Monday, November 2, 2009

Cake Boss

Austin is turning 7 next week, so I asked him what kind of cake he would like for his birthday. He says:

"A carrot cake with white frosting from Carlo's Bakery in New Jersey".

In case you don't know, Cake Boss is a reality show on TLC that features Carlo's Bakery, a bake shop in New Jersey owned by Buddy Valastro. They make the most amazing cakes, and Austin is one of their biggest fans. We all are actually, but Austin has watched each episode at least a dozen times, knows every specialty cake they've made, the names of the I said, he's a huge fan! Sadly, I had to burst his bubble and inform him that Carlo's Bakery is too far away, and we can't get a cake from there. Next thing he said was:

"Well, dad can fly me to New Jersey, we can eat the cake, and fly right back!"

The boy has it all figured out. In Austin's world, there is an easy solution to everything!

Later this afternoon, he drew a picture of Buddy and his favorite Cake Boss cake, and asked that I send it to him. Instead, I emailed Carlo's Bakery with a special request (I'll share later if anything becomes of it) along with the picture Austin drew for Buddy. I know it's a long shot, but the folks at the bakery seem like very nice people, so you never know!

If it doesn't work out, well, he'll have to settle for my carrot cake. It is amazing if I say so myself, and it won't require $900 in airfare. Yes, I actually checked how much airfare would be to New Jersey...

Here is his picture for Buddy, with his favorite "Cake Boss" cake, the Venus Fly Trap. I hope it touches Buddy's heart as it did mine!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Our Kitchen Semi-Makeover!

First off, I know. It's been a ridiculously long time since I blogged. I could come up with a dozen of what I think are really good excuses, but as promised, I'm keeping it real on this blog. So, I've got 'nothin. BUT, I'm going to try really hard to keep up from now on. Really. Promise. I mean it.

On to the kitchen! When we first moved into our home over 4 years ago, I actually liked our honey oak, builder-grade cabinets. They were nice and neutral, and went good with red, a color I love in the kitchen. Then we put in flooring that was darker in color, and well, I didn't like them much after that. I don't know what I was thinking, but the flooring didn't coordinate with the cabinets. At all. And with the red wall and one south facing window, it made for a dark and rather dingy, 1990's kitchen. I wanted a cheerful, Martha Stewart-esque happy kitchen. So, the oak had to go.

We had white cabinets in our previous home and I loved them, but new cabinets are insanely expensive and simply out of the question. Besides, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our cabinets, I just wanted a different color. After months of researching the web, and being inspired by the Nester's blog, (which, by the way is a MUST read for anyone who wants to learn how to decorate simply, with little money and with real life in mind), I decided to go for it and paint them white. I thought it would be hard to persuade Chris, but he didn't care much for the oak either so it was pretty easy to get him on board. I'm sure it helped when I told him that he could make it his 10th anniversary gift to me. But if he'd rather go with the diamond ring....sold on the cabinets! Diamond rings are SO overrated anyway. .

I have a few friends who are thinking about conning their husbands into doing some cabinet makeovers of their own, so here are all the details...

Picking the right white took some time. Who knew there were 899 shades of white out there? After wasting hours of my life looking at a gazillion pictures, blogs and recommendations on the web, I decided to go with Sherwin-Williams Dover White. It's not a super bright white, not too off-white. Just a nice, creamy white that wasn't too cool or too warm. For cabinets, you MUST go with a good, durable paint that dries with a hard finish. You get one shot at it, so you don't want to use a cheaper, lesser quality paint to save a few bucks. We used Sherwin-Williams (hereafter known as SW) ProClassic semi-gloss paint. This paint is about $10 more than other brands, but it dries fast, is self-healing and doesn't show brush strokes. Love it.

We started off by cleaning the cabinets and removing all the doors and drawer fronts. I recruited my daughter and her bff Becca and they primed with one coat of SW Adhesion primer. It's designed for glossy surfaces, so we didn't have to sand anything, which was a huge plus. Sanding is messy, time consuming and honestly, we just don't have the patience, so I was thrilled that a primer was invented to avoid this heinous task. However, there were a few spots on the tops of some of the cabinet doors that could have used a light sanding, so if you are planning on embarking on a similar project I would definitely recommend lightly sanding any rough or worn spots.

Chris set up a painting area outside. I got an amazing air-sprayer that made this job much quicker and easier then if we had painted by hand. He sprayed on one coat of primer, and two coats of paint. I painted the main body of the cabinets by hand using foam rollers and brushes. After all the doors and drawers were painted, he brought them inside and put them back on. The sprayer didn't put on as heavy or as smooth a finish as we wanted, so I brushed on one more final coat. Although I could see brush strokes at first, the paint didn't dry that way. I'm a huge fan!

We thought the island looked like a big white shoebox, so we decided to add some bead board and trim to it, which gave it some much needed character! We also replaced all the cabinet trim because it was pretty beat up. To help keep dirty hands off the cabinets we added some black hardware that we got from Home Depot. If I had to do it over again I would have used the pulls on everything instead of knobs and pulls, but it still looks nice. I couldn't change my mind because Chris had already drilled the holes and if he had knew I even thought about asking, this fantastic anniversary gift could very well be my last!

I was going to repaint the red walls with something else, but I'm kind of liking the red at the moment so we're leaving it as is for now. We still need to finish the crown molding (that's been a 4 year project)!

From start to finish, the project took about 5 days. I absolutely love it! It's bright and cheerful, and it makes my heart happy. It doesn't look cheap or tacky either, which was something I was a little worried about.

We also painted our kitchen table and chairs black. I know the finish will show dings and chips after a while, but it will hold us over until we can afford the Costco dining set I'm coveting at the moment. My next mission is to find new (longer) curtains and rugs, and figure out how to tie in the white with the family room that connected to the kitchen.

Total Project Supplies and Costs:

1.5 gallons SW Adhesion Primer - $60
2 gallons SW Pro-Classic semi-gloss paint - $85
Campbell Hausfield air spayer - $40 (on ebay)
Brushes/Rollers/Trays - $35
Hardware - $195
Bead board and new trim - $60
Starbucks - $10

Total Project Cost: $485.00

I totally recommend this to anyone who wants a fairly inexpensive but dramatic makeover. Don't be afraid, it's just paint! Like the Nester says, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful! Here are some pictures. I accidently deleted all the before pics I took, but here are some random ones that sort of give you an idea of what they (and my table) looked like. Click on any of the pictures for a better view:

And after:

And the table. Please ignore the dirty floor - I have kids and a dog!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Austin the Farmer

When I became interested in planting, Austin did too. His understanding is that you can grow anything with a seed and a little dirt (if only it was that easy). On Mother's Day, we went to dinner with our parents at Lucille's BBQ.  Austin had watermelon with his meal, and he decided that he would like to grow watermelons of his own. He picked the black seeds out of the watermelon and stuck them in his pocket to plant later.  We all laughed because we knew he'd just stick them on the ground and cover them with a little dirt.  Sometime later, he planted his seeds in his nana and papa's patio garden.  What do you know, my parents were surprised to discover that two of the seeds have sprouted and are growing quite well! We have a green thumb in the family after all!  Austin of course gets first dibs on any watermelon they produce.

So now my kid thinks he can grow anything. He's planted apricot seeds in the front yard, and who knows what else in the backyard. If we see a random tree or thing growing in the lawn someday at least we'll know where it came from. Now if we can only get him to realize that not all seeds work the same way. Chris had the following conversation with Austin a few days ago: 

Austin: Dad, what are these? (pointing to the seeds on his hamburger bun)

Dad: Those are sesame seeds.

Austin: Cool! I'm going to plant them in the ground and grow bread!

I think we might have a true farmer in the family. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Do-It-Himselfer

I'm married to a hard-working guy who prefers to tackle home improvement projects on his own.  I'm usually ok with this (we'll get to the "usually" part in a second) and for the most part, I'm thankful that I'm married to a really handy guy. If I need a floor put in (even if it's for the second time),  a sprinkler system installed or a wall built, he's right there, boots on,  power tool in hand. It seems that he knows how to do just about anything, and if he doesn't, he'll figure it out. The only thing he's absolutely refused to do at home is deliver any of our children, even though he's quite capable of doing so. My guess is because it didn't require a power tool. 

The thing is, it's not like he enjoys every project that comes along. Painting is probably one of the easiest, no-brainer jobs there is, but Chris absolutely hates it. If he so much as sees paint chips on the counter and me staring at a wall, he goes into silent mode, his eyes glaze over,  and he promptly checks Telestaff to see if any overtime is available. Despite how much it pains him, he still refuses to allow anyone else to do it - not even me. So he'll begrudgingly get out the tools and his radio, crank Jimmy Buffett up as loud as he can (because if he's going to suffer, I am too) and get the job done. Money saved, another job crossed off the list. He's the man!

The best part about Chris's handiness is that it has saved us thousands of dollars over the past few years. The downside is that often times a project can drag on for weeks, months, and even years. Our backyard, AKA "the yard that shall not be named",  has been an ongoing project that was started shortly after we moved in almost four years ago. In his defense, it's a huge yard and turned out be a much bigger labor of love then he anticipated, but he hasn't let it defeat him. He has pressed on and after months of moving and hauling away dirt, building the Great Wall of Bowden, and laying the underground work, it's all finally starting to come together.  Today, after renting the tractor for what must be the 50th time, he leveled and moved the last piles of rock, and now we're just a couple of weeks away from an RV pad and about 6 weeks away from grass.  Yahoo!

Chris and I have had so many disagreements about the yard that shall not be named, but I know that when it's all done, it's going to be so worth the wait. He's going to feel good about all the money we saved as a result of his hard work, and I'm going to be so grateful to have a a green yard that I'll forget how long it took. We'll let the kids run through the sprinklers that their amazing dad put in, I'll relax with a good book under the shade of the patio cover he built, and Chris will stand back, beer in hand and quietly admire all that he accomplished.

Then he'll lace up his boots and ask me what's next on the list. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Love for a Cool Mom

Austin's class invited all the moms to school this morning for Muffins for Moms day, so I got to hang out with my littlest dude while enjoying muffins, juice and presents made with love! He made me the sweetest card and little wood block with a picture of the two us. I appreciated that he drew me with long hair since it is a dream of mine, and just for fun he drew himself with long hair too, in the style of Willy Wonka. This boy of mine, I love him so.

Austin wrote: My mom is cool and fun

I wonder if he'll feel the same a few years from now? I hope so. But just in case, I'm keeping this sweet card forever, so when the day comes that he wants me to drop him off for school a block away, I'll be able to remind him of how much he liked hanging out with me!

Here are a few pics. They aren't the greatest, but blame the lens - it's an old kit lens and it's horrible! I'm hoping to buy myself a more decent one for Mothers Day. After all, a cool mom must have cool glass for her camera!

Singing us a song. I got there just after they started singing, and he was standing there looking bored and forlorn. When he finally saw me, he perked up and got his groove on!

My goodies. See? I'm cool AND fun!

A hand drawn picture of us.

The "hurry up and take the picture all my friends are looking" smile.

His good buddy Keean. Love the powdered donut smile!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Relay for Life 2009

The past three years, our family has participated in the Relay for Life of Hemet, an annual fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.  I first learned about the Relay in 2007 from Julie Pizzitola, who contacted me to ask if Matthew could be their poster boy (I've been corrected - he was asked to be the the Angel of Hope. But he had a poster sized picture, so I'm sorta kinda right, lol) for the Relay that year. I agreed not really knowing what I was getting ourselves into, and when we showed up to the Relay that morning,  I was asked at the last minute to give a speech about Matthew's story during the opening ceremony. Public speaking is one of my greatest fears, and with a few hundred people there, I didn't think I could do it. Chris wasn't there to bail me out, so I nervously got up on that stage with Matthew dancing around behind me, took the mic, almost threw up, and the words just flowed. It was awesome! I agreed to serve as the online chair the following year. It was fun but a lot of work! Unfortunately I couldn't commit to this years event due to a busy schedule, but there's always next year. Most cities have an annual Relay for Life event, it's worth checking out if you get the chance!

As most people know, Matt is a cancer survivor. He had ALL - Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He has been out of treatment for three years, and has two more to go before he is considered completely "cured".  I can't wait for the day when he gets his blood drawn and I don't have an anxiety attack while waiting for the results! Matt is a fighter and we know he's going to win the fight!

Here are a few pictures of Matt at the Relay. We didn't get to stay long, but he ran around the track a few times, made balloon animals and drank slushies. He also got his purple survivor shirt, of course. The Family of H.O.P.E team had an an awesome booth, and raised a ton of money! Those girls are amazing and put a tremendous amount of time and heart into putting on this event. As the mom of a cancer survivor, I am very thankful!

All the cards the girls on the Family of H.O.P.E. team made to sell at the Relay. Julie worked on these for a few months! I made a few packs too...:) They sold all of them and the proceeds went to the American Cancer Society.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Dance

Hayley got all dressed up for her middle school dance, and she looked so cute! This was the second dress she picked out. The first one was a cute yellow number, but it was a little too short and not daddy approved, so luckily we found this one the night before the dance. It was totally Hayley! 

The dance was held at Monteleone Meadows, which makes me all warm and fuzzy because that's where Chris and I got married. Memories....but back to the dance. Chris and I dropped her off at 6pm. Well, we tried to drop her off, but she and a couple of her BFF's waited in the parking lot for about 45 minutes for other BFF's to arrive, because you can't walk in without ALL of  of your girlfriends present. Duh. So we waited with them, which was fun because we got to watch all the kids arrive. The kids sure do clean up nice! 

The kids partied until 10pm.  I asked Hayley how it went. "Good" was the standard answer. Then there was something about how "old-fashioned" and "not cool" some of the dance music was. I asked for an example. She said, "they played Thriller, mom. Seriously, like nobody knows that song. We were all just looking at each other like what?".  That's what she said. If I wasn't already feeling old, I definitely am now....

The girls signature pose. I just love how fun and goofy they are! 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrating Easter and Grandma Jeanne!

The family gathered together this past Sunday to celebrate not only Easter, but grandma Jeanne's 80th birthday!  It was so nice spending time with family that we don't get to see very often, and I'm pretty sure that grandma Jeanne was over the moon with having her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids all under her roof for a full day! She is a beautiful, strong and funny woman and she deserved to be celebrated!

After some cake and ice cream, the boys went on the obligatory egg hunt, which started at the front of the house and ended in the back. Afterwards we took some pictures with grandma, and then relaxed and visited with family. It was a splendid day!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We knew he could do it!

I wanted to take a few pictures of Matthew today, and he agreed to sit through a quick session. In an effort to keep him in one place for more than a couple of minutes, I asked him to grab his favorite book.  Then I thought, hey, I'll get some shots of him looking like he's reading....everyone will see what a smart kid I have, and maybe I'll be back in the running for good mom of the year award! (one can dream, right?)  Well, Matthew sat down with his book and one of his favorite buddies, and started to read. And read. And read!  Before long he wasn't even paying attention to my camera, and just sat there reading his entire Dr. Seuss book to his buddy. He did a a really good job, and it made me so happy to see him actually read a book on his own, and seem to enjoy it too!

You see, Matt has never been a fan of reading. Or homework. Or school in general! He's quite smart and capable, he just doesn't have the attention for anything that requires him to sit still and focus for more than a few minutes. He's our square peg we're all trying to cram into a round hole. Lately though, he's been trying to make more of an effort to prove to us and his teachers that he can do the work and meet the goals that we set for him in his last IEP.  It's finally paying off  - Matthew's RSP teacher let me know today that they are no longer recommending the SDC (special day class) program for him (a program that would have required him to change schools for second grade)! He'll remain in his current RSP program as long as he continues to make progress. It was awesome news, and Matt's pretty stoked he doesn't have to change schools. We knew he could do it!

Here are some goodies from our photo/reading session:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fun with clippers

Last day of spring break, and Austin was badly in need of a haircut. The poor kid inherited his dad's hair - it grows in every direction, and when it's long, he starts to resemble a chia head. 

The only thing you can really do with it is give it a buzz. Unfortunately, Supercuts closes early on Sundays, but we thought why not? Let's cut it ourselves and save $12! So, Chris dusted off the clippers and headed outside with a very willing and excited kid.

Now, you would think that a buzz cut is all simple and stuff. After all, how can you mess up a #2 on the sides, #3 on the top? Well, with a very ticklish boy, a head full of cowlicks and an impatient father, it's pretty easy. Needless to say, Austin ended up with something that resembles a #1 most of the way around. I didn't take any after shots since Austin wasn't too keen on his new 'do. He liked wearing a hat to school today though, which is a good thing considering he may have to wear it for a week or so! 

(Click on any picture for a better view):

First go-round on the head, and he's starting to look a little nervous. And he's cold and itchy.

Check out those cowlicks! Poor kid. And judging by the look on his face, it seems as if he knows that this do-it-ourselves project is not going to end well. 

Since we're buzzing our half naked kid's hair on our front lawn, I thought the old blue lawn chair in the background added a nice and somewhat appropriate touch.