Swimming Pool Garden Beds

Last year in early May, I wrote a post on making raised garden beds using inexpensive children’s swimming pools. So did you wonder how that project went? Well, how about we peek in on this year’s garden:


I added in a second bed this year. It is playing host to two types of bush beans and a pumpkin plant. The beans are easily encouraged to grow up with various tomato cages, that I run hemp garden twine around (the vines need something to grab on).


Last year’s bed is back, filled to the brim with carrots. Walker asks daily “are the carrots ready?” Soon!

So…you just have to try this type of gardening. It exceeded my hopes last year. It is cheap and easy to put together. Go buy a standard kiddie pool, about 4 feet wide and 7 inches deep (buy made in the USA ones!), take home and drill drainage holes. Toss in some rocks at the bottom and about 4¬Ĺ cubic feet of garden soil/potting mix. As I noted last year, keep the mixture light (not heavy on topsoil!) and it will grow great vegetables. Keep it watered, add in mulch every year and you have about the simplest garden you can make. And yes, the swimming pool survived the winter with no cracking, even with long periods of below freezing temperatures. And survived a move.

*OK, fine, yes…those fancy-pant decorator raised garden beds might look better in the yard, but they are not doing anything more than this one is. And this one runs $9-12 for the pool. Where as the fancy raised beds that are recycled plastic “boards” can set you back $50 to 100! You can always sink these pools into the ground and put bark around them, to hide the uglies. If you must. Or just claim your kids have their own garden ūüėČ

An Open Letter To My Gym

This isn’t what you might think it is. At least not in the way ¬†you might expect. Rather this is how I lost the love for a gym I once loved.


When the shiny new LA Fitness opened in the town over, back in I want to say 2008, I was excited. The LA Fitness gyms are usually nice looking, and well laid out. This one was spot on. It has all the machines and weights one could want. A pool and sauna. Lots of classes. Even a trainer I can stand.

But you know what killed my love of it? The Kids Room. 

Those first years it was great. I enjoyed working out. Then the kids were born. And I noticed something. The daycare room, while bright and cheery, was about the filthiest place you could take kids. Seriously. They pick up head colds, Norovirus (omg…..so gross), pink eye and god knows what else. All it takes is ONE visit and boom, they are sick. And then they give it to me. Or Kirk. I have now been sick for nearly 2 weeks! I HATE summer infections. You know…when it is hot and you are sweating a fever, with a runny nose.

But the worst reason? The lack of safety in the daycare room.

When Walker was a baby, it was OK. But then when I started taking Alistaire, things changed. The first sign was when I picked him up after working out once, and he was all flushed/pink. Little did I know that this was his first allergic reaction. Only later, after he had his first trip to the ER for peanuts did I realize how lucky we were that day! After Alistaire was tested for all his allergies, I became that hovering helicopter Mother. Allergy-Moms freak out so much. We cannot help it. Most people just do not get it. He is everything to me.


The daycare is supposed to be food free. It isn’t. It has a high turnover of staff. A few understand it, as they have friends/family with allergies. But the worst are the employees that think I am a nutter. You can see it in their eyes. The inward rolling of the eyes. The fear I feel every time I let them go in that room.

But the final straw for me? A few weeks back I came to get the boys after working out. The lady working says “Oh he has an allergy to peanuts, right?”. And then goes on to tell me that there had been a kid eating PB crackers NEXT to Alistaire. She asked me “how allergic is he”. And how they had watched him, after moving the other kid away.

But no one came and got me. They waited. WTF. I was livid, it took everything in me to not become demon mom and rip heads off.

I knew on that day I would never trust them to do the right thing. I do get that to those without allergies, my reaction was extreme. But it isn’t to allergy parents. Alistaire cannot tell you that he doesn’t feel good! An exposure can go from nothing to “where is the Epi-Pen” in minutes.

Why was a peanut item EVEN allowed in there? Why was the kid allowed to be eating in there, or at minimum, why was he eating in the main play area? When I asked why they didn’t come get me, the lady looked at me like I was “one of those moms”. It isn’t just eating the item, it is then transferred to everything the child touches after! And remember how I said that room never seems to get cleaned? Toys, contaminated, by everything a nut/peanut eating kid touches. It doesn’t go away. Unless you wipe it down or clean it.

It is our duty to remove our allergy child from harm, and if I have to, we pack up and leave. A few months back we were at a playground, I turn around and a kid has a sandwich hanging out of his mouth. I look at his older sibling and asked “is that peanut butter?”. The kid was right next to Alistaire. Older sister said yes, it is. I asked her, can you please ask your brother to back away. She did. And then I rounded up the boys and we left. (Let’s not dwell on why a kid needs a PB sandwich at 10 am, on a playground….)

But for me…I have lost the last bit of confidence in taking them with me to the gym. I don’t enjoy working out there anymore. All I do is worry that something will happen. And I hate that.I don’t expect change from LA Fitness, but I can tell you that I have decided to cancel my membership this month. Not sure what I will do after. But I do not like the fear I feel. It isn’t healthy for me.

Strawberry Ice Pops

Last winter I found Crayola Freezer Pops on super-clearance, so I bought a package. We had broken more than a few popsicle molds last summer, mostly due to me yanking on them too hard. Oops. Walker found my copy of 200 Best Ice Pop Recipes and was flipping through it, looking for a “red” one. I asked if he wanted Strawberry, and yes he did. So we walked to town and picked up fresh berries and a lemon.

Two happy boys!


The molds release easily with a run under hot water – and yep, look just like crayons. Even if Alistaire kept grabbing his by the pop. Lol….poor kid was sticky and red by the end ūüėČ


Strawberry Ice Pops


  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • 1 lemon, juiced and strained, about 3 Tablespoons
  • ¬Ĺ cup water
  • ¬ľ cup raw honey or agave
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar


Add the ingredients to a blender, process on medium until mostly smooth. Pour into ice pop molds. If using one with caps, insert, otherwise freeze for an hour or so before putting in popsicle sticks. Freeze for a total of 4 hours, or longer, before serving. To remove from molds, run quickly under hot tap water.

How many you get depends on mold size, recipe makes about 3 cups total.

Starting From Scratch: Quick and Simple Pasta Sauce


Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking is a food manifesto that helps young readers relate to what they eat, inspiring both budding chefs and budding food lovers in the process. Beginning with an exploration of taste and how it works, author and food activist Sarah Elton explains how ingredients have been on the move for centuries, resulting in the unique fusion of flavors we love today. She breaks down the science of food and cooking into bite-sized and easily digestible pieces of information that cover the chemistry of heat versus cold, fat versus acid, and salt versus sweet. Both practical and philosophical in its approach, Starting from Scratch demystifies food and cooking by boiling it down to the basics. Young chefs learn to make sense of recipes, measure and substitute ingredients, and stock a pantry, and discover that food is more than just a prepackaged meal. Using simple and universal examples, Starting from Scratch inspires children to eat better, try new flavors, and understand what’s on their plate. Even reluctant chefs will gain an improved sense of where food comes from and be able to join in on a conversation that continues from snack time to dinnertime.

After reading through the book, and sharing it with Walker (who has become my helper in the kitchen), we decided to try the Quick and Simple Pasta Sauce recipe, and adapt it to our taste. Fun, easy and yes, it tasted great! Even at 3 or 4 years old, children can be in the kitchen learning from us.


Quick and Simple Pasta Sauce (As adapted from page 90)



  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes (used unsalted with basil)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • Pinch sugar, to taste
  • Fine sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste



Finely chop the onion and garlic. Heat a large saucepan over medium, add oil, onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes (with any liquid) to the pan. Add Italian seasoning, vinegar, capers and pinch of salt. Break up tomatoes with a potato masher. Cook over medium-low, on a low simmer, for 20 or so minutes, stirring often. Season to taste with sugar (to cut the bite of the acid in tomatoes), salt and pepper, to taste.

Dresses 16 ounces of cooked spaghetti.

FTC Disclosure: We received a review copy.

Book Review: Max’s Magnificent Choice & The Tacky Box

Our two youngest boys love being read to. Like really love it. If you let them, they will keep bringing book after book. Kirk settles them into bed almost every night by reading 1 or 2 books. It makes me smile, because they enjoy it so much. So when a new book came recently, and it had a little treasure chest (oops, Tacky Box!), Walker was after me to read it to him. We curled up on our bed and had story time. And I noticed something as I read. The boys were quietly laying there with me. No goofing off, falling off the bed or wrestling. They really loved this book. What was it?

Max’s Magnificent Choice¬†–¬†A book to spread the message of a Campaign for Kindness. Can one person help others to be more kind? Can one person create a ripple effect? That by treating others as you would like to be treated, you will show others they too can. I’d like to think they can! They do well with manners, such as opening doors for strangers (and those known), saying please and thank you but as for words, I think we can all do better.


The tale of a handsome and smart monkey (with a great choice in head gear!), who unfortunately has a habit of insulting other animals in the jungle. This leaves him quite sad as he doesn’t understand that the words he uses are insulting and hurtful, and that is why no one wants to play with him. And yes, there is a story for girls as well! Margo’s Magnificent Choice. Max is very sad, as he doesn’t get why the other animals reject him.


He meets a wise owl who tells him why he is being shunned, and how he can make things better. The owl explains that bad or hurtful words are “Tacky”. Max is given a box to store these bad things, so that he won’t think of them again. The book comes with a very own Tacky Box for the child. To have, to decorate, and to use. If a bad word is used, or they hear a word that is mean/hurtful, they can write it on paper, and store it inside. What a wonderful idea.

And then Kirk pipes up and says “Maybe you need a jumbo Tacky Box for when you drive.” Harharhar. Although, OK, he is right. Having little ones who repeat everything has led me to see how bad my own mouth can be!

The story behind how it came to be, from the mouth of a babe, is a learning lesson. Handle it well, and the child can learn from it.

The Tacky Box? Slowly, Walker and I are writing words on the pad of Tacky paper (that is included) and tucking them away. This weekend we will paint the box together. Walker has picked out a deep blue, metallic gold and silver paints from my craft supplies. And snuggle up and read about Max again! And talk about why mean words can hurt so much, and why we should try to use them less.


The little box is neat. Unfinished wood, with a little closure that even little fingers can open easily, it holds the pad of paper and a pencil, with lots of space for thoughts.

Walker says “Abra Cadamera” when he opens it, and puts a pice of paper in it. Then closes it, latches it down and says “Bye-bye paper, see you later!” (Which I find pretty funny, the abra-cadamera….I’d love to know how he picked that one up! So much cuter than what he should be saying!)

I will continue to think more actively about how what I say affects my children, my husband and how that ripples out to them, and then out of our house. And also help them make better choices in what they say.

FTC Disclosure: We received a copy for review.  #TackyBoxKindness

Wee Houses


I am SO feeling the season this year! Something about Walker being old enough to do food crafts makes it so much more fun.


It works as gingerbread houses in their own right, or for me, to get Walker warmed up, so he wouldn’t get too worked up while we did the “real” houses. He was mellow by then!


A box of brand name graham crackers, a tub of plain frosting, some powdered sugar and toppings. Why commercial frosting? It works easy, no dyes in this one and I find I like it better than homemade for graham crackers – by adding powdered sugar it becomes very paste like and sets fast. Beyond that, The Frosting Creations frosting is allergy safe for my youngest.

I used a square flat plate for the base, but built each house separately, then added them once dry. Take about half the frosting out, into a bowl. Stir in enough powdered sugar till the frosting is thick. Spread frosting on a whole cracker (this makes the base). Carefully snap another cracker in half. Frost one side of each half, and one short end of each. Make a pyramid on the base as you like, then fill out the frosting gently (I find a thin butter knife works well). Add pretzel sticks if you like for decorations. Walker had seen gingerbread marshmallows, which we added as well. Sprinkle on crystal sparkling decorating sugar (Wilton), mini marshmallows and whatever else one likes. Let dry overnight.

The next day place the houses on the plate.¬†Sugar Pearls¬†make a neat pathway. Shredded coconut (the sweetened kind) makes a lovely snow. Decorate as one likes….and have fun!

Snowglobes In A Mason Jar

I found my inspiration for this craft on MasonJarCraftsLove for dry snowglobes in mason jars – all the prettiness without the fear of liquid going everywhere if/when one gets broken…..

Taking my idea, I went shopping at the local Dollar Store, which has small Christmas Village town parts for sale – and the accessories needed, which are the size needed: trees, snowmen, human figures and so on. Hobby and craft stores carry similar, but this is a cheap way to do it. I also picked up a bag of plain epsom salts, in the health and beauty section. A bargain for them.

In her version she used glue patches, but since I am cheap, I used good ol’ Elmer’s glue. Take a wide mouth mason lid, setting the ring/band aside. Thinly spread glue across, then stick on items as desired. Let dry overnight.


I found pint jars to work best, unless you have tall trees, then use quart. With the jars right side up, pour in a little epsom salts, depending on how deep you want the “snow” to be. Gently fit the tree in the top of the jar, seal jar with the ring/band, then flip over. And ta-da! Instant snow globe:


Easy to make and if you decide to not keep for later years use, just clean and return the jars and bands to your canning cupboard! Walker and Alistaire had a lot of fun making these, we spent out-of-pocket under $5 to make 3 of them.

Little Lighthouse

Somewhere last week Walker asked about lighthouses and really, really wanted to see one “in person”. Which was doable, as we were picking up my brother from the ferry dock in Mulkiteo, Wa for Thanksgiving. My brother still lives on Whidbey Island, so he walks onto the ferry and we meet him on the mainland.


There sits a tiny lighthouse by the dock. It was built-in 1906 and has a fascinating history.


Only bummer was it was after sunset so while he could see the light up high, he couldn’t see the building. Still, it made him happy. To a point. So I made sure when we took my brother back on Saturday, it was daytime. Walker was very excited and ran all the way up to it.


“Mama, you be quiet!”


Mama’s Lil’ Photo Bomber –


They got to watch Uncle David’s ferry leave the dock as well –


This lighthouse had some neat buildings in its day – this is the “Assistant Keepers House”. Which, yowza…..is nice.


The view from behind, on the beach –


Two happy boys, watching the ferry come in –


Up next I am hoping to take the boys to see the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, outside of Coupeville, which is halfway up Whidbey Island. I know Walker will love that one. You can walk to the top and look out across to the Olympic Mountains, across the water. I love encouraging them to explore!

Thanksgiving, Wild Animals & Popcorn Balls

Psst! I am participating a fabulous giveaway for the holidays! Like who doesn’t want a free chance at cash? Like $175 in cash?


Want to check it out and enter? Head on over to The Holiday Cash Extravaganza Giveaway for chances.


We woke up to finally an overcast day on Black Friday, after a long stretch of cold sunny days. It had even rained a little overnight. We took the chance of 30% showers and drove to NW Trek. Our reward was blue skies the whole visit, even if it was cold. With my brother down visiting, we had the van loaded up – and had a fun time checking out the animals in their winter state.


Alistaire really had fun – and walked most of the day!


Photos from my husband – gorgeous sheep in the wild area.


The highly misunderstood and very intelligent coyote.


Bison, in full winter glory. They are simply gorgeous this time of year, when they have a full pelt. There is a herd of them, with even babies now. I realized I had never seen them in winter, only in summer when they are losing their coat.


There is so often fungi growing in Western Washington – and this one hadn’t been bothered.


And somehow I got a photo of all the boys and my brother where no one was crying or screaming. How did that happen?

Not long after we left for home, it started raining. So much better than spending a day in a mall….fresh air, animals and hiking!

Which then led to food craft time – marshmallow popcorn balls!


Marshmallow Popcorn Balls


  • 10 cups popped popcorn*
  • 10 ounces marshmallows
  • ¬ľ cup butter
  • ¬ľ tsp sea salt
  • Mini marshmallow bits*


Kroger owned grocery stores carry XL paper lunch sacks, these are excellent for popping popcorn. Add¬†¬Ĺ cup Bob’s Red Mill Corn Popcorn White to a bag, roll over opening twice. Pop on high for 2:30, listening for popping to slow down (it will depend on microwave strength). Shake popcorn into a bowl, shake bowl gently. Transfer popped corn to a large bowl, discard any remaining unpopped kernels or hard ones. Repeat a second bag of popcorn (new bag). Measure popcorn. Let kids eat the leftovers, drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Gets them out of your hair….

Anyhow, add the 10 cups popcorn to a large bowl, preferably metal or glass.

Heat a non-stick tall pot over medium-low. Add in butter, marshmallows and salt. Stir often until the marshmallows have melted and it is smooth. Pour the marshmallow sauce over the popcorn, quickly work with a silicone spoon to coat. Liberally butter or spray hands, make popcorn balls, compacting with hands.

If desired, gently roll across a plate covered with tiny marshmallows. Set balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Once done, wrap each ball with plastic wrap.

*Marshmallow Bits can be found in grocery stores by Kraft. Personally I cannot have them, they have dyes added. I buy a similar product at restaurant supply stores that has a short ingredient list and no coloring, sold in the coffee/espresso section. The bits are what you might remember in hot cocoa mixes – tiny marshmallows that were dried. They give a great crunch!

Zoo Strolling

My Mother In-law and I took the boys to the Cougar Mountain Zoo yesterday, which is a few miles from where we live. I have started on taking them on outings, to see how they enjoy it. Walker is the perfect age now!

Not everyone is a fan of zoos/preserves I realize…I mean I wasn’t as a kid, after too many vintage zoos that were horrid (Seattle and Portland were plain awful, elephants chained and on concrete). The Cougar Mt. Zoo is an intimate learning area, with only a few areas to visit. Open air, with room and the animals actually seem happy. A perfect zoo for small children to spend 1-3 hours in. They are happy but not overwhelmed! And even the 15 year-old had fun – I think he enjoyed it the most, especially the talking birds….and the tigers. The gorgeous tigers!


The area for the tigers was one of the nicest I have seen. Grass, a waterfall with pond and more, there are two areas for the tigers as well.


Two little boys. really into the emus below them. Later, we went down and got to be right up to them.


Alistaire was very, very happy – giggling as the animals made lots of noise. Especially the Lemurs and Macaw birds!


The cougars live in the center, catching your eyes as you enter the zoo. Gorgeous kitties. I love cougars Рespecially when I see their tracks in the snow while hiking!


Tonight I face the difficult decision on how to stay within normal eating at a chain¬†restaurant. Oy, even with¬†nutritional¬†stats online (thank you to King County, Wa for requiring chains post this!!) Looking at a menu while not hungry and looking at just how crappy the food is, is well….depressing. Ugh. I am getting used to eating every meal at home. It is hard when faced with 75% of the meals are a near days worth of calories. Yuck. and how nearly everything is white crap and or mass produced meat. I will miss my home cooking! No dessert for me ūüėČ


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