it. Hmmmm…..after about 15 minutes, I ran back over to the neighbor, asking if they would be ok with me letting the landlord know the place was for sale. She answered the door and seemed to be surprised that we were actually renting and didn’t buy this home as it was sitting for sale for months before we moved here last winter. With no more than “I guess so” from the neighbor I ran home almost positive that this would work out. Maybe my naive heart that could will this into working….
I texted the landlord; my only contingency- the current renters get to stay. They replied in seconds “which house, how much, who owns it.” The ball was rolling. I only had answers to some of these questions so I went back to the neighbor to get the rest…but she didn’t know either. So, we waited. Our landlord could, of course, look up the rest of it but it would take a few days. Wouldn’t you know it in those few days we needed our septic system cleaned. As they came out with all the workers cleaning our gutters and garage, fixing our porch and pumping the tank, it was mentioned that the house had been viewed and THEY WILL BUY IT!!! I was ecstatic, I literally cried with happiness. But that still left a lot to wonder, mainly when will this happen. With that answer now seeming like more of a vague pipe dream again I had little that I could do now. I sent the landlords weekly until I finally got a “we’ll let you know”….I knew I had to leave then alone and wait. The weeks went by and soon turned into a month, and then 2 months and then just shy of three months Scott called me. The neighbors had stopped by….they had just signed a lease with their new landlords, our landlords. My contingency was remembered and honored. I sank into my chair and happily cried. It was and is all I could ask for for Christmas.

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25 days of Christmas crafts

As promised, Christmas crafting, toddler style! Some of these are my “brain child” others are cool ones I’ve “googled”…. annnd some are feasible with toddlers others would be a project you could do for them. Happy Christmas crafting!!
1) Popsicle Stick Snowflakes
-toddler approved activity
2) Burlap Stockings
-ok, take 5 min on Pinterest and you will see endless ideas, find me on Pinterest if you want to see my inspiration.
-we went with two “bones” one for each dog, one “fish” for the cat and 4 regular stocking shapes. In total that took just shy of 4 yards of burlap. I lined them with scrap fabric/ old pillow cases. Used ribbon, a few rosettes and handmade bows to add some accents and that was it. You may notice a trend with the burlap here, and yes, I themed all decor around these two teddies, the boys first Christmas ornaments –> A & B xmas teddies
– tip, use a large safety pin to hang the stockings onto command wall hooks- those things are handy!
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divas pretty stocking complete with kitten tootsies;)

3) Mason Jars
– again. Pinterest. Just find what suits your style, from painted to ribbon wrapped or even snow globed the possibilities with mason jars are endless.
4) Paint with Seasonal Cookie Cutters
-pretty straight forward:)
5) Lined Sweatshirt
-I used this pattern though I am not a very gifted seamstress and every time I end up heavily adapting it. (My first attempt at them have not become our art smocks) Use the ” warm and natural” batting and it’s perfect for indoor play clothing.
6) String popcorn, cranberries or cotton puffs or marshmallows
– this is a great motor development type activity that (if they don’t scarf all the food items like my littles did) can double as awesomely cute decor.
7) Sun Catchers
-ok, this one I kinda cheated on, the dollar section at most stores have the tiny craft bin and sometimes they are perfect for breaking up a boring afternoon.
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8) Painting Ornaments
-with one of the littles presents came foam sheets. So, we repurposed and cut snowflakes out of them! Similar foam sheets can be found at most craft stores add swirls of puffy paint for dimension:)
9) Sleeping Bag IMG_3151
-this is actually a rather detailed project, I had a great time with it and as it adapted into its current form I learned more and more about sewing. Plus, I love how it turned out….win/win! Basically this sucker is a very warm padded toddler sleeping mat that rolls into its self; making it nicely portable for those family trips this holiday!
-I used eco felt as the outter layer, “warm and natural” batting as the 2nd inner layer, batting off the bolt from joann fabrics (the second one I went to though, because the first one had such terrible service that we walked out without purchasing anything from our full cart) and the inner layer being grey minky dot fabric. I made the “hood” so that it can flip under the head pillow, adding extra puff, but also wrap around the body off the sleeping bag to roll it up! toddler sleeping bags
10) Hand Painted Wrapping Paper
-you can often find “blank wrapping paper” we went for a basic brown and let the boys splatter paint the whole roll, gave it a gloss spray top coat to make sure the paint didn’t just flake off, let it dry and rolled it back up to await gift wrapping in the next few weeks.
11) Marshmallow Fondant
– ok, this really goes with the cookies so maybe I’m cheating a bit here by using it as two activities…BUT….you would likely have to do this two separate days. If you hadn’t noticed those seasonal cookie cutters come in handy again here 😉
12) Paper Garland
– I used extra seasonal scrap paper I had to make the garland. Guiding the boys to “cut” strips and “glue the loops” we actually had a lot of fun with this one.
13) Toilet Paper Roll Wreath
– sounds weird but it’s actually pretty darn cute
14) PVC Snowman
– this was mainly because I built a pvc house for our garage play space and we had it left over. So, find something that you have around your house that is junk but could be a repurposed “craft” for the kiddos.
15) Family Cards
– let the littles finger paint individual cards for family members
16)Cookies
-any kind really will do for this holiday but two tips that have become a must when cookie making in our house; always brown the butter first and used molasses & sugar rather than brown sugar. These two things really add the “wow factor” to the flavor of any cookie!
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17) Felt Snowmen/Reindeer/Santa
– felt is kinda a staple crafting item that we have around so it seemed only natural to do a felt ornament with the boys. We had them decorate a tree….it got a bit messy :0
-glitter, shapes, textures, etc etc etc. this was a great sensory play activity!
18) Splatter Wall Art (red/white/green/gold/silver)
– best to save this messy one for a bath day 😉
19) Dress up day/Pictures
– strings of lights, Santa hat & play time
– pretty self explanatory activity that you can have fun with! We always have random strings of lights and the boys find them entertaining but throw some dress up clothes in there and the whole day can be filled.
20) Scarves
-pretty simple infinity scarf for toddlers. I paired a heavy eco-felt and a soft plaid reindeer flannel. And cut based on the littles shoulder width and noggin dimensions.
– make sure you can loop it round the head twice
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21) Pine Cone Hunt
-Well, we had to have at least one activity outside….we live in a well wooded area so no driving needed just step outside and we were off to “match pine comes”
22) Santa Beard
-so, originally I was thinking something like this…..then I saw this….the jury is still out on which we will be making this season.
23) Jammie Pants
– you can find free patterns at just about every online sewing resource. Line them in minky fabric like I did for that extra cozy warm appeal this winter.
24) Gingerbread House
– this one means a special shopping trip as most of the tradition ginger bread house making stuff we don’t even keep in the house anymore. But easy alternative…use the cardboard boxes that all of your holiday presents will be shipping in and build a paper/cardboard house. Or many craft stores not have “kits”
25) Burlap Santa Sack
This project I loved, even though I ended up keeping it super simple it was fun to look at everyone’s ideas. I got the actual sack from amazon for $6.50 for a 40in by 24in bag. And then hand painted it with fabric paints. Using decor ribbon to “tie”. Yay for no more wrapping oddly shaped gifts!IMG_3135-0.JPG

Getting the twins texting with Toymail

Yep, you read that right! But before you get all weirded out my two year olds using technology, it’s not what you think, Honest!!

Buck arrived this week and let’s just say the littles haven’t put him down by choice. This sweet little gadget plays the audio messages you record and send from your mobile device! You do need one for each child as you can’t have two kiddos personalized onto one toy from what we can tell. But, were ok with that since we were planning on getting one for each anyhow. Hopefully, Bushwick will be available to order soon. In the little time I’ve spent playing around with the thing it seems pretty straightforward. You download the app to your mobile device(both droid and iOS friendly). Then set up one main account from here you can invite or be friend requested-letting you keep track of who has contact with your little through Toymail. Each persons mobile devices need a separate account though, meaning even if they live in the same house on the same wifi they need a different Toymail account. -this tripped us up a bit- once we got a few messages under our belt we passed it around the house.

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Sorry, I’m a dog trainer so everything is an opportunity to socialize and train😉

The guys LOVE it and the only complaint we have is that it plays one message at a time AND you have to reply to it before you will hear the next message. This company is still really new and I’m gathering from their semi recent kickstarter campaign that these are the first available toys. That being said I’m super excited to see how this company grows and what features they add in the future! My vote: a bit of memory and ability to toggle through different message “folders”. And a rechargeable permanent battery with a charger cord, I’m thinking similar to a phone.IMG_3008.PNG

Apple Picking 2014

Well it’s no surprise that apple picking has become somewhat of a family tradition…we have gone to one place or another every year since we had A&B normally there are some form of farm attractions for kids but this years play farm took the cake. They found entertainment not only in the huge play equipment, mazes, and baby goats but also in apple picking. And that’s a first -last year they just wanted to pick the rotten ones from the ground and throw them away. IMG_2956.JPGWe met grandmaIMG_2981.JPG and some friends and their son for play time and a “last visit” before she heads off for boot camp. Im sad to loose a “mom-friend” in the area but beyond excited for what this new stage in their life will bring them. We wrapped up the day with Scott coming home a smidge early (ie he avoided Chicago traffic) and the boys crashing a whole 2 hours early. Wonderful day in my books 🙂
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DIY toddler friendly playroom

ladies and gents it’s finally done. This project moved RE.DIC.u.lous.LY SLLLLOOW!! But we’ve finally finished and are unveiling!!!

The magnetic chalkboard

It originally was to be a PVC desk hinged to the wall to flip down with an acrylic top…hard to picture I know think this just turned 180 degrees with an acrylic top. Sadly, we didn’t have the correct tools and it probably would have been way more expensive than we would really want to attempt for a kids desk….needless to say the project has evolved many times. But our end result was not only SUPER cheap but also SUPER cool. Take a peek…..IMG_2908.JPG I painted the acrylic with 3 layers of magnetic paint (which was on clearance for 3$ each, score!) leveled it as best I could and then topped with 3 coats of chalk board spray paint. The frame was cut from cheap menards 1x3s to fit the acrylic 48×24-rectangle shape. I pre-drilled holes through the acrylic and wood to secure together- I did crack the acrylic in a spot or two from drilling the screw in too far-so be careful with that step. I then divided out the frame to fit craft items we had inside. We then hinged it to the wall and secured with a pad lock – chyeah we have twin toddlers-note that fabric strip tying the toy box closed also 😉 I made a plastic “pocket” with hot glue and some extra crafting plastic sheeting I had. IMG_2909.JPG

huge plus, it fits just about ALL of the littles crafting items! P.s. I used some trim from the book shelves to create a “lip” on the bottom of the chalk board to set chalk markers or brushes on.
DIY wall book shelves-supersaver edition

IMG_2926.JPGThey are literally just painted 1x4s with pre-painted trim wood glued or nailed on to create a “lip”. I secured them to wall studs with small corner braces (one on each shelf end). Voila!! I’m super happy with how these little reading nooks turned out. OHHHH and the Bonus project? The pouf!! Perfect toddler seating but, that was yet another project gone awry…it started out as a seat cover for the stroller when the boys were infants. But they NEVER napped in stores and hated being covered 😦 boo!! But I easily repurposed the “hood” shape to make complete circles and left a zipper hole to fill it with old blankets and plushies!
aaaaand.DONE