Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Adios 2014!

Thanks 2014 - it's been great!  We've been celebrating all day long :)

Grant's 2014 award - He got the Coolest Dad for sharing his stuff award - this year Grant's exposed the kiddos to Lego, Back to the Future, Cub Scouts and a whole lot of other things from his youth.  His prize - the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on DVD so he can continue the exposer

Kayla showing off her puzzle skills

More Lego

Grant and my puzzle skills 

One last shot before we took everything down today

Noah's award - Most improved reader.  He's come a LONG way this year from struggling through Pete the Cat to now reading chapter books!  He got a Scooby Doo magazine to celebrate

This puzzle seemed wildly appropriate today

Noah put most of the frame together by himself

And got to do the last piece

Mousetrap, I wanted to play Mousetrap!  (So we did)

Mikayla got the "Future Fashion Icon" award  If you've ever read the blog, this needs to explanation.  She got a cool princess bath and body set

Onto Disney Picturetopia (Noah and I won))

Dance Break!

My award - Dish Diva Extraordinaire...  Some day my dishwasher will work, right?

For dinner we feasted on one of our favorite recipes from the year - Pizza Hut Pan Pizza

Then some pop-up Frozen

And I decided I've always wanted to light ice cream on fire...

So why not?

We let the kids watch the re-caps of some of the already happened New Year's celebrations

And do their own poppers

I adore NJ's face on this one

See you all in 2015!

50 Nifty United States

Wow, where do I begin?  How about with -

YAY WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

365 days

52 weeks

50 states (and a national capitol)

Countless meals, crafts, experiments, projects and adventures

Mail calls from family, friends and complete strangers

Four amazing road trips - one through our home state of Michigan, an idyllic week in Georgia with the Kosakowski crew, and two separate trips to Illinois in February and November

2 amazing kids who I've learned are sponges when it comes to sucking up information.

1 husband that has been a trooper through it all.  He's given me a hand when I've needed it, reined me in when I've needed that and been on board since the beginning.  There is no way I could even thought to attempt any of this without him.

And you!  That's right - if you're reading this right now you have my eternal thanks and gratitude.  You may have helped us out with a package along the way.  You may be one of my lovely friends that has inspired me, listened to me babble endlessly about some random fact about some random state, and given me plenty of "that'll do's" just when I need them.  You may be one of our family members that have helped us out along the way, asked the kids about what they've been learning or read the blog faithfully (even my long posts with numerous links).  You may be just passing through and stumbled across our little adventure and stuck around for the ride.  Any which way - knowing that you are 'out there' has kept me just as motivated as my ultimate driving force - NJ and the Bean.  My wish is that some day, years from now, they stumble across this blog (we're saving a copy of all of it) or dig out the scrapbook and just, smile.  Noah and Kayla - you two are my daily inspiration, motivation, amazement, sometimes frustration, joy and a living reminder of what unconditional love is,  I hope you've had fun this year.

And on that note - Noah has been VERY concerned about 'what's next?'  He was most upset the other day when we started on Washington when he realized it was the end.  But I've assured him I have something up my sleeve and to hang in there!  And that goes for all of you, too!  I've now tackled National Foods and all 50 states- I'm unstoppable ;-)  The big reveal for 2015 is tomorrow, but until then, I can't think of a better way to wrap up the States then with this video that my friend Kristina shared with me when I first started this little project of mine.

With endless love and gratitude,

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cookies and Chillin'

Shhh, don't tell anyone but I'm kind of loving this break thing.  (And at the same time it's driving me a little nutso, lol)  We don't have any 'plans' really and have kind of just been going with it.  Grant's off for the week, I've got no menu plan in mind (we're attempting to clean out the freezer and not go to the grocery store.  Heading there tonight though for some things for tomorrow) and we're just winging it.  That meant this morning since there was nothing on the agenda we got to head over to the Aben's for some cookie baking!  (The cookie baking that was supposed to happen before Christmas.  But better late than never!) It was a great morning (I think my kids might like to move in over there) and we came home with cookies - how could it get much better?  We've all spent the rest of the day on odds and ends - the kids colored their LAST map, I FINISHED the scrapbook, Grant's been tinkering on some projects, I went into work for a few hours, the kiddos played with their fun new bath stuff for a very long time, it's been chill!  Tomorrow looks to be much more of the same with some fun end of the year wrap up activities as well.  So until then...

Washington Fun Fact of the Day:  The Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge at Evergreen Point is the longest floating bridge in the world. The bridge connects Seattle and Medina across Lake Washington.

The Bean and R hard at work

Taste test time!

Noah's Washington - Volcano up on the right, the Puget Sound complete with a whale, the Seahawks logo, a cup of Starbucks and a plane by Boeing (he did really well this week!)

Hmmm I've been hard at work


it's done!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Re-purposing Starbucks and Two AWESOME mail calls!

When I decided to push Washington back, I was initially a little leery.  I had found so much cool stuff about the state (see Saturday's blog post if you don't believe me) and I really didn't want to let it go by the wayside.  So I promise, Washington, we're doing our best over the next couple of days to get in everything!

After a breakfast, books and some cuddle time with Grammy Caren and Papa Tom this morning, it was time to say goodbye.  We're glad they made the trip and look forward to seeing them again soon.  Then the kiddos and I made a quick run over to Kroger to grab our necessary supplies for the day - Starbucks Frappaccinos!  I let them each pick their own flavor to try out and so then we could have fun re-using the bottle.  Noah went with Caramel and my Bean Coffee.  They each taste tested when we got home and were delighted with their choices.  They've both had coffee before so I wasn't surprised this kind of a treat was a hit.

As they sipped and snacked on the end of the Christmas cookies, I told them that I had one BIG box for them to open.  This in itself made me glad we had put off Washington - what an awesome package to end our state celebration with!  Many thanks to N and G (and Morgan!) for loaning us their Uncle Jim and Aunt Amy in Seattle who really put together one heck of a box of goodies for the Dynamic Duo.  There was a great informative letter about the climate, terrain and sights in Washington (I should have enlisted them to write the blog this week!) that Noah shared with us.  His favorite fact - Washington has 5 active volcanoes!  Then it was time to dig into the box.  It was filled with all kinds of goodies - I know if I try to list them here I will miss something, but I took plenty of pictures, so check it out!  A million heartfelt thank you's to Jim and Amy - yet again my heart overflowed at the kindness of people who have helped us out this year.  I'm going to try to wait to Wednesday to get all weepy with everyone about wrapping up this project, but seriously THANK YOU EVERYONE!  You all have touched my heart and given me a renewed faith in how kind people can be.

When we finished up our box, we started using our Starbucks supplies.  First, we used the really cute bottle caps to make magnets for their white boards.  (Thanks for the magnets, Colleen!)  Then I showed the kids all kind of ideas (check out here, here and here) and challenged them to come up with a fun way to re-use their bottle.  Washington is VERY BIG on conservation.  In fact, when I went to (well over a year ago) request travel guides from all of the states to use for this project, Washington would not allow you to request a free travel guide (found out today that has changed) so that they weren't just printed and wasted.  So we recycled!  Noah decided he wanted to make a pencil jar and Kayla went with a flower vase.  We pulled out all kinds of supplies and they went to town.  I'd say they did Washington proud!

And then, even more fun!  The mail arrived and one (badly beaten) package came addressed to the twosome from Wisconsin!  My wonderfully delightful cousin, Molly actually lives just outside of Milwaukee in Whitefish Bay.  Weeks ago she set about putting a package together for Noah and Mikayla for Wisconsin week.  She was dutiful, mailed it on time and it should have arrived no problem during Wisconsin week.  But the silly post office sent it back!  And said that the address was incorrect.  (which it so wasn't!)  So they sent it back to her, she went and fought with the post office and the remailed it and it arrived today!  Yay!!!  So two awesome packages today.  This one was full of Brewers gear, cheese and some fun postcards.  Molly - you are an all-star, my dear!  Not just for helping us out (which we so appreciate!) but for going the extra mile to make sure it got here.  Mikayla was opening the package and said "Hey Mom, if Molly likes the Packers she's a cheesehead - that's cool!"

In the meantime, we've been having tons of fun just hanging out and playing with all our new 'stuff''.  And me?  I've been hard at work on getting Miss Direction around for our official launch!  I think (hope) the kids are still in the dark because I have a super fun reveal I am planning for Thursday.  Hopefully.  :-p  No, I'll be ready by then.  Can't wait!

More of the same around here tomorrow.  We're going to wrap up Washington, maybe hang with some friends, we'll see!  So until then...

Washington Fun Fact of the Day:  Before it became a state, the territory was called Columbia (named after the Columbia River). When it was granted statehood, the name was changed to Washington, supposedly so people wouldn't confuse it with The District of Columbia.

One more book with Grammy Caren

Starbucks drinks of choice

Washington package (Kristi's note - this actually arrived about a month ago - when I had originally intended to do Washington.  I had to go ahead and open it because there were fresh apples in it that weren't going to make it)

Ready to open

Reading their letter

Diving in

A Seattle Seahawks football!

Which we had to try out

A Space Needle pencil sharpner


Dead Sea Salt Chocolate

Which we of course had to taste

Seattle Memory!

The pictures on this are gorgeous


A piece of Evergreen

Sand and Stones from Alki Beah0

Water and rocks from Puget Sound

(Noah's favorite)

Hot Chocolate from Starbucks

And one cool Washington sticker

Thanks Jim and Amy!!!!!!

We checked out the view from the top of the Space Needle Cam

Starting work on the magnets

Waiting for them to dry

And starting on painting the bottles

Noah's finished pencil jar

Kayla's flower vase

It made it!

Brewer's gear!

And cheese!

A note from Molly

Monkey see...

Lots of fun postcards

Two cheeseheads

Magnets are up

We made flowers for Kayla's vase