Monday, June 12, 2017

1 Family x 12 (June)

A few weeks ago we scheduled a family photo shoot with Ryan's family and I'm SO happy with how the pictures turned out!!  This is one of my favorites and it's too perfect not to share as our family photo for the month.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tiny Dancer

Another year of ballet in the books!  I mean, if nothing else, the entire year was worth it for this one picture.  Man...she slays me!!

Ellyn sponsored Abby's ballet classes again this year and I have to say, she IS getting better at it.  I mean, to be fair, we expected very little this year, based on her performance last year, and I'd have to say that she did way better than we expected.  There was a little bumpy patch in there where she complained about going to classes for a few weeks, but we just kept taking her and she got over it.  I think the movie Trolls helped too.  There is lots of fun music and she loves dancing along with the maybe she'll be a dancer after all.

When we got home that night, I asked he if she liked being in ballet and if she wanted to do it again next year and she responded "Mommy, I'm a dancer, it's what I do"!!  Kids...where do they come up with this stuff?

Keep on dancing, little one!  Keep on dancing!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Old stories (otherwise known as "I'll catch up some day...")

Disclaimer: These pictures are old.  Like, it still looks like winter around here, but in real life, it's full on spring with lots of leaves, grass, flowers etc.  But, there are some gems in here I just couldn't help sharing.

Two years ago Ryan built a really nice swing set for the girls, from scratch, without plans (well, he drew up the plans himself) and with just a little help from his dad and mine.  When we moved here to Marengo, the swing set was actually the first thing we moved...a few weeks before closing (thanks Pam and Gary) and we're so glad we took the time to bring it along with.

Now that Abby's a little bigger, and braver, and Hazel is pretty independent, the kids will often take their little Jeep out the swing set and play together without a ton of supervision from us.  Abby loves to push Hazel in the swing, and Abby has even figured out how to use the adult sized swing...though it's a little too tall for her to get on by herself.

One of the many Spring projects we've been tackling around the house is getting the mulch and sand set for the swing set (finally!).  You can see the timbers laid out in these pictures from the frame of the swing set box and in real life the sandbox has already been built and sand poured.  The box for the swing set has already been built and there is a huge pile of 10 yards of mulch poured right near there just waiting for me to stop feeling lazy and start shoveling it into place (and waiting for the dang rain to stop!).  Hopefully by next weekend we'll be able to check this project off our to-do list as well...and maybe, if you're lucky, I'll take some pictures to show you how it turned out!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

House Updates (Spring 2017)

Ok, time to get my "you know what" together and get some blog posts out the door.  We've made a few changes around the house over the winter months and I've been terrible about sharing and documenting so I wanted to do a quick round up of the some of the changes we've made.

First up was the guest bedroom/workout room.  You may remember from my move in post that we had one unfinished space in the house when we first moved in.  It was in the basement and we used the space as Ryan's office, a workout room and the guest bedroom.  In the picture above, the space where Ryan's bike and weight set, used to house his desk.  Then, roughly where the rug and stet equipment is was the extra bedroom set for guests.

Back over Christmas when Ryan had a few light weeks we framed up a wall splitting this one large room into two space.  The guest bedroom and Ran's desk now sit toward the back of the space, and the workout room is in the front.  The only slightly strange thing about the whole configuration is that you need to walk through the workout room to access the guest bedroom in the back.  But, it works for us, and that's all that matters.  It's nice that the guest room has a window so you get some natural light.

Both rooms are painted and dry-walled so the only thing we have left to do is get flooring down in both rooms.  We plan to add normal carpeting (maybe carpet squares) to the guest room and then that rubber gym flooring to the workout room...once we replenish the house funds.

The biggest project we completed this year was one that most people will likely never even see.  We decided to convert our heat from propane to wood burner.  Our old house on Robin Lane was propane as well so after living with it for 4 years we knew the cost was high and could fluxuate quite a bit between any given year.  To give you some perspective, we spent between $2k and $4k a YEAR to heat the house on Robin Lane and our new house is larger and we knew we wanted to heat the shop for Ryan.  We priced out the cost to switch over to Nicor, the cost of adding the wood burner and the cost of doing GeoThermal and decided that our best bet was wood burning.

Most people have never even heard of heating a house this way and certainly have never considered actually doing it, but my parents installed one three winters ago so we've been learning on the sidelines and deciding if it was the right fit for us.  Don't get me wrong, it's a lifestyle choice, that's for sure.  We'll spend MANY weekends cutting, splitting and stacking wood to heat our house each year, but the end result is "free heat".  I say in in quotes because the real cost comes in manual labor and boy does it take a lot.  Not only do we have to cut, split and stack the wood to feed this thing all winter long, but we also have to load the burner twice a day, every day to keep the thing running.  The up side though is that we can heat our house for very little cost now that we've got it installed. And, we've set it up to also heat the shop and the pool in the summer time so we'll be nearly 100% off propane.  We will still have a tank and will still need propane to run our appliances and heat the house whenever we aren't running the burner (like if we're gone for a weekend or something) but our costs to heat will reduce greatly.

Installing the burner involved a few weekends of projects in prep for the actual installation.  Fist we needed to trench in the water lines that run from the burner to the house.  You can see pictures of the trench through our back yard a few photos up.  We rented a trencher and had both sets of parents out the help.  Then, the following weekend we poured the concrete slab you see here behind the shop.  Eventually we'll extend the shop roof over the burner and it will cover our wood pile (which you see prepped here behind the burner with wood pallets).  The goal will be that we can keep a supply of wood dry and load the burner all with a roof over our heads because running this thing in the rain or snow can be one cold job!

We've been hard at work building up a supply of lumber for this upcoming winter.  Most wood should dry for about 6 months before we burn it so we're feeling a little behind the 8-ball these days.  Ideally we'd be cutting wood right now for NEXT winter (not the one coming up again in 6 months) but we'll get there.  These pictures are old because we've already got that palleted space nearly full as high as we can stack it with we're making progress toward being ready for winter.  As I said, this is totally a lifestyle choice and you should anticipate lots of pictures of us cutting wood and running this dang thing.  I am already planning a post called "things I learned while owning a wood burner" which I can already tell you will include "how to stack a good wood pile" and "how to identify poison ivy".  I'm sure there will be some hilarious stories to tell about this latest of McGrath adventures, so stay tuned.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter 2017

We had a great Easter this year.  The girls really make all of the holidays so fun!  It's awesome to see the holiday magic through their eyes.  I mean, look how excited Abby is in the picture below! That was taken just as she'd found their Easter baskets in the toy room.

Hazel was perfectly happy to find 1-2 eggs and then sit down to enjoy her candy.  She left all the other eggs for Abby to find...she had what she needed (sugar) and nothing was going to stop her for enjoying each and every piece of it.

This Easter we headed back to Freeport for the day to spend it with my parents, Joey and Andy (and family) and my Aunt Peggy.  Dan and Ellyn had planned to join us as well, but decided last minute to stay home because Ellyn wasn't feeling 100%.  So, since we wanted to get going on the road, we did a quick Easter hunt here at home before loading up to celebrate with the family.

Unfortunatetly it was a little rainy on Sunday morning, so we couldn't do an outside egg hunt.  Since moving here to Marengo, we've been loving every single inch of our yard and I was particularly excited to do our egg hunt outside this year.  Maybe next year....

Hazel and her "treats".  This kid....if there is one thing I've noticed, it's that the second kid gets WAY more treats than the first ever did.  Abby would have had eggs filled with Goldfish or Animal Crackers at this age...but trying to tell Hazel that she can't have the same candy as her sister just is NOT a battle I'm willing to fight. So, sweets and candies for both peanuts it is.

After letting the girls enjoy a few candies and pick a toy or two from their basket we quickly got dressed and loaded up to head to Freeport.  Of the MANY reasons we love our new house is the proximity to both my parents and Ryan's.  We are about 45 minutes away from Ryan's parents and about 1 hour 15 minutes from mine.  Meaning that day trips are totally doable. So, off we went to Freeport to join everyone else for Easter lunch and yet another egg hunt.

Like at our house, Abby and Kayden did the majority of the egg hunting.  Hazel found her 3-4 eggs and plopped down to munch her way through the treats.  Abby and Kayden had so much fun driving around the new power wheel truck my parents bought to spy out egg after egg after egg.  These little kids are so dang spoiled...and they are so lucky that they have so many people that love them.

Peggy came down to join us for the weekend and we were so glad to spend the day with her too. She's been making the trip from Milwaukee to Freeport more often in the last few years and we're so thankful for the time we get to spend with her!!

As with most holidays, we ate too much, had a few drinks, some laughs and of course, did a little work.  I'll be blogging about some upgrades we've done to the house since we moved in, but one of the big ones is installing a wood burner that will heat our house, the pool and Ryan's shop...meaning we will relay very little on propane but, it means we have a LOT of work ahead of us as far as wood cutting goes.  So, on Easter Sunday we swapped out our nice clothes for work clothes and loaded an entire dump trailer full of wood, destined for our house.

All in all, it was a great weekend and we're so thankful we got to spend it with some of the people we love most in the world!

Friday, April 21, 2017

1 Family x 12 (April)

Guys - I've been terrible at blogging these last few months.  It's like I forgot I had a camera and a blog to keep track of our lives.  But, I promise I've got some posts coming at you in the coming week including updates on some house projects we've been working on, pictures from Easter and just some random things I think you'll enjoy!  But, for now, here's our family picture for April!!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Wisconsin Dells 2017

Well, another spring, another trip to the Wisconsin Dells.  This year the kids were SO much  more excited about the water than they've ever been.  About 3 months ago Ryan and I decided to enroll both kids in swim lessons.  We took Abby when she was a little younger than Hazel but ultimately weren't consistent with it.  Now that we have a big beautiful pool just a few steps away from our back door we knew we needed to get the kids feeling comfortable (and safe) in the water.

Both kids did so good this year, I was so impressed.  They needed to wear life jackets in and around the pool for safety reasons (of course) but even Abby, my scardey cat, is used to being in the pool without her life jacket.  Fingers crossed they'll both be ready for the pool in just a few month.

I don't even know how it's possible, but somehow I ended up with ZERO pictures of Tanner/Jenny/Jack who also joined us on this trip.  I mean...come on!  I'm getting worse and worse at this picture taking thing.  Gah!  And, if I'm honest, part of the problem was that I forgot my camera entirely for this trip.  Doh!  Good thing Jamie had hers and there is always the trusted phone!

Last year we stumbled on a little known pool area at the Wilderness called Wilderness on the Lake.  It's a much smaller pool/play area but it is SO MUCH less crowded than the other areas.  There are no big slides for the adults but the kids were in heaven in this little area and we adults were happy to sit sidelines and watch the little ones run circles around the play equipment.  Abby's favorite was without a doubt the green slide.  I bet she went down that slide at least 100 times each time we went.

Gosh, we have the cutest clan of little girls.  I mean, how can you resist!?!

If there were two things I could change about this trip they would be:

  1. The Stadermann family would have been able to join.  We missed them a ton this year!
  2. We'd have reserved a different room setup.  Upon check in we were super annoyed to find out that our 3 bedroom loft condo really meant two full bedrooms and the third bedroom WAS the loft.  Stupid.  It was not ideal but we made it work.  All of the adults ended up squishing out in the little screened in porch in the evenings so the kids could sleep (even poor Tanner in the loft).  

All in all though, I'd have to say that we successfully planned and executed our fourth year at the Dells.  Every year we do it I am astounded by just how much crap it takes to move a family of four 3 hours north to a hotel for the weekend.  Good lord!  We had the entire van packed.  Part of it is having small kids, part of it is that we cooked most of our meals in the condo, and the other part is that well, we have a lot of crap!  HAHA!

I mean, that smiling face made it all worth it though!  These are memories I hope they have forever and ever.  I remember back to the spring trip our parents planned for us each year.  It was usually around President's Day or Columbus Day when we'd been cooped up inside for too many months and we just needed a change of pace.  My parents and Jamie's would rent a hotel room somewhere not too far away but far enough to seem like a trip and they'd let us swim and play and be loud and eat pizza and just enjoy being somewhere other than home.  This trip is just that for our family and I hope we keep the tradition alive!

Summer will be here before we know it! (Right??).

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

1 Family x 12 (March)

Every spring, just about when the kids are going to lose their minds if we don't get out of the house and do something different, we pack up way more things than you could ever imagine we'd need for two days, invite some friends, and head to the water parks in the Dells.  We've been doing it since Abby was a baby and it's always a great time.  This year we missed our normal partners in crime, the Stadermann's, but they'll be with us next year, god willing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

1 Family x 12 (Feb)

It always feels like the winter months are slow for me on the blog. But, I couldn't let the month of Feb get away from me without posting our monthly family photo.  I don't think I've missed a month since we started and these pictures tend to be my most treasured ones throughout the year.

This past week the weather has been AMAZING - think 70 degrees in mid Feb.  I mean, we don't even know what to do with ourselves.  I sent the girls to daycare today in t-shirts!  This past weekend we decided to take advantage of the warm weather and get going on what will likely be our new favorite pass time - making fire wood.  In the spring we'll be installing an outdoor wood burner that will heat our entire house, shop and pool all year round.  So - we need to start stockpiling that wood now!  Ryan, my Dad and I spent nearly 2 full days cutting and splitting wood and while we made a big dent in it, we're going to need more.  Bring on the steel toed boots and ear protection!

Monday, January 23, 2017

1 Family x 12 (January)

A few weekends ago we ventured into the city with the girls to check out the Shedd Aquarium.  We had a great time and now we're looking into yearly museum memberships for the family.

Oh, and pigtails....let the cuteness begin!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A special gift for a special friend (Quilt)

You guys, I am so in love with this quilt.  It turned out better than I could have hoped.  Plus, the bright rainbow colors help to brighten up these cold, dark winter days!

The back features Dr. Seuss fabric because the recipient of this quilt is an avid reader just like me and I knew she would love it as much as I did.

It's been a LONG time since I finished a quilt.  I think my last quilt was for Baby Brennan and I finished it when I was on maternity leave with Hazel.  I've spent a ton of time this past year knitting and I'd almost forgotten how much I loved to quilt.  This one came together pretty fast once I had the fabric cut.  Each of the squares was 2.5 inches (2 inches finished) and the blocks are made of "scrap" fabric.

Scrap quilts sound easy right?  You just use what you've got on hand....which, while that is true, this one proved especially hard because I was trying really hard for contrast within  my blocks.  So, not only did I need 13 different fabrics for each block, but I needed to colors to be similar.  So similar greens or reds...meaning I had to cut a LOT of fabric to get to this point.  I figured, as long as I was cutting I may as well cut enough to make a few so, I've got piles and piles of 2.5 inch squares ready for my next scrap quilt.

I've learned that I really enjoy scrap work when it's organized, like this quilt.  It's just a random mish-mash of fabrics, but it's coordinated and used as the focal point by incorporating a lot of white space, allowing your eye to focus on the bright spots.  I've also learned that I love working with 2.5 inch squares.  This is the third quilt I've done in this size and they blocks are just big enough that they are fiddly.  Finally, if you can't tell by now, I love color off set by a good neutral.

After quilting for nearly 4 years now I'm finally finding my groove.  Here's to 2017 being the year of the quilt.  Hazel's photo project quilt is on deck next and I've already picked out the pattern.  Next step: cutting.  So. Much. Cutting.