Kids Modern Activity Coffee Table: A How-To

Activity Table Tutorial  Every holiday, I feel a strong urge to build something for my girls. Typically, this urge hits within five days of said holiday. Any holiday. This time it was Valentines Day, because, well, why not? I had some leftover Purebond in the garage from Christmas, and it happened to be the perfect size for a table top. So I raided the barn for a few 2×2′s, and went to work!

painted toddler activity table tutorial

This was a really quick and easy build. I spent maybe an hour building it, but at least 9 painting it. Isn’t that how it always goes? But I’m pretty happy with the mural on top, and the girls are too. We have fun building train bridges over the water and putting the little wooden ducks in the water.

activity-table-painted-top  Cute, right? I painted the base white, and the top with probably 75 layers of light green. At least that’s what it felt like. Then two layers of craft paint for the details, and this sucker was done. I haven’t gotten around to adding a top coat yet, but I’m planning to use three layers of polycrylic to protect the paint from chipping too much. It’s the perfect fit for these Critter Chairs, as I’ve come to call them.

Now let’s get on with the build!

• 1/2 sheet 3/4″ plywood (I use purebond since it’s sourced in North America, and is formaldehyde free)
• 4 – 2x2x8
• 2 – 1″ x 1/4″ x 8′ trim pieces
• 8 L-brackets
• 1 1/2″ pocket hole screws

Cut List:
6 – 2×2 @ 35.5″
6 – 2×2 @ 12.5″
4 – 2×2 @ 22.5″
3/4″ plywood @ 35 1/4″ x 48″
2 – 1/4″ trim @ 35 3/4″
2 – 1/4″ trim @ 48″

Step 1:

Begin by assembling the legs. I used 1 1/2″ screws and drilled from the outside of the long pieces into the ends of the shorter pieces. You can use pocket holes, but in this case they’ll be better hidden on the outside of the wood.


Step 2:

Finish the square by adding the bottom piece. Drill from the top again, this will be hidden. Repeat for the other two legs.


Step 3:

Attach the legs to the underside of the plywood with 1 1/2″ screws. I used three screws per leg.


Step 4:
Attach all three legs, measuring and centering the middle leg. I added L brackets for additional stability, on the idside of the end legs and on each side of the center leg.


Step 5:


The last step is optional, but I found that the legs were still a bit too wobbly, even with the brackets. I drilled pocket holes into each end of the 22.5″ piece, and with the holes on the bottom, attached them to each leg at 10″ from each end. You can vary the placement to accommodate baskets or stools. I left room for the “critter chairs” I built for my girls, they’re the perfect fit!

Step 6:
I don’t have a photo of this step, but it’s attaching the trim. I placed it flush with the bottom of the plywood so it extends a bit over the top, keeping the toys and trains corralled on the table. I used glue and 3/4″ finish nails to attach it.

Then it’s just a matter of sanding and finishing! I decided on a bright, glossy white to break up all the dark wood in the room. I think it’s the perfect area for all sorts of playing!


Why We’re Gluten Free – Food Intolerances in Infancy and Beyond

*This post is completely unrelated to DIY, homesteading, aquaponics, or pretty much everything else I cover on my blog. Today is a little more personal, and hopefully resounds with other parents or food intolerance sufferers who are a bit fed up with the blasé attitude of conventional medicine toward nutrition.*

About this time last year, I was suspicious about food issues with my 6 month old baby, and decided (against my pediatrician’s wishes) to do an elimination diet. Even with Caroline being exclusively breast fed, she had horrible eczema and was just so miserable all the time. She was the classic “colicky” baby. Oh, it was okay if you held her in just the right way, being sure to never ever sit down and constantly pace. She could nap if she was laying on your chest. Sometimes maybe in the swing. Anyway, my mama senses were tingling, so I gave up dairy and gluten. Dairy because I am mildly intolerant so I was suspicious she would be too, and gluten for it’s reputation of causing skin and digestive issues. My pediatrician told me I was wasting my time, that the eczema was genetic and in no way diet related, and I just had to go get prescription steroid creams for my tiny little baby with tissue thin skin and accept that pharmaceuticals were the only answer for her. I declined, and thought, what could it hurt, it’s only food. If I can’t ditch conventional bread and pasta for a few weeks for the sake of my child’s health, what kind of person would I be?! I had more self-discipline than that! So I researched what gluten was and where it was hiding, then completely cut it out to test my theory. Here is our before and after shot, taken 30 days before and after cutting gluten from my diet.

gluten free before and after

Amazing difference, right? It was like this all over her body, but her face was the absolute worst. Now her skin is clear and smooth, with barely a rough patch to be seen. Needless to say, I switched pediatricians. However, my new doctor wasn’t thoroughly convinced about my personal findings. I can’t say that I blame him, because neither was I. I was acting on suspicion, and though it seemed I was right, I prefer to know, you know? I didn’t like depriving her of practically an entire food group simply on whim, as it felt. I didn’t like people judging me for my “trendy” eating styles either. But my doctor kept brushing my concerns aside. “Just avoid gluten until she’s three, and then we can reassess.” That seemed like a very long time for guessing, considering we were at her 1 year well check. I was also suspicious about tomatoes, given her face looked like this whenever she got ketchup/bbq/pasta sauce on her skin:

tomato intolerance skin reaction

He told me it was just because it was an acidic food, that she would grow out of it eventually. She would be fine eating tomatoes, no big deal. I wasn’t entirely convinced. So, I pushed for a few months and got him to agree to an allergy test. Well three vials of blood taken later, they tested 13 measly food items. It did not include testing for celiac or tomatoes. The only item of concern was wheat, which showed no reaction. So, based on the “all clear” phone call I received, I started feeding her (and myself, since I still eliminated gluten in my own diet because of breastmilk) gluten and tomatoes again. Over the weeks that followed, she became incredibly crabby, throwing tantrums over the slightest provocation. Things like a toy falling over would cause her to throw herself on the ground and scream unconsolably. She had a low grade fever more days than she didn’t, around 99.3 degrees. Her digestion was off. She was increasingly tired but slept poorly. Many of these things could be explained away – she was teething, she had mild RSV, she was going through developmental changes emotionally and physically, so she could just be tantruming, etc. But again, I just knew something was off. More than just conventional “baby-ness”. So I talked to Kelsey of Texas Total Health (who I’ve been working with during our nutritional transition and is amazing and wonderful and CALL HER NOW!) She mentioned the Pinner Test, which tests for IgG reactions (vs IgE reactions that show allergies) and can signal food intolerances. These delayed immune responses can take up to 3 days to manifest, and last for as long as you keep eating the foods, which make it tough to pinpoint. They can cause headaches, digestive problems, grumpiness, and more. I signed up right away, and with one measly finger prick Caroline was tested on 200 different foods. And guess what she had a reaction to??

pinner test food intolerance test

To say I was not surprised would be an understatement. I was actually rather relieved to finally have real answers, versus my suspicions. And to have someone listen to me, agree that things didn’t sound or look “normal”, and to help me find those answers. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with most pediatricians to dismiss nutrition’s impact on health, but considering my batting average is a big fat ZERO in that department right now, I’m not feeling very confident. It actually enrages me, to think about how miserable my daughter would be feeling if I had just followed their advice and not looked further into the issue on my own. It’s certainly had me second guessing quite a few different things, and looking around for another pediatrician who will actually listen and address the underlying issue, instead of just throwing prescriptions at the symptoms. Caroline is only 17 months old, so it won’t be a tough transition to take out tomatoes and gluten. I did decide to have a gluten-free home, however, because I don’t want to struggle with the “But daddy is eating crackers, I want some too!” issues. I want solidarity, so she never has to feel like she’s alone and unsupported. It’s actually much harder for me to eliminate tomatoes than gluten! For now, I’m going to research tomato-free ketchup and sauces, and just limit dishes I cook with them, keeping them mostly in mom and dad meals and letting the kids eat modified versions. I’m still trying to get a handle on things, and come up with a game plan for how we’ll be cooking without two pretty major players in US kitchens. It’s challenging, but it could be SO much worse, and I am grateful that we have such a minor struggle. Gluten-free is practically a fad now, so it’s easy to find affordable supplies for baked goods, and cheat every now and then with pre-made crackers or breads. I am looking forward to the challenge. Especially now that I know my baby girl feels healthy, happy, and whole.


Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Three – Adding a Ventilation Window to Ana White’s Barn Style Greenhouse

Ana White Barn Greenhouse


The plans for this Barn Style Greenhouse don’t include any ventilation. Which in Central Texas, where I live, mean that it could easily get over 100 degrees in a flash, wilting all my plants and killing the fish in my aquaponic system. That can’t happen! So I decided to make one wall of the greenhouse a “window”, and give it the ability to flip and be propped open for air movement. My original method, above, was a bit too flimsy. A mild storm flipped it all the way up and ripped it off my tiny supports. So I built a whole new frame and rigged up a good solid support to hang it. Here’s what I did:



I started by adding a 12′ 2×6 (I should have measured twice before I cut! This was just a touch short, make sure yours goes all the way to the end) by drilling 2 1/2″ screws into each of the trusses.




Next I rebuilt my frame. Before I just pieced together some scrap boards, which made it weak. This time I used a solid 2×4 for the top and bottom. Then I measured the distance between the top of the paneling side, and the bottom of the 2×6. I subtracted 7″ or the width of both 2×4′s, then cut five center supports. I attached them with pocket hole screws, then removed the greenhouse panels from my old frame and put them on the new one.




I just used a bunch of old hinges to attach the window to the support, pulling back the greenhouse panel a bit so half would be below it. I want to keep the water away from them.




Lastly, we cut a spare greenhouse panel in half width wise, then removed some of the screws from the panel on the top, fed the new sheet below it, and reattached the screws. Then we folded it over the top of the window, added more screws, and voila! Easy, water resistant ventilation. Eventually I plan to take down the panels on the other wall, and build another window frame so I can get a good cross breeze going in the summertime. It should also help let pollinators in. Or if pests or critters start being pesky, I’ll add some hardware cloth and screening to keep them out. Whatever it takes to get a happy, breezy system!

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