October 20, 2014

First time for everything

I envy the people who can move into a new house and plop their stuff down and call it "home." Unfortunately, I feel the need personalize a space before it really feels comfortable. People have been asking us if we feel "settled" yet, and the answer is "no." But we're working on it, slowly making the new place ours.

But, since we bought this house for the space, we decided the space needed to be used, whether we felt settled in it, or not. We currently have multiple paint colors in multiple swatches all over the house (gotta see the paint in different lights, you know!), boxes and piles in some of the rooms, a couple of half-painted projects and a serious lack of curtains (thank goodness most of the windows had blinds!). It's clearly going to take us a significant amount of time to get everything the way we want it, so instead of wasting all that time, we've adopted a "come-on-in-to-our-work-in-progress" mentality.

Having the extra space in this home has given us the chance to do something we've never been able to do before: entertain a large group of people!

Maybe not that exciting for some, but we are thrilled! I mentioned in this post that I feel like we've really lost the art of building real relationships, taking time for people and living way too much of our lives online. Online is easier, it's safer. But it's not as real. You can't see facial expressions, hear a quiver in a friends voice or see joy in someone's eyes. Yes, it takes a little time and effort. But it's so much better!

We have some great friends, but busy lives still make it difficult to get together so we need to make a purposeful effort. And I've had some amazing vintage dishes that have just been begging to be put to use. So we decided a dinner party was in order!


Everyone who knows me knows I'm crazy about all things 50's. I love the music, love the clothes, love the color palettes, love, love the patterns and graphics, and even the culture of that era. Clearly, I had to do a 50's party. But not the "rock-n-roll" type, definitely the "classic family life" type.


That is my authentic Fransiscan Starburst dinnerware. I'm in love with it. A little. (I mean, as much as you should really care about dinnerware...)



I don't have any matching glassware, but luckily have a friend with a similar affinity for all things vintage so she graciously let me borrow hers.




Yes, if you come to my 50's party, I will make you wear vintage cat-eye glasses.


Several years ago I snagged some Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens magazines from the 50's and 60's at a garage sale for 25 cents each. They are so much fun to look at! Things have changed so much since then. There are no Facebook or Twitter icons to be found, but on the bottom of every ad is a little cut-out coupon that you can fill out and "mail in for more information."


Some of them are so politically incorrect it's almost unbelievable!


We laughed hysterically about this ad, titled "Why you need a kitchen extension phone." Reasons included things like: "so you won't burn dinner while you're talking on the phone outside the kitchen" and "so you can answer important calls and still stir your soup!"


Not everything has changed - Reynolds wrap is pretty much the same!



Menu items included my Grandmother's fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade dinner rolls, corn casserole, and of course, a Jello mold.


Clearly I'm out of practice with Jello molds. But despite it's looks, it actually tasted pretty decent.
My grandma informed me that shredded carrots and pineapple in the Jello was very authentic 50's, so we had to do it. We finished with homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh apple pie, so we made up for it.

We also had some vintage "inspired" sodas. I only chose ones made with REAL sugar, since of course no one used high fructose corn syrup back then.


It was a fun time. We managed to have 8 adults and 9 kids in our house without it feeling crowded at all!



Best of all, we got to spend an evening with great friends, just enjoying a meal and each other's company.


Jello, anyone? ;)

October 12, 2014

Wasn't it just Summer?

You know how on the first day of school everybody takes a picture of their kids in front of their house before they head off for the monumental day? We did that too. But we didn't post the pictures because I thought it would be much more fun to include it in a post about our crazy summer.

Then we blinked and our kids have been in school for nearly two months.

Oops. 

This is more evidence here of how I'm not nearly as organized as people sometimes think I am. It always floors me when people make comments about how I'm "so organized" or "have it together." 

Nope. Not even a little.

This is why I am doing a summer update post in OCTOBER.

To be fair, we did actually have a really, really crazy last few months. But things are starting to settle down now, so I'm hoping this is the beginning of a new era. (One where I write a post more than once every three months!)

June

Honestly the whole month of June was pretty non-eventful. For the life of me I can't figure out why we don't go to school through June in South Dakota, and then start again in October. June is almost always rainy and miserable and September is always gorgeous. But I don't make the rules so we began the summer picking out days here and there that were warm and dry enough to do something besides hang out in the house.

We did manage to get a few pool days in (but not many!) and a few strawberries picked.



Meili loves, loves, LOVES strawberries. She has been known to eat over a pound at a time.




Tyler loves pie about as much as Meili loves strawberries, so we managed to get a few of those in too.




Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't think there are too many things that taste much better than a homemade fresh strawberry pie.

July 

Enter the chaos! It was a welcome chaos because we were finally able to escape to some warm weather! We were fortunate to be able to take a trip to see my brother and sister-in-law in the beginning of July. They live on a lovely little island off the Southern coast of Georgia; Saint Simons Island. 

St. Simons has four things I like very, very much: Sun, Ocean, Beach, Family. 


Jenna and I are alike in a lot of ways, so I'm not surprised that she agreed with me that a day at the beach is pretty much about the best way to spend a day. Ever.
She and I did a little research before we left. We decided this midwestern family was going to build a real, legit sandcastle.



I think we pulled it off pretty darn well!




We were so relaxed on this trip, Jon didn't even take his camera most of the time. We don't even have any pics of the other great things we did: fishing with my sister-in-law's father, jumping off the dock with Uncle Cam, eating pork poppers at Sweet Mama's, finding sea stars and sand dollars, having the best.fried.shrimp.ever at B&J's, fun nights out with one of my favorite couples...


As sad as I am that I my brother doesn't live closer to us, I'm so thankful that they are close to his wife's family. They took us in like their own and invited us to their fabulous Southern-style July 4th backyard barbeque. We had an amazing meal, complete with hand-cranked homemade fresh peach ice cream, had a few fireworks there and later watched a display from right on the beach at nearby Sea Island.




I think I left a little piece of my heart on St. Simons. I even made Jon call a realtor about a cute little house a block away from my brother! I mean, he can always work remotely, right?!? Too bad the sale was already pending, because if he had been up for it, I would have been perfectly OK with becoming and islander.

About a week after we returned home from St. Simons we had scheduled a trip to the Black Hills with my parents. Somehow we failed to get any pictures of this! We took an extra day and spent a long weekend in the Hills, which is always fun. We did some serious hiking (how did that 2 mile hike turn into a 7 mile hike?!?), had lots of campfire food and enjoyed the outdoors.

The next weekend, we had scheduled a trip to see Jon's cousins in Northern Minnesota. They had recently added a pool and we thought this would be a great opportunity for us all to spend some time together.








Thankfully it was heated, so the 70 degree weather did not deter us!



Traveling every weekend made July feel like a little bit of a rat race, but we enjoyed all of the trips and spending so much time with our extended family. 

In additional to all of this, we had been trying to make some updates to our home. Things that would need to be done if we sold it, or just things we would enjoy if we stayed in it. Ever since bringing Meili home, our house had felt a bit cramped. As tiny as she is, adding that extra person made it nearly impossible to all eat around our table in our dining room or for me to cook a meal in our small kitchen without bumping into a kid who was running through on their way out the back door.

We had been "keeping our eyes open" for other houses for about 18 months. We loved, I mean really loved our little 50's ranch home. Everything about it worked wonderfully for us, except that kitchen and dining space. A very talented architect friend of ours even put together some plans for how we could improve our space, but the city ordinances prevented us from doing every single thing we wanted to do. Aside from reconfiguring the space to make it more efficient (which carried a hefty price tag and gained us no square footage) there was really nothing we could do.

After looking for 18 months, we knew what we wanted. We didn't want to be in one of the new developments on the edge of town; we liked the middle. We didn't want a house similar to everyone else's (which here is a split foyer with a strikingly similar floor plan to the neighbors). We wanted it to be large enough for us to grow into as the kids get older and have more friends over. We did not want to do lots of updating. And we had a budget. After searching for so long, we determined this house did not exist in our town. We decided to go ahead with the pricey renovation to make our existing home more efficient. 

About a day after we decided this, a friend called. "I'm selling and I hear you're looking," he said. We decided to see the home, assuming it would be yet another house we didn't like. After we finished, we both sat in the car quietly. Jon looked at me and finally said, "That was AWESOME." 

It was large, it was custom built, unlike any we'd seen, it was built WELL, it was in a wonderful part of town and we already knew some of the neighbors. And the price was do-able. 

We spent several weeks praying and talking about it and ended up making an offer and listing our home in the middle of July. We listed it ourselves because we wanted to get a certain dollar amount out of it for the down payment on the new one. We were prepared to walk away if we didn't get what we needed. Thankfully, we had multiple offers and our house sold in the first 24 hours.

So August became "moving month."


We took one last photo with our cute little mid-century home. It was a very bittersweet day. I still avoid driving by it because it makes me tear up. This home was good to us. We were so grateful for this house and so blessed during the time we lived here. We left behind some wonderful, wonderful neighbors and a great location a block from our kids' school. A good friend told me the first home is the hardest to let go of and I think she's right! I'm having a terrible time! To avoid getting all emotional, I try to pray for the young couple that bought it - that they would be as blessed in this home as we were.

We were set to close on the first day of school, but were able to push it forward a few days fearing that that might be a bit "much" for our kiddos (and us!). They'd stayed here two nights before school started. 

Without further ado - the obligatory first day of school/new house picture (roughly 47 days after school started)!


We've decided not to show a lot of pictures because although we love the space, it does not feel like "ours" yet. We don't plan to do many projects, but we do need some paint, and a few other little things here and there. Instead, we'll do before & after shots when we make progress! The part you see in this picture already looks different :)

With traveling, packing and moving, our summer totally disappeared. No more lazy days by the pool or sleeping in. No more beautiful island beaches (sniff sniff). Those have been replaced with lots of scheduling, unpacking, organizing, paint sampling, homework doing and lunch packing.

And so, on to a new chapter! One where we can not only ALL fit around our dining room table, but where there is room for others as well! We've already been able to entertain more people in this home than we had in the last several years combined in our previous home. We are looking forward to making this house into a place where we can raise our family and build many more relationships. And maybe, maybe, if I get my act together, even do a little more blogging ;)

August 18, 2014

Should've been farm kids

It's that time of year again...the time when our quaint little summer city is bombarded with pickup trucks filled with mismatched furniture, when every store is out of fans and mini-fridges, when we avoid Wal-Mart because of the mass chaos and there are suddenly twice as many cars on the road.

The students are back!

For the most part, living in a college town is a great thing. The students bring an energy and vitality to our city that we enjoy during the school year, and in May when they all head home, we return to a little more relaxed pace. We've loved getting to know college students over the years. All three of my brothers went to school here; two of them frequently showed up at my house around mealtimes, often with friends. Being a "home away from home" where they can do a load of laundry or get a home-cooked meal in a real dining room truly brings us joy.

Since our church has a vibrant college ministry, we jumped at the chance sign up for the adopt-a-student program. Our family was assigned two students, Evelyn and Morgan, and instructed to get to know them. I'm not sure how we got lucky enough to get the two BEST ones, but somehow we did ;)

Evelyn grew up not far from town. She was kind enough to invite our kids out to her family farm one Saturday morning.


Our girls LOVED it. We thought we were going out there to see a few baby goats...






Turns out there was a whole herd of baby goats! They were adorable! But that wasn't all.


There was also sheep and baby lambs (which look oddly similar to baby goats), a rabbit and chickens.


Meili was CRAZY about the chickens!


She played in their little chicken coop for about 15 minutes just following them around trying to catch them and saying, "here chicken, here chicken."


I don't think the chickens were too excited about getting caught.

They even found a new friend, Evelyn's little sister.


Did I mention they had kitties?! I guess I'm a farm girl at heart - the one thing I miss most about the country is the baby kittens.



Seriously, how cute is he?!


I think this one wanted to come home with me!


And we can't forget to add guinea pig and hamster to the list.


Our kids had such a great time getting to see and hold so many animals. Being a farm-kid myself, I'm always afraid my kids are going to grow up without any of the experiences I had as a child. Thanks Evelyn, for giving them a little piece of farm life!


We loved every minute of it!