Monday, June 27, 2011

Ocean Shores Sandcastle Competition 2011

For years I wondered how "those" amazing sandcastles were created. How did they get them so tall? How did they carve them so intricately? My sandcastle making experience was limited to the simple child's method of filling a bucket with wet sand, dumping it out, and then seeing what resulted before the tide came in and washed it all away.

My whole perception of sandcastle building changed a year ago. A friend of ours invited us to participate in the Ocean Shores Sand and Sawdust Festival sandcastle competition. Although we knew nothing about building sandcastles, we decided last minute to join the team competing in the intermediate category and see what we could do to help. We had such an amazing time that we enthusiastically agreed to do it again this year.

Do you want to know what it takes to make a real sandcastle? Let me share the wet and grimy details with you.

First, you need a team of people who are all willing to work together. And when I say work, I mean seriously participate in manual labor together. You also need a good leader. Our good friend, Amos, was our great leader and a group of friends from church provided the willing team.

Here are a couple of the rules:
  1. Only 8 team members are allowed in the plot at a time. (We had 10, so we had to make sure that 2 were out of the plot at all times.)
  2. All of the sand used to build the sandcastle must come from within the 30x30 plot.
  3. You cannot start (enter the plot) until 9:00 a.m. and must finish by 3:00 p.m. (It kind of makes you feel like you are on some sort of reality TV show.)
The day of the sandcastle competition we started out slathering ourselves with sunscreen setting up our forms. These were very nontraditional, experimental forms. (Forms are generally box like shapes or cylindrical shapes.) We the guys started out bracing the forms and screwing the bracing into place.

As you can see from the picture, you also need many, many buckets full of water. And, yes, this is just plain old water directly from the ocean. As tempting as it may seem, no adhesives are added.

Next the guys added another part of the forms on the front.

Once the forms were finished and ready to go, the real work began. Time to bring in the backhoe add sand, shovel full by shovel full. And let me tell you, we all took our turns shoveling sand.

Once there was about 4 or so inches of sand, we began pouring buckets of water over it and "tamping" it down. Well, we used "tampers" but it was definitely more along the lines of pounding the sand.

By the way, building a sandcastle like this means you will get dirty. You will be covered in sand and salt water. Guaranteed.

At one point a man walked up who was apparently a radio program host. He interviewed Amos live and apparently really liked our team t-shirts. He also was very impressed by our teamwork and said that we were one of the most "team like" teams participating in the competition.

After what felt like hours of grueling manual labor (did I mention that those 5 gallon buckets had to be refilled over and over again?), we finally packed the sand up to our goal height. Time for the moment of truth. The guys whipped out the drills and began to remove the bracing for our forms. They removed the form from the right side.

Success! Our experimental (risky) form worked! With a boost of confidence, they removed the form from the left side.

Semi-success! So it was a little disappointing that the whole thing didn't hold, but the majority of it was solid and the area that fell was definitely scavengeable (I don't think that is a real word, but I like it anyway.). Now, the real fun began. Creative juices began to flow and the artistic sides emerged.

Look at the amazing transformation. This is the corner that appeared ruined when we removed the forms, Now, it is an amazing wave encompassing a swordfish!

Our goal was a forced perspective and in the back (supposed to appear far away) is our hill with pyramids.


Even our little Ayla participated by letting us borrow her feet to make small footprints.

Here is our finished product:

Exodus 14:21-22 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.


In the end, we won first place in the intermediate category! This last picture is of our team after we found out that we won!

Holy Lamb Organics - Winner

To determine the winner of this giveaway, I entered everyone's name into the list randomizer at 
Here are the results:

And the winner is: 


Kristyn, I will contact you through email so you can claim your prize. I hope you enjoy new wool pillow!

Thank you to everyone who entered!

If you are still interested in a pillow, don't forget about the coupon code! You can receive 15% off all pillows through the month of July by entering the Coupon Code 15EF.

Remember that the discount will come in the form of a rebate if you order directly from the website. Or you can call in your order or visit the store to receive the discount directly.

Here is all of their contact information: 

PO Box 309
104 West Pine St
Oakville, WA 98568
(360) 273-9400

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful for Abundant Strawberries

What started as a single strawberry plant purchased at a Master Gardener's plant sale about 6 years ago has turned into two full-to-the-brim beds of incredibly healthy strawberry plants. Even more, these strawberries have spread so far and wide that I have been able to share starts with many friends, helping them start their own strawberry beds.

I have been asked several times what the key to my amazingly healthy strawberry plants is, and my primary response: neglect. Now, don't get me wrong. I do take care of them about once a year. In the spring, I sprinkle Black Lake Organic's strawberry fertilizer over the entire beds and then attempt to brush most of it off of the plants. Then I give them a thorough dusting of mulch, again attempting to shake the majority of the mulch off of the leaves and down to the soil. That is about it. Many people space their strawberry plants perfectly and meticulously remove runners. I don't. I generally figure, the more plants the merrier! So far my lovingly neglectful treatment of my plants has worked out very well.

Last year, though, the deer discovered my strawberry beds. Many mornings I walked out to my garden and ended up nearly (or completely) in tears as I saw the devastation caused by the deer. My view regarding the peaceful deer has changed. I no longer see that as peaceful, lovely animals. I now see them as pests, monstrous rodents. As a result of the deer's new found infatuation with my garden, we only ended up getting a handful of strawberries.

For some reason, the deer must have found better gardens to visit this year. My garden has been blessedly deer free so far this year. After last year's pitiful harvest, I have a new level of gratitude for the sweet berries we are picking.

Today, as I really picked our berries for the first time, I found myself truly thankful for our strawberries. Yes, Ayla was a little over-zealous in her picking. In her excitement, she decided that it was better to fill her bowl than to make sure the berries were completely ripe. Even so, I am thankful for our early, abundant harvest of strawberries.

Don't forget to go enter the giveaway for the travel/children's pillow!

What are you thankful for today?

 Come join me (and my friends at Adventures Of Raising A Baby In The City )! Every almost every Thursday, I will post something for which I am thankful, and I would love it if you participate as well. It is medicine for the soul to give thanks and, when practiced regularly, results in contentment. It can be anything: silly, personal, or blog related. Just take a moment to give thanks!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Holy Lamb Organics - Giveaway!

Around a year ago my husband did some work for the owner of Holy Lamb Organics (who also happens to now be my sister-in law!!!) and she traded him an orthopedic neck pillow in exchange for his work. I have to admit that I was a little jealousy that he received this pillow. I wanted an amazing handmade wool pillow too! But, who was I to complain? He did the work, and, also, he had some issues with waking up with his ear hurting. (Apparently his mom and brother experience the same issue.)

Orthopedic Neck Pillow
Then last winter the girls and I experienced sickness like we had never experienced it before. I began to research all the different kinds of allergies that could potentially cause our constant coughing and congestion. In my research, I learned that dust and dust mites can be a serious contributor, as can down (the pillows we were all using) and synthetic materials (our mattresses and mattress covers). I discovered that wool ranks far above all other products (including cotton and down bedding) in its ability to resist dust mites and in its ability to provide a natural sleeping surface..

Woolley Down Pillow
I was sold. (And did I mention that I have some sweet connections?) We went ahead and purchased Woolly Down Pillows and Deep Sleep Mattress Toppers for the girls and I. As much as I wish I could say that this solved all of our cough and congestion problems, it didn't. (I will have to save that discussion for another post.) But we would never go back and are so glad we invested in this quality bedding. Before the purchase, it took quite a bit to convince my husband that this was worth the cost, but now he will tell anyone who asks about how wonderful the mattress topper is. It is so amazingly soft and comfortable!

Here are some quick facts about the benefits of wool:
  • Wool resists bacteria.
  • Wool is fire resistant.
  • Wool is cool in the summer yet warm in the winter.
  • Unlike bedding that uses plucked down feathers, a sheep grows a coat of wool annually and is not harmed during shearing.
  • Wool surpasses synthetic fill in terms of quality and durability.
  • Unlike down bedding which shifts over time (ie. bare spots in a comforter), wool stays in place.
  • Wool is a sustainable product helping small farmers make a living.
  • With proper care, woolen bedding can last for decades.
So, are you curious now? Would you like to just try it out? Here is your chance!

The giveaway:

The lucky winner of this giveaway will receive a Travel Pillow! This pillow would be perfect for the upcoming travel and camping season for you or your children.

To enter the giveaway: 

1. Follow/subscribe to this blog. (Why follow? Here is a great article about why.)
2. Leave a comment below sharing your favorite natural product or a comment about Holy Lamb Organics.

One extra entry in the giveaway for each of the following:

1. Share about this giveaway on your Facebook. (Um, if we aren't friends on Facebook, you will probably need to leave me a comment letting me know that you did this.)

2. Share about this giveaway on your blog. (Again, letting me know certainly would not hurt.)

Coupon Code:

Holy Lamb Organics has also provided a coupon code to the readers of this blog! You can receive 15% off all pillows through the month of July by entering the Coupon Code 15EF.

Please note that the discount will come in the form of a rebate if you order directly from the website. Or you can call in your order or visit the store to receive the discount directly.

Here is all of their contact information:

PO Box 309
104 West Pine St
Oakville, WA 98568
(360) 273-9400

Enter this giveaway until Friday, June 24, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. PST. The winner will be randomly selected and then announced on Monday, June 27, 2011!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables with Brown Rice

For most people, the term "grill master" conjures up images of a 40 year old man standing over a flaming grill, whipping out perfectly grilled steaks. This is the image you see on TV and in movies, and I suppose this is probably fairly accurate for most households.

But not at our house.

In our home, grilling falls under the broad category of "cooking" and almost all things cooking fall under the category of "Tanya's responsibilities". Not that I mind. I enjoy grilling and like playing with fire as much as your average man.

More practically, though, I view the barbeque as a secondary cooking appliance, the equivalent of my kitchen stove and oven for the summer months. It is sweet relief on a sweltering day (you know, we do have 5 or 6 of those every year) to have a reliable means of cooking that doesn't heat up the house and results in food that tastes as good, and frequently even better, than your standard kitchen fare.

For the last 8 years I barbequed on an old gas barbeque we found at an estate sale. It worked. Kind of. I mean, it did alright as long as you like most everything well charred. We ate a lot of unintentional "Cajun style" meals. This spring as I manually lit the barbeque, struggled to correctly place the always-slipping-and-falling grill grate, attempted to rescue flaming chicken and then ate the resulting charred-but-not-done-in-the-middle chicken, I informed my husband that I was finished. As much as I loved to barbeque, I couldn't handle it anymore. No meal is worth the frustratingly near tears experience this barbeque evoked in me.

Then he reminded me of my upcoming birthday. He asked if I would like a gas barbeque for my birthday. Would I ever!

The search for the right gas barbeque began. Daniel and I are the type to thoroughly research what we buy. We are very frugal and like to get a good deal, but we also understand that it is sometimes worth making an investment for a higher quality product. We looked at gas barbeques in the stores, talked to salesmen, and then went home and read reviews online. We repeated that process again. In the end, we decided on a Weber. It seems like you just can't go wrong with a Weber gas barbeque. I mean, how many items have a full 5 stars on

On Sunday, we bought one, brought it home and put it together. Last night I made hamburgers and grilled corn on the cob. I told Daniel that I still needed to figure out how this grill works. His response? "So, what are you grilling tomorrow night?"

I hadn't thought about it. I figured it might finally be time to get creative grilling.

Here is what I came up with:

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables with Brown Rice

I collected my ingredients: red onion, bell peppers, pineapple, and chicken marinating in Teriyaki sauce.

I preheated my nice new, fancy schmancy grill.

 Like how I improvised by using my vegetable steamer with the red onions?

Inside, I mixed some Teriyaki sauce (this is currently my favorite brand), some chicken broth and a little cornstarch together.

While the chicken and veggies cooked, I thickened this sauce to add to the deliciously finished meal.

Here are the results still on the grill:

 Here are the results chopped up and mixed together in a bowl:

And best of all, here is the finished product on my plate ready to be devoured:

And yes, it was delicious. Absolutely delicious.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Explaining About Our New Children

We pulled into the driveway as a family and began to carry our loads into the house. Our girls had spent the night at the beach with my parents and we were returning home with our kids. The girls carried in their backpacks and we worked together to bring coats and additional beach treasures into the house.

In the midst of the chaos, the girls noticed the pictures sitting on our kitchen table. "What is this, mama? Who are these girls?"

We told them that after they put away their clothes, we would watch a little video and talk about who those little girls are.

When they had finished, we explained that these girls live in an area that is very poor. They don't have a nice house to live in like we do. They don't have clean water to drink. Many days they go hungry or eat garbage.

Then we watched this video together.

Kylie watched and listened, but Ayla was in and out of the room. As I read the words to the video out loud to our girls, I struggled. This video is emotional and the reality of it brings me close to tears every time I see it. My voice wavered, but we made it through.

After the video we talked about the life these kids live. What would it be like to be hungry all the time? Would it be fun to play at a dump, with garbage? What if you had a sad life like this and didn't know that God loves you and cares for you.

Then we talked about "our girls". We now have two little girls we will support. These girls will learn to read and write, even though their parents are probably illiterate. They will have a school uniform, the nicest and maybe only clothes they own. Our girls will received medical care as needed and eat a healthy, balanced meal every day. And most importantly, they will learn the message of Jesus' love.

One of our girls, Akhila, enjoys drawing, just like Kylie. Our other little girl, Dharamjeet, loves to dance, just like our Ayla. Kylie had a book in school about pen pals and we explained that these girls will be like pen pals with our family. We will be able to write to them and send them pictures from Kylie and Ayla.

During this time, Ayla seemed distracted and was constantly moving, like always. Daniel and I were a little frustrated that the video and our conversation seemed to go right over her head.

Then as Ayla was lying in bed, she asked "Why do those kids play with garbage?" We explained that they don't have nice toys like she does. "Why don't they have a house?" We explained that they are poor and don't have the money to buy a home and nice things like we do.

I guess she really was listening all along.

If you would like to sponsor a child through Gospel For Asia, go here. 100% of the sponsorship money is given to the kids. Nothing is taken out for administrative expenses.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Sentimental Tablecloth Meets My Grandma's Sewing Machine

As I was preparing to decorate a table for the women's brunch, I looked at the items I had set out. My centerpiece was prepared and I had borrowed a friend's dishes. The silverware was ready. All I needed was some cloth napkins. I tried out my brown cloth napkins, but they just didn't look right. I glanced down and saw an old tablecloth I had pulled out. The colors in the tablecloth matched, but it was too stained to use as a tablecloth at an event like this.

Why had I kept this stained, used tablecloth? My husband and I used it consistently the first year and half we were married. We lived in a very small rental. The kitchen was tiny and the house "came with" a kitchen table because it was the only table that would fit in the little eating area. (The table was even smaller than a card table.) The table was not attractive, but the size was right. To compensate for the ugly table, we had two tablecloths we used on the table. This one was my favorite of those tablecloths.

As I looked fondly at this tablecloth, I realized that it wasn't doing much good being stored away due to sentimental value. I would never use it because of the stains, but I couldn't bring myself to throw it away due to all the fond memories I associated with it.

And then it hit me.

This tablecloth was the key to the cloth napkins I need for the brunch. I wouldn't use a stained tablecloth, but I would use slightly stained cloth napkins over and over again. I laid out the tablecloth, measured it, and began to cut it into 9 squares.

Then I pulled out my grandma's sewing machine and I was flooded with a new set of memories.

In my grandma's retirement days, she kept herself busy. One of her retirement hobbies was sewing and quilting. As she progressed in her quilting, she decided to buy herself a newer sewing machine. It wasn't anything fancy, but it would get the job done. I remember seeing quilts laid out in her living room and watching her work on them.

She hasn't been able to sew or quilt for many years now. First her arthritis made quilting nearly impossible. Today, her dementia has progressed to the point where I don't think she even remembers the sewing machine or her years spent quilting.

But I remember.

As I sat at the sewing machine, I smelled my grandma's perfume still lingering on the machine. I wished I could express to her how grateful I am to be able to use her sewing machine. While sewing, I fondly reminisced over our first couple of years of marriage. I am glad to have these new/old cloth napkins as mementos to keep and to use.

While setting the table for the women's brunch, I knew that the women wouldn't know that I made the cloth napkins the night before. They wouldn't know that the napkins were made out of a sentimental old tablecloth. They wouldn't know that I sewed them on my grandma's sewing machine.

But I knew.