Stuff and things.


I haven’t blogged very consistently lately.  When I’m not blogging, I’m usually doing something with the kids. Like this stuff;

Pulling up carpet tack strips:

Building a swingset:

Getting a pretend haircut:

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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…

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, they call it a Babymoon…


Apparently the newest annoying word for some time away is Babymoon.  It’s better than Daycation or Staycation, but still annoying.  The word is annoying, but the actual time away isn’t.  With the impending arrival getting closer and closer, many online pregnancy-related websites & email lists suggest taking a babymoon.  This goes especially for first time parents, as a nice little last fling before all of your apparent freedoms disappear.

We decided a while ago that a nice little getaway to a cabin would be the way to go.  We have been tent camping at Forest Ridge Cabins and Campgrounds before, but had never tried out the cabins.  They always looked quite inviting.  The campground itself is always clean, and the owners are quite hospitable.  The prices are competitive with other places that we checked out online, and really quite affordable.  Important for the babymoon aspect, it’s not that far away.  Cabins are our thing now I guess… since we honeymooned in one in Gatlinburg, TN.  It all just seemed to make sense.

We booked the date a while ago, assuming that since it was spring we’d have a nice warm weekend.  It was a nice weekend, but there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground, and the temperature never got much above freezing.

We stayed in the Allegheny cabin, and it was warm & cozy inside.  We brought along some DVD‘s, cooked some s’mores (with peanut butter cups) around the campfire, and just had a nice relaxing weekend.  The kitchen was stocked with all kinds of cookware and utensils, we made a nice steak dinner on Saturday.  I also made a friend in Oliver, one of the campground cats.  He strolled up as I was waiting for the last log to burn out on the campfire, then followed me up on the porch to hang out a but on top of the hot tub cover.  He liked to look in the window at us, then look away when he saw that we were looking at him.

I think we’ve decided that Forest Ridge is “our place” as far as camping when we’re not going camping at Living Waters.

Check out Forest Ridge on Facebook, Twitter, & Yelp, and check out some of our photos…

OMG. WTF? BBQ!


My PCP is going to hate this post.

I love barbecue, or BBQ or Bar-B-Q or whatever you want to call it.  This isn’t going to be a blog about what you think the “real” definition of barbecue is (wet/dry, smoke/no smoke, slow & low/fast & hot, sauce/no sauce, charcoal/gas, grill/pit)… the purists all claim to be right, and the term can be applied to the meat (or veggies I guess), the cooking, the spices, the sauce, or the gathering.  If you want to argue/learn about the differences, check out Wikipedia.

Since I’m just a fan of barbecue, not a professional BBQ cook, and live in Pittsburgh not the south*… I won’t take a stand on the issue.  I like all varieties.  (Although, would chipped ham barbecue be “Pittsburgh Style” BBQ?  I’d support that.)

I was inspired to write about BBQ today because I recently had an excellent dinner form the Pittsburgh Barbecue Company.  It reminded me of my three favorite barbecue joints.  I was just wondering what other people thought of them, and what other awesome local BBQ joints might not be on my radar.

Rowdy BBQ

Rowdy BBQ

Rowdy BBQ
Brentwood Express Rowdy BBQ on UrbanspoonTagline: “We think of you when we pull our pork!” – I swear this place used to be called Brentwood Express or have it in the name somewhere…  but now the site’s commercial strictly says “Rowdy BBQ”, so we’ll go with that.

At any rate, this is my favorite barbecue sauce.  I love this stuff!  It’s a sweet yet spicy sauce.  They have a killer menu with all kinds of fun things like “The Big Pig”, “The Whole Hog”, and the “Knuckle Sandwich”.  I usually get the ribs/chicken combo with some fries and eat just enough to make myself almost sick.  The ribs are always cooked perfectly, sometimes the chicken is dry, but not “ooh I can’t eat this” dry.  The fries are awesome, and this is the only place out of my 3 favorites that even has fries.  (They used to have excellent pierogies, but I don’t think they’re on the menu anymore.)  I’ve had the Big Pig & the brisket sandwiches, they are awesome.  I want to try the cheese steaks, but at pulled to the BBQ offerings every time I’m there.  I want to buy the sauce to bring home, but then I won’t have an excuse to go there. The parking lot is chaos, and you’re eating about 5 feet away from the traffic on Rte. 51 when you’re on the one site… but I can never wait to get home to eat, gotta eat it there!  (And, I’d miss the rowdy rooster!)

Check ’em out on the web: Website | Facebook 1 | Facebook 2 | Urbanspoon

Pittsburgh Barbecue Company

Pittsburgh Barbecue Company

Pittsburgh Barbecue Company
Pittsburgh Barbecue Company on UrbanspoonTagline: “That place on Banksville…” – This place is the closest to home for me, and is pretty damn tasty BBQ.  The sauce is a little more tangy than sweet.  I go for the brisket or pulled pork here more often than the ribs… but the ribs & chicken are damn good.  I like their mac n’ cheese.  It’s got a tasty homemade feel.  They have a pretty minimalist menu, but I really like that.  They know what they do, and they do it well.  My wife Bethany loves their baked apples side.  The cornbread is excellent too.  They seem to be a little expensive here, but again, it’s worth it.  You definitely get what you pay for… the meat portions on the sandwiches are huge.

The sauce is nice & peppery.  I get a spicy tingle every time we dine here.  There’s also a nice outside dining area, and although sparse like Rowdy BBQ, you’re not eating amid exhaust like you are on Rte. 51.  It’s got a nice little log cabin/shack feel inside.  They also tout a bunch of “#1’s” on their site, most recent being Pittsburgh Magazine’s “Best in the ‘Burgh 2010”.  This place is no secret, even if it is hiding back off of the main road.

Check ’em out on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter | UrbanSpoon

Clem's Cafe

Clem's Cafe

Clem’s Cafe
Clem's Cafe (Hardwood Barbecue) on UrbanspoonTagline: “Home of the nice racks, big breasts, juicy thighs, and warm buns! ” – This one is way out there, but really worth the drive.  They have an excellent tangy sauce… I can taste the vinegar in it, but it blends well with the overall flavor.  The best part about Clem’s is that hands down the meat is always falling off the bone on the ribs… and always always juicy with the chicken.  I like the mac & cheese here, and the ability to get the Boylan’s root beer or birch beer.

The dining facilities are great, it’s always a nice place to sit & eat.  They have a concise menu, again not too much, you know exactly why you’re there… for the BBQ!

[I need a YouTube video for these guys!]

Check ’em out on the web: Website | Facebook | UrbanSpoon

Which Pittsburgh (or SWPA) BBQ place is your favorite?  I’d love to do a blind taste-test of all their sauces some time.

There are other places I have in mind that I’d like to try, like The Flame BBQ, Two Brothers Bar-B-Q, & No Bull Bar-B-Q. Anyone been to any of those? Thoughts?

So, where else should I try?  My #1 criteria in finding a cool new BBQ place is that they don’t have shrimp (or any other shellfish) on the menu… like Rib Cage BBQ.  I like the BBQ places because of the limited menu & no chance of cross-contamination.  It’s nice to be able to completely relax at an eating establishment.

I would love to be able to get some turkey at a BBQ place though… either deep-fried & topped with some sauce… or in a pulled-pork style or brisket-style sandwich… or turkey legs.  Man, I love turkey legs.

So, flood me with commentary!

*There are a number of people around here that do indeed think we are a southern state… “Pennsyltucky” and all…