Day at the Zoo

I was inspired by my friend over at Pepper Paints (is this how all of my blogs are going to start from now on?) to take some B & W pictures in Nov. Out of all the months to pick for a B & W challenge Nov. seems like the worse, especially with all the leaves changing colors. But I did get some fun pictures at the zoo.

Once a month Thomas takes a class at the zoo with his friend Louisa. And while they’re in their class Laura and I walk around with our little people. Since I don’t have my own little person I have to borrow my neighbors little boy, Jaylen.

This is our friend Jaylen:

And our friend Rosalyn:

The penguins are Laura’s favorite animals.

This is the lion that sprayed urine at us. Lucky for us he didn’t really try to hit us; it was a foot or two short. Thomas learned in his class that the lion can spray up to 20 ft. We were only about 5 ft away, so I guess the lion was being nice. He also growled for us later on, or maybe he was coughing up a hairball, we’re not sure.

The elephants were also being more animated than usual. One of them was breaking up a piece of wood and throwing it around.

Funny faces:

and smiles:

Pumpkin Soup

I was challenged by my friend at Pepper Paints and her Thursday recipe challenge. This weeks theme is orange, so I decided to try something new, that I’ve never made or eaten before, Pumpkin Soup. First I had to bake then mush some fresh pumpkin, I did that on Tues because I knew I was going to be short on time today. I haven’t actually made the soup yet, I plan on throwing it all together when I get back home this afternoon. But I have all the pumpkin in the refrigerator ready to go, so it should be pretty easy to put together. I’ll post more this evening to let you know how it turned out.

6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
5 whole black peppercorns

Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.
Return to pan, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in heavy cream. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

Well I did make pumpkin soup but I didn’t end up using this recipe. I used a different recipe that I read over at Pepper Paints, Thai Pumpkin Coconut Soup (minus the coconut milk because I didn’t have any, I used 1/2 & 1/2 instead.) It was very yummy, well at least Dan & I thought so. I couldn’t get the boys to eat it and Beth tasted it and thought it was disgusting. But what do they know, they don’t even like my baked oatmeal!

6 months of projects

We have been very busy working on our house over the past 6 months. It all started when Dan moved his office out of the basement. That left me with a room that sorely needed to be spackled, painted and some finishing touches like a closet built in to one wall (taking some space from Beth’s room) and an in the wall shelf for books, CD’s and other stuff built into another wall. Plus some built in shelves for all of Daniel’s reptiles. Even though I had a vision for this room that would ultimately be awesome no one was on board with me. For some reason Daniel didn’t want to give up his closet sized bedroom on the main floor of the house for a much larger and much more private bedroom in the basement, go figure. And Dan didn’t agree with my choice of using a glossy black paint for all the trim, part of the duct work and all the built in shelves. But in the end they all came around (like they always do) and Daniel gladly cleaned out his old room, purged all his junk and moved into his new room.

Next Beth’s room was due for a repainting, which she and I did together with some really dark colors of her choice. I always try to buy our paints as mistints from Loews, Home Depot or Sherwin Williams or partial gallons from Habitat for Humanity. Then I mix together what I find to make enough to paint the rooms. This has worked great all throughout the house.

Now that the very small room that Daniel had previously inhabited was empty I was able to paint it and turn it into a computer room. Dan made a built in L shaped desk that hold 3 of our computers. This is the perfect nook for a home office, it’s off the kitchen and so convenient for checking emails or writing new blogs. I was so glad to get my computer out of my upstairs bedroom and the kids computer out of the kitchen. Now Thomas and I will both be in here working side by side which is so much nicer.

With those rooms completed that brings us into Spring and now we needed to refocus our work on the outside of the house. We like to have lots of big summer parties and cook outs and that always motivates us to get the yard in tip top shape. So the first thing we needed to do was to finish off fencing in the back half of our yard. We wanted to make the area a little more private without cutting off our neighbors completely. So we put up a privacy fence across the back alley behind the garden and partially up the side then we tapered it down so we could still visit with our neighbors. We also added a short white picket fence around the rest of the garden to make it look nicer and to try and keep the basketballs out of there.

After that was all done it was time for Dan and Thomas to head off to Seattle to help my sister’s husband redo all of their plumbing in their house. It was huge job but after several days of working hard him and Thomas were rewarded with a weekend camping trip to Fish lake where they caught 160 trout. And about 1/2 of them were packaged, frozen and shipped back to Ohio.

While they were gone Beth and I decided to surprise Thomas with a completely redone room. His bedroom is the 2nd largest room in the house and right off the kitchen. We move rooms around a lot in this house and this bedroom and been a lot of things. It started out as mine and Dan’s bedroom (with Daniel & Beth sharing our bed) then when we all moved upstairs this became a play room. At some point Daniel moved in and it was his bedroom for many years. Eventually, Thomas moved in to share the room with him and that lasted about 1 month. We built a room in basement for Beth and Thomas took over the tiny bedroom. Then I decided that since Daniel spends so little time at home the big bedroom should go to Thomas and Daniel could have the itty bitty tiny room. (Surprisingly he never complained about his downgrade.) The other thing about this room is it has 11 foot ceilings, wood paneling and lots of trim work. Beth and I found 3 hideous colors (brown, tan and army green) That we thought would somehow work out nicely. And surprisingly they did. But oh my gosh that room took forever to paint. We did all the trim one color, the top half the walls a different color the bottom half the third color then we mixed it all around for the open closet. We spent the whole week painting until late into the night. In between painting we did make a 2 hour drive to IKEA to get him some new organizing stuff. Well that didn’t really work out for Thomas but Beth got a new bed, drawers for all her sewing stuff and a few hundred dollars more of things that we weren’t really shopping for. Poor Thomas didn’t really get anything. But we still made his room cool, I’m a huge fan of making dry erase boards. We use a 4X8 while shower board put some type of trim around the edges and voila you have a giant dry erase board for $15. We have these all around the house. I also LOVE peg board, we hung a 4X8 one in his room for all his collections. Then we decided to go with a hunter/ animal theme because of the colors. So we hung a giant stuffed animal snake around the ceiling, a stuffed animal moose head over the door and various other stuffed animals around for decoration. We also sewed new moose curtains for his window and around the bottom half of his loft bed.

When Dan got back home his work wasn’t done, oh no. Last summer Dan built a great shed/ green house. Although shed really doesn’t do it justice, some people mistake it for a small house.

Behind the shed we knew we wanted to put in a pond, hammock, and small patio. We did some of the work last summer but the pond needed to be finished and we still had to put in the patio. So we got to work! We traded one of Dan’s small fishing boats for 2 guys to come and dig out the area for the patio and lay the gravel. Then we laid all the flagstone. I wasn’t sure what kind of material I wanted to put between the flagstone, I don’t like how cement cracks, I didn’t want the mess of gravel, and I wanted to have chairs and a table on the patio so I didn’t want just sand that the chairs may sink into. I searched for several weeks on line for some type of alternative product and finally found polymeric sand. It looks like sand, goes in like sand but then you gently wet it down and it solidifies into a solid surface that will never crack! It was perfect. Unfortunately, after I poured it all in, swept the stone clean, blew off all remaining sand, wet it down and had it all looking perfect mother nature decided to play a little trick on me. That night after weeks of no rain it decided in the middle of the night to have a massive storm. Of course, the sand wasn’t supposed to get wet for 48 hours. So while it’s 80% still OK you can tell in some areas where the polymer’s all came to the top and are slowly separating from the rest of the sand. That was an expensive lesson to learn, next time I’ll either pay attention to the weather channel or tarp it!

Next we decided to splurge and use our tax return to have a new furnace (ours was about 100 years old) installed along with central air. Although, our house did have an AC unit it has never worked so we would just use a window unit in our bedroom to help with the night time heat.

We also noticed a small leak in the bedroom near the chimney, so we brought in some roofers to replace the flashing. Our roof has a crazy steep pitch and that is the one thing Dan won’t work on.

Then I got it in my head that before our big 4th of July party we had to paint the garage. So we tore off the hideous and partially missing aluminum siding. And I scraped paint for many days in the 100 degree weather. I scraped and scraped then scraped some more. One great thing was Beth had downloaded the Twilight series into iTunes on the computer so I was able to listen to 2 or 3 of the books in that series while I scraped paint. It definitely helped the time pass. Then I started the painting and Dan finished it up. The garage looks so much better! It’s certainly not perfect but it’s respectable. We really want to tear it down and rebuild it with an apartment on the top for the kids to use as they grow up and move on. But we haven’t quite got to that point yet. Although Daniel makes a convincing argument in that it would be cheaper to rebuild the garage and have home live there than it would be to pay for dorms at OSU for 4 years. Hmm, he has even offered to spend next summer helping rebuild it. We’re still working on Dan with that idea.

Our 4th of July party was great fun. Then we had a 40th b-day party for Dan and his best friend Ros who was turning 5 and her sister Olivia who was turning 18. Sometime late in the evening a candle in the bathroom went “rogue” on us and left a cloud of black smoke all over the wall and ceiling. well the bathroom had been needing some work anyways, the drywall was crumbling around the tub and above the door it was peeling away due to a leak in the roof. So the next weekend while Dan was in New York (or was it Lake Erie) fishing I cut out the bad drywall and patched 2 big holes, then spackled the other problem areas and repainted the bathroom. It all turned out quite nice of I do say so myself!

All finished:

Summer was coming to a close and we had lots of work to do with the garden plus all of Dan’s out of town fishing trips so not too much more was done after this. But I did decide to hire someone for a secret project that I wanted done. We don’t usually hire people to do the work around here, most things Dan likes to do himself but we disagreed on this one item and I didn’t want to risk him messing it up. Our tree in the front yard, I love it, Dan hates it. It had a perfect shape, it shades our bedroom and front porch but it needed to be trimmed. Well if it were up to Dan, for some inexplicable reason, he would just cut it down. Due to all the shade not many flowers grow in the front bed and it has pretty much killed the grass. Which is really fine because are on a quest to eliminate all our grass anyways. So I decided to call a couple arborists on my own to get estimates and have the tree trimmed. I have never done anything like that before, that’s always Dan’s department. Plus anytime we do pay someone to do something it’s a friend or a friend of a friend. But I did it, I paid $200, I had the tree trimmed and it looked even better! It was great, I loved it, I was so happy. Then 10 days later a hurricane hit Ohio and half my tree broke off. We still have the tree but now Dan won’t have to worry about the shade killing the plants in the front beds.

And thanks in part to that storm and pure necessity we paid for yet one more big job. Our flat rubber roof has needed replaced for few years (thus the leaks in the bathroom) and we finally decided it was time to get it done, it just wasn’t going to make it through one more winter without major damage going on in the house. So that was finished this last weekend and it looks as pretty as any flat rubber roof ever could. We have been wanting to put a terrace on that roof because it is off our bedroom. We even put in french doors leading to it but we had not been able to get a permit from the city to do it. But the roofer gave us a great tip on how to get around needing a permit so that is on the list for next spring.

Our last outdoor project of the season is adding a lean-to, to the side of the garage by the garden. We want to put all our gardening tools and a planting shelf in there. That should free up lots of room in Dan’s shed and in the garage, plus hopefully then we won’t leave stuff lying all around the yard (wait didn’t we say that same thing about the shed?) We started it last weekend and hopefully we’ll get it finished before the weather turns cold.

And I already have our indoor, winter projects piling up. First we’ll be redoing my bedroom and building a closet, then……well that sounds like another blog.

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