Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012!

It’s hard to believe the last day of 2012 is here!  How did that happen so fast?!?  Yes, I am definitely getting older…

Here are our Top 5 Family Happenings of 2012!  (Here are the Top 5 for 2011)
  • Basement. If you have been reading for awhile, you already know that we have been spending a significant amount of time (and money!) working on our basement. You can read about basement happenings here.
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  • Piano Lessons. Anthony began taking piano lessons last summer and it’s been really fun to see the progress he has made. He has been playing Jingle Bells and O Christmas Tree – I love it!
Here he is last summer – can you tell he is excited?!?
He LOVED his first piano lesson!
  • Kayaks. We made a pretty quick decision this summer to buy kayaks and enjoyed using them into the fall.  We are ready for spring to return so we can take them out again!
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  • T-Ball. Anthony played his first official season of T-Ball – two games per week all summer! It was fun to watch the soon-to-be 1st graders play ball. As a bonus, we met some great friends through T-Ball!
He was really running!
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2012 Goal Update


On the first day of 2012, I posted about our family's hopes and dreams for 2012.  Here they are, with an update on what we have accomplished.
  • Adopt a baby! We have now been waiting to adopt #2 for nearly 3 years – this is longer than the average wait time at our adoption agency, so we are really hoping to be chosen soon. We are ready! If you know of a potential situation, please let me know.
  • Make changes to my work schedule to allow for more family time. Starting July 1st, I began working half-time. It’s been so great to have more time at home for our family!
  • Start working on finishing the basement. As you saw above, we have definitely been working on the basement! Our new estimated completion date is the end of April. Think we will make it? 
  • Hubby has a goal to run a half marathon. Hubby ran a half-marathon in May and is now signed up for a FULL MARATHON in June! Craziness!
He looks pretty good for just running 13.1 miles in extremely hot weather!
  • Eat less, exercise more! Honestly, I have been stepping up on my exercise all year and made a small effort to eat less.  I have been getting more serious about this over the last few weeks though. We have definitely been eating more healthy at home, as well as many more meals at home. (It’s amazing what working part-time can do to your ability to put hot meals on the table!)
  • Learn how to use our new Canon 60D! This is another work in progress, but I can say that I am definitely making progress! I still have a TON to learn about our camera, but I have been playing more and more with Photoshop. It helps that I have a friend from work who has started a “Photoshop Club”!

All in all, it’s been a great year and we are looking forward to 2013!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

9 Years Ago Today {and basement/home randomness}

9 Years ago today we found ourselves moving into our home. We had quickly sold our first home (after the first showing!) before we even broke ground on the one we were building.  As a result, we had to move into an apartment while our house was built. We lived there for 5 months and on December 22, 2003, we moved in to our home! You can read more about what our kitchen cabinets looked like at that time here.

We were worried about impacting our family and friends around the holiday season, so we ended up renting a U-haul and moving the majority of our belongings ourselves. We did ask one friend did come and help us for about 3 hours – there were a few things that I was not able to help lift down the stairs from our apartment (TV, TV cabinet, couches, etc.). We were so thankful to have the help that day!
It’s crazy to thing about all of the changes we have made to our home over the last nine years and we have been loving every minute of it!

The basement is currently consuming a lot of our free time (and money!!). After focusing on tiling the shower and the basement entry, we moved on the family room. We hung the mantel over the fireplace and construction on the built-in cabinets has begun.  (Which you know if you follow me on Instagram).
Here are a few random pictures from the basement – the work continues!

This picture is from weeks ago, but here is the shower before grout. All of the tile in the basement has been grouted for weeks and the fixtures have been installed. I just haven’t taken the time to take any updated pictures…

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We were “mid-grout” here:

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After we were done with the tiling, we put up the fireplace mantel and now the built-in cabinets are being built. Hubby brought in the bases for a quick “size check” so we could get a feel for how they would look. The cabinet on the right side will be angled into the room since that is where the TV will be. They are farther along now – more pics once they are installed!

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It has snowed here a few times and we just recently had a blizzard here in Minnesota. Here is our front porch after one of the snowfalls – all set for Christmas!

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Happy Holidays to you!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Santa’s Arrival

Every year Santa “arrives” on the roof of the old city hall on the 1st Saturday of December. We have attended every year for a few years now and it’s always been a great family event! 

While waiting for Santa to arrive, Anthony and I were being super silly – can you see the spunk in his eyes???  There is always so much energy and excitement as we wait for the man in the red suit!

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Mrs. Claus is always there too.  After he arrives, they are both available for the children – Mrs. Claus often will read stories while other children wait in the extremely long line for the 60 seconds with Santa.  The kids LOVE it and tons of families attend!

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Anthony had a very serious question to ask Mrs. Claus.  I’m pretty sure he asked her if she makes breakfast, lunch and dinner for Santa every day!  Ha!

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After much anticipation, there he is!  Some years they try using a microphone so Santa can talk to us, but not this year.  The crowd has been more fun in pervious years too – often caroling (Jingle Bells, jingle bells…") while waiting. 

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Another fun fact – there is a couple in our city that covers their home in Christmas lights just like the Griswold’s, only they almost take it to another level beyond! This year they even have a workshop in their backyard. The best part? The guy dresses up like Santa almost every night (sometimes Mrs. Claus is there too) and you can stop by to talk to Santa and he will give you a candy cane.  He LOVES bringing a smile to the faces of the little ones in our community. We love it too!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Annual Christmas Gifts {Photo Ornaments}

We have sent photo ornaments to a few special people every Christmas since Anthony has been with us. I always pick up a few photo ornaments (sometimes an ornament set like the one below) and find a nice picture of Anthony to include inside. We have been sending these ornaments to Anthony’s birthmother, birth-grandmother, and godparents each year. After a couple of years I realized that they would all have a photo ornament of Anthony from each year, and I hadn’t even been making one for us! This year I decided to make one for us to keep too.  (I’m also going to make a photo ornament for each of the years that we "missed".)

Here are a few of the ornaments for this year, although Anthony’s godparents will get a different one (they follow the blog and I’m not sure when we’ll get it to them, so I had to make sure to not reveal it online!):

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I love the classic red and white of this ornament set!

One of these will go on our Christmas tree this year.  Any suggestions for which one we should keep?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

DIY Barn Beam Fireplace Mantel

Work in the basement has continued, and we are now working on the fireplace in the family room! This fall we purchased an old barn beam from an Amish family that lives near my hometown. We only had to pay $50 (we had priced out similar beams in our area and they were $300-400!), so it was a great deal!

Here is the fireplace wall before we got started with the mantel:

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Here is the old beam. It was really dirty when we bought it (it had been stored outside with other a lot of other old wood). This photo was taken after hubby gave it a good cleaning. (See those boxes on the right wall? That’s the fireplace stone!)

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The beam was several feet longer than we needed, so we were able to try out a few different wood stains on one end. Initially all of the stains went on really dark (almost black) but when they dried, they looked like this:

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Here are a couple of the fireplace stones that we used to help us pick a color. (We decided on Early American and did 1 coat of stain with 3 coats of poly.)

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Hubby figured out a way to install the mantel from behind so it appears to be floating on the wall. He had cut out the drywall and attached a board to the wall where the mantel would hang. After we lifted the mantel up into place, he carefully held it up while I reached in the sides of the wall behind the mantel to drill the bolts into place (through the board).

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I love it! If you look super close at the photo below, you can kinda see the artwork hubby drew as I started talking about decorating the mantel... :)  You can also see the little hole he cut in the drywall to allow access to bolt up the mantel.  There is a hole on both sides, but they will be covered by the built-in cabinets.

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Here’s a sneak peak at the fireplace stone that we have out on the floor (with the mantel before it was stained and hung) so we can work on the stone placement. Now we just need to get the cabinets built and installed so we can get this stone on the wall.

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I absolutely LOVE how this is turning out!  What do you think?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Our Christmas Mantel

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Our fireplace is 3-sided which makes a nice division between the living room and dining room, and is wonderful for heating the main living areas of our home.  Unfortunately, having such a small back wall and not having a “front” makes it extremely tricky to decorate – at least for me!

This year I decorated for the holidays in classic red/white/silver.  I used some mercury glass vases and candle holders (from West Elm last year), some red vases (from Ikea), candles, a KWO smoker (from Germany!), and some inexpensive glass ball ornaments.

Here’s our fireplace, looking in to the living room:

Christmas Mantel

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Hubby’s aunt works in sales and used to be a rep for the KWO line and she has given us a couple KWO smokers over the last few years.  You can see another one in our office, here.

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 Isn’t he cute?  I just love the classic look of this guy!

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 Next year our fireplace in the basement will be ready for holiday decorations – I can’t wait!

I would love some new ideas of d├ęcor for the 3-sided fireplace – any suggestions?

Linking to: The Lettered Cottage, The Shabby Nest, Ten June, Uncommon Designs

Monday, December 3, 2012

Elf on the Shelf {The First Arrival}

We really were not sure if we wanted to jump on the elf bandwagon, however after dragging our feet for years, we took the plunge this year.



After doing some research about how to get started with the elf, I found this site on Pinterest, where an elf was first introduced to a family. I tweaked the letter to better suit our family and we were all set for the introduction of our elf!

Elf on the Shelf First Arrival - Moms Gonna Snap

When the box arrived on December 1st, Anthony was so excited to have a package from Santa!

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When he opened the box he found the elf, a letter from Santa and the Elf on the Shelf book – initially he was not sure what to think about all this. 

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Then he read his letter from Santa to us… (letter is shown below)

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After reading the letter and learning that he is not supposed to touch the elf, he was a little nervous that the elf had already lost his magic. We carefully set the elf back in the box, carried him inside and dumped him on the table, where he waited for his first night of festivities…

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Here is our elf, Clyde, on his first night with us.  Anthony was so excited to find him the next morning!


Here’s the letter that we used:

December 1st, 2012
Dear Anthony…one of my favorites!
First off, I have to tell you that I think you are very special. I know that you are filled with love for your parents, all of your family and your friends. I know that you love Jesus too and so do I! That makes us especially special!
I want to send you a very special treat for this Christmas season. This elf is a dear friend of mine. He is from my workshop and he is coming to help you get ready for Christmas. I would like for you to give my friend a very special name, a name that your family can call him, as he will be with you until I visit again on Christmas Eve. You should know that he tends to be a little naughty. I know that by making good choices, you will help your elf learn to make good choices too!
One important thing about this elf… elves are not exactly the same as humans. He will stay still during the day and because he is magical, you shouldn't touch him, for fear his magic will leave him. You can talk to him and tell him stories – he will hear you and love you. While he is quiet during the day, he loves to play at night once everyone else is sleeping. That’s when he gets in trouble, so you’ll have to watch him carefully!
When I told him that he was going to come and stay with you, he was so excited! He really loves listening to the piano, so maybe you will get a chance to play some music for him.
Have fun, and I’ll be back to pick him up on Christmas Eve when I come to drop off some surprises for you!
I love you very much!
SANTA

P.S. Please read this book, to learn more about my friend!


The elf will improve little boy's behavior, right?? We are definitely hoping it does! Especially for our 1st grader who is already asking if Santa is real. It's way too early for that discussion - I was definitely not prepared when he came home asking about Santa...

Do you have an elf at your house? What types of tricks has he been playing for your kids?


Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Month in Photos {November}

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November was a great month!  We were able to spend a few days visiting family in Iowa, which is always fun. Plus we did our annual online shopping spree on Black Friday – love scoring deals in my PJ’s!

Driving the go-cart (again!)
Bowling with friends.
Cub Scouts (Operation Hometown Gratitude, wreath sales and more!)
Giving Thanks with family.
Swimming lessons.
Basement tile.
Sleepover with cousins.
Magic Show.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Family Fun During the Christmas Season

Christmas List - Moms Gonna Snap

Is it too early to be thinking about Christmas? Not for me!

There have been so many variations of lists like this popping up all over the place and I thought a Christmas version would be fun.

Here’s what I started with:

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Yup, that’s my Dad! Somehow I ended up with some old framed pictures of my Dad and I happened to have two identical old frames with the this photo. I needed a frame for this project, so sorry Dad, your photo has been displaced. That doesn’t make me love the picture any less!

A couple of quick coats of spray paint later, and the frame was ready to go.  I just added some scrapbook paper, used my Silhouette to cut out the words “Jingle Bell's'” and put together a list of things to do this holiday season.

Since it’s behind glass, we can cross things off the list as we go, using the frame like a dry erase board!

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Plus, I painted the frame with chalkboard paint, so once the holiday season is done, I can find another fun use for it!

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Let the holiday fun begin!

Linking to: Organizing Made Fun, The Shabby Nest, Sugar Bee Crafts, Hi Sugarplum!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Operation Hometown Gratitude

Tonight Anthony joined some other Cub Scouts to participate in Operation Hometown Gratitude.

Operation Hometown Gratitude was started by a group of students to support local troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The operation sends care packages with necessary supplies and everyday home items to troops and also provides support for families of troops. Since August of 2005, they have sent over 6000 care packages! The local VFW granted the operation some money to get started and has paid for the postage of many of the packages that have been sent.

We purchased a few things for Anthony to add to the other supplies that were donated:

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Anthony was able to help put together a couple of boxes that will be sent to our local troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Here he is with one of his 1st grade Cub Scout friends (face blurred for privacy):

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What a great opportunity for Anthony to learn about giving and supporting our troops!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tiling the “Basement Entry”

Since we have a “walk-out” basement with a sliding door, we decided that having a tile entry would be a good idea. A quick trip to Lowe’s (love getting 5% off with our Lowe’s card!) and we had picked out the Jackson Ridge tile to go by the sliding door.

Planning and prepping before starting to lay the tile - the tile is cut and ready to go!

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This photo shows the most accurate color of the tile:

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Somehow this is the only “after” picture I have taken that shows the tile…

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Except for this funky colored one, that was taken with my iPhone.  The wood trim really is not red (it is currently unfinished wood) and will soon be painted white like the windows.

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It’s official, the tile is all “in” – most of it is still waiting for grout though… Any volunteers to help??