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Celebrating 80 years

This past weekend we were in Manhattan, KS, for almost 5 days to celebrate my Grandpa Max’s 80th birthday!!

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We had so much fun hanging out with all of our extended family at the hotel, a toast and roast dinner for Max on Friday, a family BBQ/K-state watch party on Saturday, the reception on Sunday afternoon that nearly 230 people attended (!!!!), and especially at the donut food truck in Aggieville. Who wouldn’t love a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich?

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But it wasn’t all fun and games…and donuts. The centerpieces for the reception on Sunday were my assignment. I struggled with what to do for at least a month! I wanted them to be personal, but there aren’t exactly a lot of ideas on Pinterest for an 80 year old man’s birthday party!

I finally decided that displaying family pictures might be the best option. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to display them and collecting so many pictures, but I think they turned out great!

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So here’s how they came together. First we cut a 4 x 6 into 6″ pieces (we borrowed a miter saw for this since our circular won’t go all the way through, leaving a weird ridge on the ends.)

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Treated lumber isn’t exactly pretty, so I used a light gray paint and a cheap natural bristle brush to dry-brush every side of the block. (Dip a cheap chip brush in the paint, wipe excess on paper towel, and apply with light, quick strokes.)

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They still looked like rustic blocks of wood, but without the unsightly green tinge of treated lumber.

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For the focal point, I created pinwheels out of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper. Here’s the tutorial I used from Dream Green DIY.  I didn’t follow it exactly since mine were double sided, so here are a few tips (which probably won’t make sense if you haven’t read the tutorial):

  1. I cut my paper into 4″ wide strips and used the 3 pieces to create one pinwheel. It looked full enough and used less paper. I folded each strip in half, then each half in half, and so on to keep my pleats a consistent size.
  2. To secure the pinwheels and keep them flat, I glued small pieces of wooden dowel on each side using super glue (short enough that they’d be covered by the circle). Hot glue also works, but is a bit messier and takes longer to dry.
  3. I used double sided tape to secure my sections of pleated paper together. Use 3M Scotch brand! Duck brand doesn’t hold!
  4. When securing the first strip to the last to complete the circle, I overlapped several pleats (with the last pleat facing down/in so you didn’t see a cut edge) leaving an untaped pocket in the middle to insert a dowel to hold it up.

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My awesome graphic designer brother created a medallion for the middle that I printed out and glued in the center on both sides. White background on purple pinwheels…

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And a purple background for the gray pinwheels. We went with purple as the main color because K-State is the sports team of choice for the Bayer family!

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As for the pictures around the outside, I collected over 100 pictures from family’s Facebook pages, old pictures that were scanned and emailed, and my Grandma’s Kodak Pulse account. I had them printed so they would be on nice photo paper, and then cut them and attached them to the paper backings using re-positionable glue dots. Not as cheap as a glue stick, but much faster and way less messy! (4×6 prints are the cheapest, but I knew most of those would be too big so I edited them first to have some white space on the bottom and one side! Glad I did. I wouldn’t have had room for 6 to 8 pictures per block otherwise!)

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I had initially intended to display the pictures on wires, but any wire thick enough to hole up the picture came in rolls, so it was kinked when it was unrolled! Hence, the wooden dowels!

Andrew helped me drill holes in the blocks: one in the center for the pinwheel and 6 to 8 holes for the pictures. (I had already organized the pictures and decided on the groupings for each block.)

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Another tip here: We drilled the first few holes at an angle away from the center thinking this would allow more room for pictures. We quickly realized this caused each picture to tilt forward, making it difficult to see. It worked much better to drill the holes almost straight up and down.

Next, I cut a bunch of dowels into smaller lengths and used “gel control” super glue to attach a mini clothespin to the top of each one. We found the dowels and clothespins at Hobby Lobby. I couldn’t tell you what section since the whole store is the “craft section!”

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Arranging them was the time-consuming part. I thought I’d be able to glue all the dowels and then put the centerpieces together, but it really worked better to do one centerpiece at a time so I could cut the exact length of dowels I needed to make each block’s pictures work together.

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I did the blocks in loose themes, like travel (they travel a lot!)…

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Important events with grandkids, Max and Sue (my grandparents) through the years…

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Family, Wind River Ranch (a guest ranch we all went to together for 5 years in a row), etc.

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The final touch was a square of purple fabric under each block. I bought 2 yards of a cheap broadcloth and cut it with a rotary cutter (thanks to my awesome sister-in-law) for clean edges. I thought it added a bit more presence to each centerpiece and helped it pop off the white tablecloth.

We sprinkled a few extras around the room, too.

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Another relative had sent me old pictures of Max. I wanted everyone to be able to see them, so I arranged them in vases (using white beans as the filler…cheap and cute!) at the entrance of the party room where people could look at them as they waited in line to sign the guest book.

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Apparently, there was even one photo that Max himself had never seen! I call that a win.

The centerpieces were also pretty easy to travel with since everything was detachable. I wrote out the order of the pictures for each block on a sticky note, stuck it to the block, labeled hole #1, and then put all the pictures (still on their dowels) in file folders lined up in a box. It made it really easy for other people to help me put them back together!

The party was so much fun, and I really think the centerpieces were a huge hit! I noticed several people throughout the party pluck a picture out of its block and carry it off to show somebody. My perfectionistic side wanted to scream, but I realized I should take it as a compliment that people were looking at the pictures and wanted to interact with the centerpieces! Can’t say that about a boring flower centerpiece!

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All in all, it was a great weekend with family! I really had a lot of fun looking through the old pictures and I’m glad I got to be a part of making the day special for my sweet Grandpa. Happy 80th birthday, Grandpa Max, and here’s to many more!!

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A final farewell

I feel like I’m noticing a trend here, but the past week has been busy and stressful, and we haven’t had time for projects or blog posts! As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my computer died (after I dropped it…go me), which has made posting somewhat difficult.

As if that weren’t enough stress (and cost) for us, last week our trusty (or not) ’98 Nissan Altima, Friedrich, decided it was at the end of its rope.  It is 17 years old with over 170,000 miles, but we thought we’d have about 6 more months with it, and hoped we could sell it for at least $1000. Imagine our surprise (and dismay) last Thursday when Norm the tire man told us it was toast. Or a giant paper weight.

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Yeah, ok, so the paint is totally oxidized and splotchy (looks worse in person!), it has a hole in the front bumper from where someone (cough, Andrew!) ran into a trailer hitch (We glued the piece back in. If you squint you hardly notice!!), the Nissan decal on the back fell off, technically the compressor is broken so the AC could stop working at any time, you have to unlock with the fob because the lock on the driver door is broken, the driver side visor falls out and hits you in the head when you try to open it, the trunk doesn’t stay open very well, resulting in several banged heads…AND we’ve gotten locked out countless times because it randomly locks all on it’s own (but hey, that’s been happening since it was new!). So what…our car just had LOTS of character!! Nothing we couldn’t deal with…

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Until he told us that to get it running again could be up to $1000 and there was no guarantee that would even fix the problem. Kelley Blue Book value was only $1500, so we couldn’t sink any more money into it and had to say goodbye.

Initially, I was pretty upset about the timing and angry that this had happened. Like crying upset off and on all day Thursday and Friday. We had just spent quite a bit to try to keep this car running, and now we weren’t even going to be able to resell it. Bummer. *hugs*

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Plus, this was also this my first car, so I was a bit attached, and we were just not ready to make the plunge into car shopping! The used market is horrible right now, so we knew it could present a challenge.

I don’t currently work, so we could deal with one vehicle for a while, but our other vehicle is a 2000 Ford Ranger. It’s a tiny truck so you can’t fit very much in it (unless it can get rained on), yet it also has terrible gas mileage (It is fairly old, after all). Since we have several holiday trips coming up, we knew we’d need something “travel-friendly” fairly soon. Everyone says September is the best month to buy, so we started looking.

Fairly quickly, we realized we liked the newer Nissan Altima’s much better than any other car in our price range, particularly over the Toyota Corolla, which we were also considering. I suppose I may have been a bit biased from the beginning.

 

 

 

Isn’t it pretty?? I still just couldn’t wrap my mind around having to buying a new (to us) car. I even had a mini break down while one salesperson tried to sell us a car. Sorry ’bout that, Keith.

But my awesome husband, who’s great with numbers, did all the math (factoring in things like depreciation, maintenance, and potential resale value) and showed me that this car will actually cost us about the same or less to own each year than the previous car. Can’t get me with the emotions of special new features or horsepower, but talk to me about numbers and you might have me convinced.

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So, this weekend we bought this 2014 Nissan Altima in Storm Blue.

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We also stopped by to say goodbye to Friedrich and get all our stuff (since he would never be coming home again). The shininess of the new car certainly made it a bit easier to let go. No offense, Friedrich.

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Then we had quite another task in front of us: cleaning out the garage!! No way was this car is going to hang out in the driveway like the last one. Garage parking only!! So…that only took us like 4 hours. (You can kind of see the mess in the background.)

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Need to keep that paint shiny, though!

We don’t have all the fancy features, but almost anything feels fancy to us at this point! We do have push button start, which is awesome! And blue tooth capabilities for our phones! Woot! Also, great gas mileage.

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I’m sure it has tons of other features, but here’s what I care about: the driver side visor doesn’t fall out on your face while you’re driving, the car doesn’t lock us out, and we haven’t had it long, but I’m guessing the alarm won’t start blaring at 2 in the morning just because it feels like it. Oh yeah, that happened with the old one. Sorry neighbors. We have a trunk button on our key fobs, and the trunk actually stays open, even when parked in our sloped driveway! Which it never will be…cause it will be in the garage. But still, it’s the little things. :)

Oh, and did I mention it’s pretty?

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I still feel a bit emotional about saying goodbye to Friedrich and about the timing of all of this, but I think we thoroughly researched our decision and got a good deal. We did buy it from a dealer (which we didn’t think we would) because no one is selling these private party (that we could find.) Luckily, we found the exact same car at two different dealers, so we were able to do some decent negotiating. 

Then when the finance manager gave us the paperwork to sign, we noticed that the final amount was for $1000 less than we had agreed on! Andrew and I both mentioned it several times, but he insisted it was right! We even got a $500 trade in for our non-working vehicle (are they insane??) and they said they would go pick it up with their trailer if we just dropped off the title. Win win.

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The real question is, do we name this car? The old car really only had a name cause I was pressured into it in high school. The truck is still nameless. Eh, we’ll see.

So now that all that craziness is over and we’ve got the computer stuff sorted out, too, maybe we can work on some unfinished projects (like staining the deck if it would just stop raining!) and blog posts won’t be so infrequent and random? Well, one can hope.

Auf wiedersehen, Friedrich. You were a good car. I’ll miss all your little quirks and random honking. Xoxo.

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Summer’s end

Well, summer is officially over, so no more complaining from me about the early appearance of fall decorations, pumpkin flavored everything, and the inevitable (and endless) posts about “sweater weather.” (FYI, I’m wearing shorts for as long as possible!!) Unfortunately for us, we also experienced several other “endings” during the past week. Our poor ’98 Altima’s air conditioning finally called it quits (luckily it happened now and not 3 months ago!), our free grill broke for good, and possibly worst of all, my Asus Zenbook isn’t feeling so zen after I dropped it on it’s face!

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Literally. Face down on a hard floor. But really, can you blame me? This thing is as light as air. It was modeled after the Macbook Air, after all, and it’s like holding a cloud. I’m really not a clumsy person, but I’ve never dropped any electronic device as much as this poor laptop! And the last time did it in for good. Pretty sure I damaged the hard drive, and since I’ve already damaged the charging port by dropping it on that, it’s probably not worth getting it repaired. Boohoo.

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I wish I could blame my severe lack of blogging during the summer on this, but since it just happened this weekend, it’s not to blame. Now that I’m without my own laptop, though, posting will probably continue to be sporadic until we figure out what to do. (Luckily, I did have almost everything backed up! Whew.)

But without easy access to my pictures, let’s just do a little recap of the summer and talk about upcoming projects. A few months ago, my mom and I traveled to Moran, KS to visit my grandparents. Here’s me and my Grandma Reta. Let’s be honest, this post (and all of them) are really for her. :)

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While we were there, we did some thrifting and I found this great french provincial dresser (and mirror) and brought it home with me.

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We’ve been so busy with other stuff that I haven’t had a chance to redo it yet! Once it’s painted (I may shell out the big bucks for some Annie Sloan chalk paint!), it’s going in our living room to replace our current media center. Be excited!

We’ve also been working on this little project for Andrew’s office.

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It’s done now, but those pictures weren’t backed up, so we’ll have to retake some. It looks a bit different now!

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And, of course, our biggest summer project has been our awesome deck!! We still haven’t stained yet (due to the wood being too wet, then being out of town, then rain, then more out of town, a non-bleached spot under our grill mat, rain again and blah blah blah.) Maybe this weekend?? But we have done most of the railing! Here’s a sneak peak.

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This was pretty time-consuming, I gotta be honest, but it’s also the cutest railing ever! I’m in love with it! Wait until you see the finished result! I’ve also been working on a few other painting projects that I haven’t had a chance to share yet.

June and July activities included lots of hanging out with friends, a visit from Andrew’s brothers and my family, and volunteering for VBS…

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August included babysitting this little lady (my niece)…

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Letting her take selfies on my phone…

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And making cookies with her.

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Also, the annual Tontitown Grape Festival with friends…3 years in a row now!

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And we took not one, but two trips to Little Rock in August to see my family (my birthday and Labor day). On the first trip, Andrew built this dormer desk for my sister (it still needs to be painted.)

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And on the last trip, we repaired their new sofa (yes, new and it broke!) and my mom and I repainted her laundry room and shelves. No pictures, unfortunately. We also started a small group this summer, and August/September is line review time for the hubs! (If you’re not familiar with the retail world, then just ignore that.) So, you see? We haven’t been lazy! Just really busy!

Stay tuned for updates on some of these projects, especially the deck! Fingers crossed we can stain this weekend! And hopefully I’ll be able to find the pictures I need and get something posted over the next week or two, but if not, let’s blame my laptop situation and not my laziness, ok? K. Hope everyone had a wonderful summer!

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Just cruisin’

We got home this past Saturday from our Carnival cruise to Mexico! I didn’t want to publish all over the interwebs that we’d be gone, but now let’s talk about it! We did a 5 day cruise that left from New Orleans, LA and went to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico. We went with my brother and his wife, and had a generally AWESOME time.

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I love the beach, warm weather, and shorts and swimsuits, not to mention having my bed made every day with towel animals decorating the end of it. What could be better?

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As I said, we left from New Orleans…I have to admit I was a bit worried when we arrived to the Big Easy and found cold, overcast weather waiting for us.

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In fact, all four of us got up the next morning and went to breakfast in sweatshirts and cardigans, only to realize it was sunny and 80 degrees! Hallelujah! So we laid out in the sun…

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Played some mini golf…

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Posed for cheesy pictures, dressed up for formal night (which doesn’t have to be so formal, but why not go all out?)…

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And ate until we couldn’t eat any more. And then ate some more. Truly. And this was the best of all of it: the warm chocolate melting cake!

15 Tips for a Cruise Vacation - Carnival Cruise Melting Cake

via Living Locurto

I want to go on another Carnival Cruise just for this dessert, but I suppose it might be more practical to try to make it myself.

We also did two shore excursions, one in each port. At Progreso, we visited the Dzibilchaltún Mayan ruins. Totally worth it! There were plenty of ruins to see, but it was only a 15 minute drive vs several hours to see Chichén Itzá.

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And we swam/stuck our feet in a “cenote” or sinkhole.

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Afterwards, we ate lunch on the beach and played in the water before returning to the ship.

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The next day we went to Cozumel, where the water is AMAZING…

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And paddled around in clear kayaks and snorkeled in the Carribbean!

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After another day at sea (that involved some more sunbathing and lots of eating!) we arrived back on US soil in New Orleans. We walked around New Orleans…

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And, of course, got beignets at Café Du Monde before making the long trek back to my parents house in Little Rock, AR.

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We had such a great time and loved getting away from the cold weather, projects, technology, work, etc! I have to admit I’m really sad it’s over! I loved the warmth and the beach and the sun! And the food. And now we’re back in Arkansas, which granted, is beautiful in the fall, but I’m just not quite in a fall mood anymore.

Worse than that, though, I sort of loved the break from all the projects. Maybe it’s just because our list currently consists of blah no-fun projects that we don’t want to do…but ugh, I’d rather be on a cruise ship.

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Better break out the paint brush and see if I can’t trick myself into being excited about it!

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