Archive for the ‘Home & Garden’ Category

Wicked Tulips Farm 2018

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Last year I heard about the Wicked Tulips farm over in Rhode Island, but never actually made it there to check it out. I just stalked local photographers and Instagram for pictures and then cursed myself for not finding time to go. But I also had a small baby and was counting down to our Disney trip, so my attention was elsewhere. Wicked Tulips just didn’t happen.

This year, I am in the middle of what feels like the longest underway in submarine history and desperate to find things that wear out my kids and keep us out of the house. But I also really really hate people, especially crowds of people, especially crowds of people all trying to look at the same flowers I am trying to look at. I knew the weekends would be super crowded at the tulip farm (they sell tickets and sold out weekends within hours of releasing them) and I wasn’t totally convinced I should let the kids skip school just to pick flowers. Luckily, Wicked Tulip offers early bird tickets on Tuesdays – from 7-10 am only people who bought the early bird tickets can come in and take pictures or pick. It was the perfect solution, especially since early morning light is better than 2 pm light when you’re in a field with zero shade.

The only downside to 7 am tulip fields is that it’s about an hour away, so I had to get my kids up at 5:30 to get there. I bribed them with both candy at the tulip farm and donuts on the way home, so it went pretty well. We made it back and I dropped the big kids off at school before the morning bell.

We had such a good time the first time, we went back and did it again the next week. I highly, highly recommend the early bird ticket if you’re going to visit in 2019, but even if you just go on a crowded weekend you should go. It’s so much fun.

Now the farm is closed for the season and I’ll have to wait a whole year to do it again. I did manage to take JUST A FEW pictures though.

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

The first morning we went to Wicked Tulips it was very sunny. The left side of the fields in the pick-your-own area had some shade from the trees at the very beginning, but the show garden was full sun the entire time.

The second morning it was overcast, with even, grey cloud cover. It was also slightly foggy, but in a way that old shows in the background. I actually like the way the light and colors look in the second set of pictures more, even if they do look like they were taken on a movie set instead of real life.

About 1/3 of my pictures have people photoshopped out of them, the rest was just really good angles, using long lenses, or timing my shots between people walking past. There were several dozen people there both times, I’m just good at keeping them out of my pictures.

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

I’m actually really proud of that one of Linc on the bench, I only edited out one person.

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

wicked tulips tulip farm photos

See all those people in the background? That’s way less than the sunny day. Most people have DSLR cameras and are there to take photos of the actual tulips, not kids. There were almost no kids there at 7 am.

General tips for the tulip farm:

  1. Wear boots, even if it’s not raining. It’s a farm. Plus they’re super cute in pictures.
  2. Bring cutters or clippers. It’s easy to pull the tulips out of the ground but you get really long stems that are hard to break. You can make pretty bouquets wrapped in paper at the wrapping station but you’ll want to trim them all to the same length.
  3.  The tulips cost $1/stem. They take cards. Buy LOTS of tulips.
  4. The temp at 7 am is 20 degrees cooler than the temp at 8 am. Layers are good.
  5. Bring your DSLR if you have one and whatever your longest lens is. Shoot zoomed in (so if you have the 18-105mm that came with your camera, set it at 105) so you get the blurred background and can avoid people.
  6. You should go. Really. Even if you hate people. It was still fun and the kids loved it too.

Big Kid Room Makeovers!

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Our house has four bedrooms, but since we moved in as just a couple with no kids we’ve never really used all four effectively. We started with two guest rooms, our bedroom and a storage room on the 3rd floor. Eventually, we renovated the 3rd floor (it used to have shiny animal safari print wallpaper), moved our master bedroom up there, and then used two-second floor bedrooms as kid rooms and one as a guest room. The nursery room has been through several renovations (original first-kid nursery, monsters, Lincoln’s nursery) and the bunk room used to be a playroom/Caroline’s nursery.  If you want a whole house tour, my most recent was in 2012 (probably the last time my house was ever all clean at the same time!) but the video below is much more accurate of the “before” status of the kid rooms.

It’s really bad. And this wasn’t even peek-disaster. Just regular disaster. Also, I am still learning how to use my DSLR for video, so excuse my technical errors.

 

But now, we have three great kid rooms! The kids like them but I like them the most. It’s so much easier to keep clean and put away laundry and organize stuff. When I want to move a toy or category of toys upstairs, I have room for them. Everyone’s laundry baskets are easy to find and they are actually putting their dirty clothes into the baskets. I will probably lose my infatuation before too long and they’ll all end up a huge mess I shout at the children to clean every Saturday, but for now, it’s the best.

Let’s start with Evan’s room, which was previously the guest room.

 ‘

E bought some really deep, strong anchors for all the shelves, so they’re very secure.

Almost everything is from Ikea. The bedding is from Target. I offered to move the dollhouse somewhere else, since I wasn’t sure he wanted it in his Big Kid room but Evan asked to keep it, so he and Linc can play with it (and they have been! Which is a change, it hardly ever got played with before.) The Force Is Strong With This One decal is just a sticker I bought on Amazon and you can buy it here.

Now to Caroline’s room:

Again, almost everything is from Ikea and the bedding is from Target. The Unicorns are Real wall hanging is from Amazon and you can buy it here. She Persisted is amazing and you can buy your copy here.

The last room is the bunk room, which Linc and Finnegan officially share. We haven’t done too much in there yet, besides clean it and change out bedding. I need to touch up the paint and move some more toys up there. But right now Evan is letting Linc sleep with him in his new room most of the time so Finnegan has the whole huge room to himself and has no opinion on my lack of formal decorating.

Again, the bedding is from Target and everything else in this room was repurposed or moved from a previous room. It’s not going to win any design awards but the boys like it and it’s a HUGE improvement over that before video.

And that’s how our upstairs looks now! I don’t think we’ll have to redo any of these spaces again…maybe ever? We don’t plan to live here the rest of our lives. Hopefully, we move to somewhere with five bedrooms before Linc and Finn are teenagers and can’t stand to share anymore.

 

 

Bathroom Remodel Hell

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

We interrupt this all-Disney, all-the-time blog to talk about how stupid my house is.

My house is STUPID. REALLY STUPID.

That’s what you get when you buy a house built in 1913. Especially a house built in 1913 that’s had most of the work done by half-assed do-it-yourself-ers over the years, so every time you start any project you immediately discover 10 more things that need to be fixed. It’s the worst.

I am trying so hard to remember that being forced to design a new bathroom is a first world problem. I mean, we still have a (A. One. Uno.) working toilet, so I am still living a first world life (even if I don’t have a working tub or shower). I have access to a line of credit to pay for the repairs so I don’t have to live with a hole in my kitchen ceiling. We have homeowner’s insurance that may help fix that giant hole in the kitchen ceiling. I get to choose which tile and which light and which flooring I want, I don’t have to use whatever is the very cheapest option.

But looking on the bright side and being grateful is taking up SO MUCH of my mental energy I’m completely exhausted. There are people in and out of my house all day, we have a million decisions to make (and they all involve both money and math, the two things that stress me out the most), I feel like an idiot trying to understand plumbing and electrical issues. Feeling like a broke, unshowered idiot is not a fun way to spend your summer vacation.

We had absolutely planned to remodel our upstairs bathroom at some point. We’ve been talking about it for years. Whoever did it last time (a curse upon them) used discontinued/scratch and dent/overstock/ugly ugly ugly stuff and we’ve hated it since we moved in. So when this disaster is over I’m going to have a bathroom I don’t hate. That’s the good news.

It’s also going to have heated floors. That’s the REALLY good news.

But right now, every time I walk past this room, all I can think about is living in bathroom hell.

bathroom remodel during

 

Sit Back & Relax

Friday, April 28th, 2017

April shower are just about over and that means I’m excited to get my May flowers into the garden in the next couple weeks!

Wayfair sent me two unfinished wood Adirondack Chairs to customize so I could put my own spin on them and add them to our backyard patio. I’m still in the process of cleaning the space up and getting our garden ready for spring and summer. Nature does not want to cooperate. I don’t want to plant anything until I’m sure it won’t freeze. I can’t do yard clean up if all the leaves are wet because it’s been raining for days. I can’t paint chairs on the patio if it’s pouring. And also (this has nothing to do with nature) it’s hard to make my garden dreams come true if my handyman (aka husband) is always gone on work trips.

But between rainstorms and travel, E got the chairs together and out to the garage and I got them painted and accessorized.

The chairs are solid wood and really sturdy. They came in long thin boxes and it took E a little while to put them together, but they are definitely not coming apart again. (They almost ended up living in the basement though, because they baaaaaarely fit up the stairs.) They’re very generously sized, with wide armrests perfect for resting drinks.

The idea of painting in between every one of the slats with a brush was exhausting, so I went with the easier option. I bought 3 cans of the yellow and used 2.5 of them to cover both chairs. I used painter’s tape and some old paper to define the stripes I wanted to paint. To be totally honest I just did my best guesstimate and it turned out FINE – the screws on the back of the chair made it easy to line up the tape and I was trying to finish during naptime so finding a tape measure wasn’t going to happen.

How fun are those colors? Our outdoor seating is dark brown with beige cushions so that bright pop is going to be so cute out in the yard. Our old wooden table fell apart over the winter so we’re in the market for new patio furniture table too, but these will be perfect for sitting and relaxing with snacks and a glass of wine or a beer now that it’s finally warming up.

And today it is FINALLY nice out, so I moved the chairs to the yard where I can keep an eye on Linc’s dirt digging work while I enjoy the sunshine. I picked up a couple of throw pillows to make them even cuter. I got super lucky and found these at Big Lots – aren’t they perfect?

Linc definitely approves of the new chairs.

And now that the sun is shining I can mow that crazy grass. I’m so happy it’s finally time to sit back and relax in the yard!

Meal Delivery Showdown: HelloFresh vs Blue Apron

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, my love for meal delivery services is well documented. Although there are a lot to choose from and several I’m tempted to try, HelloFresh vs Blue Apron seems to be the most common comparison and most popular choices. I’m currently subscribed to both services, and have been using them for several months so I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good sample size to make recommendations.

hellofresh vs blue apron

First, I’ll do a quick overview of how it works and what it costs. Both services ship food to your house in big cardboard boxes lined with insulation with fresh ingredients on top and meats in the bottom under ice packs. The system works well. My meat has always arrived sufficiently cold with the ice packs still fully frozen. If something leaks, it’s contained in the insulated bag/liner and doesn’t get on the cardboard box. None of my boxes have ever been damaged. HelloFresh boxes each meal’s non-meat ingredients in their own smaller box, while Blue Apron has all the ingredients together. At first I really preferred the separate boxes system, but it means you need to either refrigerate the whole box or take out things like sour cream that need to go in the fridge. There is quite a bit of packaging involved in sending food this way, but both companies encourage recycling and send things like sauces and oils in plastic or glass bottles or jars that make it easy.

Cost Breakdown

I’m currently subscribed to the following:

HelloFresh: Classic meal plan for 4, 3 meals a week, $119.88 (breakdown: $9,99/meal)
If you do the same number of meals in the family plan vs the classic plan, it’s $8.74/meal

The ACTUAL charge that shows on my credit card is $129/week, because of taxes I guess (it’s in their small print, but not easy to find).

Blue Apron: Family plan for 4 people, 2 meals a week, $69.92 (breakdown: $8.74/meal)
Family plan is also available with 3 meals a week, but the cost breakdown is the same

The ACTUAL charge that shows on my credit card is $69.92, so Blue Apron wins for transparency.

I know that breakdown makes it sound like I’m paying $200/week for meals, but because of our schedule and their menus, I skip more weeks than I receive. They both make that VERY easy to do, since you can read the menus and make changes from their phone apps as well as the computer. This was one of my big concerns before I signed up; there are weeks where E is gone and it doesn’t make sense to cook nice meals for just me and the kids when they prefer cereal and also because E can be pretty picky. Skipping is why I am still signed up for both. My HelloFresh comes on Mondays and my BlueApron comes Fridays (but those are flexible, you can choose most days).

A few more things: HelloFresh’s recipes seem to have less prep in general (less chopping and peeling and cutting) even though they have about the same average number of ingredients. Blue Apron seems to be slightly fancier, even though I have the “family” plan.

I haven’t had any problems with my Blue Apron boxes or deliveries, which means I haven’t had to deal with their customer service yet. I have had to both call and email HelloFresh (a box got lost, a box was late, ingredients were missing, once a cucumber was squishy) and their customer service is GREAT. They offered me either partial credit or a whole free box immediately to resolve issues. After my late box showed up I emailed them to tell them I got it and they told me I could keep the full credit as an apology.

HelloFresh assumes you already have more things (like butter) in your kitchen, which Blue Apron sends almost everything. Both offer vegetarian plans. Blue Apron has an option to exclude specific proteins from your plan (lamb, fish, beef, etc) but you can avoid specific ingredients easily by customizing your menus each week, either from the app or online. My plans show 5-6 different options, and HelloFresh just started including one breakfast option, which is cool either for breakfast or as breakfast-for-dinner. Both have “farm-fresh” ingredients but Blue Apron seems to make a bigger deal about sustainability, local-ness, and working with small family farmers.

HelloFresh assumes you already have more things (like butter) in your kitchen, which Blue Apron sends almost everything. Both offer vegetarian plans. Blue Apron has an option to exclude specific proteins from your plan (lamb, fish, beef, etc) but you can avoid specific ingredients easily by customizing your menus each week, either from the app or online. My plans show 5-6 different options, and HelloFresh just started including one breakfast option, which is cool either for breakfast or as breakfast-for-dinner. Both have “farm-fresh” ingredients but Blue Apron seems to make a bigger deal about sustainability, local-ness, and working with small family farmers.

Recipe Comparison

HelloFresh: Sizzling Beef Stir-fry with Bok Choy over Jasmine Rice

hellofresh vs blue apron

Prepped:

hellofresh vs blue apron

What the kids got on their plates:

We are technically a family of 6, but Finn doesn’t really eat human food yet and my children don’t eat a grown-up sized portion of anything yet, so the 4 person boxes have always been plenty of food. The only time it becomes a problem is if we get something like burgers or sandwiches which only have 4 rolls/buns to feed 5 people.

hellofresh vs blue apron

This was really good, although the rice was a little boring because there wasn’t much of a sauce. It was very gingery, which we like.

Blue Apron: Crispy Catfish & Creamy Lemon-Caper Sauce with Broccoli & Farro Salad

hellofresh vs blue apron

Prepped:

hellofresh vs blue apron

hellofresh vs blue apron

What the kids got on their plates:

hellofresh vs blue apron

Caroline ate it. Evan and Linc tried it.

hellofresh vs blue apron

I really love capers and lemon, so I thought it was delicious.  I did get one bone in my fish, but that’s not super unusual in catfish.

My Recommendation

I like them both. If I had to pick just one forever, I would go with HelloFresh just because the recipes seem to be slightly less work and I end up with fewer pots/pans/dishes. They offer pasta more often (in my experience) than Blue Apron and my family really loves pasta.  I also think their portions are slightly bigger. But those are small, picky things, not make-or-break problems. If you don’t have any picky eaters in your family and enjoy time spent cooking as a joint activity with your partner, you might like the Blue Apron experience a little more.  I plan to continue paying real dollars for both services until our living situation changes and the Navy steals my husband for an extended period of time. I’m looking forward to more summer seasonal ingredients in the next few months and will report back with an update about who offers me a balsamic salad with strawberries first.

If you sign up for Hello Fresh using my link, you get $40 off your first box and I earn a credit. Blue Apron does their affiliate marketing through a program I’m too lazy to sign up for, but you can get cashback if you use Ebates when you sign up and they’re always offering $30-$40 off your first box or even first box free if you Google for a code.

Non-disclosure disclosure: I don’t have a relationship with either brand, although I think when my brother-in-law finishes school he’s going to go work for the wine division at Blue Apron. I definitely would accept some free wine for review.

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