Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meet my new Best Friend...

... Pam

(Okay, I'll be honest and say it's not even PAM that I love, but her less costly store brand sister).

We have kitchen table troubles. Our table has a wood top and we get water marks all the time. After doing some internet reading, I learned that rubbing some sort of oil into the wood will remove those nasty white water rings. I was using olive oil to do this, but one day I got the idea to use Pam instead. It was so much easier - and less messy! I simply spray it one, let it sit, and then buff it off with a rag.

I have been doing it once a week to remove any water marks.

But this morning, I noticed a new problem on the table. As some of you know, I work saturday mornings, so my husband is in charge while I am working. This means that the kitchen table usually does not get wiped clean after meals. LOL We also did not eat dinner at home saturday night, so I never looked at the table at all. Well, something sticky was on the table, and then the Sunday paper was sitting on top of it. YIKES! I had black ink words all over the table!

They did not budge with a good scrubbing, and I started to panic. But then I turned to Pam. I gave the table a liberal spray and let it sit for a few minutes. I gave it another good scrubbing AND THE INK CAME OFF!!

So Pam is truly my best friend these days! She's saved us from a life of table cloths more than once!

Friday, August 28, 2009

End-Of-Summer Party

We had our End-Of-Summer party on Wednesday. There was a small group of kids - my three plus 4 others - and I was lucky enough to have 2 other moms helping me!

I don't have the best photos, since I was the MC, the head chef and general Leader of the Fun, so I had little time to snap photos. But you can get a general idea of the beautiful day we had!

As our guests arrived, we handed out eyepatches and earrings (4 set for $1 at Walmart!). We started with a treasure hunt. I hid clues all over the yard, and the end result was a treasure chest (borrowed from Ryan's bedroom) filled with treasure (organza bags from the wedding section of the craft store filled with those colorful glass "gems"). There was one bag for each child - so no fighting over their booty! This was my favorite activity of the day - the kids worked together so nicely! The older kids who could read took turns reading clues and they all worked together to find the treasure (which was hiding under our tomatoes!).

We then spent some time doing pirate crafts. I had pirate suncatchers, little foam pirate ships and blank notebooks they were able to decorate with markers. I purchased all of these things for about $5 from the clearance aisle at Michael's.

Our last game was Pin The Patch on the Pirate. I simply drew a pirate on a piece of posterboard and made eyepatches from black construction paper. We used a bandana to cover their eyes. All of the kids got to choose a prize, so everyone was very happy!

We had a nice lunch consisting of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, yogurt, cheese & crackers, fruit, carrots & dip, Sun Chips and drinks. The grown ups had yummy chicken salad in whole wheat pitas.

Our afternoon ended with some water-fun. The kids did a Cannon Ball Toss (with water ballons) and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing in a tiny pool, the water table or in the sandbox.

Out guests all went home with pirate goody bags that held more pirate treasures (a Ring Pop, candy necklaces, pirate pencils and a few pirate gold coins).

Oh - Maddie and her best friend Madison asked if they could do a short play for us while we ate. So we were all treated to their short pirate drama - complete with a sword fight!

Friday, August 21, 2009

What a harvest!

The kids' school has a nice-size garden as part of their "outdoor classroom." The PTO asked for volunteer families to tend to the garden over the summer. All the volunteers were assigned a 5-day stretch in which we have to water, weed and harvest in the garden. In return, we are able to keep anything we harvest!

We spent 2 hours at the school this mornings. There weren't many weeds, but there was a lot to be harvested (in fact, there were many, many tomatoes past their prime). The kids had a blast picking the tomatoes and beans (which were pole beans, so quite different than the dwarf variety we have in our own garden) and peppers. They did a nice job of helping me take some of the rotten stuff to the compost bin - and of course they were GREAT with watering!

And checkout the goodies we took home with us today. The bowl of string beans is overflowing and taste so good raw! There were many different types of tomatoes (although most of the bigger varieties were rotting - they should have been picked weeks ago!) and we got several green peppers (there were a few red peppers, but they were also rotting).

The kids take little interest in our garden in our own yard - except to eat the yummy cantaloupe which is ripe now - so this was a good exercise for them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Party Time

It's nearly time for our annual end-of-summer party!

Next week we will host our 3rd annual End-of-Summer party. It started as a way to get the kids int he neighborhood back together before school started, but now it's just good old fun! This year, we are doing a pirate theme, which I am so excited about doing!

Today, I made the invitations. Our guest list is small (only 7 kids - plus my 3 - but we only needed 4 invitations due to groups of siblings).

First, I tore the edges off of some old linen resume paper I had. Then I made some tea (4 c. boiling water plus 8 tea bags) and let it cool. I gently crumpled the paper and dipped it in the tea (I think I dipped it about 3 times). Very carefully, I opened the paper and let it dry on our patio table (this took less than an hour to dry!).

I then used a super-fine Sharpie to write the party information on each piece of paper.

I rolled each invitation up scroll-style and tied it with a small piece of raffia.

We then cleaned and dried some empty water bottles and slid the invitations into the bottle. I used scraps of the tea-dyed paper to make labels and then tied a raffia bow on the front of the bottle.

Since I had all of these materials at home, the cost for these invitations was $00000!

We'll be hand-delivering these invitations tomorrow, and then I will dive into the rest of the plans. More to come....

A few more camp photos

Here are a few more photos from the kids' week at camps (Ryan was at Sports Camp; Maddie was at Horse Camp; Jacob was a super-trooper who put up with running the older kids to two different camps!).

New Neighbor????

So, about a week ago, I was outside hanging out the laundry and talking to my neighbor (who was overseeing repairs on his central a/c unit - it died on them on the first truly hot day of the summer!) and all of the sudden we saw *something* fall out of a tree and land between us. Turns out, it was a hawk - fairly large (crow-size or a little bigger) with a not-so-lucky bird (and not a little sparrow - a decent-size black bird!) in it's talons! It looked at us, readjusted the bird in it's clutches and flew away.

I thought our hawk-friend was a one-time deal, but then this weekend I found something right off our new patio. I think it's a hawk pellet (the fur, feather and bones that birds of prey don't digest - they cough it up about once a day).

Our Brownie troop had a wonderful time dissecting owl pellets during an overnight trip to our local zoo, so I had alittle experience dealing with pellets. The owl pellet was dry (and sanitized!) and the pellet I found was very dark and wet. I did a little research, and I am pretty sure this pellet belongs to my hawk friend. I am even thinking he may have been a red-tail hawk, since i read that they bite off pieces of prey (rather than eating them whole) and this pellet had very few whole bones in it.

I guess this means we have a new neighbor - one who is keeping the rodent and small bird population in check!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School shopping!

My sister was lucky enough to get 30%-off at Kohl's this week, so we are taking advantage and doing our school shopping!

I love school shopping. No - I ADORE school shopping. I think it just takes me back to when I was a young child and a new school year meant so many new things. New school years mean loads of opportunities! (and, of course, I always met every goal - of course).

Thankfully, the kids don't need much this year. Maddie hit a growth spurt in January and I bought her all new pants at that time and they all still fit now! In fact, I actually have the next size up ready and waiting too! She has tons of shirts in her closets already too. So she needs a new pair of sneakers and possibly a new pair of dressier shoes (if we can find some she will actually wear). Ryan grew several inches this summer and none of his pants fit. I had enough stashed away to have a decent wardrobe, but I do need to supplement with some jeans. And he needs sneakers and shoes as well. And pajamas - the poor child tried on his fall/winter jammies the other night and they looked like capris! Jacob only needs sneakers and jeans (for some reason, Ryan never really wore 3T pants, so we have very few hand-me-downs in that size).

I did notice a great selection on the clearance racks too (I LOVE KOHL'S!) so I may have to buy some basics in the next size up for the older kids too. You can never have enough jeans and khakis!

I can't wait to go out with the kids tonight. Jacob and I had a potty-emergency stop at Kohl's this morning (coming home from the horse barn), so we chose jeans and sneakers (High-Top Chuck Taylors!!!!!! Can you say C-U-T-E???????) for him. That means I can have some special time with the older kids tonight!

And I am thinking that the evening may have to end with a stop at Rita's - it would only be out second time this summer!!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Horse and Sports

That's the name of the game this week - Horses and Sports.

Ryan was lucky to be selected to attend two wonderful camps this summer - for FREE - at an excellent local park/estate which provides programing for our school district. He had a great time at a pirate-themed nature camp a few weeks ago. This week, he is sweating it out at a 3-day sports camp. They really keep those kids moving!

Maddie is spending the week at Horse Camp. This was her birthday gift (from back in May) from Craig and me. She LOVES LOVES LOVES it! We found this horse farm through a neighbor and are very pleased. Neither Craig nor I are big animal people, but Maddie just adores animals (specifically horses). She had no riding experience prior to camp, but after only one day we were told that she has vast amounts of natural ability! Today, she told me her horse broke out in a gallop and she nearly fell off (oh my!) but the instructors said she rode like a champ and hung on! I have to admit I am still a bit scared of these HUGE animals, and I am not a big fan of being around hot, stinky horse poop - but I am so happy Maddie has found something she loves.

Of course, her love of horses means we now have a HUGE need to find some more money in our already tight budget - she would love riding lessons this fall! I have been looking for "the right job" for nearly a year (with no luck) and almost sent a resume in for a position this week. On the surface, the job seemed like a good match, but we decided it would still be best for our family for me NOT to take this job. Instead, Craig is going to look into options for some side-jobs (which can hopefully pay for lessons). I am going to continue to stay home and only apply for any jobs which truly are the "right" thing.

Oh - here's a cutey-pie picture of Jacob - who gets an award for being a good sport this week. he has spent a lot of time in the car either dropping-off or picking-up either of the kids. He's too young for these camps, so he doesn't get to do any of the fun parts. However, he adores the horses at the barn almost as much as Maddie, so we may be looking at lessons for TWO kids in the near future!

FINALLY - some photos!

I have more to post (about our busy, busy week this week), but first some photos of our new projects!

First, we had some outdoor work done. Out front, we had a rickety "wall" installed by the Builder. Basically it was a pile of rocks which, while it looked nice, was slowly letting all of our flower bed fall into the neighbor's yard. We finally had it replaced with a real retaining wall. I wasn't crazy about this project - it seemed like a lot of money for something I essentially never look at. BUT - once it was done I was thrilled! The wall looks great now, and it offer a wonderful flat surface that I can use for flower pots and jack-o-lanterns in the fall! Yay!

The same contractor put in our patio off our deck. We have been wanting to do this for quite some time, but always ended up pushing off the job. The guys were in and out in two days and I love the results! Prior to the nasty 95-degree, 100% humidity weather this week, we found ourselves outside quite a bit! now we just need to finish restaining the deck and add the river rocks around the base - and we'll be living in style (at least outdoors!).

We also added a new deck box to our deck - in an effort to control the kids' toys (how do we always wind up with so many balls?). The older two kids spent the weekend with my inlaws, so Craig only had Jacob as a helper when he assembled the deck box. He was a good helper, but was a little confused when he figured out that he was stuck IN the box. :)

The big on-going project is our bedroom. Our new bed & mattress arrived a MONTH early! Our plan was to paint both the room and the bathroom before the bed arrived, but that didn't quite work out. We are prepping to paint (the bedroom is nearly ready - perhaps paint this weekend?), but the bathroom is turning out to be a much bigger project! We (hah - let's be honest - this is ALL ME!) opted to change the lighting fixture, the faucet, the towel bars, the medicine cabinet etc. So it's going to take us a bit longer to get the bathroom done. We love the new bed, and it's inspired me to declutter a bit more and work towards having a truly peaceful master suite. We're not quite there yet, but I am working on it!
I certainly have enough to keep me busy for now! The end of the summer is coming quickly (actually, I go back to work next weekend - so summer is officially over for some colleges!) and I finally feel like we got something done! Lots more to do though!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another crazy week...

I know, I know - I have not posted the photos of our new additions. It's just been such a busy week - again!

My meeting with old friends was WONDERFUL! We had a great time - margaritas, nachos and great conversation. I only wish they came to town a little more often!

Work was fine. The kids had a good time at my mom's house, and both Craig and I survived all the managing that had to happen with me working a full day. It was a nice refresher for my job too - I start working Saturdays in just a few weeks!

The older two kids are attending Vacation Bible School at our church this week. They are having a great time! Jacob is so sad that he's not old enough to go (next year) but that hasn't stopped him from learning all the songs.

Now that we have a new bed and bedding, we're working on getting the bedroom up-to-snuff. I am still working on choosing the perfect paint color (I think I have it narrowed down to 4 choices). The bathroom is turning out to be a bigger project than anticipated. I had planned on simply painting the room, but decided the hideous lighting fixture (put in by the builder) should go. THREE lighting fixtures later I am still not sure what I am installing....

And of course I needed new hardware, shower curtain rods, towel bars and faucets - right? So I have become a regular fixture at Lowe's this week, and I am not really any closer to making a decision about my bathroom.

All of this thought for a tiny TINY bathroom!

I am also knee-deep in planning for the Drama Club at the kids' school. It's the first time the PTO is trying this, so we have to invent the wheel. I seem to be the only volunteer who has done any real theater, so a lot dropped into my lap. Busy busy! and now that we are into August, it's nearly time to sit down and plan out my year for Brownies! Busy busy busy!