Some of our favorite #ElfOnTheShelf setups this year…

The kids were really into Jovie-Belle, their Elf on the Shelf, this year.ย  These are a few of my favorites. Post your favorites in the comments! (I have a bunch on Pinterest too… some appropriate, some not at all.)







Yulenanigans? #ElfOnTheShelf #JingleLeague assemble! ๐Ÿˆ

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We didn’t get crazy creative every night, but the kids really made a big deal about finding her every morning. Maybe next year we’ll get a second elf and have some more fun.


Posting #25XmasSongs โ€“ Part 2 ๐ŸŽ…

Did you see part 1?ย  I quickly realized I like a vast odd selection of Christmas music.ย  There are so many I dig that didn’t make the cut, and I’m sure ones I forgot.ย  Throw me your favorites in the comments!
















Posting #25XmasSongs – Part 1 ๐ŸŽ„

I have been trying to post a Christmas song per day since the beginning of December.ย  I think I make a new YouTube playlist every year.ย  (I must have set YouTube to tweet when I add videos to playlists way back… because it seems to be doing that with the stuff I’m adding.)

I enjoy some Christmas albums, but seem to have found a bunch of random songs that I like over the years.ย  Some traditional, some quite the opposite.ย  Here’s the first batch.ย  There is no rhyme or reason or favorite order or anything.

Post some of your favorite Winter Holiday songs in the comments.ย  Links to videos, album names, artists, etc.ย  Show me what you dig!

1. No Doubt – “Oi To the World”ย  (Vandals cover!)

2. MxPx – “Xmas Night of the Living Dead”

3. Willie Nelson – “Silent Night”

4. Run DMC – “Christmas in Hollis” (The A.K.A.’s do a neat cover too.)

5. Johnny Cash – “What Child Is This?”

6. RAMONES – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”

7. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “This Time of Year”

8. Bing Crosby & David Bowie – “Little Drummer Boy”

9. D.I. – “Mr. Grinch”

10. Laurie Berkner – “Santa’s Coming to My House Tonight”

Backyard Race Car Track & …Dinosaur Garden? ๐Ÿšš๐Ÿฆ•

Well. ย Damn, you Pinterest. ย Ha ha. ย We made more progress on the Back Yard Race Car Track. ย It may now also be a construction zone, gravel pit, monster truck arena, and dinosaur garden. ย Molly even asked about building a volcano. ย I do have an extra bag of concrete.

#BackyardRaceCarTrack, #DinosaurGarden, & #MonsterTruckArena! #DadStuff

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Check out the latest photos. ย We added a gravel pit, some large rocks for edging-work to try to contain the gravel, and dug out the grass so we have a dirt pit. ย Not sure if I should plant grass and leave a dirt track, or make it all a dirt pit. ย I may try to buy some river rock to make the outside edges look a little neater, and mix some more extra sloppy concrete to smooth it over, and fill in the edges smooth.

I bet it will evolve greatly over time.

I’m anxious to see photos of other projects like this. ย Show me what you’ve got in the comments!



๐Ÿšงย ๐Ÿšง ๐Ÿšง ๐Ÿ‘ท ๐Ÿ‘ทโ€โ™€๏ธย ๐Ÿšš ๐Ÿฆ• ๐Ÿš— ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿงš ๐ŸŒฑ ๐Ÿšง ๐Ÿšงย ๐Ÿšง

๐Ÿšง ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿ Backyard Race Car Track & Fairy Garden Construction! ๐Ÿงš๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿšง

So, on Labor Day this year, we labored. ย We finally got around to pouring cement for the Backyard Race Car Track, and we started a Fairy Garden.

I have been sitting on the race car track idea for a while, and wondering what to do landscape-wise around the one small tree in the back. ย We recently got some fairy garden furniture stuff as a gift… so we thought that would be a cool second (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th?) backyard play-space.

I had purchased some Quikrete coloring from Amazon a while ago, and some bags of Quikrete Sand/Topping Mix from Home Depot this Saturday knowing that we had a full day to work today.

We had also started the digging a while ago when Ian was over-zealous and wanted to “Dig, Dig Dig!” in the back yard.

Ian is getting serious with this #BackyardRaceCarTrack. #excavator #shenanigans

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We had an easy enough start, put down some gravel, and mixed two of the three bags of Sand/Topping Mix with the coloring. ย I mixed it a little thick, and really what was all the coloring was meant to cover. ย The track was only about โ€Žโ…” of the way complete. ย So, I mixed the one other bag we had on hand. ย It was a little sloppier and went on really well. ย The kids helped in a kid-helping capacity, and Bethany did nearly all of the troweling/finishing work. ย Molly told me that she wanted to use the trowel because that’s what “brick builders” use to put the stuff in between bricks. ย I have no idea where she learned that.

So. ย It was obvious we needed a quick trip back to Home Depot to get some more bags. ย Ian & I went on a mission.

Going into @homedepot dirty, so the other customers know we mean business.

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I asked the little man if we should get 3, or 4. ย He was adamant about getting 4. ย We also got the cheapest bag of garden soil, and some pebbles. ย Sadly, the bottle of coloring didn’t last long, and maddeningly Home Depot didn’t carry it… even with two shelves full of Quikrete products. ย I ended up asking if they had anything in the paint department, and they just had a concrete paint or dye to use after the fact.

We got back and Bethany made us a delicious salad for lunch. ย We needed to re-fuel for more work out back! ย I mixed 2 more bags, with some help:

After that, we did use just one more bag… but that’s OK. ย I can use the rest for some driveway patch work now that I have some more recent practice with this stuff. ย (A long time ago, I worked for a bit for a general contractor, and would sometimes mix mortar all day for the subcontracted bricklayers.)

For now, that’s about all we can do. ย The bag says it needs to set up for five days. ย Hopefully we can be patient and the neighborhood wildlife (including my children) stays out of it. ย I did grab an odd old brick from out front that had originally been in the back yard, and made a sort of garage out of it. ย I plan to get some river rocks or pebbles or something to kind of clean up the edges of the track. ย Maybe they will need to go on with concrete, or some of that stuff that comes in a caulking-gun dispenser. ย If they’re not stuck down, they will end up all over and most likely destroy my lawn mower.

The other quick family project was to make a fairy garden. ย I was hoping to use stuff that we had around in addition to the recently gifted furniture and starter items.

After thinking about a couple of different ideas, we settled on me taking a chainsaw to some large branches and small logs that we had out back, and driving nails partway into the bottom so we could drive them into the ground and they would hopefully hold. ย It worked!

I played with the chainsaw, demonstrated the nail technique, then Bethany and the kids did most of the nail-driving… and I think that was mostly Bethany. ย Molly helped me place them around the tree in sort of a kidney bean shape, including an old wooden bucket that I think we bought from the estate sale of the previous owner of this house (who coincidentally said she would miss the little tree in the backyard most of all).

Then we pulled up 90% of the grass, and Ian hauled it away in his wheelbarrow. ย We put down the bag of cheap garden soil and it was perfect for coverage & fairy garden decoration placement. ย We also planted a small succulent plant that my mom had recently given us in a small pot that should be durable outdoors, but may look cool covered in small round stones so it looks like a fairy house. ย We’re putting Grandma on craft duty to help make little projects to decorate the space. ย I would love to use some of the stuff we have around the yard or house like tiny terracotta pots, or Popsicle sticks, or wire.

Is it a #FairyGarden or a #SquirrelPlayground?

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It would be nice to plant some small ornamental succulents, moss, or super tiny flowers eventually too. ย Luckily (?) Pinterest is an endless rabbit hole when it comes to fairy garden stuff. ย Speaking of rabbits, our backyard is overrun with them as well as squirrels, chipmunks, birds, deer, and who knows what else. ย Think they’ll leave this stuff alone?

At any rate, playing in the dirt has been proven over-and-over to be good for you. ย These spaces offer two additional opportunities for the kids to get into the dirt in the back yard. ย It’s great to learn about gardening, ecosystems, using your imagination, and more… all without even realizing that you’re learning.

Check out some photos from the day if you have the time and interest, and let us know what you think in the comments!



If this is something you’d like to try yourself, check out these Pinterest boards for inspiration:

If it’s something you have tried yourself, please share your stuff in the comments! ย I would love to see some other backyard family projects.

Watch “๐Ÿ€ Swingset Shenanigans – Sat. 2017/08/06 ๐ŸŽช” on YouTube

I think I made this a draft, & forgot to post it… ย I got some video of the kids having a blast on the Swingset, and played around with the YouTube video editor before it disappears.

๐ŸŠ Shenanigans at the Plake ๐Ÿ‘ท๐Ÿšง

My wife & I have very generous cousins with a cabin in the woods where they throw a bunch of fun parties throughout the year. ย One yearly weekend gathering can get exciting. ย Here’s some video of Molly swimming in the plake (big pond or a small lake?), and Ian getting a lesson on some heavy machinery!

Molly Swimming at the “Plake” ๐ŸŠ:

Ian Driving a Skid Steer with “Uncle” Jim ๐Ÿ‘ท:

Ian Driving an Excavator with “Uncle” Jim ๐Ÿšง:

As always, we had a great time! ย Molly is getting confident with swimming lessons, and Ian looked so serious in those machines. ย I am so grateful to be able to share these kinds of experiences with these two.

My phone seemed to “skip” a bit. ย May be time to back up & remove photos? ย Also, I’m getting used to playing with the YouTube Video Editor, and it’s apparently going away? ย Boo, I say.