Benjamin, Life, Tabitha

School2014
It was an exceptionally CRAZY first week of school.

All the things happened, practically at the same time.

The kids started school – but not even on the same day – on two different days, which led to me going to work late two days and then taking off early to pick them up two days.

Matt got sick – like actually take-a-vacation-day sick (and the other reason I was doing drop off and pickup).

I got a completely out-of-the-blue, totally-last-minute project for work that I handled while watching an entire season of Downton Abbey.

The photo shoot I had scheduled went from an estimated 3 hours long to an estimated 7 hours long to an actual 6 hours long.

I had to spend two hours on Wednesday evening at the kids’ music orientation.

Family came in from out of town.

We almost didn’t get a proposal in.

I sat on a panel (which sadly did not involve any sitting). I did not get my pedicure. I had bunco. I avoided Matt’s icky bug and so did the kids.

 

SO ANYHOW, SCHOOL: The kids are super happy with their new teachers. They are off to a great start for the first year. We haven’t even screwed up too much/many paperwork assignments and they have more or less been on time.

Ben is most excited about the cafeteria, specials (art/music/gym) and recess! Tabby is most excited that her BFF is in her class. Also, they have a field trip soon!

The kids have been crazy tired in the afternoons. I expected Ben to be a bit off, but Tabby has been just as tired if no more so! And me too. Lots of adjustments, lots of fun. The kids start music lessons tomorrow to add to the crazy. And we have more out-of-town guests for the next couple of weeks and a couple of weekend trips.

Life is good.

A

Dream House, Home Improvement

great1greatroomThe great room is a big work in progress, for sure. It still has quite a few boxes, mostly of artwork, photos and A/V equipment that we need to deal with. But this house has less wall space, so we’re biding our time, figuring out where the best things go and then we’ll have to make some decisions about the others.

great2

The great room is again where we ended up condensing two rooms from the old house into one room here. Our mostly unused living room merged with our oft-used family room and here’s the result. Couch for TV viewing and socializing, fireplace for coziness, piano for playing, a cozy chair for reading and for good measure, the Mad Men bar cabinet that used to be in Matt’s office.

We got an odd bonus in this room when our builder decided to tile past the mantle straight to the ceiling. We hadn’t spec’d it or paid for it, but we got it anyhow and we do think it looks nice. It did make mounting the TV a huge pain in the arse. Oh well.

Done

  • Mounted the TV
  • Installed the window coverings (7 total!!)
  • Cleared out a ton of stuff

To D0

  • Hang artwork (sooner)
  • Clear out other random boxes (sooner)
  • Program the motors on the shades to work from remote control (sooner)
  • Fix the wiring to the subwoofer (sooner)
  • Throw pillows for the couch for color (whenever)
  • an area rug (whenever)
  • Paint the piano (later!!)

Yes, you read that last one right. I think I’ve decided to paint my grandma’s piano. I like the dark honey wood better than I expected to in this room, but it’s not my favorite and I do think we could use a big pop of color on that wall. I want to live with it for now and try infusing color in other places first. I might even just start with upholstering the bench.

Dream House, Home Improvement


office1

study+foyer

office2

The Office

I’ve mentioned before that we actually ended up condensing some rooms when we moved from our old house to this one. We no longer have a family room and living room, just an (albeit larger) greatroom. And likewise, Matt and I no longer have separate offices, we now share one. Granted, this is not much of a sacrifice. I have a  lovely office that is 100% my own at work so my use at home is limited to when I want to do crafty things and when I need to work at home for work.

office3

The office was pretty much a blank space, but we considered carefully and figured out what we wanted to do with the space: comfortable work area for Matt, occasional work area for myself and the kids and storage of all office/crafty stuff for the house. We bought the cabinets a month or more before we moved, on a Discover Card bonus 5% back and stored them. Assembly/installation was easily the biggest task in this room, but it’s done now and the room is otherwise progressing very well.

Done

  • Assemble all cabinets
  • Hang/install all cabinets
  • Unpack/fill/organize all cabinets
  • Setup two desk areas
  • Search madly for a bookcase because (wow!) we still have a fair few books and get that in place
  • Unpack the books
  • Install window coverings
  • Hang photo board (from old dining room)

To Do

  • Finish up the unpacking/organizing the remaining random stuff and clear surfaces!! (sooner)
  • Construct and install the barn door! (sooner, hopefully)
  • Find a pair of chairs for either side of the work surface (sooner)
  • Add floating shelves and maybe a set of drawers above the work surface (sooner)
  • Hang some more art on the walls (whenever!)
  • Maybe add some floating shelves above Matt’s desk (??)
  • Rug??

 

foyer

The Foyer

I debated even putting this “room” on the tour because it’s hardly a room and pretty lackluster at this point. That said, however, I like this little entrance area and it has nice potential. Despite the fact that it spans both floors, it doesn’t feel too grand and it’s not overly big, but has a good feel. In the photo, you can see the front door and the window to its right. To the right of that is a very nice coat closet that is currently being used to store random things like the tools we’re still using to put up this and that. The wall on the left side is the office and it will eventually have the barn door we’re building. Behind me as I’m shooting this, it opens to the great room and kitchen.

Done

  • Put up window covering
  • Disperse the tons of junk that collected there while we were moving (the pile was WAY higher!)

To Do

  • Finish up with the boxes (sooner)
  • Think this area needs a nice rug … not sure what (whenever)
  • Place shoe rack for guests (sooner)
  • Maybe some art?? (whenever)

 

Dream House, Home Improvement

kitchen + diningkitchen2The house tour continues this way, to the kitchen and dining room areas. The kitchen may have been the room I was most excited about before we moved. I truly loved our cozy little kitchen in the old house and was sad to leave it, but I was eager for the very nice upgrade this kitchen gives us. I’ve said it before … people gather in the kitchen, especially when you cook! We love to cook and would frequently have 6+ people in our little kitchen. That plus extra space for one of our favorite hobbies had both of us twitterpated.

 

spagjunct

Kitchen 

The new house has an open floorplan so dining, kitchen and greatroom seamlessly blend together for a big room that somehow nonetheless feels cozy. I love that the dining room is directly adjacent to the kitchen and I really love our dedicated pantry and a ton of extra cabinet space. This room is probably second only to our office in terms of level of organization required since we have LOTS of cooking gear, all of which we USE. We are about as far along in this room as we are in any room, but we still have a little ways to go.

spices

I was very excited to find a great spot for our spice rack. Not only do I love it for looks and function, but it’s one of the first things Matt ever built! On top of that, it ended up being a great place to showcase these cool little tin prints my mom got me (actually I think she got me the veggie ones and these went to my sister, but I ended up with them anyhow).

Done

  • Unpack. This was a hurculean effort and it’s DONE. YAY US.
  • Organize the kitchen
  • Hang spice rack
  • Hang produce basket from wall
  • Place attractive decorative plant and

pantry

To Do

  • Organize the pantry (sooner)
  • Get rid of the random spaghetti junction on the very back counter that is our ad hoc temporary networking center (sooner)
  • Replace the pendants over the island with the big green ones (sooner)
  • Think about alternative arrangment for paper towels – under sink? (later)
  • Replace the bar stools with ones that function properly and compliment our decor ($$$$ later)

The function of the kitchen has been great so far. We have tons of space to work in and even some empty drawers and cabinets (!?!). The kids can eat breakfast at the counter and it will be a great spot for a little homework as well in just a few weeks. The pantry, even disorganized is miles ahead of where we’ve ever been.

Additionally, one of my favorite features in the entire house is in our kitchen – the kicksweep. Kicksweeps in case you don’t know are awesome little vents in your floorboards that you can kick open. They then produce suction and allow you to sweep a pile of yuck into them. They are genius! We love them.

dining

Dining Room

The dining room was an exciting room for me decorating wise because we got to get new furniture. With all the expenses of a new house, we didn’t want to replace most of our furniture, and we didn’t NEED to either. But the dining room was a different story. Our furniture was from ikea and going on 12 years old. It had been through dozens of parties and years of little kids. Its time had come and gone.

So we looked at length and finally found a furniture company out of Canada, Canadel, who makes semi-custom furniture. Pick a size, pick a leg style, pick a finish, etc. And so we did … A table, two benches and two chairs. It wasn’t cheap, but we got exactly what we wanted and we’re super happy with it. Likewise, our “sidebar” from PB teen, is also a perfect fit.

Like the kitchen, this room isn’t 100% done, but it’s 100% livable

Done

  • New dining set
  • New “sidebar”
  • Organize dining accessories
  • Hang roller shades

To Do

  • Put some stuff on the walls!! (sooner)
  • Consider a chandelier (later)

 

Dream House, Home Improvement


mudroom+powderroomThe house is coming along grandly, so I’m going to share, room by room what it looks like right now, what’s been done, and what’s left. Since the mudroom is where you enter, I’m starting there.

mudroom2The Mudroom

We are so happy with the way this room has come together. We both feel an incredible sense of “hell yea!” whenever we walk in the door. This is one of those grand plans that truly has come to fruition. The spec on this room is for there to be a closet in the corner by the powder room, but we paid $50 to have it removed (I know!!) and Matt built cabinets to put inside it, based on this sketch I did.

mudroom.fw

 

Of course, things changed along the way. We opted to do a pencil drawer right under the counter top and we nixed the shelves on the left for a broom closet and the boot bench is stand alone and doesn’t open to the floor and its topped with cherry, not fabric. But the essence is there.

mudroom3

And here’s a look at the opposite wall and a view outside into the outdoor living room.

What we’ve done:

  • built cabinets <– Matt is AWESOME
  • finished cabinets – Matt, my sister and I all worked like dogs on this
  • move alarm pre-wire switch
  • install cabinets! – Matt, a friend of ours and our helpful handyman did this not so little task a couple days after we moved in
  • procure granite on the cheap (all Matt)
  • install granite – included in the price of the granite (yay!!)
  • install hooks in each locker
  • install holders for vacuum and broom/mop in the broom cupboard
  • clear out Loki’s stuff that was stashed in the drawer and put it in a basket in the top broom cabinet shelf  and put in pens and other useful things
  • hang keyrack

What we’ve got left to do:

  • make and install shelves in each boot cubby (later)
  • make and install doors on broom cupboard (later)
  • trim out left side of cabinet so it runs all the way to the wall (sooner)
  • repaint patch from where alarm prewire used to be (sooner)
  • procure baskets for top cubby cabinets (sooner)
  • teach kids to use lockers/cubbies (sooner)
  • paint giant chalkboard on wall closest to the dining area (considering will be done later)
  • hang kids’ measuring stick on end of wall closest to dining area (sooner)
  • general organization stuff (??)

All in all? Not bad. The doors/shelves will be done once Matt’s shop is up and running again and once I get over my current antipathy towards painting/sanding/finishing.

powderroom

The Powder Room

There are few rooms in the new house that resemble their counterparts in the old house as closely as this one does. We used virtually the same color for our accent wall and the same art, hand towels, basket, etc. I really liked our old powder room, so I saw no reason to mess with success. But here’s a recap:

Done

  • accent wall (thank you painting faeries!)
  • accessories added back in

To Do

  • Hang wall art, couple of great camping related prints (sooner)
  • Frame and hang another print that our friends gave us, a cute travel trailer made from CO maps!! (sooner)
  • Wouldn’t mind changing out that mirror for something framed (no hurry)

So that is part 1 of the main level. Tomorrow – the kitchen + dining room!

Benjamin, Tabitha

The house is coming along nicely! We have been making “diligent and expedited” progress as we say in the proposal writing biz. We felt like we really turned the corner on the main level a couple of nights ago when we got all the window coverings hung (Matt) and the office unpacked (me). Since then we’ve mostly been “cleaning up” the main level, sending bits and pieces to their proper places (sometimes Goodwill) and taking out the trash and recycling. There’s actually quite a lot of that to do. My oh-so-exciting plans for when I get home from work today are to actually vacuum and mop our wood floor on that level. With zero landscaping and lots of rain, we’ve got the muddy paw prints everywhere!!

I hope to post some nice photos of how things are progressing by Sunday. It’s looking good!!

2014-06-23 18.30.30-1But loads of other things are happening right around us. A couple of months ago, Ben earned his third stripe for yellow belt, jumping ahead of his sister who took the summer off from karate to focus on her intensive music program. That alone was a big accomplishment and he has been getting high marks from his sensei who has applauded his greatly improved focus. Last night we learned that in addition, he will likely be able to test for the next belt (orange) in a week as well. It’s been a great summer for Ben!

2014-08-08 13.26.29Tabby has had a great summer too. She successfully completed an entire school year’s worth of music classes in about 2.5 months. This effort took huge commitment and dedication on her part. She went to class two days every week and in the time between each class, only 3-4 days, she had to learn the material for two lessons, or about 2 weeks worth. That included two theory lessons, 2-3 brand new songs and additional elements for songs she’d already learned and music appreciation elements. Barely a day went by when we didn’t practice and as I’m sure I mentioned, we even found a keyboard to continue with while we were on vacation!

Yesterday, she passed her final assessment with flying colors and performed at her recital. It was interesting because she’d never practiced her piece without the sheet music available and I was worried for her when I saw it wasn’t there. She said she was a bit worried too. But she sat down and played it from memory as though she’d done it 100 times.

Now we get a two week break from music before Tabby heads into the third year program and Ben begins his first year in the same program.

… and in just over a week, they both start back to school! Where did summer go? How are they growing up so fast??

Baked Goods, Brekkie, Clean, Lighter

2014-07-31 21.37.28Last Thursday, before our trip to Granby, I finally got to do some baking in the new kitchen. Baking at our temporary digs was incredibly infrequent and I’d missed it! It was nice to get in a well-functioning kitchen and whip these up for our trip. As a bonus, they are GOOD.

The original recipe came from Chocolate Chocolate and More (the original original recipe came from Busy Moms Recipe Box and was actually Vanilla Pear Muffins). For my purposes, I lightened it up a bit. I decided 4T of butter was plenty for that nice smooth texture and subbed more applesauce for the 1/4 C oil and added a special sprinkle.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch cardamom
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup apple sauce
1-2 granny smith apples
vanilla sugar or plain granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Heat oven to 400. Line or grease a 12-muffin tin.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flower, baking powder, spices, salt). In a separate bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, melted butter and apple sauce. Combine the egg mixture with the dry mixture, being careful not to over mix.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin tin. Quarter and finely slice the apples and add 3-4 to the top of each muffin. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 minutes.

2014-07-31 22.05.23I happened to have some vanilla sugar hanging around the house that we bought on some hipster voyage to the spice shop. I figured it would be perfect for sprinkling in this recipe, and so I used that instead of plain granulated sugar. It was very nice and added to the vanilla flavor of these. You can obtain vanilla sugar from a few sources, but you can also make your own by mixing the scrapings of a vanilla bean with about 6 cups of sugar. It’s nice, but I’m also sure it’s not necessary.

On my 34th Birthday, I …

  1. had a lazy morning, snuggling with my husband.
  2. had fresh peaches and cottage cheese and an apple vanilla muffin for breakfast.
  3. took the kids and the dog on a walk to the mailbox.
  4. found a dead salamander and a garter snake (the kids were very impressed) during our walk.
  5. played hooky from work and spent most of the day at WATER WORLD with the kids and my sister.
  6. had birthday cake dippin dots.
  7. had the quickest of showers.
  8. took Tabby to music class.
  9. got chocolates from my fellow music mom and good friend.
  10. picked up my darling boy from karate.
  11. went home and made dinner and ate with my family.
  12. practiced the piano with Tabby.
  13. drank tons of water because I was so parched from a whole day in the sun.
  14. got tons of lovely messages, phone calls, emails, etc. from the wonderful people in my life.
  15. cleaned up my new kitchen.
  16. helped Matt unload his car of more random stuff from our rental house (and put most of it away).
  17. handed over some of our (many!) moving boxes to our friends who are renovating their kitchen.
  18. watched an adorable video of my niece wishing me a happy birthday.
  19. worked on clearing out the boxes in our bedroom.
  20. missed my mom.

Thanks to all of you who made my day so very special.

Family, Lighter, Mexican, Quick, Recipes

2014-07-29 19.16.19The whole family is in agreement – it feels so so good to be back in the routine of cooking at home! The hours we spent in the car, going back and forth between our permanent neighborhood and our temporary neighborhood nearly every day, really took it out of us and home cooking was one of the big things we cut out. Well no more! We’ve had little besides home-cooked meals for the past few days and we’re all appreciating it very much.

These burritos are an amalgam of various recipes I’ve seen on the interwebs and others I’ve done before, but this combo turned out especially well. It made a lot of extra too and I froze some with avocado and some without, so we’ll see how that turns out.

Ingredients

  • 2 lg boneless skinless chicken breasts cooked about any way you like
  • 1 lg can pinto beans or about 3 cups cooked pintos
  • garlic salt
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • about 1.5 cups of shredded cheese of your choice (colby jack, mozzarella, cheddar, queso fresco)
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • flour tortillas
  • oil/butter for browning (optional)
  • salsa, sour cream, etc. for serving (optional)

Directions

As a note, in this case, I slow-cooked a large packet of chicken breasts at the beginning of the week with some chicken stock for about 6 hours on low and then shredded them. I also have great success with dicing chicken breast, seasoning with S&P and browning over medium-high heat in a little olive oil. Pre-cooked from the deli meat or freezer sections would probably work great as well and I’d even try canned.

Heat chick and beans in a skillet over medium high heat. As they cook, season to taste with garlic salt, cumin and chili powder. Meanwhile, halve avocados and remove the pits. Slice in the skin in a grid-pattern and then scoop the newly-created chunks out with a spoon. Once the filling is hot, remove to a separate plate/bowl, clean out your skillet and heat it again over medium-high heat.

As the skillet heats, assemble the burritos. Take about 1/3 cup filling and lay it in a line in the center of the tortilla. Top with cheese (2-3T?) and avocado. I am thinking a squeeze of lime or maybe some chopped cilantro would be a nice addition as well. I’ll try that next time. Roll as you do with a burrito, pulling the sides in to seal the deal.

Next, place the little donkeys back in the skillet for browning. Some folks like to use a bit of oil or butter for this step and I must admit it’s tasty, but I usually omit it for health reasons, but if you’re feeling indulgent, give it a go. Heat/melt your oil/butter before you add the burritos. We can fit about 4 in our skillet and we lay the lid of one of our other smaller pans over the top to keep them smooshed down a bit. Cook for a couple of minutes then flip. This step makes a huge difference between pretty meh burritos and haute burrito cuisine (is there such a thing?? must be because I just said it. QED).

If you’re creating some frozen assets with the extras, skip browning and avocado (I’ll report back on that later) and wrap them tightly in foil before sticking them in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to heat, set your oven for 375 and place foil wrapped burritos inside for around 35-40 minutes. If you like, pull them out a couple of minutes ahead and give them the skillet treatment. It’s just that much better.

Dream House

2014-07-27 23.18.11So moving is a lot of work. Way more than I remembered from the last time we did it almost 10 years ago. I am pretty sure we have more stuff. I’m also pretty sure we’re secret hoarders. I mean … look at this:

2014-07-27 23.18.05

… crap everywhere! And that’s not nearly the worst of it.

What have we been up to?

Tuesday: We closed and did a bunch of stuff that night, including hanging window coverings. Unfortunately, two of the ones that shipped (we had about 1/3 arrive before we closed, the rest are on backorder) didn’t fit right, so they should be back sometime this week.

Wednesday: We worked (at our day jobs) and our painter arrived to do the color for the bedrooms and powder room. I love every color we picked and will share soon. Matt and his buddies installed the mudroom cabinets. Kelly and I built pieces of the office furniture.

Thursday: We rented a Uhaul and loaded up almost all the stuff from my sister’s garage and our friends’ basement. Our painter painted ceilings, the granite guys came to take measurements for the mudroom, we had a washer/dryer, kitchen table and chairs and eventually the refrigerator delivered. We diligently unpacked like mad, trying to stay ahead (haha).

Friday: I met the movers at our storage unit, Matt met the other crew of movers at our rental house and we moved everything from those locations. See? Secret hoarders. In 6 hours they moved the big/bad stuff. Mostly furniture and power tools. We unpacked MORE. We got everyone’s beds setup. We built Tabby’s new desk. Loki peed on the floor and we discovered our brand new washer wouldn’t work. At all.

Saturday: We unpacked. We assembled. We hung Ben’s new fan. We spent hours harassing Sears about getting us a new washer, like NOW. We eventually had to call Lowes and order a new one through them. We unpacked. We went to Ikea to pick up a couple of things.

2014-07-27 21.14.01Sunday: We actually made breakfast (pancakes and bacon) in our new kitchen (after moving around a ton of stuff).  We went to the grocery store and Home Depot for various deficiencies. Our new new washer arrived. We did tons of laundry. We assembled more office furniture and installed it in the office. We made actual dinner. We went for a walk. We installed mudroom shelves and some hooks. It’s not done, but it’s looking good.

It was actually an odd pleasure to wake up this morning and go to work. I got to shower in my nice big shower. My car was right there waiting for me in the garage. The drive was about 10 minutes longer than the one from our rental house, but I will gladly take that so that Matt and the kids aren’t being run ragged on their commutes.

We’ve got a ton to do, but we are making good progress and really enjoying feathering our nest. I’m constantly amazed by my husband and his ability to work out stuff (like hanging our cabinets) and just get it done. He’s pretty brilliant. I’ve been impressed too at how the kids have pitched in and helped and how they’ve been happy to entertain themselves while we work. Life is good. And I really really appreciate it!

About


Hi! I'm Jess, a 30-something Colorado native making the most of life with my husband and kiddos. By day, I run the marketing department of a local contracting firm and in my ridiculously scant spare time, I love to run, ski, cook, travel (camp!), photograph and read. Thanks for stopping by!

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What I’m Reading

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World
When He Was Wicked
Delicious
It Happened One Season
First Comes Marriage
Simply Unforgettable
The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills--and Leave a Positive Impression!
The Naked Duke
The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills
Grace and Power
The World of the Ancient Maya
On the Way to the Wedding
The Parenting Breakthrough: Real-Life Plan to Teach Your Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent
Rose Harbor in Bloom
The Pearl of Bengal
Surprising Lord Jack
Unlimited: How to Build an Exceptional Life
Anna and the French Kiss
The Lady Most Willing...: A Novel in Three Parts
Gone Girl


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