Friday, October 13, 2017

The Small Things

Every renovation project has it’s setbacks, but it’s felt like our new-to-us home has had more than our share.  We had originally planned to enclose our carport area between our house and the carriage house.  It seems straight forward enough, but of course, our city government is involved, so we were at a standstill for several weeks, just waiting to get a building permit.

As it stands, we are being required to add a sidewalk to the front of our house, to the tune of more than $25,000 for the entire thing!  There’s a telephone pole, a grade, a drainage ditch, the utility post for the entire neighborhood and our water meter in the way on one end.  Fortunately, it seems like the Public Works guy is on our side and is going to try to put an end to it, at least for now.

Meanwhile, we bit the bullet, paid the deposit plus the building permit and were overjoyed to begin this additional living room project.  HALT!!!  Of course, that is if the local rental center has the jackhammer in, so we can break up the concrete and replace it.  3 1/2 weeks later, the rental center finally has the jackhammer back in, so we will be finishing it off.

Many of the things that we are wanting to fix or paint in the house are attached to another, bigger project after the extra living room gets finished.  One thing we have done is raise one of the kitchen over 4 inches to make it level for the new area.  I don’t want to paint the kitchen or the bathrooms until we get done with renovations.  Why spend the money and time if I don’t have to, so for the time being, I’m getting used to appreciating The Small Things!  Like a new shower curtain.

I had left the original shower curtain in the bathroom (after washing it) since it fit.  Our liner from the last rental, didn’t fit, so I got rid of that.  I bought a “fancy” liner from Walmart for $7 that made me happy and went with it.  Don’t you agree? It’s so much better!
Unfortunately, I can’t do much else with this bathroom just yet, because it’s going to get some wall knockouts, but this clean, modern looking curtain makes me happy!  It’s the small things!

Then, because the extra living room isn’t finished or hardly started, piano lessons had to start in our main living room.  Well, as with most moves, it’s hard to unpack - so I unpacked the living room and hung pictures.  What do you think?  I’d love to paint this room, but again, we are going to be changing up some walls.  So for now, I’m thankful to have our own home, and the small things that I can do to make it a happy place to live.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

New Home, New Garden

We finally bought a house after our move across country from the Midwest five and a half years ago.  It's taken us all month to get into the house and start to get things put away.  Moving seven people while two are headed back to college was not an easy feat. 

While this house is not super fancy, one of the things we loved about the house was the very large yard.  We have seven city lots in fact.  One of the things that we loved the most about home ownership was being able to garden.
I'm not a fan of those really tall arborvitae trees on the left of this picture.  We have several of them around the property, mostly right up on the foundation and causing trouble with the house.  I personally don't like them and call them funeral trees, because they are what every cemetery has.  I'd like to just reserve them for funerals for now.  This one, isn't coming down just yet. 

That big, pickery evergreen bush that takes up the side of the house had to go!  The access to the crawl space is behind it and there are five-foot thistles all over in that bush!
One of the best things that we have learned since moving West and living is the mountains, is how to pull out trees with our truck.  This bush is really no different.  The most difficult thing about this yank out, was trying to get into the trunk of the tree to attach the chain!  This is one pickery bush!

Once out, we decided to use a cord (a hose would work too) to make the shape of the bed and then had to break up all the dirt in the new flower bed that we were adding.  When we returned to the Midwest this summer, I dug up a bunch of perennials from my mom's garden (many had been split from my own garden there) and brought them back.  I've been watering them in pots ever since, so was really excited to use them in this bed.

I also added some daffodil bulbs that we found when we were making another access on the other side of the house.  I can't wait to see those come up in the spring! 

We spent $44 on a truckload of mulch (we had plenty to add to another bed and saved some, to finish this one off when we get that other funeral tree out) and then bought a big container of Preen to prevent weeds from coming back.  I'm so excited to have a nice clean, mulched hosta bed! 

Here's another look at the before and after.  We plan to put a decorative tree in the middle of the bed, as well as a Japanese Maple tree off the left once that funeral tree goes.  Both will add some height and shade on this side of the house.
Stay tuned for more of our DIY projects on our new house!  Lots more to come!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Gathering the Threads

I was so excited to see a brand new book by Cindy Woodsmall available, when I was choosing books to review!  I always love a great Amish romance, and the fact that it's by Cindy Woodsmall just made my day!

This is the third book in the "Amish of Summer Grove" series and definitely delivers a phenomenal story line. Arianna Brenneman returns to her Old Order Amish family, that raised her after several months of staying with her biological family.  After the shock of finding out that she was switched at birth with Skylar Nash, both are forced to swap places for a year, and get to know their biological families. 

After only three months, Arianna has been able to convince her biological Dad that she needs to return to the family and lifestyle that she can relate to.  But, after gaining knowledge from the English world, can Arianna find her place back with her family?  Will her Amish family accept her new take on life, or will they try to force their wishes on her?  Will the community be able to accept her and allow her to have her place in the community?

Meanwhile, Skylar is finally clean and starting to get her life back in order in her new Amish surroundings.  Will Arianna's return threatens her self discovery and her place in her new family?  Can Skylar keep her sobriety while still establishing her place in a new community?

I loved how this book brought together the modern English and the Old Order English ways of life.  It was a true melding of both ways, and addressed some of the issues that these two worlds have when the mesh together.  Having lived near an Amish community, the struggles to stay apart from the world, and yet meeting the needs of the simple life are complicated, and this story addresses many of those issues.  Both Arianna and Skylar are able to find their way, and yet hold to what they were raised with.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing has given me this book in exchange for a free copy of this book.  That being said, I formed all opinions for myself.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

New Piano Lesson Format

I've been wanting to add a Technology/Theory Lab to my piano lessons for awhile now.  Instead of coming for a 30 minute private lesson, students would come for an hour session back-to-back with another student.  While pondering how to do all of this, I ran across a few other piano teachers discussing a 20/20/20 Rotating format that really caught my interest.  Instead of two students an hour, three students come for the one hour slot and rotate between three different 20 minute stations.

This seemed like a great fit for my students, so I decided to launch this with my studio this summer.   I was personally worried about my students working for 30 minutes independently when the other student had a private lesson.  With the 20 minute sessions, though, most of my students are able to stay on task for 20 minutes by themselves.  Some of my youngest students need a little more direction during the individual time, but most are actually thriving in this type of lesson.

Here's what I'm doing for my lessons:

  1. 20 minutes private lesson with me on the piano.
  2. 20 minutes piano technology on my Electronic Piano with Piano Maestro.  (I sometimes have to plug kids into another app, as my internet service runs out after so many students in a day)
  3. 20 minutes of piano theory time at a small folding table.  This is the part that takes me some time to put together, and I'm going to share in a later posting what I've been doing for this 20 minutes.
Overall, my students and I are loving this format!  This last year, I've really struggled fitting theory into lessons.  I teach theory alongside their pieces, but I just hadn't found my groove for adding a formal assignments into my lessons, and still keep it fun.  I personally, don't like all the chaos of having 5 different books to work out of.   With this new 20 minute rotation of theory games and worksheets, my students can't wait for theory!!  When I ask them what their favorite part is, they say theory!   

The piano technology session has parents really excited, because their kids want to work on Piano Maestro and try to advance in lessons.  I think students may lose interest in this at some point, but I love that it is reinforcing their practice sessions.  

Overall, as a teacher, I feel like I'm able to offer much more rounded lessons for my students.  I have had a couple of kids comment that I like the new sessions, so I don't have to teach so much, but I have quickly refuted that with an explanation about how much time I put into that theory time before they get there and that I am teaching the entire hour.  

I scheduled 19 students this summer for my 20/20/20 Rotating Lessons.   I didn't think I was going to have so many students, and had scheduled everyone on the same day!  I figured I'd make it through for my 6 summer lessons with barely my sanity intact, but I actually haven't felt as stressed about it as I thought!  I teach all 19 students from 10am-6:30pm with two half hour breaks for lunch and dinner. I'm tired, but not beyond stressed, like I was sometimes when I had 30 minute private lessons only.  I think this can be attributed to the fact that I everything is moving so fast that I don't have time to feel frustration with any one station, and neither do my students.

I will be continuing on with this format in the fall, for sure!  For Preschool students I am continuing on in 30 minute private sessions, as they need help doing the other parts, but I will be supplementing their lessons with both the technology and the theory activities during their lessons. Stay tuned for more information about how I am running my 20/20/20 sessions.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Road to Paradise - Book Review

I'm on a role with reading books this year!  I set a goal to read 50 books this year and this book makes my 31st this year so far.  I might be able to reach my goal!  I've been tracking my goal and stats on Goodreads.  It's fun to see how many books I've read, on there.  I've even had some of the authors comment on my reviews!

My own love of the National Parks and as an avid visitor with our vintage Airstream, I intrigued by "The Road to Paradise, (Shadows of the Wilderness #1)  To my joy, this book did not disappoint my high expectations of being able to learn more about Mt. Rainier, and come to appreciate it's splendor as well!

In 1927, Margaret (Margie) Lane, a wealthy senator's daughter, escapes to Mt. Rainier, much to her mother's disapproval to study God's creation and learn from a real Park Ranger.  Ford Brayden, the ranger charged with making sure that Margie's stay is both enjoyable and profitable for the National Forest Service, is more interested in the mountain life than in taking care of a pampered debutante.  Will Margie stick out her new job as a "naturalist" for the park or will she run home to her glamorous life?  Can Ford keep her safe, and keep his own guard up from other people as he has for the last two years, following the untimely death of his father?

This story was a true page turner for me.   I finished the book in less than 24 hours, because I just had to find out how the story would unfold.  The descriptions of the mountains, the flora, the beauty from Margie's perspective gave me a feeling of sitting right there in the meadows and mountains with Margie!  I can't wait for my next visit to Mt. Rainier National Park to enjoy it's beauty from a new perspective!

I did receive a copy of this book from Multnomah Publishers in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own, however!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Peace in the Valley - Book Review

Trey Walker Stafford, a country music star takes a break from his exciting and star struck music life to return home to face his past.  Although he struggles with his relationship with his rich uncle Sam Stafford, Trey knows he owes his life to Sam for rescuing him as an young orphan after his parents passed away.

Cowboy and rancher, Sam Stafford didn't approve of Trey's country music career when he left the family home, the Double S Ranch to pursue his dreams as a singer. This rift didn't stop Trey from striking out on his own to follow his passion, but left the two at odds for years.  After achieving country music fame and fortune, Trey is now returning to the home ranch, to save Sam's life and return the favor.  As the only match for a liver transplant for Sam, Trey is needs to face his past and give his liver for the man he owes his life too.

While waiting for the transplant to take place, Sam assigns Trey to make amends for the Stafford family to a neighboring single mother, Lucy Carlton by helping put her ranch in order.  Lucy, on the other hand trusts no one and is used to life being difficult, so doesn't trust the help that is suddenly being rained on her by the legendary Sam Stafford and family. Trey will gladly do anything that Sam asks, but will Lucy set her pride aside and trust Stafford family's help as genuine?  Will Trey Stafford, forgive his hurts from his past and find the peace he's seeking?

"Peace in the Valley" is the third book in the Double S. Ranch Series by Ruth Logan Herne.  Although the story line sounds cliché, from start to finish, this book was well written and kept me engaged.  I had a hard time putting this book down, because I wanted to find out how it turned out.  I've not read the first two books in this series, but I didn't feel like I couldn't understand the plot.  In fact, "Peace in the Valley" has definitely convinced me that I need to read the rest of the series!  I highly recommend this Christian Fiction book as an engoyable read!

Disclosure:  I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.  I make a very small amount of compensation from Amazon when items are purchased from my links.  Thank you for supporting my little reading habit!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DIY Pig Feeder

This is our second year of raising pigs for the fair.  We've had some bumps along the way, one of them was our homemade feeder of last year.  I tend to have ideas, and then Mr. Right gets the pleasure of trying to execute my ideas.  Most of the time it works out, but last year, our feeder was a fail.
This year, we need a feeder that can go a long period of time, since our pigs are not on our property where we live.  Our neighbor made a complaint about the smell of the pigs last year to our landlord, so the landlord told us no more pigs. (Keep in mind, there are only 2 pigs on 6 acres and they are only here for 5 months and then go to the 4-H fair and livestock auction) Thankfully, another neighbor graciously allowed us to pen up a corner of her horse pen, to put our pigs in. 
This year, I wanted to be sure that Mr. Right did a quality version of the pig feeder that would make it through the entire five months, and hopefully into the next few years!  We agreed on using a 50 gallon barrel in some way, shape or form.
We bought this one at North 40 for $35. Then of course, we both combed the internet to find a version of a feeder that we both thought would work. We finally decided on this version from  a YouTube video.
He makes this from scraps and things found around his homestead, but then uses some pretty expensive equipment to make it - which makes me smile! But we loved this idea and ran with it!
Here's what we gathered:
  • 50 Gallon Food Grade Barrel
  • Plywood for bottom and for flaps over feed - free from last year's sheep feeders
  • 6 - 2x4's
  • 2x10x10
  • 4 Hinges
  • Tin roofing - recycled
  • Wood screws
  • Skill saw
  • Electric screw driver
We purchased everything except the plywood and tin roof.  It cost about $70 total for our costs.  We live in a remote, mountain town, with really high prices, so this could've all been done for a lot less if you could price out your wood.
Here's the base that Mr. Right build.  The idea is that you cut holes in the bottom of the barrel on either side, so the feed uses gravity to slide down into the boxes on the right and left of this base.  We put a shorter board across the front of the boxes (far right and left), so the lids would be slanted downwards and any rain will slide off.  The pigs are able to lift the lids with their snouts to stick their noses in. 
The four posts in this picture sticking up are for stability for the barrel, to keep it from falling over. 
Here's the lids with the hinges.  Make sure your lids hang over the edge, so the pigs have a lip to stick their snouts under.
Mr. Right then built a structure around the corners for the roof to attach.  This is a simple rectangle with one side higher for the roof to pitch off.  The higher side is for on the fence side, so we can fill it with feed without going thru the pig pen.  Mr. Right built it high enough to lift the barrel out with the roof on with ease. (really technical way of building here!)
Here's a look at the lid of the barrel.  Mr. Right cut a rectangle between the two holes.  He used some nuts and bolts to make a nob on it so it would be easy to lift.  This isn't air tight, but at least it keeps the feed safe from birds and such.
Here's the tin roof added.  We have panels of old ones of these on our property, so we used one.  It had to be cut in half to fit side by side and still have the water run the correct direction.
Here's our happy pigs with the feeder in their pen!  Just a note, this barrel can hold about six 50 pound bags of feed in it, which is far too big for just 2 pigs! We could really be in the pig business with this feeder.  We placed the feeder on a pallet so that it was up off the ground. Pig pens get pretty moist and messy, so we want this off the ground.
I'd love to hear if you had an opportunity to make one of these, or even what you do for your own DIY pig feeders!