A day at the wading pool!

We took the kids to the neighborhood wading pool which is perfect for these hot summer days. It’s within walking distance of our house so we just pack up everything on the double stroller and head. George and I both got a little sunburned but I managed to keep Julius covered up. I kept reapplying sunscreen but George was splashing around so much I think it washed off.

George showing off his puddle-jumper!

George showing off his puddle-jumper!

I love the wading pool because the max depth is about two feet. We have a splash pad nearby too, but I think the wading pool provides a better experience for George. I like to think he is working on his swimming skills. He was certainly working on his kicking- he was on his belly, kicking his back legs, with his hands balanced on his Tonka Truck!

George practicing his swimming technique

George practicing his swimming technique

One of my most vivid memories is of my mom holding me on her hip in a pool and bouncing me up and down. I know I must have been tiny, maybe a few years old, it was an outdoor pool, and my mom was just walking in the water and bouncing me gently. I hope I am creating some of those lifetime memories for George (and Julius)! George also learns coping skills when other little kids take his toys, splash and just generally get disruptive, as little kids do. We had a great time and I promised we could go back soon. I really hope to keep that promise but it seems we are always en route somewhere on the weekends!!! Too bad in Minnesota you have to squeeze twelve months of outdoor fun into three months.

Homemade Peach Muffins

The neighbor brought us over some fresh peaches. #btw I ♥ my neighbors. They were so delicious we nearly ate them all, but I managed to save six of them to make peach muffins. Because I haven’t been up on my grocery game, we were out of eggs and milk. Luckily Google came to the rescue with substitutes in the form of corn starch for eggs and sour cream for milk. Both substitutes worked awesome!

I didn't even peel the peaches because the skin was so soft, and I couldn't even tell when eating them.

I didn’t even peel the peaches because the skin was so soft, and I couldn’t even tell when eating them.

Mixing the peaches in with the batter.

Mixing the peaches in with the batter.

The recipe I used was perfect, except I left off the glaze. After baking the muffins and tasting them, Ross and I decided they didn’t need glaze. Not that glaze wouldn’t be delicious, but adding glaze was kind of crossing over into cupcake territory. It would be like eating a Twinkie with coffee and calling it biscotti. I’m all for a cookie with my coffee every once in awhile but let’s just call a spade a spade. If you’re going to frost your muffins it’s a cupcake.

There were plenty of peaches in each muffin!

There were plenty of peaches in each muffin!

I made a double batch of these muffins with six peaches and honestly felt there were almost too many peaches! Some of the cupcakes were almost all peach on the bottom, which made them kind of soft and hard to eat. But regardless, they were worth the work and worth every calorie. #nom

Streusel crumble for the top of the muffins.

Streusel crumble for the top of the muffins.

The muffins as they baked.

The muffins as they baked.

I’d like to make more wheat or oatmeal blueberry muffins and keep some in the freezer for breakfasts on the run. Of course I have to get to the store for some eggs and milk first! This weekend was probably the worst weekend at home in awhile- we are just so behind on everything. Washing clothes, washing bedding, mowing, watering plants, clipping nails, haircuts, naps, making a roast…it just becomes an overwhelming amount of crap to do in two days. I just grabbed Ross, hugged him and told him it’s going to be like this as long as we have kids. When we are 67, we’ll be sitting around on our asses bored af. But for now it’s a shitshow. A shitshow with delicious peach muffins, though.

Finished muffins!

Finished muffins!

 

Setbacks – How far out can we build a front porch?

That is a trick question. The answer is ZERO! Remember how excited I was about all of the possibilities for our front porch? Yah nevermind. We spent a day with a metal detector looking for the property line pins or corner irons and never found them. #womp #butfunforGeorge

George with the metal detector.

George with the metal detector.

Ross looking for property line pins.

Ross looking for property line pins.

There was metal everywhere!

There was metal everywhere!

According to the city’s zoning maps, we don’t have any room to build out anymore than what is original to the home. We need 25 feet of space – I guess it’s called setback – between the property line and the house or porch. We only have about 11 feet as it is, so even if we found the pins, we probably wouldn’t be any better off.

Looking for property line pins with the Tonka Truck!

Looking for property line pins with the Tonka Truck!

George and Julius waiting patiently.

George and Julius waiting patiently.

Ross and Baby Julius after the failed property pin search.

Ross and Baby Julius after the failed property pin search.

So, I’m re-calibrating and thinking about building out our front steps with brick instead of building a porch. This one seems like a good fit for our front stairs or here is a similar one. I love the idea of building a brick structure overhead but it may be too extravagant for the simple little bungalow-type house we have. But regardless, we need to ooze curb appeal at the front door if we are unable to build out a front porch.

Roofing Cleanup

Arguably the worst part of any project is the cleanup. After roofing, Ross had everything from nails to shingle pieces strewn around the yard.

I didn't think about the mess they had made while roofing.

I didn’t think about the mess they had made while roofing.

He said the easiest way to clean everything up was to buy a rolling  magnetic sweeper. The day after roofing was completed he cleaned up the yard so George could run around without getting tetanus.

What was collected by the rolling metal sweeper!

What was collected by the rolling magnetic sweeper!

All of the crud that was buried in the grass.

All of the crud that was buried in the grass.

The yard looks great all cleaned up and both the house and garage have shiny new roofs!

View of the house from the back yard.

View of the house from the back yard.

 

The Garage Roof

The garage roof went a little faster than the main house, probably because this was the second time around with metal roofing. I believe they got it finished in just one day. We did not realize how bad the roof on the garage was until everything we had stored in there started getting wet.

The parts of the garage roof that were replaced.

The parts of the garage roof that were replaced.

The old, original roof pieces.

The old, original roof pieces.

The scaffolding next to the garage.

The scaffolding next to the garage.

I cannot wait to paint this garage a bright white, to match the siding on the house. The stucco is really an ugly mottled grey, and I think the new paint will look awesome with the new black metal roof. Plus the garage will look like it actually belongs to the house.

Patching the roof.

Patching the roof.

Trim boxes.

Trim boxes.

The trim boxes contained the drip edge, rake trim, gable trim and ridge cap pieces. When the roof was completely done we returned the empty trim boxes for $400 back from Menards. (!) They are made out of 2x4s and 2x6s (not gold), and just because they want to boxes back, they charge you an arm and a leg. But we were happy to have our $400 back.

Finished garage roof!

Finished garage roof!

Cleaning a cast iron tub

I finally worked on a project at the rental and it felt so good! If you remember from this post we bought a cast iron tub off Craigslist. I believe it is cast iron with a porcelain overlay, so we have to be careful cleaning it. It was just sitting in the garage until we could get around to cleaning it up. It finally happened!

The tub as it sat in the garage.

The tub as it sat in the garage.

We couldn't tell if it was just dirty or if there were scratches.

We couldn’t tell if it was just dirty or if there were scratches.

We meant to spend all day at the rental but of course by the time we were ready it was already noon. The kids needed baths and what-not. But we finally left and I made sure to bring all of my cleaning supplies. I asked Ross for a project – something I could do with the kids to be helpful – and he could not come up with anything. #hmph So, I picked the cast iron tub to be my project!

We opened up the garage so any cleaning fumes would air out. Julius just hung out in his car seat most of the time and George pushed his Tonka Truck around the yard and followed daddy around. After awhile he came into the garage to play games on my phone. I just barely got started and it was time for lunch. We brought a picnic lunch which worked out really well. Eventually the kids were ready for a nap so I put them in the car with the a/c running and kept and eye on them while I worked.

My first step was cleaning off the dirt. There was a lot of dirt. If it had been outside I would have just hosed it down, but this was in a garage with a dirt floor so that was not an option. Instead I wiped it down with this ammonia mixture that is generally recommended for cast iron tubs and porcelain sinks. It worked great! I was rinsing it off with water until I read you should alkalize the acid with baking soda and water as a rinse, so I did that next.

After our ammonia, liquid soap and water scrubbing.

After our ammonia, liquid soap and water scrubbing.

George telling me I missed a spot.

George telling me I missed a spot.

That cleaned the surface well enough but there were rust spots as well as some tiny spots of old wall paint someone had carelessly spilled on the rim. Ross went to the store for Barkeepers Friend and an elderly lady told him to use the pumice called Scouring Stick. So I tentatively tried the pumice first and it took off all of the paint without any scratching!

There were streaks of paint on the edge of the tub that were difficult to remove.

There were streaks of paint on the edge of the tub that were difficult to remove.

The Pumie Scouring Stick we used to scrape

The Pumie Scouring Stick we used to scrape

Using the Scouring Stick on the paint and rust spots.

Using the Scouring Stick on the paint and rust spots.

It did take off some of the rust too but not all of it. I need to work on those areas a bit more. I think I’ll try Barkeepers Friend on those spots. But looking at the interior of the tub now, I would take a bath in there, no problem!

After scrubbing away rust with the Scouring Stick.

After scrubbing away rust with the Scouring Stick.

I didn’t even get to the exterior of the tub, which is flaking and rusting. I’ve read you just sand it all off with a sander then repaint. The claw feet are also badly rusted, and I am planning to sand them by hand with steel wool. Now that it is all cleaned up, I love this tub! I wish it were going in my house. #sadface

Our progress so far! (The exterior of the tub needs a good sanding and painting)

Our progress so far! (The exterior of the tub needs a good sanding and painting)

 

My love-hate relationship with baking

I love baking and cooking. It involves reading, which I love, creativity, because we never have all of the utensils nor ingredients the recipe calls for, and it usually involves at least two rewards… 1) a feeling of accomplishment when the final product is successful and 2) you get to eat it…both when you’re making it and afterwards.

Homemade dough is really the only way to go. It's like flour + Crisco = easy, you can't mess it up.

Homemade pie crust is really the only way to go. It’s like flour + Crisco = easy, you can’t mess it up.

But with all of the recipes floating around out there and opportunities for greatness…there are bound to be some failures. Since time in the kitchen is time I can’t spend with my family, I consider it a large investment and if a recipe fails it is a huge hit. It makes me wonder why I even take the time to cook. It makes me feel like I’m failing at life! So I try to chalk it up to experience…a learning opportunity.

The trick to great pie crust is leaving it thick - which is fine since I'm not skilled enough to roll it super thin anyway...I end up with L shaped pieces everytime

The trick to great pie crust is leaving it thick – which is awesome for me since I’m not skilled enough to roll it super thin anyway…I end up with L shaped pieces every time instead of neat circles

This July 4th I learned a lesson about baking times. I always set my baking timer about 15 minutes under whatever the recipe calls for, just in case. But this time, the recipe called for 50 minutes and I only left it in 35 and it was nearly burned. I seriously almost swore off baking pies forever. What a crapshoot. But I agreed to make blueberry pie because it is Ross’ fav – even if I hate fruit pies…bleh.

Carefully prepared lattice style crust

Carefully prepared lattice style crust

I was feeding Baby Julius and I smelled burning so I came running into the kitchen. Ross was standing by the sink so I asked him if he smelled burning too. He said, “I thought that was just how our oven smelled.” #smh #omg #boys Oh and I’m going to twist up the blueberry pie tradition and make this bad boy next year (with blueberries and strawberries). Notice it is not burned. It looks so good I might make it right meow.

Do FSAs really save that much money?

We participate in a dependent care FSA (flexible spending account) but it is a huge pain in the ass. You have to fill out a lengthy form every week (or however often you would like to be reimbursed) and have it signed by the daycare provider.

It also takes forever to get your money back. At least a month, probably more like six weeks, after your actual payday. Considering the lag time and the time I spend administering the program, I wondered if it was even worth it. What if the savings was a meager $200 or something? I wanted to know exactly how much money we were saving by enrolling in the FSA.

I used the FSA savings calculator at discoverybenefits.com and tried both the estimated tax bracket and actual tax bracket. We pay about $12k for daycare per year (not counting our babysitter – but we can use the separate childcare credit for that expense).

With the “actual” tax bracket information we save about $1500 per year! From that, you can gather that we are taxed like crazy. So it follows, the more you are taxed the better your FSA savings opportunity, as it is a tax savings vehicle.

Just for fun, I ran the “estimate my taxes” calculator and received a $1300 savings, so still significant. I told myself as long as we were saving four digit$ I will stop hating on the FSA provider and stop harrassing them to give me reimbursements faster. I’ve been known to call and complain about the lag. But honestly, in the time of electronic banking, why would it take six weeks for a reimbursement? Do they have to jump in the DeLorean and go back to bet on a horse race? You know they are out investing my money and they want a few more weeks with it…grrrr.