Monday, March 4, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 2

Our second day in Europe started with breakfast at our hotel, which Dutch was a big fan of because he could "make" his own pancakes. He promptly informed me that we needed to buy one of these machines for our house.

After breakfast, we met up with Kim and Fabian and departed for the Netherlands, planning to make a couple stops along the way. First up was Tagebau Hambach, which is the deepest open-pit mine. It's a controversial endeavor, because the site where the coal mining is happening is on the ancient Hambach Forest. Protesters have erected their own communities inside what's left of the forest, to try and prevent further expansion by the mining company. Quite an impressive sight, but since it's a depressing topic and a little heavy to discuss with the kids, we decided to lighten the mood by playing on the nearby playground instead!

Next up was a visit to the Lindt Factory Store in Aachen, Germany. I wouldn't call myself a huge chocolate lover, but you still have to go, just to take it all in! It's crazy to see so much chocolate in one place. The prices are really good too, so this was definitely a chance for us to stock up on some gifts for loved ones.

After the Lindt store, we stopped for dinner and Dutch and Kim got to do some more bonding!

Our final stop for the night was Hotel Heerlen in Heerlen, Netherlands. It's a beautiful hotel on a large estate. We knew there was lots of really fun stuff in store for us the following day, so we called it a night!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Dutch Goes to Europe - Day 1

I had the incredible opportunity to take Dutch to Europe for a week in November 2018. I was signed up to get cheap flight alerts from Scott's Cheap Flights and one popped up for a non-stop round trip flight to Frankfurt, Germany for under $500. That's a heck of a deal, and we have friends in Germany, so I asked Meezy if he wanted to go to Europe. After looking at the dates and contemplating childcare, he decided he didn't want to, but he suggested I take Dutch. The chance to bring my little Dutch boy to see his favorite Germans, and the ability to show him the "homeland" of Holland, was too good to pass up. I quickly texted my sisters to see if either of them wanted to tag along with one of their children, and my sister Jo was able to commit with her daughter Olivia. You have to move fast on these flight deals, so we secured our dates and knew we could work out all the other logistics at a later time.

We spent the next couple months deciding which cities we'd visit, what attractions we wanted to see, where we'd stay, and how we'd get from place to place. My former exchange student Kim (practically a real family member as far as I'm concerned) and her boyfriend Fabian live in Koln, Germany, so we made as many plans with them as we could.

We departed from Dallas on a Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Frankfurt early the next morning. Dutch slept for a couple hours on the plane, but I was not so lucky! First order of business was picking up our rental car at the airport. Even though we booked a 4-door Mercedes C-Class, it was still a tight fit with all our luggage. Nevertheless, we got on the road and headed toward Koln, stopping in Bonn along the way. You can't miss the Haribo store! 

When we got to Koln, we checked into Ibis Styles Koln City. It's actually kind of difficult to find hotels that can accommodate 4 guests in the same room in Europe, so we had to resort to searching for hotels that had "family" rooms. This one did and even though it was quite small, we made it work! They had a cute area for kids in the lobby. 

We got settled in and excitedly waited for our German friends to meet us at the hotel. They brought us to their apartment so we could eat dinner and visit. They had made some special requests for American items that are hard to find in Germany, so you can imagine how excited they were when we showed them all the loot we brought!

That first night was spent relaxing and catching up and discussing all the wonderful plans we had in store! More to come. 

Jude Turns Four

You'd think Jude's birthday was at the beginning of the year, since it always takes me a couple months to post about it! In reality, Jude turned four back in November, but better late than never. His birthday was the day after Thanksgiving, and since we were already having family over to celebrate the holiday, we decided to celebrate him that day too. He got a special cake, lots of love from his cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, a Paw Patrol bike, and some pretty cool toys. In typical Jude fashion, he was actually upset when he saw the bike, because, well...I'll let you see why:

Jude loves puzzles and is really good at them, so my sister had a custom puzzle made for him. It was pretty neat! 

My favorite part of celebrating my kids' birthdays is reminiscing about the funny things they said over the prior year. Here are some highlights from Jude's third year:

- "Daddy, lift me up, you naughty bird." (36 months)
- "Santa is outside and he just said, 'It's Christmas, Judie'!" (37 months)
- "I'm just pretending you're a toilet." (38 months)
- "Is that man a llama?" (39 months)
- "Is nobody gonna be my best friend around here?" (40 months)
- "Mom, get rid of my boogers so I don't pick them." (41 months)
- "The pants peed itself." (42 months)
- "My penis is too long!" (43 months)
- "Why are you being so annoying to me?" (44 months)
- "Dad, you're bad at this game. Let me just help." (45 months)
- "Have fun being boring." (46 months)
- "I wanna see a picture of you guys marrying someone else." (47 months)

I love this little stinker so much! He's already starting to sound out words and has an amazing memory. He remembers the lyrics to songs on the radio and can name them from just hearing the beginning of the music or seeing the album cover (on the screen in our car). I can't wait to see what this year has in store for him.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Breakfast, Dining, and Living Room Remodel

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write this post, but that's what always happens when life gets busy. As a refresher, here's the first part of our big remodeling project. Our overall goal was to get wood flooring in the kitchen, breakfast nook, dining room, living room, master bedroom and hallways. We also needed new tile in the laundry and sun room. But, what we realized along the way, is that it made sense to take care of some other issues in conjunction with that, like getting a new fireplace surround and opening up the floor plan.

When doing a remodeling project this large, it's not uncommon to move out of your home for a while. But, with 2 small boys and 2 dogs, it felt like it would be more trouble than it was worth to relocate. So, we packed all the big furniture into a mobile storage unit and crammed ourselves into one of the rooms of the house that wasn't being touched. It was an adventure, I'll tell you that! (For the last week of the project, we did have to stay in an extended stay hotel because we couldn't be in the house while the floors were being stained).

First up, let's talk about the dining room. It used to have carpet in it, but after a couple years of our aging dog mistaking that room for her bathroom, we had to rip it out. We lived with a painted concrete floor for quite a while, as we knew this project was in our future.

The hardwood was installed and then we got to thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the dining room was open to the breakfast nook? There was currently a wall between the two, with just a small doorway opening. On the breakfast nook side there was a built-in china hutch, but it wasn't really necessary.

Wood was laid, but since the scraping and staining hadn't started, we still had time to make some alterations.
This was looking pretty dated. Did I really need it anymore?

Didn't love how this was closed in. Also, cameo from my sweet Casey girl. Miss her.

After we made the decision to take out the wall, things really started getting fun!

Look how much better the view is now!

After the wall was fully removed and the opening was finished up, progress could be made on the hardwoods. We decided to go with nail-down hand-scraped hardwood with a medium/dark stain. Here's the finished product in the dining room:

I already had all the furnishings in this room, so nothing else was needed. I am very pleased with the result! It's crazy to think this view wasn't possible before. Taking out the wall was the best decision we could've made in this area of the house. 

In the breakfast nook and kitchen, there was ugly, old parquet flooring. There was also a half wall between that and the living room. Not really sure what its purpose was, so we opted to take it out.

Half wall from breakfast nook side

Half wall from living room side

Demo on the half wall was pretty exciting, just like the dining room wall was. It's an amazing difference when you can freely walk between rooms! We also got the contractors to remove the door frame that used to be in the hallway to the living room. It was for two small double doors, but they really served no purpose as you would never close them and it made the hallway feel narrow. 

The floors are gorgeous! Once we realized we were moving the kitchen fridge to the laundry room, we needed a new main fridge. I found out there was a model that lets you use Keurig k-cups to brew coffee and can do hot water on demand for hot chocolate and tea, so you know that's the one we went with.

We didn't have the budget right now to fully attack the kitchen (cabinets, counters, backsplash, etc), but I did want to make some subtle improvements. Around the stove was a brick surround and awful, dated backsplash. That really made it hard for the kitchen to look modern. Since I couldn't go all-in on reconfiguring this area or installing new backsplash, I opted for just a new paint job. I went with gray for the brick and painted over the backsplash with a crisp white. It's plain and simple, but certainly looks better than what was there before.

Now to the living room! This room had thick slate flooring and a beast of a fireplace hearth.

The demo got pretty, pretty dusty. The hearth was just concrete underneath one layer of tile, so getting it all out took multiple attempts.

For the new fireplace, we wanted a modern mosaic tile surround, without a hearth, for a sleeker look. Now it doesn't protrude out into the room and create a hazard for small children! We went with the hardwoods in this room too, so now there is awesome continuity throughout the main living and dining spaces.

I bought all new furniture for the living room because it was time for a change. The sofas are from Nebraska Furniture Mart, the end tables are from Wayfair, the swivel arm chairs are from Joss & Main, and the ottoman table and storage trunk (not pictured) are from 

I couldn't be happier with the way everything turned out. I think we added a ton of value to our house, not to mention utility. We love to entertain, and the new setup makes that even easier. I'm so glad we took the plunge!

Project Costs:
Hotel & dog boarding for 4 days: $600
Furniture: $2,578