Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I am supposed to take some silhouettes for a photography class that I'm taking with Heather. I've always thought that silhouettes were pretty cool and have always wanted to know how to do them. I tried and failed at home a couple of times, and then by dumb luck happened to notice that the sun and topography would be just about perfect for silhouettes at the church where Elizabeth and Caroline take dance. So I hauled the kids out there right before sunset one night to practice.








{yikes, just realized that that last one is way too dark . . . and crooked. May have to try the monkey bars again sometime!}


{wish I knew how to get rid of the chain link fence in these swing pictures . . .}



The kids had a ton of fun doing this. Basically we went to a playground at the top of a hill and I asked them to swing, jump and throw balls high into the air for 45 minutes. As Jacob put it, "Mom, this was actually kind of fun. A LOT more fun than sitting in a collared shirt next to a tree . . . no offense." None taken, buddy. I doubt I'll have many occasions to take silhouettes (just at the beach or those random times I happen to be standing on a ridge at sunset with an open view to the west) but I'm really glad that I've (kinda sorta) figured out how to do them!

wii are excited!

We have a new baby niece and cousin, and we are over the moon excited about it! Upon hearing the news, Elizabeth rushed to the wii and created a new mii for Baby Emma (this is how the kids today welcome new members of the family, apparently):

We've seen actual pictures of the real Emma, and it would be a major understatement to say that she is absolutely gorgeous and perfect! We can't wait to meet her. Congratulations, Diane, Sal & Alex!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Impromptu foot bath

I brought a bowl of soapy water outside so that Caroline could wash off some little plastic animals that had been left outside in the mud for a week. HRH, however, decided that she would soak her feet instead. It's good to be queen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend pictures

It seems like I've been taking pictures of notes and tables more than I have of children lately, so I took some of the kids this weekend.

And since it took me 3 hours to figure out how to do it, I thought I'd post the 100% crop of Elizabeth's eye (this won't make sense to anybody but Heather and Amanda ).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Backwoods adventure

Okay, maybe not so much the backwoods, given that we could get to a McDonald's in 7 minutes, but the kids had fall break, so we decided to go camping. Jacob and David camp pretty frequently with Cub Scouts, and the girls felt like they were missing out on something. We kept it low key -- this was really more "camping lite." We stayed close to home, with the idea that if it started to go poorly, we could just jump in the car and drive home without even breaking down camp; we got there pretty late in the day (just enough time to set up camp and take a short hike before it was time to start dinner); and we limited the fun to one night. The kids loved every minute of it!

We didn't get there until close to 4:00, so we David started out by setting up the tent.

Kids scoping out map:

Hey kids, how do you like the tent?

After we set everything up, we went for a hike by the lake. The leaves have just started to turn around here ever so slightly, and it was really pretty.

Jacob & Elizabeth with their walking sticks, ready to go:

J ponders the meaning of life, or schemes of ways to get his latest coveted item, a 362 piece first aid kit ("But mom! It has 15 one-time-use thermometers!"), before Christmas:

E & C disregarding our admonition not to get their feet wet:

E climbing the mountain:

Gang hiking:

Kids hiking; abuse of walking sticks begins:

C&E pause to poke around in the water:

E goes fake fishing:

Reeling it in:

It started to get dark, so we headed back to the campsite to start a fire.

Roasting hot dogs:

After hot dogs we toasted marshmallows and made s'mores. Then David read Harry Potter around the fire and we went to bed. I'm pretty sure I was out before 9:00.

We survived the night.

And the kids and I headed back down to the lake in the morning while David broke down camp (wasn't that helpful of us?)

This was definitely a successful introduction to camping for us. I have a hard time visualizing us doing this for more than one night anytime soon, but the kids felt like it was a big adventure, and we all had a really great time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

table reveal

After nearly a month, the refinished kitchen table and chairs are done. To say I'm thrilled would be a massive understatement. I obviously didn't go into the project expecting that in the end they'd look like crap, but I kind of figured that it wouldn't take much to make them look a little better, and I just never could have imagined how great they would turn out. They actually look like somebody who knew what they were doing refinished them! I might have even paid a professional cash money to wind up with this exact finished product. I'm shocked, shocked I tell ya!

First, I dug into the archives for a "before" shot:

This was taken on the morning of St. Patrick's Day when the kids were assessing the damage done by the leprechauns. Caroline is covering her ears in fear that the leprechauns are still there and about to make a loud noise.

Anyway, as you can see, the tabletop is in rough shape. The tone of the wood doesn't particularly jibe with the rest of the kitchen and den, and kind of disappears into the wood floors, which are roughly the same color. It just looks tired and dated in general.


Closer up shot of table finish:

Eeeeeven closer:

Much as I love it as a quaint round table for 4, there are 5 of us, and we'll have to keep the leaf in 99% of the time. In fact, the only thing that keeps the table from being perfect is that it still doesn't comfortably sit 8 (which would be great for when we have company, as we have a formal dining room but generally aren't "formal dining room people" outside of holidays). Here it is with the leaf in place:

As I mentioned earlier, I was inspired to try this project after reading this post by Centsational Girl. She used a combo of Minwax Cherry and English Chestnut to get her finish, and I LOVED it. So I tried the same mix and felt like it was way too light on our table, even after letting it sit for 20 minutes before wiping it off. David and I stood there looking at it and said "after two weeks of sanding, the table looks EXACTLY THE FREAKING SAME." So I ended up doing a second coat of stain in straight English Chestnut, and the darker finish is exactly what I wanted.

I didn't really know what I was going to do with the chairs. I knew that staining them would take way more intricate sanding than I had in me, so I never seriously considered anything other than painting them. And here's where I need to give a big shout out to my great friend Betsey. She has fabulous taste, and when I was deciding on paint colors I shot her an email with links to a few Krylon spray paint color samples I was considering: red (an early front runner, because we have red accents in our kitchen and I thought they'd be kind of fun), an off white color (to generally blend with our cabinets), and some kind of khaki color. And she asked me if I'd considered black. I hadn't, but as soon as she mentioned it the angels started singing and I knew that black was definitely it.

The black chairs tie in to the table and the rest of the house perfectly, and heck, what's more classic than a black Windsor chair? I feel like the combo has a very traditional New England Colonial vibe, which suits my house perfectly (well, minus the New England, although I suppose that *I* bring the New England to the house).

I really tried to do my homework before diving into the project so that I would do it right. I stalked woodworking message boards, for example. In the true spirit of the interwebs, these boards contain drama. Nothing like what you'll see in the comments to your average piece or, God knows, any parenting website, but still, these folks get WORKED UP about their wood finishing.

Amatuerish attempt at table styling

The more I read the more confused I got about the various finishing options (wipe on poly? brush on poly? lacquer?) but in the end I decided to go with Minwax Wipe On Poly in Satin, and I'm SO GLAD I did. It was insanely easy to work with -- applying it is literally like wiping down the kitchen table after dinner, albeit with toxic fumes. With each coat I applied, the finish became prettier and richer looking. While the can recommends 2-3 coats, I applied a total of 6 coats to our table, because (1) I know my family, and (2) the finish honestly became more and more attractive with every coat. I let each coat dry for 12-24 hours, sanded lightly with 320 grit sandpaper between coats and then applied the next coat. Repeat. After the final coat, Minwax recommends letting it cure for 24 hours before normal use, but in a highly uncharacteristic demonstration of patience, I decided to play it safe and let our table cure for nearly a week. I may or may not have squealed with glee when I saw water bead up on the table for the first time.

I have to say that refinishing furniture is an ideal DIY project for DIY-inclined people who have limited time and/or attention spans (that's my situation, on both counts). If you decide to paint a room, there goes your whole weekend. But refinishing furniture inherently happens in short bursts. Now of course if you wanted to you can spend a whole afternoon sanding to finish it all at once rather than spreading it out in 20-30 minute mini-sessions over the course of a couple of weeks. But other than that, you really can't work on it for more than 30 minutes at a time even if you wanted to. It takes no time to wipe on the stain, and then you have to let it dry before you could do anything else. You can put on a coat of poly in 10 minutes, and then you're done until the next day. You could spray primer on 2 chairs in 15 minutes, and then you need to wait before you could move on to the next step. As a result, it never really feels like it's much work. I need to remember that most projects aren't like this before jumping into my next project. But for the time being, I'm project-free and really enjoying my new table!

Monday, October 3, 2011

out of the mouths pens of babes

I feel like I am constantly picking up pieces of paper around this house and putting them into piles, or moving paper from one stack to another. Thankfully, these days there seems to be a lot of words on those papers that give me a chuckle. Elizabeth in particular is just constantly writing. There's her list of potential clients (she wants to start a dog-walking business, I mean "bisnis"):

I couldn't figure out #4, but after some heavy thinking I realized that she was talking about our pool neighbor's dog (our neighbors with the pool who have a dog).

And you know you just have to jot down those hamster factoids while they're fresh in your mind:

I was really encouraged when Elizabeth took it upon herself to draft up a Family Politeness Plan:

But I was a bit perplexed by one thing: the consequence for "forget thank you" is "beat 2 rugs." Now that is a level of cleanliness that has has not been seen in this household since mid-2001. I couldn't figure out where she would have witnessed such behavior. Also, we have never called our basement a cellar ("celler") before, so I wasn't sure where she learned that word. After a little investigating, I tracked down the source of these crazy ideas: The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners, one of her books. That is the magic of a good book: it can take you anywhere -- even to a magical land where people beat out their rugs as part of their weekly house cleaning regimen.

Jacob wasn't too happy when he saw Elizabeth's list -- I don't think he liked the punishments. For example, the consequence for "talk back" is "put sister to bed" (which is quite the production around here with Caroline one sister who shall remain nameless). But if you read the fine print, you'll see that it's not as merciless as you might think:

So actually, if you talk back you do have to put a sister to bed, but you get the sister of your choice. Similarly, if you intarup, you do have to clean out the car, but it's the car of your choice. I'm afraid that the offenders will choose Elizabeth/Dad's car, and then they may never learn not to talk back/not to interrupt!

In addition to Elizabeth's signs and lists, Jacob brought home some letters that his classmates wrote to him when he was Student of the Week. The letters covered a wide range of topics. This friend apologized for an earlier incident and then bonded over crazy siblings:

This friend noted (in paragraph 2) a distinction between the baby Caroline in one of Jacob's pictures and his own baby sister:

My own baby sister is a lot fatter and looks a lot meaner too.

I wish that all of my paper piles could be this amusing!