Tuesday, May 24, 2011

House and Yard Project Updates

The last week and a half has flown by! When we weren't at our jobs working, we were busy working on projects around our house and yard. Since we'll be heading back home for Memorial Day weekend, we knew we wanted to get some outdoor and indoor projects completed in order to truly enjoy the start of summer when we return (not to mention being ready to host our first big party - pub crawl - since we had Mia!). So here's a quick recap of the big changes we made at our place.

1) Last weekend David rented a BIG tiller and dug up a large chunk of land alongside our back deck. We expanded our normal veggie garden area, plus added in room for 8 grape vines! We planted 8 cold-hardy Marquette vines, which, if we're still here in 3-5 years, we will be making WINE from! We also planted our entire veggie garden and set up a play area for Amelia, which resulted in us being outside for almost 12 straight hours. We found the play set for Mia on a garage sale in our neighborhood for $40 - it didn't want to come apart, so David had to strap it to the hood of the Xterra and drive it home. Needless to say, Mia LOVES the slide. We also had a sandbox/wading pool that we purchased online last summer (using a gift certificate I won on Angela's blog!). It's in the shape of a butterfly, so one wing holds the sand and you can put water in the other wing (or use that wing to cover the sandbox part when not in use). It also has an umbrella for shade, which is critical for our little red head. I'm really excited to put it to use this summer.

New view of the backyard.

The vines - not much to see at this point.

One vine up close.

Veggie garden.

Mia's personal playground.

2) This past weekend was wet and stormy, so we spent a lot of time indoors (except when we went out Saturday morning to check out the city-wide rummage sales - lots of good deals for a grand total of $10.75!). We decided that we needed to finish up a couple of projects so that we could move on to the more exciting projects we have planned for this summer (painting, painting, and more painting!). David has been working on setting up a wine cellar in our basement, but it hasn't been coming together like we had hoped. We have an area under the outdoor cement stairs leading to our main door that hasn't been in use for the past 6 years that we've lived in our house. Why? Because it was full of dirty, gross sand, and LOTS of spiders! After the recent basement flooding we experienced this spring, we decided to clean it out and try to find a purpose for it (this was after my dad was up and suggested that it may make a good wine cellar). So, here's what we were dealing with:

This is all of the sand that we pulled out of the cellar!

Unfortunately, after multiple rounds of cleaning and attempting to seal the cinder block, we still had some water leaking into the space. Meanwhile, David had found 2 awesome handmade wood wine racks (7 ft tall, 3 ft wide, each holding 160 bottles - so enough for 6 linear feet holding 320 bottles!) on Craigslist. Although only one rack would actually fit in our cellar space, we purchased both (we didn't want to separate the set, plus we figured we could use them both eventually). Since we were still having water problems, we really didn't want to risk ruining the racks (or, god forbid, the wine they held!), so we came up with a new plan. Unfortunately, this plan was devised about 3 1/2 hours before we had company coming over for the evening, so we spent Saturday afternoon scrambling around our basement, reorganizing the entire area in order to accommodate the new wine racks, plus still make use of the cellar area we had cleaned out. Luckily, we were able to get it all done just in time to clean ourselves up before the company got there! Then, we were able to use our new wine space to bottle the latest batch of wine - a blackberry merlot that is probably going to be named Rapture Rose' or Rapture Red, since we bottled it on the day of the proclaimed "rapture." Then we tried out our new zombie apocalypse board game with our guests!

(Note: there aren't any pictures of the cellar, suffice it to say that we moved one of our plastic storage shelves in there and stuffed a bunch of stuff on it that we don't frequently use - so at least it now serves a purpose and isn't just holding dirty sand!)

3) The rest of our weekend was spent starting ANOTHER batch of wine (a Cabernet Sauvignon that will be the first batch to go in David's brand spankin' new French oak barrel!) and cleaning out our full tile shower, ripping the old, mildewy caulk out, and finally (last night) redoing the caulk. It was a busy 2 weekends, but well worth it to get so much accomplished! Now we can relax going into our holiday weekend.

Mia update: We decided that she OFFICIALLY became an all-out toddler this weekend. She is a force to be reckoned with...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Danimal Graduated!

My baby brother (I have to say this because 1. he's the youngest of my two younger brothers and 2. he's much larger than me so to say 'little' brother is very misleading) graduated from UMN last Friday! The majority of the family (minus Stephen, who was getting ready for a concert, plus Laura, who was taking Amelia back to our place after supper) got together at the Red Stag Supper Club in NE Mpls for an early supper/happy hour before heading to commencement on campus, then out to Excelsior, where we met up with the rest of the family, plus some extended and honorary family, to party at Bayside during the 9Tomorrows' concert. It was a good night. Now he's moved back home, where he will start his big boy job with AgReliant in a week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Video update

Here's a video of Mia walking around with a hat over her head - I posted on this awhile ago. She does this a lot.

Here's Mia playing with the new pots and pans and utensils we found her at IKEA last weekend. She stayed quiet and occupied for an HOUR with these. It was insane - and better yet, she's still playing with them. I think I may have a young chef on my hands!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lucky Mama

With these two hooligans, how can I NOT be the luckiest mama on earth? (...and can you see the resemblance?? wow!)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Jewelry Frame

Look what I made! Take one slightly gaudy, gold painted plastic frame that you find at a thrift store for $1.50, cut out some cork board tiles to fit inside the frame, cover with leftover fabric (that just happens to match the top of the hope chest that is right under the frame), hang on wall, add lots of jewelry, maybe a few special hankies, and other odds and ends, and viola! A jewelry frame. Fun and functional. And damn near free!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Grilled Grapefruit Margaritas

Happy Cinco de Mayo (1 day late)! I found this recipe a-LONG-while ago, and filed it away in my bookmarks to make another time. I'm so glad we finally tried them out, because they were AMAZING. A little work up front led to a great night of drinking! ;) Check out the recipe at Well Fed, I borrowed her beautiful picture since we didn't remember to take any of our own. If you're just looking to try them out, go ahead and just do 2 grapefruits, but if you suspect that you'll be drinking them for a few days (like I will), then I'd make 4 grapefruits right away. I just stored the remaining juice and spiced simple syrup in the fridge. Also, be sure to use some good tequila, don't bother with Jose' for these guys! They are worth the extra expense! I can't wait to drink a pitcher of these out on my deck this summer - who's with me?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mia's Fave Board Books

So J-Funk recently did a blog post on her daughter, Layla's, favorite baby books. I thought this was a FANTASTIC idea because we LOVE books over here in Minneapoland and we are always looking for new recommendations! (Thanks J-Funk! We're going to check out some of Layla's faves soon!) We hit a few consignment sales this spring and loaded up on board books because Amelia is a READER. She LOVES her books and will pull them off the shelves and sit down and read them all by herself, and we have to read at least 3 books every night before bed (sometimes more, lots more). Books are constantly scattered across our house, but it is awesome.

Here are Mia's current faves:

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss - her all time favorite. She will make us read this OVER AND OVER. I think it's got to be the rhythm that she loves so much. She also likes to point to one picture in the middle of the story that she believes is a doggy.

Which brings us to...That's Not My Puppy by Fiona Watt, Rachel Wells. She actually received That's Not My Snowman for Christmas, and she loved it, but when we found this one, we knew that would become a quick fave! J-Funk mentioned that Layla has That's Not My Tractor: hint, hint Grandpa Jon!

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. She doesn't actually let us read this entire story yet, but each page has a different animal on it and she loves to hear us do the different animal noises! The first page has a sun on it, so instead of doing an animal noise, I started saying "Good morning!" and I didn't realize that I would always tilt my head when I did so until she starting mimicking me! So now whenever we say "Good morning!" she tilts her head (very dramatically - it almost touches her shoulder) and smiles.

Along the animal noise theme, she recently fell in love with this book: Let's Go To the Farm, a Fisher Price Little People lift-the-flap book. It's a big board book, with a TON of flaps for her to lift up on each page. We haven't gone through all of the flaps, mostly because we were trying to preserve it for awhile (she's wreaked havoc on a number of flap books!), but each page goes through different subjects, e.g. shapes, colors, animal babies, animal noises, etc.

She also really loves Five Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth, which has five plastic ladybugs that disappear with each page turn. We have a few of these (Five Little Monkeys, Five Wishing Stars), but the ladybugs are her favorite. Good counting practice!

This doesn't even really scratch the surface! We have a TON of books, but are always looking for new recommendations, so please send them our way!