Friday, May 30, 2014

Spilled Dirt Leads to a Remodel (Updated)

When our daughter was almost a year old we turned our old falling down back porch into our own personal oasis. My husband who at this time had no construction experience tore down all the existing walls, braced the roof and began to rebuild with help from our neighbor who works as a contractor. Once the new walls were up all the windows that we had so carefully stored were replaced into their sills supported by strong well built walls rather than the flimsy fruits crate and cardboard that had held them up before. After that wonderful man of mine had ensured me of this integrity of this new structure we decided to mix by hand with hoe and wheel borrow roughly 30 fifty pound bags on concrete to level out the center of the concrete floor which had cracked and sunk down several inches.

After all of that was done carpeting was placed and decorating began. I allowed my husband to pick the wall because this back porch was his dream. He chose this terrible salmon/peach colored paint for the walls. I was not a fan but hey. This room became our "Florida" room due to the peachy orange color and the pink, blue, and white bamboo furniture that we inherited from my husbands grandmother when she moved to an assisted living facility. It was our joke that since having a child we were probably not going to be taking any exotic or tropical vacations anytime soon so we may as well have our own little get away right out side our door. The room was bright with windows on all three sides and definitely Florida looking (in a Golden Girls living room kind of way).

The porch all dressed up for a kids party.
Yesterday that era came to an end. Little Guy was playing out there and knocked some dirt out of a potted plant by accident. He ran into the house to tell me and excitedly help me vacuum up the mess. ( I am not sure when this cleaning enthusiasm goes away but by 8 years old it is long gone so I'll enjoy it for now.) Vacuuming lead to steam cleaning all the carpet which lead to rearranging the furniture and when the husband got home from work we decided it was time to repaint the room. So like any rational group of people we decided on a color in literally two minutes and went to the store to pick it up. Within an hours we were painting and did so well into the night until we ran out of paint, this is what happens we you leap into a project. I guess the long hard winter had us seeking change and we were subconsciously looking for a project that could get us out of our winter rut. We had a fun time painting as we always do for some reason. We like to have a drink and listen to music while we paint. We also tend to have really good and fun conversations while we work on a project like this, it is a good bonding time for us.  I hoped to have photos of the completed room to share with you today and to be able rave about our success but instead I have a room that is one pint short of being completed and a pile of furniture in the middle of the room. Hopefully tomorrow I will  be able to update with finished photos. I am always amazed at what $20 worth of paint can do to a room and how color has such an effect on our moods the room makes me feel completely different when I walk into now. I feel calm out there now as apposed to the monic feeling it used to evoke in me before. I am so excited to see what it looks like when it is all put back together. To think it all started with a little dirt spilled on the carpet.

All most there!


A special someone decided to lend a helping hand when it came time to do the last coat.

Here is the finished product. We have been spending a lot more time out there. It is so calm and relaxing. This is a great spot to seek shelter from the heat of the day and share a snack. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

This past weekend we took a little adventure. We went camping which is one of our favorite summer past times. We don't exactly rough it in our camper but we spend most of time outdoors connecting with nature and each other. On this past trip there was a whole group of us 9 adults plus our two children. We connected with old friends and made new ones while conversing around  the campfire. It is pretty interesting to see if you like your friends enough to live with them for 3 days. Thankfully for us we do otherwise the weekend would have been excruciatingly long. Two of our friends are avid gardeners like us who love preserving their own food. One of the young ladies with us is venturing into the world of organic/natural food and beauty products in an attempt to leave a smaller foot print while bettering her own health. Another of the women in our group built her own kitchen cabinets by hand. I could go on and on about each person that went with us and how great they are.

We spent the weekend relaxing, eating and having a good time. At one point we went geocaching, which is something I have never done before. It was kind of exciting tromping through the woods on our own little treasure hunt even if we can up empty handed. A recent hail storm had knocked most of the leaves off the tree and on the forest floor making finding a camouflaged box impossible but we did find a great view and the end of our adventure.

After we arrived home it was time to clean up and start washing the mountains of laundry that had been accumulated. I took a minute to show my daughter the Memorial Day tribute at the local VFW. There were 362 crosses placed on the memorial for all the members of our local VFW who had passed. It was a good way for a her to see the scope of how many people in just our town had served in wars. It really helped her to understand why Memorial Day is important.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Such a Lively Life

Why is this blog called Such a Lively Life? I ask myself this question all the time. I am constantly asking if my page is on point and conveying the information I intend to in the way I intend.

In the beginning of this blog I wanted a place where I could keep track of our simple life achievements. One of the biggest achievements I had set out for myself was to spend more time with my family doing quality things and learning together. One of the biggest influences for this family time for me came from my career. I work as a registered nurse currently in a hospital but my first nursing job was in a nursing home. Every time I went to work I would help take care of the elderly, the confused, and the dying. My residents who were alert and oriented would want to know if I was married and did I have children. They loved hearing about the one child I had at the time and were delighted as I welcomed my second child into my life. These wonderful mostly elderly ladies were always asking to see photos of my children and were so proud to show off old photos of their children and spouse as well as new photos of their adult children, grandchildren, and great-grand  children. It was always remarkable to me to see their face light up and the twinkle return to their eyes. Occasionally those eyes would become misty, sometimes in happiness and sometimes in sadness.

On many evenings when working I would see those who were confused become even more confused about their surroundings in an event called sundowning. On those evenings the ladies I took care of would insist that their babies were lost, crying or in need of a rocking. Other ladies would be sad because their husband could not be found and he ALWAYS came home so they feared something was wrong. Some of these ladies would be worried that their parents would need them to do the cooking or cleaning and instead of being there for their elderly parents they were stuck "in this place". The men who went through sundowning would be looking for their wives or trying to get work done. It really is remarkable how much they truly thought they were younger and needed to do these things. The fear and panic they experienced were real. It is very difficult to try to do your job as a nurse when this is going on and all you really want to do is just fix it for them. There were a many a nights I wrapped up my shift late because I was too busy trying help rock an imaginary baby or help someone file blank papers (paperwork) and their "job".

The hardest part of the job was watching some of the people I had taken care of for months or years pass away. Although I was somewhat close to them as a care provider who spent a lot of time with them there was something in the room that would change when the family finally made it there. The person would usually relax more as their hands were held and their hair was stroked by those who they loved most. There are a lot of things that happen when one is on their death bed. Sometimes secrets are revealed, forgiveness is offered and thanks are given. This is my experience based on those who were elderly and were ready in their own minds to pass. In another situation these experiences are completely different.

So, what does all of that have to do with the title of this blog? When I was thinking of a name, I wanted something that would remind me to focus on family. I saw a quote by Abraham Lincoln, "And in the end, it's not the years in you life that count. It's the life in your years." That quote along with my experiences with all of those wonderful elderly people played a big role in the name of the blog. I wanted a lively life. Not necessarily a busy, adventurous life filled with a lot of stuff but a life that was alive. A life lived in the moment. A life that I would be proud of when I am older. I want to be that little old lady looking a photos with tears of happiness, glad that I was "there" for everything. I want to live so that if today was my last day I would have no regrets. I want to give it my all, hug my children and kiss my husband daily.

There is a reason that those who are in their 80's and older are always remembering, even when they can't remember anything else,when the kids were little and husbands and wives were alive. They have repeatedly told me these are the best years of my life and I believe them. So that is why this is such a lively life. The love, plain and simple.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One Year of Preschool Down

May has always been a very busy social month. All of the kids activities start winding down and weddings and graduation invites start to flood the mail box. This year it is more of the same and as much as I love it is also makes me a little sad because there are so many doors that we close this time of year. 

Today my Little Guy finishes his first year of preschool and while each day the routine was the same: get up, get dressed, eat and go to school the impact is not felt until the end when the sum of all the parts comes to a close. So the days that just kept coming in ordinary fashion week after week while cease for the summer after today and wow, I am just so amazed. My baby went to school 2 days  week for a whole school year. He made friends, played, laughed and learned. He grew up slowly and quickly at the same time. We were so lucky that he had a great teacher and aid in his room who were encouraging yet demanding and gave hugs freely throughout the day. These wonderful ladies spent many a morning in the beginning of the year sitting in a rocking chair wiping the tears off of the cheeks of 3 year olds who were venturing off without their parents for the first time. 

At the end of the school year I as the room mother decided to take up a collection to purchase the teacher and aid each a gift card as a way of saying thank you for all of their great work throughout the year. I also, being the avid gardener that I am, planted them each of flower in a pot that the kids gave them. Last minute Little Guy decided that he wanted to give them both a gift from just him and he felt that they needed chocolate. So here I am running to the store this morning to get candy to put in the cute little mason jar handled cups that I found. In true me fashion I found myself in the school parking lot trying to fill cups and tie ribbon around the top to make them pretty. They turned out pretty cute and the flowers looked great in the pots. I had every intention of taking a photo of all the gifts so that I could pridefully show them off but that didn't happen as I forgot about it until after I walked out of the school. So, sorry for no wonderful photo to share but if you look at Pinterest, look up M&M's in mason jar and pick the prettiest one and pretend it's the one I made. 

Little Guy is so excited to be done school because that means his summer in officially underway and while I am super proud of his accomplishments over the past 8 months this is also a big awakening to the fact that he is growing faster than I think. I just wish I could pause him for a while at this age because 4 is pretty awesome in all the dirty, sticky, giggly, sword fighting, hugging, kissing, kind of ways.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote Recipe

Every once it a while we like to try new things. We have never tasted rhubarb or made a compote so last week we decide to get all crazy and make a compote with strawberries and rhubarb. The cute little farm stand that we go to had strawberries and local rhubarb on sale and right next to the beautiful red checker cloth display they had little cards with a compote recipe on them. I very loosely followed the directions and measurements. Here's the recipe as I made it:

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

2 stalks of rhubarb with the leaves removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 quart of fresh strawberries hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons of water
1/3 ish cup of sugar

1. Place strawberries, rhubarb and water in medium sauce pan and bring to boil
2. Once fruit become juicier from cooking add sugar and stir
3. Simmer until rhubarb is soft and juice is the consistency of a medium syrup
4. Remove from heat and let cool.

I found that 1/2 cup of sugar made our compote very sweet but 1/4 cup still leaves the rhubarb pretty bitter. I think the perfect amount is somewhere between the two around 1/3 of a cup. We served it room temperature over vanilla ice cream but it would be fabulous over a pound cake, sponge cake or even with yogurt. It can be served warm or chilled, what ever floats your boat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Normal Days

Outdoor Plant Table

Nature at Work (Ants and Flower)


Bleeding Heart in Bloom 

Garden Coming Along

New Clothes Line

Radishes and Carrots

A Homemade Mother's Day :)

The past several days have been busy but the blog has been silent.  I guess there is not much to share about normal days. Nothing out of the ordinary was done and no new projects were started. We spent time together on Mother's Day and accomplished a long list of chores. I have been volunteering more at the kids schools and their end of the year activities have kept me quite busy. I have been enjoying the clothesline that was finally hug for me on Mother's Day and the clean, line dried sheets on my bed have been a haven for my tired body. I hope everyone is enjoying some normal days, hopefully stress free and family filled. I have several posts to share later this week including a new favorite recipe. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Taking a Trip on a Budget (Part 2)

Once we reached our destination our goal for a budget friendly vacation became more difficult. We were completely out of our element but with careful planning and some help we were able to have and inexpensive vacation.

We pick our destination based on several factors. The cold weather and brutal winter has us all craving a tropical vacation. A quick look at air fare for a family of 4 left us feeling grounded, it is way too money much to fly. So we thought of places that we could drive to and people we knew that we would like to visit. My husband has a friend who lives in Florida that we only see for short periods here and there so we gave him a call to see if he would mind us coming for a visit. He was kind enough to offer up his spare bedroom to us and thus we found a tropical destination that was accessible by car close to someone we wanted to visit. 

Once we finished our l-o-n-g drive we unpacked our belongings, enjoyed checking out the area and went to bed. In the morning the first order of business was grocery shopping. To show our appreciation for our room and board we decided that we would cook a meal for us to share with the homeowner every evening. We spent a little over $160.00 for 4 dinners for all 5 of us as well as some snacks and cereals to restock for our ride home.

The big, expense of our trip was the one day that we headed to Key West to do all of the touristy things we could fit into one day. We took a train tour of the city, visited two museums, and lastly visited the buoy at the southern most point of Florida.

We also spent one day with our friend catching fish off of his boat. It was great to see the different species of fish and I also saw a manatee for the first time in my life (which was absolutely incredible). After our fish were cleaned we took them down the road to a local restaurant where they cooked the for us while we sat on a deck over looking  the ocean.

So what was the grand total of our vacation? Well here is a breakdown:

Gas to get to, from, and around paradise-$415. 19
Groceries- $165.07
Restaurants (3 meals for 4-5people)-$205.00
Key West attractions-$144.86
Misc cash spent (ice cream out, snacks, fixings for drinks, and souvenirs)-$260.00

Grand Total for one week in paradise....$1,190.12

If you should be in need of a vacation but feeling tight on money look around and see who you could visit and stay with. Pack up your own food and if you should be so crazy load the kids into the car and head on an adventure.

Here is part one just in case you missed it. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Taking a Trip on a Budget

A couple of weeks ago the whole family loaded up and we took a trip. Vacations are alway fun but the costs can add up quickly and relaxing times can become stressful. Fast food can becoming very tempting when everyone is hungry in an unfamiliar area just trying to get from point a to point b. So before left we came up with a game plan to keep us all sane and our tummies satisfied on the twenty some hour drive from here to paradise.

My husband was being pulled a million different directions at one time between work and family obligations so he was as helpful as he could be but his stress level was through the roof the week before we were to leave. I was trying to balance the schedule of two busy kids along with my own work schedule in addition to prepping everything for the trip. Vacations are supposed to be relaxing but I think the packing and planning are what drive you to needing the actual vacation.

Twenty hours in the car with a 4 year old and an 8 year old would be challenging but we knew we could pull it off. We packed plenty of movies to watch during the ride (the expensive dvd player package on our van is worth every single penny at times like these). We also packed each child a comfy blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, reading book and coloring book. The i-pad also made it into the car even though I despise the kids using them in the house, desperate times called for desperate measures. We packed a large cooler with grapes, carrots, cheese sticks, milk and water. There was also a box with nuts, dried fruit, cereal, and crackers. We were all set for breakfast, lunch and snacks in the car the only stop we would have to make would be dinner and potty breaks. The trip there took longer than planned but with two drivers taking turns sleeping and driving it was not too bad and the kids held up great until about the last hour. During that last hour both kids considered breathing an annoyance that should be punishable.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and read about how we saved money once we reached our destination.