Monday, July 21, 2014

Around the House

We have been insanely busy the last few weeks working on some projects around the house. First on the list were some very necessary repairs involving jacks under our front porch and entirely new gutters - we grind our teeth at having to spend so much money fixing this house but like I said, very necessary, and Steve is still in awe that water now runs off the side gutters and not directly into our basement. We consoled ourselves with some fun projects - one is finished and one is very much still in progress but we figured we would share pictures anyway.

First up in the picture queue is the flower box that Steve built for me on the back porch, outside of the breakfast nook windows. He has had this flower box in his mind for months and finally got it finished, and I decided to fill it up with flowers that specifically attracted butterflies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds. We are so often at the kitchen table between eating and art projects, and the girls love looking out of those window to spot deer, hawks, owls, rabbits, and any other random creatures wandering through the woods. So now we have a beautiful little butterfly garden right outside the window - the girls adore spotting butterflies and bees, and we finally spotted our first hummingbird tonight!

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I think dahlias are so pretty but I never planted them before because they are toxic to dogs. And now I have pink and yellow ones!

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The second MAJOR project in our house is our front sitting room. It's the room right to your left as you walk in our front door, and it's always seemed to be a hodgepodge of leftover furniture. Originally it was a true sitting room where I intended to read, but the light was awful. Then it morphed into a piano sitting room when we were housing SuSu's piano. And then it morphed into a dining room once we built Steve's bar and fish tank stand.

We have been bickering about furniture for Steve's fish tank room for months now, and then one night, I asked him if there was any possibility of moving this massive 120 gallon fish tank. It seemed like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole with the limitations of the former dining room, and with such a fun thing as a big saltwater fish tank, I wanted the first room in our house to be a showpiece instead of just the leftover furniture room.

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Late-night furniture moving. This project has turned my house into a hot mess!!

We started by repainting the walls Silver Sage by Restoration Hardware (as matched by Sherwin Williams). We tried three or four different colors but instantly agreed on this one!

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Steve's reinforcements are built.

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Starting the very tedious process of moving the tank.

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Do you see Nemo swimming around in there? (Although actually her name is Tink - Nemo unfortunately passed away in the great Dino Gate of 2014 and we are in the process of replacing him).

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Finally filled up and with the new LED lights temporarily on top! Fishies seem happy!

We massively lucked out with Craigslist for the white bookshelves - Steve had been planning to make over his bar, but it was going to require an insane amount of work to get it strong enough and wide and deep enough for the fish tank. I suggested just taking a peek at Craigslist to see if there was something closer to what we needed, and we found this set that had been custom-made for someone in Atlanta. We bought it sort-of-sight-unseen and took a gamble on it, but seriously...it looks like it was made for our space. All Steve had to do was build reinforcements under the main part to support the tank and add a little bit of depth. We've already been working on filling up the shelves and have been having so much fun getting this room finished. It's still quite a ways away from being done but we will be sure to post some good pictures as we go!

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Sticking in some new coral acquisitions.

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A sneak peek of the new lighting structure that Steve built!

Mommy-Daughter Day, Poppins Style

There is a delightful community theater in my old stomping grounds of Lawrenceville called the Aurora Theatre. My friend Kara and I have wandered over there on occasion for improv nights after a few cocktails at McCray's Tavern, but I have never seen an actual play there before. But when they announced that they would performing Mary Poppins this season, we marked it on our calendar to get tickets! I knew it would be a fun mother/daughter day (I invited Steve but he gracefully bowed out), and I was so excited to take Anna to her first live play. This whole Mary Poppins thing still amazes me - I picked out that DVD on a whim from the Disney Movie Club list and I had no idea it would turn into a bonding experience with this kind of longevity!!

We started off the day with lunch at La Cazuela, a Mexican restaurant on the Lawrenceville square. I was amazed at how much the square has changed in the years since I've really been down there. Anna was intrigued to meet a new friend, Kara's niece Nina.

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After lunch we strolled down to an ice cream shop right across the street from Aurora. Anna ordered herself a "vananilla" ice cream cone and I settled on an iced coffee.

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We got to the theatre just in time to claim our seats- right in the front row! We met the associate director on the way in and he was enamored with Anna's Jolly Holiday outfit, and he came up to talk to us during intermission too. Apparently the Aurora opted to do Mary Poppins with the specific goal of bringing children to a live play, and it worked for us!

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Anna did SO well during the performance. It was quite long, and not lined up exactly with the movie, but I was so impressed that she made it all the way through. I had prepared myself to leave after maybe an hour, but she did great and made herself quite comfortable on my lap for the second act.

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One of the most special moments of the day for me was at the very end when the cast was taking their bows - Bert and Mary Poppins were taking their final bows and they spotted Anna dancing in the front row in her dress. You could see their eyes light up, they pointed at her, and then waved and blew her kisses. She had stars in her eyes and she blew a kiss back and waved at them with this beautiful smile on her face as they walked off the stage. I'm not going to lie, I teared up a little bit.

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After the show, we walked down to the bottom level of the parking deck, where Aurora had hosted a Chalk Walk. Artists and amateurs could register for a spot in the deck to paint a chalk picture, just like Bert. There was some serious talent there and the girls loved walking around and looking at all of the pictures.

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We had one last final fun moment at the very end- after the Chalk Walk, we went back inside to sneak a bathroom break now that everyone had left, and the whole cast ended up being inside the lobby. We walked past the little girl who played Jane, and she ran up to say hi to Anna. And then as we were heading to the bathroom, Mary Poppins herself squealed "There she is!!" and came over to say hi to Anna. You could tell Anna was massively confused because I said "this is Mary Poppins, Anna!" and the actress was in her regular clothes, but it was still really cute to see them having a conversation together about Anna's favorite M.P. songs and how she liked the play and about her little dress.

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It was such a fun day to spend with my little girl and I loved seeing her eyes light up at all of the new experiences. She has been telling me all day today about how much fun she had and how she wants to go again soon! We have tickets already to some kind of Mary Poppins sing-a-long at the Fox Theatre downtown next month so hopefully we will be able to have another special Poppins day soon!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vacation Educations

Our neighbors have started a tradition of planning two vacations every year - one trip to the beach and one educational trip. The educational trip is always fun - this year they went on a cruise and signed up for all of the learning expeditions, so they learned how to snorkel and identify reef fish! The more I thought about that, the more I liked the idea of planning a vacation with purpose, and started to come up with a fun list for the future.

1) Washington D.C.
I have very fond memories of this city - I had so much fun exploring with my Aunt Barbara one year (she lives near D.C.), and I also have great memories of a middle school field trip there. There is so much history and so many museums, as well as fun things to do. I would also love to incorporate some day trips, like to Monticello. This city will be a slam-dunk to visit once the girls are old enough to appreciate it! 

2) Europe
Steve and I have traveled to London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome. We are SO excited to take the girls eventually - we think it is a fantastic experience to get out of your cultural comfort zone, see different countries, taste different foods, and experience new languages and people. We also loved seeing all of the historical churches and buildings and museums, and it is fun working together as a team to plan itineraries and navigate foreign cities. I also greatly enjoy trying to learn some of the basic language and phrases.

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3) Hawaii
I have never been to Hawaii but am looking forward to going. I love how our country has states that can be so radically different from the others, and I think Hawaii would have a lot of fantastic things to learn and experience. Snorkeling and scuba diving and surfing would for sure be on the list, as well as hiking to the volcanoes and dancing at a luau.

4) Camping
I have had several friends visit Yellowstone Park recently and have had nothing but positive things to say about it. We intend to take the girls camping often for weekend trips in the near future, but I would love to do a couple of weeks of camping in one trip, and increase our knowledge of basic survival skills, first aid, plant and animal identifications, navigating skills, etc. Not to mention tons of hiking and sight-seeing and star gazing away from the city lights.  We used to learn a bunch of things like this at church girls' camps when we were growing up, and they were always some of my favorite things to learn even if I rarely got a chance to use them!

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5) Australia
This one would take some serious frequent flyer mile hoarding but I would LOVE to take a family trip to Australia. I love the thought of exploring major metropolitan cities one day, and then taking a tour of the Outback and feeling like we are in a completely different world. We have friends who have visited Australia (and friends that live there!!) and always say how excited they are to go back some day.

What places would be on your top list of educational vacations? I am sure I will think of a million more places - I hope these girls are ready for some traveling!

Happy Birthday Maddie!

Our sweet girl Maddie turned two years old a couple of weeks ago - I can't believe how fast my baby is growing up! We kept with our family tradition and planned a special day for her and ended the day with yummy treats and birthday presents.

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We invited Auntie Ally and cousin Daniel to spend the day at the Georgia Aquarium with us.The girls LOVE the aquarium, and are very interested in oceans and sea creatures.

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It kills me that most of these pictures are grainy and blurry but my DSLR is officially dead and the phone just doesn't work well in the aquarium lighting.

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My birthday baby!

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Anna spotted a face painting station and picked a dolphin from the selection board.

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After the aquarium, we took the kids to a special lunch at Johnny Rocket's. They have never been there before, and I haven't eaten there in years, but I knew they would get a kick out of it. If you have never been there before, it's like a 50's soda shop, complete with jukeboxes, milkshakes, and cherry red booths.

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Anna and Daniel were delighted when I gave them a pile of nickels, although their song choices were a little dubious.

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Once the girls woke up from their nap, it was time for presents! We bought the birthday girl a fun new sprinkler, an Elsa doll from the movie Frozen, and a little picnic table.

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The Elsa doll was for sure a hit!

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Since we had just had birthday cake the week before, I decided to change it up a bit and made individual trifles out of lemon cake, strawberries and blueberries (Maddie's favorites!), and whipped cream. The girls loved them, especially the whipped cream!

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Happy birthday, darling girl!