Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mailbox Remodel

The mailbox we had at our house when we moved in was cute at first. It had a unique look, and I could see how it worked with the style of our house. Other houses in our neighborhood had the same mailbox, so I didn't think much of it.

After a while, it became evident that the mailbox wasn't very useful, though. The back of it had a keyhole, but the previous owners didn't have a key to it. So, it wouldn't lock. If the mailperson dropped a lot of items into it, the weight of the mail could hit the back and cause it to slightly open on its own (since we couldn't lock it to keep it shut). Because of the flap on the front and the bad seal on the back, rain often got inside. During freezing weather, the back would get ice on it and freeze shut, so I would have to stick my arm through the flap on the front and punch the back, so that it would swing open. A couple weeks ago, a reimbursement check sat in there for a while on a rainy day, before I could get to it, and the check was ruined. We had to call the sender and ask for a replacement. How did the previous owners live with it like this for so long?!?

After the check got ruined, that was the last straw. Over time, many of our neighbors have gotten custom brick or stone mailboxes installed.  I saw one around the corner that I liked, so I approached the neighbor and asked them who they used for the construction. Even though it had been seven years since they bought it, they still had their original invoice. I called the company they used, and much to my surprise, their quote was exactly the same as it had been to my neighbor seven years ago!  That, and the fact that my neighbor's mailbox still looked great after that much time, motivated me to employ their services.

They came out and looked at the brick on our house and determined that they could still find that same style. We got to choose what top we wanted on the mailbox, and also if we wanted numbers and where they would go. The actual mailbox insert would come from us, so we purchased this one from Lowe's.  The first day, they removed the old mailbox and its base, and poured the foundation for the new one. (We used this opportunity to get the new mailbox installed directly over our curb-painted numbers. It had previously been off-center).

The second day, they finished all the construction. It looks awesome!  I was very impressed with their work and happy with the cost. It's SO much nicer to walk out to the mailbox now, knowing my mail is secure and dry in a locked box.

Project Costs:
Mailbox insert: $100
Brick Construction, stone top, numbers plaque: $1,200

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dutch Turns Three

I know every parent says this for each of their child's birthdays, but seriously - I can't believe I have a 3 year old!  He's really growing up and it's hard to process. When I'm dressing him in pants is when it really hits me. I know that sounds weird, but to see just how long his legs are now really reminds me that he's not a baby any more. He was crying recently because he woke up startled from a nap, and Meezy tried to comfort him. He picked him up and tried to hold him in his arms, and Dutch just didn't fit anymore. It made me sad.

To commemorate Dutch's special day, I planned a big party for friends and family. I can admit that I went overboard, but if I'm going to spend time and money on something, why not let it be my kids? They're my life and my legacy, so I'm not going to apologize for the things I do for them!  A couple months ago I decided that the main attraction at the party should be a petting zoo. I figured Dutch and all the other kiddos would enjoy seeing and petting all the cute animals, and maybe some of the adults would too!  I booked a large zoo for a Sunday afternoon, expecting for it to be set up in our side yard next to Dutch's playground. I figured that would be a great way for kids to be able to have two outdoor areas side by side to play in.  As the day of the party grew closer, the weather forecast grew worse. Much to my dismay, I had to reduce the size of the petting zoo (and the number of animals), so that it could fit inside our garage. The rain and cold weather necessitated the move indoors, but it ended up working out just fine.  Big thanks to A One of a Kind Pony Party for being flexible and working with our situation.

As you can see, the kids had a great time!  It was pretty crazy to see my garage transformed into a farm. Luckily the company cleaned up very well and it was spotless when they left. It only smelled like a farm for one day after the party was over. :)

For the theme of the party, we decided to go with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dutch is obsessed with them lately, so we figured he would get a kick out of seeing them all throughout his house. Here's what I did:

When guests arrived, they were encouraged to suit up like their favorite ninja turtle! We provided masks, bracelets, and strips of cloth to tie around elbows and knees. On the welcome table, I also placed the artwork I commissioned a friend of mine to create. Dutch's favorite TMNT is Michelangelo, so I had my friend put Dutch's head on Michelangelo's body. The results were incredible! Dutch's mouth dropped when he saw it, and he gets excited every time he looks at it! "I'm a Ninja Turtle!"

The artist is a wonderful illustrator and graphic designer, and he is crazy talented with caricatures! You can contact him here. I highly recommend him for creating custom masterpieces at very affordable prices.

In this area, I also set up a shrine to pay homage to Dutch's hilarious quotes from over the past year. The kid has a knack for making us laugh and sometimes says quite inappropriate things, so I figured it would be fun to share them with the guests!

A couple of my favorites: "I have a cry on my cheek. Cry went in my mouth."  "I'm trying to do this, butthole." "Don't touch him too hard, mom, or he'll break."

To continue with the TMNT theme, I decorated a lot of items with masks.

That was a cute and easy way to make everything TMNT-related, without having to buy the officially licensed TMNT party supplies. Plus, I kinda think my stuff looks cooler! I also prepared a fruit tray and a veggie tray, made to look like ninja turtles.

Besides that, of course we served pizza!  In case not everyone was a pizza lover, we also prepared mini sandwiches, perfect for small hands. For the desserts, I commissioned two different friends who are masters of their domains. First up, custom cake pops! My friend, Rachel, is super talented with her designs, and they taste amazing.

You should definitely check out Cake Balls by Rachel if you're in the DFW area.  I'm amazed at what she can accomplish on such a small canvas!

Not that adults don't love cake pops, but I also wanted to offer a more grown-up option, that could double as a parting gift for parents. I enlisted the help of my friend, Shawn, who operates Live Free or Pie Bakery. She makes awesome mini pies in individual packaging. Some folks enjoyed them at the party and some brought them home to enjoy later.  It was a great addition to the party! I totally spaced out and didn't get a good picture of the setup, but here's a peek:

They are on the bottom of the picture, labeled with their TMNT-themed flavors: April O'Neil's Apple, Bebop's Blueberry, Cowabunga Cherry, and Turtle Power Pecan (my personal favorite). Look her up if you want some pie goodness.

For drink options, we offered beer, water, soda, Leonardo's Lemonade (with dry ice, so it smoked), chocolate milk, and juice boxes. For a special treat for adults, we set up Secret of the Ooze...Booze!

As kids left, we handed out goody bags filled with TMNT swag.

All in all, I think everyone had a great time. Kids enjoyed themselves and the parents got to hang out and catch up. Dutchie loved being surrounded by so many friends, and of course he enjoyed all the sweets and presents!  It was a lot of work to prepare, but I love throwing parties, and I love making my son smile even more!

Happy birthday, precious man. I look forward to many, many more fun birthdays to come.