Friday, March 30, 2012

Swingset Progress

I've been slowly working on the swing set.

I've restained it, moved the slide, and moved the window. The window is now on the right.

I've added a chalk board inside.

There is also a window with window sill on the other side.

Here's where I'm at right now.

I may or may not add trim around the edges. I am undecided if I want it to look more rustic. The kids want to put flooring down on the first floor, but my hubby does not. I'll decide later if I want to build a removable floor or not. It will be heavy, but it will be win win for both.

It's slowly progressing. I need to stain the inside of the new pieces, build the roof, install new handle bars, install the rope ladder (maybe), change out the toddler swing with a hanging bar or glider. I think the kids have vetoed the glider, but we'll see. I also envision a pulley system, doors on the windows, a mailbox, and railing around the first floor if I decide to add flooring.

Much to do so it will be a while before I finish.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Target Toys for CHEEEP

Do you need any toys for Easter? I don't need any, but I simply couldn't resist the great Target deals this week.

Here's the dealio.

Scrabble Flash, Yatzee, Simon, Electronic Banking Monopoly, and Bop IT XT are on sale this week for $15 (retails for $24.99). Use the $5 Target coupon AND the Hasbro manufacturer coupon for $5 to get it for only $5.00 PLUS you will get a free Hasbro card game with your purchase (free card game with a $10 Hasbro game purchase). That's a $6.89 card game for zilch.

Battleship is on sale for $10 (retails for $18.99). You can use the $3 Target coupon and the $3 Hasbro coupon to bring it down to only $4. You will also get a free card game with this purchase as well.

The Match up game and Heroes action figures are priced $6.99, using the $3 Target coupon and the $3 Hasbro coupons, this brings the price to 99 cents.

There are other scenarios you can opt for, like choosing Candyland, Chutes and Ladder, or Cootie for $1.49 after coupons and Operation, or Connect 4 (I don't remember the prices for these).

For me, the total retail price of everything came out to be $142.49, but I spent $21.97. Using my Target Visa, I brought the total down to $20.87. With tax, that's a savings of $131.65, which is over 85% off. The only thing I'll keep for the kiddos is the Simon Flash game. The rest of the toys will be donated. I'm so excited. My donation stack is growing and it is only the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dividing Plants

2 years ago I planted 4 iris plants. They have multiplied so I decided it was time to divide them before they bloom this summer.

One iris plant (on the far right) is getting tangled with the palm tree. Originally, we had much larger palms, but they died 2 winters ago so we replaced it with a hardier palm. Although, they can survive colder climates, they grow relatively slow. It's crazy how one iris plant has grown and multiplied 12x.

It was no fun digging up the plants. I had to remove the rocks.

Then tear up my fabric liner. This prevents weeds from coming up. It is fabulous and totally worth it, but a pain to put down around your plants.

After I dug up the plants, I was careful to not destroy the roots. I did have a few casualties.

I planted only 4 plants 2 years ago and now I had 24. I decided to clump a couple together and the massive one of 12, I was unable to separate completely without damaging it, so it still had 6 clumped together in the end.

In the end, I had enough plants to spread through out my area.

Hopefully, they survive. I can't wait to see them bloom this summer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kids Bowl for Free

Last summer, we bowled every week in the Kids Bowl Free Program. They have now opened their site for registration. Each week, you will be emailed coupons allowing your kids to bowl 2 free games every week day for free. It was great. Note, you still have to pay for rental shoes. I ended up buying my kiddos their own bowling shoes on Amazon so that it truly was free to bowl. If your kids love bowling, this is a great summer program for you. Adults can bowl too with a one time fee.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Our trip to the Zoo

After a week of rain, it was nice to have a weekend with wonderful weather. We decided to take the kiddos to the zoo. We decided to go to a different zoo this year and noticed that since our family is so large, buying the season pass was only $4 more than the day pass and we also got 6 free tickets to ride the monorail. That made it $14 cheaper to buy the season pass than it was to buy the day passes and the monorail tickets separately. Plus, we get 10% off their food and souvenirs, a free stuffed toy and free parking. You can't beat that.

R. wanted to see the birds first so we headed that way and I found some cozy parrots that were just too adorable.

Hmm..similar to my kids?

Next, my kids needed to see the snakes. We headed that way.

Along the way, the kiddos, especially A. felt compelled to pose in front of every statue they came across.

A. was just having so much fun.

The best part about the zoo, the animals. We've been to the zoo every year since the kiddos were born and every year we go, the lions are always sleeping.

Fortunately, it wasn't so hot that they slept out in the open.

The kiddos most favorite animal are the penguins. They stared at them swimming around for quite some time. I love photographing animals. Here are some of my favorites.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Building a Clubhouse

Here's our swing set. Against the newly stained fence on the right, it looks a bit scruffy. I had always believed that this swing set would be gone in a couple of years since I hadn't seen the kids use it all that much.

Of course, they proved me wrong this week when I forced them to be outside with me as I stained the fence. Sorry, but I just couldn't trust three kids under the age of 7 all by themselves for too long, even if I were just right outside.

The roof tore off so their "fort" is roofless. As I was staining the fence, I decided to give their swing set a face lift by re-staining it as well.

It was a bit of an eye sore before.

Three hours later with a coat of stain, it looks new again (well, as much as it could without a roof).

The swing set has never looked like the picture on the box. We've moved the slide around, never installed the rope ladder or the glider swing because the kids were always too young, but now, I'll have fun taking all those things out, but at the same time, we are converting the second story to a club house. I plan on enclosing the open areas, moving the window to the other side and re-roofing. The kids have decided they no longer want the sand box as well. If the second story goes well, I may install a new floor and walls for the first floor as well. I have the wood, just need to find the time. I am excited about this project.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Staining Complete...nearly

This weekend was all about trimming the hedges, fertilizing the lawn and staining, staining, and staining. I'm nearly done. I just have one more gate to stain and that will be it! I stared at the gate for a long time to see if I wanted to stain it at all because it still looks pristine...sorry no pics. In the end, I'll stain it again, just so that it will weather the same color, but seeing how the front gate didn't need to really be re-stained after nearly 5 years just reiterated to me that hand staining does make a difference.

The rest of my fence was sprayed and it seemed to have lasted only 4 years. This year, I decided on a whim that I would hand stain my entire fence. Quite honestly, I thought, even before I began, that I would be giving up mid-way, but nope, I kept chugging a long. The only thing that prevented me from finishing this weekend was rain.

Here's the before.

and the after

I love the darker color. You'll have to excuse that one bright piece above the door. The pool builder broke that piece and replaced it with the wrong color stain. I may re-stain that piece with an even darker stain to try to match it.

I thought getting pricked by my rose bushes while I was staining was bad, but it was nothing like getting stuck with my palm tree needles.

It was a good thing I trimmed them before I started. It could have been worse.

Finishing up the last panel will have to wait until this weekend since rain is predicted to come for the next few days. Here's the run down of what I spent. The stain was a whopping $40 a gallon, but it was supposed to be the best out there. I used up 6 gallons and with my 10% off coupon, the final cost was $216 for the stain. I spent $4.91 on a stain brush which brings my total with tax to $239.14 for materials. I spent approximately 3 days staining (technically 2 full days and 2 half days). Last summer, I received a quote for $580 to stain my fence so staining it by hand saves me about $340 and at the very least lasts 2 years longer which by itself is worth it.

I am so happy I got one thing off my list. What's more to come? I have to clear out some of our dead plants that didn't make it through the drout, mulch the flower beds, plant some begonias, stain the swing set, build a clubhouse for my boys, separate my plants that have multiplied, and so much more.

I hope to tackle most of these projects if not all, before the summer heat catches up to us. At least, I got one major task nearly checked off my list. I am ec-sta-tic!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Staining Workout

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a project in your head and have to execute it right away? Well, that is what happened to me this morning. I'm home with the kids this week for Spring Break. When I woke up this morning, I decided that I wanted to stain the fence. I know what you are thinking, what?? But low and behold, at six in the morning, I was ready to hop in my car to Lowe's.

I did the calculations last year and it doesn't save me all that much money if I hire someone to do it. However, if I do hire someone to re-stain my fence and use their stain, it will have to be redone in 3 years. That's what I have noticed around the neighborhood. The areas that were sprayed by my hubby still looked pretty good after 4 years. The front fence where I hand stained is still looking great, coming on to the fifth year now so I believe that hand staining and using a great quality stain really does make a difference.

My whole ulterior motive was to also get a nice workout while re-staining the fence by hand. It's been a nice, cool, and breezy week so when better than now.

Four more months and it will be five years since we last stained our fence. Here's what it looked like this morning when I woke up.

I decided upon this stain, but in oak brown color.

After an hour of staining, this is where I'm at. The left side hasn't been re-stained yet. When it dries, it will be a little bit lighter. I stopped staining because I thought I felt rain drops.

After I cleaned everything and put away my paint brush, the sun decided to come out and shine. Oh well. I will continue to stain tomorrow. Until then, let me unzoom my lens to show you where I am at. My fence is incomplete.

Long long way to go. Should I get tired of it, I'll whip out my spray gun, but until then, I'm liking the way it turned out so I'll keep chugging along. Until then, wish me luck. I'll keep you posted, but may be a while before I finish it all up, unless I can solicit some help ;)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Raw Shooting

I'm no professional photographer, but I do love taking pictures. I started to shoot in raw when I was taking our family fall pictures. I wanted to enlarge some images and I could only get the clarity in the size I wanted if I shot in raw. That experience changed the way I shoot pictures and I don't think I will ever go back.

For me, to get a great shot, you need a focused picture and great natural lighting. I shot this image for my donut hole posting. Since, it was early in the morning, I had to use kitchen light to make up for the lack of natural light. The image still came out a little dark.

Since I shot the image in raw, I was able to manipulate the exposure using a raw editing program. I use Lightroom and I love it. You can manipulate the lighting, exposure, and color before you develop the image into a jpeg to print.

I use lightroom to change the lighting and if I need to photoshop flyaway hair or other blemishes, I am old school, and go back to fireworks for that. For this image, I decided to lighten it up by changing the exposure of the shot. You can see the before and after here.

It looks like it was brighter than what it was outside.

With lightroom, I'm able to also change the lighting to make the picture look antique or aged as well.

The lighting possibilities are endless. I love it and I don't think I can shoot any other way. If you love taking pictures and have never shot in raw, I suggest you give it a try. You'll be amazed at what your images can look like.
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