Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Make a Backyard Tetherball

These two monkeys live inside my house. I know, right!? All year long, even! I have to admit I spend a lot of time trying to get them out of the house.
The then seven year old wanted nothing for Christmas other than a tetherball. Can you imagine? A seven year old with one thing on his wish list, how could I deny him? I wasn’t going to let the fact that I’d never played tetherball a day in my life stop me from figuring out how to make that happen.
I first purchased an all-in-one kit from amazon (comes with: ball, tether, pump and adjustable pole in a carrying case.) Now, you see, right there – that carrying case is what started all of the confusion. I feebly believed that this was a sport you brought around with you, jamming the pole in the ground wherever you happen to end up for a game.
When I mentioned naively, my plan to spear the mid-winter Coloradan ground in my backyard with this flimsy, hollow, adjustable pole, several guys I mentioned this to laughed and pointed (with an air of having constructed hundreds of backyard tetherballs in their day). Of, course, when it came time to actually assemble it they were nowhere to be found. So, I figured it out myself. And you can too.

What you’ll need:
An old tire.
This, thankfully, will be free! It’s exciting to realize you can get something you need (that you imagine will set you back) for free! And with lots of nostalgic courtesy, because every tire shop owner you ask will know exactly what you’re doing with it. They get this far-away glint in their eye…remembering their lazy summers playing tetherball...or swinging on that old tire swing – or, apparently….lawn bowling? Don’t know what that is, but those are the things that they think you’re doing with it and they love it.
For legal reasons big chains like Walmart can’t give you old tires, but having never bought a tire, they did tell me where to go. So? I shop at Walmart. Shut up.
- Cement.
Extremely cheap (can be found at Home Depot, etc.) Get 2 bags. I purchased the cheapest grade they had – because I figured I was only using it for weight, but after many months of use the cement is a little crumbly, so I might suggest getting the second cheapest : $2 - $4 a bag.
- A Cement-Mixing Tub.
Maybe you have this, but if you don’t, it’s versatile enough to use for lots of projects. About $4.
- Heavy Duty Garbage Bags (2 – 3).
- Something to mix the cement with (it will wash off if you do it immediately).

Mix cement with water in tub. I spread out a garbage bag underneath to protect the walkway I was working on. I mixed the cement with trowels/ spades (and let the boys help too).
Lay another garbage bag down and place the tire over it. Lay one last bag inside the tire (to hold the cement).

Start filling the tire inside under the rims first. Fill entire tire to the top inside edge (almost up to it is fine). Let set up a minute or so (you’ll know if it’s too wet for the next step).
Carefully place the bottom section of the pole into the CENTER of the cement. Be sure it’s straight. Hold until it doesn’t tilt when you let go.
Let set up overnight.

Now, you can roll this set up anywhere in the yard. Attach the poles as per the instructions, pump up ball and tie it on and you’re all set.
The greatest feature is that you can hide this thing during parties. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cute AND Creepy - My Cup of Tea

I’m a little late in discovering Julie Arkell.
I found this old “Embroidery” magazine (from the UK) in my office desk drawer, and was instantly smitten with the odd and whimsical, papier mâché creatures she creates (and teaches how to make in her workshops). 
They have strange little sayings embroidered on their little aprons, such as “I lost a sock but made a hat”.
Although mind-blowingly adorable, they are also bitter sweetly spooky. I don’t think I could actually have one in my bedroom.
She also happens to be the cutest, kookiest, apron-wearing thing herself.

Fancy Schmancy Grocery List

Last fall my budget tightened by about $500 per month.
Because most of my monthly expenses are fixed (utilities, rent, childcare) the only area left to cut back in is food.
So, no eating out, ordering in, superfluous fancy cheeses or liquor for a while, obviously, but that still leaves me two eating machines (second and third grade boys), to feed….


First I took advantage of a quiet afternoon at work to plan out a month’s worth of menus. 
I used my Google calendar (added a new calendar called “Dinner”) because I check it from wherever I am (work or home) and I can also print it out and post it on the fridge (to minimize the “what’s for dinner/ but I want….” whinings).
See the screen shot at left .

Next, I designed an Excel sheet containing all the items I ever buy (when you’re on such a tight budget you tend not to stray into uncharted territory with kids).
I uploaded that excel template into my Google docs (so that it was accessible from multiple computers as well - see left).
You only need one at any given time, so you just revise your list for that week, print and save over it each time.
Here is a link to my template to start from.
It also uses fancy Excel math (and subtotals each department as well as gives a running total).

I designed the layout to print in long strips (see above) that are easy for referencing in the front of your cart.
October marked the beginning of slow cooker season, so that bad boy came down off the shelf, and the majority of autumn dinners (4 week nights a week) will be slow cooker dishes (which also tend to be pretty economical).
The first trip to the store I kept track of the cost of everything for the next list (and noted what I bought which wasn’t on the list), and crossed off things I could live without to keep within my budget.
This is an extra boring post but I was pretty proud of my list design (which matches both the little clip board I use AND my kitchen - see below).

Apron Attempt #1

[Update to "I'll Be Sewing Any Minute Now..."]

Ok. So I rummaged through my intimidating bins of fabric, (purchased or pilfered but never used) and came up with two possible apron color/ pattern schemes:
On the top is a vintage inspired palette using different textures (cotton eyelet and a heavy printed twill – one stripe, one floral).
The second possible combo was partly an unfinished quilting project I started when my youngest was born….7 years later, let’s just let that go, shall we?
Plus a couple of pops of crazy fun color from fabric I keep around to wrap presents that the boys give their friends for birthday parties (which at this age, never end – must we all have parties EVERY year? I never get a party. Stamp foot.)
I decided to start with the crazy bright one (which, by the way, includes a lady bug print), which was probably not a good idea…and you’ll see why.
I usually just wing sewing projects (no patterns, not much pinning and no stopping to iron as I go which you are supposed to do), so don’t follow my lead, because I am lazy.
Maybe it’s because I went to school for it, do it for a living (well, tell people what I want them to sew anyway – patient overseas professional sewers), but it shows in my work, inevitably, and I have to claim that whole “Persian Flaw” philosophy….I’ll talk about that some other time.
Back to aprons.....
I used the started, striped portion of the quilt as the bodice and added contrast rounded patch pockets and waist sash (which ties) as well as a ruffle at the neck.
The final result: clowny, sorry to say.
Too silly for even me to wear, but at least cute and fun enough to hang in the kitchen and brighten like a piece of art. So then I was discouraged and never sewed the next one. Soon…soon….. At least it goes well with my hot sauce collection.
UPDATE: Tie One On's apron making contest theme this month? Well what d'ya know? CIRCUS! Crazy. I entered. We'll see......