Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesdays with Will: Corn Maze 2014

Last week we headed out to do some fun fall activities since it is finally cooling off.  We decided to go to the same corn maze that we went to last year and it didn't disappoint. You should definitely check out the post from last year if you want to see how chunky Will was last year... it's pretty cute.

Will is obviously much more mobile this year so we had fun with the more of the activities this year.

Will wasn't too sure about the tire swing at first but he's a lover of all things swing related so it didn't take long for him to be all about it.

We played a little corn hole too, but someone insisted on cheating so we don't have a clear winner.

The favorite area this year was definitely the water pumps. I'm actually surprised Will didn't throw a fit when we left the area. Cause and effect are really big with Will right now so this was right up his alley and he would have stayed all day if we didn't distract him with other fun things.

We took the hayride to feed the horses and cows again this year and Will was much more aware of the animals and tried to feed them but didn't really want to get his hand near their mouth so he kind of just chucked the pieces of food near them.

We have more fall activities planned today and Friday and we're going to attempt to do a little trick or treating with Will. He hasn't really had any candy yet besides the occasional lollipop so we may be setting ourselves up for disaster but we're still going to give it a go.

Do you have any fun fall plans for this week?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake

There are so many buffalo chicken pasta bakes out there. You know how I know? I've spent way to much time searching for the recipe I used when I originally made this. After copious amounts of recipe reading, I've determined that I must have read the original recipe wrong because I swear the recipe I used called for 3-4 cups of hot sauce (or it was a 3/4 misprint). I remember because as I was putting it in the pan, Nate started freaking out about the amount of hot sauce. We ended up using close to 3 cups of hot sauce and it was amazing and there is no evidence of it anywhere

I kid you not, I spent hours trying to find the recipe and after no luck, I decided to try the recipe that seems to be copied on no less than 20 different blogs. I upped the hot sauce to about 1.5 cups and while it was good, it wasn't even close to the first batch (IMO).

So, if you want a pretty good (because really, when is buffalo chicken not good?) buffalo chicken bake, you can use the one linked. However, if you want a blow your mind, eat the whole thing over the sink while it's still too hot dish, then you can help me find and/or produce the original recipe. Here is what I remember:
  • Lots of hot sauce (or a misprint indicating lots of hot sauce)
  • Only one photo plus the recipe (pretty sure not on a blog)
  • Pretty crappy picture with the pasta in the baking dish
  • No roux
  • No ranch
  • Blue cheese
In retrospect, I'm not really sure what drew me to this recipe originally but I swear it was amazing and I would love it if you could help me find it! Leave a comment if you've seen something like it or if you have an amazing buffalo chicken recipe. In the mean time, I'm going to try to wing it and recreate the dish... and this time write it down.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Capping the Chimney

Ok. So in case you're new around here, we live in a pretty old house... especially for Florida standards. Ninety years old means that certain things aren't in the best shape anymore and the chimney is the best example of this. We've known for years that the fireplaces are not real fire worthy, but we have hopes of installing a gas fireplace at some point. 

The immediate issue is that with Florida's heavy storms, we get back drafts down the chimney as well as a good amount of rain. It can stink pretty badly and we've had a temporary cap on the bottom to try to minimize the airflow but it hasn't been the best. Also, it hasn't helped with the rain situation and so we finally decided to cap the top of the chimney.

There are a lot of fancy chimney caps out there but since we aren't planning on using the fireplace and we wanted to protect the chimney as much as possible, we decided to make a simple cap out of non-rusting metal. Nate took a trip up to the top of the chimney to take some measurements and after some looking around we determined that we wouldn't be finding a single sheet of metal big enough to make the cap. What we did find was flashing (it comes in rolls) and after combining two strips we had  a piece wide enough to cover the top of the chimney.

Nate used a board to bend the metal, tin snips to cut it and used a rivet set to attach the pieces together. He also caulked seams so we wouldn't have to worry about water seeping through.

Once the cap was formed, the next step was getting it up to the two stories to the roof.

We have a pretty tall house with a really steep roof but Nate has a path to get himself up there surprisingly easily and apparently, seeing daddy go up the ladder was just too appealing for our little guy.

Within just a couple of seconds, he had made it up three rungs and he would have kept on going if I didn't pull him off.

Anyway, once I wrangled Will and Nate climbed up to the chimney, he threw a rope down and I tied it to the cap. It got caught up a couple of times in the corner of bricks but after a little shaking and pulling, it made it up to the roof.

Then it was just the matter of placing the cap on the chimney and making sure it was pushed all the way down.

We haven't had a major rainstorm since we put it up, but we've had absolutely no backdrafting which has been amazing to the nose. We're excited to see how it works when it rains. 

We're thinking about putting a ventless gas fireplace in eventually and leaving the chimney capped so if you have one, we've love to hear what you love and hate about it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

DIY Activity Board

Will loves to mess around with various locks around the house and he loves the hardware isle at Lowe's so I've been wanting to make him an activity board for awhile. The main problem with that idea is that you generally need a good amount of wall space and with Will's playroom having windows on all three walls, there is very little, if any usable wall space. 

Luck would have it that once I actually took some measurements, that the space between the base of the interior huge window and the baseboards was exactly the width of a 1x10 piece of wood. And as greater luck would have it, we already had a stained 1x10 hanging out in the garage. Since neither Nate and I knew where it came from, it was deemed the perfect board for an activity center.

We raided our garage and went through Lowe's picking out various locks, latches, springs and bells that we thought Will would have fun playing with and went to work arranging them on the board. Some things got returned and other things were bought, but after some arranging and rearranging, we had a pretty good layout.

Installing and attaching everything proved to be more time consuming than we initially hoped, and I did mistakenly drill into the top of my ottoman (and snapped a drill bit in the process... ) but in the end we had a pretty awesome board for our little guy.

Here's a rundown of what made the cut onto the activity board

Battery operated wireless door chime: We found one on the clearance table at Lowe's (the one linked is a similar version) and to add some intrigue and interest, we mounted the chime on one end of the board and the button on the other end. There is a slight delay in pushing the button and the chime, but Will still thinks it's cool

2 Long Springs: We attached these using eye hooks on both ends so Will can pull on them and they vibrate. I was initially worried about his fingers getting pinched but after some through testing playing, we determined that he couldn't get them pinched.

2 Chain Locks: We mounted one so that the lock slides horizontally and the other vertically so he has a bit of a challenge as he grows.

2 Spring door stops: One is a stiff spring and one is looser but the both boing really well and Will thinks they are pretty awesome... what kid doesn't love these?

2 hook and eyes: These were probably the most difficult to install since they aren't really designed to have both sides mounted on the same board. We actually ended up bending the hook a little so you can still latch it into the eye

3 door latches with swinging doors: One is a security latch, one is a barrel bolt and one is a gate latch and we mounted them on scrap wood that Nate sanded down to create doors. We are planning on mounting pictures behind the doors soon but for now Will seems to just like the fact that he can open and close the doors.

Bicycle bell: this is a BIG hit. The bell we got is designed to go around a bike handle but after a little creative thinking, we got it attached to the board. It has a little lever on the side of the bell that Will can pull down on and it makes a not so annoying ring sound.
Push Light: initially I wanted to try to get an actual light switch with a light but the push light was a safer. Will loves turning it on using his foot.

2 carabiners on chains: We installed large eye hooks near them so he can clip the carabiners on to them.

1 lag bolt on a chain: Once again, eye hook nearby for Will to put the bolt into

1 master lock: The lock and key are each on a chain and the lock can hook onto another eye hook

For all the items on chains, Nate used our new (to us) drill press to drill holes so we could attach the chain and Will can't detach them. We made a point to not let anything be detachable on the board so things don't get lost.

Some of the latches are a little too advanced for Will right now but we love the fact that he can grow into this board and use it for the next few years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesdays with Will: Lightning Fan Fest

A couple of weekends ago the Tampa Bay Lightning had a fan day. 

Free toddler entertainment + Cheap food = We're there

Besides an unfortunate diaper situation (hence the way too big lightning shirt) we had a great time. This was the first major sporting event we took Will to and it was a great (free) test to see how he would do. He was surprisingly interested in hockey and while we did move around a lot, he still sat for quite some time and just watched. 

They had a great kid zone set up and and while Will wasn't too thrilled with the idea of meeting the mascot, he did walk away with his own little hockey stick and foam hockey puck (which he proceeded to take a bite out of later). 

Overall, it was a great way to spend the day out and about. As an added bonus, we now have a bit more confidence bringing Will to some more sporting events.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How Do You Like Me Now?

We do a lot of projects around here and some turn out awesome and some are... well... not so awesome. So, here is an update on some of our projects.

Terrariums: I loved them while they were alive but I couldn't keep them that way. I may try again but for now they are very very dead... The one pictured above is actually a pretty good Halloween decoration so I might be lazy and not switch it for a couple more weeks.

Refreshing Shower Grout: Still looks great but I think that the I may need to touch up the top of the little seat. It's a tough spot and I really should be wiping it down since it tends to collect water but it's  not happening right now.

Our Board and Batten White Chalkboard: LOVE. This wall went through a lot of stages and now every time I look at it, it just looks right. We use it to write out the meal plan for the week which works really well to help keep us organized.

Using Polyshades on our Bathroom Floor: It still looks brand new. We've had no issues with using the Polyshades and it's still amazing to me how much of an improvement it made to the floor.

Our new sofa: It's not so new now and it has been spilt on, smeared with peanut butter, cottage cheese and various other things and it is so easy to clean. We've had no stains and everything has come off with a little wiping. It's moved around our living room a bit and we love it anywhere it goes.

Finishing the edges of a remnant: It didn't last too long with the original adhesion so I went around and used Stitch Witchery to really reattach it. If I had known I would have to do that, I would have gotten some cool ribbon and used the Stitch Witchery first. It's been holding up really well for the past few months with the redo so I'm hoping I don't have to touch it again.

Our Octagon Table: We love love love this table. We still haven't really finished the inserts for it but the table as is fits our life so well. It's a great conversation piece and I still can't believe somedays that we actually built it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Little Etiquette Rant

We try to get our current home projects out on Mondays and Fridays. This week it isn't going to happen. Due to some weird events, I'm now teaching an additional 14 hrs a week (not including the extra grading/prep time). Financially it was a great decision for our family but since this was the first week I'm pooped. 

While this change is a big reason for no real post today, the other big reason is that I'm really bummed over Young House Love deciding to stop blogging. I know they are making the best decision for their family, but they were a huge inspiration to the DIY/Home Improvement community and I really don't think it will be the same without them. I've personally been struggling with the way people choose to speak to one another online and based on the comments I read leading up to YHL break last month, it couldn't have been easy to have to read such negativity. I doubt this was the only reason YHL decided to call it quits and it may not even be one of the reasons but to me it does raise concerns about the etiquette surrounding blogs and comments. 

First some facts:
  • Blog content is generally free to the reader
  • Bloggers will place advertisement on their blog and periodically write sponsored posts or sell products to try and make some money (or in a small group, lots of money)
  • The more traffic a blog gets, the more money it can potentially make
  • The reader has the choice on whether they visit a blog, click on ads and buy products
Now some thoughts:
  • Constructive criticism is awesome. If you have a better way of doing something or know of a better product, it's great to spread that info
  • Comments intentionally designed to hurt someone are not productive. If you feel the desperate need to "hurt" a blogger, just stop visiting. If you want to let someone know you don't like something, there are ways to do that without stooping to the point of name calling, harassing or threatening them or their family (which I have personally witnessed on multiple sites and literally makes my blood boil... ask Nate)
  • If you are mad about somebody making money off of you visiting their site, then don't use Google, don't watch TV and stop shopping in stores because it's the same in all venues. You have the choice of what you buy, what you visit and what you participate in. If you don't like something, stop participating. There is no need to hurt others. I'm positive they aren't hurting you by posting about their house projects, workouts or what they had for dinner.
  • Behind every blog is a real live person. Some may blog as a job, some as a hobby, some so they have a community but regardless of why they do it, they all deserve some empathy, respect for putting themselves out there and some understanding when things aren't perfect. 
I know these thoughts will likely invoke little change in the actions of others but I needed to get it out there. Monday we will return to our normal schedule (we're planning a really cool DIY/Science project for Halloween) and I will return to trying my best to ignore the horribleness the anonymity of the internet brings out in people and when I can't, I'll resort to singing Shake It Off in the car with the windows down.

Cue cute pic of Will to lighten up this post: