Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's Up, Wednesday?

In an effort to become a little more regular in my posting, I've decided to try to do a "What's Up, Wednesday?" weekly post.  Now -  you have to read that right.  It's like you're asking Wednesday, "What's up?" like Wednesday is a real person.   Don't read it like "What's up" is an adjective for "Wednesday".  Okay?   It's important to me that you know that.  Anywho, the idea is to just share some different things that have interested me or have been going on in my life lately.  You know, things that I can't turn into a post in and of themselves, but that I do feel are worthy of snapping a picture of with my cell phone. 

I'm hoping this might anchor me to a more regular posting schedule. 

Up first: our bathroom renovation!

I wrote about being in the midst of our master bedroom half bath HERE.  We've made progress, and now this is in its most fun phase - the shopping-for-cute-stuff phase.  It was important to me to make this bathroom pretty because it so wasn't pretty before, but I also want it to be functional.  I found these glass containers at Wal-Mart and decided they would be perfect.  A bonus is that they are made in America!  They're holding cotton swabs and cotton balls, but I love the simplicity of the look. I also found this little ceramic owl container on clearance at Pier 1.  Would you believe I bought it before I knew I was going to have this tiny shelf?  It fits there so perfectly!  And it holds bobby pins like it was born to do so.  I plan on doing an updated post about the finished renovation soon. 

 Here's a sneak peek!

Next is this:

It was finally my turn on the library request list for The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  I been waiting for this one for months and had heard many good things.  It did live up to the hype, and kept me awake too late a couple of nights in a row.

And finally... The Wizard of Oz!

Here we were - off to see the Wizard!

When my kids were little, I would take them to the children productions at a nearby theater.  They were wonderfully done and relatively inexpensive.  They were done at 10:00 A.M., right before the under six crowd gets cranky for a nap.  And you didn't have to worry about them talking out loud or fussing and bothering others in the audience because, let's face it, that's who the audience was.  Afterwards, they got to meet the characters from the play. Oh, those were good days.

But they've been too old for those for a couple of years at least.  I started taking my daughter to one regular production a year.  My son was just 7 when I started this, and I knew he was too young to sit through a two hour production, intermission or not.   He's not always enthusiastic about outings in general.  These productions are NOT what I would call inexpensive excursions, but I do think it is worth it.  Over the past three years, we've seen Annie, Cats, and The Sound of Music.  This year one of their productions was The Wizard of Oz.  I decided the boy was old enough to go this year.  He LOVED it!  I'm so glad I took him this year.  When I went in to kiss him at bedtime, he said, "Thanks for taking me to see that, Mom."  So worth every penny and he will now be making the yearly trip with us!

So that's What's Up, Wednesday!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Solo Road Trip

A couple of weeks after family vacation to the Gulf Coast in Alabama, I did something I haven't done in over 12 years. 

I spent the night by myself. 

I know it's been at least 12 years because my daughter turned 12 this year.  Now, there have been plenty of times when she and/or my son have had an overnight stay at a family member of friend's house, but on those occasions, my husband and I jump at the chance to go out for a date.  So, I haven't been alone.  He's with me.  There have also been times when he's been gone, and I've been alone with the kids. Or there have been times when he's been somewhere with one of them, and I've been home with the other one. 

But alone for the night by myself?  No.  It's been more than 12 years.  How is that possible?  The funny thing is, before I was married, I did pretty much everything alone.  I was 32 when I got married, so I had pretty much flown solo on everything I did.  If someone had told me back when I was 30 that I wasn't going to be alone for 12 years, I think it would have given me pause. I can honestly say I haven't missed it, but I did slip back into the old habit like a broken in pair of jeans.

This happened by accident.  My husband and I had been planning to make a trip down south in July.  We were going to see my brothers play in their band at our favorite winery. This plan had been in the works since they scheduled the date in the early spring.  As it turned out, my daughter was invited about a month ago to a pool party that same weekend.  She really wanted to go and is at that age where it's all about being with her friends, so we made arrangements for my husband to take her and pick her up.   My son preferred to spend the night at my parents' house, which is on the way to Southern Illinois.  I made a reservation for myself to stay at our favorite inn.  I realized when I was doing that, how strange it was going to be to be there alone. 

One thing about heading south in mid-July.  You know it won't be cooler when you get there.  It was oppressively hot and humid that weekend.  I made it down to The Davie School Inn to check in before heading out to the winery.  The Davie School Inn is just what the name implies: a former elementary school building converted into an Inn with eleven different suites.  I stumbled on it online, searching for a place to stay one night on a trip in December.  This place is a delight.  When the owners renovated it, they left a generous amount of the 1910 charm, while updating it with all the modern comforts you hope for. 

These rooms are referred to as suites for  a reason.  With a large sleeping area, dining area, kitchen area, living area, and bathroom, they put hotel "suites" to shame. (Blue Suite)

   Original chalkboards in many of the suites (Blue Suite)

   The black line on the floor is the "Reading Circle" in the second grade classroom. (Blue Suite)

The schoolhouse flag is displayed in the Black Suite.

    There's quite a bit of original cabinetry in the suites. (Black Suite)

When I arrived, I was told my room had been upgraded to one of the main floor suites because it was available. I had reserved the White Suite but was being moved to the Pink Suite. I knew this meant fancier digs.  I was a little disappointed this happened on the one stay that my husband wasn't with me.  That didn't stop me from texting him and rubbing it in a little! ;)
    Softest sheets ever in the Pink Suite!

   Can you see me waving to my husband in this picture I texted him? (Pink Suite)

  Cozy gas fireplace in the Pink Suite - but not much fun in July.

I made my way out to the winery.  My sister-in-law and my brother's girlfriend were already there.  This winery, Owl Creek, in Cobden, Illinois, specializes in hard ciders.  So naturally, I had to try a cider-rita, made with their coriander lime cider and tequila.

We then proceeded to polish off a pitcher of peach bourbon hard cider and a pitcher of their Sweet Knocker hard apple cider.  Just because it is kind of awesome to be pleasantly drunk at 4:30 in the afternoon sometimes.  Especially when good music is involved.

After the gig was over, I got to spend the evening visiting with my family on my brother's farm.

Then it was time to go back to my suite.  I took advantage of the huge spa tub, crawled into a deliciously comfortable king size bed, and began to read my newest check-out from the library, The Silkworm.  And it was all very fine.

The next day, my breakfast was delivered to my room.  This is another sizeable reason I am a fan of the Davie School Inn.

Here are a couple of the scrumptious breakfasts we have had when we have stayed at this fine establishment:

   Pancakes this time around...

   This spinach and feta omelet from another visit rocked.

   This French toast was life-changing.  I had to ask the owner (who does the breakfast-makin') for the recipe.  Five words: Girl Scout Samoa Coffee Creamer

 I can tell you, I took my sweet time getting ready to go.  When I checked out, I asked the owner where I could find some fresh peaches.  He directed me to Flamm Orchards, 15 minutes away.  I did a little shopping in Carbondale and then headed home. 

I suppose I could have just stayed home too when it became obvious that one of us was going to have to stay home, but I'm glad I didn't.  I had been looking forward to going for a few months, and it was enjoyable to set my own schedule, even if it was for a little over 24 hours.  I had kind of forgotten what that was like. 

It's not bad.


Last Minute is the Best (Always Watch Jaws After Going to the Ocean)

We always take our family vacation in the summer.  As a teacher, it just makes sense.  We were also excited because this year my husband started getting four weeks of vacation a year.  Even so, we couldn't settle on where we were going or what we wanted to do.  We had kicked around lots of ideas, but nothing seemed right.

The thing about always taking your vacation in the summer is, it's super hot if you travel south. When my kids were seven and five we took them to Disney World in Orlando.  I'm glad we did it.  They were both very into Disney at the time, but what is most memorable to me is how HOT it was at that park!  We did drive to Pismo Beach one day while we were there, but I'm not sure my son even remembers that.  For the past two years, we've gone north to Michigan for this reason.  I wrote a post about this HERE if you're interested. 

This was one of the first moments after we walked into the Magic Kingdom.  They were both huge Winnie the Pooh fans for years.  See how red their faces are from the heat already?

This was towards the end of the day.  Sweaty hair and the look on the boy's face.  The heat was brutal!

    Two years later arriving on the shores of Lake Michigan.  They look so much more comfortable!

At the beginning of June, I kept hounding asking my husband about when he was going to take his vacation.  He gets his vacation time on July 1st each year.  I suggested he take the week of the Fourth of July because he wouldn't have to use very much of his new time that way. He had a little time left over from last year, and he always has the holiday off, so he wouldn't even use 3 whole days of his new time.  He responded that he might do that.  In the meantime, I made no plans for two reasons:
      A)He never confirmed he was going to take that week and
      2) I couldn't decide where we should go.

On the last Friday of June, he came home and told me he was taking vacation next week.  Next week?  He acted like this had been all MY idea.  Which it kind of was. 

But here's something about me: I actually operate better under a deadline in this kind of situation.  I got online and found us a great deal at a condo in Gulf Shores, Alabama for the same week we needed.  There had been a cancellation, so they were offering a reduced rate.  The owner called me Saturday morning and said we could come the next day.  Here's one of the many things I love about Dan - This kind of last minute decision freaks him out for about 10 minutes.  Then he's right on board.  Our conversation went something like this:
Me: "We have a chance to rent a condo on the beach tomorrow."
Him: "Tomorrow???  I can't get everything ready by tomorrow!"
Me: "I'll pack the bags, get a house/pet sitter, and get the oil changed.  What do you need to do?"
Him: "Mow the yard and get the pool ready."
Me: "It's 9:00 in the morning.  So mow now.  What do you have to do to the pool?"
Him: "Well...nothing really."
Me: "Okay, then."

And just like that, we were both in the same mindset.

Now, I don't know if you're aware of this, but Alabama IS south of Illinois.  But this time we weren't going to be at a theme park in Hades.  We were going to be on the beach.  I was hoping that might change how I feel about the south in the summer.

The next morning we set out at 6:00 A.M.-ish.  This was going to be the longest car ride my kids had been on.  When we went to Florida, we broke it up into three days, stopping overnight to see family in Southern Illinois the first night and Georgia the second night.  This time it was 12 hours - in one day.

Don't you wish you could bottle that enthusiasm you feel when you set out on vacation?  Sure you do!  Because then you could open up a can of it and shotgun it on the way back, when that feeling isn't as strong. 

We made it there a little before 9:00 at night.  I have to hand it to Dan, who drove the whole way.  Kudos to a man who can be all in for a plan after 10 minutes of freaking out.  We could hear the ocean calling us.  We had to go out and take a walk.

The next day the kids and I headed down to the beach.  Dan wasn't ready yet but was going to join us shortly.  He didn't get a chance because after 10 minutes in the ocean, my son got stung by a jellyfish on his arms.  I quickly Googled "jellyfish stings" and was treated to some awful pictures.  Apparently, kids can also have severe allergic reactions to stings, just like they do with bee stings.  It also mentioned that at times, the barbs from the stingers could become lodged in the skin.  I couldn't see anything in his skin and he's not allergic to bee stings, but what do I know about jellyfish?  I'm from Illinois for crying out loud!

After a quick trip to an urgent care located conveniently around the corner, we were told to spray it with a solution of vinegar and water.  After some lunch and ibuprofen, we hit the beach again.  I told the boy he didn't have to get back in the ocean. (He had been quite vocal about the fact that he was NEVER  going back into the ocean while we were driving to urgent care.)  Five minutes of watching his dad and sister frolic in the ocean, and he could no longer resist.  He was right back to it.  And thank goodness because the beach was pretty much the majority of our agenda for the week.

Very proud of his bravery to return into the abyss!

We also went on a dolphin cruise and visited the zoo there.  But mostly it was the beach.

   Cruisin' for dolphins - We saw lots!

  Their grandparents always give them money to spend on vacation.  How did they spend it?  On a personal lemur encounter, of course.

   Kangaroos could be house pets, I think.  As long as they don't get any bigger than this.

After 5 nights, we headed back.  My feelings about going south in the summer have improved.  It's all about the venue you choose, I guess.

       Swimming in the evening means no messing with sunscreen.

   Swimming in the pool at our condo

   When faced with humidity like this, I surrender and let my hair return to its 1988 state.

Just a footnote to this whole story:
We woke up at home the morning of the Fourth of July.  AMC, because it loves me, was running a Jaws marathon that day.  I let my son watch the first 20 minutes of it.  He looked at me incredulously and said, "You let us go in the ocean???"  So maybe we WILL be going back to Lake Michigan next year after all. 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bathroom and Patience Renovation

We're living through another renovation project at the moment.  In the scale of some of the things we've done over the years, this is a relatively minor one.  (And when I say "we", I really mean that my husband does 99% of the labor part.  I do help out with financial end and the keeping up with the running of the house and children.)  Anyway, "we" are completely redoing the half bath that is attached to our master bedroom. 

We've lived in this house for nine years this September.  This has always been a sad little room. It hasn't been helped by the fact that two summers ago, I thought I'd paint it aqua.  I got a few strokes up on the wall and realized it was awful.  Dan told me he would just go over it with some paint in the garage left over from when the previous owners painted it.  Except it wasn't that paint.  It was what we had used to paint our sunroom a few years before that.  At that point, we both mutually decided it was only the half bath, afterall.  No need to fix it.  But this spring I decided- no more! Because, after all, while it is just a half bath, it is convenient whenever someone has the stomach flu in the middle of the night.  That, in and of itself, meant it deserved more respect than we were giving it. We were going to paint the bedroom and completely re-do the half bath.

(Just an aside, don't you love to hate those brats you see on House Hunters who walk through McMansion after McMansion saying things like, "I'm not sure the kids can share just one bathroom?" or "It's kind of disappointing the master bath doesn't have two sinks." Let me tell you something. All five of my family members shared ONE bathroom in the house I grew up in.  And it had ONE sink.)

We (and by "we" here, I am now referring to me) picked out the new paint color, sink, toilet, vanity, light fixtures, faucet, and cabinet back in May in one afternoon. And it's all been sitting in the garage...until this week.

    Behold - a thing of beauty!

Dan's been on vacation for the past two weeks.  After getting back from our beach vacation last week, he painted our bedroom first.  I picked Benjamin Moore's "Owl Gray".  Man, I am really interested to know how a person gets the job of naming paint colors!  I would like to fill out the application.

We've never had curtains for our bedroom in our 13 years of marriage.  My kids' rooms, on the other hand, have always had them.  For some reason, it was much more fun to pick out their curtains.  For us? Not so much.  But last week, I summoned my strength and patience and took an hour to pick out bedroom curtains at Target since they were 20% off with their Cartwheel app.  I also had to buy rods since, ahem, we didn't even have those.  I think they call your adult card carrying into question if you don't even have curtain rods in your bedroom by the time you're in your forties.

Do you ever do something small like this in your house and wonder why in the hell it took you so long to do it?  Me too. We stood there admiring them and I said with delight to Dan, "It looks just like a real bedroom now!" 

The depressing thing was that I got to spend all of one night in my "real bedroom" before he started on the attached bath.  And then everything in the half bath was promptly moved into our no longer beautiful peaceful haven of a bedroom.
    Just keepin' it real, folks

I was impressed by how quickly he gutted the room.  I'm always optimistic at the beginning of every reno project, thinking to myself, "This is going to move right along!"  I obviously never learn my lesson.  This is pretty sad, considering a grew up in a house where my dad did any project that needed to be done himself.  He built the house himself.  I should know by now that it never moves right along for the duration of the project.

When everything was pulled out, Dan informed me we would in fact have to put in a new floor because the previous owners had not tiled under the vanity he had just taken out.  I still wasn't discouraged, because he had told me this was a very real possibility beforehand. Plus, I hated the old floor. It's a very small room, so I knew it wasn't going to be that expensive.  Off we went to Lowe's, with our twelve and ten year old in tow, because you know how much kids this age love to consider grout colors.

Still, I was in good spirits. I'm a pretty decisive person (I'm not sure if you know, but one hour for curtains at Target IS actually quite impressive), so I knew I could knock out the choices quickly.  I settled on porcelain tile lickety-split and moved on to grout color.  No problem.  I liked the one they show in the picture. Sold. Then we had to decide on the adhesive.  And the subfloor.  And the spacers.  And the trowels.  And sponges.  It was at this point that I started to get antsy. And frustrated.  Did I mention that in addition to being a pretty decisive person, I'm also a pretty impatient person?  Yeah, I didn't think so.  I don't brag about that one as much.

At this point, Dan had a question about the subfloor.  He was waiting to ask a salesperson who was helping two of the slowest people in the universe.  So I, being pretty decisive, decided to take charge and find someone else who could help us.  Have you ever seen King of the Hill?  Yeah, I was Hank wandering up and down the aisles calling, "Hello? Hello?"  At this point, the salesperson Dan had been waiting on helped us re-choose our adhesive, which meant we had to pick out a different type of grout, etc., etc.  My  10 year old son, who is the least patient of all four of us, had now given up hope of ever getting out of Lowe's alive. 

We finally got up to the check out with two carts and realized that we brought my car and may not be able to fit the subfloor panels inside.  My husband sensed that I was ready to blow at this point because I had stopped talking.  By smashing the kids side by side with no space between them, he managed to get the panels in the car.  On the way home he mentioned he was going to have to borrow a tile saw from someone.  I gave him a look and asked, "You don't have a tile saw?"  (In my defense, he has a million tools and has laid all our other floors.)

I recouped a bit when we finally saw the inside of our home again.  At this point, Dan started looking at YouTube videos.  I gave him a look again and asked, "Have you never done a tile floor before?"  This question may seem strange, but he has done EVERYTHING to the three houses we have owned, including a complete kitchen renovation, building a deck, turning a screened-in porch into a sunroom and putting on two new roofs.  I just assumed that at some point before I knew him, he had done this too.

"Well, no," he admitted, "But I can."

And that's the thing.  I know he can, but everything takes so much time with a renovation project.  And it's so hard if you are patience-challenged, like me.  And I always forget.  It's like the pain you feel at childbirth.  Your brain protects you from remembering so that you might do it again some day.  This special brain-protecting mechanism is why everyone in the world is not an only child.  And it's also why people continue to do home improvement projects.

As I type this post, he has finished cutting porcelain tile (with a saw he borrowed) and has the floor all configured and put down with no problem.  But, oh yeah, the floor has to sit afterwards for 24 hours to properly adhere to the floor.  So there's that.  So I'll have to be patient again tomorrow. 

 See how God gives you plenty of opportunities to practice what you're not good at?