Foil Pack Cheesy Potatoes

Cheesy Potatoes are one of my favorite side dishes to make when we are BBQ’ing. Cheese and potatoes. Need I say more? Since the summers are full of grilling and backyard parties, I thought I would share my beloved cheesy potatoes recipe.

These are great on the grill, but can be made in the oven too!

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 – 6 red potatoes (you can use any potatoes of your choice)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • Garlic salt, steak seasoning (your choice), pepper to taste
  • Shredded colby jack cheese
  • Foil (just don’t eat that) 🙂

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Dice potatoes and separate into foil packets ( Makes about 3 foil packs.. packets?, whatever you call it)
  3. Dice bell peppers and separate evenly into packets and toss with potatoes
  4. Add seasoning and butter
  5. Bake at 400 F for 30 min
  6. Grill method: cook on low heat for 60 min – be sure to check that the potatoes are done – it could take longer depending on how high your heat is}
  7. Top with cheese
  8. Enjoy!

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Surprise Date Challenge No. 2

We finally had our second surprise date! It was supposed to happen in May, but May was crazy. Then it was supposed to happen in June and June was crazy. It’s not always easy carving time out for dates, but we finally did this past Saturday.

It was Daniel’s turn to surprise me. I LOVE surprises, but I can almost always figure out what he’s getting me or what he’s doing. It’s not like I try to ruin surprises for myself, it’s just that my brain can usually figure it out. Then I get mad at myself for ruining my own surprise. It’s a blessing and a curse – anyone else feel my pain?

Anywho – let’s get to the date.

Originally this was going to be a “just us” date, but since we missed the kids so much when we were in the Bahamas, he wanted to take them with us. So it turned into a family date!

Let’s go over the rules of the challenge.

The challenge rules:

  1. The date planner must not disclose any details of the date
  2. The date planner is to advise what ‘the surprised” should wear
  3. The date planner and the surprised switch roles every other date.

The family surprise date started early – we were out of the house at about 8:30 a.m.

Breakfast was in the car – he picked up some tacos for us all. He surprised me with my beloved carne quisada and cheese. The oooey, gooey melted cheese with meat and gravy really hit the spot. Alright, alright…I’m digging this date so far.

He said it was going to be a ride so I knew it wasn’t going to be in San Antonio. We rode for about an hour or so and found ourselves in Wimberley, TX.

First Stop – Wimberley Market Days 

We have been wanting to go to these market days for a while so I was super excited when we pulled up. Ok. Ok. Brownie points for the hubbs – not bad, not bad at all. They have a lot of antiques and handmade items – which is what we love. The kids did AMAZING. We gotta teach ’em young how to hunt for antiques and treasures. I found a cute, vintage bird cage and a fig tree. That kind of stuff excites me. Haha.

First stop was a success! We can’t wait to go back.

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Second Stop – Lunch at The Back Porch in Wimberley, TX 

We went to the CUTEST place for lunch. It’s called The Back Porch. It’s exactly how it sounds, a back porch restaurant – right next to the river.  The restaurant was hidden only two miles away from the market days.  The weather was perfect, the service was great and the food was delicious. You can swim in that part of the river in front of the restaurant and they have live music in the evenings. Our kind of place. Damn, he’s done good.

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Our family date was perfect. I kinda love him a little bit more.. 🙂

I still don’t know how he found that cute little restaurant on the river – he really surprised me!

(P.S. – the kids did so good. We both talked about how well they did. The date could have gone the total opposite if Kapri had one of her toddler, life-ending meltdowns. Phew. Glad we avoided that. )

Next month is my turn! I already have it all planned out in my head.

Have you taken the challenge?

Mexican Vanilla Took the Bahamas

Hello!

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Sorry! We were a little busy vacationing in the Bahamas. I’m glad you’re here so you can read all about our trip. I’ll be quick and add mostly pictures, I promise.

This trip was the second “Friends Vacation Trip”, but our first.  The idea started several years ago when all of us couples decided we need to take a trip before everyone started having babies. Oh, perfect! Let’s do it! (Most of you know what happened next.) Then we got pregnant with Kapri a few months before.  Since it was to Antigua, we decided it was best we miss the trip.  Fast forward two years and the second trip was scheduled. This time we could go!

To be honest, I had anxiety about this trip ever since Ezra was born. The trip was booked and I didn’t want to back out, but I didn’t want to leave my new baby or Kapri. In the weeks leading up to the trip I felt excited, worried, anxious, stressed… all the above. My mom was going to have the kids the whole week and I knew she would take great care of them, but what if they needed Mama? All those thoughts went running through my head.

The night before we left we stayed at my parents. I cried almost the whole way there and told Daniel that I didn’t want to go. Screw the money and let’s just stay home with our babies.  He looked at me and rolled his eyes and told me we were going. Ha.

All of us couples have kids, so with that and work, it’s not easy to schedule a time that everyone can go on such a big vacation like this. There were a few couples that weren’t able to attend this trip. We had so much fun without them though. Haha. Just Kidding! Y’all were so missed!!

The couples in attendance:

Me and Daniel

Courtney and Geoff

Kelly and Danny

 

Day 1 

We arrived at our resort, Sandals Royal Bahamian, around noon. We were the first couple to arrive. At Sandals, it’s all inclusive – drinks, food, snorkeling, etc.! I ordered myself a pina colada the minute we got there! Here’s a look at Day 1 in Nassau, Bahamas!

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Day 2 

We relaxed by the pool the majority of the day and then had a wine tasting in the evening. We had reservations at 9:30 for one of their fancy restaurants so we got all dressed up. (They have two restaurants out of the 10 on the resort that require reservations and nicer attire.) Any who, let’s just say our dinner plans didn’t go according to planned… we  totally went to the wrong restaurant. Oops! We had a lot of fun laughing at it later.

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Day 3 

We went snorkeling in the afternoon. It was Daniel’s second time going snorkeling and he didn’t get sick! Yay! I don’t know why, but watching him swim makes me laugh. Maybe because he’s so big and bulky. Then one of his flippers came off in the water and he was too scared to dive and grab it so I had to get it for him. Who would have thought? Haha. Here’s a look at Day 3!

 

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Day 4

We spent the day at the private island. Sandals has their own little private island offshore, separate from the main Nassau island. It was so quiet and relaxing. We all had such a great time. We even got to see a sea turtle – thanks to the luck of the Irish! Then we had to ride the boat back to the resort in a monsoon rain. That was an experience. Here’s a little look into Day 4!

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Day 5

We took a trip to downtown Nassau (on a tight little bus) and did some shopping, saw the historical Queen’s Stair Case, and visited the John Watlings Distillery – only found in the Bahamas. Here’s a look at Day 5!

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Day 6

Our last day! It was bittersweet. We enjoyed relaxing and eating all the food and drinking all the drinks, but we all couldn’t wait to get home to our babies.

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We had a great time in the Bahamas with our best friends. A lot of sleep, a lot of drinks and a lot of food.  The next trip is already in the works, we just might have to bring our kids with us since we missed them like crazy!

Shout out to my parents for taking such great care of my babies, and for always answering my face time calls and texting me back right away.   I know I can go a little crazy if you don’t respond within 10 seconds. Hehe. WE SURVIVED!

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Ezra Duke | 6 Months

You are a half year old!

Firsts & Milestones.

Your 6 month birthday is bittersweet. You are growing and growing and I love it, but you’re growing up and time is going by too fast. I can see in your eyes that you can’t wait to go after sister. You will grow up soon enough, my love. Stay little for me just a little while longer.

You had your first trip to the beach this past Memorial Day Weekend. I’m sure you had no idea where we were, but you seemed to love it.

You spent your first nights away from home at Grandma and Pop’s house while mama and daddy were on retreat. You slept great for Grandma. I know with me, you just want more cuddles – and easy milk access. Grandma’s milk factory has been closed for years…decades.. going on centuries now…. so why wake up? (My mom is going to love me for that one. Ha!)

You had your first carousel ride, train ride, and splash pad experience at Morgan’s Wonderland. You’re pretty accomplished for a 6 month old.

You celebrated your first Father’s day with daddy.

Your hair has been falling out, but you are still as handsome as ever. You pull off the comb over.

 

Sleeping.

You wake up about every 2 hours, almost on the dot, to nurse. Some nights you sleep longer than others. Even though I run on no sleep the majority of the time, I’ll pick you up anytime you need me. I’ve learned that babies don’t keep.

You still sleep on your belly with your hands underneath you – oftentimes with your butt in the air.

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Eating.

You tried mashed avocado for your first food. You didn’t know what to do with it and spit it all back out. Daddy said you better fix your ways because we’re an avocado eatin’ family! Ya hear? (I totally did that in a hick/redneck voice in my head while I typed.) Kapri ate what you spit back out – I’m telling you…that’s how much we love avocado. Baby drool? We don’t waste no avocado!

Until we find what you like to eat. Or you get on board with the whole avocado thing, mama’s milk it is.

 

Favorites.

I would still say your favorite is Kapri. Although, you do love that mama is home for the summer. I love it too.

Hair Pullin’. You get so happy and just grab and pull hair. You LOVE to pull sister’s hair. Thank God she’s hard headed.

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Smiling. You love to smile. You smile at everyone. My happy, easy-going baby.

Jungle Monkey. You love that monkey that hangs from your activity gym/mat. You get mad at him a lot. Or maybe you’re just talking to him about life.

Chewing your fingers. Those fingers are always in your mouth covered with drool.

 

Happy 1/2 Birthday, Baby Duke Man! (I’m only two days late writing this.)

 

Here’s a  6 month photo shoot I did in the backyard of the tubster.

[Thank you to my assistant, Daniel, for holding the fence boards in the background for me. You may have been literally behind the scenes, but the way you held that fence with so much strength was impeccable. Also, you didn’t tell me to hurry up while I was playing photographer. Your patience made me weak in the knees.  Kapri, thank you for just being yourself.]

We were going for the carpenter, wood-working, handy-man look. (It was cloudy, but still sunny. Hence all the frownies.)

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Morgan’s Wonderland Adventure Day

Yesterday we had our first trip to Morgan’s Wonderland and let’s just say, Kapri had the. time. of. her. little. life.

Morgan’s Wonderland is an ultra-accessible theme park for guests of all ages and abilities. Their mission to provide a safe and fun place free of physical and economic barriers, is inspirational and a reason we will be back time and time again.

They have two parks now – Morgan’s Wonderland and now a waterpark – Morgan’s Inspiration Island.

I’m not sure how crowded it gets on a weekend, but going on a Friday was perfect. It wasn’t very crowded and we never had to wait in line. I’m pretty sure Daniel and Kapri rode the carousel at least 6 times in a row. Ezra had his first carousel ride too!

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Kapri explored the huge jungle gyms, drove a truck, shopped for some groceries, played in the sensory room, and so much more – all with a huge smile on her face. She could do everything! We also took a family train ride. Ezra LOVED it!

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It was getting pretty hot, so we decided to head on over to the water park. We had a toddler tantrum for a while because Kapri refused to put her swimsuit bottoms on. Then Ezra was missing his nap, so he started screaming too. It’s not a fun trip unless you have some meltdowns, right?

The water park has 5 different splash pads, and a boat ride. We didn’t make it to the boat ride this trip, because Kapri found her favorite spot at Shipwreck Island. This is where the slides are. When she figured out she wasn’t scare of going down the slide by herself, we realized she wasn’t going to leave. This particular splash pad also has one of those suspenseful water buckets that drop a substantial amount of water every 5 minutes or so. I thought she would be scared when the water forcefully dumped all over her. Nope. It seemed to only energize her more, like a battery. A happy, little toddler battery. Ezra was able to splash in the water too –  he liked staring at the water trying to figure out life and what not.

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We spent a while at the splash pad. Then it was time to go home. Yep. Time to go home. It was sad crushing her little toddler dreams, but it had to happen some time. She was reluctant, but as soon as Daniel picked her up she rested her head on his shoulder.

It was a day well spent.

Here are just a few pictures of yesterday’s adventures! We can’t wait to go back!

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Thrift Store Fashion Finds Vol. 1

Who doesn’t love a great deal? I don’t think I have ever bought a piece of clothing full price. I just can’t do it. If it’s not on sale, it’s not going in my closet. Ain’t nobody got time for that! That brings me here to this blog post. The first volume of Thrift Store Fashion Finds. I’m all for reusing and saving the Earth and all. Who’s with me?

This all started with my sister-in-law, Isabel. She lives that college life on a college budget. She and her mom (my mother-in-law) LOVE to go thrifting. Digging up secret treasures in Goodwill or the Thrift Shop is a past time they love to do.   I’m always amazed with her thrift store finds and how she’s able to style them, and she decided to style me too! So we created this blog post series. Want to hear something great? She picked out all of these outfits without me being there, and they all fit perfect! We can call her the Finds and Steals Stylist!

In this segment, all clothing is from Texas Thrift in San Antonio. Take a look at  her thrifty finds and styles! College style and mom style, she can do it all!

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The Hipster.

Black crop top: $2.98.

Top cover shirt tied in a knot: $4.98.

Mom jeans: $12.98

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The Casual Patterns.

Shirt: $4.98 + 50% off

Shorts: $6.98

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The Summer Cut Offs

Shirt: $3.98 (tied in a knot)

Shorts: $4.98

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The Green Short

Top: $4.98 + 50% off

High waisted shorts: $6.98 (still new)

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The Well Traveled

Shirt: $3.98

Shorts: $6.98 (originally jeans that she cut into shorts)

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The Patriotic.

Shirt: $4.98 + 50% off

Shorts: $6.98

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Isn’t she talented and savvy?  No need to buy brand new when you can find amazing styles at your local thrift shop… for cheap.  Stay tuned for her finds, steals and styles next month!

Be sure to donate your unused and unwanted clothes to your local thrift store or Goodwill! Let’s keep up the recycling, y’all!

[Photos by Oscar Salinas aka The Instagram Boyfriend]

Farm Yoga and Wine

I love yoga. I love the farm.  Farm Yoga? Count me in!

This past Saturday my good friend, Courtney, and I had our first experience with Farm Yoga.  Goats + Yoga + Wine. Yes, please!

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The event was at  Medina River Winery which is just a few minutes away from my house. We laid our yoga mats on a big black tarp in the middle of a field. The weather was beautiful except is was REALLLYYY HOT. It was 6 in the evening so it wasn’t the hottest of the day, but again, we were in a field with no shade. The crop that was growing next to us was some maize, I believe. I knew you were wondering. They call it Farm Yoga for a reason.

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There were several goats running around, and we were able to take a picture with one right before the class started. Then yoga commenced. The goats really didn’t want anything to do with us, and mostly ran around the outskirts of the mat. We were patiently waiting for them to come and kiss us and climb on us as we did our yoga. You know, fulfilling all our expectations of goats trampling us. Nope. They probably thought we were insane doing yoga on a field in the heat. Like these people are crazy, why am I going to go jump on their back?

You could hear them baa’ing as you did your yoga breathing. Most likely talking smack about our poses. One of the mommy goats actually did come on the tarp, just to pee and poop. That made me actually kind of glad they didn’t really come bother us during the class. A happy baby pose in goat poop? No thank you. Towards the end of the class they released a goose and some chickens. The goose was not shy. He had no problem walking on everyone’s mat.

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Once the class was finished (it was about a 30 minute class) we had the opportunity to take as many pictures as we wanted and hang out with the animals. That’s when they put the goats on your back if you wanted a picture.  It looks all cute seeing one of the goats kissing my face, right? Well that was actually her baby that was on my back and she was baa’ing telling him to get down, I’m sure.  Makes for a cute picture though! Ha.

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After the hot, almost bikram yoga was done and we got all the pictures we wanted, we headed inside to the tasting room. We tasted 6 different wines.  It was the perfect end to our little farm yoga and wine experience.

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Although the goats weren’t climbing all over us while we did yoga like I originally thought, we still had a really fun evening.  I’m sure it’s different every time depending on the animals temperaments. I would recommend going when the weather cools down since it is outside. Bring your girlfriends, and it makes for a fun girls night out!

Side Note: the hubby stayed home and watched the kids. They all survived! Yay! Granted, both kids were sleeping the whole time, but still. Kudos to him. Looks like I’ll need to plan some more girls nights!

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Beach Trippin’ with the Duke Man

The littlest of the Mexican Vanilla babes took his first trip to the beach this past Memorial Day weekend to Padre Island. It was a gorgeous day for the beach – breezy and sunny.  Kapri jumped the waves and played in the sand, being her crazy toddler self. Daniel jumped the waves and played in the sand, being his crazy toddler-man self. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to be buried and covered in sand, but Daniel loves it. Our kids will always have a daddy that’s up (or down?) for being buried in the sand. That works for me.

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Ezra chilled, like the tubster he is, under the umbrella for the majority of the time until he was ready to venture out. When he did, it was nothing short of an adorable baby digging his little chubby feet in the sand and looking precious – having no idea what’s happening or going on while his mom acted like a crazy paparazzi person trying to get pictures of him and his sister.  He’s a mama pleaser so he went along with it. Everyone had a great time. First beach trip for the Duke Man – in the books.

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Later that evening we went to our favorite restaurant in Rockport, The Boiling Pot.  It was delicious, as always. Have you been there? If you haven’t, I highly recommend the next time you are down at the Texas coast!

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Ezra Duke | 5 Months

Well, it’s month 5 with you earth-side.

You are the happiest little baby and love being talked to. A total sweetheart. You love to smile and drool.  Give you a little attention, and you are good to go. Except when I get home from work on the weekdays. You have to be carried by your mama. I have mastered the art of cooking with a toddler on the counter and a baby on the hip. I can’t just carry you any old way. It must be on my hip, facing out. That way you can see the world, and know that mama still got yo back. I try to put you down and in the half second that I change positions to put you down, you instantly fuss. Then you instantly stop when I put you back on my hip. You got me wrapped around your finger.

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Firsts. & Milestones.

I gave you your first haircut. And yes, I saved the cut hair. I’m sentimental, ok?  Will you let me always cut your hair? I hope so.

I got to celebrate your first Mother’s Day with you by my side. It was a perfect day.

You found your toes. And eat them like the chubby sausages they are.

You are a master at tummy time. You can scoot pretty well and try so hard to crawl. You will soon!

You came down with Roseola this month. That was not a fun time, but we got through it!

 

Sleeping.

You’re a tummy sleeper. You used to sleep really good and only woke up once a night. You decided you ain’t about that life anymore and wake up every two hours. Good thing you’re adorable.

Let’s pray that improves.

 

Nicknames.

Tubby. Chunky. Tubbs. Chubbs. Tunker. Bubba. Tubster.

 

Eating.

Just mama’s milk. Going to start food soon!

 

Favorites.

Kapri. Your favorite person is, by far, Kapri. You may be a mama’s boy, but Kapri has your heart. I don’t know the  right words to describe y’all’s relationship. She is obsessed with you and you adore her. You can just watch her for hours. Your little legs start to kicking when she’s running around the house. You can’t wait to start running with her. You’ve accepted her craziness and let her do whatever she wants with you. You are HER baby, and you are very proud to be HER baby. I am the proudest mama to see all the love you both have for each other.

Eating your fingers. Those fingers must taste like chocolate because they are ALWAYS in your mouth. Sometimes you gag yourself and then frown at me because you don’t know how that happened.

Talking to daddy. You get real serious when you talk to daddy. I am certain you are tattle telling on your sister.

Having your junk exposed. Is this a man thing? You could be crying and as soon as i open that diaper up, you immediately calm down and put a smile on. You would be happiest completely nakie.   You love that fresh breeze. You lack no confidence, just like your daddy.

Standing. You love to stand and push off your feet. You’ve got some strong chubby thighs.

Looking at yourself in the mirror. You surprise yourself every time with how dapper you are.

Happy 5 months, little man. We love all of your double chinning self.

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Soto Wood Co.

My husband developed a love for woodworking maybe a year or so before we got married. He would spend countless hours at our old house in the garage, he called a ‘shop’,  building little things or trying to get rust off old tools. He went through this phase where he would try to find rusty tools at yard sales and flea markets to refurbish them. The potential! He would be so excited to show me how much rust he got off a hammer or an old saw  – imagine this big guy being all excited. Adorable.

Our love for reclaimed wood quickly grew too. Partly because we didn’t want to spend money on new wood, but mostly because we liked the whole distressed/old look. We would go out when neighborhoods had bulk trash pickups and dig through their “trash”. It sounds crazy, I know, but it was honestly so much fun. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, am I right?  We drove down the roads and I would be the one to roll down the window to scope and inspect the junk pile, and then tell Daniel if it was worth digging through. Yep. We are totally those people. This was the time before the whole Farmhouse decor became super popular. We found a ton of old windows and doors – the stuff people now sell.. All for FREE. We used a lot of it at our wedding.

Fast forward to now and Daniel has built and created some amazing things! He’s able to build pretty much anything. Oh, my hero! <Insert a fainting woman.> Our goal is to eventually have ALL of our furniture in our house built by him. Where did he learn how to do all this? He has a natural talent and then he watches a bunch of YouTube! He loves his YouTube. I would also call him a pallet collector. We have piles and piles of pallets. He picks up pallets at least once a week. He’s a pallet connoisseur and our land is a pallet museum. As I was leaving for work this morning, I kid you not, there were two pallets on the ground he must have picked up on the way home. Nice. We only have 100 other pallets that have taken root into the ground.

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I have a whole list of things I want him to do. Again, a WHOLE list of things I want him to do…. We will be out shopping around and I will want something and he will say “Oh, I can build that.” Ok.  Yea, you can, but I want it right now. I’ll admit, I lack some patience. I guess a full time job and ensuring good craftsmanship is a good excuse.

Our dream would be to open up our own woodworking shop, and call it – Soto Wood Co., or something like that.  We’ve already completed a few custom orders, which is really exciting! His current project is the building of the chicken coop and garden boxes. The next project on the list is a sliding barn door for our closet. I’ll be sure to post the process and plans for that one!

Here are some pictures of just a few things he has built.
bar kitchenThis is the awning over our kitchen window. There was too much space in between the window and the ceiling and it looked awkward. I used my Joanna Gaines juju and designed the awning. It really adds dimension and that Farmhouse look to the kitchen. All reclaimed wood.

 

bar 3wood bar 2wood barThis is the bar that he built for his brother, and now wife as their wedding present. I totally wanted to keep it. All from reclaimed wood and tin. I think the only thing he bought brand new were the screws. So far, this is his most proud piece. He worked so hard on the craftsmanship, I bet it will withstand years and years of use.

 

headboardThe headboard in our bedroom. All from reclaimed wood from an old fence. It looks better with the bed done, but Kapri pulled it all of so..

 

wood tableHere is a tv stand that was built for a client. The ‘X’ design on the sides give it that Farmhouse look.