Monday, July 29, 2013

Photo Blog: Lily's Nursury

Here is the view when you walk in the door. We have also ordered a great area rug online that hasn't arrived yet, but once it does it should really pull the room together. It is pale pink and brown stripes.

This is my American Girl doll which I am so happy I can use in Lily's room. I hope she likes the American Girls as much as I did when I was a little girl.

Lily's new dresser. For the room color we chose a soft Sherwin Williams color called "Downy." I wanted a very pale ballet slipper pink (one great SW color was called Barely Blush) but I was persuaded that the pink walls with the pink accents and bedding would be overwhelming, and I am glad I went with the beige.

Lily's crib. The theme is lambs, mostly beige with tiny pink flower in the trim. The fitted sheet that came with the set is also kind of a calico design with the tiny pink flowers.

A close up of some of the sweeter items in her crib, including a pillow made by Memere that has a little girl and a goose, and says "God Made Me Make a Joyful Noise."

Her changing table all set to go!
Well my next post will be after Lily has arrived and I am back home with her! Ryan will be sharing photos of Lily from the hospital. She is scheduled to arrive at 7:30 am this Thursday morning. We will keep everyone updated on how the surgery goes and how Lily's first few days are going. Thanks for all your calls and emails and support during this incredibly special time for our family! Signing off now . . . see you next time when I am a mother of TWO! 

Family and Friends Shower Us with Love!

We are having a lot of fun getting ready for Lily to arrive. It is so special to see so many of our friends and family getting excited along with us.

A Sweet Shower

Right before we moved out of our house, we were given a surprise shower by our friends the Atwells. Rachel's parents, Marianne and Richard, graciously opened their home to us for the occasion. Amidst a super busy and somewhat stressful time of  packing and making arrangements for the closing, it was nice to get away for a few hours and be lavished with love and presents for our little girl. Here are some photos of the details of this precious shower.

I was completely shocked, thinking Ryan and I were going to Rachel's parents' house to pick up some extra boxes for packing. Little did I know what awaited me inside!

Rachel used Lily's presents (mostly outfits) for decoration, which was such an adorable idea. Little girls' clothes is so pretty; why buy a bunch of pink frilly stuff from the party store?

Diaper cake and diaper table. Since we have all the gadgets and functional items we will need for a new baby, Rachel asked guests to bring only clothes and diapers.

Lily Pad

Lily and Logan's Pops has a cabin in Murphy, North Carolina. Besides gutting and rebuilding the interior with some cool and unique elements like secret passageways and a forest-themed play room on the first floor of the cabin (like a basement) called LogXan Forest (after his two grandsons, Logan and Xander), he has also built a treehouse in the very back of the property. Both these areas remind me a little of the Swiss Family Robinson ride at Disney World. He has named the first floor of the treehouse (yes, it's two stories), "Lily Pad." The woodwork is so unique and over the top you have to see it to believe it. We cannot wait to get back up to Murphy to see the tree house and the LogXan Forest. Logan and Lily are going to adore these spaces more and more as they gets older. I will post just the photos I have on hand of the treehouse for now, but I want to do a post just dedicated to the cabin. It is so one of a kind you really have to see photos for yourself.

Every wood carving you see was done by Lily's Pops and every bannister rail is a stick of driftwood collected in wooded areas around the cabin in Western NC, by Pops and Tutu. No word yet on their various trespassing charges!!
Here is one of the walls of the tree house which leads out to the balcony (you can see the banisters through the door) of the tree house. Can you see Lily's name??

A close up of "Lily Pad"


Visit with Aunt Rachel at Siesta Key

To close out this blog entry, I have to share a great photo from visiting Rach at Siesta Key this past weekend. It was so fun to catch up for a while and let Logan spend some time getting to know Rach. He has met her about six times now and he is definitely beginning to recognize her when he sees her. Since she is Lily's godmother, its really important to all of us that both Lily and Logan get to know and love her as much as we do.
That's all for now! PS Lily dropped today! :) :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sold! Part 2: Farewell Bell Lake Road

Note: can anyone email me and tell me how to post a link from a previous blog post into a new blog post? I don't know much about blogging and really want to learn more!

I am writing this blog from my mom's computer because we are staying with my parents for the time being. . . we are currently homeless! Here is an update on our journey to sell our home and make a better life for ourselves . . .

I left you in my last post in mid-May, when we had decided this was just not the right time for us to make our big move. We moved Logan into his new room (the guest bedroom), moved the guest bedroom into the office, and began transforming Logan's old blue room into the perfect haven for a sweet little Lily who would arrive in a few months time. I planted some tomatoes and a little herb garden as we had decided we would just be staying put for another year or so. We called our realtor and let her know we would be taking the house off the market on Friday, May 24.

Soon after this decision was made, we got a call telling us we had a showing request and it was a second showing. A second showing is very good because it means someone who already saw the house is interested enough to take a second look. The feedback from this showing was different: their realtor advised they were putting together an offer for us to review by the next Wednesday. We were shocked. We had waited for months and months for exactly this moment.

We eagerly agreed to keep the house on the market for another week to give them time to make their offer.

Wednesday came and went, and no offer. A whole week went by and we heard nothing but crickets.

It had felt like this eleventh hour offer was just too good to be true, and now this feeling was confirmed in our minds. We had made peace with staying at Bell Lake Road before and we would do it again. We decided we would not let ourselves get excited over any news any more.

Finally we got a call that the buyers had gotten their affairs in order and would be submitting their offer by Sunday, ten days after they had initially told us. We smiled and said we'd review any offer that came in, and then put it out of our minds. Sunday came and went, and no offer. We patted ourselves on the back and went back to life. Too many fun and exciting things were happening unrelated to the home sale, and we decided these precious last weeks with Logan as an only child, and preparing for the joy of a new baby in our home, would not be disrupted again.

The following Wednesday, the offer finally came in at $50,000 below our asking price. For a second time we congratulated ourselves on not getting excited, realizing we had been low-balled once again.

Another week passed and we continued to prepare Logan and Lily's rooms and to look for the positive in our current home, glad we were past this one final twist.

Then, out of the blue, the buyer's agent contacted us again: the buyers had come up $25,000.  Finally we let ourselves get excited. This was something we could work with!

We countered a few times and finally came a number we could all live with. We are very proud that we did not budge a penny from our rock-bottom minimum in order to get out of the house faster. We waited it out, and we eventually got exactly what we had to to make this move worthwhile financially (but not a penny more!!).

We accepted the final offer on June 22, and immediately made arrangements to get into a rental home, realizing it would be a true miracle to find a forever-home in just over a month (Lily would arrive August 1). We called family and friends and told them, "We're moving!! Now!" and heard their shock over what we would be doing at eight months pregnant.

We truly believe that this process was the direct working of God in our lives. A year ago, or even six months ago, we could never have imagined that we would be living with my parents, looking for a new house to move into, and freed of so much of our debt. We feel really good about accepting the disappointments over and over again, and still moving forward together as a family. This journey has confirmed to us the importance of trusting in the Lord in every detail of our lives, large or small. It has also shown us that even when everything is up in the air, we are an unbreakable family unit and we can be content with whatever challenges and disappointments life brings.

Believe it or not, there is a lot more to this story. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer Photo Blog and a Recipe

Helping Daddy get ready in the morning!

Honeymoon Island -- Fourth of July

Napping on the way home

A fun Fourth of July at the Olds' Home

Beautiful Fourth of July Spread

With Jason, 4, and Ashley, 7

Loves his afternoon bowl of yogurt

I like to make yogurt for Logan and me at home because its affordable and easy once you get the hang of it. It does not have the thickeners and flavorings that store-bought yogurt has. It may seem high-maintenance at first, but once you get the hang of it its as easy as putting a chicken in the crockpot.

Affordability: Yields one gallon organic plain yogurt. One gallon organic milk = $5.99; one cup Fage yogurt = $1.29. Total: $7.28/ 16 cups per gallon = $0.46 per 8 oz serving. Pennies for your favorite sweetener/flavor means about fifty cents for a cup of organic yogurt-- you won't find that pricing anywhere! :)

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

1 gallon full-fat milk
1 cup plain, store-bought yogurt (Fage brand has worked best for me)

Supplies needed:
Large stock pot
Fine-mesh strainer
Instant read thermometer
Large bedspread or a beach blanket

1. Heat entire gallon of milk on low in large stockpot until instant read thermometer reads 180 degrees F.
2. Remove from heat; uncover and allow to cool until instant read thermometer reads 110 degrees F.
3. Use a ladle to remove 2-3 cups of milk from stock pot; ladle into a medium bowl.
4. Add cup of store-bought yogurt to the medium bowl and gently mix. Add back into stockpot and gently mix. You should see large lumps of yogurt among the warm milk.
5. Re-test your temperature to ensure your milk did not fall below 100 degrees F in the course of adding the cold store bought yogurt. For the next 6-24 hours (see note) your stockpot of yogurt must remain between 100 and 110 degrees. To do this, wrap the entire stockpot in the blanket and tuck in all ends. Periodically throughout the day, unwrap your stockpot and test your concoction to make sure the temp is between 100 and 110 degrees. If needed, place the stock pot on low heat for 5-10 minutes to bring the fermenting yogurt back to the necessary 100-110 degree window.
6. At the end of the fermentation period, you should have a bottom layer of thick white yogurt, and a top layer of translucent, yellowish liquid (this is the whey). Skim off your whey and save for another purpose (see note). Ladle your yogurt into a bowl and refrigerate. Yogurt is best eaten after a night of refrigeration because it becomes firmer and creamier after being thoroughly chilled.

Serving suggestions: mix in honey or maple syrup to sweeten. Also add a splash of vanilla extract or some other type of extract for flavor. Add granola, fruit or anything else your normally eat with your yogurt.

Notes and Suggestions:

One gallon of milk yields one gallon of yogurt; one half gallon of milk yields one half gallon of yogurt; a quart yields a quart, etc.

Heating the milk in the first step on too high of heat will scald the milk.  Cooling it with no lid (the fastest way to cool it) will result in a skin forming on top of the milk. Both these result in unappetizing skins and fibers floating in your finished batch of yogurt. To prevent this, skim the "skin" off the top of your milk after Step 2. If you suspect you may have scalded some of the milk, strain the entire gallon after Step 2 in the fine-mesh strainer.

The 6-24 hour fermentation process (described in Step 5) will get easier in subsequent batches. You will get the hang of knowing about when you need to re-heat your yogurt on low for 5 minutes to bring it back to the fermentation temperature. Your fermentation time will depend on your taste and schedule; the longer you leave it to ferment the tangier and thicker it will be. I have left it for as short as 6 hours and its fine; I have never actually left it for 24 hours because we are always too eager to eat the yogurt.

Overnight fermentation: start your yogurt at around 4-5 pm, before you cook dinner. Keep an eye on it throughout the evening. Right before bed, put it on low one last time for 5-10 minutes, and then immediately remove it from heat and wrap it in the bed spread or beach blanket. Leave on kitchen counter while you sleep. When you wake up, your yogurt will be fully fermented and ready to refrigerate.

Greek Yogurt: One last step if you want Greek-strained yogurt so thick and white and tangy that you can turn the whole bowl over and it will not drip out! No kidding! After you have removed the yogurt from the stock pot and are ready to begin the chilling process, line a colander with cheesecloth  and add about 2-3 cups of your yogurt. Place in a larger bowl to catch the whey. Allow to strain in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Scoop into a new container, empty the whey, and add another 2-3 cups of yogurt to your cheesecloth-lined colander.

What to do with the whey: This is a nutritious, protein-rich liquid that can be added to smoothies or stirred into oatmeal to boost nutrition for kids. Also, substitute whey 1:1 for water in bread recipes or pizza dough recipes; I substitute whey for up to half the recipe's water. Adding whey is like using buttermilk instead of regular milk-- it makes breads and doughs tangy and moist. One caveat: I have never used whey to proof yeast; I would therefore use plain water to proof the yeast and substitute whey for the remaining water.