Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moved the queue

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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! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Day at Gray's Lake

So far, we've spent most of our time in Des Moines getting our house in order, so it was a pleasant change to take some time off on Labor Day to explore our new city.

2011-09_015 by brenda_k
Spaghetti Works in the Court Avenue distric was family-friendly and affordable.
We started out by looking downtown for a family-friendly place to eat.  We discovered that several places were closed for the holiday, but finally ended up at Spaghetti Works in the Court Avenue District.  We could see kids all at nearly every table as we walked in, so we were thrilled to find a place where we wouldn't have to continually try to keep our kids quiet and sitting.  We also found that kids eat free on Mondays -- double bonus!

Next, we headed to Gray's Lake to see what was there and just to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous weather.  The lake is beautiful and has a hiking trail that includes a bridge over the water, a boat and bike rental facility, lovely shaded picnic areas, and an impressive playground.  Of course, the first thing we had to do was stop at the playground so Henry could play while George and I hung out under a shady tree.

George had fun at the lake even though he was too small for the playground.

Once Henry was satisfied with the playground, we hiked over the bridge and had ice cream at the boat house. 

The bridge offers a nice view of downtown Des Moines.

Overall, it was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon, and now I want to get a bike so we can spend some time on the trails. I'll just need to figure out how to take George on a bike ride. Let me know if you have any ideas for safely transporting a baby on a bike.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Nursery

With all the attention on Henry's bedroom, I didn't want to slight the newest member of our family, so my next project was setting up the nursery for George.  I already had nursery items from Henry's old room in Oakland, so as soon as the moving truck arrived, I was able to set up the nursery.  I felt a little guilty that I wasn't buying anything new for George's space, but then realized that he was going from having his clothes stashed in Henry's room and sleeping in our room to having his very own space, so it was all new and exciting for him (at least as new and exciting as things can be for a 4 month old).

The nursery furniture includes a bed and changing table that was purchased on craigslist when we were expecting Henry, a rocker/recliner that we bought new when I found out I was expecting George (our old rocker was falling apart) and an old bookshelf that we bought when we moved to Portland nearly 11 years ago.

We also have an adorable bedding set that I bought when we were expecting Henry and that I still love, so I was thrilled when I found matching wall decals for the set in the clearance bin last year.  I already had a couple of wall hangings that I made from the crib bumper.

There was no painting involved in this project since the walls were already a nice neutral beige that provided a perfect backdrop.

See the cute little wooden bike?  My dear husband made that for Henry's first birthday.  It's a little heavy for riding, but it looks adorable in George's room.

I added a neutral rug from Bed, Bath and Beyond and George's room is all set.  Over time, I would like to add window treatments and will need to find a dresser (for now, his clothes are in the changing table or on the shelves in his closet).  I'd also like to figure out a lighting solution because there is no overhead light fixture in this room.

Sleep well Baby George!

Project Breakdown

Furniture, bedding and wall decals - No cost, already had them
Rug (Bed, Bath and Beyond) - $40

Grand Total - $40

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Green Room

One of the best things about our new house was that while some of the paint colors were not colors I would choose, none of them were so offensive that I felt we would need to paint immediately.  So why did I find myself rushing to the hardware store to buy paint on the first day in our new house?  Because I was desperate to make Henry love his new home.

Let's back up a bit.  Henry can be a bit high-strung, so I was very nervous about how he would handle the move from Oakland to Des Moines.  After all he was born in Oakland and had lived in the same house for his entire life and was already dealing with a new baby in the family, so I was afraid it might be a bit too much change.  Throughout the moving process, I kept emphasizing all the positive points of moving -- getting his own room again, a bigger yard, snow, etc.

While we were house hunting, we put him in charge of finding a house that had a play area in the yard and a bedroom just for him.  During our whirlwind house hunt (I may need to tell you all about that experience later), he was very excited and overstimulated as he looked for Henry's room in each house we viewed.  In a few of the houses, he pointed out rooms that were painted green because green was his favorite color.

Fast forward a couple of months to our arrival in our new house.  Henry was so excited that he started racing from room to room trying to see everything. Finally, we reached Henry's bedroom.  I opened the door and Henry asks innocently, "Is this George's room?"
"No," I replied, "this is your room."
Henry looked slowly around the room, which was painted a lovely deep blue, shook his head and said, "It's not green.  This isn't my room."

BEFORE: Henry's room from the original real estate listing.

After much persuasion, I finally convinced him that it was his room and learned the true meaning of the word crestfallen.  I've never seen someone go from completely excited to completely devastated so quickly, so I did what any self-respecting mother would do, drove to the nearest hardware store to buy green paint.

Despite the worst heat wave in 30 years and no furniture in our house, the first thing I did was paint Henry's room green. Actually, I had to compromise.  Since I didn't have anything to stand on to reach the top of the wall, I opted to paint the bottom green and leave the top blue and hoped that I would find some sort of border for the middle.  Luckily, Henry is also an avid Toy Story fan, so I bought a peel and stick border and movie poster on Amazon, we ordered a full-size bed (his old toddler bed needed to go in George's room and be converted back to a crib) and finally had one happy little boy who was thrilled with his big boy room.

AFTER: a preschooler's dream room!

There are still some cosmetic things to do like adding another layer of the green paint (it's a bit streaky in spots), find a bedspread, and figure out window coverings, but this room was the first place in the house that felt like it was personalized for us.  Welcome home Henry!


Gallon of green paint (ACE hardware) - $35
2 rolls of stick on border (Amazon) - $30
Toy Story Poster (Amazon) - $6
Poster Frame (Target) - $8
New Sheets (Target) - $25

Grand Total -$105

Expression on Henry's face when he saw his new room - Priceless