Broken mirror art

Our trip to PEI inspired me to finish a project. This cracked mirror has been waiting for reincarnation. Using clear epoxy and some stones, sea glass, and shells from PEI and the North Shore, we stabilized the glass and made it pretty enough for the patio. It’s a nice way to use our beach treasures, too!

DIY Ron Weasley

We were inspired by one of Ron’s biggest fans (our friend, Sophia) to transform a gently used 18 inch doll into a gift that any HP loving kid could appreciate! It was a really fun challenge- starting with a red-haired doll from eBay, we began by cutting her hair and eyelashes, removing her painted lips and adding freckles and eyebrows. With a knitted Weasley sweater and some wizarding accessories, the transformation was complete- almost magic!

Kitchen demo day

We set up a temporary kitchen in the living room and will have access to the refrigerator, so we should be able to live here through most of the process. Our neighbors have been great, inviting us over for dinner and offering use of their kitchens. 

  This is the ironing board cabinet which was behind the refrigerator! We’re going to modify it to use for coats and shoes. All the original cabinets the the new counter tops were removed in good condition to be reused in our basement! There were 3 layers of flooring. The original was a pretty linoleum, which I would have loved to keep if it had been in good condition.


I’ve updated my “branch of many seasons” for December. I decided to display my collection of Feliz Navidad ornaments, which was started by my friend, Peggy, the other Spanish teacher at my first teaching job, one each Christmas during the years we taught together. It was a clever gift, I’ve always thought.

IMG_1698.JPGThe cool branch came from the Noska Homestead (thank you!). You can see the naked branch in my Thanksgiving post. It is quite unique. Lots of people have asked me where I got it. Gabe and Greta, you could start a Tree/Branch business!

Día de Muertos

Since Bryant and I are raising our kids as Universalists/ Secular Humanists, (if one insists on a label) we embrace a variety of religious traditions, and we use them to teach the kids about the world. One of our favorites is the Mexican/ Central American holiday, the Day of the Dead. It combines traditions of the Aztec festival commemorating the dead with the Catholic tradition of All Saints and All Souls Day. It’s a bit like Memorial Day in the US, but much more festive! We see it as a great way to teach our kids about death. The tradition has gone mainstream in the US during the last 10 years or so. Here in Minneapolis you can buy most of the traditional things for the celebration…pan de muerto, papel picado, calaveras de azúcar. Even Target is in on the action. This year they had lots of Day of the Dead products! Stores in Latino areas even brought in fresh “cempasuchil” flowers, like marigolds, used for decorating grave sites and altars.

My friends from Mexico have given us some beautiful decorations for our altar. This year we celebrated the memory of Bryant’s grandma, Oma, who passed away in May. We make recipes that our loved ones made or enjoyed, and we tell stories of that person so the kids will have some memories of them, too. It’s a beautiful thing!


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Halloween Costume photo tree

This year I had to find a new branch to use as a photo display. The old one was taking too much storage space. I lucked out since this stick had been scavenged during a walk in the woods last fall and stashed in the kids’ bedroom. I came across it while cleaning their shelves and intended to hang their necklaces on it, but then I remembered my Halloween photos and thought it’d be just right. The photos are double sided so they don’t show quite as well, but it works.

Bathroom Remodel

The remodel of our upstairs bathroom, which we intended to do when we first moved in 8 years ago, is finally done! Unfortunately, I didn’t take “before” photos until the project was underway and Matt, of Matt’s Tile Works, had already pulled out the old shower insert and taken down the short wall that came out from the edge of the window to form the third wall of the shower. It was very tiny and in terrible condition. The bathroom seems much lighter and spacious now, even though the new shower is larger.

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We replaced all of the fixtures and had Matt build us a new tiled shower. There were no major problems and we are very happy with the results! We managed to keep the costs at about 1/2 of what we were quoted by two other contractors. And those quotes included only an acrylic shower, not tile. So we did well!

I painted and Bryant did some small finishing himself. I’m really happy with the lights and paint color after trying several light styles and shades of paint. I think it was worth the time sampling and exchanging!


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The Madsen or “Jen is a Wimp”

We occasionally ride bikes to school. Hillary rides her own, and I carry Lily in the Madsen or “bucket bike”.

A few reasons I don’t take it more often:

1) It gets heavy up the hills, and it feels like everything is a hill!

2) I have trouble starting the loaded bike from a full stop, such as at a stop light, where there’s not a lot of room to maneuver.

3) It makes me self-conscious to be wobbling around on this bike that everyone notices. We always draw attention from passersby. Once a guy on a lawn mower picked up a pair of sunglasses that fell from the Madsen’s basket and drove after us to return the glasses. This bike captures attention!

The bucket bike is cool, though. It has two benches and 4 sets of seat belts in case one is foolish enough to try to carry 4 kids at once! I could take Hillary and Lily together when they were little, but now I can only take one kid at a time. It has special inserts for groceries, pets and other specific uses. Bryant built another attachment that allows the kids to sit on a bench and hold handle bars. But they always wanted to use it as a “chariot” and were constantly standing up, so he put the bucket back on.

Today an old guy on a bike caught up with me (not surprisingly!) in order to chat about the Madsen. (Bike aficionados and toddlers are especially vocal in their admiration for the Madsen!) He suggested electric assist. “Remember,” he exclaimed, ere he rode out of sight, “There’s no shame in electric assist!”

Apparently in this house, there is. My husband has never revealed the existence of such an ingenious accessory. We’ll be investigating this option!

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