Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moved the queue

This blog has moved to  If you have been following this blog, thank you for your support and please update your feed reader to the new URL.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Garage Sale Gold

I've never had a lot of luck at garage sales.  I usually find that everything is completely overpriced and/or is a pile of junk.

This week, the garage sales were in my favor.  As I drove home from the grocery store, I happened to see a garage sale sign and decided that the ice cream in the back of the car could hold out long enough for a quick look.  This was a complete impulse buy, but I came away with a violin for only $20.  It's nothing fancy and it's just a student model, but I wouldn't mind trying to learn violin and I figured if either of the boys showed any interest in the future, I would have a cheap model for them to test their interest with before really putting money into it.

Then on my way to a Pampered Chef party hosted by our daycare provider, I spotted a yard full of furniture.  Even though it was going to make me late to the party, I had to stop and look.  I've been completely overwhelmed at the idea of paying full price for furniture, so I couldn't resist.  It was a gold mine!  In ten minutes, I bought an antique dresser for $40 and a black miscellaneous cabinet for $20, and had the cabinet loaded in the back of my car.  My husband was a little put out when I frantically called him to go get the dresser while I went on to the party, but my hero came through.

All of my purchases need a little TLC, but my faith in garage sales has been restored.   What was your best garage sale bargain?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blank Park Zoo

Henry loved the zoo in Oakland, so one of our first family outings in Des Moines was to Blank Park Zoo.  We spent about 2 hours there and covered most of the exhibits.

We went on a fairly warm day, so it was nice to spend a little time at the indoor Discovery Center which had a variety of snakes, birds, fish and insects.

Henry gets up close and personal with a snake!

Another nice aspect of this zoo was the open feeling of many of the exhibits.  I think this was the first time I saw penguins without a pane of glass between me and the animals.

This zoo also provided more opportunities to get close to the animals than I've seen at other zoos.  The petting zoo area allowed the kids to pet and feed the animals, and in the Australian Outback exhibit the wallabies hop right through the visitor area.

Henry really bonded with this wallaby.

The biggest surprise was the dinosaur exhibit.  I was a little skeptical when I heard that they were featuring this traveling exhibit, but it was actually very neat.  The dinosaurs are rubber-covered robots, so they move and make noises as if they're real.  Once Henry got over his initial nervousness and saw a demonstration of a robot without the coverings, he even had to go back through for another look.

All in all, a visit to Blank Park Zoo was a great way to spend an afternoon in Des Moines, and I'm sure we'll go back for another visit.  Maybe next spring we'll make a trip to the Omaha Zoo when George is old enough to enjoy it too.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dining Room Furniture

Since we've moved quite a bit in the past 11 years and always rented our homes, we didn't really buy nice furniture because I wanted to wait until we were in "our" house and would know what furniture fit the size and style.  We're finally in our own house, so we're finally starting to acquire some grown-up furniture!

With a nice-sized dining room and the potential for more dinner guests, our tiny table and chair just weren't cutting it any more, so a dining room set was one of our first purchases.  My husband does a little woodworking, so he was concerned about construction and materials, while I had strong opinions about the style and finish.  After browsing around for a few weeks, we finally found a set at Slumberland Furniture that satisfied both of us.


A nice heavy table that should last us for years!  Easily seats 6.
With the foldout expansion leaf, we could fit as many as 10!

Since it was on clearance, we didn't have the option of buying more chairs, but I'm not sure I want it all to completely match anyway.  We'd also like to find a nice bench for one side and then we'd only need extra chairs if we actually tried to fit 10 people.

Who's up for Thanksgiving Dinner in Des Moines?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Concrete Removal Update

I had hoped to post this morning to announce that the concrete had been removed from my back yard.  Unfortunately, it looks like a I made a bad choice in the person I was hiring off of craigslist.   On Tuesday afternoon, he called to let me know that he had extra concrete and would be happy to repour the driveway approach for free.   What!?! 

Apparently we had two completely different conversations on the phone and he had forgotten every detail and decided we were replacing the driveway approach instead.  When he came by to see what I actually wanted him to do, he quoted a price that was almost double the original estimate.  Needless to say, I canceled the job and am calling around for other estimates.  This time I'll also make sure to get an email confirmation so I have something in print.

I may have to get a jackhammer yet! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orange Pop

I like the color orange.  It's bright and cheery.  However, I found that I do not like orange walls in my dining room, so once again, I'm breaking my no immediate painting projects rule for the new house.

When we bought the house, the dining room was painted two shades of orange.

I liked the idea of it. It was bold and bright.  However, in reality, it just wasn't working for me.  The brightness actually made my head hurt, but the biggest problem was that it just didn't go with the other colors on the ground floor.

I knew I had to do something different, but I couldn't decide what I would use in its place because the orange tones kept dominating my thoughts.  Finally, in a fit of passion, I primed the room and put on a coat of Zen, which is the same color used in the kitchen.

I love that it's a more peaceful color and I no longer get a headache looking at the room, but I feel like the room has lost it's pop and it feels too formal, so I'm still unsatisfied (just don't tell my husband I might have to paint again).  Any ideas for bringing back some life to the room?  What do you think of my decision to leave the bottom white?  Should I bring Zen all the way to the floor?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Breaking out of the Concrete Tradition

It appears to be a tradition for owners of our house to make their mark by pouring concrete and then actually leaving their mark.  Here are a couple of examples:

June 1949 - A small mystery slab in the middle of the back yard with names and handprints by John and JD Walden.  We speculate the original use was for an outdoor oven or barbecue pit.  Our next door neighbors said that when they bought their house six years ago, the current owners had added a wooden bridge (Perhaps they were trying to make it look like a back yard pond?)

2009 - Rodney the dog left his mark when his owners extended the 1949 mystery slab, surrounded it with chain link fencing, added a wobbly trellis and turned it into a dog kennel with access to the garage.

Our back yard is already pretty small, so I don't think adding more concrete is our way to leave a mark the property, so we're going to break out of the concrete mold and reclaim the yard!

We had no use for a dog kennel, so after a couple of months of trying to come up with some way to make use of the concrete pad, I finally decided that what we really need is a play area for the boys.  Concrete + kid's play area = cracked heads, so I'm giving up on the concrete pad and going with demolition!  I already pulled down the trellis a while back, leaving this view of the yard with the concrete slab marked.  I think it will be great to have a swingset in this shady area.

I like to think that I'm a DIY girl, but I'm not quite up to hauling concrete to the dump and I'm a little nervous about what might be lurking beneath a 62-year old mystery slab, so I've hired someone to come over and take care of it for us.  Next week I should be able to show some lovely photos of my yard sans concrete!