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.

More than 6 ways to cook a hot dog.


A while ago, I blogged about stumbling on to an article listing 6 ways too cook a hot dog.  We all know there’s more.  Here’s a much better list.  OK, maybe not better… but bigger. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions submissions here and on Facebook, I hope to include them all here.

Oh well, on to the list…

  1. Grill ’em. The general consensus seems to be that if you’re going to cook a hot dog, it needs to be grilled.  I would agree with this.  I usually don’t break out hot dogs unless I’m already grilling burgers.  They’re there for those weird non-burger people, or a topping for your burger.
    • Charcoal Grill – This is old school grilling, get it hot let the flames & coals cook the dog with some nice grill lines or looking like the victim of a flame-thrower accident.  There are good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (as if you need them).
    • Propane Grill – It’s a little easier to control the heat, & you’re less likely to produce the same flame-thrower victim effect if you keep an eye on ’em. There are also good instructions on grilling w/ gas & charcoal here (again, as if you need them).
    • Foreman Grill – Or any of the imitators & whatever they’re called.  I’ve seen a Hamilton Beach one, I’ve seen them called electric grills, counter-top grills, whatever… you know what I’m talking about.  I’ve had little success with the Foreman Grill & hot dogs… which is odd, because it cooks other stuff quite easily.  Here’s a video on how to cook ’em on the Foreman Grill, …because I can’t find good text for it anywhere.  They don’t list a time for hot dogs in the book that comes with it.  Maybe they assume their grill is for convenience, and it’s more convenient to nuke or boil your dogs.  If anyone has $99 to spare, I’ll take the USB iGrill from Think Geek.
    • Infrared Grill – I know nothing about this newfangled contraption.  It looks like you can burn a hot dog in 0.5 seconds on one.  Learn about infrared grills at Wikipedia.
    • Griddle/Flattop Grill – If you have one in your house, you are awesome.  You can certainly cook a hot dog on one, and don’t need me to tell you how.
  2. Open Flame. Who doesn’t love hot dogs (or anything really) cooked over a campfire? …Or a bonfire, trash barrel fire, or while the neighbor’s house is burning down? With these methods, You can also wrap the dog with biscuit or croissant dough from those creepy popping tubes, and it will cook nicely over an open flame.  If you want to get really crazy, slice it down the middle & stuff cheese in it, or wrap some cheese around it before the dough.
    • Skewer – We use roasting forks or or just sticks.  You can get the forks at any sporting goods or camping store, in a store that has a camping section, or in a store near your camping site.  You can get sticks in the woods, or from a lone, sad tree.  You can also get inventive, like this guy.  Be careful choosing sticks and being inventive… you don’t want anything that will poison your hot dog… like toxic wood, metal treated or painted with anything, and of course plastic.  I can’t seem to find a guide online of safe & unsafe tree branches to use when cooking over a fire.  Anyone have a boy scout handbook?  (I asked Yahoo!, apparently nothing out there will kill you, but stick with a non-sappy wood.) With this method, get your fire going, and hold the hot dog over it… but not in the flame unless you like black crispy possibly carcinogen-laced hot dogs.  If using a store-bought fork, it’s up to you if you want to put the dog on long-ways, or double/triple ’em up the forks.
    • Pie Iron – If you’ve camped with me, you’ve cooked with a pie iron… or you’ve watched me cook with one.  My favorites include pizza ones, and Reubens… but I’m sure you could stuff a hot dog into one.  They also have ones that are shaped to cook hot dogs.  This would most likely result in a nicely cooked dog without the singe marks, maybe flavored with some onions (gross!) or sauerkraut.  If you’re buying  a pie iron, buy one made of… iron.  This sounds dumb, but they make aluminum ones, and I have melted them with no problem.  I don’t think you want aluminum flavored hot dogs.
    • The Cage – Burger basket, grill basket, vegetable basket – all different names for a similar utensil.  I’d use it like I would a fork for hot-dog cooking… may be sort of useless unless you have a burger in it too.
    • The Rack – If you can find some sort of rack or grate that you can secure safely over the fire that’s also safe to cook on, you can cook like it’s a charcoal grill if you’re more comfortable with that.  Just make sure the flame isn’t eating your hot dog before you do.
    • Foil Pack – You could use the bread dough & any toppings/sides here as well.  Wrap the dog & even the bun in foil, and place it on a grate over the flames, or in the coals around the bottom of the fire like you would with a baked potato.
    • Oven Burner – That’s right.  Pit it on a fork or roasting fork, and hold it over the flame on your stove top.  This might not be safe, but I bet it would be fun.
  3. Boiled – I’m sure you’ve all had ’em like this.  I think it even suggests to heat ’em this way on the pack.  I’m not a fan of boiling anything any more, unless it’s soup or pasta.  It just seems like a lot of flavor goes into the water… and where hot dogs are concerned, it’s not like you have a lot to work with to begin with.  I’d suggest boiling hot dogs in beer, even though I’ve never tried it… it sounds pretty awesome.  You can even get crazy with beer, ketchup, and brown sugar.  Maybe some beef broth or bullion would be cool here too… but that may make ’em to salty?  I dunno.  Boil at your own risk.
  4. Nuke ’em – I guess that besides grilling, this would seem to be the most obvious method of cooking hot dogs.  On the last pack we bought, this method was featured larger than the other methods.  Just 30 – 40 seconds in the microwave … wrapped in a paper towel?  I never use the paper towel.  Is that to hold in moisture, prevent explosions, or what?  Apparetly there’s an art to this, because I have found the articles How to Cook a Hot Dog in a Microwave and the possible passive-aggressive How to Cook a Hot Dog in the Microwave Without Exploding the Ends.  As I write this, I have an urge to make some hot dogs explode in the microwave.  I may be developing a disorder.
  5. Lovin’ from the Oven – You can certainly cook hot dogs in the oven, you may split ’em open or poke them with a fork first.  This method would be ideal for the croissant-wrapped hot dogs, smothered in some awesome cheese.  Just make sure if you use the 1st linked method, that you put the foil in the oven before you heat it up (like they so diligently mentioned)… or don’t do that, burn yourself, and stay off of the internet.
  6. Deep Fried – They call these Rippers in New Jersey, no?  I don’t have a fryer… but I suppose I could do this in a pot on the stove, or in my turkey fryer.  I’ve never had one, but I’d imagine it’s a pretty good thing.  Corn dogs could be lumped in here too, I guess.
  7. Steamed – This seems to be a popular method, but I know I’ve never done it, or really seen it done.  I guess there are commercial steam cabinets for hot dogs… but I bet you could steam it like you do with vegetables if you have a steamer.  Perhaps, like boiling… you could steam it with beer…?
  8. In the Skillet. – Or frying pan.  Just fry it on the stove top with a little bit of oil.  I guess you could slice it open first if you wanted to, so it doesn’t pop on you.  Or, you can elevate it to an art form.
  9. Crock PotPop ’em in the crock pot with some sauerkraut (maybe along with some beer), and you’re good to go.
  10. Car EngineWhy not?
  11. In Stuff – Okay this isn’t one specific method, but I didn’t feel like all of these should have their own #’s on the list.  You know you’ve chopped ’em up and added them to baked beans, mac n’ cheese, or even done a hot dog & potato bake.  Here I’ll also inject that I once got the SpaghettiOs with hot dogs.  They were inexplicably gross.  This is your final warning.
  12. Goofy Single-Purpose Appliances – I have hot dogs only occasionally.  I can’t imagine getting one of these hot dog cookers that serves only one purpose.  Our counter-space is quite limited.. and I can’t see that breaking one of these things out would be worth the novelty after more than a few uses…
    • The Hot Dog Toaster – Besides looking creepy, these also apparently cook hot dogs.  It looks to be just a toaster with hot dog-shaped holes and bun-shaped holes.  I wonder if it really cooks the thing through very well?  May be quite convenient.
    • Solar Hot Dog Cooker – This might be fun for campers or science geeks.  Solar ovens are pretty awesome, this one and this one are especially geared for hot dogs… this one might work.
    • The Roller – These apparently come in several varieties, but all look to be the same concept… Cooked on rollers like the ones you see at the convenience stores.  Brookstone makes one, there are a bunch of professional ones, and Nostalgia Electrics offers the Roller & “Ferris Wheel” varieties.
    • The “Roast My Weenie” guy – More of an accessory, this really just needs to be seen.
    • Electrocute it – My cousin told me a tale via Facebook of a hot dog cooker for electric chair, taser, and Tesla enthusiasts… called the Presto Hot Dogger.  Mad scientists can try it at home with a few things from around the house.  This actually looks pretty awesome.  This vintage one looks like a torture device.

Well, those are all the methods I can think of right now.  Well, other than going to Sheetz or Dormont Dogs… you should be able to get your hot dog fix by one of the methods described here.  If you have another technique, please list it in the comments below!

If you need more info… check out the list of hot dog variations.

Also up for discussion… now that you know how to cook one, what do you want on your hot dog?