Delicious Pinterest-Imperfect Bruschetta

Good Morning!

Today is a day of confessions and a sorta recipe for bruschetta.

Basil, Bruschetta recipe

 

My confession:  I try to be as real as possible.  Most of my pictures (as you can probably tell) are taken with my cell phone camera.  When this basil came out of the package, it was all squished and flat.  It looked pretty sad.  I caught myself fluffing up the basil to make a good picture.

Seriously.  I have two young children, a husband, hobbies, etc. and I was taking time out of my day to fluff basil so the Pinterest watchers would think my cooking was awesome.

WTF is wrong with me?  Really?

So, in penance for wasting precious moments of my life on vanity, here is a picture of the counter top after I chopped a bunch of tomatoes.

Dirty counter

This weekend, I processed up some garlic, olive oil, and basil to use for marinara as detailed in my post on the perfect simplicity of Basil, Olive Oil, and Garlic.  Because it is so freaking delicious, I set aside a couple spoonfuls (maybe 2 tablespoons) and whipped up some bruschetta.

How easy is bruschetta when you have a food processor already out and and covered in garlic and basil?  Super easy.

Just hold back 2 tablespoons of the garlic and basil mixture.

Drop in half a sweet onion.

Drop in 6 medium tomatoes that have been cored and seeded.

Process away.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

Spoon the mixture on to toasted bread and enjoy!  If you like vinegar (which I don’t but Husband does), drizzle some balsamic over the top.

I didn’t do anything special to the bowl of bruschetta.  This is what it will look like when you take it out of the food processor and put it into a bowl in real life.  It is not fancy but it is real.

 

 

Bulk Garlic

Here is a quick tip for anyone who regularly buys garlic for cooking only to find half of the clove has taken root in the depths of your fridge before you could use it up.

Place peeled garlic in the freezer in a Ziploc bag.  

Bulk Garlic

I buy the large bags of bulk garlic from Costco.  They are both economical and time saving.

Make peace with the fact that frozen garlic will turn mushy when thawed.

Avoid a yucky mushy mess by forgoing chopping and slicing in favor of sending the garlic cloves through a garlic press while still frozen.  

It takes a little bit of muscle (and I mean a little bit) but makes adding garlic to most dishes about a million times easier.

I use this method with soups, dips, stir fries, sauces, etc.  The only time this wouldn’t be an acceptable alternative to fresh garlic is when large chunks of raw garlic are needed for a recipe.

In case you can’t tell, I labeled that bag with a silver Sharpie I picked up for free a few months ago as part of a deal at our local office supply place.  It’s so shiny and bright.  Using it makes freezer meals seem just a little bit fancier!!!

 

 

A Gorgeous New Fire Pit

Fire Pit Fire Ring DIY Do It Yourself Construction

DIY Fire Pit

Husband recently took a couple days off of his job to engage in heavy manual labor around the house.  Most epic of his labors was the building of our fire pit.  This is not a DIY for anyone who isn’t comfortable lifting heavy objects or really big projects.  But, for Husband, this was a labor of love.

I take no credit for this project as I did nothing more than squirt a few lines of adhesive one night.  Getting the contractor adhesive out of the massive caulk gun was a challenge for me and I threw in the towel pretty quickly.

Don’t judge, it was really thick and sticky.

The biggest challenge of this project was the massive amount of heavy materials needed.  The blocks were about 10-20 lbs each, and there were 150 of them total.  The driver who delivered our gravel indicated that the total weight was close to 6 tons.  If you aren’t big and strapping, this whole thing could take a very, very long time.  Consider yourself warned.

Husband chose to dig out a portion of our backyard.  Our pit sits in a little clearing in our yard.  The fire ring is 4 feet in diameter and the total area is about 12 feet.  Husband removed the sod and some dirt to accommodate three inches of gravel for the main area of the ring and an extra three inches for the fire pit.  There was a large, level circle at three inches below the lawn and an inner circle that was an additional three inches below the larger circle.

When completing a task like this, it is really important to level everything, all the time.  The inner circle must be level, the outer circle must be level, all of the blocks that are set must be level.  Level, level, level!!!  The picture below shows the inner ring after it was filled with a layer of gravel because it’s hard to tell the difference in the levels of the two areas when there isn’t any contrast!

Fire Ring Construction

The fire ring was built first.  It was constructed with landscaping blocks (without a lip) and refractory cement.

Landscape Blocks, Fire Pit, Fire Ring, DIY, Do It Yourself, Garden

Blocks for Fire Ring. No Lip.

Husband used a couple Youtube videos and a little common sense to figure out how to put everything together.  Some of the videos suggested excavating the lawn, some recommended gravel, some suggested adhesive, some suggested sand.  We decided to be thorough and do it all.  A base of gravel was laid and tamped down in the deeper hole for the fire ring.  In a circle, where the blocks would sit, a base of sand was laid, tamped, and leveled.  Finally, refractory cement was used as an adhesive.  Husband said the refractory cement was truly awful to work with, but it is specifically made to adhere blocks together in high heat situations, like a fire pit.

Leveled Gravel and Sand Provide the Base

Leveled Gravel and Sand Provide the Base

Each block and the whole ring was leveled.

Fire Ring, Fire Pit, DIY, Do It Yourself, Construction

Each Block was Leveled

As the courses were built up, Husband was sure to leave some gaps in the blocks to allow proper air flow to the fire.

DIY Do It Yourself Fire Pit Fire Ring Building Landscape

Notice the Slight Gaps in the Blocks

Completed Fire Ring

Completed Fire Ring

After the ring was completed, the retaining wall is constructed of basic retaining wall blocks.

Retaining Wall Blocks

Retaining Wall Blocks. Lip.

To help keep the first course level, we put up a masonry line, which is a level line to use as a guide.  After we put out the line, we spray painted it onto the dirt behind the blocks.

A Masonry Line Will Help Keep Everything Level

A Masonry Line Will Help Keep Everything Level

The blocks were placed on a base of sand that was leveled and tamped down, much like the fire ring.  Each block was also leveled as it was set down and lightly tapped into place.

Retaining Wall DIY Do It Yourself Construction Fire Pit Fire Ring Landscape

Level and Tap Each Block Into Place

Each block was adhered to the two blocks below it with two strips of contractor adhesive.  I don’t have a picture of this and it isn’t necessary, but we anticipated kids climbing on the wall and adults sitting on it, so we added the adhesive for extra security.  After each course was set, the area between the blocks and the soil was back filled with gravel.  Be sure to back fill with gravel after each course is set to ensure proper drainage.

Back Fill with Gravel

Back Fill with Gravel

As you can see from the photos, we only used a maximum of four courses of blocks, so we were able to get away without using any special landscape fabric or drainage holes or anything like that (whew).  If you have a higher wall, follow the instructions on wall construction from your block supplier or manufacturer.

Short Retaining Wall Construction Do It Yourself Fire Pit Fire Ring

Four Courses of Blocks

After the wall was completed, the entire area was tamped well and leveled.

The Hand Tamper - Husband's Least Favorite Tool!

The Hand Tamper – Husband’s Least Favorite Tool!

To finish everything off, 3 inches of gravel was added to the entire area.  It was tamped again.

Fire Pit Complete

Fire Pit Complete

If you look closely, you can see that Husband used some extra blocks to create a little entrance to the ring.  I think it looks beautiful!

Easy Crib Rail Guard

Good Morning!

Today I will share a project that was born out of necessity but ended up being just what the doctor ordered!  A homemade, super duper, easy peasy crib rail guard.

Easy Do It Yourself Crib Rail Guard Baby Nursery DecorOne morning, I woke up to find my son gnawing on his crib rail.  His mouth was covered in little flecks of dark brown varnish.  He had just started teething and standing, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but I was completely unprepared.  As quickly as I could, I called around to see if there was a crib rail guard close by, but there wasn’t a single one I could find within 5 miles.  If I had an iota of forethought, I could have anticipated I would need one and ordered it.  But the time for planning had past.  I had to do something by nap time.

The rail guard I made for my son lasted forever, absorbed tons of drool, protected the rail, and was easy to wash.  When my daughter started to teeth, I knew I would be remaking the same type of guard.

For my son’s guard, I found a few older towels and got to sewing.  I sewed all of the towels together by their short ends and made a long towel strip.  I folded that strip in two sewed it into a long towel tube.  I then wrapped the tube over the rail, so two layers of towel covered the rail and I secured it by threading ribbon through holes I cut in the towels.  Sound confusing?  It’s super simple.  But explaining it always gets convoluted.  Let me show you…

Homemade Crib Rail Guard, , Do It Yourself, DIY, for Baby Nursery Decor

Fleece Blanket with Butterflies

For Lil’E’s guard, I didn’t have any extra towels.  If I did have an old blanket, towels, quilt, etc. I would have used that.  Instead, I did some quick measurements and bought two cheapo fleece throws at our local big box store.  They were on sale and I had a coupon, so I think they ended up being about 16 dollars total.  If you think that is expensive, just remember I live in Alaska.

The total length of the rail I needed to cover was almost exactly the size of the two blankets, end to end.  If you are going to do this with random linens, just be sure to measure first.  The total length of the linens, minus seam allowances should be the length of the crib rail.  The width should be four times the height of the crib rail plus about eight inches, depending on the style of your rail.

Home made Crib Rail Guard, Thrifty Frugal Easy Baby Nursery

One Long Blanket

I cut one blanket in two just so I wouldn’t have a seam right in the middle of the front piece of the crib.  By sewing two seams, the seams ended up at the corners of her crib.

Home Made, DIY, Do It Yourself, Crib Rail Guard for Baby Nursery

One Seam was at Each Corner of the Rails.

I sewed the two halves to the whole blanket, right sides together, at the short sides.  This made one loooooong blanket.  Here is a poorly drawn picture to further illustrate this incredibly easy, but oh-so-hard-to-explain rail guard.

Home Made Crib Rail Guard Do It Yourself DIY Baby Nursery Decor

The Top Drawing Shows the Blankets End to End and the Bottom Drawing Shows Them then Folded Over and Sewn into a Tube.

Then I folded the whole thing in half lengthwise and sewed it, right sides together, into a blanket tube.

Homemade Crib Rail Guard, Easy, Frugal, Thrifty, Sewing for Baby Nursery

One Long Two Sided Blanket.
Is This Making Sense???

I turned it right side out and wrapped the rail with it.  If Lil’E had a crib with a thinner rail, I would have probably made the whole thing thinner.  But, she has a crib with a fancy, thick front rail and I wanted to cover the whole thing.

Moving on.  I used some coordinating yarn to tie it on.

DIY Do It Yourself Crib Rail Guard, Homemade Baby Nursery Decor

Use Yarn To Secure The Blanket to the Rail

If you want, you could use grommets or make button holes or some such fancy thing.  I just used scissors to stab holes through all four layers of blanket and threaded the yarn through and tied it under the blanket.

DIY Do It Yourself Crib Rail Guard Homemade Baby Nursery Decor

Secure the Blanket to the Rail Using Short Pieces of Yarn.

I just cut holes through the first one I made and it lasted over two years without issues, even after multiple washes.

Do It Yourself, DIY, Homemade Baby Crib Rail Guard Nursery Decor.

Short Ties, Please

To ensure choking wasn’t possible, I used short pieces of yarn and tied very secure knots.  No fancy bows or draping ribbon, please.

I hope you weren’t put off by the really horrible drawings.  If you have any questions, just ask.  Enjoy!!!

Love the Link Parties!  Linked over at -

Sew Many Ways; Flamingo Toes; Nifty Thrifty Things; A Peek Into My Paradise; Do It Yourself Showoff

No Sew Swiffer Wet Jet Homemade Pad

Here is my Swiffer Wet Jet hack.  You could either take this as being ingenious and will be totally impressed or you will read this and just be floored by how lazy I am.  Either way, it works well enough that my husband is no longer complaining that I won’t but new Swiffer pads.

First, if you have a Swiffer Wet Jet, there is no reason to buy new refills.  If you boil an empty Swiffer bottle cap side down for about 5 minutes the cap will twist right off.  Grip the piping hot bottle with a oven mitt or heat proof pad to avoid singeing your fingers and voila!  It comes off without a struggle.  I refill with diluted Pine-Sol, but you can refill it with whatever floor cleaner you want.

Second, instead buying the pads, microfiber cleaning clothes work miracles on every type of surface.  I have seen plenty of tutorials on cutting clothes to fit the Swiffer.  The microfiber clothes will stick to the Velcro on the Swiffer without any extra work but most clothes are too large and will trail behind the Swiffer, making it difficult to mop without everything getting wrinkly and lumped up.  So lame.

Ugh!  Extra Cloth Just Gets in the Way!

Ugh! Extra Cloth Just Gets in the Way!

You could either cut the clothes to fit the Swiffer and sew a hem to keep them from unraveling (which is a lot of work) or you could do this:

No Sew Swiffer Wet Jet pad

Genius I tell you.  Slip a rubber band over the Swiffer and stuff the extra cloth under it.

A Simple Rubber Band Does the Trick!

A Simple Rubber Band Does the Trick!

It stays out of the way – no need for sewing and cutting!

Swiffer Wet Jet Microfiber Homemade Cloth Pad

So easy.

Linked up at Thrifty Thursday, Fabulously Frugal, and Think Tank Thursday!

The Alaska Museum of Science and Nature

The Alaska Museum of Science and Nature has become one of Little Man’s favorite places.

He loves the museum because the signs on most of the exhibits say:

“PLEASE TOUCH!!!”

Dinosaurs greet you at the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature

Dinosaurs greet you at the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature

The museum is full of replicas of dinosaur bones, claws, and teeth.  All of these are in easily accessbile drawers and low tables.  Children are allowed to pick them up, look at them, compare the different parts, and play gently.  How many places can you go and grab a t-rex claw or stegosaurus plate?  It is just too cool!

Replica Fossils are on Display for Kids (and Adults) to Touch.

Replica Fossils are on Display for Kids (and Adults) to Touch.

On higher tables and behind barriers are real fossils and art pieces related to the animals of Alaska, both prehistoric and alive today.

Whale Skeleton

Whale Skeleton

Cave Bear Skeleton

Cave Bear Skeleton

One of the aspects of the museum that is both engaging and frustrating is that a number of items are in drawers and shelves under the more formal displays.  Open one drawer and it is full of antlers.  The next drawer down is full of rocks.  Somewhere in there you will find some pelts and teeth.  It is quite a hodge podge of random artifacts.

Drawers and Drawers!

Drawers and Drawers!

It can be great fun to explore the drawers, but most of the bits and pieces of animals aren’t labeled so when you find something interesting you have no idea what it is!  Little Man will pull out a rock or tooth and say, “What’s this?” and I have to respond, “I don’t know.”  Most of the time it would be really fascinating to both of us to know what the item happened to be!

Presumably because the exhibits are made to be touched and moved, there are some aspects of the museum that seem a little haphazard.  Occasionally, one of the exhibits will have walked off.  Little Man was really interested in seeing the Megaraptor claw this trip but it was missing.

Thankfully, the museum staff members are always friendly, helpful, and engaged.  They are more than willing to give you more information on something you find or a question you may have.  It is really a friendly and comfortable environment for learning.

Ceratops Painting

Ceratopsian Painting

One of the really great parts of the museum is the art work.  Which you probably wouldn’t expect given that it is a small natural history museum!

Troodon Sculpture and Hadrosaur Skeleton

Troodon Sculpture and Hadrosaur Skeleton

James Havens, a local Alaska artist who paints really beautiful renditions of dinosaurs, has done a number of pieces for the museum.  The brightly colored, large scale paintings and sculptures really capture Little Man’s imagination.  Seeing the dinosaurs as such large and colorful creatures helps bring them to life in a way a fossil or picture in a book never could.

Finally, in the back room of the museum is a play area for smaller children.  There are dinosaur puzzles, learning toys, books, and the DINOSAUR DIG!

Dinosaur Dig

Dinosaur Dig

The dinosaur dig is an ingenuous area for small children.  There are four small pits filled with really comfortable rubber mulch/chips.  In each pit are lots of dinosaur toys and plastic bones for the kids to uncover and bury with provided shovels.  What kid doesn’t love digging in a soft medium surrounded by dinosaur toys?  Every kids does I tell you!

Dinosaur Dig FUN!

If you have occasion to be in Anchorage and you are looking for a place to take your natural history or dinosaur loving tot, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature is the place to go.  Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children, but a family pass can be obtained for a $50 for a year worth of entry.

We can easily spend about an hour and a half exploring the museum and digging.  Which is plenty of time for a 3 year old.

For more information about the museum, check out the website: Alaska Museum of Science and Nature

The Anchorage Museum

Good afternoon!

Today has been a lovely, lovely day!

Little Man and I went out to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center for the morning.  The Anchorage Museum is a great place to visit if you have children.  In addition to the artwork and visiting exhibits in the main museum, the Imaginarium Discovery Center is a large, interactive area for kids to learn and play.  Little Man will regularly ask to go to the museum as an activity.

Within the Imaginarium, there are a few different places to explore.  

In the BP Kinetic Center, in the Imaginarium, at the Anchorage Museum, in Anchorage, Alaska.  Great fun for children and toddlers.

BP Kinetic

 

The BP Kinetic Area is a learning space with exhibits that allow for the hands on examination of different aspects of physical science.  Little Man is only 3, so he really isn’t learning about force, light waves, or inertia.  However, there are lots of moving parts to the exhibits – balls bouncing, balloons flying, air blowing, etc.  It could keep him busy for hours.

During our visit today, it was obvious the exhibits were being upgraded and changed around.  A little upgrade is certainly needed.  After years of little fingers experimenting and playing with the parts and pieces, they were starting to look a little rough around the edges.  I can’t tell exactly what the new exhibits will look like, but I hope they are still engaging for all ages.

Moving further into the Imaginarium from the Kinetic Area, there is an exhibit with giant bubble making devices. This is an area that can create an amazing mess.  Thankfully, there is a hand rinsing station next to the massive open tanks of bubble soap.  Making the big bubbles takes a little patience and skill.  Little man can’t make the bubbles and at times this is frustrating to him.  But, if I make the bubbles, he loves to pop them!

Chomper the Turtle in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage Alaska.  One of many exhibits for children and toddlers.

Chomper the Turtle

A tempting, but never accessible, activity is the tank with invertebrate coastal animals.  The tank has an open top that calls to little hands with the siren song of slimy sea creatures, but there is always a giant sign up letting you know you need to wait until there is an attendant present.  Unfortunately, we are never there when an attendant is on duty.  Never.  If you are interested in touching Alaskan sea creatures, I would suggest the Sea Life Center in Seward.

Right next to the open tank is an aquarium with “Chomper”, a large snapping turtle.  While Little Man looks forward to seeing “Chomper” every time we visit, I have only actually seen him move once.  A couple months ago, I started to suspect that he had passed away and had been stuffed.

Bush Plane model for children and toddlers in the TOTES Kids space for toddlers at the Imaginarium in the Anchorage Museum

Bush Plane!

Play area in the TOTES Kids space in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage Alaska.

Play Area in the KidSpace

After a long tour of the actual exhibits, Little Man likes to decompress with the other little kids in the TOTES KidSpace.  There are little slides, a water feature, toys, a doll house, a train set, and a bush plane with lots of buttons.  The plane is always the first choice activity.  Today, the kid instruments, including a drum and xylophone toy, were the second favorite.  Unfortunately for the other parents, the instruments accompanied a rousing rendition of the five frogs on a log song, sung by me, at Little Man’s request.

Train Set in the TOTES Kids Space in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Train Set

If you happen to be visiting Anchorage, Alaska with children on a beautiful summer day, for the love of all that is good, get outside and enjoy the parks, trails, or festivals. If it has gotten rainy or you had the misfortune of traveling to Alaska during a cold season, consider the museum as an excellent way to pass the time. One of the nice things about the museum activities is that there is something to engage the entire family.

We have a membership to the museum.  For us, because we come so often, the membership is totally worth the upfront expense.  However, there are numerous “free days” sponsored by local businesses over the course of the year.  If you only plan to come a few times a year and your dates are flexible, it may be worth it to wait for a one of these special events.  We have come on numerous sponsored days and even though it is a little more crowded, it is never intolerable.

For more information about the museum, check out the website:  Anchorage Museum

After a few hours at the museum, we were off to home for some peanut butter sandwiches and water balloons.

Water balloons are a joy to any little boy.  Last night, Little Man popped them by biting them.  This engaging activity came to an abrupt halt when one popped and gushed water up his nose.  It was one of those mom moments where you wonder if you should have known better than to allow your child to do something so utterly ridiculous.  Today we had some more coordinated activities to avoid any sort of water balloon related trauma.  We set out targets on the lawn to be hit by water balloons from the deck and set up water balloons on the lawn to be stomped by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

All in all, this was a really delightful day.