Kids, Gardening, & Jalapeños. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦🌱🌶️


The kids like to garden. They helped plant once again this year, and have been great at watering, upkeep, & harvesting. They really did most of the planting work this year, and are learning about how to keep weeds out and when to pick ripe peppers. (They’re already pretty good at tomatoes.)

Molly & Ian try a jalapeño from the garden! 🌶️

This year, by accident, I picked up a jalapeño plant when shopping at Home Depot. I meant to get 2 each of yellow bell peppers, orange bell peppers, and red bell peppers. I came home with a jalapeno and only one yellow pepper. We also planted some sweet banana peppers.

When I brought it home, Ian was determined to plant it & try some. He was true to his word! Molly & Ian did both try it! I put the video up on YouTube and IGTV.

Decide for yourself if you think they liked it:

I haven’t ever grown hot peppers despite all my years growing tomato, pepper, & a slew of other stuff.

I asked on various social media platforms on how to tell if your jalapeno is ripe and I got a handful of differentiating opinions. I got…

  • When they turn red. (Was told they turn black before they are red.)
  • When they start to get little brown lines/wrinkles.
  • At around 3″ long.
  • At around 6″ to 8″ long.
  • Look at the photo on the plant tag.
  • bury match heads to make them hotter.

So, how do you tell when they’re ripe?


Share your hot pepper ripeness tips & any other tricks below on the comments.

Have an recipes to share too?  I would like to hear your thoughts on gardening, jalapeno peppers, or the video below!

This has been a fun gardening journey.  It is exciting to see them learn about composting, growing food, and then trying it & even cooking with it.  We have had plenty of beautiful snap beans, sweet banana peppers, & a few varieties of cherry tomatoes so far.

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Much #latergram. #GardeningForKids

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#Jalapeño!🌶

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#SweetBananaPeppers!

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White Trash ’Taters


I have heard them called many things.  Funeral potatoes, cheesy potatoes, picnic potatoes.  I like our name best.  No idea where the recipe came from originally.  I have been coming here to look for recipes and I noticed I hadn’t posted it here.  I posted it on a blog I never really kept up with.

I made these for Christmas in lieu of spending all the time it takes to make my decadent cheesy scalloped potatoes.

White Trash ’Taters Recipe

  • 2 lb. bag of Ore Ida frozen hash browns (cubes)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 stick oleo/butter
  • 3 tbsp. Onion (optional)
  • 1 bag sour cream & onion potato chips.

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Grease 9” x 13” pan.

Mix all ingredients except potatoes in large bowl. Put frozen potatoes into pan, break clumps if necessary. Stir in cheese mixture, mix well.

Crush sour cream & onion potato chips and sprinkle over top of pan.

Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 1 hour at 350°, remove foil & bake for 10-15 min. longer.

Substitutions/Variations: I don’t use onions in mine… but I have bought the potatoes “southwest style” with green peppers. Also, if you don’t like cream of chicken… cream of mushroom or celery or potato or just about anything will do. I usually double the sour cream called for above, and use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of butter or oleo. Also… in place of the chips I have seen corn flakes or Ritz crackers. Once you get it down, you can adapt it any way you like.

Do you make this?  Do you change it up?  I have used shredded gouda in addition to the sharp cheddar and it is awesome.  I usually end up doubling this for some reason.  I want to try BBQ chips on top one of these days.

Can you get the quarter to the cart & avoid the aisle of shame? (My Aldi maze.) 🛒


I know most online Aldi groups call it the Aisle of Shame. Can you get through the maze without going there?

There are some crazy Aldi fans in Facebook groups out there. There are some people who like mazes out there. Is there much of an overlap?

  1. Print this.
  2. Solve it.
  3. Snap a photo.
  4. Post it on social media.
  5. Tag me. (@AiXeLsyD13)

It’s really that simple. You can even skip the printing and solve it on your phone or tablet usong a note app or photo editor if so inclined.

What’s it like to be a parent? (a.k.a. The Great Christmas Tree Shenanigans of 2019) 🎄


If you want to know what it’s like to be a parent, let me give you some insight.

Tonight we were putting up the Christmas tree. It is old & the top 3rd didn’t all completely light up last year. I did sort of attempt to fix the problem to no avail. Again this year with a replacement bulb to no avail.

Because the kids were excited, we continued to decorate. About 95% done, I remarked aloud (my mistake?) that we should get a new tree. So, everyone got out of their PJ’s into regular clothes and we ended up going to Home Depot. Excitement was off the charts.

At Home Depot, there were a bunch of great trees for all kinds of price ranges. All four of us finally settled on a tree that we liked. (It’s really cool… pre-lit, and can be all white or different colors!)

Looking for the tree on the shelf, of course they didn’t have one. Neither did any of the other local stores. We bought the floor model for a slight discount but the caveat was that there was no box.

The kids managed to bounce around the store with Christmas Spirit like Will Ferrell in Elf while sort of processing that this was the only tree if we wanted that tree.

Us purchasing the tree from the floor was apparently the most exciting thing we have ever done and we (well, half of us) danced to the checkout with 3 shopping carts in tow… the useless race car one because we can never not get it, and two regular orange carts, one with 2/3 of a tree and one with the remaining 1/3 & stand.

I had wanted to get a rubbermaid tote for it, but the ants in our pants had grown great in their numbers and were humming the chorus to “Ode to Joy.” We checked out and came home with the plan that we could continue the tree decoration process tomorrow.

So of course, once in the house, we promptly assembled & started to decorate the new tree while un-decorating the old tree. Oh the excitement was uncontainable!

Being that garbage collection was pushed back a day due to Thanksgiving, I wanted to put the old tree on the curb.

I told the kids to say goodbye to the old tree and Ian looked like I just told him we were going to skin and eat Butterscotch (our cat) after roasting her over an open flame. Once the crocodile tear rolled down his cheek, it set Molly into big sister sympathy tears mode.

We had talked before about getting a second tree for the dining room because it looks nice in that window from outside.

Guess who is going to try harder to fix that Christmas tree because he is a sucker for recently overjoyed and now crying children?

I’m glad they’re sensitive and sentimental, but wow.

🏊 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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…

So, in the spring I want to build an outdoor Matchbox car race track… 🚗


How cool is this?

Since the bean house was a bit of a bust, maybe this will be a hit.  It looks like it can get as complicated or remain as simple as you’d like.  I have pinned a bunch of ideas.  I’d like to include an area for construction vehicles… maybe tiny pebbles, not sand.  I hate sand.  I like the use of the tire in the one… and the dirt road, and tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to snag a bunch of ideas online, specifically Pinterest I guess. Looks super fun for both kids, and me!

Have you done anything like this?

We finally hung the sign on our #BeanHouse. 🌱


Did you read about our #BeanHouse?

I was able to get some matte clear-coat spray this week and hit the sign a few times, although this stuff seemed to soak up the paint like a sponge.  We just used some particleboard from an old dresser drawer.  It was the perfect size.  I did the marker & colored the beans, the rest was all Molly.

Molly also got a tomato plant  from her Grandma BB, so we planted it right out front.  We tried the fork trick there too to deter bunnies, but if I remember right they’re not huge fans of tomatoes.  You never know what else is out & around either.

We also put out some organic bloodmeal to provide nutrients and hopefully deter critters.   Molly reminded me to put down grass clippings because they hold moisture.

I was thinking about putting out some cinnamon to keep the rabbits away too.  I just saw that coffee grounds keep away snails.  Do you have any other tips & tricks that seem to have worked for you in the past?  We did use garlic clips last year.  They seemed to work, but we did have a few incidents of snacking on our peppers.

No beans sprouting yet, but our Spanish onions just popped from seeds we planted a while ago.

Outdoor Gardening Fun With a #BeanHouse. 🌱


So, I dig gardening. (Get it?)  I have passed that on (so far) to my oldest child, and the little one really likes playing in the dirt.  I also enjoy doing things with the kids that are not only fun, but that allow me to sneak in some learning.

Today we set up a Bean House.  What’s a bean house?  I don’t know. That’s what my daughter wanted to call it & it’s really the most appropriate title.  We got the idea from a friend’s Facebook wall with instructions for a bean den and a willow den.

Basically, we built a play house that will act as a trellis for a (hopefully) vining bean plant.  I started with an area that had already been cleared thanks to a pile of brush that was recently removed.  Speaking of that brush that I have recently cleared form our jungle of a back yard; I grabbed 4 rather large branches with a “Y” shape, cut them to roughly the same length with the chainsaw, and sharpened the bottoms.  I dug some holes with a small gardening shovel and drove the posts in as far as I could, mounding up some dirt around each pole.  I used some gardening wire to secure four branches across the top for a nice little cube-ish frame.

Then, I let the munchkins “help” while I secured several smaller sticks across the top, down along the sides, and across the sides.  At one point we ran low on sticks, so I used some old wooden and bamboo tomato stakes.  The wooden stakes seemed to really help make the rest of the structure stable because I could really pound them into the ground well.  To secure everything, I used some newly purchased garden wire, and whatever twine and garden wire that we had leftover from previous years’ gardening adventures.

The top is a thatched mess of “wonky” branches that are woven together to provide slightly more shade than the sides, but will still be open for the growing vines.  My shelter would probably make Survivorman Les Stroud hang his head in shame, but it’s better than most of the shelters on Naked and Afraid.

The wife and little guy helped water the mounds so I could pack them down, and then I mounded dirt all around every post & they helped do the same.  Then we mulched the mound with grass clippings & packed it down again.

Finally I dug some holes for the pre-soaked Kentucky Wonder green bean seeds (beans?) around the base of the entire structure, and the whole family helped put in the seed-starter potting soil mix, the seeds, and some more dirt & mulch in place.  We placed some plastic forks facing outward all around the seeds at the base of the thing to hopefully help ward off the local overpopulation of rabbits.  I may try some additional deterrent like bloodmeal.

Later indoors, we found some other stuff and made a sign to hang once I get a coat or two of clear coat on it.

While we put it up, we talked about enjoying outside, building things, growing things, recycling and up-cycling, sunshine, water, and everything.  We talked about how grass clippings act like a mulch that holds moisture for the plants.  We talked about how the fertilizer and Miracle-Gro in the water acts like vitamins for the plants… vitamins like the one’s we’ll get from eating the beans.  I’m sure we’ll have discussions in the future about patience, including our little brother, and not knocking the bean house over.

My wife and I have always tried to talk to the kids with the same respect we’d give other adults.  We don’t use small words.  We explain things as best we can, encourage and answer questions.  I’m continually amazed at the observations that our daughter makes in conversation, and through our son’s actions that show an understanding of exactly what is going on.

If you’re reading this and are a parent, I ask you to narrate to your kids what you’re doing & why when you do an activity together.  You may think they’re too little to get it, but they’re constantly absorbing what you’re doing.

This is a great way to get into all kinds of stuff like gardening, up-cycling/recycling, food not lawns, urban farming, and striving to pass on the importance of such things as knowing how to grow food to your kids.  I’m excited to plant some tomatoes, peppers, and try a few new things this year.  I love going outside and seeing vegetable plants in the summer.  I love the smell of the dirt and growing plants.  I hope to pass this on and that the kids love it too.

All-in, I paid around $10 for the seeds, wire, & fertilizer.  Everything else we had here on hand or could have probably found easily for free.

Please, enjoy some photos and share some in the comments if you build your own!

Wait. What? (The Bob Evans saga continues.)


I never emailed these names.  Seriously.  Someone must have sent Jon the text of my blog, or a link to my blog.  My original email contained the names which I then changed to something I thought would be ridiculous and obvious, so I didn’t accidentally call out another real employee.

Am I being trolled?

On Thursday, November 19, 2015 8:54 PM, “0503, BER” <Unit_503@bobevans.com> wrote:

Hello,

                I am following up on a bad review that we had charge to our store.  I was hoping to get some more information, as we believed our location received this review in error.  We don’t have servers by either name mentioned in the review (Maleficient and Lincoln), and would like to find out which store you were actually at.  Then we can send this along to them, so that they can address these issues.  Thank you for your time.

Jon Herrmann
General Manager
Bob Evans #503
Bridgeville, PA
(412) 257-1369

Shenanigans. ☘

I wrote back.  Nothing interesting besides pointing out that I never sent those names in an email.

I also got an email from LeAnn confirming our Dormont address, so I passed along the new one.  I wonder if I’ll get a T-shirt?

If it’s gift certificates, does anyone know of a charity that accepts them or of a family in need?

Maybe they’re sending someone to dispatch of me.  Maybe I should ask King’s to weigh in?

This still makes me laugh uncontrollably:

YOU GET A CRAYON!

Smiling & coloring rule.

I did get a really insightful comment on the last post though. Doesn’t seem like it’s gone down that way so far.