Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goodbye, Ningdu

video

This is video of the incoming orphanage director at Ningdu (blue shirt), the outgoing director (woman in back), one of the government officials (pink shirt) and the SWI doctor, (woman on right) waving goodbye after our visit last summer. As we were leaving the incoming director lit fireworks for us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kitchen Demo Begins

The first step to the kitchen remodel was to take down the soffit. The cabinet above the microwave is where we've kept the liquor. It's new temporary home is on a card table in the living room. But it's probably going to be moved from there, too. More on the reasons for that in a later post.

This is what was inside the soffit. Which poses a problem. We don't want any soffit at all there, so the pipes that lead up to Rachel's bathroom need to be moved. I have a good friend whose husband is a plumber and he's going to help us out. Thanks, Ralph!
Next up, taking out the cabinet and microwave. The microwave is on the top of our baker's rack in the dining room for the time being. It's a bit high, but it won't be there long. The next cabinet over was the next victim.
Now what?
The wall comes down next, of course!
So far, so good. There is still the soffit to take down completely and electric that needs to be moved. We also need to figure out how to support the granite breakfast bar that will go on this half wall. Flooring is an even tougher question....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring...Finally!

I like winter, I really do. But this winter was long. But my favorite times of year are definitely spring and fall. I love the change of seasons. Everything is so new, so fresh. I love how the grass gets a little greener every day, how seemingly overnight the trees have leaves budding on them.

Today we celebrated spring the way so many do: At Rita's for free water ice. I took a picture, and I searched and searched for the picture, but couldn't find it. Then I remembered I took it on my cell phone, which I don't know how to upload to the computer.

Rachel and I also planted some flower seeds. We are starting them inside. We planted zinnias, forget-me-nots and delphiniums. Can't wait to watch them grow.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Taylor Swift Concert

Fred surprised us tonight with tickets for the Taylor Swift concert.
It was Rachel's first concert, and it was a really good one!
After going into the crowd to sing a song, Taylor walked through the audience to this small stage at the opposite end of the arena to sing a few songs. Then she walked through the audience back up to the main stage. It was a really nice touch, hugging and shaking hands with so many of her fans.
This was the set for "Love Story," which I loved. It's one of my favorite songs of hers.
This was the finale, and I'm pretty sure the song was "Should've Said No." She had water raining down on her, and gaps in the water would spell out words, like "no." It was very cool. Overall, I think Rachel really enjoyed her first concert. It was hard to tell sometimes, though, because, as with everything, she seemed to be studying it. She has always been a big observer. She takes everything in.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kitchen Makeover

This past weekend we started remodeling our kitchen. Below are the "before" pictures. I have hated our kitchen since we moved in here 7 1/2 years ago. Our kitchen in Florida was pretty big, and I guess we were spoiled. What we're doing to the kitchen won't alleviate all our problems. The only way to do that would be to take out the wall completely and move the stove (which means moving the gas line) and replace our hard wood floor. So we're going to do the next best thing and give ourselves much more cabinet space and the feeling of more room.

This is looking at our kitchen as you come in from the garage. One of the problems Fred and I have when cooking is that we bump into each other around the stove and island. I realize that there are worse problems to have. After all, not every wife takes the role of sous chef at dinner time so her husband do the bulk of the cooking. The basic layout here will stay the same, but everything will be replaced (except the appliances).
This is our barely-used dining room. The table was my grandmother's, the desk was my dad's and the china cabinet I bought used a few years ago. It's all going away. Well, I'll be keeping the table, chairs and desk, just not in this room.
This is the view from standing next to the desk. The wall that has the picture on it will be coming down...half of it anyway. It will become a breakfast bar. The window is staying as is. We decided to get rid of the dining room because, in the 7+ years we've been here, we've used it only a handful of times. More often than not, this table is covered with a bunch of stuff, whether it be Rachel's school projects, craft projects, or just random crap that lands there and doesn't get put away. I have a backup plan if and when I ever do have a big holiday dinner.
This is a view of the kitchen from the bay window, near our kitchen table. The mess to the right of the refrigerator is a bakers rack that holds all my cookbooks, my mixer, clean dish towels, a wine rack (filled mainly with cooking wines), Fred's coffee and other incidentals. It, too, will be going away and in its place will be cabinets and the microwave.

We are planning to do this project entirely on our own, with the exception of some minor plumbing work which I will outline in a later post. So yes, it's going to take quite a while to complete.

Some of the things I'm stuck on are what to do with the floor in the dining room. Right now it is carpet. I'm thinking of putting down slate tiles. But will that be too many different kinds of flooring? Getting hard wood to match what's in the kitchen will be next to impossible, and replacing all the hard wood will be way out of our budget.

And what should I do with the walls? We're going to do a tile backsplash above the stove and countertops, but what about the walls that will still be exposed in the dining room and the remaining walls in the kitchen? The walls of the "formal" living room (more like a sitting room) that is off the dining room are red, very red. The walls of the family room, which is where I took the first picture from, are a textured blue. Not too dark and not too light. It's almost like a light denim blue, I guess. And the walls of the hallway from the front door into the kitchen are white with thick stripes. The prior owners painted them. They alternated flat and satin or glossy white to make subtle stripes, which I like. Unlike the circus tent strips above the counters that I hate.

Of course, I'll take pictures along the way and I'll try to get them posted more frequently!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Battle Bound!

Eeks! I haven't posted anything since the 1st? That's pretty bad, even for me.

Friday, March 5th, my friend Kim and I drove the girls to Washington D.C. for Battle at the Capital a huge cheerleading competition. We drove down on Friday to do some sightseeing before the competition started on Sunday. Emily's brother Nick went along.

Emily broke her toe a couple weeks ago and all the walking we were doing was making it hurt, so she got a lift from Nick.
It was very windy, but we were lucky the sun was out and it wasn't raining.
Rachel took this picture of the Washington Monument. We only had a couple hours, so we went to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. Then we went back to the hotel for dinner before letting the girls swim before bed. We were going to go the Outback Steakhouse, but found out it was 6 miles away from the hotel. Plus, it was Friday and since Kim and her kids are Catholic, no meat. So we ended up at the little mall area under our hotel and had pizza from Sbarro. BAD CHOICE. That's all I have to say about dinner.

The girls swam for an hour or so with some of the other cheerleaders staying at our hotel, and then it was time for showers, hairdrying and bed. We have to dry their hair real good before bed because the coaches want it straight. So even though Rachel has straight hair, I blow it out and put Chi Silk Infusion in it, and it turns out real soft and very straight.

Monday, March 1, 2010

First Place Again!

Rachel's team came in first place again this weekend! There wasn't a whole lot of competition there, but still, a win is a win! And they did really good. The stunt they're doing here is an arabesque. This stunt starts as a pop-up, then she changes to a heel stretch, then a scorpion and ends in the arabesque, and then she cradles out of it. Rachel's job in this stunt is the back spot.
Rachel's team is a Youth Level 2. Youth designates the age group; 8 to 12 year olds, basically. The Level 2 part is their skill level. I don't really know all the details, but I know that for tumbling they can't do anything above a back handspring. They can do front and back walkovers, forward rolls and roundoffs. I think there's some rule about their stunting, too. Maybe something about the flyer's hips can't go higher than their head. But like I said, I'm not really sure. Anyway, the organization where Rachel cheers has several different levels. They have tiny 1, mini 2, Junior 3, Junior 4, Senior 3 and Senior 4.2. The 4.2 means their tumbling is a level 2, but the stunting is level 4, or something like that. Our Junior 4 team is phenomenal. I hope to get some pictures of them at this weekend's nationals.
This will be our first big competition. It's a two day event, and the teams perform both days. Your best score of the two days is the one that counts. It should be a fun weekend. I'm driving and taking Rachel, her friend Emily and Emily's mom Kim, who is also my friend. :) We are leaving Friday and will be home Sunday night.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

MORE SNOW!

I took this picture on Wednesday, 2/24/10, which was two weeks after the last big blizzard. Most of the snow disappeared on Tuesday the 23rd when we got a lot of rain.
This was Wednesday, also. For the life of me, I don't understand why the snow plows plow the way they do. Is it so hard to plow along the curb of our cul-de-sac? No cars were in the road. Instead, they piled a bunch of snow right here, between our driveway and our next door neighbor's driveway. Where there is maybe a foot or two of curb space. If that. And this pile has shrunk considerably in the last two weeks. It probably extended out into the road 15 feet or so. Which means that we had to shovel that much out into the road. I'm really quite upset at the crappy plowing job they've done this winter. We pay a lot in property taxes, and I'm sorry, but I just expect the snow plows to get closer to my driveway than 15 feet. Especially when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground.
This picture was taken on Thursday, during our most recent "blizzard." The school superintendent sent out a message on Wednesday evening saying that Thursday would be a one-session day, which means the kids get out of school two hours early, because of the expected blizzard. It snowed all day Thursday and into Friday. But it seems like there's hardly any on the ground. It was very windy, but still. Where did it all go???
This was Friday morning. This is after the plow came through. Nice, isn't it? They made one straight line, backed up, plowed that line that goes from left to right, and then left. I understand that there's only a few inches out there, but come on. Last night it was all ice, chunky, slippery ice. They didn't even salt the cul-de-sac this time. I'm so annoyed. Can you tell?
So is this robin and all his robin friends. They flew back up north just a bit too soon. I think we're going to have nests under our deck again this year. They've been hanging out on this railing a lot, and the nest from last year is right under this part of the deck.

I love the snow, but I am so ready for spring.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

No Dog is an Island.....

.....but Ferris seems to be stuck on one! I had him out in the backyard for a little bit today. While I spent 10 or 15 minutes picking up the pool cover clips and trying to put them back on, he spent the time sniffing for critters around the shed. Earlier this week he had been able to fairly easily walk on top of the snow to go potty. However, the last couple days were warmer and the snow was mushier. If he took his time he was okay, but as soon as he started to run he would sink. When I was done trying to fix the pool cover, he started to follow me on the snow, but gave up and just stopped walking. So I picked him up and carried him out front. I threw and he chased a couple small snowballs around the front yard. Then he went to the raised landscaping bed, which has almost no snow left on it, and just stayed there. He walked around it trying to figure out a way to get back to the concrete without getting on the snow. Eventually he just sat down and waited for me to go get him. I think Ferris, and just about everyone else in the Northeast, is ready for spring!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hello Gorgeous

This beauty was delivered today. It is a GE Cafe Dual Fuel Range. You can use it as a convection oven or a regular oven. The drawer in the bottom is also a stove. It has an extra burner/griddle on the middle of the stove.

We decided to get a stove without the back guard/back splash because we're hoping to redo our kitchen in the very near future, and the top half of that wall (the one with the circus ten stripes) will be removed and a breakfast bar put in it's place. Whoever painted those stripes didn't remove the stove when they painted, obviously. So even if we don't redo the entire kitchen, at the very least we will be doing a tile back splash.

For Fred's first meal on the new stove, he made Pioneer Woman's Chicken Scallopine. Yum. The stove has two rapid boil burners, so boiling the water for the pasta took no time at all!

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Sledding

We tried a different sledding hill and went with our friends, Kim and Emily. The part of the hill that is to the left of the big trees has a little creek at the bottom of it, and as we were walking across the bridge, we saw a kid leaving who had just landed in the creek. So we stuck to the hill on the right which did not end in the creek.
This was Emily's first time ever sledding. I think she enjoyed it!
I went down the hill once, too, and of course had to take a picture on the way down. And I only took out one or two kids at the bottom of the hill. :)

Rachel's 11th Birthday

~*~*~*~*~*HAPPY 11TH BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY!!! ~*~*~*~*~*~
She's so happy with the box, how will she react to what's inside?!?!?!?
I think she likes her Hollister t-shirts!
My friend Kim and her daughter Emily sent Rachel this candy basket. Later in the week they took her to the mall to pick out her present. Good friends are priceless.
Rachel's birthday was on February 10th, the day of the third blizzard of the winter. Fred had to work, so he actually went and stayed in a hotel the night before. Rachel and I spent her birthday watching Pirates of the Caribbean movies and shoveling snow. This snow was heavy. We shoveled 3 or 4 times throughout the day/evening to try to keep up with it. Fred got up the next morning before work and shoveled again.
Because of the blizzard a few days before this one, Rachel's school was delayed 2 hours last Monday. Tuesday was a regular school day. Then they were off Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Monday were scheduled days off for President's Day weekend. Personally, I think they should have used those days as make-up days. If we have any more snow days, they won't get out of school until July!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Vulture

We had a visitor to our roof yesterday. One of the neighbors called to say there was a really big bird on the roof above the garage. Rachel had been watching it, too. He kept flying back and forth from the porch roof just outside her bedroom window to the garage roof outside my bedroom window. He landed in our maple tree once, too. I think it was a turkey vulture, but I'm not sure. I was thinking maybe there was a dead rabbit or something in our yard, but I looked around and couldn't find any carcasses.
Violet was watching him the whole time, too.
We often see vultures and hawks flying overhead, but this is the first time we've seen them this up close.

More Snow


We had our second blizzard of the winter this past weekend. We got right around two feet of snow. We were so impressed when the snow plows showed up early. It was still snowing when this big plow came into the cul-de-sac. But then he plowed two straight lines, and that was it! He didn't get anywhere near our driveway. I waited patiently, and he did come back, with a friend in a backhoe. They plowed together, but they still didn't get anywhere near our curb. So, in addition to shoveling our driveway and sidewalk, we had to shovel ten feet out into the road. They also plowed the snow almost right up to our mailbox, which we then had to clear away so the mail lady would deliver our mail. I don't understand how you can pay THOUSANDS of dollars in taxes a year and get such crappy service when it snows. There were no cars in the road at all, nothing to keep them from plowing right up to the curb.

This is the path we shoveled for Ferris in the middle of the storm. Check out his little footprints leading to and from the patch of grass where he tinkled. Yeah, we had to shovel this a few more times during the course of the storm.This was after the snow stopped. Unlike last time when my van had so much snow piled on it, thanks to the wind, Fred's car didn't have much at all. This picture is a little deceiving; the snow wasn't nearly as deep further down the driveway.

Sledding on the little hill in our neighborhood. It's actually a retention basin known as "the ditch." In the summer it's used for pick-up baseball games.
Ferris went with us to the ditch.


He even went sledding with Rachel. He stayed on her lap the whole way down the hill, multiple times. He didn't try to jump off at all. I took him down once, too, and I hit a bump at the bottom and fell backwards. He still stayed on me. In fact, he made himself at home and sat down on my chest as I was laying in the snow. I guess his feet get cold in the snow. I'm thinking of getting him a pair of booties. He's so good about wearing coats, maybe he'll keep booties on. Of course, the only bad thing about sledding is climbing back up the hill. But seeing as how Ferris didn't want to really be in the snow that much, he stayed in the sled and let Rachel and a friend push/pull him back up the hill.

Back at the house after sledding we tried to make a snowman again. And just like December's snow, this snow wasn't packing. It wasn't just us....I haven't seen any snowmen in any neighbors' yards. So Rachel settled for making snow angels. I kept telling her she had to wave her legs, too, but there was too much snow and she couldn't.

All this playing in the snow makes you tired!