Gregory’s Playground

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Inside the house, the boys have quite a lot of room to play.

Our downstairs bedroom is entirely devoted to toys and crafts (better pics coming, someday). Β Our living room is pretty large and usually set up with trains or animals. The conversation/fire pit currently houses the train table extravaganza. And then they have their bedroom upstairs, which is free for the taking since we don’t use a baby gate (Anthony *only* had one or two major tumbles while he was figuring it all out…we like to live on the edge– er, hurtling ourselves down the edge, whichever way you look at it…).

But outside….our sideyard was still awaiting something fun for the boys. I’ve been TRYING to get Jesse to agree to buy a “big kid” playground made of wood for the boys to grow into, but he has firmly put his foot down about that one for now. The thing is, he makes a good argument, in many ways. So many people spend hundreds on a playground that their kids refuse to use, simply because whatever you don’t have is what you want. In other words, the playground at the park will always be more exciting.

And then, you take into account my boys. Gregory is adventurous, but only when he knows what the outcome will be, down to the most minute detail. I get it, because he inherited this from me. Move across the country? Sure, I’ll be brave, but only if you let me research the idea within an inch of its life.

And there’s AJ….AJ, who, at 16.5 months, still refuses to walk. Or stand on his own. His language abilities are off the charts for his age (he speaks in full sentences!), but he’s not the adventurous, fall-on-your-face type.

And don’t even TRY to get either of them on a swing. I’ve tried multiple times over the years, because what kid doesn’t love swings? But they get this strange look on their face, as though they are turning as red as a tomato and about to puke all over. And the whimpering…Swings are synonymous with torture devices in their book.

Now that I think through it, sadly, they both inherited that from me too. I get SO motion sick, that even swings are off limits for me 😦

So, given all that, is it worth the hundreds of dollars to buy a playground right now?

Probably not.

But that doesn’t mean we gave up on an outdoor play space for G. We inherited EVERYTHING, even the sand (I’m not a huge fan of “plastic” play things, but free is AWESOME in my book!), and Gregory hasn’t stopped playing with them since! *Seriously*. I can send him outside, watch from the dining and kitchen windows, and he will play for 1-2 hours straight. He collects all sorts of treasures from the yard, including acorns, feathers, and various rocks, and stores them in his “house”. He climbs like a monkey all over that thing. The slide is the perfect speed for him. NO SWINGS either.

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Really, this is just the thing for us at this point in time. Playgrounds are supposed to be fun and full of adventure, giving the kids the means to explore the outdoors on their own (I’m such a fan of “self-lead” learning, simply because they have fun and I get stuff done! Win-win!).

I foresee many more happy memories for the boys in the coming months πŸ™‚

my boys

One of my favorite things in the world is to cuddle with my boys first thing in the morning, especially if they wake up at the same time (7:45am today, thank God! Gregory has been getting up in the 6am hour lately which is driving us nuts!!!).

Turns out, it's super hard to get a selfie of all 3 of us, especially when one of them (ahem, Gregory!) is flailing about

Turns out, it’s super hard to get a selfie of all 3 of us, especially when one of them (ahem, Gregory!) is flailing about

I cannot say enough about how much joy these two bring me. Anthony, in particular, is SO cuddly since he stopped nursing a few weeks ago. He makes the sweetest little sighs when you hold him. He gives the biggest kisses, saying, “Tss! tss!”

Gregory, in particular, is turning into SUCH a little boy lately. He’s definitely showing signs of leaving the toddler stage and entering the preschool stage full-on. He talks to his belly when he’s full (“we gobbled up the food!”), gathers tons of acorns like a hoarder, buries things in the yard, dumps sand on his head at any opportunity, and loves to explore. Jesse is really loving this new stage with him, and I do too, most of the time (the independence, at times, makes me sad, but that’s why I have my barnacle Baby Anthony!).

I love my boys and I love spending time with them. I dread the day when they leave to start families of their own 😦

Anthony would NOT smile, so I joined him.

Anthony would NOT smile, so I joined him.

7 Year Anniversary Get Away– Limekiln State Park

Listen up– wanna know the BESTEST and most romantic campground on Hwy 1? Definitely Limekiln State Park.

To back up, we actually didn’t even get a reservation! When we checked online, the park was booked. Our Plan B was to try two different “first come, first serve” campgrounds about 20 minutes away.

But….with Jesse’s first day of teaching orientation, getting packed and getting the kids out the door to the grandparents, we left later than we wanted (remember what I said about Jesse only being late when it’s the family’s fault?). By the time we drove the 90 minutes and arrived at the two different campgrounds, every site was taken.

But we weren’t about to let something this small get in the way of our awesome anniversary trip! We decided that Plan C was to drive back the way we came and find a room in Cambria or San Simeon.

Before we turned around, however, we decided to go park at Limekiln and take a quick hike up to see the falls.

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We pulled up at the rangers window at Limekiln, and she asked if we had reservations. No….<sheepish look>. Then she asked if we wanted the Overflow Site.

What the WHAT? we both asked?

The Overflow Site, she explained. We’d have to park about 30 yards away, but we could park the car on it just to unload our stuff.

Oh, she added. It’s an oceanfront site. Hope that’s okay.

GET OUT! I screamed. No, I actually did. What was most awkward was the fact that she was 60+ years old, and didn’t understand. She just looked taken aback.

So, the long and short of it was…..

WE GOT THIS BEACH FRONT SITE FOR $35!!!

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The beach was only a 30 second walk front our TENT!

 

Let’s see that again, shall we?

See that green tent down there?

See that green tent down there?

We immediately set up our stuff and went to enjoy a sunset on the beach together πŸ™‚

Crossing the little stream running behind our site out into the sea

Crossing the little stream running behind our site out into the sea

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Jesse’s gonna kill me, but I LOVE this picture. What can I say, he’s totally buff.

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Mr. January, right here.

 

We then went out to dinner. Our lovely park ranger who gave us the site also told us about Santa Lucia Restaurant 2 miles north.

I’ve been driving back and forth from Big Sur for over 20 years, but somehow I don’t ever remember seeing this little place! It was so quaint, and so cute, with a PERFECT JAWDROPPING ocean view.

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Our food was so yummy.

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It was dark by the time we arrived back at our campsite, but Jesse quickly got a fire started and we broke open a bottle of wine. By the fireside. Imagine a totally romantic evening, and then triple it. It was an absolutely perfect evening, 65 degrees with a tiny breeze (not “beach” windy at all, probably because Limekiln is in its own little cove).

Once we had finished our wine, we walked hand in hand on the beach under the stars. We found a perfect place on the sand and watched shooting stars, reminiscing about the last 10 years of our life together.

The next morning, we drank our coffee by the crashing waves. It was almost too much awesome to handle!

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After a tiny breakfast (we decided that a restaurant brunch was the way to go), we quickly packed up our site and went hiking! Limekiln has two awesome trails– the Falls, and the Kilns.

Despite the fact that the "hikes" were more like walks, I almost fell in the creek. oops.

Despite the fact that the “hikes” were more like walks, I almost fell in the creek. oops.

I'm a pretty animated hiker, I must say.

I’m a pretty animated hiker, I must say.

Aren't the Falls GORGEOUS?

Aren’t the Falls GORGEOUS?

I would like to point out that my insanely BRIGHT husband actually tried to scale this cliffs with his buddies in college. It ended with one of them in the ER. 'nuff said.

I would like to point out that my insanely intelligent husband actually tried to scale one of these cliffs with some of his buddies in college. It ended with one of them in the ER. ’nuff said.

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Then, there were the kilns where they used to purify the rocks over 100 years ago.

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Once we were done hiking, we drove 30 minutes back down the mountain to Ragged Point, the famous spot where Jesse proposed 8 years ago. We had an amazing brunch/lunch, while sitting in the gorgeous Restaurant Garden.

Ragged Point Inn

Ragged Point Inn

Before getting back in the car, we decided to visit the actual spot where Jesse proposed.

We were laughing the whole time because the Asian guy behind us was farting super loud and we were trying not to look!

We were laughing the whole time because the Asian guy behind us was farting super loud and we were trying not to look!

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It was an absolutely fabulous trip that we were able to do for under $150, even with 2 fancy meals and staying overnight! I highly recommend it, and this will go down as my favorite anniversary yet!

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7 Years, 7 Reasons

7 Years Ago, Jesse and I were married! More significantly, Jesse and I have also been together for a whole decade! 10 years! I’ve been dating him for more than a third of my life!

2 years later! So glad he didn't give up on me! :)

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In honor of 7 years, here are 7 reasons I love and appreciate Jesse!

1. His sense of humor.

This aspect of his personality is not always something I’ve appreciated, quite honestly. I used to get annoyed with it. But now, it isn’t even something I’ve just “learned to live with”– it’s something I couldn’t live without.

2. His dedication.

I think that I can count on ONE hand the times when Jesse’s been late. To ANYTHING. Work, appointments, promises….basically, if you’ve ever seen him be late, it’s because he has the boys or me to tow around. If he says he’ll be at the restaurant at 6:30, he’ll get there at 6:25. He sticks with things, even when they’re flawed (in fact, flaws usually makes him love stuff more).

3. His intensity.

I once heard someone say about Jesse that he’s the kind of guy does the right thing, even when no one’s watching. I also know that he’s the kind of guy who gives 110% to every situation, even when no one’s watching. I’ve heard him agonize over teaching details that no one will ever see to appreciate. He can barely bring himself to wear jeans on Casual Fridays at school, simply because he doesn’t think he’s giving the job his best.

4. His parenting.

Jesse is SUCH a good dad, you guys. I know that most moms say this, but I still cannot resist praising him. This guy does more diapers than I do. He was there to “catch” both babies at their births. He wakes up first with them 90% of the time on our days off (even Saturdays, his only day to sleep in!). He rough houses with them, he sings them lullabies at night. There’s no parenting job he considers himself too manly for, and in my opinion, that makes him pretty manly πŸ™‚

5. His service.

Along the same lines as the last one, there is no housekeeping job Jesse considers mine. He just pitches in where he can, when he can. He irons his own clothes, he sometimes throws in a load of laundry or cloth diapers. He vacuums and dusts. He cleans out the fridge. I’d keep going, but you’d get jealous.

6. His love for good TV and music.

His taste in TV and music has definitely improved mine! We have quite a few TV shows that we enjoy together and can’t get enough of. He almost always has music playing in the house, and he never gets in the car without first turning on something good.

7. He doesn’t treat me as his equal.

Woah, I know, that could come across as totally offensive. It’s not though– it’s actually wonderful. He treats me BETTER than if I were his equal. He values and respects the ways in which I am more talented than he is, and he actually listens to me and follows my lead on a lot of things as though I was the one in charge of things (I’m really NOT in charge, he is, but he is willing to change his entire opinion if it’s something I think is better or right). He cherishes me enough to NOT always let me have my way, usually when it means I would end up hurting myself or others.

If I were his equal, he wouldn’t stick through half of the arguments I put him through. But he cares more about us than his own selfish desires, and always wants to work on and fix things in our relationship, even when it hurts.

an homage to the bestie

My best friend came for a visit this week. Last March, she moved to Seattle. She’s now a nanny, getting ready to take some medical classes towards a second degree.Β It’s amazing to me that we’ve been friends for 24 years! There’s something so rare about a friend who’s known you for that much of your life!

Kelly and Tess 1991

For frame of reference, here we are in 1991, 5 years old, playing at Big Sur!

She was also there AT AJ's birth, filming the whole thing

She was also there AT AJ’s birth, filming the whole thing

She even stayed and helped through the crazy postpartum days!

She even stayed and helped through the crazy postpartum days!

Naturally, I was super excited that she was coming to visit. I only got to hang out with her a little bit, but it was still fun!

We had wine and dinner at my sister in law’s house.

We had wine and dinner at my sister in law's house

We had a BBQ with her parents at their rental in Cayucos Beach.

Naturally, the only pictures I got were of my boys. They were THAT cute.

Naturally, the only pictures I got were of my boys. They were THAT cute.

We went to Music in the Park in Paso Robles.

Smile!

Smile!

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Yesterday morning, we finished off her visit with a yummy coffee date at Amsterdam.

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I’m gonna miss that girl! Until next time!

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Boho Chic Teen Bedroom

I must say, interior design runs in the family. This is a fact I never knew until my sister was born. Two sisters, the bookends of the family, with two messy brothers born in the 12 years between us.

This 15 year old girl has made her room into a sanctuary.

Get ready for this now.

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Cool, right? Who knew how to decorate like this when THEY were 15?

$72 Concrete Patio Tutorial for the Beginner

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Jesse and I have been gathering our momentum when it comes to DIY projects around here. I think that this is partly because our confidence has been growing the more we finish things with a certain degree of success!

One of the projects we embarked upon early this summer was a patio for our awkward courtyard that is sandwiched between the garage and the french doors of our downstairs bedroom.

Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house:

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Ew City, right?

Ew City, right?

 

This little spot felt so awkward and gross to us. I mean. there was a ratty old carpet and everything by the door. Β We felt that the french doors should open onto something more welcoming!

We considered using pavers for a while, until we realized that for our 9×10 plot, we were talking about something close to $300-400, when all was said and done. We wanted something more immediate, rather than waiting forever to save up.

Then, I read a few interesting reviews for a $25 product on Amazon called the Pathmate. We didn’t know anyone who used it, but we got excited and decided to give it a try.

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After just under $75, here’s what we ended up with!

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I didn’t take step by step pictures, but here’s what we did:

Materials:

Pathmate– $23

Concrete– 15 bags x $3

1 bag of bark– $4

Sand– Free from my inlaws’ creek bed! Any sand will do, as far as I know.

Total: $72!

1. Clear out and level the ground. Don’t skimp on this step! If the ground isn’t level, the mold won’t sit well, and the concrete won’t dry level. We used a 2×2 board on the ground to determine whether or not the ground was level.

2. Find a large wheel barrow to mix the cement in. DO NOT waste money on the cement mixer that they sell! As long as you have a hubby with huge guns, he can mix all that concrete, even if you decide to do this project on two of the hottest days of the year (whoops…).

3. Mix up a batch of concrete, using hose water and a shovel. We found that things worked best when we had a soupier mixture than the directions called for.

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4. Place the Pathmate mold in your first spot, and have one person spoon the cement mixture in with the large shovel, while the other person smoothes things out with a small trowel. We found that this method was less messy than pouring it in with the wheelbarrow.

5. Wait 3-5 minutes, shimmy the mold gently off, and move it “next door”! It should fit together like a puzzle piece. You can also add concrete stain at this point, although we didn’t.

6. Repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat……make sure you have lots of water to drink……(seriously, why did we choose to do this project in JULY????).

7. When you have the patio shape you want, wait at least a day for the concrete to “cure” (see, Dad! I could’ve been a civil engineer like you!).

8. Add sand in the cracks to smooth it all out and hold it together. You definitely don’t want lots of bugs making their homes in the hundreds of 2 inch deep crevices! Yikes! We used sand from Jesse’s childhood home, so it was free.

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9. After pouring it on liberally, use an outdoor broom to sweep it all off, making sure that the sand settles where you want it to in the cracks. Then spray it down with the power nozzle on a hose.

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10. Dress it up! We used bark for the edges. I would have LOVED to plant flowers, a little trellis, etc., but we have 10-15 deer visit our yard on a daily basis, and nothing survives the onslaught.

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That’s it! While I still love the look of travertine tiles, this was a MUCH MUCH cheaper option, and I’m so glad we gave it a try! Next up, we’d love to build a small box enclosure for our ugly air conditioning unit!

Another Laundry Room Update: Almost Done!

Guys, this laundry room is getting done! This week is our second to last week before School Orientations starts, so we are working hard to tie up all the loose ends on our summer projects.

The biggest priority for us is to have a functioning, organized and classy lookin’ laundry room! We’re so close!

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And to think, this same view used to look like this!!!

Before

Before

Not everything’s done, however….one of the shelves fell down not too long ago (our washing machine is like a space ship, I tell ya, and the high efficiency spin cycle just about ripped the wall anchors out!). Jesse is patching the holes and working on putting it back up as we speak.

Here's the closer side of the room from the same exact spot

There will be a second shelf below this as soon as the putty dries.

Hard at work

Hard at work

Again, it’s amazing to see how different it used to look!

Progress

Progress

Here’s the left side of the room!

My laundry folding station!!!!

My laundry folding station!!!!

We have the option of putting the last 2 baskets on the bottom, but I'm wondering if it would be better for shoes?

We have the option of putting the last 2 baskets on the bottom, but I’m wondering if it would be better for shoes?

The biggest thing we have left to do is level the flooring and place down tile. We MIGHT tackle that next week, but you never know!

Chalk Paint Hutch

Remember that old hutch I bought off of Craigslist?

After we added chicken wire to the doors (instead of glass)

After we added chicken wire to the doors (instead of glass)

It has now been transformed using chalk paint! I removed all of the hardware, then slapped on some DIY chalk paint that I made using this tutorial from the Clumsy Crafter. I decided to make my own instead of buying it online because it’s quite expensive! I already had the gray I wanted to use, and the Plaster of Paris was only $6 at Home Depot!

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More pictures once the laundry room is complete!