Backyard Race Car Track & …Dinosaur Garden? 🚚🦕


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

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

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Check out the latest photos.  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.  Not sure if I should plant grass and leave a dirt track, or make it all a dirt pit.  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.  Show me what you’ve got in the comments!

 

 

🚧 🚧 🚧 👷 👷‍♀️ 🚚 🦕 🚗 🏁 🧚 🌱 🚧 🚧 🚧

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🚧 🚗🏁 Backyard Race Car Track & Fairy Garden Construction! 🧚🌱🚧


So, on Labor Day this year, we labored.  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.  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.  I mixed it a little thick, and really what was all the coloring was meant to cover.  The track was only about ‎⅔ of the way complete.  So, I mixed the one other bag we had on hand.  It was a little sloppier and went on really well.  The kids helped in a kid-helping capacity, and Bethany did nearly all of the troweling/finishing work.  Molly told me that she wanted to use the trowel because that’s what “brick builders” use to put the stuff in between bricks.  I have no idea where she learned that.

So.  It was obvious we needed a quick trip back to Home Depot to get some more bags.  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.  He was adamant about getting 4.  We also got the cheapest bag of garden soil, and some pebbles.  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.  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.  We needed to re-fuel for more work out back!  I mixed 2 more bags, with some help:

After that, we did use just one more bag… but that’s OK.  I can use the rest for some driveway patch work now that I have some more recent practice with this stuff.  (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.  The bag says it needs to set up for five days.  Hopefully we can be patient and the neighborhood wildlife (including my children) stays out of it.  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.  I plan to get some river rocks or pebbles or something to kind of clean up the edges of the track.  Maybe they will need to go on with concrete, or some of that stuff that comes in a caulking-gun dispenser.  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.  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.  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.  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.  We put down the bag of cheap garden soil and it was perfect for coverage & fairy garden decoration placement.  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.  We’re putting Grandma on craft duty to help make little projects to decorate the space.  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.  Luckily (?) Pinterest is an endless rabbit hole when it comes to fairy garden stuff.  Speaking of rabbits, our backyard is overrun with them as well as squirrels, chipmunks, birds, deer, and who knows what else.  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.  These spaces offer two additional opportunities for the kids to get into the dirt in the back yard.  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!  I would love to see some other backyard family projects.

Watch “🍀 Swingset Shenanigans – Sat. 2017/08/06 🎪” on YouTube


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

🏊 Shenanigans at the Plake 👷🚧


My wife & I have very generous cousins with a cabin in the woods where they throw a bunch of fun parties throughout the year.  One yearly weekend gathering can get exciting.  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” 🏊:

Ian Driving a Skid Steer with “Uncle” Jim 👷:

Ian Driving an Excavator with “Uncle” Jim 🚧:

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

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

Dreams, Stories, & Dance Class


I have been monkeying around with YouTube video editor.  I compiled a few things and played with their filters.  This is what I got…

Ian’s dinosaur dream:

 

Molly’s story:

 

Molly & Ian tell a story together:

Molly’s dance class:

 

Well, that’s it (for now).

 

 

How yinz make your chili? 🌶 [Chili à la AiXeLsyD “Recipes”] 🌶


Yinz like chili?  I do.  I haven’t made any for a long time.  I may need to change that.  I stole this (& modified it) from my never-used Cookpendium blog.  My writing has hopefully improved since then.  Maybe not.  I like a tamer chili that would appeal to a wide variety of people to add heat as they like.  I like it thick enough to make a spoon stand.  I can take or leave the beans, and I reject your debatable elitist visions of chili or what it ought to be.

I ought to try and make a new batch using only stuff I buy at Aldi.

How do you make yours?


[Originally from a post at (the now defunct) PittsburghBeat.com, here’s a few consolidated chili recipe/methods…]

Recipe 1:

I’ve never made chili before, and in researching, I came across 50 billion recipes. So, this morning I made my own in the crock pot…

  • 2 cans of condensed tomato soup
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 packet of chili mix
  • about ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of beef bullion
  • 1 can light red kidney beans
  • however much ground meat was leftover from last night
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • a dash of paprika
  • a dash of garlic

…and I slapped it into the crock pot on low for 8 hours.

Hope it tastes good when I get home. I’ve got shredded cheddar cheese for the top of it, & Super-Pretzels to go along with it. They always served pretzels & chili in my elementary school cafeteria so they belong together in my warped mind.

Most of them use tomato paste, soup, sauce, juice, or diced tomatoes as a base… I even saw one that called for Spicy hot V8… and I think my mom always used soup. Tomato paste is usually bitter, so I figured the tomato soup would counteract it. All of the spices should be rockin’. I like my chili thick.

Oh yeah, about 1/2 the ground meat was cooked w/ some seasoning salt & A1.


Recipe 2:

Here’s what basically went into my chili. I’ll probably eventually make a blog about it with a narrative so I can remember what I did this time for next time… to see what I wanna change or what I wanna do again.

I ended up only using the one can of diced tomatoes (the one with jalapeños) and still kind’ve overflowed the pot by a small amount. So, next time I may cut out one can of tomato soup or a can of beans. Also, I want to try garbanzo beans in my next batch… and I’ve heard chocolate powder goes good in chili some times… so I wanna try that one day too.

I also tossed in 2 slices of Velveeta ripped apart, a dash of spicy brown mustard, and a drop or 2 of A1 Cracked Peppercorn Steak Sauce.

I think the meat that I used was too fatty or I didn’t drain enough fat (…even though I got a about ⅔ of a regular sized plastic cup full of fat out of it). I had to skim some excess grease off of the top when I popped it open this morning.

I’ll let you know the general consensus after it’s been consumed.

[Edit:  It was good.]


Recipe 3:

I must have pinned this at some point, too.  Someone re-pinned it here…

I think it was a joke about Pepto because this chili killed my guts, even served over mashed potatoes.


Share your chili recipes with me in the comment section below.  Don’t be a jag and sit on your secret ingredient(s).  Is it cocoa powder?  Chocolate bars?  Corn?  Zucchini?  Cinnamon?  Potatoes?  Steak?  Instant potato flakes?  Cornmeal?  Chupacabra?

How do you serve it?  In a bowl?  Over baked or mashed potatoes, rice,or spaghetti?  With soft pretzels or cornbread?  With tortilla chips or crackers?

How do you cook it?  Crock pot?  Dutch oven?  Stove top?  Over a campfire?

Do you like the Hormel canned stuff or the stuff from Wendy’s?  Who makes your favorite?

Spill it!

So, we built a swing set…


It was a fun family project.  We told the kids that birthdays & Easter would be light as we were putting a lot into the swingset.  I’m not sure they understood or cared.  Our moms helped with the purchase, too.  Bethany & I looked online at 6,487,932 swing sets, and narrowed it down to 15 or so in our price range.  I made a spreadsheet to compare them, because OCD or something.  Looking at the roadside swing sets at those places that also sell sheds and rocking chairs, we got a similar product for about ⅓ or ¼ of the price, albeit with no installation.

Installation is expensive, and now we know why.  Ha ha.  Everyone who knew we were getting one gave warning, so we weren’t surprised, but it was an interesting task.

It came in 3 boxes from Walmart.com, and we did in-store pickup because I measured & it all fit nicely in the family vehicle.

Yay, #swingset!

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It took two weekend days with one week night in between to get it done, but the first weekend day was slowed by the kids “helping,” a move-the-tools-in-because-it-looks-like-rain delay, and maybe even a “let’s undo that part because I put it on backwards” moment.  The week night was hindered by the fact that as soon as I attached the ladder & sliding board, the kids needed to test it out.

Bethany & I enjoyed the kids helping.  We do the Home Depot Kids Workshops so both kids are comfortable with a hammer & a screwdriver, and we have done some other stuff at home like carpet removal and hanging curtain rods where they have actually helped.

Hard at work!

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Had some "helpers" today, ha ha.

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My mom even got video of the little man showing off his ratchet skills;

We have been at the house for a few years now, but the project this year is another step to getting the back yard to where we want it, and next year we’ll work on the front.  Having some trees removed recently & moving our garden really opened up some space in the back yard.  I’d like to put in a fire ring, and a toy car race-track play area.  I actually proposed removing the Bean House to make room for the latter, but I was vetoed by a 2yo boy saying “Unh-uh, Daddy.  Hoooome.  Hooome.  Daddy, unh-uh.”  I really hope the beans take off this year.  I have some sprouts popping up already.  I have some squash around it too. I don’t think the soil is all that great there though.

I even recently built this Pinterest inspired potting bench…

Back to the swing set, we even got a few extra add-ons from Amazon, like the steering wheel, telescope, telephone, and some handles.  I think I want to replace the kitchen area tarp walls with some chalkboard-painted wood… and eventually when the canopy fades or dry-rots, I’d like to replace it with some type of solid roof.

"There's so much room for activities!" @CedarSummitPlay #Laurentian #PlaySet #Swingset

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At any rate, I encourage you to tackle a project as a family.  I encourage you to get kids outdoors.  I encourage you to not be afraid to give young kids some tools with a bit of guidance and a lot of supervision.  I encourage you to get them into building, gardening, cooking, and the business of imagination.  I encourage you to try projects yourself, and don’t be afraid to involve the whole family.  It’s amazing how much you can learn through Google, YouTube, and a maybe a few tries.

I think the kids like it…