Easter baskets, eggs and edible Easter nests/baskets

I always plan way too much for Easter, but I have this nagging mom-guilt that I don’t do enough. Especially today (Good Friday) because we didn’t have daycare today and I actually had two work meetings I couldn’t miss, so I didn’t even get a chance to do hardly any Easter-prep. For the morning meeting, I hauled the boys to the neighbor’s house for an hour, and the second meeting was over their nap time, so that worked out well enough. But, I still missed a day of actual work, so I’m already behind and need to catch up this weekend at some point. But I did plan ahead and have a few fun Easter goodies to share!

First of all, is there anything cuter than a child cuddling with a doggie? I think not. I managed to catch Julius snuggling up on our elderly dog Blue – #heartmelts

My grandmother always made edible Easter baskets and I have inherited the recipe (basically rice krispies + peanut butter) but it was kind of a fail. Although George loves marshmallows, he wouldn’t even taste a bite of the Easter basket. He ate the eggs out of the middle then wouldn’t try any more of it. So daddy ate it instead, haha. Julius ate almost all of his! I used green food coloring on coconut to make the grass, and malt balls for eggs. Next year, I don’t think I’ll putz with the basket handle and instead do a little Easter nest, maybe with peeps or something inside of it.

George was super excited about his edible Easter basket...until it came time to eat it!

George was super excited about his edible Easter basket…until it came time to eat it!

For their actual Easter baskets, I pulled together a few quick things at the grocery store – a kite, some healthy fruit snack twists, some stickers and teddy bear cookies. The bunnies were $10 apiece at the grocery store…I walked by them three times (three different visits) and eventually I had to buy them. They are sooo soft and Julius loves rubbing his face on soft fur! The Easter baskets themselves I found at a consignment shop for like $2. I am such a consignment junkie…I don’t want to pay over $5 for anything hahaha.

My grocery store haul for Easter baskets

My grocery store haul for Easter baskets

Finished Easter baskets

Finished Easter baskets

We are dying eggs with the neighbor’s kids, and I found a tutorial on how to apply temporary tattoos to eggs for your kid’s favorite cartoons. Of course I bounced over to eBay and bought a shit ton of Thomas the Train tattoos…George is going to go nuts!

Thomas the Train tattoos for our eggs

Thomas the Train tattoos for our eggs

Again we’re doing a glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt but this time we invited the neighbor kids over! I’m thinking George will have a lot more fun with the older kids and he’ll probably be more competitive (rushed). I bought smaller glow sticks this time so we can stuff a few glow sticks into each egg. To fill the eggs, I bought some play-doh, some organic peanut butter cups that were on sale, some more egg malt balls and some more teddy bear crackers…we have about 30 of these eggs so there should be about ten per kid (it won’t take them long I bet).

Oversized eggs with room for glow sticks

Oversized eggs with room for glow sticks

Kind of like Christmas, we are trying to keep Jesus at the center of our celebration, so I brought out George’s bible and we keep discussing how Jesus died for us and rose again. I think it is a lot for him to understand and I try to keep it simple. We’re sad because Jesus had to die for our sins, but we are happy that we are forgiven by his shed blood. We are happy that he rose again. We are celebrating because “Christ has risen!”

George's "My first bible" that tells stories simply and clearly

George’s “My first bible” that tells stories simply and clearly

Over dinner Ross and I were trying to figure out the significance of eggs and bunnies with Easter. I guessed “new life/birth” with the eggs and I was right…but we still couldn’t figure out bunnies so we Googled the hell out of Easter. I found out that in Slovakia apparently they pour water on women (something fertility-ish) and Ross said “Well we do that here too.” I just looked at him like “what the what??” and he said “Yeah, with wet t-shirt contests.”

Potty training adventures

Two things. Don’t let your husband show your three-year-old how to pee standing up, because he’ll never want to sit on the potty ever again. Because apparently “only girls sit on the potty.” I don’t know how he’s going to go #2 standing up. And don’t let him hold his own penis, even if he insists on it, because he will aim high….aim low…aim anywhere other than the potty. This was his royal sass-pants this morning:

Me: [for the 3rd time] “George, come here and go pee on the potty.”

George: “I’m COMING! As slow as I can!!’

Yeah, buddy, I can tell.

The best credit cards (and how to use them)

Credit card companies are at war for your dollars. Well, they are at war for your debt, to be precise. Having debt of any form means you are indebted which means servitude. It means you are no longer “working a job for yourself everyday,” you are “working to pay the credit card company you owe.” It might feel like you have a choice on where to spend it when you receive your paycheck…but you won’t have a choice someday down the road. It’s like living in a big house that the bank owns…”we’ll let you live there and play pretend, but for that privilege we’re going to charge you more than twice the purchase price of the house by the time your 30-year mortgage is over.”

Debt is a huge business – making money off of peoples’ debt is very lucrative. A nicer way of referring to the business of trading unfortunate folks’ servitude is debt securities. One of my brothers is a debt collector and told me debt is sold, resold, then resold again, because companies can turn around and collect more and more money on that original debt…because it keeps growing. You can start your own debt collection business just by finding some debt to buy then trying to collect on that debt. The sad part is he said most of the severe debt is healthcare related….umm healthcare reform anyone?? I just saw a news report on a helicopter company that flies your newborn to the hospital when their heart stops but then bills you twice your annual salary for that favor.

Debt is all around us through, starting with the houses we live in…and no one can seem to “start small” with their house and instead they go out and buy a house for as much as the bank will write the loan. Your mantra should be “just because I can doesn’t mean I should.” I have this romantic notion that everyone would live in a home they built with their own two hands…like my grandfather did. Yes, maybe he used newspapers for insulation and maybe the structure wasn’t what it could have been, but imagine the pride he felt and how carefully the family took care of the house. So much of that pride is missing from homes these days, because no one puts the work in so the value is not there. I read that you go to “your bank” for a mortgage, and then almost immediately they turn around and sell that actual note or promise of payment to another company, although you continue to receive your statements from the original lender, your debt is being traded the entire time, to see who will pay the most for it on the odds you never pay it down. It changes the way you think about banks.

My Grandpa Karl Douglas (R) and younger brother Clark (L)...Karl built a home out of a shack when he married my grandmother, then the original shack owner revoked the sale, forcing my grandpa to return ownership of the property after he had built the house. He never forgot that and never owed anything to anyone ever again.

My Grandpa Karl Douglas (R) and younger brother Clark (L). Karl built a home out of a shack when he married my grandmother, then the original shack owner revoked the sale, forcing my grandpa to return ownership of the property after he had built the house. He never forgot that and never owed anything to anyone ever again.

Credit card companies offer up rewards for your debt dollars…hoping you either go spend-crazy with your credit card for the sake of rewards or hoping you roll over your current debt into their credit card program. The only way to take advantage of this debt shitshow is to pay off the entire balance every month and use a cash back rewards program….which I’m sure credit card companies hate! Don’t worry, there are plenty of indebted folks making sure credit card companies stay profitable. If you only charge what you can afford to pay off each month, you are actually making money #intheblack without actually incurring any debt or servitude. But it’s not easy to do.

  1. Credit cards (and technology) make it too easy to spend. You can save your credit card info on every site you buy from so it is already there next time you decide to buy something; you can PayPal that shit to death until you are over your monthly income all of a sudden.
  2. You have to swear to yourself you will never pay a dime in interest no matter what. Develop a plan of exactly what you will do if you accidentally overspend. Do not run to mommy or daddy…your parents will have hardships in the future guaranteed and you probably have more energy and are more able-bodied than they are. Plus the whole self-respect thing. Do you have a savings account you will pull from? Do you have an asset you can sell on Craigslist or eBay? Do you have a quick cash gig you can do on the side such as moving furniture or bar-tending?

It’s critical you pay off your balance every month. How critical? If you find yourself unable to pay off your balance, don’t even think about accepting the “loan” from the credit card company, you must get another job immediately…I don’t care if you are cleaning shitters or driving for Uber. You don’t want to owe anything to anyone…that shit doesn’t go away and only gets bigger. It’s like “…herpes…that shit will come back to you…

With that in mind, I looked for a long time for a great cash back rewards personal credit card and found it in American Express Blue. A lot of rewards programs are only temporary (for the first year) or they charge an annual fee, which is ridiculous. Or the rewards are not very transparent…like points or miles…which don’t always add up the way you think they should. I made about $400 dollars in cash back last year, which I’m tremendously happy with…it’s free money from a CREDIT CARD COMPANY! #winning The only caveat is some retailers don’t take American Express, because their transaction fees are higher (the fee the store has to pay to the credit card company for the transaction, on the off chance they don’t make any money off of you on that purchase/you pay it off). Because of this, I also have a Visa (no rewards program) that I only use to pay the water bill each month and whatever else pops up that I can’t put on my Amex.

It is important to note length of ownership of the credit card is of foremost importantance on your credit report. I’m not obsessed with my credit report or score because that’s just dumb but I do understand and pay attention to factors that influence my credit score including:

  • The longer you own a credit card (and pay off the balance), the better. People who shift money (debt) from credit card to credit card are literally killing their credit score. While I’ve only had my Amex for about 5-8 years I’ve used the same Visa since I turned 18. Never, ever add more cards for the sake of rewards…unless you plan on owning those 8-10-15 cards for the rest of your life. Also, I might discourage you to cancel a card for the same reason, unless you have an overabundance of credit cards.
  • Each time you apply for credit or a loan or “see if you’ll be approved” it dings your credit score. If you do this more than once per year, I’d say it’s a pattern that is noticeable and will downgrade your credit score. It’s basically saying you’re seeking out financing often…which essentially means you’re financially unstable.

For our rental business, we knew we didn’t want to get stuck in a situation where we couldn’t use our card everywhere, like with American Express Blue, but we also wanted cash back rewards, not points or miles, without an annual fee. We eventually found the Bank of America Cash Rewards Business MasterCard and it has done pretty well for what we need it for. In the last year we’ve redeemed about $100 cash back so not as lucrative as the Amex Blue but we’re very happy with it.

There’s a lot more to be said about credit cards and their benefits and pitfalls, but I think this post is my longest ever so I’ll stfu. Yay for cash back!

Progress Update!

This is our third video progress update/tour…second if you don’t count the initial walk-through as a progress update. Everything is opened up to the point where we are putting it all back together. The walls are where they need to be, the windows are where they need to be, the pipes are where they need to be and the outlets and lights are where they need to be. At this point we are just put the finishing touches on everything before we wrap it all in drywall. We have a lot of work ahead of us in refinishing all of the trim, repainting the cabinets and refinishing the floors.

There is a solid video recap below, and pictures of all of the rooms below the video. Can’t you envision it finished? It’s coming together!

As you walk in the living room is on your immediate left (we widened the doorway)

As you walk in the living room is on your immediate left (we widened the doorway)

As you are standing in the living room you are staring into the dining room with the downstairs bedroom in the back

As you are standing in the living room you are staring into the dining room with the downstairs bedroom in the back

The downstairs bedroom is being used for storage...is this stuff even ours??

The downstairs bedroom is being used for storage…is this stuff even ours??

This is standing in the back of our house, by the bathroom, looking into the kitchen and front hallway

This is standing in the back of our house, by the bathroom, looking into the kitchen and front hallway

Looking into the downstairs bathroom from the back hallway

Looking into the downstairs bathroom from the back hallway

New window at the top of the stair landing shines light down the hallway

New window at the top of the stair landing shines light down the hallway

A bigger frosted bathroom window lets more light into the upstairs bath

A bigger frosted bathroom window lets more light into the upstairs bath

We still have to deal with the crappy laminate on the upstairs bedroom floor

We still have to deal with the crappy laminate on the upstairs bedroom floor

The master bedroom upstairs has a new closet space after we stole part of the room for a bigger upstairs bath

The master bedroom upstairs has a new closet space after we stole part of the room for a bigger upstairs bath

We are getting excited as our “third baby” comes due. We have everything in place now so the finishing can begin. There is a lot of work ahead, but we are excited about all the improvements we’ve made, and plan to spend a lot of family time over here this summer…maybe the kids will help…haha! I’ll kind of be sad when everything is “decided” and “finished” and we can no longer dream about what we could do here.

New-in-packaging upholstered headboard score (!!!!)

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I have to say my husband scored a #hellava deal on a brand new upholstered headboard. Yep, like the kind you see in Home Goods, West Elm and Pottery Barn for over $1k…that kind. For under $100. USD. Yep. We already have a beautiful cedar headboard that Ross made [♥], but we don’t have a headboard on the guest bed downstairs, and we wanted a really snazzy one for staging the rental or rehab or investment property or whatever we’re calling it these days…all our eggs in one nest-egg basket, is what I’m calling it. Also, everyone should have an upholstered headboard because…well nevermind. I’ll tell you when you’re older.

This headboard solidified my love for all things K-Bid. Not to mention they bring it out to your car/truck and load it up for you, which is key when you’re just a lil’ old me picking up the husband’s equipment, tools or furniture and you barely made it there in the truck without denting something and you have trouble with the tailgate.

The key to finding cheaper stuff is it takes patience and effort, and some level of strategic thinking to buy stuff on a slow day or when the weather is shit (or when it’s really nice outside). Finding a deal takes more effort than shopping online in bed, saying “Ooooh I want that one” and clicking the buy button. If you’re not at least looking for stuff at auction, estate sales, garage sales [only good neighborhoods] Craigslist or consignment, you have too much fucking money and I don’t want to know you.

Here is what the listing looked like on K-Bid.

Here is what the listing looked like on K-Bid.

Here's the same exact headboard for $300!

Here’s the same exact headboard for $300!

What it looked like when I picked it up. Well hello... come to momma.

What it looked like when I picked it up. Well hello… come to momma.

Case in point, I just bought two big 7×10 and 9×12 area rugs in pristine condition off Craigslist. The one lady lived in Maple Grove and she was selling her area rug and couches because [wait for it] the pattern on her newly purchased drapes don’t match them. My dad laughed, hard, when he heard that and said it reminded him of his ex-wife. The second one 😉 . Redecorating is fine but you have to do it strategically…you can’t just purchase drapes that tell the rest of the room to fuck off. She was selling a new rug from Target for $80…originally these exact rugs are $160…so 50% off and it was in perfect shape because their kids are big and they had too big of a house for much foot traffic anyway.

The second rug was from a lakefront home in Wayzata…and this neighborhood was just ridiculous. I’m all for lake living, but not when your house is a monstrosity that is three feet next to your neighbor’s monstrosity. The lake was pretty damn polluted, too, if it has a green tint that I could see through the frozen ice. This rug was obviously not a box store buy, because it looks like a legitimate carpet that was created for a special room – it is binded at the edges in a way our box store rugs are not. It’s beige (I want neutral rugs…so I don’t have to redecorate the room #laughcry) and it doesn’t even have a scratch. I really want to use them in our house but Ross talked me into saving them to stage the rental first. So…looking forward to that day, when all the swank stuff comes to live at our house. Until then….

I’m a powerful dump truck

Quote

Julius received the VTech Drop and Go Dump Truck for his birthday, and the tune has become so ingrained in our heads Ross and I sing it to each other randomly. The toy goes off whenever it moves, so we randomly hear “I’m a….powerful…dump truck…” throughout the house. Tonight we were giving the boys a bath and the truck was in the bathroom (because all toys end up in the bathroom for some reason). Ross asked me to take it back to the living room…but this is how that conversation went….because we are so adult:

Ross:”Can you take the I’m-A-Powerful-Dump-Truck?”
Me: [Gesturing for him to kick it to me] “Can you make it Rumble-Down-The-Road?”
Ross: [Kicks the truck over to me] “I can Haul-My-Load-From-Here-To-There.”

Patching hardwood floors

Ross spent a ton of time patching hardwood floors where he had made the narrow doorways wider. We used some of the older flooring from the upstairs – we had cut out some hardwoods to make room for the new bigger bathroom. We’ll be putting some sort of hex tile in the upstairs bathroom anyway so we didn’t want hardwoods in there.

Wider threshold between dining room and living room

Wider threshold between dining room and living room

The wider doorway/threshold being patched

The wider doorway/threshold being patched

Underneath the stairs was hardwood that we also took out. Previously there was a little weird pantry under the stairs that you accessed from a corner of the kitchen. Instead of using that space as a pantry we are adding a pantry type of unit (salvaged from Bauer Brothers) for extra kitchen storage. Then we can use the space under the stairs for coat hooks, a small cut out of a bench perhaps, nooks for shoes and shelves for hats, purses, gloves and mail.

Upstairs bedroom patch to cover the odd little open square in the floor

Upstairs bedroom patch to cover the odd little open square in the floor

On the pantry/buffet unit, the drawers on the bottom will be awesome for just about anything you need to store, while the upper cabinet doors will be great for dishes or ingredients or whatever, and you will see those items through the glass doors. The counter top will be more workspace, although we are undecided on what material to use. We are wondering if this pantry/buffet should have a similar top to the rest of the kitchen or maybe something a bit different so it looks more like a furniture piece. I’m leaning towards painting it a grey or navy and having a different-color counter top so it looks like a separate piece of furniture than the kitchen cabinets and counters.

Threshold between entryway and living room being patched

Threshold between entryway and living room being patched

The patching took a lot of time but was totally worth it – wider doorways will help with letting more light into the rooms, making the space appear larger, and keeping the smaller spaces (like the entryway) from feeling claustrophobic. Ross made it look very easy, but patching floors is very detailed and putz-y work. He used this tip from The Craftsman Blog and made a putty with clear glue and sawdust to patch any small cracks or holes.

Completed patch of the threshold between the dining room and living room

Completed patch of the threshold between the dining room and living room

He used the following tools to patch the floors:

Completed patch of the upstairs bedroom flooring

Completed patch of the upstairs bedroom flooring

The floor patches are so difficult to find, you would never know they were done. I cannot wait to see these finished floors sparkle…sigh.

Completed patch on doorway from entryway to living room

Completed patch on doorway from entryway to living room

Full hands in, full hands out

Ross goes through like three outfits a day, with it being cold outside and also working at the rental. The boys go through about three outfits a day, with their inability to keep food (and pee and poop) off themselves. I don’t even wash my jeans or shirts every time I wear them because my most strenuous activity is walking over to fill my coffee. So I’m drowning in laundry that is not even mine. Plus most of my clothes are on gentle cycle so they need to be washed seperately, like once per week.

Me:”Hold up. Can you please take something upstairs with you? You’ve been downstairs twice and haven’t taken anything upstairs with you.”

Ross:”Yeah, so?”

Me:”It’s a waitressing thing. Full hands in, full hands out. It means if you’re running around you might as well take some shit with you. Just grab like, one pair of jeans, and take them upstairs with you, everytime you are going upstairs.”

Ross:”Are you serious?”

Me:”Yeah, yeah…I know it’s dumb. Just say you’ll do it.”

Ross:”Okay, here I go, carrying some laundry upstairs…because……empty hands… make sad wives…or whatever you just said.”