First catch of the year!

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He waited a week for Lars to fix the auger. He made sure all his snow gear was clean and dry. We told him he could go down to Echo after lunch on Saturday. So naturally, he wanted lunch at 9 am. When everything was  f i n a l l y  ready, Lars, Max, and Liv made the 15-minute drive to Echo. Max missed the first fish, even with Lars helping him.

But he tried again. This time Lars was about 150ft away, helping Liv, when Max started screaming that his pole was moving. He picked up his pole and yanked the fish up on the ice before Lars was able to get over to help. He did it all by himself.

It.was.awesome.

Our house hunt and a little peek…

I’m a little bit nervous about doing this post. Almost like I’ll be jinxing us…But here it goes!

We started looking for housing in September right after Lars got the job with the NRCS. Our plan was to just find someplace to rent for the first year or so while we made a decision about where to buy a home. We were really disappointed to discover that the rental situation in the Uinta Basin is not good. The cheapest place we could find was a 3-bedroom apartment for $900 a month. This was fine with us – it was more square footage than what we’re in now – but the manager said that we had too many kids. I guess legally they can’t allow more than 2 people per room. That’s okay. It wasn’t ideal for us either. We’d have to get rid of the chickens and we’d have to find a place for the camper or sell it. Plus there would be no yard – that’s hard with five rowdy kids.

The house rentals were pretty much a no-go from the start. We couldn’t find anything for under $1300 per month (for a 3-bedroom). Four and five bedroom rentals were between $1600 and $2100 per month. Um. No.

We eventually found out that with interest rates being so low and the houses being priced the way they are, we could actually BUY a home for cheaper than we could rent. So we set out for Vernal together as a family the second weekend of October armed with a huge list of homes we would go look at. We met our realtor, Lori, and spent Friday afternoon going through house after house.

HOUSE #1

We found The Perfect House on Friday evening. It was a cute little brick rambler located just a block from Lars’s office. It was in an older neighborhood, but well-kept. The house was the ugly duckling – it would need some work – but we’re fine with that. We’d done it twice before and there really isn’t much we’re afraid of at this point. The home had a reverse mortgage on it. The owner had passed away and now the investors needed to sell it. We went back and forth with the sellers for a while – offers and counter-offers. In the end, our final offer was full price, they pay closing costs. They rejected it. They informed us that they would not be paying a dime toward the selling of the house. We had to walk away. We simply couldn’t justify paying full price plus closing costs for a house that needed so much work. We were also nervous about dealing with sellers that felt they couldn’t compromise on anything.

By the time we were done with all the back and forth, it was November and time for Lars to move to Vernal and start his new job. Without us. We had talked about a worse-case scenario when it looked like our offer on the house wouldn’t be accepted. We decided to have Lars take the trailer and rent out a spot at an RV Park that would allow long-term residency. He would work Monday-Friday and come home on the weekends. We thought it would be for a month or so until we could find something. He spent the next couple of weeks looking at houses after work.

HOUSE #2

Oh, this house was The Perfect House for sure! Five bedrooms, a big family room, a good-sized yard, 2 minutes from Lars’s work, and super close to a park. We made our offer at just below asking price and it was accepted! Everything was moving along fast until the appraisal. We learned that the house wasn’t worth what we had offered. The appraisal came back about $8000 under our offer. We didn’t panic. We just filled out an addendum with the new offer and sent it to them to sign. That’s when it fell apart. They came out punching – the seller’s realtor called up our realtor and threw a fit. Then she called our lender and threw a fit and sent some pretty nasty e-mails. She told our lender that she had talked to Lars and that he had agreed to pay the full original asking price on the house. A total lie. She was a real piece of work. They also wanted to keep our earnest money. It was a nightmare. We got out of that as fast as possible.

By this time, winter had fully arrived in Vernal and the living-in-a-trailer situation wasn’t working anymore. Our trailer was not made for winter. Lars was having to fix something every single weekend. Not little fixes, but big (expensive) fixes that required tools and extra people. Lars was frustrated because he was there and we were here. He’s such a home-body and this situation was awful and really hard on him.

HOUSE #3

Lars found a beautiful home in a brand new neighborhood. In fact, the house was not even finished when he went to look at it. It was a 4-bedroom rambler with a garage. The yard was teeny tiny, but we decided to make an offer anyway. We offered just below asking price, but they countered with full price. Lars and I had made the decision before we started looking that we would not go above a certain amount. We didn’t want to go from the pot to the frying pan – or whatever the expression is. We hate our living situation right now, but we don’t want to hurry up and get into a house we can’t afford. And even though full price on this beautiful home would be CHEAPER than the rental homes, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to go over the amount. We had drawn the line. So we kept looking.

HOUSE #4

About a week later, the builders of House #3 contacted us. They told us they had another house they were building, but that it wasn’t in a neighborhood. It’s outside of Vernal in the “country”. It’s only a 3-bedroom, but the rooms are huge and there’s a bonus room above the garage. The yard is big, too! We’ll be able to have animals – goats and chickens! The price tag for it was right under our cut-off. At this point, I was pretty numb. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t interested really. I wasn’t anything. I told Lars to go ahead and submit an official offer, but that we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Since the house is still being built, they want us to pick everything out. We’ve never built a house before and I’m finding this part of it to be very stressful. I’d rather come in to a house and then fix stuff as we live in it and know better what we want.

So this is where we are right now! We’re building a house. I feel like writing about it or talking about it will jinx it. Something’s just bound to go wrong, I’m sure of it.

I have a few pictures of the progress. I haven’t actually seen it in person yet. Lars has been taking pictures on his cell phone for me.

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Since this picture was taken, all of the siding has been put on and the driveway has been poured.

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This is the entry. The sheet rock, trim, and paint – all done . Tile is scheduled for next week.

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This is the bonus room. It’s also painted and the trim is done.

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This is part of the yard. The house sits on .69 of an acre.

Right after New Year’s, we had a big shock. We found out the true cost of having Lars live out there. It was not good. We were sinking financially and we didn’t know what to do. We wanted our savings for the house – not for helping to supplement this horrible living arrangement! Gah! I called him in a panic as soon as I realized our situation. We talked for a really long time, trying to figure out what to do next. His supervisor suggested contacting HR to find out what his options were. Everyone was really helpful and willing to work with him. They suggested telecommuting as a temporary fix until the house is done in February. This all went down on a Thursday, and by Friday afternoon, he had the paperwork done and all the approvals he needed so he could start telecommuting on Monday. He packed up and winterized the trailer so it could be stored. Then he threw all his stuff in the car and headed home. He’s now working from Coalville for all but 4 days a pay period.

And we are a happier family!

Lucy’s Quiet Book

Two and a half years later…

I finally finished Lucy’s quiet book! Yay me! I was able to give it to her for Christmas and it was received with spectacular success.

I found the material for the cover at JoAnn’s. Actually, it’s the only fabric place I knew of until about the 4th page of this book. I just about died when I discovered these stores called “quilting stores”. The fabric is so nice. And the selection is unbelievable. I think the lady at The Fabric Center thought I had completely lost it the first time I was in there. It was so fun!

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Notice the little pouches are NOT 1-10. That does not make any sense in a base 10 system. The nerd in me demanded that the numbers be 0-9 instead. The little carrots have the matching numbers on them.

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There were two pages that I really struggled with. This clown page was one of them. The whole book is mostly hand-stitched, but I had to have a thimble to do the clown. Also, the instructions sucked. Clearly, the photo in the pattern showed that the author didn’t follow her own instructions. It was terribly written. She needs to fire her pattern testers. STAT!

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A close-up on the map and treasure chest. This page was fun to put together. I hand-stitched the map and hot glued the gems.

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The next page is Lucy’s favorite. She calls it “the honeybees” and it’s how she tells us that she wants to play with the book.

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Cute little farm animals come out of the barn door. I was actually working on this page when I discovered the quilting shops. I was informed by some sewing gurus at JoAnn’s that farm animals are NOT fashionable right now. JUNGLE animals are fashionable right now. So I set to work finding a fabric store that did carry the farm animals I needed.

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Here are the “honeybees”. It was my first time putting in a zipper.

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The shoe page was the other page that gave me trouble. It was the first page I put together and it was pretty complicated for me. Again, partly because of crappy instructions. But partly because I was brand new to sewing. The snowman “melts” when you pull the ribbon at the bottom. And then you use the ribbon at the top to build him up again.

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The little old woman comes out of the shoe.

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Both of these pages went together really quickly. The flowers can be taken on and off. There’s money in the little wallet underneath the pig. You can put it in the little slot on top of the pig.

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This is the last page in the book. There was supposed to be an “eye spy” page with loads of different things they could find, but I didn’t have all the little scraps necessary to put it together. I needed an inch of, like, 20 different fabrics. Yikes. That’s a lot of money. No biggie if you have a lot of scraps, though. I didn’t. This was my first sewing project ever. So Lars made me a little pocket for a pad and a pencil or a little treat.

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Lu loves it. We keep it up high on a bookshelf because I don’t want Gavin getting to it, but we take it down almost every day when he’s napping.

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This was made using a pattern from The Quilted Fish.

The B

I just love this photo of Lucy. I snapped it during a trip to Hogle Zoo in 2010. The angle is pretty awesome, the lighting was perfect, and I love the white hat and shirt. And look at those EYES! Wowza! I’ve pulled it into PSE a lot since it was taken. I was always hoping to use it on a layout, but something was never quite right. Well, last week, I downloaded a kit called “Zoey” by Scotty Girl Design (aka Shannon McNab) and I knew right away which photo to use!

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Shannon is retiring from Design House Digital so her entire shop is 50% off through Wednesday! You can also enter to win “Zoey” by commenting on the DHD Blog.

Tutorial: Making a Banner

Last week, I got to work with the cutest papers I have ever seen. The kit is called Skip to my Lou – made by Celeste Knight. The papers and elements are sold separately, but they’re both on sale right now because she’s retiring from Design House Digital. Celeste’s ENTIRE shop is 50% off through Wednesday.

“Wonderful Day”

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And just for fun, I have another layout using a kit by Celeste – called Peppermint Twist (additional paper pack here).

“Christmas Tree”

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So looking through my gallery, I noticed that I tend to use a lot of banners – it’s the cool, trendy thing to do right now, right?  I thought it would be fun to offer a little tutorial on how to make your own banner.

TUTORIAL: BANNERS

I’ll be working in PSE 10.

Select the Rectangle Tool icon.

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Click down on your page and draw a shape that you like. For my layout “Wonderful Day”, I wanted a fat, almost square shape that would fit into my grid design.

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Alright. Let’s simplify the shape layer. Most of the time, simplifying a layer will render it uneditable. For example, if you simplify a text layer, you can no longer edit the text because it’s been changed to an image. BUT! In the case of our shape up there, we actually CAN’T edit it until we simplify.

To simplify: With the shape layer selected, hover over the layer, right click and then choose “Simplify Layer”.

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The next step is to make it look like a banner by making a fancy cut. Right click on the Lasso Tool and choose “Polygonal Lasso Tool” (or simply press “L” three times).

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This is a really cool tool. It allows you to cut a custom shape. In our case, we’ll need to cut a triangle shape out of the bottom of our rectangle.

With the Polygonal Tool selected, click down on your page just lower than your shape – and kind of at a diagonal to the corner. You’re making a triangle shape. So next, you’re going to move your curser up at a diagonal and click down. Then move it down and diagonal – right across from where your first click was – and click down again. Complete the triangle by moving the curser across to where you started.

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Now you should have a triangle made up of little marching ants. This sometimes takes me a few tries to get it just the way I want. If you need a do-over, press command (or control) D. This deselects, or gets rid of the marching ants, so you can start over. But if you like it, let’s move on!

The next step is to delete everything within the triangle. With the rectangle shape layer selected, click on “Edit” and choose “Delete”.

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You should be left with an empty triangle of marching ants. Now press command (or control) D to get rid of the triangle.

That’s it! You’ve just created a banner with straight sides – the type of banner that I made for my layout “Christmas Tree”. You can now clip paper to it, add a drop shadow, and position it on your layout or project.

For a more hand-cut type banner (like the one in “Wonderful Day”), we’ll just cut two more triangles – one on each side of the banner.

Select the Polygonal Lasso Tool again and repeat the four clicks to make a triangle on one side of the banner shape and then the other, taking more off the top and almost nothing off the bottom. I zoomed in close so you can see what I mean:

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Now just delete the selection (Edit > Delete) and deselect (command or control D) to get rid of the marching ants. Do all of that on the other side. So what I’m left with is a mask that I can now clip paper to. I’ve used the pink zig-zag paper from Skip to my Lou and applied a drop shadow from Gennifer Bursett’s styles.

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That’s it! I hope you’ll link me up with your projects using banners! And please feel free to contact me with any questions.

One.

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My Gavin turns one today. I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about how I wanted to approach this blog post. It’s a HUGE birthday. And a very bittersweet one for me as he’s my last baby ever. The caboose.

When I was pregnant with him, I remember people asking me how I felt about having five (FIVE!) kids. I would tell them {a little tongue-in-cheek} that at this point, I pretty much had it figured out. No worries, I got it. Gav made me a liar. After one whole year of being the mom to five (FIVE!) kids, I can confidently state,

“I have no idea what I’m doing. None.”

I’m pretty sure this is partly his fault. He’s smarter than an average, every day, run-of-the-mill, totally normal baby. He’s a thinker. With the introduction of any new-to-him experience, he goes really still and quiet. Sometimes only his eyeballs move. And then BAM! He’s got it all figured out and he’s trying to get the poker down from the fire tools. Or he’s trying to plug something into the wall. Or he’s just made it through the “baby proof” bars of the stair case and he didn’t die because you’ve got him by the ankle. Or he’s showing you that it doesn’t matter how far you scooch those glass jars back on the pantry shelf – he’ll find a way.

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I don’t want to think about the implications of this as he gets older. For now, I’m slightly smarter and sometimes faster.

We started celebrating on Saturday with a trip to Salt Lake to have lunch and cake with my family.

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Gavin had a blast with the cake. Even if it was a little bit “Wrecky“.

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His first bite…

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…at which point we realized that red and yellow frosting and a white shirt don’t mesh well. So naked it is!

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We forgot to grab his chair, but since we’re awesome parents, we just let him up on the table.

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After the kiddos had their piano lessons, we picked up a few things at the grocery store just to get us through the weekend and then we left for home.

On Sunday, Lars’s parents came up for Dunch (our version of a late lunch/early dinner) and some more treats and singing of the Happy Birthday Song. I didn’t want to do cake again so I made some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and we stuck a candle in it. And how awesome is my little guy? He’s spent his whole life watching me blow on the fire in the mornings to get it going and it TOTALLY paid off for his birthday. He’s my only baby to actually blow out a candle on the first birthday.

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Happy first birthday, Gavin!

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Gavin’s First Haircut

I believe this is the soonest we’ve ever cut a baby’s hair. But Gavin’s hair is stick-straight and the baby mullet was driving me crazy. Plus it was starting to grow down over his ears in a weird way.

Time for The First Haircut.

We lured him in with food.

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And then we pounced.

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He was okay with it until the buzzer. Lars had to hold his head in place and he didn’t like that very much so Lars tried to do it in short bursts: grab head, buzz real quick, let go. Repeat.

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He was a pretty good sport about the whole thing. Max isn’t even as good about hair cuts and he’s nine.

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