Landscaping plan for the entire yard (thanks Lowe’s!)

Ross and I hesitated for a hot second on how much landscaping we should actually do. I mean, our yard at home desperately needs new mulch and we need to move and split a bunch of flowers and plants, so it’s hard to just ignore all of that and spend a few days landscaping at our “other house.” But in the end, it was really important to show off the nice new patio and walkway and front steps and make it seem more like a home than just a rental that no one cares about.

The exterior just needs shutters and we may do window boxes for flowers too

We did a square flower bed in the front yard with some pink iris from our house and some yellow flowers in front

I planted some of the ‘rosey glow’ barberry at our house, next to my hasta, but it’s hard to see for the weeds :/

In fact, I just had coffee with my girlfriend from high school and found out they sold their home in Richfield and bought a house about three blocks away. I asked her why…if it was just a bigger home or nicer home…and she said it was a little bit bigger but the kitchen was actually the same size or smaller…so I asked her what really stood out to them about the new house. Guess what she said? THE LANDSCAPING! Her exact words as I recall were “You could just tell someone put a lot of thought into the landscaping; it was laid out so ¬†nice.” She said there is always something in bloom and she really enjoys their outside spaces. What are the chances I hear that from her, just as we are debating going to town on the landscaping at our property?? Crazy.

George was promoted to lead landscaper ūüėČ

George was really trying to dig but needed our help to loosen the dirt first

George and Julius helped water the plants, aka played in the water ūüėČ

I found a great sale on plants at a greenhouse in the Twin Cities and was able to stock up for under $200, which I think it kind of a steal for the bigger bushes and junipers! Let’s just say I called for a quote from a different greenhouse/nursery and it was twice that price for the same stuff. So prices must vary pretty wildly depending on where you order from or what is “in stock” price versus special order.

We transplanted lily from our house into an “L” shape along the garage and neighbor’s property line

Julius loves to find rocks lately and kept throwing mulch pieces into a bucket of water –kept him busy though!

Look at that guy! I just love my baby boy. <3

I actually found the general design I wanted from this great guide from Lowe’s on Pinterest! When full-grown, it should lend a huge amount of privacy to the patio area that is missing today. What I ended up buying was 3 Junipers (they’re supposed to get as tall as 8 feet!), 3 yellow smoke bushes (these can get up to 10 feet tall!), 5 ‘rosey glow’ red barberry bushes, and purple ajuga ground cover, which I want to plant at our house too because it looks fabulous when it spreads out. I’ve already found more ajuga from a local on craigslist!

We followed the Lowe’s design pretty closely

The yellow smoke bush I substituted for the cypress because it was so tall already

The boys were so proud of their hard work!

Currently, we have a ton of yellow sedum ground cover at our own house, and I actually had the boys dig some of it up to plant at our project house. We just bought them cute little mini shovels and they are not the best at digging, but the ground cover was shallow enough that they were able to help transplant it! With minimal assistance, haha.

The sedum ground cover we took from one of our flower beds at home and used it over at the project house

George put on his work gloves and helped momma split the lilys up. Yes, my trunk is now filthy.

We piled up sedum in the boys’ Sears wagon

I know it was 90 degrees and sunny, and we would have rather have been out on the boat or playing on the beach, but truthfully, days we spend working hard like this are what our boys will remember, hopefully forever. I want them to know how to dig, I want them to know how to play and have fun while working hard. It’s important for me to see them running around and making up games instead of sitting inside playing on their Leapfrogs, or being entertained by mom and dad at the cabin. It’s very satisfying to me to see them make up games to keep themselves busy with just some water in a bucket. I hear them laugh and run and I know they will remember working at our project house all together as a family!

We transplanted daylilys for the opposite side of the patio

It’s a mix of orange and red daylilys and there may even be a random pink iris in there (per Ross)

Pasta Pasta

Let me give you an idea of what our dinners are like lately. During dinner one night, maybe a month ago, George grabbed the lid from the top of a water bottle and laid it on its side. He put his finger on the top/ridged part of it and pushed down on it, so it rolled across the table. He thought it was the best thing ever, and he declared it his new favorite game. So now, this is what happens almost every night at dinner:

George runs around collecting bottle tops from anywhere he can find them. Vitamin containers, bottles of water, anything goes. Everyone gets a bottle top and we count down – 3- 2- 1…and everyone flicks their bottle lid across the table as fast as we can. Depending on how far your lid goes and where it ends up, you win.

The best part? He calls the bottle top racing game¬†“Pasta Pasta.” I’m not sure what his logic was for naming it, but it is the cutest thing in the world when he runs up to the table with his bottle tops: “Okay now, let’s play Pasta Pasta!”

I hope I never forget how to play Pasta Pasta. When I’m on my deathbed, I want to play Pasta Pasta.¬†‚ô•

Amazing built-in from Bauer Brothers (pantry project)

About a year and a half ago, in the dead of winter, (I still remember the snow blowing across the ice on the road) we chugged over to Bauer Brothers to pick out a built-in for our pantry nook in the kitchen. When we bought the house, the pantry was under the stairs and while practical, I guess, it was dark, dingy, and kind of spooky. We decided in the corner of the kitchen, on the wall we closed up leading to the bathroom, we would do a square pantry with a door, or we would do a built-in style piece of furniture that could function as additional counter space but also pantry storage (big drawers and whatnot).

I know it’s hard to see the logic behind the decision so here is an illustration of what we changed in the space. Essentially we had more wall, given we moved the bathroom entrance out of the kitchen. It created a perfect little corner, for the pantry, so we could get it out from under the stairs and make it more accessible. More accessible, less creepy.

See that dark sliver of pantry?

Where’s this pantry that you speak of…

We are SO GLAD we decided on the built-in. We painted it Dutch Boy Manatee to contrast against the walls and cabinets. I wanted to make sure it looked like a piece of furniture and stood out against everything else. We chose butcher block counters because they stood out from the concrete counters on the other side of the kitchen.

Cut in half (eeek!) and painted

Ross actually had to cut the hutch¬†in half in order to add a countertop. Originally it was all one hutch/built-in, so this part scared me, and I wasn’t sure it would look good after we split it in half. Needless to say, he knew what he was doing and it looks great!

It’s the perfect size for this smaller kitchen

Bottom piece and countertop installed

It was my idea to use two corbels on the sides instead of a plain piece of trim. We bought the corbels (green and pretty beat up) from Bauer Brothers Salvage as well as the hutch/pantry. I’m beyond thrilled with how it turned out.

Getting the top installed was a bitch! I burst a blood vessel in my eye holding it up!

We’re using the original hardware

Corbel cut and installed

Finished built-in!

I would love one of these in my kitchen – big drawers for canned goods or flour and sugar, glass doors to display all of your pretty dishes…it’s perfect!

Refinished antique dresser

I posted a picture of us hauling furniture to our other house on Instagram and received a few comments about my refinished dresser. I just finished it in the last week, with Ross’s help, because everything takes longer with a newborn!

Finished dresser in the trailer

A few months ago Ross came home with a hideous dresser he found on the side of the road. He thought I could refinish it and switch out the drawer pulls and it would be a great little dresser for our baby girl. I was dubious. It was painted a horrific pukey-pink and the wood was super chipped and the handles were in the shape of a cinnamon roll. My primary concern was that someone peed in it, or an animal was living in it or something, because it was on the side of the road.

The pink paint (underneath) and cinnamon roll handles

From what I can tell though, there’s really nothing wrong with the dresser itself. The drawers are clean inside! It was just the outside that was turning me off. We looked at the stamp on the inside and it was stamped Lea Line Leads. Lea Line Leads furniture was trademarked in 1949 but that’s about all I could find out about it.

As I brushed the first coat on

I used wall paint that was left over from George’s nursery (a very light cream color) and wiped it on with a brush then rolled it on for the last few coats of paint. To give it the antique look I knew I needed to scuff it up, but there was no way I was going to run a sander and risk waking the baby, so I grabbed my acrylic craft paints and folded up some cardboard for a straight edge. I dipped the folded edge in brown and black paint and just willy-nilly scraped the cardboard across some¬†edges. It is easy to overdo it though, so resist the urge to cover every corner. Stand back and wipe some paint off with a wet cloth if needed.

Antique-ing with acrylic paint on cardboard

Every time I attempted to work on it, baby Jonna gave me about 10-15 minutes before she started crying, so Ross finally took pity on me (it sat half finished for weeks) and finished it for me, adding the drawer pulls. We bought these super cheap drawer pulls on Amazon ($1 each!!!) but beware, we’ve had to re-glue the diamond part of two of them with Loctite – no biggie though.

Close up of my paint job

I almost forgot to take a before pic so I’m glad I snapped one before I took the handles off. Without before pictures it is hard to understand the level of ugly. Now it looks like a totally different dresser.We love the end result!

Finished dresser sans handles

Finished dresser!!

Goodbye Turbo Tax…hello new baby girl!

Hey yo, about 6 weeks ago we had a baby girl and I celebrated this Mother’s Day as mom to a daughter! Her name is Jonna and she’s unbelievably beautiful and clever (moms aren’t biased at all). That means I’m busy updating wills, insurance, documentation, changing out baby clothes, changing vehicles… basically updating everything in our entire lives. We love it though… and I know someday we’ll look back on these days with fond memories!

Our new baby girl!

So of course, for everyone in the US, tax season came and Ross and I both started stressing about taxes. We always buy TurboTax software and do it ourselves, but the closer we got to selling the rental/fixer (this year!), the more we worried we’re not set up to snag all the savings we can from the government. What if we missed a deduction on which we could have saved hundreds of dollars? We just weren’t sure we were capturing everything within TurboTax. Ross may also have been sick of me sending him Forbes articles about deductions. Maybe. Possibly.

Our situation is unique, because we’ve changed our model from rental to resale since starting the LLC, which changes how you can recognize revenue. Because we won’t have a stream of income, we will recognize a one-time injection of capital at sale, we need to pay close attention to how we’re claiming it on our taxes and how we’re claiming associated expenses.

Long story short, we received a referral from a friend to a tax accountant and she is amazing! Not only did she find crazy HSA over-contributions from years ago that we would be financially penalized for (what the what?!) but she advised we change the structure of our LLC for even more savings come next tax season. She also helped us more accurately and appropriately deduct our current expenses. In other words, she told us things we would never have known, and will continue to advise us through the sale to get the most savings possible.

Yes, paying for a personal tax accountant is about 10x more expensive than TurboTax, but you’re paying for the consulting that Turbo Tax can’t possibly give you. This includes advice like which LLC will be the best vehicle for your business, when exactly it would be most beneficial to claim expenses and revenue and even looking over past years’ filings to find anything you may be penalized for in the future. Well worth it to have confidence in your filing of income taxes if you’ve made a large investment.

It’s kind of like insurance– and I love this analogy. When I was 19 and only looked at cost, I bought car insurance online from Progressive. When in a blizzard (#minnesnowta) my car was hit from behind and I didn’t know how to recover the cost of the damages, I called Progressive (naturally, right?). I think they even told me to call them first if I was ever in an accident. They proceeded to hang up on me and do virtually everything possible to avoid talking to me– to avoid ADVISING me.

It was a total shitshow; it was like being told to fuck off without someone actually saying fuck off. It made me hate the world and I really can’t over-emphasize how horrible they were. Therefore, when they should have just asked about the police report and told me to chase down the idiot who hit me, to force his insurance to pay, I was aggressively told by Progressive that I wouldn’t have any way to fix my vehicle, ever, and that I should just stop calling. The opposite of what I’d call advice, assistance, or even low-level helpfulness.¬†So I drove a wrecked Celica for 5 years and ate my losses. I refused to lose any more money replacing my vehicle.

During the wrecked Celica days. Do I look like I understood insurance? I didn’t even understand how to wear eye makeup.

That was a sweet ride–my wrecked Toyota Celica, urgh. Today I have an actual insurance agent from State Farm (and a non-wrecked car woohoo!) and when me, my husband or my kids (someday) get in a car accident, the first call I make will be to our agent, and instead of telling us to fuck off we’ll get some actual ADVICE! In this world, you really have to pay extra for advocacy, service and helpfulness, and that’s a lesson learned the hard way. Otherwise, the general approach is to take the money and run, don’t look back, and sure as hell don’t answer the phone.

Duluth trip to the North Shore

We had planned a trip to our favorite vacation spot Isla Mujures but with the [insane] overall lack of knowledge about the level of risk of Zika virus there (I called around for all the medical and statistical details I could get my hands on!) we had to cancel as soon as we found out I was pregnant. #sadface We were sooooo looking forward to some island time! But, that had to wait until I was no longer splitting cells.

That’s not Mexico! ūüôā

Luckily, it’s shockingly easy to be refunded for flights to regions affected by Zika when you have a doctor’s note indicating you are with-child. I mean, no cancellation fees, no waiting period, like IMMEDIATE REFUND. Where does that even happen…immediate refunds?! I can’t think of one instance. Actually¬†the refund came in quicker than the actual credit card charge came due, which confused me for awhile because it threw off everything by a few thousand that month and the following! We hadn’t even been charged for the flights and already had a plus on our Amex. I think that’s one of the only by-product-good-things I’ve ran into during pregnancy. We were loaned a large credit on our credit card for one month – woohoo.

The long view of Two Harbors from our cabin

So instead of beachfront, we swung the pendulum over to the North Shore beachfront. It was local and there were no mosquitoes in sight, ha! We stayed at Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors. This was no ordinary “lodge” however– we stayed in their beachhouse. The beachhouse was an amazing cottage that was perched direction on the shore. I mean directly. You could hear the waves all night long, it was amazing. Super romantic, unless you have kids in tow! But seriously, we had an awesome time. Ross was less than confident we were all going to fit comfortably in the beach house but I called ahead and they assured us a pack-and-play would fit fine. He thought the boys would get bored in the small space, but the exact opposite happened. They piled up next to the window and watched the waves come in – they never got tired of it! There was a red rock in the waves they named Lightning McQueen – kids are so creative aren’t they!?

We used the pool in the lodge one day and luckily the hot tub wasn’t boiling hot so Georgie and Julius were able to dip their toes in with us for a minute. We took turns getting massages and ate at the restaurant one night. All in all, it was the perfect vacation for us at that time. But we are going back to Mexico next winter –sorry Two Harbors! We need to warm our old bones. But oh, how we love #Minnesnowta

View of the shoreline from our window

Lake Superior’s biggest fans

George slept in a sleeping bag and Julius slept in his pack-and-play

Our little cottage was so cozy and comfortable!

Dictator

We stopped at McDonalds; it’s just too easy when the kids are hungry! George was not giving Julius fries. So Julius starts screeching, of course….

 

George (to Julius): “No, you can’t have any fries, Julius.”

Me: “George, quit being a dictator.”

Ross cracks up.

Me: “What…?”

Ross: “I thought you were going to say ‘Quit being a dick,’ and that would have been awesome.”

I haven’t yet resorted to calling my child a dick. But I’ve been close.

Chimney expansion (to cover chaseway)

Once upon a time, we bought a house and loved the brick chimney, but didn’t love the duct work and chaseway that ran alongside. We ran through our options, and decided on the most difficult (of course)! We sourced old yellow (Chicago-style) brick for about two years off Craigslist at cheap or free prices. Then came the hard part – the cutting out of the old brick and tooth-ing in the salvaged brick to expand the chimney. Not for only one chimney – but for four different areas in the house! We had four areas to add brick:

  1. the kitchen chimney that had horrible yellow cabinetry next to it hiding duct work
  2. the duct work in the dining room we wanted to cover
  3. the plumbing (toilet) pipe on the opposite side of the dining room we wanted to cover
  4. the chimney in the upstairs master that ran alongside a heating supply run duct

It turned out amazing and we are really happy with the results. The salvaged brick and new mortar isn’t a one-to-one match with the old stuff, but there is no way it would ever be…that ¬†chimney is over 100 years old! The expanded chimneys are such a unique architectural feature and really make the room unique, versus just cutting up some drywall to cover whatever pipes and duct work need covering. It makes the house look like there are more chimneys and although they’re not functional, they add texture, age and color to the rooms. I LOVE THEM! In the next house we fix up,¬†it would be awesome to somehow include some old brick in every room. I wonder how Ross feels about that idea….

Taking out the corner pieces of the kitchen chimney so we could make it longer/wider

Longer/wider brick to cover the chaseway

Slow-going piecing one brick in at a time

Almost finished – just the top brick remaining, to reconcile with the ceiling

The finished kitchen chimney – looks like it was meant to be!

Before and after! I would never cook anything in the kitchen on the left…gross

 

Football-themed baby shower

We threw a baby shower for a gal in our book club and she loves the Minnesota Vikings so we chose a football slash Vikings theme. Everything was purple pride! It was more fun and creative than any other shower we’ve done, including a robot-theme baby shower which was super cute too. At first, it was tough to find football theme stuff, but after a few google searches and some trips around town, everyone found what they were looking for. Personally, I was frustrated trying to find Vikings-theme stuff for decor and food. I thought it would be relatively easy to find Vikings food flags but I looked everywhere and couldn’t find anything! Eventually, I just bought purple and gold glitter tape from Target and made my own. What a pain in the ass. But everything turned out beautifully. Have a look!

We set up a concession table with food and drinks…we had non-alcoholic (and alcohol) mimosas

We had a watermelon football helmet full of fruit (I got all the fruit at Aldi!)

I cut up my cinnamon coffee cake and used cupcake holders so they were easy to grab. These were my Vikings food flags that took way too long.

Glitter tape food flags…in theory, a great idea. Until you start cutting and assembling.

Football-shaped Chinese paper lanterns

Football vase centerpieces made out of beer bottles

Game prize bags made with craft paper – aren’t these the cutest?

The gift table. I made a diaper cake too, in record time (the night before!)

Diaper cake making in progress

Diaper cake almost complete

The guest of honor. We all wore Vikings jerseys or purple, of course!

 

Blue fish

I’ve been wanting to share this video because it is probably my favorite video of Julius to date. At his 18 month appointment, his pediatrician thought he wasn’t saying as many words as she would expect, and she suggested we might have him evaluated by a speech therapist. We were totally on board because neither of us even remember how many words George was saying at 18 months or how clear his speech was…turns out, Julius was speaking at about a one year-old level. His cognition is very high, above average for his age, actually, but he has expressive disorder or trouble expressing himself verbally.

I’m extremely happy with the results of speech therapy so far. I bring him twice per week for half hour sessions with a speech therapist. We are hoping he is caught up by my delivery date – he has made great progress so far. One of the things I didn’t realize was children who have trouble communicating have more tantrums. This was certainly the case with Julius…but we just thought that was his personality. He has given himself bloody noses from throwing himself around his crib, for example. Kind of a nutball, he is. But now that he can use his words, he does less flailing around and physical outbursts and whenever he is upset, instead of falling back on crying and screaming, we push him to use his words to explain what is wrong.

We’ve also had a few laughs as he’s learning. He’s starting to add ending sounds onto his words when before it was just one syllable. This week it was him learning the word “spider” but the best he can do is “spy-spy,” which is still better than previously, when he wouldn’t have even attempted the second syllable. Our favorite is his pronunciation of the phrase “blue fish,” which refers to Dori, of course.

So now whenever Ross and I are annoyed by something we say it’s a bunch of blue fish. This is why I love my kids…for bringing this kind of blue fish into our lives!