In Our Back Yard: A Mud Pie Kitchen!

When a neighbor had to cut down a dead tree a couple of months back, I didn't waste any time claiming several of the big, beefy chunks of wood. I knew I wanted them for a few different projects around the yard, because, well, they're so darned pretty! 

I've seen so many ideas out there for mud pie kitchens, thanks to Pinterest, but nothing really presented itself that would allow me the opportunity to use some of the pieces from the tree. So I sat out in the yard one day scheming about how I might use the pieces... and this is what came to mind.

The plans almost didn't work out. My husband was so frustrated with the uneven nature of the stumps and was worried about stability. Thanks to a friend with a passion for chain saws, we remedied the issue and were back in business!

We visited our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and look at this red faucet we found! The little guy was so thrilled to bring this home. We also purchased a small porcelain sink, and the window above his sink, "just like mama's!"

I sent my hubby out to the hardware store for a couple of beefy, two-by-eight, pressure-treated boards measuring six feet in length. With the help of a friend, he cut a hole to drop the sink into. He also attached the boards to the stumps at each end with large screws, for stability. 

Providing running water was pretty high on my list of priorities. I hadn't seen many mud pie kitchens with that option, but I knew it would be easy to accomplish. When he went to the hardware store, I had my husband take the red faucet along. He bought two fittings. The first, pictured above, is threaded on one end to fit one side of the faucet water supply. The other end is threaded to fit a garden hose.

The second fitting is simply a cap. This keeps the water from running out the other side of the faucet water supply, since we weren't attaching both hot and cold water supply lines.

Finally, a short {six foot} garden hose attaches to the fitting and runs behind the large tree stump on the left {see the first image in this post} to make hooking up the garden hose a bit easier.

A drain plug allows the sink to be filled. Water from the faucet drains into a bucket placed under the sink {see the first image in this post}, and is then used to water plants around the garden. 

The drain plug has since been attached to the 'counter top' using a screw and that small, metal loop to prevent it from being lost in the yard.

Another thrift store turned up a whole crate full of fun, vintage kitchen supplies. I was careful to choose items made from materials {tin, etc.} that would stand up to lots of use and to being outside for long periods of time.

So far, this kitchen space has been a BIG hit! The most unexpected, but "aha!" use so far has been the toddler-friendly access to running water outdoors. He uses his sink to fill squirt guns, or to rinse his sticky fingers after a Popsicle. 

Gluten Free, Vegan Zucchini Bread {soy free, dairy free, chocolate option}

I love zucchini bread. I really love chocolate zucchini bread. So when that time of the summer rolls around where the garden is exploding with zucchini, I get to work!

This recipe will produce a very dense, heavy loaf of bread. Just the way it should be! The ingredients list is written for regular zucchini bread--but the image above is most certainly a chocolate zucchini bread. Follow the notes at the bottom of the post to make the chocolate variety.

1 1/2 Cups GF All-Purpose Flour*
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
1/2 Cup Oil {I used Grapeseed}
1 1/2 Cups Grated Zucchini**

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
Create a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add oil and applesauce.
Stir thoroughly to combine, using a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Mix in the {prepared--see below} zucchini.
Pour the batter into a greased bread pan, and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes.
After baking, allow to cool for several minutes before removing the bread from the pan.
To remove, run a knife along the edges of the bread, then turn onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Allow bread to cool completely before cutting.***

*To make chocolate zucchini bread, use 1 Cup GF All-Purpose Flour and 1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder.
**To prepare your grated zucchini: wrap grated zucchini in several layers of paper towel, creating a 'ball,' then squeeze firmly to remove excess water. Carefully open up the wet paper towel, then fluff the zucchini a bit to keep it from clumping in the bread batter.
***I was anxious when I made this bread! I baked ours for 45 minutes and definitely didn't allow the bread to cool completely before slicing. When I cut the bread open, I was so disappointed to find that the bottom third of the inside of the loaf wasn't completely done. Because there are no eggs in the recipe, I tried it anyway, and loved the flavor! So I wrapped my bread in a tea towel and headed to bed. The next morning, the slightly gooey center had turned into a dense, yummy ribbon of chocolate. Avoid the same experience by baking your bread a bit longer {test the loaf with a toothpick inserted deep into the center of the pan}, and by allowing it to cool completely before slicing.

Honey-Sesame Crock Pot Chicken {gluten free, soy free, dairy free, slow cooker recipe}

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that our hot weather has really squashed my time in the kitchen lately. I'm grateful for the warm summer days, but they sure don't make for a very entertaining blog! So I set out to come up with something new to share with you.

This is definitely a winner! It'll be a great winter recipe too. Because it was cooked in my crock pot, there was very little heat added to my already-hot kitchen. In fact, I could have plugged my cooker in down in the basement for a completely heat-free kitchen! I used my rice cooker at the same time to put together a complete meal. When we returned from the splash pad, dinner was waiting for us!

I won't lie--this chicken is a bit rich. I found that I preferred mine without a ladle of extra sauce, and so did my hubby.

You'll Need:
2-4 Chicken Breasts {boneless, skinless}
1/2 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Coconut Aminos
1/2 Cup Onion {diced}
2 Tbsp. Ketchup
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & Pepper

2 Tbsp. Corn Starch
4 Tbsp. Cool Water
1-2 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds

To Make:
In a small bowl, combine honey, coconut aminos, onion, ketchup, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Place chicken in the crock pot, then top with sauce.
Cook on high 3-4 hours, or low for around six hours.
When the chicken is well cooked, carefully remove the pieces from your crock pot.
Mix corn starch and water in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the remaining sauce in your crock pot.
Use a sharp knife to cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Some of it will shred and pull apart as you cut it, and that's ok. Return the chicken to the sauce, stirring to mix. Top with sesame seeds.
Serve over rice.

Marcus & Melanie are Engaged! {Spokane Proposal: Christina Weedon Photography}

We were asked to participate in a very special proposal this weekend, when our friend Marcus asked Melanie to be his wife. I can't think of a better way to have spent my Saturday afternoon!

Several friends were stationed around town in locations important to their relationship, waiting with a note from Marcus to read to Melanie.

I won't lie--I was a teary mess when she showed up at my door! I read my note, though, and then dashed up to meet Marcus where he would pop the question.

Together, we picked a spot and waited. 

When Melanie arrived, it was time! I met her and directed her to the final stop on her scavenger hunt, and then I ducked behind some bushes and watched the scene unfold.

Of course, she said yes! Congrats, Marcus and Melanie. We can't wait to see you tie the knot!

Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake Cookies {gluten free, soy free, and vegan}

When I was little, my grandma liked to make no-bake cookies. I often helped by choosing some sort of cereal to add to the mixture--usually Cheerios. This recipe is a bit different, but really reminds me of grandma's cookies.

If it's too hot to use the oven where you're at, give these a try. If it's not too hot for the oven, try them anyway!

You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Spread
1/2 Cup Almond Milk
2 Cups Sugar
4 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
3-4 Cups Gluten Free, Quick-Cooking Oats*
1 Cup Puffed Rice Cereal
2 tsp. Vanilla

To Make:
Combine Earth Balance, almond milk, sugar, and cocoa powder in a sauce pan.
Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Allow the mixture to boil for one full minute.
Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter, oats, rice cereal, and vanilla.
Spoon the mixture onto parchment paper to cool and set.
Store 'hardened' cookies in an airtight container. I placed ours in the fridge, as we're in the midst of a heat wave and I didn't want to return to find the cookies all melted together. I'm not sure that was a necessary measure, but the cold cookies sure do taste good!

*I started off thinking three cups of oats would be enough, but added more when I wasn't satisfied with the consistency of the cookie mixture. Before you form your cookies, the mixture should be relatively thick so that it doesn't spread too flat on the parchment paper. Play with the consistency a bit if three cups of oats doesn't seem to be enough.

Blueberry-Lavender Sparkling Lemonade

On the fourth of July, I gathered a bunch for festive, 'fizzy' drinks. This was the favorite, by far! I'm not done yet--so be on the lookout for some more flavor combinations soon.

You'll Need:
Sparking Mineral Water {like Pellegrino}
Lavender Syrup {I love Monin brand syrups!}
Lemons {some sliced, some juiced--or ready to squeeze directly into the glass}

To Make:
Pour a bit of lavender syrup into the bottom of your glass. I used no more than a couple of teaspoons.
Place a couple of lemon wedges or slices in the glass.
Place a few blueberries into the glass, smooshing a few as you put them in.
Add lemon juice--and inch or so in the glass.
Add ice.
Add mineral water to fill the glass.

Feel free to play with the amount of lemon juice, syrup, etc... we've all got different tastes!

Shared on... Lifeologia

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites {gluten free, vegan, soy free}

Oooh, are these ever a fun treat! They're a big hit with my three-year-old, too. I smile each time he swipes one from the fridge, because I know the "secret," healthy ingredient.

If this recipe looks familiar, it might be because you've read my recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip. This is quite similar, but different in consistency so it's pop-able.

1 Can {about 1 1/2 Cups} Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/4 Cup Peanut Butter {or another nut butter}
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
6 Tbsp. Gluten Free Oats {I used the quick-cooking variety}
1/3 Cup Chocolate Chips + extra, for melting

To Make:
In your food processor, combine garbanzo beans, vanilla, peanut butter, brown sugar, and oats.
Process the mixture very well, breaking down the beans and creating a dough-like mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Remove the mixture from the fridge and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a small scoop, or your hands, create small, bite-size balls of 'dough,' and place them on the parchment paper.
If you would like to top your cookie dough bites with chocolate, melt about 1 cup of chocolate in the microwave at 30-second intervals, then spoon or drizzle a bit over the top of each bite.
Return to the fridge to set, and so the chocolate can harden.

Store in an air-tight container for several days, if you can resist eating them all!

Cloth Diapers: Which are Right for My Family?

Choosing cloth diapers is one of the trickiest aspects to cloth diapering. Sure, you can read about them online--here on this blog post, even! But until you touch and feel the diapers in person, and perhaps even see them in use, you may feel overwhelmed by the options available.

I'll try to break it down for you here, but as always, please ask questions. I'll do my best to give a helpful answer!

Consider this a bit of a 'glossary,' but with descriptions and images.


A large {typically} cotton square of single-layer cloth that you fold to fit your baby's body. Flats are very easy to launder, dry quickly, and aren't prone to 'stinkies' or other trouble that you might have read about. On the other hand, flats can be a bit overwhelming for a new family, as they require some additional folding and attention at diaper change time. Flats can be held in place with pins, a product called a Snappi, or a number of other contraptions available on the market. You can also wear flats without any fasteners, because of advancements in the function of covers.


A sized, multi-layer {usually} cotton diaper. They're rectangular in shape, and what most people picture when they think of cloth diapers. Prefolds can be held in place with pins, a Snappi, or a number of other contraptions. You can also wear a prefold without any fasteners, like flats, because of advancements in the function of covers. Prefolds are long-lasting and easy to care for, and tend to resist odors and things more effectively than some other options. Like flats, there is a touch more work involved at change time, but not much.


A completely absorbent diaper that fits, well, like a diaper! Fitteds may come in sized or one-size options, and the materials vary by company. Some come with velcro or snap closures, and others require the use of pins or a Snappi. No waterproof barrier is included with a fitted, so a cover becomes necessary. Fitteds are a great nighttime option, as they provide a lot of absorbency without a ton of bulk.


No absorbency is provided by a cover. Think of the old fashioned 'plastic pants,' but re-designed to fit snugly and comfortably, while offering both breathe-ability and a waterproof barrier between baby's diaper and the outside world. Covers are necessary over flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers, and may often be used for more than one diaper change per day.

All-in-Ones {AIO}:

As the name suggests, you get all you need, in one. An absorbent inner with a waterproof outer. AIO's are notorious for being tougher to launder. Though this isn't always the case, the stitched-together nature of the diapers can make for a bit more effort in the laundry room. On the other hand, AIO's are easy to put on and often a favorite for their simplicity at change time. An entire AIO must be laundered between uses.

All-in-Twos {AI2}:

Almost identical to an AIO, except that the soaker {the portion designed to absorb baby's urine} is typically removable, or may have options for adding/taking away extra absorbency.


Again, as their name suggests, pocket diapers have... a pocket! Usually located at the back waistband area of a diaper is a pocket into which you place an absorbent soaker or insert. The outer layer of a pocket is a waterproof barrier, and the inner layer is made of a stay-dry material designed to pull moisture away from baby's skin and into the soaker/insert. Pockets may be stuffed ahead of time for simplicity at change time, making them function like an AIO. Upon removing a diaper, you'll need to remove the inserts from the pockets before placing them in the diaper pail. Both the outer portion of the diaper {the pocket, or shell} and the insert need to be replaced each time a diaper is changed.


There are many 'hybrid' systems available on the market now. They typically consist of a shell {much like a cover}, and then some sort of specially-designed soaker/insert. The inserts may snap in to the shell, or may simply lay inside the shell, and there is often a disposable insert available as well. Like a cover, shells are often usable for more than one diaper change at a time, and the disposable inserts can be a great option for travelling or that unplanned washing machine break-down.

Shells, Soakers, Doublers, Liners:
A shell is another name for a cover. It's the outer portion of the diaper that keeps mess and wetness contained.
A soaker is the absorbent portion of a diaper. In a pocket diaper, the soaker is stuffed into a pocket. With a hybrid system, the soaker may snap or lay inside of a shell or cover, and so on.
Doublers are designed to up your absorbency when you need more than what a diaper provides. They can be made from a variety of materials, and may go against baby's skin, or under something else, such as a prefold.
Liners don't provide any absorbency. Instead, they act as a barrier. Typically made of fleece, a liner acts to keep rash cream off of the surface of your diapers, or to provide a stay-dry quality {fleece is moisture-wicking} in a diaper that doesn't have its own stay-dry layer, such as a prefold.

Final Thoughts:
As with any product, there are differences and variations from one company to the next, but this should give you a jumping-off point if you're new to cloth.

The most cost-effective diapers on this list are flats and prefolds, used with covers. Hybrid systems tend to fall in the middle-range for cost, followed by pockets and AIO's/AI2's. Finally, fitteds are generally on the pricier end of the spectrum.

Watch for another post soon about cloth diapering accessories!

{thanks to Diaper Lab for use of the images!}