Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year's Eve! We are staying in. I've made snacks, we're playing Guitar Hero, and some of the neighbor kids have been popping in and out.

I also had a chance to dye my hair today, so here's my new look!

Crafts in Recap, 2009

I'm relatively new to this whole blogging thing. While overall, I'm not new to crafting, I haven't crafted regularly in years before starting this blog. I was so impressed with all the wonderful blogs I've found, and with the ideas bouncing in my head, that I started back up.

Here are a few of my favorite projects for 2009. Each photo links to the post about the project, most of them with tutorials on how to make them!


Each project I've made has been fun, and I've learned how to do so many new things. I can't wait to see what 2009 brings me!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: A Year in Memories

My Favorite Memories of 2009, number 2.

With 3 kids, 1 income, and not much time off from work or raising kids, Nick and I rarely get to do anything together. Now that Raegan is older, and can watch the kids in small spurts, we escape to the grocery store once in a while together. Not often.

This spring, we planned the impossible... a weekend get away in May for Nick's birthday. We had some money set aside from when our taxes came in, and I was able to miraculously wrangle up 3 different sitters each willing to take 1 of our children for the weekend. It was, simply, a miracle.

One of our favorite locations to go is Cedar Point in Ohio. We rarely go. In fact, the last time we had been was back in 2005. Before that, it had been 2002, roughly. It's something we enjoy, but the cost prohibits an entire family sojourn down there, especially as the long drive means it's an over night stay.

I still believe that up until the morning we left, that it was not going to happen. I figured something cosmic would swoop down to deny us the trip. Thankfully, nothing did happen, and we were off. I even found us a great deal on a hotel room with a jacuzzi in the room- score!

The drive is long, as I mentioned, taking just around 4-5 hours to get there, factoring in a few stops for food & bathrooms along the way.

We had an amazing time in the park, and I even upped my nerve level and rode several rides that had scared me witless before. I love -some- roller coasters. The big ones terrify me. Prior to this trip, I had not ridden:

Power Tower (ride that drops you)
Demon Drop (ride that drops you)
Wicked Twister (coaster)
Top Thrill Dragster (coaster)
Maverick (coaster, though it was new to the park for us)
Magnum (coaster)
Millennium Force (coaster)
Mantis (coaster)
Sky Hawk (swing ride)
MaXair (a swinging pendulum ride)

I out and out refused to do Magnum, Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster, as those three are lap bar coasters, and BIG ones at that. I hate lap bars. Give me an over the shoulder harness any day.

The others, though, they were on my list to accomplish. I planned to be a "big girl" on the trip.

The park wasn't very busy, due to the early date when we went. No schools to contend with or summer vacationers. Most rides had a 10 minute or under wait time. Most coasters were 15 minutes or under. We opted right away to check the Demon Drop off my list. I'm glad I did, as they removed the ride from the park this fall after the park closed for the season.

It wasn't my favorite, but it wasn't horrible. We quickly made our way through the park, hitting all sorts of rides and coasters along the way. All in all, I only decided against going on the Magnum, Millennium Force, Power Tower, and Top Thrill Dragster.

Nick and I had a great time, but by the end of the day, man were we tired! Right before closing, we hopped in line for Maverick for a second ride, so we were able to ride that one again, and I got some neat photos as it was backlit by the sun setting on Lake Erie.

By the time we got to the hotel, we were exhausted, and going to order dinner in, but the only place they had menus for didn't answer the phone. We went and found a Pizza Hut, ate, and came back. And man, was I ever glad for the jacuzzi tub. We just laid in it for what felt like hours, but it really helped the achy muscles from walking around all day.

The only down side to the room, is that it was a smokers room, and they didn't air it out. It was HORRIBLE smelling. We tried turning the AC on, and it only got 10 times worse. It smelled worse than a bar. It was just horrible, so we did complain about that, and recommended frequent filter switches in the AC, along with a thorough cleaning of the room to help get rid of that smell.

There was a great free breakfast the next morning, though, which was nice. The hotel had a swing set, and a pool, though the pool wasn't open yet for the season. It was also very close to the park's entrance.

On the drive home, we stopped briefly at an outlet mall to shop a bit, then came home. It had been raining on and off on the drive, and we didn't have to get the kids till the next day, so we went and saw a movie that night.

It was nice, being able to get away with Nick for a few nights, and have fun together.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009: My Favorite Memories

Number, The First.

In 2009, we had some exciting times, and some not so exciting times. The year passed with speed that I did not anticipate. Here is my first favorite memory from 2009.

In early January of 2009, I settled on a family vacation. Well, partial family, as it would just be the kids and I. I had been planning on doing on for a month or two already, but in January, I decided that I would take the kids camping up to Mackinaw City, Michigan. Mackinaw is one of my favorite areas, and aside from a single day trip two years earlier, I had not been to Mackinaw City since I was a child.

I planned endlessly, budgeted, earned and saved money for the trip, and in early June, after school let out for the summer, the kids and I made the long trek up to Mackinaw City.

We had our first tent, and I had found a camp ground with budget sites for under $15/night. I used coupons, and internet deals to stretch our money as far as possible. Initially, we were set to spend almost a full week up there. We left on Wed, and were set to return on Tuesday.

The drive is long from home to Mackinaw City, and we left at 9am. It was after 4pm by the time we had gotten there, and set up camp, and after 6 by the time we had gotten to the grocery store, and back to the camp site. I took my time driving up, though. I planned a stop at a large rest stop that had a museum in it, but we wound up stopping even before we got there.

We visited 3 rest stop visits on the drive up north, plus one food stop (which included 2 gas station stops- 1 for gas, and 1 for directions because the road was under construction and we couldn't back track to the highway), and 1 stop at a place called Sea Shell City. It is a giant shell store, but also some tourist items.

On day 2, we spent time in Mackinaw City. We visited Colonial Fort Michilimackinac (Mich-ill-a-mack-i-naw), where I bought us a season pass for just $65. The pass allowed us to visit all the area historical parks. Had we paid entrance at each one, for the same price we would only have been able to visit 2.

We ate lunch in the park next to the fort, then walked over to the next historical park, which was a lighthouse. We spent the rest of the day exploring the city, playing in fountains, walking the beach, and seeing the Mackinac Bridge lit up at night.

On day 3, we drove across the Mighty Mac to St. Ignace. There, we visited Indian Village, which is a tourist shop and museum, and also has some displays outside. We took many photos, and drove on to the next stop, Castle Rock. For just $.50, you can climb stairs that go up to the peak of a massive tall rock formation that juts out over the forest. You can see the Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, St. Ignace, and much more from the rock.

At the base of the rock, there is a real totem pole, and a statue of Paul Bunyon & Babe, the giant Ox. We drove from there over towards the other side of town. We stopped and ate a picnic lunch at a roadside park with a fantastic view of the Mackinac Bridge and Lake Michigan. We then went and had fun at the Mystery Spot, which included Mini Golf, and a Maze.

On the drive back to the campground, we stopped at a lake side park in Mackinaw City to run around and play, and watch a couple of guys flying kites. By the end of Day 3, I knew my patience was never going to last for a full vacation. I went back and forth, and looked at the weather. It was supposed to rain in the evening and over night on Day 4. We talked, I talked with Nick, and decided that the best bet was to head home early. First, though, we wanted a day on Mackinac Island.

On Day 4, we packed quickly, loading down the car. Checking out early, we got a partial refund, then headed to the docks to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island. The kids and I enjoyed a LONG day on the isle, which included a carriage tour of the isle, and a visit to our 3rd historical park, Fort Mackinac.

When we got back to our car, it was after 5, and we still had to drive over to St. Ignace to pick up some smoked fish. I was exhausted, the storm clouds had rolled in badly, and Nick told me to take the kids to a hotel for the night, instead of driving home.

We grabbed our first restaurant meal of the trip (we ate breakfast & dinner at the campground every night, and packed picnic lunches every day) at McDonalds, and got a room. The hotel was small, but inexpensive, clean, and nice. I was able to take a long bath while the kids watched TV.

Day 5 dawned bright and clear. The sun was out, and it was evident that despite the nasty clouds, the rain never came- figures! We decided that since it was so nice, we would do the one remaining activity we had planned to do- the 4th historical park. The park was in Mackinaw City, right next to the campground we had stayed at.

The park was fantastic, and I'm glad we didn't skip it. The park, Mill Creek Discovery Park, was the site of an old mill, and had trails through the woods, saw mill demonstrations, a small playground, a small animal museum, and an adventure trail. The adventure trail consisted of a guided nature walk, a canopy bridge, which was just a thin board we walked along, while attached to another wire with a harness, so no one would fall. After another trail walk, we wound up at the zip line. That was so much fun! We zipped through the woods, over a pond, down to another station waiting to receive us at the end. I only wish I had taken my camera! Next time we go, I'll know enough to know that the camera will be very safe during the ride.

Lastly, we got to climb a rock climbing wall. The kids loved that, and Gilly scrambled right up to the top. We left the park at shortly after 2pm, and drove straight through with two quick stops. One was at a rest stop for a bathroom/map check, since we were taking a different route home than we had taken up there. We stopped at my dad's place to drop off the fish, and finally made it home- late at night. It was almost 8 before we got home.

The kids and I had a blast. I learned that I can't plan a lengthy trip when I don't have parental help with the kids. Despite their ages (they were 13, 10, and 7), they fight a LOT, and in a tent or car, there is no separating them.

All in all, though, I am so glad we went. The kids got to go around to see a lot of fun places, and do a lot of fun things. They learned a lot of Michigan history, and we got a lot of great photos.

My Baby is 8


Gillian, my lil baby, is 8 years old now. Her birthday was on Sunday. She's getting so grown up, and yet, in many ways, is still so little. Our son's birthday is in January, and because of the proximity to one another, and to Christmas, we've always left the big celebration for Gillian until mid January. 



We always do something small for her on her birthday- cake and a gift or two at home. But, the party, friends, family, etc, wait until a joint party in January with Chris. However, she's decided on something different this year.



At 8, she feels she is far too old to share, and I have to admit, I agree, but it was always just easier to share. She didn't mention this, though, until the day of her birthday. She was adamant on Sunday that we were having a party for her. With no time, though, and being away from home for Christmas, we were unable to throw together a party.


I was sick Sunday, and still out of sorts on Monday, so today I sat down to see what I could pull together at the last minute. Gilly was also very clear that she wants her party somewhere, not at home. I priced the roller rink ($8+/kid), the ice rink ($7.50/kid), the bowling alley ($3/game/kid, plus $2/shoes), and just could not find the extra money for a party like that. It's simply too expensive!

Then, a stroke of luck. The theater here in town is tiny, it has small, run down theaters. It's dark, it's dreary, and the seats are horribly uncomfortable. However, it shows first run movies, and it's only $3/person for matinees, and $3/kid after 6, and $3.50/adult after 6. It's dirt cheap.

I called, and they are continuing (for the third freaking week) with Avatar and The Princess & The Frog on Friday. I was hoping they would bring in the Chipmunks movie on Friday. Since they are not, we decided to plan her party for Thursday.

Gilly invited the three neighbor girls, and one other friend. For all 7 kids (the 4 guests, and 3 of ours), it will be just $21 for the movie. Nick and I will both be going as well, so that ups the price, but still for under $30, we're able to take a passel of kids to the theater this week.

I picked up some plates at the dollar store today. I set the party time for an hour before the movie starts, so the kids will meet here for cake & ice cream first, then we'll drive them to the theater. She's excited! I'm excited at how inexpensive it should be. 

I think we may have to do the same for Chris in January.

Happy Birthday Gillian!!