Friday, August 23, 2013

Kale Turkey Meatloaf

My house is not big on meatloaf. In fact, whenever I would get a really bad craving for meatloaf, and dish some up for dinner, there was always a lot of eye rolling. To which I always replied "This is what I cooked. Eat it, or don't, but my tummy is happy". 

Recently, this has changed. My meatloaf is met with happy smiles, empty plates, and (gasp!) requests for seconds from the kids. How can this be?!? Is it magic??

The answer may surprise you. Turkey - kale - and milk. That's right my friends. Healthy and wholesome ingredients have transformed my family into meatloaf eaters. Who knew?

Turkey Kale Meatloaf (adapted from Real Simple)
1.25 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 white onion, diced fine
2 c. spinach, chopped
3 c. kale, chopped
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs (if using Italian panko, omit Italian seasoning)
2T mustard
2T Italian seasoning
1 egg white
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. milk (I use 1%)
1/4 c. ketchup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Begin by washing your kale and spinach. If you don't have a salad spinner, I highly recommend getting one. It makes cleaning your leafy veggies so much easier, and saves me tons of paper towels.

Once washed, finely chop your spinach and kale. One meatloaf uses approximately one small bag of spinach, or one destemmed bunch, and two large leafs of kale, stem removed.

Place your chopped greens, bread crumbs, Italian seasoning (if using unseasoned bread crumbs), mustard, egg white, salt, pepper, and milk in bowl. 

Chop the onion and add to the mix.

Add your ground turkey. I used 93/7, but you could easily use extra lean 96/4 if you like. Then get your hands in there and get dirty!

Mix until just combined. Try not to over mix, or the turkey will lose its texture and just be a mush.

Form your mix into loafs in a 9 x 13 pan. If you have tin foil, you can line your pan for easy clean up. Or, if you forgot to buy tinfoil, like me, you can spray your pan with pam to make easier clean up. Spread ketchup over the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until thermometer reads 165 degrees.

Our favorite way to enjoy is with roasted garlic gold potatoes and salad.

Yum!! The milk adds moisture, while using panko bread crumbs keeps the meatloaf from being one texture. 

Are your families meatloaf fans? What is your go-to comfort food?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

LEGO Bed Frame

For my nephew's birthday, I decided to build him a LEGO bed frame!  Before the bed frame, he had been sleeping with the mattress on the floor.  Now he sleeps in style!


I built the frame for a twin sized mattress, but it could easily be modified for any size mattress.   

  • 2 - 3/4" 4x8 sheets of mdf  ($35x2=$70) *I used scraps and panel glued them together out of cheap plywood.  The problem with using cheap plywood is that it has several voids that need putty, and it needs a TON of sanding.  Hours.
  • 5 - 2x4's-can even be studs ($2.77x5=$13.85) *I had most of these from a previous project
  • 4 - 90 degree brackets (1.50x4=$6)
  • 16 - 2 1/2" wood screws ($6.50 for a box) *I had these from a previous project
  • 3 - Quarts of primary color paints ($6x3=$18) *We had 2 of these
  • Brad Nails
  • Wood Glue ($3) *Had this
Total cost to buy everything: $117.35 plus tax.  
Total cost we paid: less then $30.

  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Router *not necessary, but greatly increases the appeal of lego "tops"
  • Table saw would be ideal, but a jigsaw could be used to cut the "tops"
  • Paint brush
  • Brad nail gun *not necessary but makes it much easier
  • Bar Clamps *or ingenuity
  • A Straight Edge
  • Patience
The Plans

Start by cutting the pieces:
  • Footboard: 30x41" 
  • Headboard: 45x41" (Or another 30"x41", then each 5" tier above it and panel glue them together)
  • Support Rails: 2 - 8 1/2"x76" 
  • Support Rails: 2 - 2x4 cut at 76"
  • Fall Bar: 4 - 1"x76"
  • Fall Bar Connections: 28 - 2"x3"
  • LEGO Tops: 32 - 1.5"x3/4" 
  • Mattress supports: 6 2x4x
Use a straight edge to cut all the large or long pieces with a circular saw.  Here's a good tutorial if you need to make one.  I suggest cutting out a long strip, 1.5x40", for the LEGO top pieces. For the fall bar connections cut 3x62".  Then cut the individual pieces on a miter saw, jigsaw, or table saw.

To make the lines for the LEGO's, use your straight edge at every 5" across and set your depth on your circular saw for about 1/8". For the vertical lines, start from the center top row, and with your straight edge cut a line. Continue this on every row, moving the line over 5" each time (see diagram for better understanding) and every 5" place a cut.  The ends will be a 1/2" longer or so then the rest, but it's not noticeable.

If you don't feel comfortable doing this with circular saw, use a router with a straight edge.  Go very slow and steady.
Once you have your pieces, glue and clamp together the two pieces for the support rails.  If you don't have clamps, either put weights throughout, or brad nail/screw them together.  If you screw/nail them be sure to sink the screws below the plywood and cover the holes with wood putty.

For the fall bar, space the connectors evenly.  It should be around 3 5/8" space if you keep a connector at each end.  Put them together with the 1" up so it gives dimension.

Once I had all these pieces cut and assembled, I decided to do a test assembly.  I lined the fall bar with the top corners, and the support rails beginning with the third row. Looked good!

Route the LEGO tops with a round over.  Round them on 3 sides leaving 1 of the 1.5" sides flat.  Do this on both sides.   While you have your router out, route the edges of the head board and foot board, leaving the bottom.  Make sure on the foot board that you round over both sides.

Space the LEGO tops evenly and nail those suckers in!  You're almost there!

Putty and sand if you're using plywood.  This took the longest amount of time for me.  I painted carefully with a brush.  The red took 4 coats.  4 COATS!!!  YUCK.  Get a very tiny brush, like a water color brush, for the crevices.  You could tape everything off if you desired.

Assemble with the angle brackets and screws, put in the 2x4 supports across  and pat yourself on the back!

Unfortunately, during transit some of the paint was still tacky and there were a few spots where the pieces clung together.  If you have to move it, do so with wax paper.  But other then that my nephew was a very happy boy!

If you build a bed based off this post, or something like it, I want to see it!  My original plans had drawers underneath but I simply ran out of time.  She picked up some tubs for storage that fit under perfectly.  I would love to see LEGO bunk beds.  Lets get the creative juices flowing!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Construction Site 3rd Birthday

Gabriel turned 3! Granted it was in January, but who is keeping track?

Gabe has an obsession with construction trucks, power tools, basically anything that reminds him of his dad; the resident handyman. When it came time to plan his birthday party the theme was a no brainer: Construction Site Birthday Party!

It began with the hubbs building a saw horse for me. I said it would serve a dual purpose; useful for him and fun for the party. I spray painted it yellow, then marked off the top and applied the black spray paint. The sign was homemade on leftover cardboard. My sad little balloons didn't fair very well. It was high 80's that day, and the balloons began to sag almost immediatly.

Black and yellow streamers helped announce the party was here

To jazz up the backyard I ordered these construction signs off Amazon. Gabe loved having us read the different signs to him. We also used yellow and black streamers to create caution tape on the jungle gym and deck. It helped spread the constuction site feel all over the yard.

For food we wanted simple, easy to grab, playful, and scrumptious.

The "dig in" sign I made by cutting a piece of cardboard and spray painting it black. Then I taped off the black border and did two coats of yellow spray paint. Finally I used a black sharpie to write the words and draw the excavator. Free, fun and easy. My kind of project.

Cheese puff "pebbles". I looked everywhere for these stinkin cheese balls!! Finally found them at Target.

Fruit skewer "nuts and bolts" We have fruit skewers or cups at every party. It is always a hit, and our friends with dietary concerns love them. Also chocolate donut "truck tires". You know, to balance out all the healthy fruit.

Mini baked corn dog "Boulders". I made corn bread, poured it into muffin tins, and put a piece of turkey hot dog inside. They were a huge hit! Tip: when making corn bread use buttermilk. It makes it so moist and flavorful.

Chocolate dipped pretzel "drill bits". When I dipped them in chocolate, I twisted them as I pulled them out creating grooves in the chocolate that looked like drill bits.

Orange Gatorade  "Gear Juice" I used an orange sharpie on the lid so only the G was visible. Created the tags for the bottles using word and a free dump truck clip art.

Rice krispies cookies with chocolate and cookie crumbs. I cut out the krispies with construction cookie cutters (dump truck, drill, hammer, saw), coated them in white chocolate, and put them out for the kids to decorate. Ok, maybe more than a few adults enjoyed them too.

Now for the real labor of love: the construction site birthday cake. I saw a similar cake on Pinterest, and decided to make my own version of it.

Yellow and dark chocolate cake, and milk chocolate frosting. For the top I dug out a small hallow in the cake prior to frosting, then filled the void with crushed oreos and chocolate rock candy.

 Gabe loved blowing out the caution cone candles.

The best (or most friggin frustrating) thing about the cake was the inside.

 I used this technique to create the caution tape effect in the cake. Be warned. This was a pain in the but. I made two tester cakes before his birthday, and this was still tricky for me. But worth it. Because I am crazy and a glutton for punishment.

Gabe was blessed with so many wonderful gifts. Things he truly adored.

See that box in the background? I wrapped all of his gifts in craft paper then used a black sharpie to draw different construction trucks on each one. He thought it was the bees knees and named each of them before he shredded into his presents.

Side note: notice my poor husband bent over and looking miserable? He felt like crud this day. Went to the dr's the next morning and found out he had the flu!

Had to call all of our party guests "Hey, thanks for coming to Gabe's birthday! Hope you had fun! By the way, we may have infected your whole family with the flu."

Luckily after meds and a few days rest he was feeling much better.

Sadly, this is the best photo I got of his birthday shirt. I ordered the bulldozer graphic on Etsy, then used a printed transfer to make a shirt for him. He asks to wear it all the time.

Gabe's favorite present of the day!! We found this incredible all wood tool bench and tool set at Kohls at Christmas time. The price was unbelievable, and there was no way we could have made one this awesome for that price. So we pounced and stashed it away for his birthday.

Gabe and his sister play with it every day. Which, depending on how you feel about kids hammering on a toolbench is either a good or a bad thing.

His new Lightning McQueen scooter. Abigail was a sweetheart and offered to help me build it. Such a helper, my daughter.

I'll be honest, he still has trouble with this one. Because there are two wheels in the front rather than one, it is really hard to keep balanced. We're working on it though.

Other than Trent being sick, it was a great day. There were great friends, good food, and most importantly the birthday boy loved it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What to Expect When Skydiving

As a birthday present I got to do something I've always wanted to: jump out of a perfectly good airplane! 

Before getting suited up, you will have to sign a large amount of documents that state:
  • You are knowingly doing a dangerous act.
  • You will not have the right to sue.
  • Life insurance will not pay out
These documents scared me more than the skydiving did, but once you get through them you're one step closer to a huge rush!  Don't forget to bring valid ID for this paperwork.

You will be offered video and photos of your jump for additional fees.  GET IT!  This is a once in a lifetime activity; you'll want to have records of it. Plus, jumping with a photographer added to the experience; we almost ran into him in the air a few times!

Now it's time to get suited up and get into the plane.  Make sure you wore pants.  Tandem suits are similar to climbing or zip lining harnesses, but they have hooks on the shoulders and hips for the instructor to clip himself to.  Your suit will not have it's own parachute.  Once you're all tightened up, you get into the plane!

The plane will be tiny, and cramped!  You'll be seated in front of your jump instructor.  If you didn't have a chance to before, you will have a few minutes to discuss things with the instructor.  He will go over procedures for free fall, parachuting, and landing. 

If you get dizzy easily, I suggest you ask your instructor for minimal spinning while you parachute down.  My instructor had us spinning like a top on the way down, but most of the other ones kept it to smooth glides.  Personally I loved it, the spinning made our velocity faster and it was a blast!

Now, the only thing left to do is...jump out!

The free fall feels like 10 seconds, even though it lasts for about a minute.  WHAT A RUSH!

When the parachute deploys, you will feel every spot where the harness's are connected to your body jerk.  I had bruises on my thighs for a few days afterwards

Remember to look around at the amazing view! It's not often you'll be able to see something like this.

The last bit is to stick the landing.  Go get your pictures and video.  And go get a beer, you've earned it!

Jumped out of plane yourself? Terrified of the prospect? Let us know your thoughts and stories!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Crib Gate Scandal

Once Gabe started crawling he could not sit still.  This boy of ours loved to explore, but nowhere near as much as he loved to climb.  I think he started cruising and climbing before he started crawling.  Before he was an accomplished climber, tall apple boxes did the trick of keeping him out of danger.

Total cost of project: less then $10!  We got the crib for free from Craigslist.

Boxes weren't cutting it anymore

In our attempts to stop him from getting into the kitchen where there are so many dangers, we looked around for child/dog gates at all the retail stores and online.  There seemed to be none for such a large opening.  We also considered wood and the alternative pvc gates.

This is from  
What we didn't like about the pvc gates was the look isn't quite right for us, and our son
 LOVED to chew on things, so we did not want him chipping off a bunch of chemicals into his little mouth.  After several weeks of fighting with him constantly getting into the kitchen, I came up with this idea: cribs hold babies, why couldn't a crib be turned into a gate?  Crib-gate was born!

Finished view from kitchen, notice the latch is unreachable by a child.
Though it is difficult carrying one and trying to open it.
Finished view from living room
Gabe was very helpful in construction, here I was removing all the hardware and laying out pieces.

Gabe was very helpful during deconstruction.
I began by screwing the "sides" of the crib into the walls with L brackets.  For stability, I used a cutoff from the crib side I didn't use to brace the sides against the kick plate of the cabinets.

Sides mounted, useless box blockers still in place
I measured the distance between the crib sides to make my gate width, then went to figuring out how I was going to turn the decorative back of the crib into a fancy gate.  I used a straight edge and a framing square to make sure the cuts were straight relative to the slats and bottom because the top of the crib was curved.  Then I used my miter saw after I had pulled apart all the pieces to cut the top and bottom to size.

A good view of what the gate will look like, excited at its potential! 

After I brought the top and bottom pieces back in, I realized that because I had cut off so much of the curve, the lengths no longer lined up.  I had to figure out how long the slats and sides would need to be so I assembled the gate's top and sides, and brought it over for some head scratching.  

Slats are longer then the sides boo hoo!
With the "bear's ears" at the top sections of the sides, I found that I needed to cut the sides as well so the bottom would fit.  Once that measurement was found, I could then start to work on the slats.

"Bears Ears" dilemma

I trimmed the slats down to size, and then I had to shave off a bit wood on each sides of the bottom for the tenons to fit.  I did all of this with the miter saw.  At the time I was pretty new into wood working, so if I had to do it over again I would use either my router in the router table or some chisels.  It was almost impossible to control the depth of cut, and moving the pieces under the blade with my left hand while holding the handle of the saw with my right was definitely not ideal, but it all worked out in the end and I still have all of my fingers so I'm satisfied.  

The baby gate has held up remarkably well.  It's gone through two years of Gabe standing on the bottoms of it and shaking it like crazy, the dog pawing it, and now my daughter hanging on it!  The only real damage it's received after all of this punishment is a few teeth marks.

On the few occasions where we have forgotten to lock the gate, or he's broken the kid locks off of his door knob, he's gotten into a ton of mischief

Sorry for the sideways video, anyone know how to solve this issue?

The baby gate's been a huge success, and it's a great conversation piece for guests.  It's been up for 3 years now, and still keeping the kids out of mischief!

If you have a baby gate you've created, or have any questions or comments about mine, please feel free to leave a comment.  I'd love to hear from you!