OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wasn’t sure I was going to be able to compete in this year’s Fourth of July baking competition for a variety of reasons — Jake leaves for a year (tomorrow morning — ugh), the girls keep me running — but Thom, my fierce competitor, amazing baker and host of the annual fete, wasn’t having it. He basically said, “Cry me a river! Enough with the excuses, woman!” And he’s right. Enough with the excuses. So I felt compelled to represent…even if it meant making yet another flaccid Jell-O cake. (Whoa. I just realized this year marks our FIFTH ANNUAL baking competition — we’ve been having bake-offs for five years now. I thought this year marked our FOURTH. Wow. Scary.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I was all set to do something really lame like, oh, I don’t know…Jell-O, perhaps (I don’t venture too far outside the wheelhouse), but my friends Grigg and Accacia approached me about helping out. They are the homemade ice cream making masters so we thought we’d do something along those lines: Ice cream sandwiches! I thought it would be cool to stack the sandwiches in some kind of rocket looking configuration.

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And just my luck….Grigg is a metal worker! A really good one! His company is called Precise Solutions. You should totally call him for all your custom metal job needs. Grigg just happened to have a bunch of slender metal rods lying around that he quickly welded into a tower that looked like a rocket.

Then they whipped up a bunch of mint vanilla ice cream. Homemade vanilla ice cream made with real mint is sublime, people. I highly recommend it. I was tasked with making about 40 sugar cookies that we dusted with red and blue sugar sprinkles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then set about assembling the sandwiches, which we rolled in blue and red candy doo-dads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hardest part was getting the ice cream to the party and hiding it from Thom so as not to tip him off he was about to get creamed. See, I went ahead and let him believe I wouldn’t be making much a showing at this year’s event. As I’d hoped, he didn’t kill himself trying to come up with a cake to destroy me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t get me wrong — his cake was amazing. (His cake’s are always amazing. The guy wins on flavor every time.) But I think had he known he’d be competing against a TOWER OF ICE CREAM complete with fins, he would have added more fire or showmanship or puppetry or something. But no, all he had was his albeit DELICIOUS carrot sheet cake. But what is carrot cake when you have this?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight before Jake and Grigg brought out the tower of sandwiches, I read this ridiculous poem I wrote. The second I finished, Accacia cranked Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”  See, you gotta get creative, you gotta pull out all the stops when competing against a guy like Thom. The man does not lose. But we trounced him and it was magical. I’m king of the world today.

And for those paying attention, the annual scoring breaks down like this:

Year one bake-off: Point Thom

Year two bake-off: Point Thom

Year three bake-off: Point me

Year four bake-off: Point Thom

Year five bake-off: Point me

Needless to say, now I’m scared about next year’s event. What will Thom come up with?

Thank you, Thom and Lornie, for another great night!

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Water fun that was not to be

by Jessie K on July 1, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was a kid, I remember we had this plastic clown’s head topped with a hat that, when attached to a running hose, lifted off the clown’s head and spun around by a 6 foot jet of water. Water would come shooting out of the sides of the hat and spray all around. I recall spending entire summers jumping through that thing, leaping through the jet of water as fast as I could to prevent the clown’s hat from toppling over.

Literally five minutes after Jake spent $40 on that inflatable kiddie pool in the photo above — something fun for the kids’ to play with for June’s early 4th birthday party — an unrepairable leak sprung in the sides of the tube, causing him to have to throw the whole thing in the trash.  She played with that thing for maybe 8 minutes.

They don’t make plastic like they used to.

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I heart old furniture

by Jessie K on June 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJake’s Grandmom has this incredible basement and outbuilding full of six houses worth of knick knacks and furniture. We went rummaging through her stuff a few months ago looking for furniture for the new house. She graciously let us take home a few choice things. Thanks, Grandmom. Though I don’t think we put any kind of dent in her inventory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe scooped up this really nice chest of drawers for the dining room….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd we also brought home four wooden chairs for the breakfast nook. These chairs are ubiquitous — any idea of what they’re called? I’ve heard them identified as both captain’s chairs and Windsor chairs, but I’m not sure if either is accurate.

IMG_7001What I love about these chairs — aside from being free — is that they’re indestructible. The kids can pour juice on them, get crumbs all over them and stand on them when they help me cook, and I don’t have to think about it. I don’t care if they get ruined. I also like the shape. People always think modern when they hear “mid century,” but Americana or shaker style was very popular in the 40s and 50s too. These chairs may look really cool mixed in with more modern pieces. This image inspired me (even though the chairs are quite different):

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I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the chairs to give them a fresher look, and I’ve settled on sanding the life out of them to remove as much of that dark finish as possible. I’m still in the middle of the project so I don’t have anything great to show yet, but I’m aiming toward a light, blond finish which should look great around our white round Eames-esque breakfast table.

 

How to drop major pounds in a day and a half

by Jessie K on June 28, 2014

IMG_7391Attention dieters of the world! I have stumbled upon a nifty and expedient weight loss solution: FENCE PAINTING. Yes, fence painting. Forget your Slim Fast, your Hydroxy Cut and your strawberry flavored Menthols. Spraying 63 gallons of black paint on a fence will get your body bikini ready in a hurry.

IMG_7390For the past three days I have been out in the fields painting board fence with Jake. As soon as I zipped up that unventilated painter’s jumpsuit, donned the goggles and the eye mask on a 92 degree day with high humidity, I realized a bikini ready body would be mine, whether I wanted one or not.

I must have sweated out half my body weight in 10 minutes stumbling around a field holding a paint sprayer gun wondering what those purple spots were prancing across my pupils. While I was still lucid, I had a faint inclination I might actually die from heat exhaustion. But I couldn’t take off the suit because that meant chugging a jet stream of black paint and getting paint all over my face and clothes. See:

IMG_7418All things considered, I decided I’d rather die from heat exhaustion than chemical poisoning. And who wants to scrape gobs of black paint out of your ears? Oh, wait, I know: Jake, the original Young Invincible.

IMG_7420How about whispering some sweet nothings into that ear?

We were painting with these giant hoses that can knock out six lengths of fence including the posts in something like 1 minute. We knocked out one mile — some 5,000 feet — of board fence in a day and a half. The pace was relentless. My husband is relentless. There were no languid lunch breaks under a shady tree swapping tales about our reckless youths. No, I had to eat my chunk chicken breast straight from the can topped off with “spicy buffalo wing” flavored crackers then told to get back to the gun. By the second day and some 40 pounds lighter, I had wised up and burned the painter’s suit and donned something more weather appropriate. I present to you, Fence Painter’s Chic:

IMG_7422By that point, though, Jake had put me on hand painting duty to get into the fine detail handiwork around gardens and outbuildings and hard to reach corners. Which was fine with me….I’d had enough of random downwind blasts of paint to my eyes to last me a lifetime. (Seriously, a blast of paint to the eyeballs is about as close a description of hell as I can muster.)

IMG_7425All in all, it was a killer job — as in, it did nearly killed me — but weirdly relaxing at the same time. There is something to be said for working outside. And it was pretty cool looking back at a mile of board fence and thinking, ‘Wow, we did that.’ But that could also have been the paint fumes talking.

What to wear when the Internet hates you

by Jessie K on June 26, 2014

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Married seven years today

by Jessie K on June 23, 2014

E_046E_073 E_075IMG_0209IMGA0088-1IMGA0118OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEleven years together,

seven of them married today,

Three deployments,

two moves,

four dogs,

two little girls,

the occasional deer neck tacos and

hundreds of chickens later

we’re still going strong.

I wouldn’t want to live this crazy life without you.

(And it wouldn’t be nearly as crazy without you.)

I love you, Jake.

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I’ve been buzzard bombed

by Jessie K on June 22, 2014

IMG_7386Today when I dropped off June to my friend Brendan and Susan’s house for a playdate, I walked outside back to my car when I saw a bunch of objects drop from what looked like the overhead tree. I didn’t hear anything break so I figured it was twigs or leaves or nuts falling from the tree. As I approached my car, I detected a putrid, horrible odor. It smelled like a dirty two week old formula diaper. Or raw sewage. It was horrendous. Like, one thousand times worse than mere poop.

Susan was nearby so I asked her if she smelled it and whether her septic might be overflowing. She came over and took a whiff and nearly had to sit down from the overpowering stench.

Then I looked at my car and noticed it was splattered with some sort of goo.

IMG_7384I thought my car had been pooped on by a flock of passing birds. But then Brendan came over and looked at the goo and said, “That’s not poop. That looks more like entrails. You’ve been buzzard bombed!”

We now think a passing buzzard, holding a mouthful of decomposing roadkill, dropped his load on my car!

IMG_7383I was all set to drive back home in warp speed, hoping the wind would blow off the carrion. But Brendan pointed the goo would most likely just dry and harden in the hot sun. (I’m sorry, did you just lose your lunch? I’m so sorry. Really. I am. Who feels like some oysters?) Thankfully, Brendan offered to rinse it all off with the garden hose before I trekked back home. That right there? That’s friendship: When someone offers to wash vermin guts off your car. Brendan, I owe you.

Yet somehow the story gets worse: While he hosed down the car, I noticed some wild lambsquarters growing nearby. Like an idiot, I picked a few leaves and started to chew when Brendan reminded me I might not want to forage so close to where he’s rinsing roadkill. I immediately spit them out, trying desperately to maintain some decorum.

My car no longer smells like rancid possum meat.  I have no choice but to take all this as a incredibly positive omen — my luck is going to be sensational from here on in.

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A new headboard from an old barn door

by Jessie K on June 18, 2014

IMG_5707Remember the old barn door we salvaged from the barn we demolished?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were finally able to use it in our new house. (I can’t get over how little June is here! She’s a baby!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI loved the soft, muted colors in the wood. Judging from inscriptions on other parts of the barn, this door, which I’ve been told is made from American Chestnut, is at least 100 years old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlmost exactly one year later, we’re finally able to put it to good use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the other side of the door.  Amazing the difference in color, right? (I also had a filter on my lens for this shot so the hues look a lot more saturated than they actually are.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently bought a bed frame for our guest bedroom and some accompanying brackets for a headboard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJake and his Dad installed the door as a headboard over the weekend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo prep it for use, they trimmed the ragged edges with one of Jake’s big saws and tried to get off as much dust and dirt as possible. Dirt and dust in a bedroom: Not a good look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey also screwed down those old hinges to prevent them from clanking against the wood. We opted not to spray a clear coat on the wood because we were afraid it would alter that amazing weathered color. We were going for au natural. Hope our guests don’t mind!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love the way it looks and I’m really proud we were able to make use of the old wood. It feels good to recycle old stuff, and I love that we were able to bring a piece of our old place to our new home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs for the rest of the room, I’m not sure how I want to decorate it but the headboard will serve as my starting point. Can’t wait!

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My summer as a full time mom

by Jessie K on June 17, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the first summer I’m staying home completely with June and Katie. Every previous summer since June’s birth, I’ve always managed to prioritize work over spending all day as a mom. A big part of this is because I had to — work is work. The bills keep coming. I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing books and developing projects.

But the other part of it was that I wasn’t sure I had it in me to be a full-time mom. Is that bad to admit that? I was always afraid of losing my patience, running out of stuff to do, hanging around the house all day with nothing much going on with the omnipresent hum of Dora The Explorer in the background. I’m a very structured person and don’t really do well with unadulterated hang time, and I assumed that’s what being a full time mom would entail, at least some of the time.

Having a second child really changed things for me. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks: Of course I want to stay home and be a full-time mom! DUH! Who wouldn’t want to stay home at least for a little while with their kids while they’re still very young? My kids are only going to think I’m the coolest person in the room for a very small sliver of time and I have to take advantage of this opportunity. Because in four, five, six, seven years? I’m going to be perceived as the biggest tool on the block. June is going to want very little to do with me….except maybe fold her laundry, fetch her snacks and buy her cute sneakers so I gotta cement myself as Cool Mom while I can.

I’m half kidding here but it is true: It’s such a short amount of time kids want to be with their parents. And I — being the quasi employed professional that I am — have the luxury to spend time with my children.

I’m one of those women who doesn’t believe in giving women guilt about their choices. If a woman has to work or wants to work or — and lets just say it — really doesn’t have it in her to spend all day every day as a full time mom, fine, she should never think she has to apologize for her choices (you don’t see men crying into their lunch boxes about this stuff so why should women? Equality for all, right?). My motto is, you do what you have to do to get by and it doesn’t help the conversation to have regrets about your chosen pursuit, whether you stay home or keep working.  I like to think that we’ve transcended beyond the so-called “Mommy Wars,” but I suppose I’m just hopelessly naive. But something’s gotta give either way: If you work, you miss time with your kids. If you stay home, you miss out on work. Or you do like the majority of American parents and you do both — work and parent. But the thing I’ve found with being a working parent is that it’s actually kind of stressful to straddle both worlds. Because you’re constantly having to shift gears, going from “kid time,” which is slow and meandering and can sometimes feel like being trapped in a circus fun house, requiring the patience of a levitating Tibetan monk (and I mean that in the best way possible, ha! ha!) to “work time,” where you’re constantly having to rush, rush, rush, go, go, go, be efficient, say something clever, get to work on time, look professional, wipe the spit up off your tie while pretending you know what’s going on. It’s SO MUCH easier to remain in the one gear instead of having to shift gears a thousand times a day. This is why so many working parents are harried. They never know which gear they’re in.

I fully understand I’m in an enviable position — I GET to stay home with my kids this summer where for so many parents that’s not even an option…that’s a pipe dream. So I’m going to enjoy it. Every last minute of it. Even though I’ll probably lose my patience at least twenty times a day. But that’s parenthood, right?

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Time for an exciting stair runner update

by Jessie K on June 13, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been several months since we installed our Dash & Albert stair runner and I thought it’s a good time to let readers know how the carpet is holding up.

Since we spend a  spend a lot of time outdoors, we ended up going with polypropylene indoor/outdoor rug, which is scrubbable, bleachable and can stand up to all kinds of dirt. For two-thirds of the year, we’re a shoes-off household — Jake tracks in too much dirt — but  that rule goes out the window in the warmer months when June is going in and out of the house fifty times a day. So the stairs receive a lot of traffic, many times without shoes, but these days, with shoes on. 

I’ll start with the good news. I get a lot of comments about my stair runner. Guests love it. I’m super glad I went with such a bold graphic choice. I don’t regret that for a second.

Now the not so great news. I’ve noticed some pilling in certain areas of the carpet! I don’t know if pilling is the right word….what do you call it when fibers start to come loose from the weave?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s not much but it’s enough for me — admittedly, a very anal retentive stair runner aficionado….but can you blame me considering the hassle we went through installing this sucker? — to notice, and I have to say, I’m a wee concerned about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI pretty sure it’s our dog Solha’s claws that’s causing some of fibers to come loose. She traipses up and down the stairs about as often as we do and her claws aren’t exactly French manicured.

It’s not a big deal now, but what is the carpet going to look like in five years? Guess another hellacious stair runner install is in our future! But, hey, I’ll probably be ready for another major decor change then anyway, if not sooner.

If I’d have any advice for readers, it’s this: The weave of the stair runner is really important especially if you have pets! I wish now we would have gone with a regular bedroom carpet type of stair runner…a weave a dog’s claws can’t pull on. But those type of weaves don’t come in super pretty prints, colors and designs like those you find from Dash & Albert (if I’m wrong, please let me know). It’s more like corporate carpeting from the 80s in a delightful mauve palate. But, hey, at least it lasts.

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