Thursday, December 11, 2014

All About Ellen

Someday when Ellen cries foul about my lack of blog posts about her, I will have to tell her that I was just too tired. It's not like we don't get plenty of rest, but no amount of rest can help us keep pace with this energizer bunny of a girl. She's just so busy!

At eighteen nineteen months our Ellen is force of pure babbling energy. She love spiders, dogs and babies, though not up close. She loves being read to and will happily clock you in the face with the book she has decided you must read.  Frequently these books involve spiders, dogs or babies.
She's coloring a bit, but usually more interested in throwing the pencils on the floor for purposes of her own amusement. Even better if we fall for the trap of picking them up.
She is so darn smart and so unbelievably sassy. She's got about a thousand words and two of them are clear enough for any stranger to understand -- Mama and why? Serious, nineteen months and "why?" is already plaguing us.

She's also got doggie, daddy and Rosie down pat, though I frequently mix up doggie and daddy. Spider, sweater and water frequently sound the same as well. She's got a limitless vocabulary, but context is critical.

She does not walk. She runs. Always. Everywhere. She does not ponder. She does not pout. She embraces things she likes with unrivaled glee. She protests things she does not like with full body on the floor screaming fits. And she is messy, so, so messy, but oh, so fun.

She climbs. She climbs everything. Shelves, tables, people, chairs. One of her many words is "step-stool." She can spot a mile away an object that can help her obtain things of reach and she doesn't waste a minute putting such objects to use.

She gives the best hugs. She has the best smiles. In short she's an awesome kid. 
Now, it is important I go sleep. She'll be a awake soon and I must rest if I'm to be ready for it.

Here's to our incredible Ellen.

(Somewhere around here is a piece of paper with her eighteen-month height and weight. If I find it, I'll add it here.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Trees, Rainbows and Ornaments in a Bowl

 Just as I sat down to type this post miss E decided it was time to get up and play. What else is 10 p.m. good for, right? So, here are some photos of activities of late along with the quickest (and likely typo-ridden) descriptions I can manage.

As is our tradition, we spent the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving in downtown Hillsboro at the city tree lighting. The girls and I enjoyed some tasty hot cocoa, Kyle enjoyed a beer and we caught up with friends. Afterward we headed home to dig out the holiday books and officially start the season.
We also spent part of that weekend baking ginger bread men ... or at least Kyle and the girls did. I just enjoyed the spoils.
 This past weekend we went out in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We found ours at a cute family owned farm just minutes from home. They even threw in a free rainbow.

 At home the girls were completely captivated, if not a bit confused by decorating the tree.
Don't let their sweet faces fool you. They had that tree stripped of decorations in about two-minutes flat. Now we have ornaments on the top 18 inches and the rest of the ornaments are in a bowl out of reach.

So, that's what I've got for the holiday season so far. That and the tears of an over-tired kid who didn't enjoy helping to write this post.

Here's to all the joys found in the holidays with two toddlers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Perky Porch

I've been meaning to post after photos of our porch project for weeks. This project went so much more smoothly than the front porch, I hardly had time to think about it. The front porch took something like eight weeks start to finish (ish). This project took eight days and cost a fraction of what we spent on the front.

I'm saying extra thanks for Kyle's DIY confidence on this project. I am also so grateful for the help of friend and family who don't mind being paid with bread and dinner ...maybe we should have offered our contractor a weekly loaf of bread in exchange for his services last summer?

Here's the before from last spring. This was taken just after Kyle put in a ton of landscaping effort. Six months in things are look a bit ... furrier ... but that's a project for another day.
And here we are now. I'm not sure these photos really do justice to straightening out the sad porch roof, but the difference is huge in real life.  Also, pardon the cloudiness. Our camera lens was overdue for a cleaning.
Here's the porch rail in February ... the rail at left and the post it attached to were was slumping into rot and soil at an angle that should not be seen on a load bearing structure. I don't have an after shot because, like the front porch, we have not yet added back the rails so there's not much to compare.
We've still got big work to do on both porches, but at least the bulk of the structural work is behind us.

In other news we celebrated an absolutely lovely Thanksgiving with dinner for 13 around a new table we actually built ourselves to ensure everyone could sit at one table. Since it didn't collapse under the weight of our plates, I may write up a post about it one day soon.

We also had an awesome long weekend, including our annual outing for the Hillsboro tree lighting ceremony. It is crazy that December is already upon us, but we're looking forward to a great month with all our traditional festivities and some serious hours spent on the couch under blankets reading our holiday story books.

Here's to a happy home!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Demo Day

Last Sunday we woke up with a hankering to tackle a new project. We mulled over a bunch of small projects before we suddenly found ourselves starting demo on our side porch. This is the same porch that was damaged by the tree of heaven we cut down on mother's day.

Sidebar:  If ever you find yourself the owner of a tree of heaven -- do not cut it down and expect to be done. Cut it down, grind it out and pour herbicide on it right away. I did a ton of reading on tree of heaven after ours came back with a vengeance throughout the summer and the best quote I found was, "cutting down a tree of heaven is like pouring gasoline on a fire." That pretty much sums it up.

This porch seemed liked it was in decent shape, except for the tree having caused one of the posts to sink and causing a small amount of rot on that corner.
This project was meant to be simple -- we were planning to replace the outer beams of the porch and then re-lay some of the old decking. I wanted to salvage as much as we could. Best laid plans, right?

The home remodel reality shows always make demo look like it takes about five minutes. Oh, boy how true that is not! 

The porch deck was attached with what appeared to be drywall screws. Half of them came up nicely -- rusted and broken, but they came out. The other half could not be wrenched from the wood. So that meant we had tor rip out everything.
Kyle was able to salvage one section of decking totally intact. We're hoping to reclaim it to make a playhouse for the girls.
Once the decking was up we had to rent a stump grinder to take care of the stump. I grabbed a shovel to try and dig out some of the saplings while Kyle went to rent the grinder. He asked me to clear some of the dirt around the stump while I was at it.

Um, yeah, this thing was big!
While I manged the girls and cooked dinner, Kyle ground out as much as he could before the grinder broke and he had to take it back. We ended up getting a free rental, but it still delayed the project.
We wrapped up last weekend hopeful the project was well underway and we'd soon have a new porch.

On Monday Kyle went out to survey the scene. The old porch deck had been attached directly the siding. Since this didn't seem super secure Kyle decided to remove the siding so we could attach the new porch directly to the house and he found ... drum roll please ...


Almost the entire beam was rotted out as was one of the vertical beams supporting the door -- now we know why that door never closes right.

We spent Monday doing a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth before Kyle stated with a good amount of confidence that he could replace the beam himself.

I was home Wednesday for Ellen's 18-month appointment (more on Ellen at 18 months another day) so I spent the day reading and cuddling with the girls who were smarting from vaccines and blood draws while Kyle and an awesome friend crawled around under the house. Kyle could provide all the dirty details, but as I understand it they prepped the site for the new beam.
Friday morning Kyle got up before the sun to meet the lumber truck at the store and pick up our custom ordered barn-cut, treated 6x6 beam. By Saturday morning the beam was in and ready to be secured before I headed off to work (hooray for football season!). 
Saturday afternoon I played with the girls and cooked dinner while Kyle ground out the rest of the stump (along with a few others on the property) and shopped for materials.

Finally, one week after getting stared, the porch construction started today! Kyle worked all day and got some help in the afternoon from our fantastic brother-in-law, and as a result, we should have a new porch and photos to prove it by next weekend. (Kyle's sister Annie was equally awesome at watching the girls while I cooked dinner.*)

Here's to the incredible help of friends and family. I may love this house again yet.

*In case you're counting that makes three dinners in one week -- that's got to be a record!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

No Sweat Small Stuff

In the months leading up to the purchase of our house I spent a lot of time watching home improvement shows. Kyle and I worked opposite schedules back then so all of this diy television was a solitary activity. In addition to the tv shows, I also studied a ton of home improvement blogs and with all of this knowledge I created a long list of projects. And until recently we hadn't really talked about those lists.

A few weeks ago, likely inspired by our summer and fall home improvement successes, Kyle discovered an awesome show called Rehab Addict. The host of this show manages to transform old houses in much worse shape than ours. What more inspiration could we need? (As I type Kyle is outside taking advantage of some sunshine to scrape the porch posts so we can get them primed and protected.)

My favorite recent project was one on my list from day one. The transformation of our outdoor sconces. They were once a shiny brassy chrome. Not my favorite look to begin with, but the finish had pretty well deteriorated and they were covered in cobwebs and dirt.
 Kyle removed them from the wall and took them into the kitchen for a good scrubbing.
 He carefully took apart each one (there are three) and washed them with soap and water. Then he lightly sanded all the parts.
He picked an oil rubbed bronze spray paint we had in the shop from a previous project and gave each one a couple coats of fresh paint.
 Once the paint dried he put the lamps back together.
The "after" is such a nice refresh! Especially considering we spent exactly zero dollars to make our new front porch look even nicer!
Every night at dinner Kyle shares his latest home improvement adventures with these small projects. Multiple days were spent crawling under the house to repair the ducts. That had to have been significantly less fun and way less photo-worthy than the sconces.

Here's to tackling a long list of small jobs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Joy of Bills

Over the past several months, since the great house rot terror of 2014, I've gotten pretty hooked on managing our budget. Without going into too many details, I'll say we've done a pretty good job of dealing with some big house expenses, including most recently a significant bill for furnace repair, without draining our savings or going in to debt.

In fact, I think when everything is tallied up, we may have invested more in our house this year than any year since we bought it and we've managed to fund those improvements largely from super frugal attention to our spending.

The unintended consequence of this is that I get unusually excited when our utility bills arrive. Somehow lower utility bills feel like a reward for all of our great efforts. They even come with nice little pats on the back. Check out this month's water bill!
I have been known to geek out for hours on a good chart, so it's no surprise that I love this part of the bill, but this one is just particularly validating. It makes those five trips we took getting supplies to replace the faucet totally worth it. Unfortunately our rates went up so the bill, while lower than last month, doesn't quite reflect that awesome drop on the chart.

Our electric bill also arrived today and came with some great validation as well. This highlight compares this year against last year.
Our electric company website is like candy for a geeky conservationist. There are charts and graphs to measure use in all kinds of way -- including time of day, weather, compare to average user. It even has a little widget to explain how you're using your power -- in our case laundry is a big one.

We're hoping we can continue this downward trend and keep funneling those extra dollars toward the house. The project list doesn't get any shorter and, thanks to a recent fixation with home improvement shows, our ambition is only increasing.

Here's to saving money! Who doesn't love that, right?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weekend Joys

In no particular order. A gorgeous rainbow we spotted on our Halloween walk around town. Rosie with her jack-o-lantern carved from the pumpkin she picked out at the pumpkin patch. The 34th (at least!) reading of Clip Clop, a new favorite book. Cashew pesto ingredients ready to be turned into pesto pizza sauce.

Here's to all the joys found in a four day weekend.