Friday, August 27, 2010

Curb appeal...or the lack thereof

Here is our house. I've watched it through all the seasons now. Summer is definitely the best as things grow around it and in front of it to cover it's many flaws.

Here is our decorative wood thing that is under our gutter. Whoever replaced the roof wrapped the shingles around this "decorative" piece instead of putting it behind the gutter. Shame on them. Mr Tommy is supposed to fix that at some point. But obviously the "decorative" wood element needs help too. It's basically the same color as the brick as well as being somewhat rotten.

 Our porch is made of new bricks whereas the house is made of old chicago brick. And wherever the bricks leaked on the front of the house, the old owner replaced them with new bricks rather than finding the old chicago style bricks, which, according to Tom, are about the easiest thing to find around here. So shame on them again for ruining the character of our 120 year old rowhouse.

See how the bricks are struggling? And the window air-conditioners aren't exactly adding anything to the charm either, but those aren't going to be changed for central air any time soon, if ever, so they are a necessary evil for a few months of the year.

But lately, I've been taking lots of walks around the neighborhood with the kids in the morning and trying to get ideas of what I'd like to do "someday" to the front of the house.  It's so fun to see the fronts of all the different old houses around here.

Here is one that's kinda cute. It's sorta red white and blue (not my fave) but it's at least well kept.

This is the decorative wood at the top of their house. I like when it's something that is bold enough to stand out from the house like this, but I wouldn't choose these colors.

This one is also red ,white, and blue-ish but I also liked the little cement boxes they put over the windows. They add a little.

Ivy covers so many flaws. Maybe I should just start with growing a boat-load of ivy on the house.

This one is a little too contrasty for my taste, but I actually like the black porch. If you blow up the picture you can see the detail better.

This one is a favorite of mine. I always wanted a house with a red door, and I love the window boxes and the wrought iron porch. And they did the little cement detail over the windows as well. It looks so neat and tidy with the red, white, and black.

Isn't it cute? And with the little flag!

This one is cute. It reminds me of the house in the Cosby Show. It's not so stand-out-ish but I there is a little gold in there too with the green and I think it looks classy.

See the cute door?

This one is another favorite of mine. It is VERY colorful, but muted too. The wooden corbels are cute and the colors are green, yellow-ish, and a dark red.

See this porch cover thing? I love it!

And isn't the top cute? I love the details in this house.

This is the kind of porch I want too. The cement steps with the wrought iron rail. It's better than our heavily covered front porch.

This one looks black but it's actually a dark blue. I like that one too but it wouldn't look good with our color brick I don't think.

Of course this is a whole different thing than what we have, but I really like this one anyway.

It's a corner house with a garden that wraps all the way around it.

And has this great balcony off the back.

So, anyway, which do you like? Any tips for our house? I could never pick out exactly what to do, but my idea is to fix the top of our house and repaint that wood there. The brick facade needs to be fixed with  matching bricks (or all new bricks probably) and something decorative put in above or around the windows. I want to take off our front porch and put in new cement steps with iron railing and maybe a transom window above it! I do not have the funding for this project at this point, but maybe someday...if I'm REALLY nice to Mr Tommy he'll figure out a way to help me make it happen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Squeezing out the end of summer

Around here, kids have already gone back to school. But with a "new" baby in the house, I feel like we're just starting to come out of the house for sun and warmth finally! So this month I'm pretending that summer is still full-blown and we are trying to be outside all the time. Matt, my dear husband, bought me a gas grill for starters.

I know that a grill isn't at the top of every woman's list of things that make her ultimately happy, but it gives me a chance to cook outside without having to go through the hastle of charcoal and lighter fluid and all that craziness. Grilling makes me feel summery!

Pizza on the grill is the best...and so fast!

See? Dinner in about 5 minutes using basil from the garden. I'm no farmer so lots of our vegetables failed, but tomatoes and basil are going crazy right now so we're using them in everything we can think of. I even made homemade tomato sauce for pasta last night! Remember how we can't get out of the house right now? That's why all this cooking is happening. Normally I'd be at the pool in the summer and we'd be getting McDonalds on the way home.

I've been throwing the kids outside to do play constantly. Even if they want to play with their inside toys (like leggos or cars or dollhouse) I just take it out onto the back deck and let them play there. I keep reminding them about winters in Chicago and how they'll be craving sunshine and warm air in a few months here.

 The end of the season is also a great time to pick up random bargains. We've been wanting an umbrella for the back deck and I picked up this regularly $60 umbrella for $15 at our grocery store!

Here's Claire with her dollhouse outside.

The garden is still going crazy. Our sunflowers are giant!

Did you know that if you don't pick artichokes that they turn into this exotic-looking flower?

We've even filled the pool a few more times, but I still stand by the fact that I'm never buying a blow-up style pool again. When we have to deflate it and clean it out it's such an awkward heavy mess!

The fort has been a little more in use than it was previously.

It's been turned into a clubhouse by each child and territories have been staked.

Sometimes it's a boys fort and sometimes it's a girls club.

 When it was a boys fort, Sammy decided to hammer a bunch of extra wood to it in the weirdest places, but it kept him busy for quite a while!

 Scrap wood is a much more interesting toy than you'd ever imagine. Here Sammy is making some kind of super highway for his cars.

My friend Bridget and I also had a garage/yard sale last weekend. It was pretty much a failure as we had about 2 customers all day, but it still felt like a summer-time thing to do and....of course....the kids had a lemonade stand. Sammy made fruit punch gatorade and sold his separately next to them. He also played guitar at his "stand" and made quite a chunk of money so the girls eventually let him be part of their business.

I made these fancy signs with dot paints. I don't know why anyone didn't show up!?

And Bridget has really cool stuff too, so people missed out. Here she is selling her outdoor lamps from Restoration Hardware.
But here is the real kicker. On Saturday we're going to this cabin in Wisconsin! I told Matt that if we went anywhere this summer it had to be somewhere that the baby could be napping while the kids were outside playing.

This cabin backs right up to Lake Michigan! And it was a super good deal.

Look at the sleeping porch!

And Matt just bought us this boat. I know...we're big time around here.  Haha. Now to find lifejackets. Summer ain't over people! 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

I'm a big fan of this Bible storybook called The Jesus Storybook Bible. I know I've mentioned it before, but just to reiterate, the premise is that it points every story, starting from Creation, to the coming of Jesus. Usually, as you learn the random Bible stories as a child, you aren't putting together in your mind that this has anything to do with the reason for Christ coming. But after reading these Old Testament stories, you see how a seemingly obscure story like the tower of Babel relates to our need for a saviour.
So anyway, I've been reading through this book with the 3-6 year old Sunday school class at church and they seem to get a kick out of it. It has beautiful illustrations that keep them interested. The first one is, of course the story of Creation.
Forever, my older sister and I have said that we wish someone would make a real curriculum for Sunday school out of the Jesus Storybook Bible, but since there isn't one, I have just made up a little junior-sized one for Sammy's class. All we do is read the story, say a little action rhyme and/or songs, and then do a craft.
When I was in preschool, a lady named Gay Reuschen from our church made this craft with me and I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever made at that point in my life. You just make a tall tree on a piece of paper, and then decorate it around the bottom, and then fold it so that it can "grow". See the first picture how it's small? Then you unfold it and it's big. Trust me..the 4 year olds think this is practically a magic trick.
We also started learning the poem/hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful, by Cecil Frances Alexander:
"All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful: the Lord God made them all".
The first story was creation of course, but then comes the story about The Fall. See the very deceptive Satan snake? 
And here is our finger-print version. They (or you) draw a tree trunk and then they dip their finger in paint to make the green tree, the red apples, (because you KNOW it's a proven fact that the forbidden fruit was apples!) and the slithery snake. I wrote Genesis 3.3 up on the top right corner to remind them and the parents about our story.

Next comes the Noah story. Aren't the pictures great?

So we made a big construction paper mural here...very creative don't you think? ;) But the kids did like putting the rainbow together one color at a time. There were a FEW arguments about the orders of the colors, but they still enjoyed themselves I think.  We continued reciting All Things Bright and Beautiful (with some random motions I made up) and started learning the little Bible school song Stand on a Rock, which goes:

I’m gonna stand on the rock
I’m gonna stand on the rock
I’m gonna stand on the rock
Of God’s Word
I’m gonna try to obey
I’m gonna try to obey
I’m gonna try to obey
Obey God’s Word

On God’s Word (On God’s Word)
My house will stand tall (My house will stand tall)
Without God’s Word (Without God’s Word)
My house will fall (My house will fall)
(repeat chorus)

So next was Tower of Babel or, in this storybook, it's called "The Giant Staircase to Heaven". It's a funny story because it has the people all confused with their languages and accidentally calling each other names when they were trying to talk nicely since all their speech is mixed up. As you can imagine, Sammy got a kick out of that.

Here is our construction paper Tower of Babel with stairs reaching up to the clouds. Of course, when we are done with any of these construction paper/gluing projects, we let the kids color on them. So that always passes a little more time.

Next comes the story of God promising Abraham a son and promising to make him the father of a great nation.

We made this picture of the special family (complete with glitter stars) and talked about how Abraham was the great, great, great........grandfather of Jesus. Of COURSE, we had to sing Father Abraham this time along with Stand on a Rock and reciting All things bright and Beautiful.

Here's where things got tricky. Although the Flood story about Noah should be a pretty traumatizing story for kids when you think about it, it wasn't upsetting for this class because of course that story has become such a story about animals and boats for kids that the whole idea of the judgement involved loses it's power. But I was a little more timid about reading the story of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice. The author handles the subject beautifully though and the kids were very relieved when the ram in the thicket was sent to save Isaac from a sure death. And of course the parallel was drawn about Jesus being like the ram that would rescue US from punishment.

So we made rams and talked about how God sent the ram to save Isaac just like he would send Jesus to save us and forgive us.

He's a cute little guy right? I'm not an artist, that's for sure, but the curly horns were funny I thought.

 So anyway, this is the construction-paper-cut-out version of an ACTUAL curriculum, but I like that the kids are working their way through the Bible and leading up to the story of the birth of Christ, which we've actually timed perfectly to come at Christmas time. I want us to have a big party for Jesus finally coming that day. So...anyone with any REAL talent want to make a curriculum for this book and send it to me? Just an idea....Aunt're an artist!

*P.S .-I'm not sure what the laws/rules are about taking pictures of the pages of a book and posting them. They seem to do it on Amazon all the time! But if this is bad and someone wants to call me on it, I'd be happy to take them down.