Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Our Visit to Stan Hywet

On Mother’s Day Mike, Lincoln and I went to visit Stan Hywet. Mother’s got in free for the day and I’ve never been (or I don’t remember going) and Mike hasn’t been since he was young. If you never heard of it, the house was built by F.A. Seiberling and his wife Gertrude. F.A. was one of the two founders of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The house is 64,500 square feet with 23 bathrooms, 23 fireplaces and three elevators! They had a staff of 22-24 people to run the enormous house. Needless to say it’s a beautiful mansion with 70 acres of amazing gardens. It’s even one of the largest houses in the United States

The house was so amazing and ornate. It was built between 1912-1915 and it’s really amazing how some of the features seem so contemporary for a house built so long ago. Many of the bathrooms had a shower and freestanding tub. There was a room for everything, including a flower arranging room and an indoor pool. The house has been impeccable preserved and it was quite amazing to take a look back in time.

Not only is the house amazing but it highlights a time when Akron was the place to be. The tire industry was booming and the neighborhoods of Goodyear Heights and Firestone Park were built to support all the families that lived and worked in Akron.

Our day started out a little drizzly but after we toured the house it cleared up and was beautiful. Since mother’s were free the house was a bit crowded and we got out just before Lincoln was ready to start scaling the walls.  

Lincoln did enjoy our walk around the grounds. There was a reflecting pool, Japanese garden, a path under birch trees, and a quarry where the family used to swim. There was even a fun playground for kids that has been created in recent years. Lincoln had fun playing with the huge bowling pins and driving the old time truck.

No pictures of the inside (too busy carrying the little guy or helping him to keep his curious hands to himself) but we got a few outside on the grounds.


Stan Hywet





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lincoln’s 18 Month Update

 

Hi! I’m back after an unintentional break. We’ve been so crazy busy over the last couple of weeks there was no time for blogging. I actually wrote up some posts but the thought of getting the pictures ready was too overwhelming so I have some backlog. Mike rebuilt our back deck which was starting to fall apart and then we had a garage sale to purge the mountain of stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. Now that there is a third person in our house it was time to make more room for all the stuff he has brought with him.

Lincoln’s turned 18 months old a week ago and I normally am aware of his monthly birthday but this time I didn’t realize until a few days later. Things are getting back to normal around our house so I figured it was time to get back to writing.

Lincoln is turning into quite the big boy. He is starting to become much more opinionated about what he wants to do. We’ve actually be going through a bit of a rough patch because he has been getting very frustrated about not being able to communicate what he wants when it come to his snacks.

I’m sure it is just a phase as he is learning so many new words every day. His new favorite word is “cracker” or as he says it “cracka.” It’s becoming the universal word for food. Other words he says a lot are cheese, water, mommy, daddy, Abby, car, ball, baby, blankie, outside. He knows many of the farm animal sounds too and will call some of the animals by the sound they make. He is starting to repeat back a lot of words too. My proud moment was teaching him to say “pee pee” haha :) I am pretty sure he looked at himself in his car seat mirror today and said Lincoln.

He is a lover of books and will sit and “read” his books forever. He loves when we read to him but is also content flipping through all the pages and moving on to another book. When it comes to reading bedtime stories he definitely has his favorites and I always let him pick which ones to read because he won’t listen to a book if it’s not on his favorites list. He just looks longingly in his basket at the book he wishes we were reading.

Lincoln is 100% obsessed with being outside. He calls it “side” and will beg to go out on the deck. He lights up when he is out there and it helps to get him out of any bad mood he might be in. We are starting to collect a plethora of outside toys. We had a couple of things last year that he’s still interested in but our collection keeps growing. He loves his water table, golf clubs, push car and any type of ball. He loves checking out the garden and I can’t wait until our veggies are planted and we can pick them to eat.

His other obsession is toy cars. He loves the monster trucks at his sitter’s house so we went and bought him his very own and he was the happiest boy in the world. I’m actually not sure who  was more exciting about getting it, Lincoln or Mike :) His matchbox cars are another favorite and he walk around saying “car, car,car” when he is looking for them.

We are very much looking forward to this summer and playing outside. We have already spent more time in our backyard than we did all last year. I have lots of fun stuff planned for us too to get out and explore our area.

 

Lincoln 18 month 2

Wearing Daddy’s hat/ Swinging/ Reading in the morning/ Reading before bed

lincoln 18 month 1

Making silly faces in the front door/ Meeting a horse after our bike ride

Lincoln 18 month 3

Playing in the pool and water table

Friday, May 1, 2015

Cutting Cable: Saving with Sling TV

 

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I wrote a post back in 2012 about how we cut our cable bill by converting to internet TV. Since that post we have continued to watch shows through Hulu, Netflix and have added Amazon Prime to the mix because we got the membership for the two day shipping. I recently discovered a new option to watch tv on the internet called Sling TV. I’ve seen some reviews on it online but I felt like I needed to share my own opinion.

Let me first say I am writing this review completely on my own and was not compensated for it. I feel pretty strongly about the money savings we have enjoyed by not paying a cable bill but it is definitely a sacrifice since there are many shows we can’t watch through the options we have. When I first heard about Sling TV and told Mike about he took about two seconds to say we should try it. Sling TV is by Dish Network and it’s an internet TV service that offers several cable channels that include ESPN, ESPN 2, HGTV, AMC, Food Network, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, DIY Network, Cartoon Network and a few more.

The three channels that really swayed us were ESPN, HGTV and AMC. We already were buying the full season of the Walking Dead from Amazon and this would offer us another way to watch it in addition to getting the other channels. The cost for Sling TV is $20 a month and right now they are offering a deal to get a free Fire TV stick or Roku stick or 50% off a Fire TV or Roku box for prepaying for three months. We got the free Roku stick since we already have a Roku and are familiar with the interface. I felt like it was a good deal because I looked at it as getting three free months of Sling TV by paying for a Roku stick we were already considering buying.

Here’s the pros. It’s pretty awesome to have HGTV again. Mike and I have binged watched it on many occasions. I am in love with Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper and may move to Waco Texas just so they can design my house. Mike watches ESPN every second he can get. We are very pleased with the channel selection and find ourselves watching it probably 50% of our tv watching time.

Here’s the cons. By adding an extra $20 a month to our other bills of $7.99 for Hulu, $8.53 for Netflix and $50 for internet is getting us a lot closer to a full cable bill. It’s still a big savings because when we originally switched we were saving $80 a month. I don’t count Amazon Prime in this because I would keep that subscription even if I didn’t get the free shows but it is a cost of $99 a year or $8.25 a month.

The Sling TV interface kind of sucks. If you watch on the computer, the app you have to install is almost unusable. The shows kept freezing and if the show restarts you can’t fast forward to get back to the place you left off. The Roku app is a lot more stable but neither option has a very good search functionality to be able to find shows. The main functionality requires you to navigate to a channel and then scroll through previous shows if you want to watch them. Not all channels even have this functionality and some of them just allow you to start watching whatever is playing right now. Another downfall is that you can only watch on one device at a time.

Despite the cons I am pretty sure this TV option is here to stay for now. We may decide to cancel in the future but right now I need my HGTV fix and Mike needs his ESPN. We may burnout on those channels but right now I’m not sure how we lived without them. We moan and groan over the quirks of the interface but I have hopes that it gets improved one day. That being said, if you already have cable and want to switch you would probably not put up with this service. But if you have been deprived from these shows for years like us then you will put up with the quirkiness to have a chance to watch some previously not easily attainable cable shows.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April Blooms

 

It’s amazing how Spring comes after a long winter and I feel rejuvenated again. The budding trees and the blooming flowers have lifted the fog I’ve felt like I was in for the past couple of months. Of course going on vacation also helped with that.

I am feeling like spring cleaning around our house and ready to get out into the yard. We did some spring cleanup outside a few weeks ago when it was nice and Mike has already mowed the lawn twice. As in typical April fashion the temperatures are all over the place. We had a couple days in the lows 80s and we also had some snow showers.

Amidst all the crazy swings in temperature my garden has come alive again and I’m excited again about what has awoken after its winter slumber. Since we had to chop our big tree down out front I’m wondering if that will change the way our front bed behaves since there should be more sunlight once the leaves are out on the trees.

My garden always seems to bloom much later than many of the other yards in the neighborhood. I have seen tulips up but mine has not even set its buds yet.  So far I am getting lots of repeat blooms from past years and one newcomer.

I planted a big mixed bag of daffodils last fall since most of mine had died out. I got a pretty sad turnout for what bloomed this spring. I don’t remember the different types I planted but I have only seen two different types so far. I only got three yellow blooms from the traditional yellow daffodil even though there was lots more green stems that popped up.

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Then I have this really interesting variety that came up. This one has done the best because most of them have bloomed. I’ve never seen a Daffodil like this before. They are half the height of the traditional one and have multiple blooms on each flower. I had most of them grouped together since I tried to guess which bulbs looked the most similar when I planted them. I will need to move a couple around so they are in one bunch. Despite the disappointment of the other non blooming bulbs these ones are really fun.

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My hyacinth are not looking too hot this year. They did not bloom as much as in the past and the blooms were much smaller.

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I’m excited to get some good shots of my magnolia. It’s really hard to photograph and I always seem to get it too late. We had a frost after it started blooming and in past years that can mean disaster for the flowers but they seemed to hold up pretty well this year.

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My bleeding heart is looking great as always. This one always does really well every year. It’s really only just getting started and I expect it to at least double in size.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Start Vegetable and Herbs From Seed

 

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When I first really got into gardening I read a ton about starting plants from seed. I had done it in the past without really knowing what I was doing and still had success but I wanted to up my game. There are so many options for starting seeds so I’m going to tell you what works best for me.

Supplies:

Seeds

First you need to start out with some seeds. You can hit up your local Lowes/Home Depot, Walmart/Target or gardening supply store to find seeds. A chain store isn’t going to give you much variety in the way of seeds. This is the way I used to buy all my seeds but eventually I got tired of the same old selection and wanted something more.

Enter the internet. There are some great sites for buying seeds online. My favorite right now is Pinetree Seeds. There is an amazing selection of stuff you will never find in your local stores and you can actually checkout with your Amazon account. (As a complete Amazon junkie that was a special bonus for me this year.) Another site I really like is Gardens Alive. They also carry a lot of other great gardening products too so I order from here on occasion.

Plants that are good to start indoors are ones that require 4-6 weeks to grow before the last frost. This includes tomatoes, peppers, basil and parsley. Plants that are better direct seeded are beans, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, radish and peas. Root, vine and quick growing vegetables do better directly in the soil but you can have success planting inside if you don’t do it too early. I’ve found they do better when planted directly outside so that’s what I will do this year.

Soil

Now that you have your seeds you need some soil to plant them in. You want to use a mix specific for seed starting so it doesn’t contain any fungi and bacteria that could sabotage your tiny seedlings. I have used Jiffy seed starting mix in the past but I am not particular to any one brand and you can pick it up anywhere that sells gardening supplies.

My tip for using the seed starting mix is to wet it down before you fill up your containers. It is very light and hard to get it to absorb moisture at first so if you wet it down in a big bowl first it is easier to get it at the right consistency before planting.

Containers

Now that you have your seeds and soil you need to put them in something. I have tried just about everything. I was on a big budget gardening kick at one point and made my own containers from newspaper. It worked but I found they started disintegrating after being wet for a while. I also saved yogurt containers and drilled holes in the bottom. I planted in those with pretty good success although they can be a little larger than necessary for some plants. I have also used peat pellets before and they were a disaster. They are wrapped in a fine mesh that I didn’t realize you have to remove and it distorted a lot of the roots of the plants I grew. Plus they are kind of pricey.

My latest endeavors have been with peat pot six packs I got at a garage sale in a brand new kit someone never used. I found I was successful with them but I peeled much of the peat sides away before planting my seedlings outside. Another idea is to use little paper or styrofoam cups to start seedlings. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers to get these seeds going and there are a million and one links out on Google for ideas on random containers to use to start seeds.

Other supplies

Something else useful to have is some kind of tray to set all your seeds, a watering can, some kind of plant labels (I am using popsicle sticks right now) and a sunny window with an optional additional artificial light.

Time to Plant

Once you have all your supplies, place the soil in the container and punch a little divot in the soil at the recommendation of your package (you can use a chopstick or eraser side of a pencil for this.) Place 2-3 seeds in the soil because not all seeds will germinate. Cover the seeds with soil and once you have all your seeds planted, wet from the bottom by pouring water into your tray. This is why it’s good to pre wet your soil. You ideally don’t want to pour water in the top because your seeds can wash away and once your seedlings sprout you can drown them.

Now place your seeds in a sunny, preferably warm place. If you have an overhead light to use as an additional grow light this will make your plants grow faster and stronger. I have used one in the past but it’s not a necessity. If you can cover your seeds to help them germinate do that now too. Once the seedlings pop up though you need to remove the cover or they will be too wet.

Now is the fun waiting game. Your seed package will tell you how long a seed will take to germinate. Some happen in a couple of days and some can take weeks.

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This is what my seedlings looked like 6 days after planting them.

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