Laura Sosa

Balance Beam DIY

Have you noticed how incredibly expensive some outdoor toys are? I always think, "Holy moly! Who can afford these?". I browse online quite often looking for inexpensive toys for my boys to play with outside so they can have fun and be adventurous, but trying to find inexpensive toys that they won't outgrown within a year for our backyard seems impossible sometimes.

Insert Pinterest here!

Pinterest is my go-to for anything homemade related (especially on the cheap). I'm sure it's yours too. I might have a problem and be slightly addicted, but that's chatter for another blog post...

Anyway, I was determined to find something on that amazing social media site to make for my boys without spending a ton of money or needing a ton of tools. We don't have a huge tool collection yet, so our creating abilities are somewhat limited. Luckily, I was able to find several tutorials and sort of mesh them together with my amazing husband to come up with our own version of a multi-level balance beam DIY style.

Here are the simple instructions. I'll start with what you need first, then move on to the how to.

Supplies you'll need:
•4x4 Wood Beams
•Outdoor Carpet
•Staple Gun
•L-brackets + Straight brackets + screws
•Fabric Scissors
•Bright colored marker

First, you need to find some 4x4 beams at your local hardware store. The length is completely up to you, and with these instructions you can make it a single level beam or do the multi level like we did. Determine the length you want and also make sure you get enough 4x4 beams for the feet too. If you're like us and don't have large tools, you can request for free at your local hardware store to have them cut the beams to your desired length.

Next, you will need to wrap the beams in the outdoor carpet. We got an unlined outdoor rug for $17 at Home Depot and used the fabric scissors to cut it.

We rolled out the carpet and laid the largest beam down first, lining it up with the very edge of the carpet. We then rolled the beam over while still holding onto the carpet so it would wrap around the beam perfectly. The carpet was not attached to the beam, we just held on to it as we rolled the beam as a form of measuring how much we would need to wrap around. Once we rolled it over twice, and the carpet was around all 4 sides of the beam, we took the market and drew a line down the last side of the beam so we knew were to cut.

We then sliced it with the fabric scissors and it fit perfectly!

Next, we had to staple the carpet to the beam. The easiest way we found to do this was to place the beam in the MIDDLE of the carpet we just measured and cut so that the two ends would meet in the middle of the beam and we could staple them down at the same time. See picture below for a visual reference.

After we shot the staples in, my husband went over them with a hammer to ensure they were pushed down all the way. We repeated this step for each beam the kids were going to be balancing on.

On a side note, while you're doing the carpet step your kids will have a ball playing with the wood remaining to be used!

The next thing we did was lay out how we wanted the balance beam to sit before we put any of the brackets on. The was important to ensure everything lined up and we were putting the beams in the direction we wanted them to go. You could lay them out zig-zag, in a straight line, or in a "U" shape like we did.

The last thing to do is put the L-brackets in and drill them in! You can use long nails to hold the beams in place before you put the brackets on, but again that's a personal call. Once you put the L-brackets on it's time to put on the straight brackets. Make sure the beams are lined up evenly BEFORE you put these on.

After the beam is complete, your kids will have a ball walking on it, crawling on it, playing with toys on it, and so many more activities. Have fun with this weekend project and let me know how yours turned out!

Easy DIY Project - Updating Keepsakes

Years ago my mother gave me this "Ina May" sign. It was my great-grandmothers and her father had made it for her by hand when she was a little girl. I don't get sentimental about many things, I view most things as the objects they are and pretty disposable. But things like this tug at my heart strings and I want to keep them forever.

When my mom gave it to me, it was a brownish-black background color and the letters were an elementary school yellow. She told me I could paint it with some fresh colors and it would be like new! Well... I was about 15 or 16 when she gave it to me, and boy did I paint it with some fresh colors. Let's just say I didn't quite have an eye for design, color, DIY projects, anything in that arena.

I'm not a boastful woman, but I'd say my decorators eye has improved drastically in the last decade and a half. And I had been "hiding" this sign away because of the *cough* awful design colors I did as a teenager. On a whim, I decided it needed a face lift so I could proudly display it once again.

The above photos show what I did when I did the "teenager" version of a facelift. What you can't really see in the photos is the abundance of glitter on the creamy white background. Oy.

The very first thing I did was take off the ribbon I was using to hang up the sign. Next, I took this all-wood piece outside and began to use the electric sander to sand down the glitter and paint. I say glitter first, because there was a lot. (Note, be sure to wear safety glasses when sanding!).

As I was sanding this down, I realized that the name was beginning to come off the board. It hadn't occurred to me before to try and take it off. I figured it's been on there for 70+ years probably, so it wasn't an option. But it was beginning to loosen and with some gentle prying I was able to remove it. This was actually hugely beneficial as I was much better able to sand it down.

After I sanded it with the electric sander for a bit, I knew I needed to get in the crevices with a hand block sander. It didn't take long to smooth it all out with that since the electric sander had already done most of the work.

Once I was done sanding it down, I then primed it. I put 2 coats of the primer on (c'mon I need it with all the glitter!) and I knew I needed to cover up that black paint really well. I like to get old boxes or pieces of flat cardboard and paint in the grass. It makes for easy clean-up and I can usually (USUALLY) keep the project away from the little fingers that roam around my house.

I'm a very impatient person when it comes to projects. In other words, I want everything to be done NOW. But I knew that between the hot desert sun, the kids needing a snack, and the quick dry primer I bought, it wouldn't be long before I was painting.

Once that was dry, I threw on a couple coats of semi-gloss white paint on the small board. I chose a white background so the name would pop and I could add a bit of texture and modern design to it. I would say my house is heading in the direction of modern-farmhouse with the designs, colors, sleekness, etc. I'm drawn too and in the process of changing over too.

So like I said, I chose colors for this based on what matches most of my house. The name I spray painted a gunmetal gray (it looks more goldy-gray in the photo but it's not). I love gray, as it is so sleek and matches with everything. I also felt like it made the name look bold and proud, iron clad and strong, something my great-grandmother absolutely was. I wanted to look at the sign and not only see her beauty, but her strength as a woman as well.

On a side note, you might see some smudges on the name from the paint and that's where my 3 year old decided to come over and man-handle it when I had my back turned for about 2 seconds. Remember when I said I can USUALLY keep little fingers away from my projects? Between his smudges and my lack of project patience, I just fixed it the best I could hoping my Grandma B. as we call her was looking down and giggling at my gorgeous son and his constant need to "destruct" things.

After the paint was nearly dry, I placed the stencil on top. I say nearly (about 95% dry) because I wanted a slight stickiness to help hold the stencil in place. I laid the stencil at an intended angle just to give it a little more dimension and design. After pressing down on it to ensure paint wouldn't seep through and taping the sides, I sprayed it with the dark teal and left it to dry. Now you might see a small amount of smudge in the teal paint in the top right corner, and that's because a huge gust of wind came as it was in the very beginning stages of drying and moved the stencil slightly. (Note to self, when you live in the desert do stencil projects IN the garage with the door open to prevent that from happening again).

After the paint had a chance to dry, I removed the stencil and reattached the name. I thought about saving it to re-do it all since my son had smudged the paint on the name and the wind had caused the stencil to shift slightly as it was still wet. But then I thought about how much I can love imperfections in things even though I am a crazy perfectionist. It's almost as if things like this bring me down from my perfectionist world when I look at them and make me realize that even in the most imperfect things we can still find absolute beauty.

Ideally, I will have this sign in the office I will have one day, as it matches my desk and decor perfectly. I can picture it on a white bookshelf, surrounded by picture frames, a couple candles, and an owl figurine. But the colors I chose flow throughout my house, so I knew I could pick a spot to put it anywhere right now.

Who knows, I may change the colors again one day now that I know how easy it is, but for now it's bold and it stands out, and that's what I really like about it. Love you Grandma B.! Thanks for being my guardian angel.

Mexican Sweet Potato Skillet Recipe

The only things I love more than food is God, my family, and my friends. Other than that, food is at the top of my priority list. And within THAT list, Mexican style food is ranked pretty darn high. I love trying new recipes, crafting my own, and categorizing them into certain genres of food (hence the Mexican Sweet Potato recipe here).

So how did I come up with this one? Well, I'll tell you that sweet potato burgers are one of my favorite meals to make. BUT finding the desire to dirty up all the dishes to actually make them is one of my least favorite things... (I hate doing dishes).

The other night we wanted sweet potato burgers, but it was one of those nights I didn't want to boil the potatoes, make the quinoa, use the mixer to blend all the ingredients, and grab the cast iron skillet to cook them. I know, I know. I sound pretty darn lazy!

But in all fairness, it was a Friday night and I just wanted to be able to throw a few dishes in the dishwasher and be done with kitchen clean up. So I thought to myself, why not just throw the ingredients together in one pan and make a cast iron casserole instead? Let me tell you - I'M SO GLAD I DID!

It was so yummy, the taste wasn't far from that of the burgers, and it was still in line with my clean eating plan in terms of gluten free, corn free, and trans fat free. Plus, it was crazy easy to make and completely customizable so I can create this again and again with different flavors, seasonings, style, etc.

Alright, so let's get to the goods. How to make this baby!

First, cube 2 medium sweet potatos. I'd say 1/2" x 1/2" cubes is perfect. You don't want to them too big or they will take forever to cook through. Once you cube them up, place them in a heated cast iron that already has coconut oil melted so you can start frying them up. Add the following seasonings to really pump up the flavor: cilantro, garlic powder, onion powder, Himalayan sea salt, ground cumin. After you toss the potatoes in the skillet and seasoning them, turn on the oven to 400.

While the sweet potatoes start to cook, dice up one large, red bell pepper. Next, drain and rinse one can of black beans. After the sweet potatoes have cooked for about 10-15 minutes, go ahead and add the pepper and beans. These don't take as long to cook through.

After everything has cooked through together and you can put a fork through the sweet potatoes fairly easily, pat the concoction flat, and sprinkle with feta or cotija cheese. Place in the oven for 10 minutes to sear in the flavor of the cheese and allow the potatoes to finish cooking through.

Once it's done cooking, you can serve straight from the skillet! But you can also serve over a bed of romaine lettuce like we did. It was like this amazing, Mexican Sweet Potato Salad! Top with a dab of guacamole or avocado, douse with Cholula hot sauce, and just TRY not to chow down on the entire pan!

Mexican Sweet Potato Skillet Recipe

2 tbsp. coconut oil
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 large red bell pepper
1 can black beans (low sodium)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tbsp. cilantro seasoning
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin

1. Cube sweet potatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes in melted coconut oil in cast iron skillet. Stir frequently. Upon adding the sweet potato to the pan, add seasoning combo.

2. While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 400.

3. Dice bell pepper and rinse and drain black beans. Add pepper and beans to sweet potato mixture after they have been cooking for the 10-15 minutes. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.

4. Once you're able to stick a fork through the sweet potatoes fairly easily, pat the concoction flat and sprinkle with feta or cotija cheese. Place skillet in oven and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and serve as is, over a bed of quinoa, or over a bed of romaine lettuce.

6. Top with guacamole or avocado and hot sauce of choice!

Homemade Carpet Deodorizer

Have you ever wondered how to make homemade carpet deodorizer so you can ditch the chemicals and go with pure cleaning? I'm trying to ditch the chemicals in my house, and if you are too then you need this recipe!

In this video I show you how incredibly easy it is to make homemade deodorizer with baking soda and essential oils. I prefer Young Living, but you can use whatever oils you like!

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