This is simply the best toy that has ever come into our home.
It's a sensory delight
It allows for completely open-ended play
It fits in a narrow space
It's built to last
It will absolutely enrich your life
I love it so much I want you to have your own, too!
Below the jump you’ll find the why and how of this project and a link to complete plans to build your own. Enjoy!
Why on earth did we build a sand and water table when there are so many commercially available?
The reason is simple: I couldn’t find what I wanted at a price I could afford.
I wanted a sand and water table for my 1 and 3 year old girls that fit these requirements:
1] must be $50 or less
2] must be off the ground and at child height
3] must fit 2+ kiddos at a time
4] must be securely covered - to keep neighborhood cats and fire ants out of the sand and kiddos away from standing water.
5] must have separate spaces for sand and water, preferably with separate covers - so you have the option to play with one side at a time. (Some days I have the wherewithal to deal with a swampy, sandy-water/watery-sand table, some days I don’t. I cover accordingly.)
6] must fit on my narrow front porch - so the girls are shaded and so I can supervise comfortably close by without hovering.
7] must be beautiful - not because there’s anything inherently wrong with plastic, but because I believe children better appreciate and care for their toys when they are well made and beautiful. And because it’s going to be on my front porch - let’s be real here.
8] must be simple. The simpler a toy, the more room there is for open-ended play; for imagination. I didn’t want a sand and water table with roads, bridges, ramps and ice bergs already built-in – making them is half the fun!
When I realized that no sand and water tables in my price range met these requirements, I started looking for DIY tutorials that I could do with tools we either had or could borrow.
I loved this tutorial at Our House in the Middle of Our Street, but it required a skill saw (we don’t have access to one) and didn’t address #3, 4 or 6 on our list. So I borrowed some brilliant ideas and headed over to my all time favorite DIY site: Ana White.
If you’ve ever walked through a store like Pottery Barn and thought, “that $200 bench is four pieces of wood nailed together – I bet I could make that,” Ana White probably already has a knock-off plan for it! She is the master of figuring out how expensive furniture is put together and explaining it in plain language so an amateur can build it easily and affordably with simple tools and off-the-shelf lumber. Live well for less. I love this woman. And her site.
So I went there and gathered ideas from her Farmhouse Table and Mom’s Train Table, and I started putting a plan together.
I already had two plastic bins with lids and knew they were a good depth for playing – not so shallow all the sand and water end up on the ground, but not so deep that the kiddos can’t reach the bottom or the greater volume of sand and water become too heavy for the frame to support. I figured out the dimensions for the wooden frame based on the size of the plastic bins.
You can download a free PDF of my plans here, complete with shopping list, cutting list, and step-by-step diagrams (for visual learners like me). Also check out Ana's Getting Started Guide if you are new to DIY.
We’ve had the sand and water table for a month now, and the girls have been outside playing with it almost every day. It is a joy to sit and watch my toddler splash, laugh, explore different textures, problem solve, develop gross and fine motor skills and practice sharing.
My preschooler is engrossed in her pretend play – building cities, race tracks, ocean scenes, and gourmet dinners, playing “Jonah” over and over again, practicing pouring, and learning about the properties of soil and water.
I love watching them play together.
I love that we are spending more time outside.
I love building sand castles when no one is looking
I love that clean up is simple – I pick up the water bin out of the frame to dump on the flowers every couple of days, the sand and water toys go in a basket, the lids go on the bins, we sweep the sand and we’re done.
I love this simple, perfect toy. And I hope you and yours enjoy it, too.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Beware! Turn back now! Despair all ye who enter here!
These cake pops are so tasty, so indulgent and so darn cute, you will quickly be pulled in by their sweet siren song. They will throw you into a deadly cycle of making and eating these little treats that will only end in driving a giant batch to a friends house in a last ditch effort to avoid resembling a cake ball yourself.
Or at least that is my experience. You, on the other hand, my have a modicum of self control.
In which case, you should make these cake pops! And if you lack self control when it comes to adorable and tasty treats, then you should make these cake pops! (And then immediately drive them to your obliging friends' house.)
Either way, you need these in your life.
The basic idea here is that you bake a cake, crumble it up (which feels so wrong), stir in almost a whole can of icing (which feels so right), roll it into balls, chill the balls, poke in a stick and cover in chocolate. It's a little fussy, but easy and a ton of fun. Not only are all edibles better on a stick, but there are sprinkles involved AND you get to destroy a cake!!
The vanilla cake and icing combo below was cute and yummy, and my husband's favorite. My favorite, Red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate almond bark, makes for a cake pop in perfect balance - the savory-sweetness of the cream cheese icing with the mild chocolate flavor of the chocolate almond bark; the soft, creaminess of the red velvet cake with the crunch of the chocolate. Heaven.
Whatever combo you choose, just don't be tempted to use chocolate chips - they don't temper properly like the almond bark or candy melts and will never set up , dry or become crunchy. There is only sadness and pain down that road. Just so you know.
For complete instructions visit the ingenious, creative and fabulous Bakerella.
Now let's get to work.
Oh my but these are cute. And yummy. And adorable. And delicious. And in no way healthy or natural. But they make me very, very happy. And round.
There are tons of cake pop variations on flavors and shapes on Bakerella's site. Like her spring chicks cake pops. I can't handle the cuteness. You could just lurk around there basking in her creative genius. Or you could buy her new book. Or you could just put a cake in the oven right now and get started on these beauties. Whatever you do, just be ware: you may be able to resist the cuteness, and you may be able to resist the yumminess, but you can't resist both.
And one cake mix makes 50 cake pops.
Warn your friends.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I've been wanting to try my hand at jambalaya for a while now. When I saw Amelia Durand make her northern Louisiana family's recipe on Barefoot Contessa, I knew the time had come.
I followed her recipe pretty closely, except for only using 2 cans of chicken broth. The next time I make it, I'll probably leave out the ham - it didn't add enough to the flavor of the dish to be worth what it added in fat.
It also gave me a chance to teach you a few of my favorite kitchen tricks, like chopping veggies while the protein browns, easily and efficiently chopping peppers, onions, jalapenos and scallions, using the most brilliant pantry item ever - tomato paste in a tube, and my favorite trick: stacking my chopped herbs next to the measuring cup so I won't have to wash it. Laziness begets cleverness! Or something like that. Enjoy!
Amelia Durand's fabulous Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya recipe can be found here.