Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Weekend Recap

by Beck


Remember when...
...I stayed up until 3am the night before Thanksgiving/LJ's birthday making him an awesome birthday shirt and decorations.

...LJ threw up on the awesome birthday shirt 45 minutes into our journey to the bay area.



...we watched JP burn calories during the annual Thanksgiving Day water polo tournament at his high school alma mater.


...the first crack at Thanksgiving/Birthday, was NOT the magical experience I had built up in my head.



...we got a second chance at magic over the weekend with "second Thanksgiving/Birthday."


 
...I made my first Thanksgiving dinner (two days late). Yum!


...Per JP's request, we braved the fog and caught a sneak preview of this movie in Sacramento.


 
...we took our friends to feed the horses next door.


 
...I stayed up until 2:30am reading this book cover to cover.


...we took LJ to his first movie - The Muppets! (Mommy is so proud.) :)

 

What a great four-day weekend!!! How was your holiday?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hearts Full of Thanks

by Beck

 
May the spirit of thankfulness be with you today, tomorrow, and all year long!
I came across this saying the other day:
"What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today."
Thanksgiving may be observed once a year, but our hearts should be full of thanks the other 364 days as well.

 
I am thankful for my family

I am beyond thankful that we are all healthy




 I am thankful for a roof over my head & food in my cupboards

I am thankful JP and I both have jobs with steady paychecks.

I am thankful for wonderful friends who commiserate, encourage and support

I am thankful for parents and in-laws who take care of my sweet boy and pick up a ton of slack for me around the house.

I am thankful for the freedom to live my life without fear of oppression


I am thankful for YOU!



Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LJ's Birth Story

by Beck


In a few minutes it will be Thanksgiving Day, which is especially significant for our family this year because it is also LJ's second birthday!!!

It's funny after you have kids. You look back at your life and everything you've done up until having them seems to pale in comparison (at least to me it does). And within a few weeks after birth, life before your precious baby seems like a distant memory. I have an old picture of JP and me on the shelf in LJ's room above the changing table. It matches his beachy room theme and, now that he's older, he can appreciate that it is mommy and daddy in the photo. The other day I was thinking back to the circumstances behind the photo - it was taken on our honeymoon more than nine years ago. Not only did I have awesome abs that I was willing to have photographed (why didn't I appreciate them more back then!), but LJ wasn't even a twinkle in our eye. Looking at that photograph, the time and the place and who we were then seemed like a world away.


With a few minutes left on the eve of LJ's second birthday, it is fun to remember who we were then and how our life before baby made us the kind of parents we are today. But, this post isn't about that. It's about where we were at this time exactly two years ago tonight.

For those of you who like birth stories (every family blog needs a good birth story right?), here's an abbreviated version of LJ's birth day. For those of you who don't...um...sorry?

The day I went into labor was ridiculously normal. It was nine days before my due date and I was already off on maternity leave. My mom and I went to Target. I wore my "Due in December" tank top from my sister-in-law Som and, because I had a pretty inconspicuous baby bump the cashier said, "Are you really?" I put together LJ's bookshelf. We ate pizza. Then, what started out as a nice dinner at home with a friend quickly turned into something a bit more exciting. My water broke as I was opening a bag of packaged salad. (Quite possibly my favorite part of the story, besides the ending of course.) After a quick shower and some packing we headed down the road to Modesto.


After confirming that I was in labor, I was admitted and we hunkered down for what we imagined would be a long night. We watched ELF and I labored on an exercise ball for awhile waiting for someone to come in and offer me drugs. I soon found out that they don't just offer them to you, they actually make you ASK for them. Finally, in the 11th hour, with the voices of several friends who had walked this road before me ringing in my ears, I ASKED. Meanwhile, JP was sitting to my left on the laptop looking up famous people born on November 24th. At the time I was super bummed that LJ wouldn't be born on a more numerically significant date. JP's search yielded only one exciting birthday buddy - Father Junipero Serra - also the namesake of JP's private and much-loved alma mater. I quickly calculated how many hours it would be until November 25th (days ending in an increment of five were close enough to numerically significant in my book), and decided that Father Serra was an acceptable person to share a birthday with, so we soldiered on.


Six or seven hours after arriving at the hospital they told me I had progressed quickly and it would soon be time to get the party started. Around 2:20am the midwife came in and told me that the woman next door to me was also in labor and it was my job to get my baby out before she did. Always a competitor, I said, "Let's do this!" and 30 minutes later, there he was! (I won, by the way. And the woman next door was on her 3rd or 4th baby too. Boo ya for fast labor.)


 



I remember being so scared the first few nights. Not wanting to fall asleep for fear something would happen to him or that he would stop breathing. In those early days, I remember thinking that parenting was the hardest thing I had ever done. Like really really hard. And also the most rewarding at the same time. It is still both of those things, but it is amazing how much your perspective changes once the hormones subside and you start stringing together more than 2 or 3 hours of sleep at a time. And when you have something this beautiful to look at, it makes the hard parts seem really insignificant.


In many ways, the last two years have flown by, but in other ways they haven't. I have enjoyed and really tried to live in every moment of our life with Luke (except for a few during months 0 to 3 related to breast feeding; those were rough.)

(Full disclosure:  I TOTALLY put on lipstick before we took this picture.)


LJ has been a happy, easy and healthy baby. I often joke that I'm not sure I know how to be a "real mom," because we haven't had to deal with too many hard things with him. As a toddler he is a typical push-the-limits little boy; but also sensitive and already showing a caring and helpful spirit. He is imaginative and full of life and fun. He is quick to laugh and be silly about random things, but equally as quick to frustration if things don't go his way. Thankfully he is easily persuaded back to lightheartedness with simple distractions and doesn't stay cranky long.

I can't wait to see what the future holds for him and who he will become.

Happy Birthday Luke! We feel so blessed and though we are thankful for many things today, we are most thankful for YOU!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 Hot Chicks

posted by JP

Yesterday, my day off, I get a call at home from the bank where I work. My co-worker calls my cell phone and says, "Um Justin, you have some chicks waiting for you here!"


Now you would think that being a typical man, I would have thought that she was talking about these kind of chicks....



No No.. not those kind of chicks. These kind of chicks.....


Yes I had 10 live Plymouth Rock chicks delivered to my banking center all the way from the east coast. Why? Because it's me and how awesome is it that I live in a town where it's ok to have live poultry delivered to my banking center. Well, it may not be banking center policy to allow these things to happen, but no one has complained yet, so we'll just go with it. 


So they showed up to my banking center chirping in their little air mail box and all the bankers and tellers were absolutely thrilled that 10 little chicks paid a special visit.


It only cost me $15 to have them shipped overnight from Connecticut. Not sure why it costs me $700 to fly myself across the United States! Still, seeing LJ petting his first chick (please only pure thoughts) .....Simply PRICELESS





Now you might remember from a previous post, when I was all excited about getting fertilized chicken eggs in the mail. We failed at incubation! We turned those eggs for 25 days three times a day and not one of them hatched. I am not sure what happened exactly. But they were supposed to hatch after 21 days of incubation and they unfortunately did not make it. It was sad as I thought about what I could have done better or different. It might of been that the incubator accidentally went up to 109 degrees Fahrenheit one night, or it might have been that I washed them when I received them and broke the deligate embryo membrane. I don't know exactly what went wrong, but I wanted to get my chicken venture going, so I paid $2 more and got ones that were already living. To me that sounds like a better deal! 

So if you are city folk raised like Beck and I, you might be thinking if 10 chicks showed up at my door I wouldn't know what the heck to do! Well, the 21st century is a beautiful thing as we have books like "How to raise chickens?" and blogs like "My Pet Chicken" and "Backyard Chicken" and Google Search to keep us on track. Things like the internet and social media allow city folk like us to get a quick education on how to be good chicken farmers on the fly!

The first step: build a brooder.....


This was a rolling shelving unit that was left in the garage when we bought the house. My Dad and I converted it into a chick brooder. I painted the brooder blue and freehand painted the red chickens and chicks. Through this project I found out that I can be an artist when I want to be!



This will be the chicks new home for 4 to 5 weeks and then my Dad and I will be creating their permanent chicken coop outside.

These two pictures below show what these chicks will look like when they are 4 to 6 months old. The first picture is a rooster and the second picture is a hen.



According to the website Backyardchicken.com "The Plymouth Rock originated in New England in the 19th Century and was first recognized as a breed in the year 1869. Farmers created the first Plymouth Rock chicken by using breeds such as Dominique and Dorking Couchins. The breed brings value to the farmer through it's hardiness (it can take the cold and heat), egg laying, broodiness (reproduction) and meat productions." Also please note that the feathers on the rooster feathers currently retail for $10 a pop in salons and wholesale for $1.50. However as Beck mentioned to me tonight, by the time these chickens will be ready to harvest, that fad will probably be long gone! None the less, in my typical optimistic dreams....you never know!

So LJ, Beck and I are enjoying the chicks as they add to our adventure on This Vine Life! -JP



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Let's Party!

Posted by: Beck



I love to plan parties.

Scratch that.

I love to help other people plan parties.

It's their money, their guest list, ultimately their stress. I actually love the idea of hosting my own parties. Then reality sets in - a) there just aren't enough hours in the day, b) I'm not made of money and c) I'm no Martha. Fortunately, I have a good support system in place when it comes to this sort of thing.

My in-laws were a huge help in the planning, execution and funding of our first Harvest Party. And, lucky for me, my favorite sister-in-law decided to make a surprise visit from Colorado and was a complete life saver when it came to decorating.



As I said, I'm no Martha, but I have figured out a few things that have helped me to enhance and simplify party decor.


1. I like to choose a couple of main areas to focus on for decorating. For example, the food table, cake table, or gift table.


2. A chocolate fountain is the key to securing 15% of your attendees. (Lucky for me, my party planning mother-in-law has her very own.)

3. Create an intentional backdrop for photos. I have seen people use fabric, wrapping paper, posterboard, etc. to create their photo walls. You will most likely have to coerce people to take their pictures in said area, but it is a great way to add some color and whimsy to your decor. (I was amazed at how many of the kids took their picture on our riding lawn mower tractor.)


4. Props - sometimes it is fun to add props to your photo area. I bought these masks at Joann's for $1 a piece. They were plain wooden cutouts, so Sommer and I used acrylic paint and spruced them up a bit. I have seen other people use hats, funny glasses or paper mustaches attached to wooden dowels. If you have a more formal event, you could actually assign someone to be the photographer for your photo area.





5. Keep decorations simple. I love using mason jars and have seen several fun ideas I would like to try in the future. You can use large mason jars as pitchers or vases and small jars to hold any number of fun things or use as drinking glasses for lemonade or another pretty beverage. If time allows, adding ribbon, twine or other embellishments to your jars is a great idea. I got a set of 12 mason jars for $12 at a hardware store, but if you play your cards right you can get them at yard sales for much cheaper. I have also seen them in bulk at Walmart and individually at Michaels and Joanns.


6. Personally, I like using solid color tablecloths and plates and then sprucing that up with fun fabric squares or other accents. I also like decorating with picture frames - you can frame pictures of your guest of honor or pictures from the internet that accent your theme. Google images is my life saver - I use it for inspiration regularly. I bought cheap wooden frames for a $1 at Joanns and now paint them to fit party colors or in other home decor projects.


7. Have a bounce house. We got a great deal on the bounce house rental and it was totally worth it!



8. Have a great time and enjoy yourself! It's such a blessing to look around and see so many people you care about in one place.

9.  Splurge on something you really want that you will enjoy during the party and beyond. For me it was two wine barrels from a guy on craigslist.



10. Bunting* - it's no secret how much I love bunting (those little triangle signs in the photo below). There are so many different ways you can create it and it is so simple! I will be really sad when it goes out of style.


11. Experiment with different levels and heights on your main tables and let existing items like the food/utensils/gifts/cakes serve as your decor. I use empty boxes to add different heights. If you have crates, those work really well too. I didn't think this idea through in advance this time around and ended up improvising at the last minute. Looking back, I should have put cute little pumpkins or votives underneath the upside down compote bowls.



12. Remember to take pictures of your loved ones early. Just like the "LJ First Birthday" fiasco of 2010 where we neglected to take a photo of all three of us; we didn't get any pictures of our family together at this party. I intended for us to take our holiday photos after the party was over, but by the time I wrangled JP and LJ, we were past the point of no return. This was the only family photo we got. Clearly not the warm holiday greeting I was hoping for.


Thanks to all the friends who came out to celebrate with us, especially those who drove from out of town, brought food or helped clean up! We hope to make this an annual harvest time event. We apologize to anyone we missed! If you want an invite next year, email us at thisvinelife@gmail.com



*I should point that Sommer made all of the bunting for the party. I gave her my inspiration and she executed it for me far better than I could have done myself. I love my crafty sister!