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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Hammock and Owls

Wooden owl.Several weeks ago we bought a hammock. We had perfect spacing between a pair of trees in our backyard to hang it on.

Our hammock area.However we knew that those trees were close to death when we moved in. These particular ashes were being killed by invasive beetles that have killed off pretty much all ash trees in the area.

Owls. We decided to put them up at a different height.Along with those ash trees we had another five trees that were either completely dead or on their last breaths so to speak. This area gets hit by strong storms from time to time, so we wanted to make sure that none of these trees fall on the house. We did hire a company and had them all cut down.

View from the deck.The crew of five people worked from 8am to 5pm. It cost us $3,200 to cut them all down and removed from our lot. A lot of money, but a very good deal considering the price of such work in the area.

Another angle.We asked to leave long stumps for where our hammock would hang. And in order to make it look presentable we ordered a pair of owls specially cut for us by a local artist. They were installed today.
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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Canada 2019

We're all over Canada.This is going to be somewhat of a different approach to a vacation post that I usually take.

Kids.The main difference is that the vast majority of our trip was very similar to the one we took exactly three years ago. Even the time of the year was pretty much spot on.

First dinner of the trip. A short top close to Canadian border.So I’m going to concentrate on things that were different instead. And the first thing that was the biggest difference was the company.

First dinner of the trip. A short top close to Canadian border.Since Ilya’s kids have a spring break at the same very time as our kids and they wanted to go to Canada for a while now I offered to join us up once I booked it. And they took us up on this offer.

Looking at lit up falls.We tried our best on sharing things that we liked and saw and I hope that we mostly succeeded. Different people do vacations differently and our typical approach to vacations, for many many years now, was that we try not to concentrate on fitting into a specific budget. This is one time when we just close the eyes on the costs and try to just enjoy it.

Pretty colors of the falls.This kind of approach started way before we had kids and had less responsibilities, but it kind of stuck with us. So we had a couple of slight hiccups on this front, but overall, no major differences.

First morning.We all wanted to see similar things and because of Ilya’s family we ended up visiting a bunch of new things that we would’ve probably skipped on our own.

American falls.Plus we loved the company in the pools. Kids typically are quite demanding in the pool and always want us to play some kind of games with them. This time they had friends to play with. But not only that, but Ilya is one of the most dedicated dads I know. He spent hours upon hours of playing games with all the kids while I lazily soaked in a hot tub.

Mandatory selfie.One of the big achievements on the swimming front is our discovery of Anna’s swimming abilities. While all the time she used floatation devices, it turned out that when you take them off she actually can swim. And pretty well at that. She swims going forward and she can swim on her back like a little torpedo.

Horseshoe part of the falls.I guess she was as surprised by that discovery as we were, so we couldn’t really talk her into using her floatation devices anymore. She wanted to go and go and go on her own.

Under the falls view.And we also might’ve solved her ear problem. She kept ending up with ear infections and pain in her ears after the pools. This time we used a rubber cap to protect her ears and it seemed to have worked well.

Us under the falls.Back to the itinerary of our vacation itself. This was the first time when we drove out from Ridgefield instead of Brooklyn. I was amazed that by the end of our drive to Niagara Falls — our first stop — my average speed was 68MPH. Never could we just get on the road and drive without getting stuck in a single traffic congestion while living in Brooklyn.

Rainforest Cafe.The drive was uneventful as was the border crossing and we were in our hotel at around 8PM. About six and a half hours of driving plus an hour or so for dinner.

Rainforest Cafe.Last time Anna was only 2 years old and we always ended up going to bed before sun sat down. This time kids noticed lit up waterfalls from the Rainbow Bridge — border crossing — and once we checked-in, talked us into going down to the falls.

Rainforest Cafe.So this was the first time they saw Niagara at night. We saw the Bride’s Veil falls well with all kinds of animating lights, but the water mist rising from Horseshoe part of the falls and light reflecting in all that obscured the bigger part of the falls pretty much completely.

Ferris wheel in Niagara.We started the next day with a trip through the tunnels under the Horseshoe part of the falls. Unimpressive is the word. Just a tunnel with a couple of small openings and a viewing platform with mediocre views.

Go-karter.The movie that we watched about the history of the falls and a little bit of a 3D experience that was included in the package ended up being more fun. I learned that the whirlpool on Niagara actually formed in a matter of hours. The river hit some soft portion of the rock formations and everything came crumbling down.

More pro-drivers.For lunch we decided to go to Rain Forest Cafe. Kids remembered it from the last time and really wanted to go. While we remembered the food wasn’t really stellar it somehow turned out to be ever worse this time. Kids did enjoy the animal shows, but everyone suffered through their lunch.

Outside the go-carting course.I think that was probably the biggest fail of a food experience during the trip. We also had a very mediocre lunch on our way to Montreal from Toronto. We stopped a in a tiny town of Gananoque in a Thousand Islands region. Every restaurant was closed for the season and we actually ended up in the same exact place as last time. Zero choice.

What is this ancient thing?Back to Niagara — dinner in a Brazilian Steak House — Brasa — was as good as we remembered. I ate a lot of steak. Arosha was finished with steak fairly quickly, but then he proceeded to consume what seems to be two full roasted pineapples.

Cable car.While walking through the town of Niagara we discovered a newly constructed Go-Kart course. Everyone partook in the experience. Arosha for the first time in his life actually drove a kart by himself. He did well and really enjoyed the experience. All the other kids had to ride with parents because of height limits.

Over the river.The second day in Niagara turned out to be quite rainy. But we did two interesting things. First of all I finally rode in 1916 Whirlpool Aero Car — a carriage that is supported by six steel cables that goes over the whirlpool of Niagara River.

Cable car ride over Niagara whirlpool.I’ve seen this thing many many times before. But either it had very long lines during tourist season or it was closed for the low season. This time it seems to have just opened and there were no people. It was very rainy and cold. And the ride wasn’t really anything special, but I was happy to cross this achievement off my list.

Butterfly Conservatory, Hoping for a landing.Another new thing we did was visit a place called Bird Kingdom — world’s largest free-flying indoor aviary. Kids had a blast. Two parts stand out the most — they were able to take pictures with large macaw parrots on their hands.

Butterfly on Anna's hair.And another thing was that they were able to participate in feeding lorikeets — a kind of parrots. And because there weren’t too many people due to low season they ended up going on multiple circles of this adventure.

Butterfly Conservatory. Looking for more landings.In Toronto we ended up doing a couple of new things beside the mandatory tour and dinner at the top of CN Tower. We explored a complex of office buildings linked together by a beautiful galleria. The complex is called Brookfield Place. The unusual interior makes it quite photogenic and interesting to explore.

Aroshka's shoulder.There is also a Hockey Hall of Fame inside, but we only took a couple of pictures at the entrance of it and didn’t go inside. I guess none of us know much about hockey and its history so nobody had an urge to explore it fully.

Success.The big thing that we did this time was a visit to Toronto’s Ripley’s Aquarium. I must say that this must’ve been the best aquarium that I’ve been to and I’ve been to quite a few.

Success.It has a lot of different exhibits, but the best thing was a glass tunnel that goes right through the aquarium itself. And the most amazing creature that I saw while walking through it was an enormous saw fish. Huge. Not to mention a multitude of sharks, turtles, rays and all other kinds of things swimming around you.

Bird Kingdom.In Montreal we, again, did a lot of the same things as last time. However we did catch an organ playing at sailors’ church. For lunch we went back to the fondue place that we’ve been to two times before. This kind of unusual and authentic food connects you more to a foreign place that you are visiting.

Down the falls.We went for the beef broth again, since our kids really do not like cheese for some reason. Our family enjoyed the experience with kids cooking their own meats and vegetables. And we felt more of French Canada, so to speak.

Feeding lorikeets.Second day in Montreal was again rainy. Ilya, thought, found an archeological museum that we haven’t been to before. I didn’t expect much from it, but it turned out to be very interesting. We actually stood at a place where Montreal formed and learned about its early days. It’s always nice to learn new things about the place that you’ve been many times to and yet haven’t delved into its history much before.

Wing-span.For dinner the four of us went to a place that Alёna and I have discovered on our last trip. Although we had a bit of a lunch fiasco. We decided to be hungry when EVERYTHING got closed for a switch-over from lunch to dinner menu. We were very close to actually eating at Burger King.

Bird Kingdom.But we found a coffee shop where we bought a pair of croissants for our kids, so we were able to hold out for pretty much two hours until places started to open back up.

Brasa — Brazilian steakhouse.The memorable part of this dinner was our acquisition of authentic Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc beer glasses. This beer happens to be our current favorite and we couldn’t find these glasses for sale. So we asked if we could buy a pair from the restaurant.

Brazilian steakhouse.The waiter said that he will give them to us. I guess what he really meant was that he will not tell anyone at the restaurant either, but we did take them. We also gave him a really good tip. So these glasses now have their history.

Somewhere in Toronto.And we have crossed another achievement of our list — we actually rode Uber for the first time. We didn’t want to walk all the way back to our hotel under the rain, so we tried it. It worked really well. I guess there is a reason there is all this hype about the service.

Inside Brookfield Place.And our last stop was Albany. The new thing we did here was visiting New Your State Museum that Ilya’s family discovered. Third time in Albany, never noticed that it existed.

Brookfield Place.The museum turned out to be free and much more impressive than I expected. Its exhibitions are a nice combination of a history and natural history items. A lot of a fun sections including an almost full skeleton of mastodon. I was very surprised to discover that African elephant is actually larger in size than either mammoths or mastodons ever were.

Brookfield Place.And on our last night of vacation all eight of us had a nice dinner at a table meant for six people. But I think it actually made things more intimate and close and put a nice period on this trip with good friend and good company.

And just a whole bunch of addition pictures follow below. Continue Reading

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Small Office Updates

My gray desk with a pair of 27" 5K monitors powered by top-specced 2018 MacBook Pro 15. Philips Hue strip behind the desk.I finally got around to redoing some of the pictures of my office. Some of the minor changes are the acquisition of Sonos One speaker and a couple of nice trinkets. I love my cacti collection. A set of pots with little plants and a set of glass ones. And then there is a steampunk mask we brought from Venice.

Twenty-one panel Nanoleaf arrow on the wall.The biggest change is the addition of a twenty one panel Nanoleaf setup on the wall. This thing is amazingly hard to photograph well because of its high level of brightness, but it really is beautiful in person. I have set to turn on automatically when I walked into the office along with my Hue light-strip behind the desk.

And the back wall is pretty much unchanged.And the last change is my monitor arm setup. So in my process I went from $700 arm to $200 arm to $30 arm. And the latter is one I settled one. It’s made by VIVO. All I wanted was to position my monitors in a perfect straight line next to each other and never touch them again. This cheap arm does just that.

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Monday, June 24, 2019

The First Year Sagа

I'll start from the end. This is our little helper mowing the lawn just this past weekend.For our first anniversary of living in our own house I’ve decided to go pick out all home related pictures on my phone taken throughout this year. I heavily trimmed this collection and still have ended up with a massive number — 100 photos in total.

These photos tell a gradual story of us making this home ours. It starts out with how things were and how we progressed to making it what it is now. We’ve done a LOT of things and this collection show only certain aspects of our saga. Although even a number of later photos in this collection is already outdated.

The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.The photo of the entrance taken during our original inspection. This hideous chandelier has got to go.

Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.Dining room photo taken on the same day. Hideous wall lights and another terrible chandelier.

First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.First shots of the patio. Note the chair. It will show up later in this set. We are going to restore it to its former glory.

View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.View of the kitchen from the living room. That bracket on the wall is going to be replaced with a TV that we often watch during our meals at that kitchen bar.

Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.Kitchen from another angle. Our furniture of our first weeks can be seen through the door on the side.

Our naked porch door.Our naked porch door.

Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.Empty porch. Great place to eat during the summer dinners, especially with guests. No furniture yet.

Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.Same porch, different angle. It really needs stuff. And a grill which will be our first purchase for the new house.

These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!These are the last days in our apartment. All our stuff is packed and ready to be moved. What a mess!

And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.And our things have been relocated to our house. Last minutes at a place that has been our home for the last 11 years.

Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.Our first acquisition. Weber Genesis II three burner grill. We bought it on the very first day of staying in the house.

The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.The installation of a new septic system has commenced in the first few weeks after the move. Our poor backyard is being completely destroyed.

Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.Septics tanks go into the front yard, which also is being completely destroyed. The leaching field is in the back of the backyard in the previous picture.

Septic tanks go here. We've replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.Septic tanks go here. We’ve replaced old three bedroom system with a brand new much larger system that can support a four bedroom house.

And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It's going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.And the septic tanks themselves. A pair of these massive concrete containers. It’s going to take us a while to get our yard back to a nice green lawn.

Our new bed has arrived. We've finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn't match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We're gong to fix that.Our new bed has arrived. We’ve finally upgraded to a king size bed with a great Casper mattress. The bedding doesn’t match yet. And there are still green curtains on the windows that were left by the previous owners. We’re gong to fix that.

We've decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.We’ve decided to put a sleeper sofa into the office. When we have a lot of guest over we have a nice and private place to sleep at.

We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.We got this sofa as a free bonus when we ordered our bedroom set. It folds out into a fairly comfortable queen sized bed and looks modern enough not to spoil the overall look of the room.

New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We've got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We're gong to fix that.New and expensive entrance chandelier! Gift from the parents. It took Alёna and I lot of time and energy to install it. But it looks amazing. We’ve got numerous compliments on it. The shelves on the wall are still a mess. We’re gong to fix that.

A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.A new and expensive dining room chandelier. Also a huge upgrade over the previous monstrosity. And we kept hitting our heads on the old one. So we put this one closer to the ceiling. It was even harder to install this one because of its massive weight.

Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.Entrance chandelier installed. Beautiful.

Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We're going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.Next up is our closet. It was in for a complete reconstruction. We’re going to transform it to a much more usable space. First order of business was tearing out ancient built in drawers. The top part in this pictures has just been taken out.

Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.Walls are patched and painted. Old cheap closet system is next to go.

We’re building out a new interior using Ikea PAX system. Lots of furniture construction. Everything is screwed together and attached to the walls.

Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down this post.Almost there. Still a bunch of finishing touches left. More drawers, boxes on the top, new lighting. End result shot is further down.

New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flower and they produce a really nice light pattern when on.New sconces! Same style as the chandelier. These replace a pair of really ugly looking flowers and they produce a really nice light pattern when turned on.

Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.Switches for our Hue bulbs. Every smart device in our house has a physical controls. This is a 3D printed plate that goes over the actual switches.

Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.Arosha always loved trampolines. None of his friends would really let him jump on them freely. Some were downright mean. So when we finally had a massive backyard we could not not buy one. We put it together right after the septic install was done. And our kids love it. A year in and it gets used on multiple occasions almost every week.

A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It's not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We're going to fix that.A brand new SONY XBR-55X900F 55 inch TV mounted on the wall in our family room. At first I was trying to hire somebody to put these up. But then I ended up doing it myself. It’s not nearly as hard as it seems. A good bracket from Amazon and some tools along with a good stud finder. A cable is still visible on this picture. We’re going to fix that.

And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.And the same for our living room kitchen TV. This is our old Samsung that we brought with us. Mounted the same way as our SONY. This is the shot after the electrical plugs have been installed behind the TV. No wires. Both TVs are powered by WIFI connected Apple TVs. HD for kitchen, 4K for family room. Both are invisibly mounted behind the TVs themselves.

Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don't fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.Our massive new sofa has arrived. We scoured a ton of furniture stores in Brooklyn and some others in CT. Most American stores just don’t fit our tastes. And Russian stores either have tiny apartment oriented sofas available or to get something large and modern an order had to be placed with 4-6 months wait. So we went the WayFair way.

Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you're going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it's close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.Sadly going with online furniture purchases you never know what you’re going to get. While this sectional looks great it turned out to be not very comfortable. Luckily this was easily remedied with a couple of throw pillows that can be used for support. Also some parts were miss-aligned, so I took it apart and reassembled it anew. Now it’s close to perfect. WayFair refunded a lot of our money for this order because of all the issues. So in the end we got a stellar deal for a great sectional.

Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.Master bedroom is almost finished. We used the curtains from our apartment living room. These were color perfect for our red theme. Some nice abstract art above the headboard. And a pair of good looking modern lamps. We have Hue bulbs in these, so they take on different colors depending on the mood.

Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs -- just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.Mounted this massive IKEA mirror from our apartment in our master bedroom. Same concept as TVs — just need to find the studs for it not to fall down along with the wall.

And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.And another wall of our bedroom. Some modern abstract art in red and black. The metals plates are custom hand made pieces of art.

And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we've replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.And the final version of our closet. Came out really functional and good looking. Since this picture was taken we’ve replaced the bedding set, but there are no pictures of that yet.

Anna's room is also taking shape. We've put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.Anna’s room is also taking shape. We’ve put up the curtains from our apartment bedroom. It matches her theme well. And there is a small portion of her zoo on the wall.

We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron's room. His whole room is space themed.We got a new set of space themed curtains for Aaron’s room. His whole room is space themed.

And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.And then he got a desk. This one also came from WayFair, but we have zero complains. Its price was good, the desk is nice. Anna has got the same one, only in white.

Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.Our patio is starting to take form. Unrestored chair and a new fire pit.

Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.Now we acquired some furniture. Arosha has actually talked us into this set. He paid for his armchair and its ottoman with his own money. We added some tables, chairs and a loveseat.

Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.Our porch is also fully stocked. We got quite an expensive aluminum and teak set from a local Patio.com location. We were contemplating about getting a full wooden set, but are happy with our decision. It spent a winter outdoors and looks as good as new.

We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.We had an empty corner in the living room, so we decided to put a pair of abstract looking shelves into it. We have a lot of trinkets, mementoes and other things to display to make this room cozier. It came out nice.

We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked. We can write a novel about getting this table. It started with us ordering a dining room set from WayFair for over $4,000. It kept getting delivered only partially and with broken parts. The veneer turned out to be paper thin. We decided to go with WayFair after going through a multitude of stores and not finding anything we liked.

And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair's set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn't be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.And once we placed a WayFair order we went to IKEA and saw the above pictured set. We were disappointed because it looked great, the wood was solid, the leather chairs were really a good match for our whole overall look and the price was a fraction of WayFair’s set. In the end after another failed delivery attempt we canceled our order for a full refund. And promptly ordered this set. Couldn’t be happier. And we added a pair of wooden chairs in the same color for bigger capacity.

To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.To finish the room off we ordered a pair of mirrors finished in the same color of wood. Also from IKEA. These can be seen on this photo and the one above. We were originally thinking of putting a rectangular mirror on that wall, but when we saw these we liked the idea of a pair of them much more. It came out well.

Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15" MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.Then my office got a new desk in gray and all new hardware. A pair of 27 inch 5K monitors powered by a brand new 2018 15″ MacBook Pro with pretty much maxed out specs.

This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we've been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.This is a draft of the office back wall. I had a book full of National Park posters for years, but never got around to ordering frames and putting them up on the wall. We picked out some of the best looking ones from some of the parks we’ve been to. But I hated the wall color of the office. It was so boring.

So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.So we had an opportunity to solve two problems. When we were buying the house we realized that one of the garages was too small to fit a full size car. And we had an extra foot or two in the office. So we moved the wall. This one we hired a contractor to do.

Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we've made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.Now our garage can comfortably fit both of our cars. We are so happy we’ve made a decision to do this. This made winter so much easier to handle.

We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.We took this chance and repainted the office. For some reason I wanted to have orange teal theme for a long time. I think it came out great. Very cozy. Love it.

This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.This is the other side of the office and my setup. I took this chance and attached a color Hue LED strip that I had laying around behind the desk. And I finally broke down and bought myself Steelcase Gesture chair. And the shelf in the corners serves as home for our relic collection of DVDs.

And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna's mom searched all the stores in Minsk and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.And our living room got curtains! We love curtains. They fully transform the rooms. Alёna’s mom searched all the stores in Minsk and sent us a ton of pictures. We picked the ones we liked. She had them sized and prepared and sent a full set to us as a gift. We love how cozy our living room became.

The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.The other side of the living room. Our patio furniture is spending a winter in our living room. In fact, we liked it so much that in the spring we ordered an actual furniture set to take its place. And we finally started hanging some paintings on the walls.

Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.Then winter came. We finally had a chance to use our wood burning fireplace. We had the chimney cleaned and a pair of caps installed on top. For some reasons the house had none.

Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was a bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.Then we went to Italy in November and brought back a set of handmade Venetian masks to put above our fireplace. We also got a really nice looking, funky, modern lamp for our family room. It was a bit expensive, but we think it was worth it.

We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.We ended up doing some modifications to the fireplace on the chimney guy recommendations. We added one inch thick metal backplate to reflect the heat into the room and we added a vertical grate so the wood burns agains that backplate.

We donated some money to a local boy scout group and they in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.We donated some money to a local boy scout group and they in turn sent us this wreath. We put a hook into the wall between our garages and put the wreath up for the duration of the winter.

Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We're getting a snowblower for our next winter.Then some snow started falling. We had a very mild winter. Alёna did most of the driveway cleaning herself, with a shovel. We only had to use a plow once. We’re getting a snowblower for our next winter.

When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up all old windows in the bedrooms and family room.When we started getting our heating bills we decided that we need to make a bunch of improvements. I installed our first smart thermostat. Then we added another heating zone. Alёna taped up all old windows in the bedrooms and family room.

Arosha and I got Nanoleaf light panels as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha's up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the world that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.Arosha and I got Nanoleaf light panels as gifts for New Year. We put Arosha’s up on January first. And also finally hung a map of the world that we had up in our apartment. And there is a Venetian mask of moon and sun that he bought in Venice.

It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quite a bit.It took me a while to figure out the pattern for my Nanoleaf. I tried a bunch with stencils and settled on this arrow that I like quite a bit.

It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.It came out great. I have it light up along with the strip behind the desk when I walk into the office.

The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.The parents gave us a pair of vases from their collection. We really liked them because they really matched our family room color theme of orange and blue or teal. They also later brought a very modern looking plate from one of their vacations. We replaced our tulip vase with that plate.

We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flue open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is still simmering. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.We ended up putting glass doors on our fireplace. The problem was that we had to leave the flue open for the night after the fire in the evening. So by morning all the warm air would get sucked out and replaced by cold air. Now we can close the glass doors while the fire is still simmering. And some modern art. Although we just replaced this one for a bigger one from the same artist.

Anna's got a storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha's got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.Anna’s got storage shelves from IKEA Kallax series. Arosha’s got the same thing, but in different color. We placed his one horizontally and filled it with different looking containers.

Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor. Our living room and kitchen spot lights are filled with Phillips Hue color bulbs. We had a bunch of themes programmed for the top floor.

There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter's Wow. It's pink and purple, naturally.There is an orange teal one, fire mood one that consists of red orange and yellow tones and there is a theme called Daughter’s Wow. It’s pink and purple, naturally.

At this point we have all walls decorating with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he's been giving us a lot of them. Some we put into the storage, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.At this point we have all walls decorated with paintings. My dad has a pretty good collection and he’s been giving us a lot of them. Some we put into the storage, and some go up on the walls. We keep shifting them around from time to time. We also acquired a nice orange teal pot for our plant that used to fit in a tea cup.

I brought some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.I brought some of my prints I had in the office at work. They are not cheap to make, but I never had a place to hang them at home. Now our hallway seemed like a perfect place.

Then we printed a pair of square ones -- my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.Then we printed a pair of square ones — my photographs of lighthouses from Cape Cod. This goes really well with our hallway and our black-gray and white theme of the bathroom.

We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we've already replaced with a different one.We added a small mail and key shelf by the entrance door. And we added some shoe shelves inside the closet by the same door. And the paintings that are pictured here we’ve already replaced with a different one.

And when you enter the house you see these. Although we've already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we're keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it's very lright, in case it falls down.And when you enter the house you see these. Although we’ve already replaced the bottom one. The one above the stairs we’re keeping. It has this Russian feel to it that it seems appropriate. Plus it’s very light, in case it falls down.

More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.More art in the corner. Our family room lamp with Hue bulbs in Orange Teal mode and our smart diffuser in teal.

Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actual switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.Tripple Hue switches by the bathroom entrance. The actual switches are inside the the bathroom behind the door. This a more convenient place to control them.

Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna's mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight as well.Our play room is kind of visible from the street, especially when kids play inside with lights on. Alёna’s mom did another major search and we went with this gray purple theme throughout our play and guest rooms. Privacy curtains. Nice for when the guests are staying overnight as well.

We finally bought an actual bed for the guest room. We had our expensive queen size mattress on the floor from our apartment bed. We kept thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a sleeper sofa, but then it was too new and too expensive to throw out. So it got a bed.We finally bought an actual bed for the guest room. We had our expensive queen size mattress on the floor from our apartment bed. We kept thinking about getting rid of it and replacing it with a sleeper sofa, but then it was too new and too expensive to throw out. So it got a bed.

And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.And then the bed got a nice purple set that matches the lower floor decor. It also got some art and a vintage lamp with Edison bulb.

Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch in the evenings, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.Once it started to get warm I installed string lights on the porch that we had laying around since the middle of the winter. It was always kind of dark on the porch in the evenings, so we thought this kind of lighting would be very fitting and useful.

We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.We leveled them out along the edge, connected them to a smart plug and put a switch on the door. It makes the place cozier even during daylight.

Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.Then at some point during the spring we ordered a shed. First step was installing a foundation for it. This was included in the price of the shed.

Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It's been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.Shed itself got delivered on May 1st. But I have a full post about it already. It’s been very useful so far. And we built a pathway for it. That took a lot of effort.

We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It's main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.We also installed a nice looking privacy film on garage windows. It’s main purpose is actually to hide the mess that we have inside the garage. Looks much neater from the outside.

Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.Then we added a couple of nice details to the porch. We were hunting for some nice plaque to put up for a while. And then WayFair came thought. Nice, rough looking plaque that welcomes people to Gather Here.

Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it's mostly empty, but we're working on filling it up.Another thing that we found was a box for beer bottle caps. It proclaims that the best beer is an open beer. The season has just started, so it’s mostly empty, but we’re working on filling it up.

Then when the warm days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.Then when the warm days became more frequent we tackled a project of replacing all of our old bedroom windows with a nice, expensive wooden double pane ones. Old ones were horrible and drafty. Single pane glass, crafted of small glass pieces, falling apart.

Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn't. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.Most of the house had new windows, but bedrooms didn’t. So we replaced all in all six of them. That was not cheap at all.

As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would've thought that we would buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these.As I mentioned before, once our patio furniture returned outside we ordered a nice gray leather and metal set for our living room. Fits the color theme of the room and is very comfrotable. Who would’ve thought that we would ever buy furniture from Raymour & Flanigan at some point? But I got us a really good deal on these and they actually look good.

At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seeded it.At the end of April we went full tilt into landscaping. We were determined to fix backyard and front yard grass that was destroyed by septic install. We bought new top soil, leveled it out, installed irrigation system and seeded it.

A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it's still not perfect. But it's a huge leap from what it was.A month later we have a nice, green backyard and front yard. It took a lot of effort, time and money and it’s still not perfect. But it’s a huge leap from what it was.

We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.We also cleaned up our side yard. And then we mulched it. And we planned a hydrangea that was gifted to us by my mom.

Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna's.Our right house bed was empty. Last year we planned two bushes. This year we bought a young spruce and a lilac tree. Spruce was my pick and lilac was Alёna’s.

And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.And then Alёna removed all the weeds from the beds and we mulched both of them with red mulch.

And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.And a week later she cleaned up our newly grown hosta. And she put a bunch of red mulch there as well.

And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.And here is a chair that I mentioned at the start of the post. At this point it was washed and sanded. Holes were filled in and it was sanded again.

And here it is reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I'm glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.And here it is reborn in red. We bought a brown one to keep it company. Turns out these things are quite expensive, so I’m glad we saved ours instead of disposing of it.

Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.Several weeks ago we invited some friends over. And then we realized that our wide chairs only fit 8 people on the porch. So we acquired a bench from the same set as our dining table. And we got some more pillows for it. It fills out an empty corner nicely and it served us well for larger gatherings.

This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done by one of my dad's known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.This is one of the last paintings updates. We got another painting done by one of my dad’s known artist friends, so we made space for it in the dining room. Note the light pattern produced by the wall sconces. Pleasant.

And our last touch so far has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It's really nice and kids are loving it.And our last touch so far has been an acquisition of a hammock! We wanted to get it last summer, but somehow never got around to it. It’s really nice and kids are loving it.

On Wednesday we have a crew coming over that is going to remove six dead trees from our lot. These have been bothering us and we don’t want any of them falling on the house during some storm. So that’s going to be a nice thing to get done, although it also will be not cheap.

And thus I conclude a look at some parts of our first year saga of house ownership. It’s been a good year.
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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Some Grilling Notes

Grilled vegetables.The grilling season is upon us, so it’s time to expand our summer cooking horizons. Our most infallible item is still grilled salmon, but we’ve tried a few new things as well.

Salmon


Ridgеfield's summers are great.I marinated the salmon in mixed garlic-lemon zest-lemon juice-olive oil-salt mixture last time. It had a bit of added flavor, but on the down side it separated from the skin and somewhat fell apart on the grill. I still like it as a variation of the plain grilled salmon, which I’ve grew quite tired off by now.

Grilled Italian sausages


Ignat, Vika and Alisa weekend.Of course we’ve grilled them before, but on occasion they were under-cooked inside or somewhat burned outside. So after doing some research we found that the secret step to insure evenly cooked, juicy and crispy on the outside sausages is poaching. Pretty much you put them in cold water, bring to a boil, let simmer minute, turn the heat off and let them cool in the pot.

Roasted peppers and onions


Welcoming summer.This is not a dish cooked on the grill, but it came out so nice, that I wanted to put it here before I forgot all about it. We found the recipe bounded together with the sausage recipe. Just in case the link will stop working: I mixed 6 bell peppers, large sweet onion, 6 tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. The vegetables were julienned, cut and sliced to my liking. I did not have any fresh basil on hand, but I’m sure adding it would have only enhanced the flavors. I roasted the vegetables in 370 F degree oven for a little over an hour, turning twice.

Steak


Thick ribeye steak.This is not a new item for us either, but Daniel keeps experimenting with different cuts of meat. He figured out that the steak thinner than an inch comes out too dry and he actually liked the 2 inch rib eye the most so far. I marinated it in salt, pepper, oil and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce for about an hour. Not sure if that made the meat better, but it’s a possibility.

Corn


Marshmallows.We used to grill corn wrapped in foil, but I wanted to see if we can avoid this time consuming and waste-producing step. Turns out that you can. More over, the cooking time is shorter and the corn has more flavor! So we simply removed the husks, grilled the corn on medium heat for about 10 minutes turning once and rubbed it with butter right after, while it was still hot.

Pineapple


Grilled pineapple.We always loved pineapple in Brazilian steakhouses, but never grilled it at home before. I think Ilya got us excited about grilling it after our Canadian trip, so we tried it and the results were pretty nice. The process is simple — cut pineapple in wedges first, then cut the core and the skin off, then coat with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon and grill.

Pork


Well done marshmallows.We’ve tried some recipe last year, but I can’t remember what it was. This time we marinated pork chops in mashed onion (I used an immersion blender to mash it), salt and pepper mixture. This is actually the recipe that I got from Illona for pork shish kebab, but we don’t have a mangal yet, so we just tried it with chops. They came out pretty well — soft and onion-y.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Memorial Day Weekend

Garden with red mulch.This year our Memorial Day weekend ended up being a kind of suburban super-event. We’ve spent three and a half days working on our yard, front and back and have started, moved along and completed a large number of projects.

So I just wanted to do a diary kind of post and list out a bunch of these things in sequence.

Front yard with freshly cut grass.I had a half day at work on Friday because of an incoming long weekend. We’ve started with mowing the lawn right after arrival of my dad and my sister for their long weekend stay.

My dad asked us not to do the whole lawn ahead of their arrival because he loves the smell of a fresh cut grass.

Hydrangea.Speaking of mowers — we have purchased an electric Ego mower powered by a massive battery that lasts for a good hour and a half on a self-propelled machine. No messing with gasoline, no oil changes, no hard starts. Press a button and it runs.

In fact we were so impressed with it that now we have a full set of Ego tools — a wire grass trimmer, a chain saw, a hedge trimmer and as of this weekend a leaf blower for small clean-up jobs that can be used in place of a usual sweeper.

Leveling the sand.Back to the diary — we installed three large stepping stones next to our trash bins for easier access. And we finished fully mulching our “mid-yard” — total 10 bags of red mulch used. Home Depot had them on sale for $2 per bag.

Towards the end of Friday we marked down the area for our shed walkway with stakes and orange string.

Marking off the new portion.And at the end of the day I drove down to a local train station to pick up my mom who was coming down directly from Manhattan after her work day.

This was the first time that my parents decided to arrive separately — the reason for that was a nightmarish traffic that can precede a long weekend. Dad and sister drove out in the morning and missed it all and trains are trains.

Digging.On Saturday morning Alёna took Arosha to taekwondo make up class and took my dad and Anna along with them for a walk in a park after the class.

Meanwhile my mom and Lina were busy making a massive lunch-dinner meal for the family — manti. Probably one of my favorite dishes, but it is very time and labor intensive to prepare.

Gravel.When Alёna arrived we started digging the foundation of our shed walk. It was going very slowly. The soil was filled with gravel and we had to work our way through it with picks — these were kindly gifted to us by one of our neighbors.

After eating our lunch we proceeded to dig further and made good progress for the day.

Almost done.Also I went through our lawn with a rake to collect all the excess grass that was left by a mower a day before. The grass grows really quickly this time of the year and we decided to leave the grass on the lawn instead of bagging it.

In retrospect this was not a right decision, but an easily correctable one.

Grilling.Also we spend a good amount of time on walking around our whole property and cutting down parasitic vines off our trees. Some were chocking trees, some were just starting, but we had a lot. We used a big wire-cutters and an axe when that wouldn’t work.

After running through bushes, grass and tick-untreated areas we all did a mandatory shower and tick check — one of the dark sides of life in Connecticut.

Salmon and steak.We finished the Saturday with putting kids to bed and had a nice conversation for several hours in our kitchen with parents and Lina.

Sunday was started with work on the dig. And we only finally completed that job on Monday. We took out a large number of huge boulders out of the earth during the process.

Lunch on the porch.Then I took a drive to a local supermarket to acquire provisions for grilling. I bought three 2-inch thick steaks, a medium-sized salmon filet, 8 burger patties, vegetables and grilling beans.

The steaks, fish and vegetables we grilled for lunch. Everyone seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

Spruce and lilac.After lunch I used our manual aerator to lift up a bunch of soil in the areas of backyard where we are growing new grass — quite successfully so far.

We felt that we could’ve put down more seed during our initial sowing, so I repeated the process in the areas that seemed sparse with new grass.

Mulched bushes.When I was done with grass we got into our cars and went to a highly recommended nursery in Bethel — Hollandia Nursery.

My mom wanted to get us a new plan and she settled down on hydrangea. And Alёna and I got a pair of our long-standing wishes fulfilled. Alёna loves lilac and we bought a young plant for ourselves. And I wanted to get an evergreen tree for the longest time — so we got a young spruce.

Lilac.Then we rearranged out empty planting bed. We moved one of the bushes we planted last year closer to the center and planted our spruce close to the steps and our lilac to the opposite end of the bed.

For all these plants we started with peat moss “soup”, then backfilled it with earth and added fertilizer on top. The final touch should’ve been mulch which we didn’t have any left of.

Mulch.So Alёna, my mom and I got into the car and went to Home Depot. We ended up buying another 14 bags of red mulch. My mom got a couple of perennials and we also picked up Ego blower on Memorial Day sale.

Monday morning we started with more digging and an early burger lunch. After my parents left we finished the dig and filled our foundation with small sand-like gravel and leveled that out.

Fig tree.Alёna cleaned up our house beds from weeds, we trimmed some bushes and filled both of these beds with mulch along with our hosta plant by the door of the garage.

Then to finish our job with our walkway by the shed we needed some actual fine grain sand. So we went to Home Depot again and were surprised to discover that they had none. Went to nearby Lowe’s — same result.

Hosta at the start of driveway.But then we stumbled open a small fig tree which our kids really wanted to get. And it already had fruit developing on it. We bought that. Stopped by a nearby Raymore and Flanigan and cashed in our gift card for a guestroom bedside lamp.

Upon return home we planted our new fig tree, mulched it and that was pretty much the end of our weekend. Phew. So much stuff accomplished.

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