Saturday, July 26, 2014


The summer has been pretty dull for me.  I haven't been able to do many of the things that I normally do in the summer.  After the extreme winter, it's been a little disappointing to have my activities so limited.  Mike surprised me one evening with a new camera.  My good camera died many years ago, and I've been making due with an inexpensive point and shoot model.

I love my new Nikon.  It is a great intermediate camera with both auto focus and manual focus capabilities.  The lens has a fairly good medium range.  Mike took me out to various parks so I could take photos.  The camera is a little awkward with the bad wrist, but I really enjoyed my new hobby.

Then, a few weeks later, Mike came home with a fabulous telephoto lens as an early birthday present.  He wanted me to be able to take good pictures at Madelyn's national cheer competition. I've been having so much fun learning how to use the various settings.  One of my favorite ways to use the telephoto lens is at the park.  I can sit on a bench or in the car and get close up photos of my children at play.  The photos are much more natural because my subjects don't even know I'm taking pictures. 

I'm looking forward to spending a great deal of time over the next month or so working on my photography skills.  I may even begin to teach the girls a photography unit for school this fall.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Storm Damage

Our small town had a major storm come several days before Independence Day.  We were without power for 3 days.  Several people in the area were without electricity for over a week.  Our property escaped without damage.  Both ends of the street were blocked with fallen trees and downed power lines.  During the torrential downfall, our basement was flooded.  Steve saved his guitars and amps but lost his pillows. 

In the middle of the night, Mike was trying to use a squeegee to push the water away from the front of the house.  The kids were using push brooms to shove the water out of the basement door.  All this activity happened in the dark.  Amy was holding her phone flashlight for Mike to see what he was doing.  About an hour later, everyone fell into their beds exhausted.

Early the next morning, Mike headed over to Menards to purchase a generator.  He managed to snag the last reasonably priced one.  When he arrived home, he connected the deep freezer and our refrigerator.  I did some math and discovered that we could also run one fan and the television and the cable box.

Later in the day, I drove around with Amy and got some photos of the area.

 The speed with which the city marked off dangerous situations impressed me. 

As Amy and I were driving around we saw this tree across the road in front of one of Joe's good friends.  The tree left a few small branches in their yard, but the house was intact.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Open Houses

June is the season of wedding and graduation parties.  We didn't have any weddings this year, but several of my nieces and nephews were graduating from high school.  Mike isn't usually able to attend these types of functions because of his job.  Saturdays off are frowned upon.  So on June 14, Paige and Allie and I drove up to Bellevue to attend a niece's graduation party.  We picked up my mom from her house and arrived shortly after the party began.

As I walked up the sidewalk (headed towards the restroom), I tripped over my Birkenstock sandals and fell face first towards the ground.  All of the people already seated watched my grand entrance.  It was one of those moments when I wished that the ground would open up and swallow me.  I stuck out my left hand and somewhat broke the fall, but my face was cut in a few places and bleeding.

My sister helped me to the bathroom, where I mopped up the blood and watched my wrist begin to swell.  My main thought was that it could have been worse.  I could have peed my pants as well. 

I rejoined the other guests and my sister brought me an ice pack.  The next three hours became more and more difficult.  Everyone was gracious and the conversation was good.  I didn't feel like eating, but my girls enjoyed the food.  Finally, I told my mom that I needed to drive her home.  The pain was making it difficult to concentrate and I had 2 1/2 hours of driving ahead of me.

After dropping off my mom, I took the highways instead of the back roads that I usually take.  As much as I avoid all doctors, I decided to stop off at the urgent care facility about 1/2 an hour from where we live.  After x-rays and blood pressure checks, the doctor put a splint on my arm and made an appointment with a surgeon for a week later.  The good part of the visit was discovering that my blood pressure was down to 160/88!  Down 60 points from 3 months ago!

The surgeon put on a cast (blood pressure down to 132/80) and made an appointment for 4 weeks later.  The cast was removed on July 17 (blood pressure now 130/78) and a removable brace was provided.  I can only lift 5 pounds and will begin physical therapy in two weeks.  The brace should be removed in 5 weeks and hopefully my life will return to normal. 

My nephew had his open house the week after I broke my wrist.  He lives 3 hours away, so I wasn't able to attend.  Not our family's best showing for supporting our relatives, but I think everyone understood.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Changing the color of a house is a big decision.  A decision that is costly and not easily changed.  We love this house, but don't plan to spend our golden years here.  It's too big for us once most of the children have flown the nest.  Originally, we planned planned to put gray siding on the wooden parts of the house and then paint the cement a blue-gray.  There were 4 5-gallon containers of polymer paint in the basement from the previous owners.  We mixed in a 5-gallon container of white into the gray to lighten it a bit.  

I began scraping the cement and cement blocks to prepare for the paint.  I completed the scraping and painting on the bottom floor of two sides of the house before I broke my wrist. 

Notice under the window where Mike repaired the cement.
Mike also climbed up the 85' ladder to paint the second floor.

About this time, Mike decided that he didn't want a gray house.  We looked at various options in siding.  We considered replacing the missing lattice on the wooden parts of the house and painting the entire house.

 Mike now had the added work of scraping the remaining cement sides of the building and scraping two side of the house that were wood.  He realized the the vines that had grown up on the one side of the house had created a texture on the cement that wasn't easily removed by scraping.  It was necessary to power wash and sand with an electric sander to remove the imprint of the vines. 

 The more we looked at the various joints and edges to the house, we decided to install new siding over all the wood portions of the house.  The gray will be used as a primer, which will be covered with the same color as the siding.

Even though we will be changing the color of the blue-gray, I still think it is a vast improvement over the nasty, peeling yellow and brown.

Mike began installing the siding by wrapping with and insulating paper.  Hopefully, our house will be less drafty this coming winter.

The windows that he installed in the fall were pulled out, so the siding could go into the channel on the sides.  Yet another project for poor Mike.

First dormer window partially finished.  I love the sage green that Mike picked.  None of the houses near us have this color and it is fairly neutral.
Mike will be working on the siding project probably for the rest of the summer.  It's his first time installing siding and hopefully it will get easier and quicker as he progresses more.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Where Is Karen?

I know that it's been a long time since my last post,  I fell the beginning of June and broke my wrist.  My typing skills aren't good enough to make posts.  The cast should be  coming off in 3 more days and my forgotten blog should be much more interesting.

Lots of my time has been spent watching the ducks and geese grow from fuzzy babies to almost full sized birds.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Painting the Exterior of the House

Before we sold the last house, our family painted the exterior of the house using paint rollers on extension poles.  Mike was required to climb up on a huge ladder to paint the roof line the the windows on the second floor.  It was a bigger job than expected and ended up taking several weeks longer than planned.  Isn't that the way home improvement projects always go?

Our current project house desperately needs something done with the exterior.  The front has yuck brown vinyl siding,  the wooden siding is painted brown, the walk-out cement exterior to the basement is cream.  The scope of this project is overwhelming.  The house is huge (by my standards) with 5700 square feet of living space on three levels.  Mike and I walked around the house deciding what we wanted to do with the outside.  I don't want to spend the money on vinyl siding right now, there are higher priority projects that should be completed first, but the exterior is ugly.

We decided that I would start scraping the paint as I up as I was comfortable on the ladder.  Then Madelyn or Mike would scrape the upper level.  Then I would begin painting with the extension poles using the roller. 
The scraping took off almost all the paint on the first floor,  Less paint loss on the second floor.

We discovered a rotten board, so Mike cut it out and replaced it.

Two days and many, many hours later, Madelyn and I had scraped one side of the garage and the walk out level under the garage.  I've decided that I'll be doing the project in small sections: scraping one section, then painting that area.  It will keep me from having some of my muscles incredibly sore from repetitive movement and it will look like progress is being made.

The plan is to have the house painted by the end of the summer.  If I get it done earlier, I'll get a nice break before school starts.  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Working With Yarn

Hand knitted and hand crochet items always impresses me.  The skill and patience that goes into creating something from scratch while using yarn are things that I have never been able to find.  Not to mention that the feel of yarn rubbing against my finger makes me grit my teeth until my jaws ache. Fortunately, my grandmother-in-law and my mom were very talented in that area.  My mom taught Amy to knit when she was young and Mike's grandmother taught her to crochet.

Amy had a lot of time on her hands, so she began to make me crocheted dish cloths.  The crocheted cloths are so superior to purchased terrycloth that I was thrilled when she made me a few dozen.  Her life has become busier, so about half a skein of cotton thread was left over.  Last week, I picked it up and asked Amy to remind me how to crochet.  Since them I have made three dishcloths!  The cotton yarn doesn't bother me like the normal sweater-type of yarn.

I will probably never crochet afghans or throw blankets, but I can keep my household supplied in my favorite type of dish cloth.  Small pleasures and accomplishes brighten my day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dance Recital

Madelyn, Paige and Allie were in their dance studios end of year ballet last weekend.  It was a long few days with lots of late nights.  The studio rents a beautiful auditorium for the ballet and put on two performances.  The show was lovely.  I'm so happy that dance is over for the year!  It's been a long haul with too many hours waiting for classes in the studio parking lot.  Next year, Madelyn is planning on changing studios.  Paige and Allie will only be taking Saturday classes, so it will be much less tiring for me.  Here's a few photos of the girls in the dressing room waiting for their dances.

Madelyn in her borrowed dress.

Allie in her ballet costume.  Paige in her character costume.

Paige in her ballet costume.

Friday, May 16, 2014

My New Etsy Shop

My oldest daughter has an Etsy shop.  She opened it about a year ago and is earning a nice amount each month.  She creates jewelry and hair accessories.  When she opened the shop, she had planned on simply selling jewelry, but her hair accessories have really taken off, so she now makes them almost exclusively.  Amy has been suggesting I open a shop, but I keep putting it off.

Finally, about a month ago, I opened CarveYourWorld.  I have over 200 hand carved rubber stamps to add to the site, but I'm adding items slowly, so my shop gets bumped to the top of the list frequently.  Hopefully,  I can get more exposure.  I'm also sewing some 18" doll clothes that will be added soon.

Paige and Allie's American Girl Dolls needed clothes and I'm to thrifty to purchase them from the company.  I purchased some patterns and stitched up several outfits.  The outfits are cute and don't take hours and hours to create. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Beautiful Music

Steve has spent the last several years concentrating on music.  I'm not talking about practicing a few hours each day.  He practices 8-12 hours each day.  He has come so far as a musician that I'm amazed when I hear him practice. 

This year, he's been a part of several choirs at SWMU, plays in the jazz band, and has private voice and guitar lessons.  We've missed all of his concerts this year because he tells us that he has a concert too late for us to clear a place in the schedule or the concert happens on a dance day.  In April, Mike and I made a point of attending three of his concerts.  One was the year end choir concert.   It was wonderful!  I was impressed with the quality of the music program.

The following week, we were able to attend his voice recital.  My in-laws drove up from South Bend for this concert as well.  Steve sang two solos and performed in a group number.  I particularly loved the piece Steve sang from Les Miserables.  He's a much better singer than Russell Crowe.  :)

A few days later, the younger girls, Mike and I attended the music showcase concert.  The jazz band played two numbers.  Steve was phenomena!  His nickname "The guitar guy" at SWMU is well deserved.  My father was a jazz musician who played bass professionally in Chicago when I was a child.  Dad died over a decade ago, but I know he would have loved hearing Steve in the jazz band. 

Unfortunately, the recording I took on my camera and phone of the performances didn't record properly, so I can't post the performances.  They were still great nights that I won't forget for a long time.