Friday, December 27, 2013

The Raum Homestead Has Moved!

Well, we finally did it.  The weekend after Thanksgiving, we packed up the house and moved about 50 miles north, to Berwick, Maine.  It's a rental - we decided that it would be better to try out the area and the type of house before committing to a purchase.  Our new home is a old farmhouse, built in about 1880.  There's a huge barn, and it's sited on 13 acres.  We're right off a busy road, which is good for now but something we'll try to avoid when we buy.

But boy, does this house have character!  I've never lived in a house this old and while I loved the idea, I wasn't sure how much I'd like it in practice.  It's only been a month, but so far I love it!  The kids think it's fantastic, too.  They love the double stairs, the little nooks and crannies, and they can't wait for the spring so they can explore the property more.  For right now, they're having fun sledding down the hill right next to the driveway.

One of the very first things we did was get our Christmas tree.  Traditionally, we decorate for Christmas during Thanksgiving weekend, and I didn't want to let our move shorten our holiday season.  We compromised by going to a local tree stand and choosing a pre-cut tree - poor Doug was too exhausted and sore from moving everything.

You can see the wide plank floors in that shot.  They're throughout the house, but covered up in some of the rooms.  They're exposed in the living room, master bedroom, the landing off of the littles' room, and the boys' bedroom.  In the living room, you can see through to the basement between some of the boards.  The living room floor is pretty beat up, but the floors in the bedrooms are shiny and so smooth to walk on.  Here's a close-up from the living room:

While we're at it, let's look at some other Christmas decorating.  I'd always wanted a staircase that I could put a garland on, and here we have one!  Unfortunately, Niall loves picking the berries off of it.  I find them throughout the house.

We put a tiny, very cheap, fake Christmas tree on the landing outside of the bedroom that Fiona and Niall share.  It's actually a pretty big space, and we have all the toy kitchen stuff set up there.  It works well because all of Fiona's dolls and their dress-ups are in their bedroom.  Anyway, we got the little star and the skirt from Target, and picked up their Disney ornament advent 'calendar'.  The ornaments are little tins with Disney characters on them, and we filled them with candy to share each night.  The door in the picture is the walk-up attic.  Love it so much more than our old attic with its creaky ladder.

Here's a quick picture of Niall's bed.  They both have a lot more blankets on their beds now, as the room is pretty cool.  The thermostat is in our room which is always warm, and I think between that and the (poorly insulated?) skylight and being tucked under the eaves makes for a chilly room.  The first night we were tucking them into bed, Fiona was checking out the walls.. she said, "Mom, why is the ceiling dripping?"  I guess it does look like the ceiling is dripping down onto the walls.

The house has got all these cool, old touches, like this doorknobs throughout.  I wish our landlord (or whoever) had been a little more careful when painting, but oh well.

And next to the kitchen door is this old timer.  The property used to be a working farm, complete with a spot-light-lit sign out front.  We think this old timer went to those lights.  For now, we just set our keys on top of it.

It's pretty funny.. if you Google our address, you find old photos of people having sleigh rides here and stuff.  The barn is cool but kind of depressing.  The stalls still have names over them, and it makes me wonder about the people (and animals) who lived here before.  There's no escaping the history of this house.  Here's the view from the window above our kitchen sink:

We're still settling in and getting used to the area, but so far we love it.  It's a little hard on us only having one car because during the week, we're either stuck at home or stuck back in Massachusetts if we drive Doug to work.  I'm really looking forward to getting to explore the area more, though.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Indoor Gardening

Over this past spring and summer, I've come to realize how much I benefit from being outside and connecting with nature.  Just sitting out back on the deck watching the kids play is great, but actually interacting with nature - walking barefoot in the grass, lying under the tree and looking up at the branches, tending to our garden, making our yard attractive to wildlife - that brings things to a whole 'nother level.  I'm a much happier, more sane person when I can do those things.

Unfortunately, we live in Massachusetts, and those opportunities are rapidly running out.  To be honest, I'm a little apprehensive about this winter and being shut off from anything green.  So I started searching Pinterest and the Google for information about houseplants and indoor gardening.  I've tried having some house plants before, but it's never worked out too well.. mostly because of a lack of information on my part.  This time, I'm vowing to do it right and not just wing it.

I took the kids out to Kanes, a local nursery that's like the Walmart of nurseries.  But you know what?  Everything I've ever gotten there has done really well.  We had a blast in the greenhouse picking out plants and admiring the sleeping kitties tucked away in little nooks.  And we came home with these beauties:

Check out the texture on that Pilea!  How cool are those leaves?

And look at the gorgeous green and pink foliage on the Fittonia!  It almost reminds me of watermelon.  So pretty.

And look at the leaf on this.. plant!  Yes, I lost the little plant label thingy.  Oh, had I tricked you with my clever plant-name-dropping?  Well, hey.. whatever its name is, it's lovely.

I got the Aralia mostly for height, but its leaves are variegated, too, so that's a bonus!  It looks so delicate.

We also grabbed some potting mix (nothing organic here, since we're not eating any of these babies) and some horticultural charcoal, since there won't be any drainage holes in the planters.

You may have noticed the aloe off to the side in the group shot.  I had plans for other plants to be grouped together in a giant glass terrarium, but the aloe has different needs so I picked up this cute little planter from Michael's.  I want plants in each room, and I figured aloe is perfect for the kitchen.

I filled the bottom with some charcoal...

Put my aloe in, packed some potting soil around the edges, and voila!  Isn't she lovely?  By the way, yes, I was doing this all on my dining room table.  These plants all need to stay out of direct sun and I figured if I brought these all outside to plant, I'd probably get pulled away (hello, four children!) and leave them out there too long.

Now for the terrarium!  Eee!  I have to say, this project was a little more fidgety and difficult than I was expecting.  Step one:  pour charcoal into giant glass terrarium.  Step two:  clean the glass.  And again.

Once the glass was somewhat clear of dust, I put a layer of potting soil down and set my plants inside.  It became apparent right away that one plant (the mysterious nameless one) was not going to fit.  They look so tiny in the greenhouse, but huge inside the terrarium!

After the plants are in place, then fill in with potting soil around the edges and in between the plants.  You don't want to put in a ton of potting soil first and try to dig holes, that just wouldn't work.  Not that this way was a piece of cake, but still.  Once everything is firmly planted, get out your sheets of moss.  Wait, you don't happen to have sheets of moss just lying around your house?  You can get this stuff at Michael's and AC Moore.

Tear off pieces and cover up the bare soil sort of like you'd use mulch.  You'll probably need to wet it to get it to stay put - I did.  If you have some little pebbles or rocks, you can add those for decoration, too.  You should end up with something like this:

Okay, so I may have gotten a little tired of trying to clean the glass, and there might still be some smudges of soil on it.  But isn't it beautiful?

Friday, August 30, 2013

For The Birds

My plan was to write about house-hunting, how we're getting ready to move from northeastern Massachusetts to southeastern New Hampshire (which is not a big move, obviously).  I was going to talk about some of the cool houses we've seen, features we like, etc.  Then I took a picture of the birds at some of my bird feeders, planning to illustration how important the outdoors is for us, and the direction of my thinking went totally off track.

Here are the bird feeders on our second-story deck.

We've had feeders here for a while, and I always get so much enjoyment out of them.  The slider to the deck is in our dining room, and there's nothing like watching the birds and squirrels eating while we're eating, too.  Watching and caring for the birds always makes me feel connected to my grandmother, and I find that so soothing.

Of course, we have some other family members who also love watching the birds, but probably not for the same reasons.  Here's our 11 year old lab mix, Madison.  She doesn't care too much about the birds, but she loves the squirrels.  And with her is Moxie, who's about a year and a half old.

I tried to get a picture of Moxie's brother, Milky Way, but he was not cooperative.  This was the best I could do.

The 'older' cat is Indy, he's four and Colwyn's 'son' - and he's such a grouch.  But we still love him.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Print Wall Art

In my quest to update my decor - which hasn't been updated in at least ten years (...I feel old) - I stumbled upon this picture on Pinterest:

It's from Blue Cricket Design and she gives a great tutorial on how to make it.  I loved the idea and naturally had to try it - with my own modifications.

First, I found an old damaged book.  In this case, it was a Pippi Longstocking book that Niall had ripped the cover off of.  I pulled out a bunch of pages and made sure all the straight edges were interestingly torn.

Then I mod-podged them to my canvas.  Spread a bunch of glue in one area, put down a page, and mod-podge over that.  Rinse and repeat until the canvas is totally covered.

In the tutorial, she used some magazine cutouts of birds and drew the branches and leaves by hand, then colored over it all with sharpie.  Obviously it looked great, but I wanted to use my Silhouette craft cutter instead.  I got to mess around with the design a lot without drawing all over my canvas, and then once it was cut, I just had to glue it down, and seal it with more mod podge.  I made sure to include a cardinal, as a nod to my grandmother.

I think it came out really well.  Unfortunately, I can't take a nicely staged picture of it because my house is a mess.. but you get the idea.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sewing Fun

Last year, I sewed a bunch of nightgowns for Fiona as one of her Christmas gifts.  She loves nightgowns but only had a few old pill-y fleece ones.  I found an awesome and incredibly easy tutorial for a raglan dress at Ikatbag.  When I say it's easy.. it's really, really incredibly easy.  I did modify the pattern a bit for her nightgowns - made the sleeves full length, and shirred the neck instead of using an elastic casing.  She loves them, though, and they're so cute!

Well, for her birthday (yes, back in June), she got Bitty Twins but the clothing - oy!  American Girl Doll stuff is incredibly expensive.  She got an extra outfit for each doll, but no pajamas.  I promised I'd make her some.. and finally, three months later, I got around to it.  Well, for the girl doll.. I haven't done the boy's yet.

I used the same pattern and just trimmed it a bit.  Well, a lot.  But anyway, I got it done in about 45 minutes.  Not bad, huh?

Then I happened to find some fabric I bought for her last fall, planning to make a dress.  I'd forgotten all about it!  She's grown a fair bit so I didn't have enough to make a dress, but I was able to make an adorable tunic using the same raglan dress pattern.  It took me about an hour this time.  She's been wearing it all day - with a skirt, which looks a little goofy - I meant for her to wear it with leggings, but it's pretty warm out.

Here's a close-up of the shirring.

It's just so damn cute!  I get the feeling she's going to have many more of these dresses in her fall wardrobe.  I love the raglan style and the option of doing different colors for the sleeves.  I also want to try doing some different sections of fabric on the skirt, sort of like her princess twirly dress.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mill Brook Meadow Park, Rockport

Colwyn and Lachlann started an art class today with some fellow homeschoolers.  This is the first time they've done a real drop-off class, so we were all excited.  The teacher, a local artist, was very nice and her home is knock-your-socks off gorgeous.  Now, I'm not going to say that as soon as I got home, I looked up her street on Zillow (because in reality, it was about two hours later), but these are all well-over-two-million-dollar houses.  Boy, did I feel out-classed!  Seriously, though, the teacher was so nice and down to earth, and the boys had a great time.  I'm sure it also helped that their classmates are all good friends of ours.

While the boys got their art on, the littles and I (and the other mommies and their littles) tried out a new park.  It's called Mill Brook Meadow Park in Rockport, and it's a very good thing I spent a ton of time on Google Maps trying to figure out where it is, because it's really tucked away.  But this park is amazing!  There's a quaint little picket fence at the entrance, and just inside is a gorgeous English garden.  This little picture of Fiona and Niall doesn't do it justice because they weren't cooperating, but oh.. so beautiful.

Look at this lovely hydrangea.  Blue hydrangeas are right up at the top of my list of favorite flowers.  Oh, other interesting note.. the artist's street was just filled with blue hydrangeas.. some purple, too.  The kids said it should be called Blue Hydrangea Street.

Given that the name of the park is Mill Brook Meadow, you'd be right in assuming that there's both a meadow and a brook.  The brook is overflow from a pond at the far end of the park and was running fairly high today.  It goes the length of the park and includes some areas bordered with rocks, one area where it widens into a small lily pond, and some 'rapids' that the kids loved.

That little sign in the above picture states that the Rockport Garden Club is trying to eradicate two invasive species of plants and includes pictures.  Goodness.  There are two wooden bridges and a stone bridge over the brook, leading to little nooks and paths that give it a very "Secret Garden" feeling.  There were lots of butterflies and dragonflies flitting around.

We all agreed that the bridges would be a great spot to play "Pooh Sticks" and we thought that next time, we could bring little boats to race downstream.

I read online that there was some playground equipment there - that turned out to be a slide and three swings, which was more than enough given all the natural play areas.  Niall definitely liked the slide.

Across from the playground is a public beach that boasts the cleanest bathrooms I've ever seen.  There are inns all over the place and Bearskin Neck is a relatively short walk away.  But right next to the park is a little place called  Nate's at Front Beach that serves breakfast and lunch, and dinner on the weekends.  We might have to try it out sometime.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Success and a New Challenge

I am pleased to announce that I was a winner in my DietBet!  I reached my goal weight (4% lost) just in the nick of time and made $25 to boot!  That's not bad, huh?

I had so much fun doing this DietBet, and really found the accountability and camaraderie helpful that I've decided to start my own DietBet!  I'd absolutely love for you to join!  It's a way to motivate yourself to get healthy, and you might just make some money off of it!  So, please.. consider joining.  I'd love to have some people to play with!

Oh, and as a side note - you do not have to make your weight public.  I know I was concerned about that at first, but it's quite easy to keep your weight hidden and only show how close you are to reaching your goal.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again!

I've jumped back onto the weight loss bandwagon, yay!  I've been at it for a week so far and I'm doing great.  I've been planning on starting to eat healthier, hemming and hawing, and one of the things that pushed me into it was an invitation to do a Diet Bet through a parenting forum I've been on forever.  Diet Bet is pretty cool.. you get a group of people who all want to do something crazy, like lose 4% of their body weight in 4 weeks.  Then you set a fee to join (in my case, it's $15).  All that money goes into a pot that gets split by those who are successful at the end of the 4 weeks.  To discourage cheating when you weigh in, you have to take a full body picture of yourself on the scale, and then take a picture of the scale's readout, with your feet clearly visible, and an index card that has a special code word written on it.  Then the Diet Bet staff verify your weigh in.  It seems weird that the prospect of winning a little bit of money would be so motivating, but it is.  I'm sure it's also because these people know me and my success (or failure!) is there for everyone to see.

The other thing that pushed me into a desperate desire to do something about my weight was weighing myself and realizing that I'm at my highest weight ever.  I'm so disappointed in myself, and so sad.  Here I am, feeling pretty crappy about myself.

Ugh.  It's painful to post that picture.

I'm incorporating a lot of different techniques into this newest attempt at getting healthy.  One thing I'm relying on, that I find very helpful, is EFT or tapping.  It seems very new-agey and a little out there, but tons of therapists recommend it, and there is some reputable scientific evidence showing that it works.  I bought a book called EFT for Weight Loss: The Revolutionary Technique for Conquering Emotional Overeating, Cravings, Bingeing, Eating Disorders, and Self-Sabotage (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and I love it.  It has a lot of practical suggestions for how to use tapping on weight loss, and also lots of inspirational stories.

I've also tried going to Overeaters Anonymous but the first meeting I tried didn't really speak to me.  It may have had something to do with the fact that it was at 9am on Saturday.  Ugh!  But there are a few other meetings around at better times, I just have to find babysitting.. so I'm working on that.  But I have a few twelve-step workbooks that I'm using to work the program on my own at the very least, given that I'm pretty familiar with twelve-step programs.

I haven't chosen a diet plan to follow, but I am trying to cut out a lot of processed sugars and eat low carb.  I'm tracking my food and weight loss on My Fitness Pal.  I'm not sure that I like it as much as Spark People, but I want to give it a chance.  You can check out my profile if you like.

So, wish me luck!  I lost 5 pounds the first week, here's to 2 pounds down a week!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

DIY Canvas Wall Art

For my foyer project, I needed some big art.  We've got some huge blank walls, but unfortunately, my budget is, like.. zero.  So I started searching on Pinterest and other websites for a good DIY art project.  I came across this picture that I really, really liked.

I've seen a few different blogs that try to recreate this painting which, from what I gather, is fairly expensive.  I liked this blog post the most:  Painted Wall Art for Non Artists.

So I went out to the craft store and picked up a canvas (mine is 18x24 or something like that), a bunch of paint, and some circular foam brushes.  When picking out the paint, I decided to get two different shades for the base coat on the canvas.  I like how the inspiration piece looks distressed and a little uneven, and I didn't want mine to look too new or 'perfect' (ha!).

My next step was to ask my four- and two-year-olds to help me paint, because obviously, Mommy can't paint anything without their expertise.  The base coat was actually perfect for them to help with since you can't really screw it up.. unless you leave it unsupervised and your two-year-old decides to scrape the paint off with a toy-kitchen-spatula.  Then you might have to touch it up a bit.

Anyway.  This is what my canvas looked like when I was done.  Hopefully you can see the different shades on it.

The directions on the blog suggested using a paint pen, which I'm sure would have been marvelously easy and convenient.  However, I didn't really want to spend the money when I'm somewhat capable with a paintbrush.  I wish I had painted my branches a little differently, but I think it came out alright.

Once the branches are dry, I got dot-happy.  Most of my dots needed a second (and third) coat to make sure the branches aren't showing through, and looking at this picture, I can see that it's not perfect on all of them.

So this monster of a canvas is now hanging in my foyer (which is still a post for another day).  I'm debating on whether to add some outlining to the dot flowers, and whether I should do some distressing of it.  It does look a little too new, but overall, I'm really happy with it.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Family Fun Night - Tomorrowland

We started having regular Family Fun Nights in our house about a year ago, in anticipation of our trip to Disney World.  We wanted the kids to have a 'refresher' on the movies they don't watch all the time, and we also wanted a way to make January not seem impossibly far away.  We did them every Saturday night.  Most were low key, where we just picked a movie, a 'matching' food and dessert, and sometimes an activity or we'd play Disney Cranium.  Sometimes we did a little more with decorations, but not often.

Now that our trip is over and we don't have another one planned any time soon, we didn't want to keep doing weekly Disney Family Fun Nights.. but we still wanted to keep the Disney magic alive.  So we switched to doing them monthly, and putting more effort into them.  We also decided to switch from having the theme be strictly a movie, to an area in Disney World itself.  This week the kids decided they wanted to do Tomorrowland - one of the hardest, in my opinion, but we had a great time!

This is a photo-intensive post, so the rest of it is after the cut!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Tie-Dye Galore!

I recently noticed that my inventory of tie-dye t-shirts has gotten rather low, so I set to work remedying that. I've been a tie-dying maniac lately, and my Etsy shop shows it!  Let me brag for a moment and share some lovely Mickey head tie-dyes with you.

This is a cute Youth Size 6 dress (from Dharma Trading) that I dyed with Tangled colors, but still with the Mickey Head on the front.  So cute!  I love the lettuce hems and ruffles.

For the grown ups, I went with a striking turquoise and orange combination in this shirt (size medium).

Isn't this one adorable?  It's a Youth XS in a real rainbow of colors.

Aren't they just so fun?  Tie-dying can be a real pain in the butt and literally backbreaking, but I love the surprise of finding out what all my hard work actually ends up looking like.  There's a ton more listed in my shop if you want to take a peek!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

DIY Hydrangea Wreath

After our most recent playdate where I was teased (in a gentle, loving way) for still having my Christmas wreath on my front door, I decided to look around on Pinterest for some inspiration.  I could have just picked something up at Target or AC Moore, but I much prefer to make things myself when I can.  Pinterest is full of gorgeous wreaths and it was really difficult to choose which I liked the most.  In the end, I decided to draw my inspiration from this wreath:

Hydrangeas are one of my two favorite flowers (daffodils being the other), so this seemed perfect.  I wanted something less formal for the bow, though, and I decided to swap out the green flowers for blue.  Off to AC Moore to pick up supplies!

This is the ribbon I picked out.  It's not quite the same shade of blue as the flowers, but I liked it, and that's what counts, right?  I also picked out three stems of three different colors of hydrangeas and a grapevine wreath.  I picked the grapevine mostly because it was the only one that was the right size, but also because if I didn't have quite enough flowers, I figured it'd look best peeking through the foliage.

Once I got home, I got out my heavy duty snippers and cut off each head of flowers, leaving about an inch of stem to shove into the wreath.  I also snipped off all the leaves and made two big piles.

Then it was time to tie on my bow.  Now, I suck at tying bows, so this was probably the hardest part.  It took me several tries to make it look halfway decent.

Once my bow was satisfactory (make sure you tie it in a spot where the wreath won't hang crooked, too), I played around with arranging the flowers.  It wasn't quite as full as I'd imagined, but with some careful spacing, I got it to look pretty good.  Now - I'm not a professional wreath maker, and I'm sure the 'proper' way to attach the flowers is wire of some sort, but I just used hot glue.  It seems to be holding up fine so far.

Next came the leaves.  I just wedged them in anywhere that was a little empty, trying to vary which way the leaves pointed, and whether they were on the inside or outside of the wreath.  I had to hold the wreath up a few times to check my progress and make sure it all looked even.

The only thing left was hanging it on the front door.  Doesn't it look great?  It's a bit lopsided in the picture, I think due to the way the door was angled.  It's not lopsided at all in real life.  And yes, I know my front door needs a new coat of paint.  One thing at a time!