Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brennan's Construction Birthday Party!

After writing about the boys' birthday parties this year, I realized that I never shared Brennan's Construction party from last year!  And I cannot just let it go, because that was a really, REALLY fun party to put together.  

We had just moved from Florida to Michigan and were living with Brian's parents' while we searched for a new home of our own.  So I had plenty of time to put together a really fun party for our little 4 year old!

Decorations were a blast to put together.  We used black paper lanterns as "wrecking balls" and coils of orange raffia as " extension cords".  Since the boys have lots of construction trucks, we had lots available to decorate the table!

The menu included all kinds of snacks.  Friends, I had SO.MUCH.FUN coming up with all of these names.  Some were from things I had seen on Pinterest, others I came up with on my own.  Here's the rundown:

Construction Cones = Candy Corn
Pebbles = Reese Pieces
Gravel = Puppy Chow
Lumber = Vanilla Wafer Cookies
Spackle & Drywall = Hummus & Pita Chips
Nuts & Bolts = Chex Mix
Beams & Concrete = Carrots & Dip
Bricks & Mortar = Crackers & Cheeseball
Landscaping = Broccoli Salad
Debris = Chicken Salad
Wrecking Balls = Rolls
Rocks & Stones = Homemade Chicken Nuggets

We served lemonade at the "Cooling Station", had a Dumping station for gifts, and put out all of Brennan's construction books for his friends to read while at the party.

The cake was by far my favorite part!  I picked up a pack of construction vehicles to decorate the "construction site".   The giant crack in the center of the cake was a happy accident.  Brennan thought that it was awesome, so I rolled with it!

This big guy loved his construction party.  We had hardhats for the kids and Brennan had a blast handing one out to each of his friends.  And of course his brothers had a blast too, because what 2-year-old boy wouldn't?

Daddy even dressed up in his hardhat and toolbelt, like a "real construction guy" according to Brennan.  That just elevated Daddy right past superhero status in his mind!  It was definitely a day full of great memories for our little family!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brennan turned FIVE! {an Invention Contraption Party}

Continuing on the birthday party train, let's recap Brennan's 5th Birthday!  Brennan requested an "Invention Contraption" party.  Yeah, that one stumped me.  I also wanted to keep it really simple.  

So the plan?  Sheetcake with Mousetrap on the top, build-your-own dessert cars, and a table full of scraps of things for the kids to build their own Inventions & Contraptions.  I found a Mousetrap game at a thrift store for super cheap, bleached the pieces, ran them through the dishwasher, and set it up on a big giant sheetcake.  Brennan was THRILLED.  

I would love to show you the cute little dessert contraption bar that my Mom put together for the kids to build things ... but this party was apparently so laid back that I forgot to take photos of anything but cake and gift opening.  Oops.  Also, the giant table full of fun scrap things for the kids to build their own inventions?  Forgot to photograph those too.  

But honestly, we enjoyed this party so much.  The relaxed atmosphere was just the perfect way to celebrate our first baby turning FIVE.  I can hardly believe it.  How did that happen?  

This boy.  He has the most amazing spirit.  His heart is huge, his laugh is infectious, and his imagination never stops.  This sweet boy, the one who made me a Mommy, makes me so proud to call him mine!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Brothers turned 3! {a Firefighter Rescue Party}

So, yes, Beckett & Kiernan turned 3.  And, yes, it was back in September.  But someone was asking me about it the other day and I realized that I never posted pictures of either of our birthday parties this year!  

The boys are big into firefighters lately.  Pretty standard for a 3 year old boy, if you ask me!  I wanted to keep it pretty simple this year, but still fun for the boys, so I focused my efforts on desserts.  Kiernan REALLLLLLY wanted a "real" firetruck cake.  So I did my best to create one for him.  Brian & I laughed through the entire process because the cake just did not want to stand up and the icing did not want to stay on the cake.  Is it the prettiest thing ever?  Hell no.  But the boys loved it so I'm calling it a win.  

The cupcakes were red velvet and delicious.  I lumped a few different colors of icing in a bag and got nice and sloppy with a cake tip to try to get a bit of a flame effect.  Again, not all that pretty, but the boys sure loved it.  

And to round out the dessert table?  More chocolate.  I ordered some police/fire/ambulance chocolate molds from Amazon and whipped up a batch of colorful chocolates and some dark chocolate ones for those of us who prefer our chocolate to be as dark brown as possible.  

The day was simple and sweet.  Surrounded by our closest friends and family, we celebrated our babies taking one more step toward becoming big boys.  It's just so hard to believe that they have only been in our lives for 3 short years.

They really love each other fiercely ... so fiercely, in fact, that hugs often usually almost always result in wrestling matches.  We tried to make sure that this hug was an exception to that rule.  Wrestling matches are really better left until after candles are blown out.   

Every year on their birthday, Beckett & Kiernan each get their own "cake", candle, and birthday song.  When they were babies, we attended a birthday party for my friend's twin boys, and at the party we sang to each boy separately.  I loved the thought that even though they share a birthday, they each deserve their own song!  

We sang for Beckett, then we sang for Kiernan, and then Brennan serenaded them with his "May the Dear Lord bless you" version of the birthday song.  Beckett liked it.  Kiernan was ready to finally get to examine the firetruck cake.    

After lots and lots of cake was consumed, we tucked away into the living/dining room to open gifts.  We are so, so incredibly blessed to have such thoughtful people in our lives.  While a party with all of these wonderful people celebrating them would have been enough for our boys, they certainly enjoyed opening gifts.  

All in all, it was a sweet, calm day to celebrate 2 sweet, not-so-calm little boys, while surrounded by those we love the most.  We really couldn't ask for anything more!

Except for Rescue Bots.  Apparently we can always ask for more Rescue Bots because we can never have enough.  This is a lesson that I am still learning.  The hard way! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Let's talk about ... Kitchens!

Since working on the old house and vowing to make our current house feel more like "home", I've been on what feels like a project overload.  Even though I haven't actually done any projects.  Figure that one out.

It's just that I have so many ideas swimming around in my head of what I want to do with this house to make it work better for us, look better to us, and just feel better to us.  But friends, I don't even have the Christmas decorations down yet, so I have no business starting a project until that happens.  And until my dining room table is no longer covered in piles of clean laundry.  (Does that happen to anyone else?  It's just so big and clear and close to the boys during the day.  The perfect spot to fold laundry.

Anyway, I thought that while I tackle those things, I can at least dream about what I'd like to do with the house.  My kitchen is definitely on that list.  It's not as high on the list as I'd like it to be, because what I'd like to do is going to involve knocking out walls, which requires time.  And money.  We don't have much of either of those things these days.  So instead, I'll dream and plan so that when the time comes, I know EXACTLY what I want.

After Pinning a few things to my "Kitchen" board the other day, I decided that it might be worth sorting through a few Pins to think about what I actually like in each picture.  Care to join me on my little journey through my board?


I'm a sucker for stone work, so that column is making me drool.  Also, I love the use of space above the cabinets.  Wasted space above cabinets drives me nuts!

Narrow island

This shows a relatively narrow island, which may be the direction in which we go for our home.  The kitchen is fairly narrow as it stands, and depending on which walls we knock down, we may need to go with a narrow island.  I also love a good bookshelf on an island end.  I think it cozies the place up a bit.  

A gallery of kitchen diner designs | Period Living

I just love this space.  It feels open and airy, yet cozy and inviting.  Banquettes scream coziness to me too.  Also?  I love the concept of a cupboard that comes straight to the counter.  It could play the roll of an appliance garage, or simply to house dishes.  Regardless, it leaves counter space while maximizing storage space.  

Cottage Style Kitchen

The butcher block counter is beautiful, although I'm not sure it would be right for our family.  The shelves on the side of the island and the cabinets up to the ceiling earn bonus points :)  The extra oven in the island also intrigues me.  Maybe a convection/microwave combo?  Either way, it's a way to squeeze in an extra oven if you lack the wall space for double ovens.  

Home Decor | BloomCoco

Another great option for a long, narrow space.  It doesn't feel cramped!  In our last kitchen, the refrigerator and wall ovens were next to each other and I really loved it.  The set up just felt natural.  

Wood-Look Ceramic Tile: Tile in Disguise in Beautiful Kitchen Flooring Ideas from HGTV

The decorative panels on the back of the island are super, super cute.  The black/gray window and door are really visually interesting as well.  

drawers under sink

Drawers.  Drawers are essential.  I really prefer them over cabinets.  The are just all around easier.  That's all I have to say about that.  

My Sweet Savannah: ~our fall home tour~{with BHG}

Lights on the cabinets surrounding the sink bring so much charm and warmth.  I also love a good barn-ish light.

White Wednesday | So Much Better With Age

Hello, beautiful.  Stone wall!  Pendants!  Open, airy, yet cozy.  

Fantastic kitchen

Look at that wall of cabinets!  Beautiful and smart use of space. 

House of Turquoise: Renae Keller Interior Design

I feel like a broken record ... cabinets to the ceiling.  Again, great use of a relatively narrow space.  

U-Shaped Layout - 5 Most Popular Kitchen Layouts on HGTV love the windows! Very open and the cab type finish above it!

This is the motherload.  Cabinets to the ceiling.  Lots and lots of cabinets.  

Floor-to-Ceiling Storage

A narrow space, and yet that wall of cabinets makes up for it.  

Create an Open Floor Plan

This sweet kitchen has so many of my favorite things crammed into it.  And if you've made it this far, you can probably pick them out yourself, so I'll spare you the list.  

The nice thing about needing to wait to remodel a kitchen?  You have the time to research and plan and make the right decisions for what will work for your family!  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Memories {Selling the Old House}.

Radio-silence here on the blog lately has been caused by a PLETHORA of home improvement projects.  Sadly, none of it is all that exciting.  Why?  Because we weren't doing anything to our house.  Well, technically, it's our house, but not the one we're currently living in!  

Back in 2010, when Brian was hired by his current company and we were planning our move from MI to FL, we had to decide what to do with our home.  The simple answer would be to put it on the market, but that wasn't an option for us.  We bought our home in October 2006, when home prices had dropped a bit and everyone was all "Buy now!  Before the market increases again!  Get in while the gettins' good!".  ::sigh::  We were young, about to get married, and had no crystal ball.  So we found a sweet little house nestled on about 2.5 acres in the country.  It was the perfectly in-between our jobs, giving us each a 45 minute commute in the opposite direction.  Built in 1930, it was full of old-house charm, but needed LOTS  of updates.  The house was just perfect for us.  


We bought it for what was a steal at the time, and proceeded to fix it up and make it our own over the next 4 years ... while the market kept dropping.  We weren't worried at first, because we planned to be there for 10 years or so.  Eventually the market would rise and our family would grow out of the space and all would even out in the end.  

Family Room

A new job and a cross-country move were not on our radar, and certainly threw a wrench into our plans.  So, after speaking with a Realtor and learning that we could probably only sell our home for $30-40K less than we owed, we opted to lease it out.  

Dining Room
(Fun Fact:  This room was a deep, dark red.  I chose that color because I'd always wanted a red dining room!  But we didn't feel like the red was very market-friendly, so we painted over the red with the same color as the Family Room.  I was so sad to see that red go, even though I would never paint my current dining room red.  Funny!)

While Brian went to Florida to begin his new job, I stayed in Michigan and met with potential renters, packed the house, and made all of the necessary preparations.  We leased it to a family who ultimately stayed for 4 years before moving on to purchase a home of their own.  Now that it's empty, we decided that it was time for us to sell.  The market has improved and there is somewhat of a housing shortage in that little farming community, which will hopefully work in our favor.  


So the last few weeks have been full of cleaning, painting, and repairs to our old home.  Brian and I both agreed that it was odd to be back in it after 4 years.  In many ways, it feels much more like "home" than our current home.  But I think that is because we spent 4 years in that house.  It's where we started our married life together and brought home our first baby.  We sunk a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making that house "ours".  And we simply haven't had time to do many things to our current home yet.  I have no doubt that in another few years, this house will hold just as many sweet memories for us as our old home does. 

Downstairs Bathroom

Downstairs Bedroom

One thing that was definitely not lost on us is how different my our my style is now than it was all those years ago.  Back then, I loved deep, cozy jewel tones.  The original 1930s wood trim that is scattered throughout the house just looked better when surrounded by the warm paint colors we chose.  Now, in our current home, I cannot get enough light blues, greens, and grays -- cool, fresh, airy colors.  And they fit perfectly with the bright white trim of our 1990s home.  Funny how tastes change and certain colors and tones fit better with the age of a home.  

Upstairs Bathroom

We're so sad to say goodbye to our first home, but also glad that we were able to have the last few weeks to work on it together again.  While it was definitely a lot of work, it was also really good closure for us.  Now we're excited to sell it to someone who can make some great memories in it for themselves!  (And to be without 2 mortgage payments!  Because .... yikes.)  

Upstairs Bedrooms

Once it's sold, we can continue our mission to start making our current home feel as much like "home" as our first!