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This post will remain at the top of the blog for the duration of the summer. Scroll past it to see new blog posts.

In an effort to take more photos of my own children (beyond the usual cell phone photos I Instagram on a regular basis), I’m committing to this being a Captured Summer. As summer moves along, images will be added to the slider below (pictures will go from newest to oldest). Nothing wordy – just images telling the story of our summer! Enjoy!

On a mobile device, you can just swipe across the photo to see the next one.

{when you’re curious about what’s happening in the picture, you can click the little thought bubble in the lower, right hand corner. if you love photography and want to know my settings, you can see that by clicking the little camera icon in the lower, left hand corner.}

  • June 2, 2015 - 1:02 pm

    Cindy in San Antonio - Oh, I’m so glad you’re doing this! I love photos and I like watching your kiddos grow. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • June 2, 2015 - 2:18 pm

      Helen - Oh yay, Cindy! Thanks for checking them out! New ones will be added to it every few days most likely :)ReplyCancel

  • June 3, 2015 - 3:57 pm

    Dick Coleman - As usual, fine shots. Love the chance to see the shutter speed and ISO. I’m trying to explain to my daughter, Tammy, how these two things go together to create
    good pictures. Yours will help. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • June 6, 2015 - 8:59 pm

      Helen - Thank you! Glad you can find the camera info helpful!ReplyCancel

We’ve now been in our house for just over 8 years. We outgrew it about 4.5 years ago, when Lily was born, but the housing market has not yet rebounded in our city, so here we stay.

A house that has seen this much craziness and chaos over the last 8 years is definitely showing some wear, so Nick and I have decided it’s time to start fixing things up, slapping on new coats of paint, figuring out how to fix our yard, etc. If we’re going to be in this house a while longer, we might as well make it into something we love again! Right?

So you know what I did? I decided the time that my husband was leaving the country for 9 days (he went to England for work) would be an excellent time to go ahead and tackle a bathroom remodel. Cause really, what better time is there than when you’re single parenting 4 crazy children and trying to balance a small business?

Yeah, I’ve lost it.

Know what though? By doing little bits each night, within 6 days the bathroom had totally transformed and I LOVE it! It’s like a whole new bathroom! I waited to post any “after” pictures online until after Nick got home and could see it, and considering he flew in last night and was wowed by the bathroom, I can now share with you!

Bathroom RemodelBathroom RemodelBathroom Remodel

Huge change, isn’t it?! The best part, is the whole thing cost me about $80 last week. Now, as a disclaimer, the price was a little lower because I was using some leftovers from previous projects…

1. Spray Paint – I found some “brushed nickel” spray paint at the store, and I used that to paint over the ugly gold hardware!

2. Rust-oleum Cabinet Transformation on the vanity and medicine cabinet/mirror – this was one was a “leftovers”, because I had used a small portion of it on some new floor/backgrounds at my photography studio, and it was a color (chocolate) that I knew I’d love in the bathroom. It’s a lot of steps, but the result is gorgeous!

3. Paint – this was another “leftover”… sort of. It’s the same blue color that I used in the boys’ bedroom a couple of years ago, and while I had some left over I didn’t have quite enough for the whole bathroom, so did have to go buy a quart more.

4. Grout Cleaned – the grout in the shower and the floor was getting nasty! While I’d love to replace the flooring altogether (especially considering some of the tiles are cracking), I knew I didn’t have it in me to take that on by myself, so I did the next best thing – a thorough grout cleaning. Gross, but a definite difference maker when it comes to the overall look of the bathroom.

5. Rug and Shower Curtain – these were an IKEA find! The old monkey curtain was in sad, sad shape, and I was all too happy to toss that and the nasty rug.

So there we go – not only did I survive 9 days without my husband, but I also managed to make-over our main bathroom! Now that Nick is back home, we’re going to sit down some night soon and prioritize a list of projects we want to take on, in order to make this a house we love again. Stay tuned – I’m sure this is not the last of the DIY posts!

P.S. Trying to paint behind a toilet is not fun.

  • August 3, 2015 - 1:12 pm

    RoseAnne - Looks wonderful; I can’t wait to see it in person! It is now time to get going on a facelift to our first floor bathroom and several other places. I too want to remake our house into a place we love again. :)ReplyCancel

    • August 3, 2015 - 1:24 pm

      Helen - Thanks, Mom! I’m excited for you to see it too :) Can’t wait to see what you guys do – I’m sure it’ll look awesome!ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2015 - 5:50 am

    Yvonne - I need to check out that Cabinet Transformation stuff. I have some cabinets that need updating, too!ReplyCancel

    • August 4, 2015 - 8:55 am

      Helen - It really is so fantastic, Yvonne! It’s quite a few steps, but SO worth it!ReplyCancel

Nick’s summer schedule is especially crazy and full this year, so we didn’t have time to make our pilgrimage back to New England this summer (we were due for one). We do plan to do something fun this fall, but the kids don’t know that, so if you know us personally…. Shhhhhhhh! don’t say anything to the kids!

Anyway, we knew we needed to do something this summer, because carving out some “just-family” time and doing something fun, is a summertime must! This time around we needed something relatively close to Kansas City, because we only had time for a 1 night/2 day trip, and because we’re planning something bigger for the fall, we needed the trip to be cheap. Our goal? Stay within a few hours drive and try to spend less than $400 total (a challenge for a family of 6!).

Before we get down to what we did/where we went, I have to say this…. The kids were amazing during our trip! Last year we were only 2 minutes down the road when one declared it to the be “the worst vacation ever”; this year we heard nothing but good things from them. Last year when we skipped lunch and just snacked on Day 1, it came back to bite us in the form of crabbiness and complaints of bellies hurting; this year they rolled with it SO well (and it had not been our intent to skip a meal, it just kinda happened). Last year I know we had a mini-meltdown or two, as well as some complaining, but this year none of that happened. Nick and I were so proud of how they behaved, and it made this vacation actually enjoyable for us! Exhausting still, but enjoyable!

Day 1

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

About 2 hours southwest of the Kansas City area is the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. It has some amazing views of the Kansas prairie, and Nick and I were excited to take the kids there. We had visited the preserve back in our DINK days (Double Income No Kids) and had loved it! Since our last visit there, the preserve has added a really nice visitors center, complete with the chance for the kids to earn their Junior Rangers Badge (which they did).

Tallgrass Prairie National PreserveTallGrass PrairieTallgrass Prairie Preserve in Strong City KS

The kids loved it! They thought the walk was fun (tons of grasshoppers on the path), they loved the wind we could feel at the top of the “hill”, and the fact that we could see for miles and miles amazed them. They had hoped we’d see some bison wandering, but they weren’t visible. They were mildly disappointed that most of the grass was not as tall as them yet, but they had already learned in the visitor’s center that it doesn’t reach it’s peak height until fall, so they weren’t entirely surprised. They did find one little patch that was about as tall as them, so that satisfied them.

And we also didn’t see any snakes. This made Nick and me very happy…. {shudder}

Prairie Grass KSTallgrass LilyTallgrass

I really could have stayed up there, just staring at the views, for hours. It was so beautiful! Pretty sure I’m going to need to take a little photography field trip there sometime too, just for fun. Highly recommend stopping at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve if you’re driving through Kansas!

Where We Stayed

After our time at the preserve we drove the 45 minutes to our hotel in Wichita. Nick and I learned before Lily even arrived that our family was happiest in a suite rather than a standard hotel room. Sharing a bed with wiggling 3 year olds was not fun, let alone the fact we had to turn the lights out and essentially “go to sleep” at 8:30pm with them! Fast forward 4 years and one more kid, and we know how to find a great hotel for our family.

Enter the Homewood Suites on the Waterfront in Wichita! This was our first Homewood Suites stay (usually we do Embassy Suites), and we loved it! Not only was our room huge (sleeping area plus living area), but our stay included dinner and breakfast, plus they had a basketball court, putting green, lake with walking trail, and indoor pool and hot tub! Needless to say, the kids had a ball, and we didn’t leave the place from our check in at 3:15 to check-out at 10am.

Know what made it extra fun? The night we were there they just happened to be celebrating their 9th birthday! They had live music outside, cake, some raffle drawings and they did a Hole-In-One contest… Yeah, our 4 year old totally won that contest, and with a trick shot! She hit the ball so hard it went past the hole, and then rolled backwards into the cup! Whaaaat?!

Hotel Stay

 

Day 2

Salt Mine Museum in Kansas

Day 2 involved some salt! Yes – salt! We drove the 50 minutes from Wichita to Hutchinson, KS to visit Strataca, and underground salt museum. That right there is Jackson, Ty, and Chase 650 feet underground, leaning up against a gigantic piece of salt.

When we were researching things to do on this short, cheap trip we knew we wanted unique. Going 650 feet underground, getting to wear hardhats, driving through dark tunnels, and picking out our own salty souvenirs seemed pretty unique!

Salt Mine in HutchinsonSalt Mine

Jackson in the top, right corner cracks me up! He was clearly excited to discover the hunk of salt he picked up fit under the measurement bowl, which meant he could take it home.

Chunk of SaltDark Ride at Strataca

Getting ready to go on The Dark Ride! It was a 30 minute ride through various tunnels of the mine, and also where we got to stop, get off, and grab some salt. Very cool aspect of the tour!

Cheap Vacation from Kansas City_0003

Also stored down there are lots of artifacts, important documents, original reels with Friends episodes, and TV & movie costumes! Pretty cool stuff!

Captured Summer 2

There were a couple of spots where they had these cool reflecting lights cast on the walls and floors! The kids loved running through those! And honestly… is there anything cuter than Lily in her crooked hard hat?!

Strataca Salt Mine

Final verdict on the Salt Museum was lots of thumbs ups! Lily just asked me this morning when we can go back – she was hoping I’d say “tomorrow”. One little note – only kids 4 and up are allowed down there, so make sure you don’t have anyone too young!

After Strataca, we headed back to an amish restaurant we had passed, where we all gorged on roast beef, burgers, and chicken fried chicken. It was delicious!

When all was said and done, we dropped less than $400 on our 2 days of fun, food, and hotel stay. If you have more time and cash than we did, there are so many other things you could add to your trip both in Wichita and in Hutch – we had a crazy number of recommendations once friends heard where we were headed.

This trip though? Not bad for a family of 6, and the kids will all tell you they had a blast!

  • July 19, 2015 - 8:20 pm

    MandyE - Sounds like we’re in a very similar boat this summer. We’re planning a short little trip before school starts. Granted, it won’t have the glamour of a big trip, but sometimes those are some of the best memories.

    That salt mine looks cool! (No pun intended???)ReplyCancel

    • July 19, 2015 - 9:53 pm

      Helen - Ha! It was a nice 68 degrees down there 😉

      Enjoy your short trip! I bet you’ll make awesome memories!ReplyCancel