Annual Road Trip – Successes & Failures #acornsgowest2014

We did it again! We are home from a successful (well, mostly, more on that later) road trip from New Jersey to Minnesota and back, with many stops along the way, much laughter and lots of family visits. The kids did not want to leave the cabin, although they were happy to see their friends today and tell them all about our trip.

Our first stop was Chesterton, Indiana, up by Indiana Dunes State Park, where we visited with family from Mr. Acorns’ dad’s side of the family that we had not seen in 8+ years. Cousins, aunts, more cousins, more aunts ….. lots of pool swimming, fireworks viewing, and overall fun was had. We dipped our toes in Lake Michigan, got to see cows and pigs be born at Fair Oaks Farm, and just had an overall great time visiting.

toes lake michigan

Next up: family Christmas with Mr. Acorns’ mom’s side of the family! Yes, we do family holidays in the summer because that’s when we’re all together. We had a few scheduling issues this summer so we were all together only for one night, but we made it a fun one. Great gifts were exchanged, more swimming for the kids, and lots of wine and laughs for the adults.

Then it was off to the cabin!!!!!!!!!

lower mckenzie lake cabin

lake happy serene

Seriously. I was so ready to be there this year. The insanity of work this spring, the stress of moving. I was very ready to sit, put my feet up, and read a book while the kids fished and breeze blew. And I did just that, at least a little. I swear every time I sat down one of the kids needed something, but they had a blast, I finished one book and started another, and just had a very, very relaxing time.

On our last full day at the cabin we headed up to Bayfield, WI to see Lake Superior. We also took the ferry over to Madeline Island, and my daughter did not want to leave “her” island at the end of the day. It was very sweet. It was Miss M’s first ferry ride, and although we were there during the summer polar vortex we made the best of it and still suck our feet in the ridiculously cold lake!

acorns family selfie

toes lake superior great lake

We headed down to Eau Claire for 2 more days of visiting with the family, including croquet contests, digging in the mud, and the children’s museum for the little ones. Then, sadly, it was time for us to pack up and hit the road home. Our first day’s drive took us to Perrysburg, OH, just outside of Toledo. Which meant we had an opportunity to visit yet another Great Lake, and we did just that with a drive up to Maumee Bay State Park. Yes, that’s 3 Great Lakes in one trip!!!!

lake erie

It was a fabulous vacation despite some interesting  challenges. I learned that the Essentia Health Clinic at Spooner Hospital is staffed with really nice people when we had to take Miss M in for an ear infection. We got lucky with some credit card fraud that was targeted at our old NY bank account, and fortunately not the bank account we were traveling on. And, well, we may have returned without our car, but we got home eventually.

car sparkplug radiator stranded

What’s that you say? Oh yes – we returned home without our car. It’s in Western Pennsylvania in a town called West Middlesex with two nice men named Vince and Bill. Where it isn’t running. Just 4 miles over the PA border on Friday, wham – a bad noise, warning lights, etc. We were near an exit, got off, found a service station, and then leaned that apparently one of the head gaskets blew/cracked, the spark plug flew out straight through the radiator, and, well, she was not going any further that day. A rental car and a new game of tetris to re-pack our stuff later( you can fit the contents of a packed Pilot into an Equinox, just FYI), and we made it home late Friday night. I will be sure to update you on the car saga as it continues, but for now we have the CR-V and we’ll figure it all out.

I’m choosing to focus on the great parts of our vacation, because, despite its ending, we had a wonderful trip. We discovered that Miss M has quite a love of ballet, showing us her moves every chance she had. Mr. B learned to put his head underwater when he’s swimming. Miss M is quite a fisherman, and I still refuse to bait my own hook. We got a million bug bites but had a wonderful, memorable trip. Neither of the kids wanted to leave the cabin, and we cannot wait for our visit again next summer.

The Acorns are home.

house

Wardrobe Wednesday – Chevron and Lace Outfits

I thought a fun post to share on the occasional Wednesday would be to show you some of my favorite ensembles or pieces I have been loving lately.

Business Casual

This look was perfect for running to the courthouse to file something. I was not there in my attorney capacity, but I never go into a courthouse in jeans or shorts. So this was my choice:

wardrobe wednesday

Navy and white chevron top with dark red ankle pants (Target). Comfy and appropriate. The shoes are ancient flats I got at Target like 4 years ago.

Casual Friday

Last FridayI threw on my FAV pair of skinny jeans (from Coldwater Creek – skinny jeans with a faux leather tuxedo stripe. LOVE) and then went looking for a comfy top. I ended up with this cute little number I had ordered on Jane.com a while back:

hi lo lace tunic jeans coldwater creek

The sandals I got for $17 from Amazon last year and they are crazy comfy!! The top of the shirt is just black scoopneck. I layered a black tank underneath but will add some color next time with a brighter tank. Perfect outfit for running errands (even lifting heavy things at IKEA).

There you have it, two of my favorite outfits from the past week. What are you loving now??? Share with me!

The Great Landscaping Project of 2014

Gardening and landscaping. These are not things that I normally think of with great pleasure or excitement. Our last rental house in Rockland County had a terrible yard in terms of landscaping. Old, vine-like trees and shrubs that captured leaves, very shaded lawn that was more moss than grass. But we moved into a fabulously quaint (read: small) home in New Jersey and while the inside was pretty well updated, the outside hadn’t been kept up (more than mowing) in several years.

So we decided to change that. Weed & feed for the lawn (which worked GREAT, by the way). New bird feeders (couldn’t have those in Rockland because of the bears!). And then countless trips to the local nursery and Home Depot to spend way too much money on flowers, plants, seeds, mulch, pots and planters.

Yes, we’re only renters.

But, you see, our little rental home as just that – our home. The landlord has given us basically carte blanche when it comes to the yard and landscaping, so we had a LOT of fun getting it all set up. Without further ado, here’s a tour of our gardening adventures this spring!

First up – the haul from the various stops:

before planting

Front of the house

You may remember this picture from several weeks ago, showing the before and during.

Before and during pics flowers

 

Well, here are the after pictures!

landscaping front

I pulled out some of the old landscape cloth, weeded, laid new cloth, planted, then we put down about 30 bags of black rubber mulch. It won’t fade as fast, and given that it’s not an organic material it also won’t contribute to weeds growing. Plus it uses up those old tires that otherwise sit and rot. And when it’s done, we can recycle it! Plus it looks pretty.

Veggies & Herbs

We have a great spot in the backyard, next to the cellar doors, that we turned into the main part of the veggie garden this year. This is Mr. Acorns’ territory – I do flowers, he does veggies. He planted 9 different tomato plants between the fenced garden and the large pots, 2 hot peppers, lots of beans, spring onions, spinach, arugula and some cucumbers (the smaller ones are in the pots you can see in the pics). For herbs we planted LOTS of basil, chives, oregano, parsley, and dill. YUM.

veggies and herbs

Butterfly Garden a/k/a Kids’ Garden

The final project was to create a butterfly garden — a garden filled with plants that would attract butterflies, because my kids insisted we needed this. And if my kids are showing interest in gardening with me, then we’re going to do what we can to encourage that!

With the help of Mr. Acorns and Mr. D, we dug up a section of the lawn by the fence so we could get planting. We went with mostly perennials, so that they will be ready to come up next year with a lot less work, but also seeded in some annuals like Cosmos (Thank you to my awesome friend KW for those seeds!) and planted Miss M’s blue Chinese Forget-Me-Not that she seeded at daycare before we moved. The rest of the plants include bee balm, black eyed susan, catchfly, lantana, purple coneflower (though they are not doing well and I just added a tickseed to the garden in case the coneflowers don’t make it), phlox, cosmos, and a dwarf sunflower that Master B just needed to have. So I have a mix of annuals, perennials and biannuals. We put a little fence around it to discourage the rabbits and groundhogs from bothering the plants (thank you Christmas Tree Shop for great, economical fencing options).

butterfly kids garden

And we put together a few hanging plants for the deck as well, since we have a roof on the deck we have lots of places to put up hooks and hang fun things!

flowers deck hanging

And that, my friends, is our landscaping of our new home! It takes about 10 minutes to water everything at night, and then I usually just pull weeds here and there on weekends. The front beds just need weeding on the edges so it’s fast, thankfully.

I will post updates so y’all can see how everything looks as it comes into bloom!!!!!

Tap Tap…. Is This Thing On?

Wow. My last blog post was almost 2 months ago, and it was just a picture. My last “real” blog post was two weeks before that, and I have not had many posts at all since the turn of the new year.

Why? Because life has been CRAY-CRAY to say the least (and I hate that phrase, but it feels appropriate here).

Work exploded – my responsibilities are increasing each week, and it’s awesome but exhausting at the same time. We had to pack and move from a 5br house to a 4br house where every room is 1/2 the size compared to the old house.

(Side note – moving “locally” on our own with 2 children, ages 4 and 5, was far more difficult than moving across the country via PODS with a newborn and 20 month old. At least they napped then! )

I’ve been in depositions, court, unpacking, trying to keep the kids in a routine to help their transition, buying furniture, repurposing furniture, throwing away old furniture. It’s been quite the adventure.

But I have many photos from all of my projects that I want to share with all of you, so I am hoping to get back to regular posts in the coming weeks. Somehow my dear friend K has inspired me to actually care about my garden/flower beds in this house, so I am redoing those and will have some fun pictures there. I have a FABULOUS post coming up about how to remake a cheap or old kitchen table and make it uniquely yours for less than $60. ANd there will indeed have to be a giant post about all the fun I’ve had at IKEA this spring getting things for this house.

For now – here’s a quick before and during shot of the flower beds in front of the house. There was so much crap in there I filled an entire lawn waste bag (you know, those tall brown ones). Insane. But now I can pick out a few new plants, get some mulch, re-paper the beds and hopefully by next weekend it will look GORGEOUS out there ;-)

The top are the “before” pictures, and the bottom are the “during” as I at least got them cleaned up.

Before and during pics flowersHappy Spring everyone!!!!!

 

Mardi Gras 2014 – Another Fabulous Year! #mardigras2014

I have talked about our tradition of traveling to Mobile, Alabama each year for Mardi Gras. We have missed a few years because of work and budget and life, but I am very happy to say that we’ve just returned from another trip to the Gulf Coast that was filled with fun, laughs, and, of course, beads!

Friday we flew in to MOB and drove straight to the float barn to get Mr. Acorns’ beads and throws all organized in his spot on his float. This year was his first ride – SO EXCITING!!! We got everything squared away, hit CVS for a few forgotten items and some wine and beer (yes, you can buy all of that in one place in the South), then we checked into our hotel.

Friday night is the Crewe of Columbus parade, and it’s always a fun time! We hung out together with friends & family before, after, and during the parade, then headed back to our hotel to get our friends’ kids to bed. Fortunately, the floor they were staying on was all Crew of Columbus folks who were out at the ball for the night, so we were able to leave the kids in the room sleeping while we sat in the hallway with our wine (and vodka. and popcorn.) for a few hours. MUCH fun. The men all crashed early but Mrs. D and Ms. B and I had fun giggling until after midnight.

Saturday starts with a hearty breakfast, then the men took the kids to go decorate the room for the ball that night. This meant that Mrs. D and I had about 2.5 hours to ourselves. She took a nap, I decided to pamper and primp a little bit with a long, hot shower and painting my nails. Then I threw on some clothes and headed down to meet the crew for the noon parade, which is really a combination of several crews, including the Floral Parade that is made up of children. It’s always fun, and I even got a little bit of sunburn standing there. Ahhhhh. Next up was the race to Dauphin Street for lunch with the entire rest of the crowd.

From there it’s really just relaxing and socializing until the men leave to get suited up and the parade starts at 6 (or 6:30, it’s always changing). I have to confess, seeing Mr. Acorns off to his first ride made me teary. I was so excited for him!

The MOT parade was FABULOUS, as always. The theme this year was There’s a First Time for Everything, and the float themes included First President, First Sin, First Knight (Mr. Acorns was on that one!), First Base, First Hunt, and a bunch of others. When Mr. Acorns’ float came around, Ms. K held the sign for me and Mrs. D helped me get up to the rail. And then, I cried hahahaha. He saw us, threw me a ton of stuff, and I blew him lots of kisses!!!! He did great! We then got dumped on when the rest of our friends and family came through on the last float. Always a fun time!

Then it’s onto the chaos of getting ready for the ball, the fun of call-outs and the tableau, lots of food and drink, and general great time. Everyone is usually exhausted, with sore feet, but we have a good time! We inevitably think we should go out for one more drink, which results in the Sunday hangover, but it’s worth it. This year on Sunday we grabbed breakfast then went back to Mrs. D’s parents’ house to visit for a few hours before we headed to the airport. Mr. & Mrs. K are remodeling her parents’ house in Mobile and it looks incredible.

Then, sadly, it was time to leave the 75 degree weather and head north. We had (mostly) uneventful flights, one missing bag (that was finally delivered on Tuesday), and returned to the polar vortex much to our chagrin.

Check out my photos from this year’s trip!**

book flight, brooklyn girls, bloody mary

snow, melting, airplane

mobile downtown panoramic

mardi gras beer garment bag

MOT float mr acorns

group costume ball gown mardi gras

warmth south azalea

mardi gras loot moon pie beads

 

***the group photo collage is a mix of my photos and those taken by Ms. B, as she was the smart one who brought a real camera haha! thanks again EB!

Foto Friday – Daddy & Daughter Dance

Ok, Ok. So it’s really a video, but you will forgive me this time, right?

If you are friends with me on Facebook you’ve seen this one, but I thought it was just too sweet not to share here on the blog too.

On Monday, while we were home and playing and working, M asked me to help her into a princess dress. Of course I said yes. Then she told me that she had to put on princess shoes and her princess dress so she could ask Daddy to dance.

My heart.

I did not capture the start of the dance because I was actually just enjoying the moment, teary eyes and all, but I managed to capture the last few seconds.

I thought Mr. Acorns was going to cry. It was so damn sweet.

heart daddy daughter dance

Adventures in Henna Hair Color

My hair was in desperate need of help. I have done a lot of coloring in the past 18 months, including bleaching and bright, colorful streaks of red, purple, etc. While those bright colors have been gone for a bit, the bleached strands and uneven, flat brown hair remained. I was dreading spending another $150+ on a salon visit to fry it all little more, so I started researching henna hair color.

After a few hours on Google, I decided that I would try out the Lush Cosmetics line of henna products, as they seemed beginner friendly and people had wonderful things to say about them. I picked up 2 colors: Caca Brun and Caca Noir. I wanted a dark brown color with warm hints, not a bright red, so I grabbed these. Each big block was $25 (for 6 squares), for a total of $50.

lush henna brun noir

(sorry, I forgot to take pics before I chopped off 2 of each haha). Based on my research, I needed 4 of the smaller blocks to cover my head, so I used 2 of the Brun and 2 of the Noir. I quartered the smaller blocks and put them in a glass bowl that I could use as a double boiler. I then made a cup of coffee to use along with plain boiling water, to help bring out the richer brown tones in the hair coloring.

chopped lush henna block

coffee henna lush

I boiled a little water in a small saucepan while the kettle heated to a boil as well. I put my glass bowl on top of my saucepan, creating a double boiler. Once my kettle was hot, I brewed my coffee and poured about 1/2 cup of boiling water over my henna to begin the melting process. I then added the coffee (all of it, probably about 12 oz) and a bit more water to get it mixed up to “cake batter” consistency.

henna lush melting

Blogger fail – I forgot to take a pic of it all mushed up until after I was done applying it. But my husband snapped a pic of it because he totally doubted how this would all turn out:

henna mixture lush developing

All of the instructions say to keep it warm while applying so I raced from the kitchen to the bathroom to get it started. And here is a pic of the mixture after I finished applying it:

henna mixture

I prepped my bathroom – - all rugs removed, lots of towels and paper towels and spray cleaner at the ready to clean up the mess.

cleaning supplies henna

I sectioned my hair into about 8 sections, then used the Lush Ultrabalm all around my hairline and on my ears to make it easier to clean up afterward. I donned my gloves and away I went! I started at the back of my head and moved forward, being sure to massage the mixture into my roots and all the way to the ends.

My tips:

  • My setup worked great. I probably will have 2 pairs of gloves at the ready next time, so that if I need to switch out b/c I need to touch something else I can.
  • My mixture was a little too thick. I will make it more of a yogurt consistency next time, and that will make it easier to apply and also less messy I think.

Once I had all of my hair slathered in the henna mixture, I grabbed the trusty Cling Wrap and wrapped it all up. I had also cut a strip of a towel and bobby pinned that around the base, just in case of any drips. Then I put a plastic shower curtain over it, and finally heated up a hair towel wrap to put over it on and off.

wrapped head henna

henna hair wrapped up

And then I sat like that for 5 hours.

As the henna dries, it gets hard and heavy, and you will feel like your head weighs 1,000 pounds. The smell of henna is something that everyone warned me about, but it did not bother me at all. In fact, I found it quite pleasing, and significantly better than the chemical smell of ‘regular’ hair color. I also have a sensitive scalp and it was nice to use a process that did not hurt or burn for a change.

At the end of my 5 hours, I unwrapped all the layers and hopped in the shower. Now, I had read many things about rinsing out the henna, but my best tip is this — get into the shower and just let the water run on your head. When I cleaned up my bowl after application, I noticed that as the hot water ran over the henna, it melted and washed away, so I used that method for my hair. It probably took about 15-20 to fully rinse it out, but once I was able to move my hair again (seriously, this stuff dries like a hard clay helmet) I used a few handfuls of conditioner to work the rest out. You will feel the smaller, grittier pieces and those are hard to get out, but just keep at it.

pictures henna before after collage

I let it air dry, and as you can see, my hair was AMAZING. It’s incredibly soft and full of shine. The color change is hard to capture in the crappy light of my kitchen, but I wanted the pictures to be taken in the same light. The before is a mixture of flat brown with blond-ish highlights leftover from my red and purple streaks, and it’s just, well, flat. The after is just FULL of light, shine, and warmth. The brown tones evened out and it has an overall warm, reddish hue that is just spectacular.

The henna will continue to develop over the next several days, so I will take another pictures on Wednesday/Thursday to see how it looks then.

I am ecstatic with my results. I was not looking for drastic change, which is why I chose the colors that I did. I was looking for a way to color my hair, bring it life, even tones and some warmth, in a healthy way. Absolutely, 100% accomplishment!!!! And I know that I will keep doing this every 8-10 weeks or so, because it is definitely worth it!