Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Building our Home - Decorating the Entryway

For the past few months, I have been pinning ideas, laying out pictures on the carpet, and stacking frames I've wanted to use for a gallery wall. Maybe I overdid it, because I have had the hardest time deciding on a layout. Finally a few days ago, I decided to suck it up and make a decision. I had to have a little pep-talk with myself, "if you hate it, it can be changed...it's just a wall...and photos...and the very first thing people will see when they come in our house." See? Pep-talks don't work so much. I joked with a few friends that I was more indecisive about this gallery wall than I was about building the entire house. Which is obviously ridiculous, because I can re-do this if I hate it.
Thankfully, for the walls and my husband's sanity I don't hate it. In fact, I love it! LOVE it!
Here's the before and during picture I posted on the blog a few weeks ago. We bought the target Threshold Avington 4-cube organizers (we put three of them side-by-side), bought brown wicker baskets, and then started our gallery wall.
At first we weren't really sure what we would put in the baskets and then, like the true genius I am, it came to me! Lightbulb... (10 bonus points to the person who gets my reference)! We use it to store the kids' backpacks, shoes, lunch pails, towels for the pool, and anything else that used to clutter up the floor of our living space. It's miraculous, really. And now (well mostly...) we don't have to play the "Aiden/Izzy/Connor/Daddy go find your shoes" game every time we leave the house.
We will eventually switch out the scenic photo (the big photo on the right) with a family portrait - since all the others are of our kids and family, but we haven't decided if we want to put one from our upcoming Christmas Photo (as in December 2013) or if we want to use one we already have. Here's a close up of the photos!
The four picture frames on the outside and two in between the canvas prints were all from Ikea. They were only $9.99 and we bought 6. They are the RIBBA ones and hold 3 5x7's each. Even with the 15% off we get from target (hubby is an executive for Target), it was still cheaper to get them from Ikea and I actually like them better than any I had seen.
 I love that we were able to do a gallery wall right at the front of the house so that everyone sees it. After putting up all the photos I realized they are all 100% of our little family of 6. I didn't include extended family, but I'm going to do another one upstairs that has all of the photos I have with my family and friends in them.
For those of you who have been my Howard Bunch Blog Family for a while, you know that I lost a precious son in 2010. As in everything we do, we really wanted to make sure he was included in our gallery wall. We put the Disneyland one of our four babies' embroidered hats, and two black and white photos of Mr. Howard and I holding Cole when he was born. Those are very special to us!
Little tips and hints:
  • I measured the space and then put all the frames on the carpet to figure out what would work. I had some frames I knew I NEEDED to use and then I played around with what I needed to buy.
  • We used the Pinterest trick I'm sure you ALL have seen by now of cutting out wrapping paper versions of the frames and then arranging them on the wall - but honestly, we only did that to make nailing them on the wall easier. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been worth our time. For us, it was just easier to lay them on the carpet and figure out a good layout.
  • While we did look at some gallery walls on Pinterest to get an idea of what we liked (boxy v. mismatched v. linear, etc.), we didn't actually use any of those layouts, because we had particular frames we wanted to work with.
  • Those canvas prints (Christmas picture of Howard Bunch in white and Disneyland Mickey Ears) are 16 x 20 and we ordered them from Easy Canvas Prints (there is a link on the right side of my blog if you want to order your own!).
Do you have a gallery wall you love? Do you switch out the photos or leave it alone?

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Awesome Giveaway

I haven't done a ton of giveaways or company spotlights on this blog, but when I heard about this one, I knew I needed to tell you about it! I know if you're anything like me, a Mama and Teacher who is always looking for awesome new things to entertain my three little loves and my students, then you're going to love this!
One of the best parts about being a blogger is that when we discover awesome products, we get to share them with everyone for free!

Helping to support other women and moms and their small businesses is pretty awesome too.

Today I want to introduce you to Korie and her family.
barefoot books

Korie is a mom of two little girls in Central PA. She is a former teacher/Reading Specialist and is taking a break from the world of education to raise her little ones.  While she might be out of the classroom for now, Korie still found a way to take her love of reading and children's literacy and use it to help support her family.

Korie is one of the newest ambassadors for Barefoot Books and to celebrate the launch of her new business, she is working with a few bloggers this week to bring you some awesome stuff! Check out some of the cool products they offer.

Korie loves this one, below, because it reminds her of the mission trip she took with her family to Burkina Faso in West Africa earlier this year. She loves being able to keep the memory alive for her girls. There are also a lot of multicultural books available in the Barefoot line.
barefoot books 1
This book about a little boy who is different from his classmates, will tug at your heart strings. barefoot books 3
But it's not just books. There are games, puzzles, prints, puppets, and even apps. 

This game, below, is really neat because it is a cooperative effort. There is only one main game piece and everyone works as a team and wins or loses together. Kids as young as three can play because it's made for even non-readers to be able to jump right in.
barefoot books game
Hop on over to the Barefoot Books website or Korie's Facebook page to check it out.

One winner will receive a prize package that includes:
  • -3 books
  • -one toy (puzzle or puppet, depending on inventory)
  • -one board game
  • -one $25 gift card so that you can buy some extra goodies
Also, Korie wants to offer you an awesome deal: If you use the code SUMMER, you can get 20% off on your order from now until July 28th!

The giveaway is open until Monday, August 5, 2013 and is for US residents only. Enter using the Rafflecopter below. a Rafflecopter giveaway    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Midweek Randoms

I am linking up with Megan from In This Wonderful Life for her Midweek Randoms
  • Tomorrow I'm going to post all the pictures from my wedding ceremony. For those of you just joining me, I got married in 2007, but never had the option to buy digital copies of my prints - until last week! I posted the first batch of photos last week! Here's a little sneak peak of some I'll post tomorrow:
  • There are 8 days left until I turn 30. EIGHT DAYS! I know a lot of people get nervous about getting older, but I do not one bit! I'm happy my age will finally match how I feel! I have three kids; a master's degree; and we built a house; I am a middle school teacher; and we have done and seen so much. I feel like I've been 30 for the last five years. Does that make any sense? When I think about it, I will miss my 20's, because I've made so many amazing memories - but bring on the 30's!!!! I already got my birthday gift from my hubby! He got us a new printer. I know that probably doesn't sound like the most amazing gift for other people, but we hadn't bought a printer for maybe 10 years. So I am EXCITED!
  • I am doing a training on Common Core (teachers will know what this is!) for three days next week and I'm a little excited to get a break from being a stay at home mama. My kids have been preparing me A LOT (so sweet of them, really) by being extra grumpy and needing lots of timeouts. I am positive this is their way of ensuring that I won't be devastated to go back next week.
  • We have 18 days left before the kids go back to preschool. How did this summer go so quickly? I cannot believe the summer is almost over, but we've certainly packed a lot in! And now it's got me already making plans for next summer. We are planning a BIG Disney World Trip either the summer of 2014 or 2015. I have never-ever been and I'll probably be more excited about it than the kids will.
  • We found our church home! We've tried a few churches, and then found one that has multiple services (a definite must for a hubby in a retail career). We went once a few weeks ago to check it out without the kids and loved the worship, message, and focus. Then, last week we brought the kids to the children's ministry and they loved it! I am going to sign up for a bible study with a friend to meet people and make the church seem a little less big.
  • And lastly, I am meeting my friend Diana and her daughter at my mom's today for a swim playdate and I'm so excited...but I really must get ready to go! Tomorrow my sister is coming with the kids, hubby, and me to the Lake. Pray for good naps today and tomorrow (we've been struggling with naps in this house! Yikes!). Hope everyone has a great week!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Building Our Home - Kitchen Island Completed!

For those of you just following along, we built our house from about January until about May of 2013. When we purchased the house, we did not elect to add a kitchen island into the home because the builder wanted to charge us a couple thousand dollars and it would have only had two drawers and one cabinet (only on one side). We felt like we could build a much nicer one for about the same price. So that's just what we did! We built a 5.25 x 5.25 foot kitchen island with bar. All four sides have hidden cabinets.

Here are all my past posts about designing and building our island. My husband and dad build it themselves and then we hired a painter and a granite company to do the rest of it for us.

This was what the kitchen looked like the day after we moved in (the butcher paper and tape was for the painting!). Kitchen without an island:
 Here was the kitchen island all mocked up:
 And then right before they installed the granite:
 During installation:
 After granite installation:
 And the kitchen after photo:
Here's a more specific look at the cabinets

1 - This is the side closest to the sink. It will house our small spices.
2 - This is the corner. To the right is the small spice cabinet. To the left are our pot and pan drawers.
3 - This is the side closest to the stairs. It will house our cooking wines, oils, and bigger seasonings.
4 - Believe it or not, there are hidden functional cabinets behind those chairs. It will house things we don't use as often, like our blender and crockpot.
Disclaimer: the only thing we have left to do is buy 6 drawer handles. We've been looking for the right ones and haven't found ones we love yet. All the cabinets have touch latches (when the door is pushed in, a spring-loaded mechanism automatically throws door open)!
I am SOO excited. HERE is the post that shows you the inside of the cabinets! I'll do an update post when I put all our spices inside.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Handmade Construction Party for a Four-Year-Old

For Connor's Fourth Birthday party, he chose to have a construction party (I showed him three different pictures of parties and let him choose) and I was glad he did, because with our Building a House journey, some of our house is still under construction...and certainly our neighborhood is under construction! I've included links to all the places we bought everything at the end of this!
Here were the invitations and cake:
I love to plan parties. I wouldn't be able to do it (or at least I don't think I would) if I didn't have summers off. But I just love seeing all the things I have planned out come together. The whole party idea started with me texting my mother-in-law to see if she could do custom construction party shirts for all three kids to wear. They were SO adorable!
I wanted to get Mr. Howard and me orange shirts to wear, but since we were trying to plan/get ready for the party during the same time we were trying to unpack boxes and decorate our playroom, we just didn't have time.
The food table was super fun to do! The party started at 3pm and last year I served sandwiches, but not a lot of people ate. So this year, I opted to do appetizers (fruit, cheese, salami, chips and dip, black olives, and green olives) and dessert (whoppers, and cupcakes). I served juice, water, beer, and a bunch of different types of sodas. For the fruit, I cut it up and put it in little cupcake baking cups and put them on serving platters. I assembled all the toppers for the cupcakes and food using a printable. I attached them to appetizer forks (for the cheese, fruit, etc.) and toothpicks (for the cupcakes).
I printed little adorable little flags for the fruit salad:
I did not attach any printables to the watermelon cups.
For decorations, I printed out construction signs and put them all over the house. I also decorated with a Happy Birthday banner on the fireplace. I also bought cone cups with straws, construction hats, and then we decorated with a million little trucks.
For favors, I did yellow shovels in a bag filled with reese's pieces, and then they could take home their hats, cone cups, and tool belts.
Here s a close-up of their tool belts. I wrote each kid's name on them so that there wouldn't be any "that's mine!" fights breaking out at the party.

 Since our whole neighborhood is under construction and there are still houses being built directly across from us, we borrowed this sign that was on the lot across from us (it was a Sunday and they weren't doing any construction that day!) and put Connor's construction signs all over it!
We also inflated the kids' bounce house so that the kids could play on it. I think this wore out a lot of kids!
Before the party our ENTIRE garage was filled almost wall-to-wall with boxes. The party was at 3 and we finished cleaning it out at lunch. A little crazy! I still have a LOT to get it organized, but this was a drastic improvement. 
Somehow I didn't get a picture of the whoppers, but we filled those in the dump trucks around the desserts. I also put out a big bowl of them and buried a tractor in there with whoppers like it was pushing and lifting the "boulders."

Supplies/Vendor List
Construction Printables for cupcakes, decorations, food HERE
Construction Party Invitations HERE
Cone Cups bought HERE
Cake and Cupcakes bought HERE
Construction Shirts bought HERE
Construction Hats bought HERE
Tool Belts bought at Home Depot for about $0.70 a piece
Inspiration for the shovels HERE. I like her tags better than mine, but I didn't want to have to buy a different one.
Construction Vests: Dollar Store Find

I am linking up with Lamberts Lately for Create it Thursday!
Happiness is Homemade's Let's Hear it for the Boy Thursday!

From Pollywog to Tadpole

Friday, July 12 was Connor's last day of swimming lessons. The first half of the lesson was a normal lesson, but at the end they let them play and have fun! His instructor was WONDERFUL and Connor thrived so much in her class!
 Here they were getting popsicles and their report cards! So fun!
 He promoted to tadpole, but I chickened out and just could not muster up the courage to take all three by myself. I know. I'm a wuss. Lots of people have more kids than me and do a lot more, but I just had such trouble with the idea of making Isabella and Aiden sit around for 30 minutes. Next summer they'll all be able to take swim lessons at the same time and I know they'll have so much fun! We're going to take Connor a lot to the lake and Nana's pool the rest of this summer to let him practice!
I'm so glad he had fun! And I'm equally glad that Grandma could go with me every day to help!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Date with Connor

On Thursday, July 11th, my mom, mother-in-law, and I took Connor to his second ever movie! His first one was Monsters Inc., so it seemed only fitting that his second one be Monsters University!

We went directly after swimming lessons and he was a bit tired. On the car ride there he told us he was tired and wanted to take a nap. Yikes. I wasn't sure how he would do, but he did so well!

 Our tickets and Connor's funny face!
 My little ham for the camera! We didn't ask him to do this; he just did it.
 Handing the ticket lady his ticket with Grandma!
 Grandma, Nana, and Connor in front of the Monsters University sign!
What a fun, special day, with our big boy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Sunset Kayak Adventure on Lake Natoma

On Wednesday, July 10th hubby and I went on a Sunset Kayak adventure for our Sixth Wedding Anniversary. Here we were before we left (yes, I'm standing on my tippy-toes. I'm short without heels!):
When we arrived, we picked out our kayaks and vests. It was SO hot and bright. When we left it was in the 100's (my car thermometer registered 103) and poor hubby didn't have any sunglasses.
I snapped this photo of him below (bottom right) and almost immediately afterwards, he tipped his kayak over. Honestly, while he was a bit embarrassed, I was slightly jealous because I was H-O-T in that sun. The water was really cool and I bet it felt good. He had to swim back to the loading dock because he couldn't figure out how to get back in his kayak. Do you see those clouds?!? All these photos were taken on my iPhone (I have a lifeproof waterproof case!) and I think they turned out wonderfully - especially for a camera phone!
 Our tour had about 11 of us and Mr. Howard and I were the only couple. The other men and women were SO encouraging when they found out it was our anniversary. They'd kayak past us and say, "Oh I need to get a picture of you guys with this sunset" or "you must have a kissing picture on your anniversary" or "you guys need to be next to each other in our raft-up!" So sweet. They asked about our kids and what we had done on our past anniversaries. Younger couples and single people always talk about marriage like it's this miserable thing (even if they're joking), but older people seem to always be so encouraging. Obviously, they know what's important! I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate our anniversary any other way!
We kayaked down the lake and it was breathtaking. My iPhone died about 2 hours into our trip, so unfortunately I didn't get any photos after this beautiful sunset photo below. JUST GORGEOUS!
 The trip was supposed to be three hours, so we would have been back at around 9pm, but the guide was super flexible and open and asked if we wanted to stay out later. We didn't get back until about 10:30 and it was PITCH dark for about the last hour. Our guide had warned us that beavers may try to scare us away by slapping their tails on the water. Thank goodness he did, because a beaver made this ginormous splash in front of me and scared the woman in front of me half to death. I never in a million years would have thought I would be afraid of the dark, but kayaking in the middle of the lake in the dark gave me the heebie jeebies. I ran over a log and it scraped the entire length of the boat. When I told my darling husband, he said "I'm pretty sure that was a dead body." OMG. I may or may not have had a slight panic attack.

The kayaking adventure was SOOOO much fun and I'm so glad I did it, but man-oh-man was it hard. Holy moly. Who knew? My back was SOO sore when we got back. I'm not sure I'll be buying a kayak anytime soon.

Afterwards, we went to BJ's Brewery (the only restaurant locally that was still open at 11pm). We thought we'd be the only ones eating out at 11pm on a Wednesday night, but BJ's was packed!

A meal there is never complete until we have an oreo pizookie, or as we call it, heaven in a pan! We got the small size and devoured it in about 55 seconds.
Dinner out in peace! Happy Anniversary, my love! I love you times infinity to the infinite power!
While we were gone, Grandma watched the kids and we were so grateful! They ate pizza and watched The Guardians and spent lots of time together.
For our past anniversaries, check out these posts:
Sixth: Kayak on Lake Natoma

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It is Time to Live Large

When Arianna contacted me about doing a post, I knew you'd love her because she is a full-time mom and a fashion-lover, world traveler, animal lover, and family woman extraordinaire . She loves to cook and bake, travel to new places, share great fashion finds, and spend time doing crafts and projects at home with her kids. She's got a crazy busy life, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Go visit her blog HERE and let her know what you think of her guest post! While you're there, follow her!

Arianna took 3 Celebrity Summer Activities and turned them into affordable, fun things we could all do!

Enjoy A Chic Summer

Summer has officially arrived and that means it's time to relax from packing sack lunches and not having to keep track of the carpool schedule! Although it may mean for less of a busy schedule, it also means that it's time to think of summer activities other than playing in the sprinklers or renting a movie from Redbox.

As a mom who wants to still enjoy life and the best that summer has to offer, I decided that this summer season wouldn't slip away from me like all the other years. Instead of taking my children to the library or spending our afternoons in front of the TV, it's time to live large and enjoy the summer the right way! If I'm going to watch the Kardashians sail away into the sunset on a Greek retreat, then I need to have just as much of a chic summer, or something close, where I'm not trapped inside of my home for the next three months. This is where I gathered my closest girlfriends as we came up with a few fabulous ideas, and margarita in hand, to truly celebrate the summer in style!

Celebrity Summer: Beach House in Exotic Locale
With all the money in the world, celebs and stars are able to charter a private jet, enjoy ritzy beach houses and take in spectacular views in Bora Bora and St. Tropez. They may also do a bit of shopping at some of the finest boutiques or lay out in the white sand all summer long. Celebrities like Johnny Depp and Sir Richard Branson are famous for their exotic homes surrounded by crystal clear waters.

Reality Summer: Do a House Swap!
Instead of spending millions of dollars buying beachfront property, many couples and families are finding the joy in house swapping. By switching residences with another tourist in a different city or country around the world, it can make for an affordable getaway that is refreshing for its change in scenery. With this arrangement, you can enjoy the comforts of home during your exotic trip!

Celebrity Summer: MTV Video Music Awards
Stars like Jimmy Fallon and Nicki Minaj often spend a typical summer night brushing shoulders with other celebs at the MTV Video Music Awards. Dressed in daring styles that hit the fashion lists across the Internet. The most recent show included performances by Rihanna and One Direction with host Kevin Hart, making for a raunchy and entertaining night!

Reality Summer: Have a Karaoke Night
Bring the award show entertainment right into your home with a family-friendly night that includes performances by the guests! Dress up as your favorite artist while having a red carpet displayed right at the front door for paparazzi shots! After the performances, have everyone vote at the end of the night and reward winners with musical themed gifts such as headphones or iTunes gift cards!

Celebrity Bachelor Party: Outdoor Gathering
Funny man Jimmy Kimmel enjoyed his last days as a bachelor by exploring the great outdoors with 20 of his closest friends in Vancouver! Sightseeing while bike riding, dining on local seafood, and hiking were some of the rugged activities these fellas took on all weekend long!

Reality Bachelor Party: "Outdoorsman Theme"
For the man in your life or a close buddy, help plan their bachelor party for a masculine outdoors theme with plenty of rugged details and fun activities. Whether set inside or in the wilderness, set the wardrobe by requesting that the men wear flannel to set the mood, and have the food revolve around the outdoors, which include beer lemonade punch, s'mores, and a few steaks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Midweek Randoms

I am linking up with In This Wonderful Life for Midweek Randoms!

  • I have so many posts brewing in my head. We've been so busy this summer with the house and I can't wait to show you a bunch of stuff! We had the granite on our island installed last Tuesday and we love it! We did a chiseled edge and I just adore it!! Since this photo was taken below, we also got all our pieces back from the painter and got it all installed. The only thing we have left is to pick out hardware for the cabinets (we're hoping to do that tomorrow!).
  •  For Connor's fourth birthday we had planned on renting a bounce house. I was all ready to book it when Mr. Howard read the description and realized that we couldn't have it in our backyard (there are some rocks back there because our yard isn't landscaped yet!). Somehow that lead him to attempt to buy one. Honestly, I fought him on it at first. I thought he was super crazy. But the reality is that he's right. We've already used it every day for the last week and because our kids are so little still, I know we're going to get MORE than our money's worth out of it (especially on rainy days!). We had it in our living room (as you can see in the picture below), but once we cleaned out our garage, we moved it in there!
  • For the kids' birthdays, grandma made them these adorable towels!! They're the kind that has the hood on them (she said you take a half of a handtowel and attach it to a pool towel to make the hood!). Love, love, love!
  •  Mr. Howard's second cousin (one of my bridesmaids) is getting married in June of next year. So, as long as they're not having a small wedding, it looks like we'll get to go to Kansas next June to watch her become a Mrs.! If we go, we are not going to take the kids with us, so we'll have to plan some fun things to do sans kids. Is it wrong that I'm already excited about the 5 hour plan ride in silence? I used to hate long flights before kids. Now, I dream of them!
  • Harley has been doing really well lately. His Addison's disease is a little unpredictable and we still have to give him injections and a oral medicine, but he seems to be a little happier lately. Oh goodness, look at that underbite and those eyes. Our poor first baby; he's getting old.
  • I mentioned this in THIS post, but when we got married, we never got digital prints of our wedding photos. In honor of our sixth anniversary, we went ahead and purchased them and I am in love! Even though we had copies in an album, I feel like I'm seeing these photos for the first time! I posted the pictures HERE, but I'm going to do a Part 2 post with our ceremony and reception pictures. Here's a little sneak-peak of my absolute favorite picture ever. This was my husband seeing me walk down the aisle for the first time. Ummm. Hello! Obviously I'm the luckiest girl ever! I could not have dreamt of a more perfect reaction to seeing me in my wedding dress for the first time! When I got up the aisle he tried to kiss me. So funny. No buddy...you need to wait until they pronounce us husband and wife!
  • Hubby got a pay grade promotion, which is necessary for him to be eligible for interviews for a position promotion. This has been a few week process and lots and lots and lots of studying and meeting with people to get ready for his interviews. He passed his part 1 prep a few weeks ago and then had three hours of interviews yesterday (with four different pairs of executives). He passed all four of his interviews, which meant he got his promotion! I am so excited for him!! He now gets a little break before he'll have to start studying for his next round of interviews! We celebrated with a movie, champagne, our jammies, and two chocolate bars. Yep. We know how to PARTAYYY.
  • We tried a new church last Saturday and it went really well. I didn't LOVE it as much as I loved the one we had tried a few weeks ago (only because the other one was a lot smaller and, I think, might have a bit more community feel), but we really need a church that we can go to on Saturday nights, since hubby works retail. We really, really liked the service (and hubby felt the same about it too - he felt uplifted with a powerful sermon about finding your purpose and talents!) and we loved the preschool program - so it should be a great fit for us! I am going to sign up for a bible study with a friend and I think that will make the church feel a little less big! This upcoming Saturday will be the first time we take the kids, so wish us luck!!! I am really hoping to make this our church home!

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