Mickey Mouse Ears Cookies

February 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Birthday Parties, Recipes, Top Posts

dscf6676.jpgI really like baking cookies and Ben likes things that are “double” so I often put the dough close together on the sheet so he can have “double cookies”. I made a triple cookie by accident one day and it gave me the idea to make cookies shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head/ears. I made chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough and used a medium sized pampered chef scoop for the head and then I used the small scoop to make the ears. I made these for Jamie’s mommy & me class today and the kids seemed to like them! I think they would be perfect for someone planning a Mickey Mouse Birthday Party.

*These cookies are SUPER EASY, just add cocoa powder to your regular chocolate chip cookie recipe (I used about 3 tablespoons) and let them cool a few minutes before you take them off the cookie sheet so that the ears don’t fall off!

*I’m adding a picture before I put the cookies sheet in the oven so you can see how I spaced the dough. I should have taken a picture of one a plate since my old cookie sheets weren’t the best backdrop!dscf6678.jpgdscf6673.jpg

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Playdough

January 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Art Projects, Recipes, Top Posts

I was searching online for a good chocolate playdough and I wasn’t very happy with any of the recipes (it seems like a lot of sites just copy the same play dough recipes from other sites). So I decided to make my own recipe up yesterday and for my first attempt I am very pleased. This recipe tastes great and is a good texture to play with BUT it really does look gross (like poop to be honest but the boys didn’t notice). I gave it to my boys on a plate and after a few minutes of playing with it I gave them mini M&Ms for decorating (eyes and spots). I have to confess that their favorite part was eating it so I didn’t take any pictures of their creations (but Janne below did in a post on her blog).

Here is the recipe, let me know how it works if you try it! I may tweak it next time I make it but here is exactly what I did and it came out yummy:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • about 1 cup powdered sugar (I added 1/2 cup first and then added more to get the right consistency)
  • 3 tablespoons dutch cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk (probably could have left it out or used more of it if you want less sugar but I find too much gives a grainy texture)

*I would only give it to the kids on plates because after they squished it and pounded it, it did stick to the plates a bit and I wouldn’t want it on my table. It didn’t stick to their hands though so you don’t have to worry about it being super sticky!

Here are my previous play dough posts:
Coffee playdough (my favorite I think)
Peanut butter playdough

How to build a platform bed

January 21, 2008 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Top Posts

A few months ago Heather and I had finally had enough of our old, lumpy bed. I was waking up with back pain so bad I had trouble getting into my car and we both were getting lousy sleep. I got out the measuring tape and found my side of the bed dipped 2 inches from the foot to the middle and Heather’s side was worse. After talking it over we decided if we were getting a new mattress we might as well upgrade to a king size.

King size is pricey and we didn’t want to spend the money on a bed frame that wasn’t going to match our dressers so we looked into platform beds. I found a few plans online, but the basic design was so simple that I decided to just wing it and make my own plans using standard construction lumber. We made the trip to our local furniture store and fell in love with a foam mattress. We placed our order, took some measurements and after Thanksgiving I built our new bed in a busy afternoon. Here’s how I did it.

First the materials

  • 2 x 4 x 96 – 10 pieces ($2.11 ea)
  • 2 x 10 x 8 – 6 pieces ($7.99 ea)
  • 3/4 x 49 x 97 MDF – 2 pieces ($22.99)
  • deck screws
  • wood glue (optional)

The tools

  • miter saw
  • circular saw
  • power drill/driver

My basic idea was to build 2 frames and stack them on top of each other. The framing is much like framing a wall. The bottom is smaller so you don’t stub your toes (like kitchen cabinets) and taller (so the bed fits over our radiator and flush to the wall – no headboard!). I topped it all off with the MDF. Here’s the step by step photos.

Platform bed base
For my base I used 2x10s. This gave me enough height to get my second tier over the radiator and allow us to push the bed flush to the wall so we didn’t need a headboard. In retrospect, 2x8s would have been better. The foam mattress was thicker than we expected and our bed is slightly taller than our old standard height bed.To determine the dimensions I added 1 inch to the height and width of the mattress we purchased. I then subtracted 12 inches from each dimension to give us the inset to protect our toes and enough space for the radiator to do its thing.For example a standard King size mattress is 80 x 76. The bottom frame would be 69 x 65. There is a lot of room for adjustment her since you never see this layer. The important thing is that your frame is level.All lumber was screwed together using some old 2 1/2″ deck screws. I drilled pilot holes to prevent splitting and used a little wood glue to create a strong bond.
Platform bed base
Next I used my scrap pieces of 2×10 to create blocking. This prevents my frame from twisting over time as the wood dries. This is the same technique used in floor joists.Make sure to offset them like I did so you are able to screw in from both sides. No exact science here, just make sure they fit tightly in the spaces. This might have been overkill, but I figured it was better to overbuild with an extra $20 of lumber than take the bed apart later and fix it.
Platform bed second tier
For the top layer I used 2x4s. I followed the same strategy, but this layer will be slightly larger than the mattress. Once again I screwed and glued everything taking care to keep everything square and level. This layer is very visible so take the time to do it right.
Platform bed assembly
Next I placed the top layer on top of the bottom and centered it. I toenailed the top layer into the bottom at all intersections with the deck screws (remember to drill those pilot holes first).When I was done I was surprised just how solid the hole thing was. Ethan immediately declared it was a pirate ship and start climbing all over.
Platform bed finished
The last step was attaching the mdf to the top. I had these pre-cut at Lowes. Their sheet cutter is more accurate than I can be with a circular saw and it saves me time. I attached these with 2 inch deck screws about every 12-16 inches. Overkill again.The end result isn’t very glamorous, but I plan on using the scrap MDF to side the upper tier of the bed and create a lip to keep the bed in place. This is why I made the platform slightly larger – to give us room to put the sheets on when the lip is in place.There you have it. The sturdiest bed you’ve ever seen for about $100 and an afternoon. I was worried it might tilt when you sat on a corner, but it does not budge at all. It is HEAVY and will need to be taken apart if it every needs to leave the room.
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Jamie also loved playing in the framing. There is plenty of room for adding storage, but we decided against it. We were more interested in having a bed where toys, tissues, dog hair, dishes, etc could NOT get lost underneath.
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There was one frantic step I did not photograph. Notice the open framing in this picture. If I left it this way it would be possible for someone to reach into the framing from below and deposit something INTO the bed frame. To prevent this I used some scrap MDF and plywood to block all the spaces between the outer edges of the top and bottom frames.In a couple places, however, I screwed the plywood over the bottom frame, but left an opening. This created a hidden shelf. I have one on my side of the bed where I keep a book and my book light. One at the bottom of the bed is used by kids as a cave where their toy frogs live.

We’ve been very happy with the end result. The bed frame is incredibly solid and our new mattress is wonderful! My back aches are completely gone and we are sleeping so much better. Feel free to post any questions on the bed and I’ll help where I can. I also plan to post an update after I get the sideboards on and the whole thing painted.

*Here is a post about the twin beds I made for the boys.

UPDATE from the wife on 3/11/10!: Well its over 2 years since this post was written and the bed is still the same as the 5th picture (except there is a mattress on it). John and I both have a problem with completely finishing any project! I always get him started on something new and I think he gets bored once its functionally finished. This post is probably our most viewed of all time but  if you are at our blog anyway you should click on the home and see what contests we may have going on right now (we typically have 1 or 2 great giveaways)!

How to build your own ice rake

December 9, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Top Posts

My plans for building a simple, cheap handheld ice resurfacer have move here:

How to build a backyard Zamboni

Flor tile carpet review

November 8, 2007 by  
Filed under DIY Projects, Past Contests, Top Posts

Almost a year ago we had flash flooding in the area. I had a rather harrowing drive home during a torrential downpour. When I turned onto one road I could see water going over the surface. I was debating whether to gun it when I realized I could not see either guardrail…the water was that deep. I decided to try another road home and once again I found myself very happy to have all wheel drive as I had to drive over gravel and pieces of pavement that had been washed onto the road. There was a small section of flooded road (only a few inches this time) that I had to pass, but I made it and thought how lucky it was that we live on the TOP of the hill and not at the bottom where all these small creeks were washing out roads.

The road I almost drove across
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I did an inspection of our house and was surprised to find a large puddle in our basement. Sometimes during heavy rain an old footing drain backs up into the basement and I assumed this is where the water was coming from. Then I made a big mistake. I opened the back door…and was greeted by water about 6 inches deep rushing in around me feet. Our basement is a walkout, but with a step up…and that area was full over water that must have come from either blowing rain or an overflowing gutter.

After some inspection and consideration we decided we had to pull out the old carpet and tile and gut the walls along the flooded section of walls. We found mold starting behind the pine boards on the wall and the carpet was really really gross. After doing some research we decided to try using Flor carpet tiles instead of a traditional carpet. Our reasoning was that although Flor was more expensive, we could save the installation cost by doing it ourselves. We would also be able to pull up individual tiles to clean and dry in the event of future flooding or kid spills.

dscf9073.jpg Ben finds a way to get comfy on the concrete.

We ordered our samples and found the cheapest tiles just weren’t soft enough. After another set of tiles we found a style we liked and placed our order. They arrive less than 2 weeks later in a large stack of boxes. After much elbow grease scraping the old adhesive and grout off the concrete floor and sealing it per Flor installation instructions (do NOT use a solvent based sealer – it will eat the Flor backing) we were finally able to install our carpet. Of all my DIY projects this may have been the funnest. Laying the tiles could not have been easier and in the end took less than a day to complete (although as parent DIYers it was spread over several nights for us). We were very pleased with the end result which has held up well to LOTS of foot traffic. I am amazed at how well the tiles stay down! I can pull our couch and chair around with the tiles budging an inch, but if need be I can easily pull up a tile for cleaning.

We just got the latest Flor catalog and part of me wishes we had the need (and finances) for another flooring project. Included on the catalog is a coupon for 15% off a Flor order (FF374 good thru 11/16/2007 OR FF773W also till 11/16/2007). If you can use it, please post a comment and let me know how your project works out. If you have any questions about installing Flor on concrete, ask away. Here is a picture of our finished product.

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DIY Backyard ice rink

October 11, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Sports, Top Posts

Follow this winter’s rink design and construction on my Backyard Ice Rink page.

Update 12/19/2007 – I make it sound easy so it’s only fair to tell the story of my first rink

Update 12/9/2007 – Find out how to build your own rink rake for under $20

Update 12/6/2007 – Here’s a tip for keeping your garden hose from freezing

Update 11/25/2007Click here to see photos of how I built this year’s rink.

When I was a kid, every winter my dad would pull out some old boards and plastic tarp and assemble a backyard ice rink. We had a collection of old skates we would go through to find a pair that fit and have a blast skating on the ice.

My childhood backyard rink

Three years ago for Ethan’s 2nd birthday we got him his first pair of skates and I decided it was time to put up our own backyard hockey rink. I’ve been putting the rink up for each year since then and have gotten it down to a very simple process. I typically assemble our rink during Thanksgiving weekend, but I decided to post this early for anyone planning on putting up a rink for the first time. I’ll post detailed pictures when I put our rink up, but here is the basics.

How to Build a Backyard Ice Rink

1) Location. You’re yard might seem flat, but you would be surpised. Put 4 stakes in the ground for where you envision your rink will be and rink string across diagonally making sure to keep it level. Now measure how high the string is off the ground from one end to the other. If its 5″ on one end and 8″ on the other you have a 3″ drop. Considering you will need at least a 2 inch ice base that means your water level will be 5″ at the deepest end. This is important for determine what size lumber to buy. If you have a very large drop from one end to the other you can either build a super structure or start getting fill. I’ve done both and getting the fill is the easiest in the long run.

2) Lumber. The construction is actually very simple. I settled on a 16 x 24 sized rink which is two 8 foot boards on one side and 3 on the other. No cutting involved. I had been using 2×8 boards, but am considering going with 2x10s to allow me a deeper ice base and let me cover more ground for a larger rink. 16×24 for fine for little kids, but as they get bigger they will want a larger rink. Make sure you get pressure treated wood and buy a couple extra boards.

3) Hardware. Buy a box of 2 1/2″ prime guard decking screws. The new pressure treated wood will eat threw the old galvanized screws very quickly. The prime guarded ones have a coating to protect the metal. They cost more, but you can use them for several years.

4) Liner. There are 2 ways to do a cheap liner. The first is to buy a large sheet of vapor barrier. Lowes sells a 20′ x 100′ roll which I used for my rink. This stuff works great, but is hard to use for more than 1 season. The roll is long though so I used half one year and the other half the second year. Last season I bought a large tarp which is much thinker material. It seems to have held up fine and will try using it again this year.

5) Assemble. I cut the extra boards into 12″ pieces. These are used on the outside of the rink to attach the boards together and to reinforce the corners. For my 2×3 setup I needed 1 piece on each end and 2 on each side for a total of 6. Add in 4 for each corner and thats 10 pieces. Lay your boards out on flat surface, put a 12″ inch piece over a seam and start drilling in screws. Make sure they bite into the boards, but don’t go all the way through. I used 8 screws on each seam. Once the sides are together, stand them up in place and overlap at the corners. Put a couple screws in to hold it up where they overlap and than add your corner piece on the side to give it some reinforcement. I’ll get better pictures of this when I put mine together.

If you have any gaps under your boards because of dips in the yard, rake up some leaves to stuff under them. If you leave these gaps as-is your liner might bulge through them as it freezes and tear. I used hay for this as well. Anything that the mower can simply eat up in the fall is easiest.

Once the boards are all up, lay your liner down. I’ve attached the liner to the boards 2 ways. With the ‘disposable’ liner I stapled it onto the outside of the boards. This works, but as the weight of the water pulls on the liner it will tear. You also have a mess of staples to pull out in the spring. With my tarp I simply wrapped it over the boards and tucked it back underneath. This worked great, but you need to make sure your tarp is big enough to handle it.

6) Fill It. You are now ready to fill it up. It is best to wait until you are getting some consistently cold temperatures, but this is often hard to predict. Last year we had a very mild winter so I had over 6 weeks with a pond instead of a rink. I fill it from my garden hose to a depth of 2 inches at the shallowest. When it freezes it will expand making it a little deeper.

7) Wait. It will take awhile to freeze all the way through so be patient. If you get on the ice too soon with will just break and freeze uneven. Try and fish out any leaves, branches, or critters that find their way into the water.

8) Prep it. Zamboni time! I purchased a Rink Rake to smooth my ice, but you could easily build one. This is a simple device made of PVC pipe that distributes a thin layer of water onto your ice just like a zamboni. Do this a couple times to build up your ice a little more and make it really smooth.

That’s it! It does take a bit of work and practice, but the materials are really very cheap and most can be re-used for a long time. I’ll post more tips and pictures when we get closer to winter. Feel free to send me any questions you have. Here are some pictures of our hockey rink from last year.

Ethan rescues salamanders from the rink during a warm spell.


Homemade Pig Cupcakes

Pig CupcakesI made pig cupcakes for the birthday party and I thought I’d pass on the idea. At Easter I had made very similar bunny cupcakes that I saw on the Family Fun website. When I found pink marshmallows at the store I knew I needed to alter the recipe and make pigs. I used pink frosting on strawberry cupcakes and used M&Ms for the eyes and made the ears and snout out of the marshmallows. To make the ears use a kitchen scissors to cut the marshmallows in half diagonally (sort of make 2 triangles or wedges if that helps) and then dip the cut sides into pink sugar (if you ever make the bunny cupcakes do your ears my way also). If they seem too big you can cut some off the bottom of the ears. To make the snout just cut the marshmallow in half width wise and stick on brown mini M&Ms to the cut side (I used mini chocolate chips because I forgot to buy the mini M&Ms). Very easy and you can make the ears and snouts ahead of time.

Family Fun also has their own pig cupcakes but I like the ones I made better!pig cupcakes

*Let me know if you give these a try! I see lots of people visit this post and wonder how many make them.

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I’m also adding a picture of the goodie bags we made (all the pig ones were gone though).