My family LOVES guacamole. My husband and I will gladly get table-side guacamole for $8 and then just eat it as lunch (sometimes we each get our own). But I really hated making guacamole at home. I didn’t like dulling my knives, or risking a cut, by slamming the blade into the avocado pit. It was a pain in the neck to get it that right consistency of chunk and mush combo with a big spoon. But I decided to keep at it. Mainly because I got some home-grown avocados from a Florida friend and then Kroger began selling them for 69 to 79 cents a piece. And I have now found the EASIEST way ever to make guacamole. It’s so easy, I’m making it about once a week.
Alton Brown said it best that you should never have a uni-tasker in your kitchen. So I started to look for tools I already had that would make my guacamole experience less of a pain. I came up with two. Here they are.
Yep, these two things make doing guacamole way easier. So here’s the recipe.
What you need:
4-5 avocados (if you have the big Florida ones, 1-2)
1 small “on the vine” tomato
1/3 onion (red or sweet)
1/2 green pepper
1-2 jalapeño peppers
1 lime (I use the juice from the whole lime)
Cilantro (if desired)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Note, You won’t see cilantro in the image above because it’s too much of a pain to wash, dry and chop for me. I love it in restaurant guacamole, but am too lazy to do it in my homemade guac. I don’t think I’m missing much.
Chop the onion, peppers, and tomato first and set aside. I’ve been told to squeeze the lime juice into the onion to pickle it prior to putting it into the mashed avocado. I really don’t see a big difference in taste, but there’s a tip for you.
Slice around the entire avocado and then twist to open it so you have two halves. Use the ice cream scoop to scoop out the pit.
Then, use the ice cream scoop to scoop out the avocado. If you’re careful, you get a really pretty avocado half and the
skin looks good too.
Once you have all the avocados out of the skin, put them in a bowl and get ready to mash.
You don’t want to mash these much. I find just putting the masher through each piece once or twice gives me the consistency I like. But do it however you prefer. You can see that I leave mine pretty chunky.
When you stir all the veggies in, it will get a bit more mushed, so keep that in mind. After you’ve mashed it, add in your other veggies and lime juice. Then sea salt and pepper to taste. And yes, you do need to taste it multiple times to make sure it’s ok.
And this is how the guacamole looks after it’s mixed all together. You can see that it does end up a bit less chunky with all the stirring. As for eating, this makes a pretty large helping. Guacamole does not refrigerate well. It is still edible the next day, but it gets brown. So plan on eating it all at once. You can also divide this recipe in half and have enough for sides.
Dr. Seuss week snuck up on me again this year. We had a note sent home that the kids needed to dress up as their favorite book character. And of course, I had to get sick that week.
For the past two years, I lucked out and Spencer’s favorite character in pre-school and pre-K was the gorilla from Good Night, Gorilla. (Note: put the kid in a black shirt and pants, black gloves and for the gorilla ears, get small Mickey Mouse clip-on ears you can add to the sides of a black hat.)
But this time, he wanted to pick something different. He chose to be, surprisingly not George, but the Man in the Yellow Hat from the Curious George books.
This is an easy costume to do except for the hat. We already had a yellow shirt. I wasn’t going to bother with yellow pants, and planned on tan khakis but discovered he’d grown out of the pants that fit him a week earlier, so we went with his light gray baseball pants instead. I think it actually worked better than the khakis would have. Use Mom or Dad’s brown socks that can go up to his knees and some hiking boots.
That leaves just the tie and the hat. For the tie, I bought a yellow with black polka-dotted ribbon. Since I didn’t actually want to tie it around his neck and I wanted him to easily be able to remove it if he wanted, I took a bit of elastic and measured loosely around his neck, then sewed the “tie” onto a loop of the elastic. He could easily stretch it over his head and remove the tie. The elastic part was hidden under the collar of his shirt.
Now came the hat.
If I had had more time and felt better, I would have been a bit more careful and neat in sewing the underside of the hat, but I wasn’t really feeling up to anything very fancy–(or to ironing his shirt, as you can see in the photo). If he decides to wear this for Halloween (which I’m going to not-so-subtly encourage), I’ll fix the hat–and iron the shirt. And note, this was taken at 7a.m. None of us are morning people. 🙂
What you’ll need:
A cheap wide-brimmed garden hat (I bought one on sale from Michael’s store for less than $5) I had considered just re-using my Jessie hat when we dressed up as Buzz, Woody, and Jessie a few years before, but I was glad to not have to damage that hat.
Yellow Felt – I bought 2 yards. That was WAY too much. If you’re careful, you could easily get by on 1/2 to 3/4 of a yard. Sign up for coupons from JoAnns. They always have coupons for material. So I got this about 40% off.
2 Air Packaging Pillows – these are those air pillows you get in many Amazon packages.
Duct tape – because everything is better with Duct tape.
Needle and thread.
First, I took the air pillows and taped them together. Then, I taped that to the top of the hat. This gives you the height of the Yellow Hat.
I played with different ways to drape the fabric around the hat and finally ended up covering the top portion of the hat, then creating a donut-shaped ring to go around the top crown of the hat. I also created a ring to go around the bottom. At this point, I was pretty worn out, so my sewing got a bit messy. But it would be very easy to do a better sewing job on the bottom of the hat. The top looks great. All in all, this project took about 3 hours to do.
Tip on creating the donut-shaped ring. I traced with a pencil around the outside brim of the hat. Then, I just folded that cut-out ring in half and pushed it up against the edge of the crown. I used a pencil to trace about where the inside hold needed to be. Then just made a quick compass using a piece of plastic about the length I needed and going in a circle. It fit perfectly. No actual measuring needed, everything was eye-balled.
Finally, I wrapped a black ribbon around the crown and called it done.
Originally, I was searching for kid-friendly breakfast cookies I could make for my son now that he’s a kindergartner. Sometimes, I think he must be an alien. He does not like pizza, bananas, and absolutely has hated applesauce since he was a baby.
After trying several recipes that he absolutely hated but that I thought were fine, I have given up on finding him a breakfast cookie he liked and started looking for one I liked instead. Luckily, he’s happy with a rotation of peanut butter apples, toast with peanut butter and honey, and cereal in a mug that he can eat on our way to school. My kid LOVES peanut butter.
I learned my eating habits from my mom. My mom was a working mom. She’d be stressed out trying to take care of all us kids as well as get ready for work and get us to school somewhat on time. I remember a few times being handed Little Debbies and being told, “it’s the same as a donut!” So I have not ever had much of an issue with eating junk food in the morning. But that needs to change. And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to convince the kid to eat something as easy as a breakfast cookie so I don’t have to clean up smeared peanut butter from his car seat every day.
Here’s where my journey began a few months back. I went to Pinterest, as every guilt-ridden working mom does. What I discovered is a bunch of complicated breakfast cookies and every single one seems to have bananas and applesauce as a prime ingredient. Two things my kid hates.
But I thought I could trick him. I almost succeeded. My problem was, that all the recipes I found called for flax seed (which we were out of), uncut oats (all I had was Quick Oats), and other healthy things I didn’t have – it’d been a while since our last grocery run. Plus, they all wanted the banana to be the star of the cookie. I needed to cover that taste up as much as possible.
So I looked at a few recipes to see how much ratio of banana to oats might work to hold the thing together and decided to create my own recipe. These cookies actually got a 1/2 a cookie eaten and the comment of “it’s not too bad” from my son. For me, that was a win. For those of us in the house who DO like bananas, we thought these were quite tasty. They were good enough that I didn’t get a chance to take more than one picture.
The next time, I made a recipe that didn’t call for bananas. I’m making a recipe that doesn’t have bananas. You could still slightly taste it.
Banana and Chocolate Breakfast Cookie
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-18 minutes
Yield: 10-12 large cookies
Serving Size: 1-2 cookies
4 TBSP Honey
3 1/2 TBSP Oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 small mashed up bananas
2 cups quick oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
heaping 1/2 cup chocolate chips (probably ends up being about 3/4 cup)
2 heaping TBSP Nutella
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
Note: You can do this by hand or use a mixer. I used a mixer because I’m lazy. But I tried stirring it, and it’s fairly easy to do.
Preheat oven to 325F.
In a large bowl combine honey, oil, and eggs. Stir.
Use a serving spoon or a 1/4 measuring cup to scoop out a cookie. This should make between 10-12 large cookies.
Bake for 15-18 minutes. Mine took about 18 minutes.
These cookies end up looking a lot like Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies. But remember, these have eggs in them. They need to bake! And because of the bananas and eggs in them, I’d refrigerate leftovers to be safe.
My son has a winter birthday. That means, we can’t plan on having his birthday party outside. Normally, we just do cake and ice cream at home with the family. But for his fifth birthday, we felt we really ought to have a party. This was a major birthday and would be his last chance at inviting kids he’s spent his entire life with at daycare.
Looking around town, there are several options, Chuck E Cheese, a couple of gym places, but the place that seems to be the post popular with the five-year-old set is Pump It Up.
We’ve been here several times now for friends’ birthdays so decided to go here.
Here are some of the things I really like about it:
There is a time cut off. The parent is not the bad guy telling the kids they have to stop playing.
I don’t have to come up with games for kids to play. Parents just have to watch the kids to make sure no one gets too rough and everyone follows the rules (as closely as a bunch of excited five-year-olds can, anyway).
You have options for different types of parties. Since we were inviting all 20 kids from his pre-k class, plus several kids from church, we went with the package that was two hours and let up to 25 kids (plus the birthday kid as #26) play. I really like that package. You get 1 1/2 hours to play and a 1/2 hour to eat cake and open gifts. The smaller package has an hour of play time and a 1/2 hour to eat. For the difference in price, I’d go with the extra play time, if possible, even if you have fewer kids.
You can bring your own drinks, cake, cookies, fruit, other snacks. They have an option for them providing pizza – but seeing all the uneaten pizza at the other parties I’ve been to, we decided to save that money and just bring our own stuff.
Parents can play too. Yes, watching the 20-something-year-old moms climbing the obstacle course and then discovering that his 40-something-year-old mom couldn’t make the last ladder on it was disappointing, (If I’d had one more hand-hold I could have made it!) but I was more than capable of doing the other slides, bounce houses, and games with my kid. That’s a really fun memory to have.
It’s not outrageously expensive. Comparing two hours of time at Pump It Up to a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese where the kids spend most of that time playing annoying, loud games for tickets, the price is not that bad. Plus, again, my kid doesn’t like pizza. So the idea of having to buy awful pizza for a kid who doesn’t want it is annoying.
The party time. The employees get everything ready. They provide the cups, forks, plates. They clean up. The kids get to watch pictures the employees have taken and feel like stars because they’re on the TV. The employees even give a handy list of what child gave which gift so those of us who still do Thank You notes have something to go by.
What could be better:
Their directions and how to find the building. This place is awful to try to find. The first time I went there, I followed my GPS, which tried to send me a 1/2 mile further down the road. Coming into the building, it looks rather sketchy and there is not a good sign to really tell you that you’ve arrived. It actually appears like you’re going into the back door of the business, rather than a front door. They need a bigger and better sign to let folks know they have arrived. Trying to explain how to get there to my son’s grandparents from Nashville was an adventure, and their GPS also sent them the wrong way.
But that’s really it for what could be better. Just remember, the place is so popular that you have to book about a month in advance – minimum.
I wouldn’t do it every year, partly because I feel like a child shouldn’t have an all-out mega birthday party ever year, but also because it is a pretty big chunk to spend. But, we also didn’t get him a big birthday gift either like we had in the past. And that’s something to think about. Does a kid really need a big gift they will not play with much, or do the experience and the memories matter more?
While I was in Anaheim for Educause this past October, my boss and I got to visit Disneyland on the Friday afternoon when the conference finished. Since we weren’t flying out until dawn the next day, we had an afternoon and evening to see the area. I had never visited a Disney park with a non-family member before, so this was a new experience for me.
As many will say, Disneyland feels a lot like the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. However, it does have quite a few other rides – though we weren’t able to ride several due to them being down in order to decorate for Christmas – including It’s a Small World. This was such a shock to me. At Disney World, decorations seem to happen magically overnight. Disneyland had a much more hometown park vibe than any of the Disney World parks.
One of my goals in going to Disneyland on this trip was to decide if we should make a special trip here for vacation. Verdict – if we were ONLY going to do Disneyland, I would not fly across the country for it. But if we were going to combine that trip with Disney’s California Adventure, the beach, and a partial cross-country jaunt to see the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, or Carlsbad Caverns, I’d definitely include it.
I’m fairly spoiled when it comes to Disney parks. We usually plan our Disney trips months in advance, make sure we have meals and rides set up with fast passes. We expect to be able to adjust fast passes on the fly using the My Disney Experience app. Going to Disney World is like going to a park in the 21st century. Going to Disneyland is like stepping back in time to the parks I visited as a kid. It was quaint receiving a paper ticket to get into the park. The idea that they offer hand stamps to allow you to return to the park is old-fashioned. Fast Passes are handled by inserting your paper ticket into a machine and receiving another paper ticket with a return time on it for the ride. It left a good feeling to be able to hand a couple of kids our return tickets for Haunted Mansion at 9 p.m. when we realized we were both tired at 5:30 p.m. and needed to leave the park in order to get up before the crack of dawn the next day. That’s something you can’t do with the Disney World fast pass system.
Disneyland has the feel of a hometown park. And it’s obvious that the majority of people attending are locals. I’d read that you don’t want to visit Disneyland on the weekends. As soon as 5 p.m. came on Friday, the park went from comfortable to crazy busy within minutes. My boss and I both felt boxed in and too crowded. In the short 3 hours that we’d been in the park, we had been able to ride Star Tours, Matterhorn, Pirates of the Caribbean, listen to music on the Mark Twain Boat, listen to the Barbershop Harmony group, shop, and sing along with with a character in Frontierland. We were not in a rush. We were ambling along and taking the time to look at the art and details. After the locals came, wait times tripled. The only thing we had really wanted to do that we didn’t have time for was ride Haunted Mansion, but between the locals and this being the Friday before Halloween, it was no surprise that fast passes for that ride were rarer than gold.
Just an aside – those who say Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is better than the one at Disney World are correct. It was longer and had more details; I was impressed.
Can you compare Disneyland to Disney World? No. Can you compare Disneyland to the Magic Kingdom? Yes. And a day at Disneyland can be just as much fun as a day at the Magic Kingdom. But, if possible, go Monday through Thursday.
I had the opportunity to go to my first Educause conference this past couple weeks. I’ve worked in higher education for nearly 20 years and this was the first time I was able to get to go to THE higher ed IT conference of choice. So I was pretty excited to experience it. As well as bummed I’d miss my family for nearly a week. Though, my boss and I did get to go to Disneyland our last evening in town and I’ll write more about that soon.
Educause is a major conference, having about 4,000+ attendees. At one point, someone announced it was about 8,000. I have to say, it was strange being in the the Anaheim Convention Center with a bunch of higher education people when the last (and only other) two times I’ve been in that convention center was for Blizzcon. Not seeing folks dressed up in black or in cosplay was a bit jarring. It was like seeing the convention/shoemaker’s shop during the day before the elves come out to make the shoes at night.
What I liked:
Choices: There were so many tracks to choose from. There was always an interesting discussion to go to. This actually made it difficult to choose my agenda, though the handy app they provided really helped with that.
Lots and Lots of Choices: This conference had absolutely no dead times for discussions. I’m of the opinion that since my employer, pays for me to be at the conference, then it is my responsibility to get everything I can out of it. It always bothers me seeing people who “attend” a conference and then only go to one panel and then goof off the rest of the time as if it’s a paid vacation. But I have to admit, there have been some higher ed conferences I’ve been to where I’ve struggled through some vendor presentation as it was the only option even closely resembling something that might help me with work and where I’ve spent time checking email to try to catch up on what’s happening in the office. That did not happen here. Every session had multiple options available that made it easy to find topics in every area that I had an interest in. And I didn’t even hit all the topics available.
What could have been better:
Because there were so many interesting topics, and the convention center is so large, it was often difficult to get from the end of one topic to another topic on time. And since some of the sessions were so popular, I’d occasionally arrive to find a sign on the door saying the fire marshal said the room was too full. Several sessions were standing room only, which gets tiring after a while. But, even if a session was full, there was always my #2 or #3 choice that I could run over to. Ganted, I was a few minutes late when this happened, but it was nice having the option for the second and third choices there.
I am really glad I had the opportunity to go to my first Educause. Now, I need to fend off all the vendors who keep emailing and calling me. I truly don’t make the buying decisions, people!
Cooking is not my favorite thing in the world to do. I enjoy cooking special meals at Christmas or Thanksgiving, but those day-in, day-out meals drive me absolutely insane. It literally makes me angry having to cook because I don’t want to figure out what I want to make, have to shop for (and then not find) all the ingredients I need, clean up prior to cooking, go to the effort of cooking, and then clean up after cooking. It’s just not fun. But, we are trying to eat healthier and eat at home more often. So talking to a friend that I was thinking about trying Blue Apron out, I discovered that she did it and had a free week for me to try. So I did. I was hooked. We’ve now been doing Blue Apron for a few months and I am LOVING it. The meals feel fancy as I’m cooking, but don’t take so long that I feel I can’t get it done on a week night.
All the food is pre-measured for you. Each meal is perfectly proportioned and sized for what you need. The only thing they don’t provide is the olive oil, salt/pepper, and pan to cook it in. If a meal requires you to bread chicken in flour, they include a little baggy full of flour for you to bread the chicken. The instructions have lovely pictures and easy to follow steps. BBQ sauce comes in a cute little bottle that the frugal person in me wanted to wash out and bring to daycare for the kids to play with. (Mike said they would not want a used BBQ bottle, no matter how clean, but it was so cute). Vinegar comes in even tinier little bottles that would be great for art projects. I love how I don’t have to go to the store when I want to make something and look for ingredients, realizing that I have to get enough to make a meal for five people because that’s the smallest size I can buy and then have a ton of left overs that I end up just throwing away a week later, or worse, Mike and I eat portions that are way too huge.
Even how the food is packed and sent through the mail is impressive to me. We started this journey at the beginning of summer. Since we don’t get home from work until late, the box would sometimes be sitting in the sun on our front porch for four to five hours before we could bring it inside. Only once, when the temperature reached into the high 90s and I didn’t get home until after 6p.m. did I feel that the food had gotten almost-too warm. The meat is sandwiched between reusable freezer bags that are made from a water-based solution. Once you’re done reusing them, (or have gotten so many you don’t need more), just cut it open with scissors and put it down the drain. Everything is recycleable. The insulation packaging around the food looks a lot like a car’s sunshield. It has come in handy as a way to block sun in the catio.
Finally, the taste. Every single dish we’ve tried has been high quality food. In the months since we’ve started trying these new dishes, we’ve not had a single repeat. Only two of the dishes have been instances where I felt that I wouldn’t want to eat them again. Both times, it was things that were good quality, just not really my cup of tea.
I’ve also found out that my friend and I are not the only ones at work who are hooked. I’ve spoken to 11 women at work about this; six of us are using Blue Apron almost weekly. And that’s the other nice thing. If you don’t need the food one week because of vacations or travel, or you’re just not really interested in the menu that week, you can cancel. That right there is the reason I gave up on Dinner A’faire. I hated having to spend a couple hundred dollars per month on frozen meals that I might not end up having time to make. With Blue Apron, everything is fresh, not frozen. I am able to plan my month out and cancel when I know I won’t have time to fix anything. The fish is sustainable, the meat doesn’t have a bunch of hormones. It’s good quality.
I really do love Blue Apron. On those weeks where we don’t get it, I find myself missing it.
Recently, we went on vacation to Florida, and for the first time in years, did not go to Disney World. But, we couldn’t just skip parks all together, so we decided to try Legoland.
Legoland is certainly a better park to go to than Dollywood. On a scale of one to ten, where Disney World is a 10, I’d say Dollywood is a 3 and Legoland a solid 6.
Legoland is ideal for kids ages 4-8 years old. So if you are like many people with multiple kids, you may have one or two kids it’s great for, and then another kid who is bored.
It does have good things for that age group. They even have some rides that only kids ages 3 to 4 can ride while older kids have to go someplace else. I liked this because it meant no older kids ruining things for my kid.
Other parents didn’t like it because it meant mom and dad having to split kids up into two lines at two different areas. Kudos to the employees who insisted on brothers and sisters splitting up too, even in the face of a couple of rude families who had obviously read the signs but felt they didn’t apply to them (or apparently the rules for kids to not climb on the rails, or not cutting in line). For those of us with one child, it was an advantage not having ill-behaved 7-year-olds running over my child in a car while he tried to steer.
You can certainly tell that Legoland used to be a local amusement park. Just as you can still see the bones of Silver Dollar City in Dollywood, you can still see a lot of Cypress Gardens in Legoland. Some of the rides have obviously just been face-lifted to have Lego themes. Some newer rides, like in the World of Chima area, are much better made. But the employees are obviously proud of the history of the park and it made it feel more interesting.
We weren’t able to get to the water park section and I’ve heard that is a great area to visit. We’ll probably do that next time. Since we got to ride the water ride in World of Chima over and over (there were times where the employees just asked if we wanted to stay on) we ended up soaking wet as it was.
We liked Legoland.
We liked that we were able to find discounts on annual passes. We got The Boy the Awesome Pass and Mike and I got the special they ran on Cinco De Mayo of buy-one-Awesomer Pass and get-one free. That saved us $150.
The shopping, which seems to be a great deal of the park, doesn’t have anything that you can’t find online or a big Lego store. We did buy some Lego sets since the Awesomer Pass did get us a discount. One of the nice employees did spend quite a bit of time for me feeling all the minifig packs until she found me a Buzz Lightyear, Captain Hook and Peter Pan. So that’s something you don’t get in most Lego stores.
That brings me to the employees. They were not on par with Disney cast members, but they were running a pretty close second. Everyone was helpful. Everyone had a pretty good attitude. The young employees at the World of Chima water ride were the best. Taunting the riders to try to soak them with water from the guns as they pulled up from the ride. Laughing if they accidentally got hit as riders started the water guns up as they were leaving.
Legoland is not Disney. Where Disney would cover up the mechanics of how things work, Legoland was missing many of those touches. In the Miniland area, all the little tracks that boats, cars, etc. ran on were not covered up. Water in the Miniland area was stale looking. Miniature buildings looked like they needed a good scrubbing. It was neat to look at, but a little disappointing too knowing they could have taken that small extra step to make things, well, more magical. It was really these small touches that made it not feel on par with Disney. That being said, The Boy loved pushing the buttons in this area to get cars to move, pirate boats to squirt us with water, and smoke to come out of Star Wars fire-fights.
The Legoland hotel was a well themed hotel. We didn’t stay overnight, but we spent a few hours there letting The Boy play in the Lego pit, at the castle, and then had lunch in the bar area. We met the Knight; they also had a court jester to play Lego with the kids. The lunch we had there was pretty good, much better value and quality than the food we had in the park. I don’t think I’d stay at that hotel since the rooms were $300+/night. But it was nice to see and I’d definitely leave the park to eat in the bar area of the hotel. They even have non-alcoholic fancy drinks you can buy for your kids.
Legoland may not have all the magic of Disney, but, it also was a LOT cheaper than going to three days at Disney would have been. I think if we’d not been able to get a buy-one, get-one on our passes, I’d have been a bit disappointed. But we spent in total $270 on passes for three people for tickets we can use for a year. We get food discounts, we get free parking, we get discounts on merchandise. That’s not bad at all. As a comparison, a 3-day ticket for two adults and one child to Disney World is $852 and parking at Disney would be extra unless staying on property. Disney tickets get cheaper/per day the longer you go, but a Disney vacation is still a lot more than going to Legoland.
But, something to remember: Disney World is the destination for your vacation. Legoland is the fun place you go to while you’re on vacation. I think we’ll be going back.
I’ve come across a couple of issues that I needed to fix.
Problem #1. The main one, was rain pooling on the wood. The wood I had bought was rated as indoor or outdoor use. However, it was not pressure treated. As the rain water would pool on the edges that were not covered by the catio, it would soak into the wood. This would then make it damp inside the catio and I ended up getting a bit of mold growing on the wood.
Solution: My husband and I carried the catio off the wood and I cleaned it thoroughly with vinegar. Then, I laid a heavy duty tarp on top of the floor that was large enough to completely cover the wood. We then moved the catio back and everything has been much better since.
Problem#2: Rain coming in because of all the openings
Solution: The main issue was that rain would blow in from the front on very stormy, windy days. I think if I did the catio again, I would have only open screen on the side that is facing the house. Between the fan and the open screen on the side facing the house, the cats would get plenty of moving air. Right now, I’ve propped up the panel that would have gone where the screen is with wood. That keeps most of the rain from blowing in. When I have more time, I will probably just remove the roof, slide that screen out and replace the panel. But that may be something I do for cooler weather. Once we’re done with the rainy season, that won’t be as big of an issue.
Original Problem: This was actually addressed in the original post. But I wanted to talk about it again. Greenhouses are designed to keep heat in. If you put a cat in them, they need shade.
Solution: I built this underneath a deck that is mostly in shade all day. I also hung a curtain on the side where the sun does hit in the afternoon. This is extremely important if you are thinking about using a greenhouse for a catio.
Result after some time to think about: Other than these two new problems, the catio has been working great. I’m sure I’ll keep tinkering with it, but on the whole, I’ve been very pleased with it. And most importantly, the cats love being outside now.
What on earth is a catio, you ask? A catio is a safe place for indoor cats to go outside, usually built on a patio. And yes, you call it a catio because a cat house has a whole ‘nother meaning. That means, it needs to have screened windows for ventilation, and be safe to keep the cats in and other animals out.
We needed to build a catio because we want to sell our house, which meant getting the cats outside.
My first thought was to scour the internet for easy plans on making one. So I figured if I could find really good plans that weren’t too difficult, I’d be happy to build something. I needed something that would be light enough that when we move I could have a couple guys lift it into the back of a friend’s pick up truck and take with us. But all the plans on the internet either cost a lot or were really complicated. I tried writing my own plans, but then popped something in my elbow and the idea of doing a lot of manual labor myself went out the window. We tried three different handymen and all three turned us down. I’m not counting the 4th who didn’t even respond. Sigh.
I needed an alternative. I looked at modifying chicken coops (some of these could have possibly worked, so if this catio idea doesn’t work for you, consider chicken coops from someplace like wayfair.com). I looked at modifying dog houses, sheds (ridiculously expensive), and even children’s play houses. Nothing really worked for what I wanted – something that was big enough for me to easily get inside to clean and that would hold a good-sized cat tree, was light enough to move, but also didn’t cost more than about $500.
Finally, I started looking at greenhouses. The problem with a greenhouse, though, is that they’re designed to keep heat in during cold weather and allow lots and lots of sunlight in. Great for plants, not so great when you want it for cats in Tennessee heat.
What I found was a Palram Greenhouse. It’s available at several stores, but I ordered from Amazon. To be specific, it’s a Palram Nature Series Hybrid Hobby Greenhouse – 6 x 4 x 7 Silver. Aside from the fact that the instructions are TERRIBLE, I’ve been pretty happy with this. It’s surprisingly sturdy and well-made and light. It weighs less than 70lbs. So it’s awkward, but easy for two adults to lift. It was also fairly easy to modify to create a catio.
Make sure you give the catio a good floor. Ideally, you’ll have a floor wider than the catio. Then be sure you attach the catio to the floor. Make sure the floor is raised so that water won’t pool under it. I used two sheets of 4×4 sanded plywood on top of patio pavers. I couldn’t fit anything bigger in the back of my car. Right now, it’s held down by bungees. If this were going to be stand-alone away from the house, I’d bolt it down. But since this is protected by the deck above, it doesn’t get a a ton of wind.
Two problems to solve when modifying a greenhouse to a catio:
Problem #1 – too much sun. I solved this by the fact that I built it underneath our deck. It will be in shade most of the time. However, I added a curtain on the inside that I can use to block even more sun. They do sell netting for these, so if you don’t have a deck above it, check that out. The cats are enjoying the curtain, though, because it just makes one more place for privacy. They tend to each stay on opposite sides of it.
Problem #2 – no ventilation. This was the most difficult problem to solve.
Buy 1/4″ metal rods (2 per panel, total of 6) – Note, I tried bamboo first and it broke.
Buy heavy gauge thread for outdoor use
Buy a roll of pet safe window screen, 48″ wide, 96″ long
Step 1: During the building step where you insert the wall panels, don’t install three of the wall panels. Just a hint, make sure you leave two solid walls on opposite sides and make sure the panels you remove have the metal angle brace. That makes it much sturdier than if you remove too many panels or remove ones that the original walls are the primary support. I did one open panel on the front next to the door and two panels on the rear wall. Keep the side panels as-is since those do not have metal bracers to help with keeping it sturdy.
Step 2: Using a sewing machine, make pockets for the rods on the 3 panels that you measure to fit, then insert the rods. You don’t have to worry about tops and bottoms of the screens.
Step 3: Insert the screen into the metal upright pieces where the wall panels would go. Use the included tool for your greenhouse to bend down the extra few inches of rod you don’t need. (If I had a way to cut the rod, that would have been better, but I wasn’t willing to buy a tool for that).
Step 4: Continue building the greenhouse following regular directions. Make sure when putting the upper cross braces in, that you tighten it through the top of the screen to hold it.
Step 5: After the greenhouse is built, use thin metal wire to thread through the bottom of the screen and attach the bottom to the greenhouse. Note: I left a couple gaps where I could put outdoor extension cords through so the cats could have their water fountain and, where in the summer, I could put a fan inside, if needed. Warning, I’m not very happy with the amount of wire this exposes to the cats. So I’ve used blankets and other items to cover the wire up so the cats don’t play with it. I may try to come up with a better solution for this in the future. It’s possible using the thread could work, but I felt like the wire held it more sturdily.
After this, I moved in their cat tree, litter, water, food and some blankets. The cats love it.
What I’d do differently if I could: I’d get a larger greenhouse. 4×6 sounds pretty large, but it really isn’t. I’d love to have gone with the 8×8 version. However, that would not have fit in the space I had or been easy to move. On the whole, I’m very happy with how this turned out.
What about rain? After these pictures were taken, I used two of the spare panels with some wood to create an overhang next to the wall of the catio on each side where the plywood extends. This will help prevent rain from pooling on that wood and getting inside. In the event of a big storm, I plan on using the panels almost as storm shutters and propping them up from the inside. And, of course, I will bring the cats inside.
Talk to your vet. We did talk to our vet before doing this. Our cats are now on flea/tick medicine because, even though this is screened, mosquitoes and other bugs can still get to them.