Archive for the ‘Around the house’ Category

Weekend update 

Everything goes faster when a pajama-clad toddler is helping. 

Smith family addition

Ava asks for a dog at least four or five times a day. This is not an exaggeration. Usually, when I say, “No, not right now,” she asks for a ferret. (“Yeah, also no.”)

Last night, she worked her way through a list that included hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and hedgehogs. (“No, nope, not a chance, no.”) By the time she got to “hermit crab…?” I think I surprised her: “Sure, fine.”

So, today, we got a hermit crab. Do you know hermit crabs live A LONG TIME? One of these children might be able to take little Shelly here to college. Fair to say I didn’t really think this one through, but the girls seems content. For now.

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Weekend roundup

This weekend had us dodging storms as we completed hours of yard work. Saturday started with six cubic yards of mulch and a pretty cute little helper.




Hard work—and Bryan did most of the heavy lifting. But everything is trimmed, mulched, mowed and manicured. For now…


We have a pretty significant landscaping project underway in the backyard this spring. Some planting still remains, but here’s a sneak peek.



More on this development soon!

Hunkering down

The shopping’s done, the decorations are up, and our phones are charging . . . we’re ready for what promises to be a VERY white Christmas. After a thick shellac of ice, snow is beginning to fall.

If the power lines hold tomorrow, there will be plenty of baking (as well as snowmen and snow angels). If not, we’ll hope for it’s quick return, not to mention clear roads. Katie, Tom and Tom’s parents are here, but we are awaiting a few other very important guests to kick off this merry holiday. Much love from our home to yours!





New year re-org

Year after year, January seems to bring a renewed attempt to organize our home. I didn’t make resolutions this year, but I did commit to staying on top of household tasks. Some days, their sheer size of the operation is overwhelming, but little by little, I feel like I’m reclaiming some order.

I cleaned out my closet, packing up about 30 pieces of clothing for Goodwill, and remarkably, it’s still well organized nearly two weeks later. I’m also determined to wash, fold and put away a load of laundry each day, which should free up several hours come Sunday.

I’m not alone in this endeavor. In fact, Bryan is working far more diligently. He’s completely revamped the storage in the basement, and his tool bench is beautifully organized . . . and labeled.




Last night, I noticed he’d also labeled the deep freeze downstairs, just in case there’s any confusion. I can only assume the baby will be next.

Fall at home


Room to grow

We finished painting and decorating the girls’ room this weekend. I have  a tendency to go with the very last option on the paint swatch (why paint something purple when you can paint it PURPLE?) but Bryan talked me into a lighter shade of lavender. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

The beds certainly aren’t space savers, but the colors make for a pretty cute set up. (As I expected, I’ve found two sisters snuggled into the top bunk on more than one occasion.)

This is the cleanest this bookcase will ever look. And, of course, I had to prominently display the Madison terrace chairs and table from American Girl.

Halfway through my photo shoot, I had a volunteer model. Ava’s been spending way too much time perusing direct mail catalogs, it would appear.

We found space to hang the birth samplers my mom made…

…and a spot for the “Pickle Dish” quilt, which Karyl made for Ava. “Night Night Duck,” which Ava loved/loathed for years, took a spot on the shelf next to the book Gramma Great used to read to me, and to my mom before that.

The cradles in the above shot were made by my stepdad and mom—they crafted them with pine from the trees that grew in front of my grandparents’ house for decades. I’ve always intended to do a separate post on this topic, but to be honest, the gesture continues to render me tearfully speechless. (See also: The Dresden Plate quilt Karyl made for me with blocks created from scrap calico by my Great Grandma Wallen, which now hangs just outside of this bedroom.) We are VERY blessed to have such talented and thoughtful family members.

Our final project for the weekend was updating the room just down the hall, which is ready and waiting…



Lit up

Handmade holidays, continued

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we were the grateful recipients of several handmade gifts this Christmas. Karyl kindly gave me this gorgeous holiday quilt, which—as you can tell—did not get put away with the rest of the Christmas decorations. I love it so much I think it will always be on hand—it’s perfect for snuggling under when you’re dressed in nothing more than swimwear in February.

Why living with a biochemist is awesome

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for several months now. I couldn’t be happier with the results, especially in the stain management category (extremely important when you have a toddler who delights in acquiring new and often inexplicable stains).

So, while mixing up a third batch this weekend, I took the leap and made dishwasher detergent, too. I mixed equal parts baking soda and Borax, and we used two tablespoons per load.

I think there are always trade offs in projects like this. Excess Borax in the ground water is not great, but many believe it’s better than the chemicals found in other detergents. Plus, we’re avoiding those bulky plastic containers altogether.

Because in this case the Borax would be coming in to contact with our dishes, I wanted to be absolutely sure it was safe. I read a number of papers and articles on the matter, then shared my findings with Bryan, a guy who won’t eat leftovers past the 24 hour mark for fear they’ll kill him. He signed off, assuring me Borax was not toxic. However, to ensure a super clean rinse, I added vinegar to the Jet Dry dispenser.

I’d welcome any feedback or links to additional research on the topic. In the meantime, we’re all still upright, and we’re really happy with how well this works.  I’d strongly suggest avoiding the leftover chicken in the fridge, though, if you’d like to make it until the weekend.