Friday, March 23, 2012


Noah insisted on buying Brian a kite for his birthday.  As if a 36 year old is just dying to have a fun little kite to fly, but at only $2.50, I indulged my little shopping helper.  Since we were on vacation the whole week before Brian's birthday, we did our shopping before we left town, allowing 8 days for Noah to ruin the surprise.  It only took about 10 minutes for that to happen...  "Daddy, daddy, we get to fly the kite on Noah and daddy day!  It has Spiderman on it because boys like Spiderman and you're a boy and I'm a boy, so we can fly it together on Noah and daddy day!"  Somehow Noah still seemed to think that there would be a surprise because the kite was in wrapping paper and hidden in the closet.
With the intense wind we get in Rochester, it seems logical that a kite would be fun.  We took it out this weekend when we had to be gone for a house showing.  The package indicated that it was intended for 5-15 mph wind.  What??!  Our wind is never lower than 5 mph!  I thought kites were built for windy days!  It was much closer to 25 mph when we were out, so the kite was quite strained as it was flown.  I kept expecting it to pop off the string or have some other catastrophic failure, but it didn't.  Overall, it was fun, but our attention span was only about 10 minutes for kite flying (maybe due to the stress of expecting a catastrophic failure?).  Maybe on a calm day, we could last longer!
The baseball field seemed to be a good choice for flying our Spiderman since there weren't any power lines or trees or anything else to cause issues.  I can't believe it's still winter and we got sunburned while flying kites and playing outside all day!
There has been mention of a princess kite for my upcoming birthday - girls like princesses!  I hope the adult shopper helps steer the enthusiastic young one... one kite is enough for this family!  We'll wait for a calmer day and try again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Barnacle Bill's

Last weekend when we had to be out of the house for a showing, we took Noah down to a secret little place that we haven't visited in awhile.  I'm pretty sure we hiked there in the spring when Noah was a baby and he screamed in our ears the whole time we hiked around the area.  I was "almost there" last year when we had a bike team ride that did the gravel road and hills that leads down to this area - tough ride!  In the picture, Noah is actually throwing rocks into the "road".  There is a Jeep road that goes through the creek (do you call it that??) and up the hill on the opposite side.  Noah seemed to enjoy the outing.  I think throwing rocks into water is one of his favorite activities!  We found a patch of ice up on the north slope of the big hill, so we didn't get too far.  We didn't have to be gone too long and were driving by a few properties of interest (in the event we sell our house), so the visit was short.  When you have the attention span of a preschooler, and it's getting close to lunch time, that doesn't really matter too much.  I'm starting to really like having house showings on the weekends, they force us to go out and do something fun away from our house for about an hour each.  More trips to the Bill Barnacle Forest Unit helps with our opinion of living in Rochester...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stripping Part 2

We found out that the temperature wasn't the cause of the chemical stripper not working optimally as described here.  Brian pulled in the power tools and with proper safety equipment took the door out onto the driveway and made a big mess shaveing/sanding all the paint off the frame and panels, leaving only the recesses surrounding the panels as problem areas.
You see that lovely wood grain?!
 We found that exact-o knives and the aptly-named "razor scraper" to be most effective.  Should have purchased one of these, or similar for the job!  My hand got worked from the effort.  Of course, the amount of control on a long handled scraper might be much less, and I was working in tight areas for the last bit.
Working in the panel recesses is the only hard part remaining.
 This is how I spent most of Saturday...
My camera-man was being clever with the ineffective chemical can as a "label"!
 The door is within sight of done with the stripping stage.  When Brian finished his attempt with the chemical, he came in and immediately looked to see what the cost of a new door would be.  They don't sell "fancy" doors like ours without the frame, and it took quite a bit of work to make the door we have fit the frame that's in there.  If we had done this much earlier in the process (before trim, for example), we might have just bought and installed a completely new door.  Design build isn't always what it's cracked up to be.  We have a dozen steps left... Brian has decided we'll put in a new door knob, so he has to patch up a few places in the door to make that work and look good.  We're shooting for getting the final sign-off on our permit before it expires/needs to get extended in April (or we'll pick up the pace if we get a purchase offer!!!).
Yes, I work in whatever I happen to be wearing - busy moms don't have time to change their clothes for every occasion.  My jean skirt happened to be on the top of my jeans pile and it was nice enough to go for it!  Since I had a skirt, I picked a blouse to complete the look ;)  Don't mind those winter white legs, it's still officially winter!!  
While I was scraping, Brian was also working on the door some.  Noah was playing in the front yard, mostly entertaining himself and doing a very nice job of it.  We each took breaks to check on him and play with him some.  Noah went in for a morning break/snack and made himself a cup of warm milk with chocowate. all. by. himself.  Okay, he did come out and ask if someone would help him reach the chocolate in the fridge.  
Noah giving his "street skweeper" a car wash, playing in the front yard in his Thomas undies!
He also took charge of his clothing situation throughout the day.  He peeled off his pants, socks and shoes when they got wet during the car washing.  After a bit, he wanted to jump in the driveway puddles that formed when he sprayed lots of water, so he asked if he could take all his clothes off, so they wouldn't get wet.  I told him where his swim trunks were and he went up to his room, found the swim trunks, and put them on (as well as taking off his shirt).  I was amazed how much he is able to do for himself!  Now, if only we could get him trained to put the clothes that are peeled off into the proper basket!  He did get the dishes cleaned up after one of his snacks this weekend too - right into the sink where it belonged was acceptable to leave it.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Veggie Crate

 I saw this little crate full of veggies in one of my magazines (either Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News). It was so cute, and I had some lath left over from my Christmas gift making that I thought I should just go build myself one.
This is it.  It kind of needs to sit outside for a few months to get nicely seasoned, but otherwise, it came out great!  It was so quick and easy to throw together.  Now, what can I put in it?  Hmm, need to plant a garden so I can use it the same way I saw it shown...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Floor work

Our main level is on the list for some TLC.  When we first saw this house, the floors were one of it's finest features.  Unfortunately, the previous owners has strategically placed rugs and furniture.  I'm not sure how much you will be able to tell in the before and after pictures, I can't see it very clearly.  These are very nice looking floors when you keep your face a long ways away!  When you get down and look carefully, there are scratches and gouges and weird spots where the stain didn't go on very evenly or where the poly bubbled up.  The wood is pine, so it's fairly soft for being in such a high traffic area.
We took one of our "between major projects" weeks and cleaned up the entry and living room floors with a good scraping/sanding and a fresh coat of poly.

Working hard
The bubbles in the old poly had to get scraped off with a paint scraper, it was one of those cases of "it looks a lot worse before it looks better".  Brian manned the sandpaper and I worked the scraper.  This is a "rustic" floor and it has the old-school nails.  All those nail-heads make it so we couldn't use the power-tools methods here.  I bet Super Jim could actually have done a good job with this (he's our very trustworthy and excellent wood flooring guy, Noah added the Super to his name!), but we do like to practice a little DIY whenever feasible.

It made a nice improvement!  We'll definitely be able to keep this floor off the "do something about it" list for another few years after that treatment.  
May 2011

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Noah made this watercolor.  I had one of the frames that I made before Christmas left empty still, and thought that putting one of Noah's pieces in it would be fun.  Noah and I cut it to size, picked out a mat paper, and got it mounted into the frame.  It was quite the undertaking with my little helper getting his hands into it the whole time.  We opted to put it in front of the rim because the green mat paper really made the watercolor pop out more than the black frame edges. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out!  It sits in my crafting area brightening up one of the shelves.

PS - Happy Birthday Mom!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Eagle Mountain

Yay for vacations!  We spent almost a week in the north woods recharging.  Noah is such a great traveler - he is so laid back when we're out of the city (I think we are too).  We stayed at a cabin named Myr in the Lutsen area (check it out at  It was just a short ways from Eagle Mountain, which has been on Brian's to-do list for quite awhile.  So we took the knee deep snow opportunity and went for it!
Noah bundled up ready to go, making crazy faces!
Clean your boots??  Funny sign at the trailhead.
We packed a lunch and lots of snacks right away in the morning and headed out to the Eagle Mountain trailhead about 8 snowy gravel road miles away.  Sandwiches, apples, granola bars, cookies, raisins, jelly beans, more granola bars, one pouch of fruit snacks and a packet of animal crackers.  We also packed a spare outfit for Noah realizing that he could have a need to pee in too short of time to get the layers of snowpants off. We have previously heard that the trail is about 7 miles round trip.  Noah would hike some and sled some.  We had our snowshoes.  It was a known possibility that Noah and I wouldn't go all the way to the top due to speed and attention span.  I carried the backpack of lunch, while Brian pulled the sled.  When Noah hikes, it's sloooow going.  We tried singing marching songs and talking about eating special treats once we made it so far.  Mom and Dad are much happier when he's in the sled, except that he's quite heavy to pull.  We need to set up the sled with a better harness and tubes rather than just a string.  We don't carry a clock or anything like that when we hike, so all we really know about time on the trail is that we left the car around 9:00 am and if we average 1 mph for the 7 miles, we'll do fine.
We're off!  Down the trail we go!
The best snowmen are the ones nature makes.
We decide to stop for lunch in a sunny spot where the Brule Lake Trail splits from the Eagle Mountain trail.  I passed out sandwiches and packed up a sling pack for Brian.  I wasn't able to keep up with Brian by then and the pace of our progress had me convinced that if we were going to make it back to the car in one piece, it was time for 2 of us to head back.  The good news was that it was quite warm and sunny for being a winter day - 26 degrees at the cabin in the morning.  Noah's camouflage snowpants were looking quite wet as well as his mittens.  Why didn't I think to bring multiple sets of outerwear?!?  Shortly after we split up, Noah and I stopped in another sunny spot to eat apples.  His hands were getting cold, so I put one of my pairs of gloves over top of his mittens.  It worked.
We made it to the lake!  That hill is not Eagle Mountain, it's to the left.
Vista from the top.
Brian celebrating that he made it!
We kept going for a little ways again and the snow had warmed to the point where it started clogging up on my snowshoes.  I felt like I was walking on top of volleyballs and my legs were getting pretty sore.  We stopped and I removed the snowshoes.  They were annoying to carry, but my legs felt much better to have them off. The trail was plenty well packed for big boots.  We just had to be sure to stay on the trail!  Noah mostly rode in the sled for me.  It wasn't too long, maybe 3/4 mile, when we heard a wolf howling.  Brian had caught up!  He made it to the summit and all the way back down the trail to us.  He was also carrying his snowshoes.  We traded - he got the sled, I got 2 pair of snowshoes - and off we went again.  We both had our coats wide open and our gloves off by this time.  Noah walked for a little ways, then started complaining about his toes.  We settled him into the sled, stripped off his boots and damp socks, and set him up with a dry pair of "crazy face" socks and Brian's gloves over top.  We teased him about being a monkey with his monkey hands and feet (since he had an adult pair of gloves over each).  He thought that was fun and talked non-stop about monkeys the rest of the way to the car.  I started to recognize a few things along the trail and kept thinking that the parking lot had to be just around the next bend or over the next hill.  Finally, it was!  We reviewed the map at the trailhead.  It looked a lot more like a 5 mile round trip on the map than 7 miles. My legs felt like lead and my shoulders were burning from carrying the backpack, snowshoes, and, on occasion, Noah.  We got into the car, ate the rest of the cookies, saw 37 degrees on the thermometer, and drove back to our cabin to collapse.  We were quite surprised to see that it was only 1:30!  Wonder how early we ate lunch?!  Back at the cabin, Noah power napped from, maybe, 1:45 to 3:45.  Whew!

Another great vista from the top.

Trailhead map and permit station.
Eagle Mountain is the highest point in Minnesota and is part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Aside from Eagle Mountain, we mostly hiked/snowshoed around near the cabin and hung out.  The cabin unfortunately had a TV rather than a fireplace, so we wasted some time with that.  They had a few 1000 piece puzzles in the cabin, so I put a couple of those together.  We, of course, brought more books and magazines than we could read in the week, and the cabin was well situated with local magazines and a few interesting books.  We did enough skiing and snowshoeing to wake up a few muscles, and enough relaxing and eating treats to feel like a vacation!