Backyard Adventureland: Part III – Enter Rongo

Now that Pele is doing her duty spewing magma around my yard, I thought it was time to get another character from the Enchanted Tiki Room started. For the second round I chose Rongo, the “god of agriculture.” Why, pray tell? Well, because our vegetable garden isn’t fruiting enough. And when it does the squirrels steal it anyway. So I was thinking “god of agriculture…maybe make some more growth and act as scarecrow.”

So after two nights of painting, and a day of getting a spine installed (lawn stake, wood glue), I cleaned up his lines and painted his backside brown so as to add a first layer of seal. Three or four coats of polyurethane and he’s going to look GREAT with the vegetables in the garden!


Backyard Adventureland: Part II – Installing Madame Pele (It’s lit, fam!)

After painting Pele’s front side, I applied a coat of exterior brown spray paint to her back half, and 3 coats of polyurethane on each side. She’s braced on the back with garden stakes, and has one stake under each foot. About 6″ directly behind her is a tiki torch to take advantage of forced perspective to make her volcano hat come to life (and hopefully ward off some mosquitos.) She’s nestled in a local-climate friendly flowering bush (plumbago) and I think she looks right at home.

Next up is Rongo, the “god of agriculture” who will grace the area where our vegetable container garden resides. The wood is purchased and an image is gridded out, just need to transfer, cut, paint, seal, and he’ll be ready to go (that’s going to take a couple weeks!)

Backyard Adventureland: Part I – bringing Disney home with some DIY

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Handmade #christmas yard decor…✅

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Last Christmas I made this yard decoration set out of plywood because my kid loves Mickey Mouse and I love  Christmas. I learned a few things doing this project.

  1. I’m not as artistically impaired as I thought. At the very least I can scale and blow up a drawing.
  2. I can actually start and finish a large piece of DIY project (the pic above is just when we tested it, it looked better in the end)
  3. I am basically a f*cking surgeon with a jigsaw.

So when we visited Walt Disney World in March of this year, and my kid went nuts about everything I went nuts too. See? I told you so. So when you take a 2 1/2 year old to Disney World, what do you think they would talk about the most? I figured we would mostly talk about Minnie and Mickey (because meeting them was a FREAKING JOY. Like, probably one of the biggest swells of pure joy I’ve seen in my child, ever) after the trip. But really what we talk about most is the stuff from Adventureland. Pirates of the Caribbean is of course worth talking about, but it comes in second to what I think is the most underrated attraction in the park…the animatronic paradise that is THE ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM.

My 2 1/2 year old did not find it scary. She thought the singing birds, statues, flowers, and walls were amazing. She knows the first stanza of the opening number by heart. She makes me sing it to her all. the. time. The Enchanted Tiki Room is probably the no. 1 thing we talk about in general, and will probably be our first stop when we visit Disneyland in September. So of course, when I spied some leftover plywood in the garage and my wife and daughter headed to NYC for a week to visit family, I got busy.

My first character to work on is Pele. I found a decent drawing online, printed it, scaled it out to be 4′ tall (so I can deep-root a tiki torch behind her volcano hat in the yard!) Drew her out and got a-cuttin with the jigsaw. It took about 2 hours to cut everything out I’d say. I used ply for the base, then double-thickened the plywood for the brim of her volcano hat. I cut the facial features out of 0.25″ thick poplar and glued them on.

A couple weeks later, the wife went out on a Girls’ Night Out and I got to painting. I tried to do a bit of shading to make her seem a little more 3D, but I like the stylized flat with raised feature look so not too much. Then I dry brushed her with black and white to make her look a bit ashy, because you know a volcano-goddess would look ashy. I let the paint dry for a week (because seriously weekdays this stuff doesn’t happen) and did the detail work and a little cleanup. She’s currently facedown in the garage with stakes gluing to her butt so she can stand in the back yard. I’m going to spray her backside with brown paint, then put on about 4 coats of polyurethane to make sure she is waterproof AF. After that I’ll pick a spot, stick a torch in the ground, then put her in front of it so that with forced perspective she’ll really look like a fire goddess.

Pele and Ngendi

photo credit to Sam Howzit on Flickr (creative commons)

For reference, above is what the “real” one looks like, I think at DisneyLand. I think my backyard version is pretty ok. The new question is where do I start next? I’m thinking Maui and Hina Kulua are going to be combined into a water feature, so probably Rongo. We have a little vegetable container garden he would look good behind.

Anyway, there will be follow ups to this post as the cast of my backyard Adventureland fills out.

I have officially gone DIS-nuts.

As I lay my sweet, precious, incredibly inquisitive and intelligent two and a half year old down to bed last night for the tenth time, she proved 100% why I am currently a total Disney nut. She looked up at me, the pale green glow of her nightlight reflecting in her cute little eyes, and said (for the eighth time): “Daddy, sing me the Tiki Tiki Tiki Room song one more time before I go to sleep.” So I did. (See the clip below if you don’t know what I’m talking about)

It’s kind of funny how the once “tourist attractions are no good for me” haughty traveler has turned into the “DREAM BIG, PRINCESS” daddy of today. It probably started at about the same time we started letting babyPrimate watch TV. Just a show here, a clip there, etc. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is one of the most kid-accessible TV shows I’ve ever seen. And I don’t even mind watching it, because she LOVES it, she learns from it, and seriously, who doesn’t love Mickey? mommyPrimate put together the absolute best two-year-old’s birthday party on the planet with a Minnie’s Bow-Tique theme. So when our Christmas plans to meet family in New Orleans fell through, and the suggested replacement was a week in Orlando in March we jumped on that faster than a fat kid on a cupcake.

The morning we left, mommyPrimate and I packed up the car very quietly, and when we were ready to go we opened babyPrimate’s bedroom door and she jumped up SUPER fast and said “WE’RE GOING AT DISNEYWORLD.” That was the first super magic moment Disney brought me since I was a 5 year old, AND THEY DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO DO ANY OF IT. So we drove to Orlando. No drama from the little mama in the car.

The trip to Disney World itself was magical. When you go as an adult with just another adult, it’s a WHOLE lot of fun. You kinda feel like a kid again. When you go with your own kid, and everything is real to them, well, it’s kinda real to you, too. For example, when she met Minnie Mouse, she met Minnie Mouse. It was real to her. As real as anything. And because of the joy that just overflowed from her in the biggest way, I’ve turned into a Disney nut. I’m just not going to miss something that might make my babyPrimate that happy again.

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…when you hide a Mickey in your kid's cinnamon roll…

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So things like this keep happening. Hidden Mickeys keep appearing around the house. We talk about princesses all the time (especially the badass feminist ones like Moana.) We’ve planted tons of flowers out of inspiration from Epcot, and I’m keeping the fridge stocked with Schöfferhofer. I. Love. It.