Thursday, June 28, 2012


The 4th of July is just around the corner, so I figured we'd do a little Independence Day inspired art project.

We simply dipped a porcupine ball in paint and rolled it around a bit...

...then stamped it on black construction paper to make fireworks.  

While the paint was still wet, we added some glitter to make it sparkle. (I'm sure glitter paint would work great too!)

We stuck with red, white, and blue, but I think it would be fun to mix colors and see the surprising combinations that explode across the page!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Local Attractions: Chutes and Ladders

Ok, so these days it's probably better known by its official name: Hyland Play Area, but when I was a kid we called this park Chutes and Ladders. Even though the park has had a complete makeover since my childhood, it's nice to see that they kept the super long slides and tall climbing structures the park was known for. 

The play area is located within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve in Bloomington, and being part of the Three Rivers Park District, admission is always free...for everyone! Nice, huh? Let me walk you through it...

Like I said, the park has a bunch of really long slides and tall climbing structures that are perfect for older kids, but they didn't forget about the little guys when designing this park! They have one pretty large play structure that is great for even the littlest climbers. Short slides, wide stairs, and tunnels only a few feet off the ground. Abe enjoyed playing on it, but even at just 22 months, he seemed a little old for this one.

Not to worry, they had another even larger structure with wide platforms, fun things to look at, and three different slides that were all perfect for kids that are too young for the big slides.

The twisty slide was maybe even a little too safe. Perhaps it goes faster if you're wet...

The twisty slide was right by the misters they have for kids to run through when it's hot. Abe wanted nothing to do with them, but his cousins enjoyed cooling off!

I didn't want Abe climbing the big structures so I kept my distance as well. They look fun though, don't they?

There were a couple rope climbing areas as well. Abe investigated this climbing contraption...

...and you can sort of see another one in the background of this picture. We were climbing a big rubber hill, which doesn't look so big in the picture, but to Abe it was Everest!

Behind this huge structure for older kids...

...they had a climbing structure that seemed relatively safe for little kids. I let Abe go in with his older cousins. 

It was the one place he kept wanting to go back to. The kids loved climbing on the nets and tumbling around in the big "room" at the top. There weren't any slides attached but that didn't stop Abe from trying to slide down the rope ramp.

They also had a nice big sand pit (complete with diggers), and we ended our day there, as Abe was pretty tired and eventually just laid down and started rolling around in the sand!

Oh, and we actually went there to meet Noah's sister and her family for a late afternoon picnic. They have grills and TONS of picnic tables at the park...and plenty of wide opens spaces for the kids to run around.

Hyland Park Reserve offers the following attractions and amenities (click on the links for more information):


For more information about Hyland Park Reserve and the "Chutes and Ladders" Play Area, go to

Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Things

Pull up a lawnchair and play... (See how I made these magnetic vehicles here.)

6/18/2012 12:45 PM - Nikon D700 | Manual | 50mm | ISO 640 | f/2.8 | 1/60 sec

Excited to have my post from last week featured on Simple As That! (See all of my Simple Things posts right here.)  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day Gifts

There seems to be a theme around here when it comes to buying gifts for Noah. Last Father's Day we bought him some grilling tools and a Weber cookbook, for Christmas I bought him a grill, and for our 5 year anniversary I got him a smoker box and a few bags of wood chips (wood is the traditional 5 year anniversary gift). This year for Father's Day I ordered some of our favorite barbecue sauces (and a couple new ones to try) from Jack's Bar-B-Que in Nashville, TN.

We stopped at Jack's last summer after a few people recommended it while we were in Nashville for a wedding. If they didn't sell bottles of their sauce right in the resturant (and have it available to order online), I'm not sure we would have left! I ordered a pack of four sauces: Original, Texas Sweet Hot, Kansas City Style, and  XXX-911. (The last two are our favorites.) If you order a case of four sauces they also throw in a free Hand Rub. 

The box they came in had Jack's logo on the front, so I covered that with a piece of paper and had Abe decorate the box with stickers. I printed clip art of things he likes to do with his dad (footballs, fishing poles, a running stroller...) on blank address labels and told him to decorate the box with "things Daddy likes." He chose a few different balls, a racecar, and a few of his favorite characters from Toy Story. I guess Noah likes those things...

Now to get some ribs so we can sample these sauces!

(Disney clip art found here. All other clip art found here.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

I made a Father's Day collage for Noah last year and thought it would be fun to do it again. Can't believe how much our little guy has grown in one year!

Happy Father's Day, Dada!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Simple Things

A day at the zoo and all he wanted was to ride the tractor...

6/12/2012 11:31 AM - Nikon D700 | Manual | 50mm | ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/400 sec

Linking up at Simple As That. (You can see all of my previous Simple Things posts right here.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vegetable Garden

After living in our house for one summer, we decided to build a couple raised garden beds on the south side of our garage for growing vegetables. The area we chose was an awkward nook that was separated from the rest of the yard, and it used to be the sunniest spot in the yard (although the trees in our neighbor's yard keep getting taller so it's less than an ideal location these days). We built two raised beds and added a lettuce table the next summer. I rotate which crops go in which garden bed every year - this year we have tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers in the closest bed, and green beans, jalapeno peppers, radishes, carrots, beets, rutabaga, and a pumpkin in the other one. I've never successfully grown a pumpkin before, but I've also never planted one in my raised beds, so we'll see how that goes.

Since the weather was so warm, I planted my vegetable garden a bit early this year. We started carrots, radishes, lettuce, beets, rutabaga, and peas from seed back in April, and added the tomato and pepper plants, I had started inside, a few weeks later. Cucumbers, green beans, and the pumpkin went in a couple weeks ago.


I started my tomatoes and peppers from seed back in March. Usually I end up with huge plants by the time I transplant them to the garden, but this year they stayed small. The potting soil I used did seem a bit heavier than normal, but they've been in the garden for a few weeks now and seem to be doing fine.

Heirloom Tomato

Most of my plant markers are beginning to fade in the sun. Anyone know how to make Sharpies fade resistant?

Sugar Snap Peas

For the first time ever, I got peas before the plants started to wither and die from the heat. Abe loves going out to the garden to check for peas. I wish they lasted all summer long!


If you can't tell, I love tomatoes. This year I planted 5 different types - Hillbilly, Aunt Ruby's German Green, a few Romas, a Chocolate Cherry, and Warren's Yellow. We mulched them with compost from our compost bin. Haven't done that for the last two years and I think the tomatoes suffered because of it. The last time we used our compost, the tomatoes were unstoppable!


Over the last few years I've noticed that I either end up with tons of huge cucumbers or none at all. I'm hoping this is a good year for cucumbers.


I planted tons of carrots because Abe loves them, and after watching an episode of Curious George, where George plants carrots, he's been asking me if every weed he sees is a carrot. I think he's really excited about them. I should really thin them out though...the carrots and the radishes. Actually the radishes should probably just be pulled out and replanted. I think I missed my chance to thin them. Probably because I hate thinning plants even more than pulling weeds.

Green Beans

I've always want to grow enough green beans to make pickled green beans, but I never do. If my radishes die off maybe I'll plant more beans, then this year can be the year...


We've been eating homegrown lettuce for a few weeks already. It's so much fun going out to the garden to find what I can throw together for a salad. Lately I've been adding herbs and edible flowers. Chive blossoms are delicious!


So a friend once told me that marigolds will keep rabbits out of your garden (apparently they don't like the smell). It's a total myth - rabbits go wherever they darn well please, but the marigolds are cheerful (and the flowers are edible) so I planted a few in my tomato bed this year.

I love working in the garden, although it never hurts to have a little help(er)! He kept asking for seeds so I gave him the only ones I had left...corn. Maybe next year we'll make him a little garden bed of his own. does your garden grow? Any favorite vegetables we should try? I'd love to add another bed in the empty area we have, but it's so shady. Are there any fruits or vegetables that do well in the shade?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pint Glasses for Dad

While trying to think of something Abe could make his dad for Father's Day, I realized that Noah and his brother-in-law both collect pint glasses. I've been wanting to try these glass markers, but they weren't available online and were sold out at Michael's, so I picked up some of these markers that I found at Joann instead. I had a bunch of coupons so I was able to get them all for 40-50% off - not a bad deal - and I ordered a case of plain pint glasses from Amazon.

My nieces and nephews enjoyed decorating glasses for their dad, but Abe was a little young for it. He mostly colored on his hands, so I helped him with this handprint glass. He added a few red squiggles when we were done. I expected the finished glasses to turn out awesome, and they did...until I washed them. The directions said to let the glasses sit for 4 hours before baking them at 325⁰ F for 30 minutes. After they were baked and cool, I ran them through the dishwasher to remove fingerprints. That's when I noticed that parts of their drawings had washed away!

I'm not entirely sure my oven heats properly, so maybe I didn't bake them at a high enough temperature. Or maybe the kids' fingerprints on the glass interfered with the markers adhering properly...all the glasses were washed and cleaned with rubbing alcohol before we started. 

I was able to fix Abe's glass by retracing his handprint (haven't run it through the dishwasher yet so we'll see what happens when I do). The black marker didn't wash off at all, which is ironic because that one was the brand I was originally looking for.

My nephew, who is a year older than Abe, made this great scribble glass. It only took him a few minutes but he sure had fun!

The older kids (ages 4 - 12) took more time drawing pictures, writing messages, and just thinking up things that their dad would enjoy. (This glass was done by my 4 year old niece.) It'd be a fun project to do with Abe every year if I can figure out what went wrong. 

Has anyone else tried these markers? Did you have a similar experience? Any tips or tricks for making these permanent and dishwasher safe like they're supposed to be?