🏊 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.

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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?

So, the beans on our #BeanHouse are sad. 🌱


Heh.  We’ll have to try again next year.  Maybe it was the shade, maybe it was the bugs, maybe it was the timing, maybe it was a lack of Miracle Gro.  Did you see our posts about building it and hanging the sign?

This is all the growth we got:

And something ate our sunflower:

Deer (or something) destroyed this #sunflower pretty quickly, too. No luck gardening this year at all. Ha ha.

A post shared by Eric Carroll (@aixelsyd13) on

Sigh.  Ha ha.

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!

So, have you heard of the #TealPumpkinProject?


This year, we’ll have 3 bowls of treats for Halloween.  We’ll have the traditional chocolate gooey goodness, a bowl of peanut/tree-nut free treats, and a bowl entirely made up of non-food party favor-ish goodies.

Why?  Why not?  I was able to pick up a bunch of party favors at the Dollar Tree, and my wife Bethany got some Halloween themed stuff from Target.  The no-nuts candy wasn’t a big deal either, all we had to do was read the label… which we’re used to.  Even the extra bowl was only $1.  It wasn’t a whole lot of effort or money.

Even painting a foam pumpkin teal for use for years to come wasn’t a big deal, or printing the posters from the FARE website.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that.  This is a movement.  It started with some of the most kick-ass people on the planet, food allergy moms in Tennessee.

FARE | The Teal Pumpkin Project

My point, I guess, is that it isn’t a lot of effort but it can be a big huge gigantic deal for a kid.  What’s a big deal?  To feel included on a holiday where you’re hyper aware that you’re different.  To know that this piece of candy doesn’t contain nuts or wasn’t “processed in a facility that may also use peanuts or tree nuts.”  To know that if you’re allergic to dairy or chocolate or just about everything that everyone else can eat or isn’t one of the top 8, but this little trinket or toy (or 2 or 3 if you’re at our house) is all yours.  To know that you don’t have to go home & “trade up” for safe candy on this one.  To know that your parents didn’t have to drop off a safe treat with all the neighbors ahead of time, and that someone else “gets” it.

I always liked getting those Little Hugs drinks (which may be a safe treat), but some people would complain about the weight.  That would have been gone by the time I got back to the road when I was a kid.  Then again, times have changed.  When I was a kid, we had to play the “guess who you are” game.  If I asked a kid his name now, the next ring of the doorbell would probably be the local police.  Also, kids… always let your parents check your candy for razor blades or syringes.

Like I said, we read labels.  Luckily shellfish is generally easy form me to avoid in packaged foods, slightly less so in restaurants.  Our little girl Molly can’t do eggs.  Well, she can do eggs baked into things, but has to avoid straight up eggs, mayonnaise, some mustards, custard, and we just noticed… Mallow Cups?  (I hate them, they are the devil’s candy.  The wife loves them though… even though it tastes like someone replaced the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with sunscreen.)  Will we have to avoid meringue too?  Who knows?  Hopefully she outgrow her allergy, I’ll never get over mine without some kind of cure.

There are many others out there going through the same thing.  We can stick together, and support each other.  We can ask those without any food allergies to support us too.  Spreading awareness is the key to keeping us all safe.  So, take a few minutes to learn about the #TealPumpkinProject.  Use the hashtag on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.), get a pumpkin and paint it teal, and/or print out the fliers.  Get some safe treats.

Teal Pumpkin Project - Ideas for non-food treats.

Fun with virtual guitar builders…


This is why I don't design guitars.

This is why I don’t design guitars.

Screenshot of the 1986 IBM PC versionThis is my new Tetris (Thankfully I’ve never had a phone cool enough to play Angry Birds.)  Online guitar builders are popping up like mad, and now there’s a contest for making the ugliest one over at Joe Gore’s Tone Fiend blog:

Go try your luck at making the worst!  There is some serious competition over there.  Sadly, I like some of the “bad” color schemes.  I guess I do like goofy guitars after all.  (You may remember the mutant beauty pageant.)

I even used one of the guitar builders to help plan out my Turner’s Iced Tea guitar idea.

Poorly Thrown Together Iced Tea Guitars

Poorly Thrown Together Iced Tea Guitars

Matt at Guitar WTF has also posted a great list of virtual guitar builders in the past.  Some are great, some are not so great.  They all seem to have some bugs as well as some great qualities.

I’ll list the ones I know about:

Are there any glaring omissions?

I’m fully expecting one of these to pop upon the Guitarz blog one day.  None are as crazy as the Tom Bingham stuff or Bertram’s, though.

NES Guitar 15

I still haven’t seen a virtual guitar builder that can do this though. I did a Google image search for ‘Tetris Guitar’ and came up short. This was the next best thing. It would be cool if it still worked to play video games.  Really though, $190 is a very reasonable price.  If I had $200 to spare, I’d get one of these.