Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogkeeping -- Summer 2014

It's already time for another blogkeeping post!  That's what happens when I let it get out of hand.  Anyway, these are the movies watched from April 2014 (bottom) to early August (top).  So much The Amazing Race (and more to come!), a HP-athon, and starting to get to the BEST Disney movies with The Boy.

The Amazing Race (Season 3) **** 1/2 / Oliver & Company [r] **** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) [r] ***** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [r] ***** / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [r] ***** / Son of God ** 1/2 / Noah *** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [r] **** 1/2 / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone [r] ***** / RED 2 *** / The Amazing Race (Season 2) **** / Bewitched [r] *** / The Amazing Race (Season 1) ** 1/2 / Endeavor (Season 2) **** / Great Expectations (2012) *** 1/2 / The Lego Movie *** / 24: Live Another Day (Season 9) *** 1/2 / The Great Mouse Detective [r] **** 1/2 / Robocop (2014) *** 1/2 / The Fox and the Hound 2 [r?] *** 1/2 / The Black Cauldron [r] *** 1/2 / Winter's Bone ** 1/2 / The Fox and the Hound [r] **** 1/2 / Anna and the King [r] **** 1/2 / The Rescuers [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 22) **** 1/2 / Heroes of Cosplay (Season 1 - Part 2) *** / The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh [r] ***** / The Escape Artist *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 21) *** / Oblivion [r] *** 1/2 / Robin Hood [r] **** / The Aristocats [r] **** / The Bletchley Circle (Season 2) *** 1/2 / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ***** / Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 20) *** 1/2 /
The Jungle Book 2 [r] *** / The Jungle Book [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 19) *** / Better Off Dead [r] **** / The Sword In the Stone [r] **** / 102 Dalmatians *** / 101 Dalmatians (1996) [r] *** 1/2 / 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure [r] *** / 101 Dalmatians (1961) [r] ***** / The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business (Season 18) *** 1/2 / Godzilla (2014) *** 1/2 / Maleficent *** 1/2 / Sleeping Beauty [r] ***** / Finding Neverland [r] **** / Hook [r] *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race (Season 17) *** 1/2 / X-Men: Days of Future Past **** / Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure [r] *** / Lady and the Tramp [r] **** / Peter Pan (2003) [r] **** 1/2 / Return to Neverland [r] *** 1/2 / Peter Pan (1953) [r] ***** / Alice In Wonderland (2010) [r] *** / Survivor: Cagayan (Season 28) **** / Endeavour (Season1) *** 1/2 / The Amazing Race: All-Stars (Season 24) **** / Alice In Wonderland (1951) [r] **** 1/2 / Grimm (Season 3) *** 1/2 / The Parent Trap (1961) [r] ***** / The Parent Trap (1998) [r] ***** / Ella Enchanted [r] *** / Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (Season 1) **** / Cinderella III: A Twist In Time *** 1/2 / Cinderella II: Dreams Come True [r] ** 1/2 / Cinderella [r] **** / Bates Motel (Season 2) *** 1/2 / Resurrection (Season 1) *** 1/2 / Saving Mr. Banks [r] **** 1/2 / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 **** 1/2 / The Book Thief **** / The Bluebird [r] *** 1/2 / The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad [r] **** / A Mighty Wind [r] ***** / Melody Time [r] *** 1/2 / Fun & Fancy Free [r] *** / Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi *** 1/2 / The IT Crowd (The Final Episode) [r] **** / Ferris Bueller's Day Off [r] **** / A Good Woman *** 1/2 / A Cat in Paris ** 1/2 / Captain America: The Winter Soldier **** / The Trumpet of the Swan ** 1/2 / Savannah Smiles [r] *** 1/2 / Project Runway: Under the Gunn (Season 1) ** / Charlotte's Web (2003) [r] *** 1/2 / Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure ** / Charlotte's Web (1973) [r] **** / Make Mine Music [r] *** 1/2 / Endeavor **** / The Three Caballeros [r] ***

And here are the last fifty books, from the end of May 2014 (bottom) to mid-October (top).  I love a good Harry Potter read-through, after lo, these many years.

Fifteen Animals! (Sandra Boynton) ***** / The Return of Tarzan (Edgar Rice Burroughs) *** / Tarzan of the Apes (Edgar Rice Burroughs) ***** / Wild Orchid: A Retelling of The Ballad of Mulan (Cameron Dokey) *** / Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior (Robert D. San Souci) *** 1/2 / The Ballad of Mulan (Song Nan Zhang) **** 1/2 / Hercules (retold by Geraldine McCaughrean) ***** / World Mythology: Hercules (Adele D. Richardson) *** 1/2 / The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Victor Hugo) ***** / The Double Life of Pocahontas (Jean Fritz) *** 1/2 / Pocahontas (Nancy Polette) *** / Hamlet (William Shakespeare) **** / Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Philip Pullman, ill. by Sophy Williams) *** / Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Marianna Mayer, ill. by Gerard McDermott) **** / Beauty and the Beast (Max Eilenberg, ill. by Angela Barrett) *** / Beauty and the Beast (Marianna Mayer, ill. by Mercer Mayer) **** / The Little Match Girl (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Rachel Isadora) **** / The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen, ill. by Michael Hague) **** / Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) ***** / How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? (Jane Yolen and Mark Teague) **** / Quidditch Through the Ages (J.K. Rowling) **** / Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (J.K. Rowling) **** / The Tales of Beedle the Bard (J.K. Rowling) **** / Dumbledore's Army Reunites At Quidditch World Cup Final (J.K. Rowling) *** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling) **** / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling) ***** / Harry Potter: The Prequel (J.K. Rowling) *** / Orange Pear Apple Bear **** / Basil and the Lost Colony (Eve Titus) *** / Basil of Baker Street (Eve Titus) *** /
The Fox and the Hound (Daniel P. Mannix) *** / How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Jane Yolen & Mark Teague) *** / Miss Bianca (Margery Sharp) *** 1/2 / The Rescuers (Margery Sharp) **** / Boot & Shoe (Marla Frazee) ***** / The House At Pooh Corner (A.A. Milne) ***** / Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne) ***** / Robin Hood (Louis Rhead) **** / BabyLit: The Jungle Book (Jennifer Adams, ill. by Alison Oliver) ***** / The Second Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) **** / The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) **** 1/2 / My Lucky Little Dragon (Joyce Wan) **** / The Sword In the Stone (T.H. White) **** / Sleeping Beauty (Jacob Grimm, ill. by Maja Dusíková) *** / Sleeping Beauty (Adèle Geras, ill. by Christian Birmingham) ****

Friday, November 14, 2014

One Time We Bought a House

I've been putting off this post for months now, but I think if I just sit and start writing it out at least it will have begun, and then it's much more likely to be finished.  The Wife already posted a very good summary/photo tour on her blog, and also a great rundown of some of our projects so far, but I've been planning this in my head all summer so I'm just going to get it down anyway.

So there we were in our 2bd/1bth townhouse apartment in Provo that we really liked, going along our merry way, but then one day little Bobo was not so little anymore, and we realized the shared nursery/office space situation wasn't going to work out indefinitely.  It was getting harder and harder to schedule naptime/worktime, and besides that we knew that before TOO long we would have another little one on the way (and also our landlords rather frown on people having more than one child while living in those apartments).  Also, our contract was about to be up.  So, we started our long and in-depth process of househunting.

I'll spare you the gory and tedious details, but in the end we talked to two real estate agents and two loan officers (one of whom worked at a bank, and one of whom was an actual loan officer and also a relative) and looked at over a dozen houses over a month or two, narrowed it down to a couple of frontrunners, and then decided on what features were most important to us, what we could expect considering our budget/desired mortgage (and learned the difference between settling and compromising), and finally, some three to four months later, and just in time for our fifth anniversary, decided on this place:
It's a 4bed/2.5 bath on a nice 1/3+ acre of land that has really been great so far.  The negotiation process was pretty tiresome at times, but luckily our agent Jared was really great to work with and managed a great deal.  The poor house was on the market for almost a year without a buyer, and after dealing with the seller and even our very first experience with its curb appeal it's not too hard to figure out why, but it's also amazing what a nice mow, a thorough weeding, and a fresh coat of paint in some key spots can do for the overall look of the place (and it makes you wonder why they didn't do that in the first place if they really wanted to sell...).  I guess it's because this house was waiting for US to come along and give it some love and attention, which we knew was all it needed.  It's so nice to have a place that's actually ours, and although homeownership comes with some (pretty expected) big differences compared to renting, we're up to the challenge.  Of course it's been an adjustment in some ways, but we thought, we're done with school, we have a little guy, we're ready to move on in this next big step.
This wasn't our truck, it was our neighbors', but it's always fun to be surprised by my mom and sisters smiling back at you on the back of a U-Haul.

We took care of a few things after signing and before moving in, including getting a few appliances and even painting The Boy's room before putting everything in it.  Then we rented a U-Haul for the first time ever (since we were moving farther than a mile west, which is what we've done for the last three moves), which I had fun driving, and thanks to some family and neighbors, and NEW neighbors, we were able to get out of our apartment and into our house in just a matter of two hours or so, which was awesome.  It took a little while longer to get unpacked and finish up with all our boxes, but it was great to get most of it done so quickly.  Moving in general is such a huge pain, and really ever since we moved into our last place I've been dreading it, but it was nice to have help and to just get it behind us and check off the big things, and then it didn't take too long to feel like we've lived here for a nice long while and for it to feel like home.
Yes, well... this was SOME of our stuff.  Oy, moving.

Such a good little helper.
Too cool.

Seriously, how often do I get to drive a truck this big?
I've been learning a lot about homeownership already, like what to do about a clogged toilet (answer:  don't throw a Sharpie down there in the first place, whoever lived here before and did that).  Thanks for all your help, Handy Matt!
We thought we might get a trampoline next summer sometime, but then Matt said he had one just laying around waiting to be put back together, and asked if we wanted it.  Yes, inDEED!
We really love the yard.  Actually one of the main things The Wife was looking for was space, so she could feel like she's not TOTALLY surrounded by neighbors and feel a little more like her home in the midwestern woods.  This back yard has a lot of, erm... personality, but it's been a lot of fun to get to know it better.  The neighbors keep saying that they've been praying for someone to buy the house and take care of the lawn, and it's true what they said -- turn the water back on and it actually does come back before you know it.  The first time we looked at the house we almost didn't even bother looking inside because the lawn was in such terrible condition, but even a mow of the dead grass and waist-high weeds made a huge difference, and a couple weeks of sprinkling and it was even better.  It still needs a lot of work, but it's in great shape to be a more or less blank canvas come spring.
Nursery no more.
This is where I spend a significant portion of my weekday waking hours, and it's nice not to have to work around an increasingly alert and aware toddler's nap schedule.  It's also nice not to have to worry about being too noisy for neighbors downstairs or next door, and to do whatever we want to the place, whether it's paint or plant or replace things or whatever.
Our housewarming party approximately two months after moving in was the impetus that finally persuaded me to put up our art wall.
I think Julie's talking to Melody at the bottom of the stairs.
So many delicious autumnal snacks and cheeses (sans cheese!).  Nice work, Wife.  Also, lawl, The Boy back there.
Mom and Dad reading Roller Coaster (a very favorite around here) to the little boys.  Thanks for the pictures, Matt!  I didn't take a single one.
Oh, there was also that time when we were THIS CLOSE to being on House Hunters...  Yes, Julie applied, and they actually wrote back.  They emailed back and forth a few times, talking about us and who we are and what we're like and why we're moving and what we're looking for, and in the end it was just a matter of timing.  They said we wouldn't be able to move in or make any changes to the house by a certain date, and that day was past our closing date, and we thought it was just better to go into our house as soon as we could (especially since our contract was about to run out, and I did try to extend for a few days, but that turned into a pretty big hassle and mostly it's just a terrible and annoying story about how our landlady said some really rude and unprofessional things to us about losing money on us [not our fault] and how they'll be glad to be rid of us [ideal tenants], and yikes, it wasn't pretty, and mostly I'm just glad we managed to recover ANY of our deposit).  If only HH had written to us sooner!  It's a shame it didn't work out with our timeline, because I am telling you, we would have been great TV.  And that makes the third TV show I've applied for (two of them twice).  One of these days!  Ha ha.

Anyway, that's about it!  We were so close to becoming TV stars, and we had some kerfuffles with landlords/sellers, and we're slowly working through our little project list, but the end result is that we' like our house.  Not long after we moved in The Wife's (almost) entire family were in town, and although it was tight, we all fit for a couple of nights, which wouldn't even have been possible at all in our last place.  Then, some two months after moving in, we finally had our housewarming party, and it was so fun to have a lot of guests, and to have a place to fit them all, and to have a great backyard where we could send the kids to play on the swingset and the rock wall and the trampoline (thanks, Matt!), just like I always pictured.  As I've said before, I hope we really love it here, because we are NEVER moving again!  (At least not for like ten years, ha.)

Written 3 November 2014.

Monday, November 3, 2014

2014: The Halloween of the Hobbits

Halloween has come and gone.  The Wife posted a great little summary with many pictures of the amazing costumes she put together.

This year we were surprised to discover that our new ward wasn't having a Halloween anything, but we found some fun activities to enjoy regardless.  We started a week before by checking out the Pumpkin Parade at the Riverwoods.  It was great to debut our complete costumes and The Wife's workmanship of them.  They turned out just great!  That shirt design she came up with was just perfect, and I felt like I was a kid again when I put on that finished cloak and swished it all around the house.
Princess Leia was kind enough to put down her little Stormtrooper or whatever and take this picture for us at Blickenstaff's.
Right on, Cap.  Right on.
I just love how he's looking at me, I was just trying to get him to look at the camera, ha.  He's probably still wondering where The Beard went.
(We skipped the furry feet idea, trusting that our performance/bare (or bare-ish) feet would sell the look.  We definitely drew a lot of amused glances, especially as they figured out Julie's costume.)

(Also, a word about this event, and the holiday this year in general -- I was pleasantly surprised at the unexpected balance in ratio of Annas to Elsas.  That is all.)

Then we tried out a couple different hayride/carnival/pumpkin patches.  Hee Haw Farms was fun (not free), though the hayride was... so-so.  The animals were a big hit and we were glad to be treated to a free pony ride by a departing family who wasn't going to use their ticket, but the biggest hit of all was the Corn Box (like a sandbox, but with corn instead).  Yes, best thing ever.  I mean, it still gets everywhere, and you might find remnants hours later in pockets and diapers, but it's still tidier than sand, and I think more fun.
So many kids!  Lawlawlawl.
Yes corn yes.
Then we went to another pumpkin patch called... the Pumpkin Patch, which was also fun (and was free) (at least when we went).  Mostly they just sell pumpkins and have picture-taking things, but they also have a hayride, which is a little longer and more fun than the other one.  The Boy wore the same generally concerned expression he did last year on the hayride, but he did enjoy tossing the hay about anyway.  Next year, man, he's going to think Halloween's the best.
There's that generally concerned expression!
Oh mah peeps.

Then we carved pumpkins, and I'm telling you, I think we're going to do this thing on Halloween Eve from now on.  They have hardly any time to go bad and they look just perfect on the big day.  Of course, in future Halloweens with older kid(s), there will be interest in doing them before then, but while we may we shall make traditions how we like them!
I did the dirty work.
The Boy did the dirtier work (which he took quite seriously).
Well, I tried.  It's just as well you can't really see him, he was so done and ready for bed at this point.
Something old, something new.
And then came the day itself!  As I said, we didn't have much of a big activity to go to, so it's a good thing we took advantage of opportunities to show off our costumes beforehand.  We tried to find this informal thing some people in the neighborhood were doing, but in the end we visited Mom and Dad, took some fun pictures, walked around my old trick-or-treating stomping grounds to a few select houses, and then headed home to test out our new location.  Little Mister was quickly able to get the hang of things, and happily knocked at each door.  Everyone loved his little Ringbearer costume, and though he loved to gnaw on his wrapped candies, I think one of his favorite treats was a glowstick bracelet (such a rad idea).  I learned that it's hard to find a balance between taking kids trick-or-treating and being home to give out the treats, but it will probably be easier in future years when we don't both so want to take him around.  Luckily we ended up with not TOO much leftover candy, and we still definitely had more trick-or-treaters than we have in any of our previous neighborhoods in the six Halloweens we've had since we've been married.
Oh man, the gesture.  Great usage of the raked-but-not-yet-bagged leaves.
What's over there??  Isengard?  Are they taking the Hobbits there?
The Wife's costumes were fashionable AND functional.  I don't suppose you see anything in this picture but a blank stretch of lawn and a front porch.

The Wife is Barad-Dur and The Poppy is evidently The Eye.  Scary costume, baby!
Now and then the old phone takes a pretty good picture actually.
Happy Halloween, one and all.  Great job this year, Wife!  You worked hard on these costumes and it totally paid off.  I'm so glad they worked out just how you hoped.  (And thanks to ebay for providing those oh so authentic Leaves of Lorien brooches -- they may fall more idly than they ought, but they were just the right touch.)  Now it's November and hurraaaaaaayyyy I can't wait for winter and Christmastime and our travel plans for Thanksgiving too.