GOING YARD

When we bought our first house just over three years ago, we were overjoyed to move out of our tiny one bedroom apartment and finally have a place of our own. A place to make our home. Ashley scoped out an amazing deal and our house hunting was over as quickly as it began.

We started looking at our future home at the end of a heavy winter and never saw the house with less than eight inches of snow on the ground before putting in an offer. As a result, there wasn’t much thought on what the lawn looked like (or even how much of it there was for that matter).

snowy

As spring rolled around and everything began to green up, we watched our home run ball turn foul. Turns out we had some dead grass…a lot of dead grass. We soon discovered that one of the zones of the sprinkler system was not wired into the control panel, so that sod never got any water. And so it began. Just over a month into our new home and we were ready to take on a pretty major lawn renovation.

Maybe it was being three years younger or the lingering excitement of having our own home project to do, but we made surprisingly quick work getting the dead sod removed, ground prepped, and starter fertilizer and seed spread all in a weekend. After that, it was time to water and wait.

Renovation

Sure enough, about a week and a half later the green started to pop up. Success! Well, at least for a while. A long, hot summer and rocky, clay soil took it’s toll on the new grass and left it pretty patchy in the fall. With a little persistence, studying some valuable lawn care resources (available from the local research and extension website), and taking advantage of the free top-soil and compost offered by our city’s yard waste program, we’ve been able to fill most of those holes in. Now, here we are three years later. There’s still some work to do to create the softest, lushest lawn for Mya to play in, but looking back at those pictures of that first month, it is amazing to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come.

After

HOP HOP HOPPY EASTER

Mya wasn’t as fond of the Easter bunny this year as compared to last… Poor kid.

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Since we paid someone to make our child cry, Derek and I needed to feel like better parents; so we stuck to tradition and hit the carousel and Disney store arch with Daddy.

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We hope you are having a blessed Easter. And if you don’t celebrate the big-scary-bunny-mascot holiday, Mya understands your apprehension.

CRAIGSLIST: NOT ALL BAAAAAAAAD

Yes, I watched the “Craigslist Killer” on Lifetime-Television-for-Women with my grandparents and it totally freaked me out. Probably why I had an adversion to the use of Craigslist… until I wanted to get rid of things for cash. Now I’m addicted. (The other night, I found a free goat named Carl and Derek had to remind me that we don’t have a country home as he would need. Super big bummer.)

craigslistGoat

When I first registered to use Craigslist (which just requires an email address) and posted our first items (bar table and stools), I initially received some sketchy emails from “interested” people. Apparently this is a common occurrence to new users. (I had similar situations when I had a store on Etsy.) Here’s a couple classics:

CLbuyers

I had flashbacks to the bad acting, yet compelling Lifetime performance. It almost got me to run; but I’m glad we kept with it because we’ve made a few extra bucks on unused items. (If we’re not using it, we don’t need it in our house!)

One of my favorite searches is “Curb Alert“, which means people just leave items at the curb for anyone’s taking. I haven’t found much of anything that doesn’t look like trash, but it’s still kinda fun to see what’s there.

TIPS
1. When you post a new item, choose “CL email relay“. This means when people inquire through email (and when you respond back to them), they will never see your actual email address. Instead, it will be something like “4cd8m-53800027899@sale.craigslist.org”.

2. Do “Cash Only” deals. Write that in your post.

3. Only divulge your street address after you’ve gone back-and-forth emailing with buyer and they’re ready to come pick-up their purchase.

4. Have someone else home with you when buyer comes to pick-up their purchase.

5. Don’t watch “Craigslist Killer”. We all know what happens and it gives Craigslist a baaaaad rap. (Yes, I still dream of Carl.)

Do you buy/ sell on Craigslist? Have any tips or tricks?

DIY: GROWTH CHART

Mya never crawled. But once she started walking at 1 yr 2 wks, we wanted to start documenting her height at home. (Turns out it took me until she’s 17 months to actually do it, but so glad I finally did it! And it was SO EASY!) I was looking for something with the following criteria:

DESIRES
1. Something that could easily be taken with us during a move. (We don’t plan to move anytime soon, but don’t want to hassle with salvaging it when we do.)

2. Something that could stand the test of time and not wear easily.

3. Something that was fixed to a wall, but was not screwed-in. (If at all possible!)

4. Something that was cheap.

When I was growing up, we marked-up my Grandparents’ wallpaper with our varying heights; and I’m pretty sure the floral patterned print was not salvaged during their move. My parents still keep record on a door frame:

DoorFrame1

I’m totally working on getting my parents to move within a couple miles from us. And when they move, I will definitely be ripping off and saving that piece of trim for the sentimental factor– even though this thing is far from pretty… no offense Mom and Dad!

As you would have it, I am definitely not the only one who has thought of creating a measuring stick to document their kid’s height. Here are just a few ideas I found:

Inspiration1
[ From left: Fabric, Wall Decal, Light Wood, Dark Wood ]

After smurfing the internet I decided on the following for our fam’s measuring stick…

DESIGN
1. It would be a light-colored/ light-stained wood. I was really drawn to the look of the dark-stained wood planks, but I figured writing on a lighter stain would be easier to read.

2. It would be located in our master-bedroom closet. I wanted to see it everyday, but not have it be in one of our main spaces. (Also, Mya has a lot of little cousins and I didn’t want them marking on it every time they came over. I plan on including them, but at my discretion!) AND our closet shelving system was conducive to securing it without using screws/ nails! (You’ll see…!)

Then it was time for “The Depot” run (one of my favorite parts of any project!) We walked down the trim aisle and found a plain, flat baseboard for $1/ft. We got nearly 7 ft. (Hey, even though I’m only 5′-8″ and Derek’s 6′-0″, we could have a 7 footer, right? Probably not, but just to be safe… and the price was right.)

DIRECTIONS
1. Rub Tung Oil on it with an old rag to bring out the natural colors and wood grain. (I already owned the Tung Oil, but you could use Polycrylic or Polyurethane if you already own that instead. Both of those will leave more of a shine than the Tung Oil.) Apply first coat. Let dry for 24 hrs. Apply second coat. Let dry for 24 hrs.

2. Measure each inch with pencil along one edge of your board.

3. Use black sharpie to more permanently mark each inch.

4. Draw some numbers at each foot measurement. (I wanted ours to have a “sketchy” look to it, so I drew free-hand and hashed the block numbers for a more casual feel. But you could easily use some number stencils like these— or you could print out some numbers  using your favorite funky font and trace them!)

5. I used C-clamps to securely fasten our measuring stick in our closet. Some may find this odd looking, but I like the ease of its removal and I’m all about exposed hardware, so this definitely works great for us!

Install

6. Measure away!

OurHeights1

How sweet is this pic below? I’m so in love. She’s like… “You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’ll never be that tall!”

LookingUp

How do you record your family’s heights? If you don’t already have a system, this one ain’t bad for $7.00 — or $10 if you use 2 swanky C-clamps! (I guess “$7” should be the theme for this week!)

diyPHONE: $7 BATTERY REPLACEMENT

Having to take your iPhone in for repair can cost a pretty penny. Luckily, if you don’t mind a quick and easy project you can save yourself some serious coin. Ashley’s phone was recently giving us fits, suddenly turning off as if it was dead when it still had 20-40% battery left. Even though she goes most of the day not knowing where her phone is, the idea of an unreliable phone not working when she actually does need it wasn’t something we wanted to mess with! So, it was time to replace the battery.

I planned to replace it myself, but was curious what it would cost to take it to the pros. According to the Apple website, a new battery will set you back $79. Yikes! A quick search online led me to a great DIY repair guide at iFixit – an awesome site with guides and kits for fixing anything from cars to toasters. With a little more searching I found my repair kit on eBay. A new battery and all the tools needed to do the job (plus a few extras), just $6.89 shipped! I was able to swap out the battery in about 15 minutes for less than 10% of the cost of taking it to the store! So, if your phone is in need of a new battery or you’re just curious what the inside of an iPhone looks like, check out the process below:

PhoneBattery1

HOW TO REPLACE THE BATTERY IN iPHONE 4S

STEP ONE: REMOVE BACK PANEL After turning off the power to your device, use the 5-point pentalobe screwdriver to remove the two screws on the bottom edge of the phone next to the charging port. Slide the back panel toward the top of the phone (about 2mm) and carefully lift and remove the panel from the phone

PhoneBattery2

STEP TWO: DISCONNECT THE BATTERY Remove the two screws from the battery connector using the Phillips screwdriver. Be sure to note the position of each for reassembly – the lower screw (blue circle) is slightly longer than the upper (yellow circle). The small, black grounding clip (left image, yellow arrow) is attached with the upper screw and sits under the connector. This piece is small, so be sure not to lose it when removing the connector. Using the plastic opening tool, gently pull the connector (silver plate) off of the contact, being careful to only pull the connector so you do not damage the contact beneath (right image, yellow arrow).

PhoneBattery3

STEP THREE: REMOVE THE BATTERY Use the plastic opening tool to pry the battery up, placing the tool between the right side of the battery and outer frame of the phone (arrows). There is a lot of adhesive holding the battery in place, so you will need to gently pry from several points to detach the battery and lift it out of the case.

PhoneBattery4b

STEP FOUR: INSTALL NEW BATTERY AND REASSEMBLE Set the new battery into the case and press firmly in place. Reassemble the phone following the instructions in reverse order, making sure all components are in the correct place and properly aligned.

Now, go enjoy that extra $70 you’ve got in your pocket! If you have any cool DIY tech tips we’d love to hear about them.

BUNNY BUSINESS

Ok, here’s the thing: I love to decorate for the seasons and holidays, but I don’t like to store a bunch of items for most of the year. If we had a ton of storage space, I would probably make a different wreath for each month. (Derek doesn’t get as jazzed about wreaths, so he’s ok with our current arrangement.) Instead, I collect our already-owned-scattered-around-the-house-everyday-items (ie books and stuffed animals) to decorate for special occasions. (However, I will admit that doing this is a lot easier when you have a kid because of their fun, colorful items.)

For Easter I grabbed some rabbits, some chicks, some dyed rabbit skins (purchased from a truck stop when I was a kid!), plastic eggs, bunny books… and gave it a go!

Easter-Shelves

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Mya thinks the hanging pink bunny (below) is pretty hilarious. We told her that’s what happens when you don’t eat your carrots… but she called our bluff.

Easter-HangingBunny

How are you decorating for Spring or Easter? Do you hoard dead animal skins from family road trips? I’m sure most of you do. Not weird at all.

I’M COCOA FOR CHOCOLATE CAKE

This cake is good. Really good. I found it online while testing various recipes in preparation for Mya’s first “bird”day party (which will soon be posted!) I wanted something low sugar, but didn’t taste low sugar. Don’t we all, right? It doesn’t even use butter. Yeah, I know. Craze-aye. I tweaked the original recipe a little bit– doubling the recipe, but having even less sugar. AND you mix everything in the same bowl. Minimal clean-up, which is always a huge plus! So yes, I probably make this entirely too often for just Derek’s and my consumption:

CakePics

chocolatecake

Now you know one of our culinary guilty pleasures. Bake it and lemme know how much you love it!

 

HEARTY HELLO

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This card is what happens when you don’t get your New Years’ cards sent before Valentines’ Day. I’m happy with how it turned out and we’ve learned how to not spend a ton of money on cards/ invites: We used to order pre-designed cards through Shutterfly (and although I order other gifts/ keepsakes from Shutterfly, their cards were just too expensive for us.) We now use PowerPoint to create our cards and print them at Costco’s photo center. Cool fact: you do not have to be a Costco member to utilize their photo center– it just requires that your order be shipped to you. If you are a member, you also have the option of picking up your order at one of their locations (which Derek usually does while grabbing one of their $1.50 hot dog/ soda deals on his lunch break!)

Before making our 2014 card, I didn’t know how to stretch text vertically in PowerPoint, but Derek taught me a trick:

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[ 1. Select the text box you would like to stretch, 2. Format, 3. Text Effects, 4. Transform, 5. Select top left box under “warp”. These actions stretch your text to fit your text box. You can then play around with size and overall appearance. I did this with every individual text box on our card to add some interest. ]

I also varied fonts and colors. I didn’t want the card to look too “girly” with all the pink, but Derek approved; so we placed our order online through Costco. (Costco cost for 100 cards was $42.42; Shutterfly cost would’ve been $96.16 — yikes!)

And just because it’s fun to reflect on Derek’s facial hair our growing family, here are the last 4 years of holiday cards:

cardcompare

We hope we help you save some money in the future! How do you guys make holiday cards/ party invites/ etc?!

WHEN WE GROW UP

We’ve all wondered “what should we be when we grow up.” Look no further, people. Buzzfeed has the answers to all of life’s most challenging conundrums. What a relief, right?! Recently, every time I’m on facebook, there are a slew of these quizzes (ie “What career should you actually have?” or “Which character from ‘The Office’ are you?”) So we thought we should take the plunge:

career

office

Sadly, Derek said his glory days are over and he won’t be quitting his day job. I also gained nothing from my assessment as Pam Beesly, but I’ll take it as a compliment. She seems like a nice gal. But after buzzfeed, we just felt lost. I mean what’s the logical next step in life? Start a blog? Yeah, we thought so too. So here we go! The hubby and I are getting our blog on. We are going to document our projects and discoveries and dreams. (Not sure what all of that means yet; but that’s the point, right? The unknown is intriguing and we’re enjoying the journey!) We hope to connect with many of you and learn a bunch along the way. We are anxious to see how AFTER THE KIDS GO TO BED evolves! To know more about our lil’ fam jam, you can go here or give us a… holler [at] afterthekidsgotobed [dot] com