Unplugged Play – Playing the Sock Game

January 30th, 2014

  It’s hard with a 1 and a 2 year old to figure out new and fun things to do with them especially working full-time. And all too often, a movie is the solution for keeping them occupied. I recently picked up this book Unplugged Play by Bobbi Conner in an effort to find some fun simple activities with my boys.
unplugged-playI like this book for many reasons. One of them is that it’s sectioned by age group. So I can look through just the 1-2 year old toddler section, or the 3-4 year old preschooler group. There are a lot of familiar games, and variations on familiar games, but there are also many new and simple games that i’ve never thought of to play with my little ones.

My son’s favorite game so far has been what we call “the sock game” It’s a  really simple premise. You gather a bunch of big socks, and put little household objects/small toys in them without your child seeing (See easy! All stuff you have on hand).

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Then you give your child one sock at a time, and have them feel the object and try to guess what’s inside. Ollie would want to quickly look inside, so I started setting a timer for 1 minute with each sock to give him time to really think about what he was feeling.

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During that 1 minute, I also ask him simple questions like “Is it hard or soft?” “Will it bend or is it straight?” “What shape is it?”  ”Is it big, or is it small?” etc.

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He’s not quite 3 years old and LOVES to play this game. Usually we can do 2 rounds in one sitting before he’s ready to do something else. And I’m always impressed by which objects he can identify by just feeling them.

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It’s been great finding simple learning activities for his age, and this book has activities for up to age 10, so I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out of it for years to come!

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Construction Party – Leo’s First birthday

November 22nd, 2013

We never expected to still be in our rental for Leo’s first birthday. But because it took us so long to finish the design phase of our house build, we knew this day was coming and hosting a party was not entirely feasible. I’ve been stressing over his party for months now. Our rental is filled to the brim with cabinets, and boxes full of lighting, speakers, appliances, and personal effects. Having a party IN the house sounded like a really bad idea. But what else do you do at the end of October in Utah? Planning an outdoor party is even more nuts than having one in my crazy filled up space. And not having a party at all was just not an option, not for his first year.

I thought about hosting it at some sort of event facility, but that seems overkill for a first birthday party. I decided to just “make it work” and do a very small family party in our rental. One of my facebook followers suggested a construction party, and I thought it was an awesome idea because 1.Our lives, of course are in the middle of a huge construction phase, and 2. if the theme is construction, your house doesn’t have to look all fabulous and put together. And hey, that plywood and sledge hammer that is sitting on our front porch is now considered “decorations” Score!

What I didn’t expect, was that on the day of the party it would be 70 degrees outside. And so on that beautiful warm fall day (November 2nd if you can believe it), we had our little party out in the backyard. It was glorious to not have to worry about our crowded messy house, and everyone had a relaxing time sitting in the beautiful weather.

I tried to keep everything fairly simple because of the chaos we are constantly living in. The two things that I spent time on were the royal iced cookies, and the cone-shaped smash cake. Everything else was really simple and easy!

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My main decoration was this awesome CONSTRUCTION ZONE sign that I found at an antique market. It’s an actual really old hand-painted sign. I love it and plan on hanging it up in the playroom in our new house. Anyway, I was able to use it as a really cool backdrop and so everything else came together pretty fast.

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For the treats, I made royal-iced cookies. This was only my second time making piped cookies (the first time was practice for this), I think they turned out great! It’s a lot of work , but I’ve been wanting to learn how to do it, so this was a great opportunity to dive in (more pictures of those below).

The other treats are simple things like cheese-its (floor tile), sun chips (shingles), pretzels (rebar), and graham crackers (plywood), and starbursts (bricks). Most of our servingware is in storage, so I just used random plastic and glass food containers and went for that mis-matched construction kind of look.

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For the cake I went super simple, and picked up a plain chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from Costco, and put little construction diggers and dump trucks on it with some crushed oreos (a few oreos go a LONG way). We still have 2/3rds of this cake in our freezer!

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For drinks I got the Mexican made Fanta that kind of look like road barricades/cones. I had big plans to strip off the labels with some acetone, etc. but cooler heads prevailed and I just chilled the drinks and put them out.

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Mr. Project was in charge of the real food. He made bacon-wrapped turkey skewers, pigs in blankets (half hot dogs wrapped in Pilsbury crescent rolls) for the kids, sweet potato fries, rolls, and a veggie tray (there really was one, it just didn’t end up in the pictures!).

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Here is the sweet birthday boy holding his little construction hat. He’s the best baby… but he’s not really a baby anymore :(

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Its a miracle that I actually got him wearing his hat – this kid hates hats!

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Here he is with cousins Josh and Aubry – the oldest grandchild and the youngest grandchild in the family.

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My awesome brother got him a little Cosmo (BYU mascot), he loves stuffed animals and so a tiny cosmo was perfect!

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We also had a little favor table when you came in at the back gate. I bagged up the piped cookies as favors, and bought some orange bubble tape gum, and plastic yellow hard hats from Oriental Trading Co.

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Here are the cookies up close:

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And in their bags… so cute!
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And while I’m showing close-ups, here are some close-ups of the big cake:
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And while I’m showing cakes… I should show the cone cake that I made for Leo’s smash cake. I took pictures of the process. I can post that as it’s own post in a few days (how many times have I said that??).  This was my first sculpted cake. It turned out pretty good but kind of got a little melty-lopsided in the sun. I used sugar paper for the white stripe and the orange square at the bottom.

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Here’s the super cute birthday boy “digging in” He refused to touch the cone cake with his hands, but was happy to tear it up with a fork. Go figure.

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So there you have it, our perfect first birthday party for our little Leo. I couldn’t have asked for a better day, and never would have imagined that we could host his party outside. So happy for the little things that make life so wonderful, like having family over for some cake and conversation on a nice warm fall day and celebrating the one year anniversary of a brand new life – little leo – whom we cannot possibly live without.

The Project House Week 1

August 28th, 2013

theprojectgirl_excavationThe Project House V.2 has officially begun! We got our hole in the ground one week ago, and boy has it been a crazy crazy week!

We knew going into this process that there would be a lot of quick fire decision making, but we didn’t expect those decisions to come so early in the process and have such a huge impact on the build. On the first day we found out that our sewer was only buried 6 feet deep. That might not mean much to many people, but in Utah most homes have basements and if you plan on having any plumbing in your basement, then your basement has to be at least 1-3 feet above the sewer line. And then the basement foundation walls are another 8-10 feet tall on top of that. Then your floor joists are another 15″-18″ on top of that. Generally speaking sewer lines are buried 12 feet or more deep so that the basement can be fully underground.

Originally we had planned on a 9 foot basement. I love tall ceilings in basements, and really had my heart set on 9 feet. Well with this sewer issue, the first thing that had to go was the 9′ basement. Even with the 8′ basement, the house is sticking out of the ground 4.5-5 feet. Which is a lot. And because our lot slops a few feet in the back, the house now sticks out 7-7.5 feet in the back. Which is a lot. So as you can imagine, we’ve been panicking… wondering what are the best decisions… wondering if we should even keep going! And it’s the first week people! So stressful! Cooler heads did prevail… we dropped the basement to 8 feet tall, and decided to embrace the “daylight” basement and make the foundation wall feel less like a basement and more like a house. Here was our initial elevation of the back – we did have one portion “dug out” to have an exit from the basement. There was going to be about 4 feet of stairs to get out of that digout area:

theprojectgirl_rear1I changed the window configuration to take advantage of being above ground – added several windows (there weren’t any before where the triple windows now sit). And also added siding/board & batten instead of having giant exposed concrete areas. The result is that the rear of the house doesn’t feel like a giant concrete basement is just sitting out above ground. Seeing this helps me not panic so much.

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Of course this is just the house portion of the house. There is also a very large garage to contend with. We found out a few days later that because of the slope in the lot, the garage foundation will need to also be 8 feet tall. Which is a lot. Twice as much concrete as we had budgeted. And this is not a small 2 car garage… So we went totally off the deep end trying to see if it was worth it to completely halt construction and just go ahead and excavate under the garage and have an extended basement (daylight still in the back, so not unlivable). We could have a rentable apartment and a theatre room, etc etc etc. But to be able to afford all of that, we’d have to take money from the budget elsewhere, and we’re already camped firmly in the danger zone of the budget. So again cooler heads prevailed, and we coined the motto “STTP” Stick To The Plan. And as tempting as it is to gain another 2000 sq feet of space for pennies on the dollar (we’re already paying for 8 foot foundation walls!), we decided it wasn’t worth the cost of sanity, time, dollars, and a million more what-ifs and try-this. Have I mentioned it’s only been ONE WEEK? Anyone want to trade therapy for design advice?

So the build continued. Except we had record rain fall, mud slides, call-in-the-sand-bags crazy rain. All this AFTER we just dug a big hole in the ground (I really could use that therapy). And we were told that everything would have to wait because they can’t set up concrete forms while it’s raining, and they certainly can’t pour concrete when there is mud pouring down the mountain. We must be lucky though, because when the rain cleared up, our site just had a little compacting, no flooding, and no back flow into the hole. And we must be really lucky, because even though it was supposed to rain for many consecutive days after the big storm came through, it didn’t. The ground dried and the workers came and set up our footings.

The house is kind of long, so I can’t get it in one frame. This is the middle section where the breezeway is.

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And here is a panoramic shot – the panorama distorts the image, but you get the general idea.

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This morning Mr. Project went on his morning jog to the build site, and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw this big concrete pump at OUR BUILD SITE.  I got his excited text message and this photo:

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So amazing to see actual progress after so many odd setbacks. It’s happening. It’s really happening! Here is the concrete in the footings forms:

theprojectgirl_footings3The city will inspect tomorrow, and then foundation wall forms will begin to go up. And then I think it will really begin to feel real.

Maybe.

One interesting part about this whole process is comprehending the reality of the whole thing. Up to this point, it’s all felt like a fantasy in a way. A plan, something fun to think and dream about. Kind of like when your a kid, and you can’t wait to be a grown up… but you don’t think it will ever ACTUALLY happen – even though you KNOW it will of course happen. So your knowledge of something doesn’t quite jive with your experience. Up to this point we’ve only experienced the design & planning phase. Even now, I don’t believe that this house is actually being built, although I can see it and actually touch it. In my brain, it’s still just a dream and binder/blog full of plans. I look at the floor plan, and I know it backwards and forwards at this point. I’ve imagined living and using every single space in the house. And now even with something concrete in place, it still only exists in my imagination because the final product doesn’t exist. So maybe it wont feel real until we’ve actually moved in. I guess I’ll let you know when it does feel real.

Either way, I’m through the moon excited. I miss my old house every single day. I miss having my own work space, my own creative space, everything pretty much organized, and clean. I miss my clean house. I can’t seem to keep this transition house clean because nothing really has a spot, everything is transient and wondering when it’s going to taken to its final destination. Soon enough. My daily motto – soon enough. And it really is happening!