Inexpensive Back Yard Slide

I needed a slide in the back yard for my son. He is seventeen, and he really needs a slide in his yard. I could take him to a playground (and I do) but sometimes there are gobs of other kids there, and their parents seem to feel a little funny about what appears to be a large grown man taking turns on the equipment with their toddlers. I get that. It makes sense for my son to have his own slide in his own yard.

IMG_20160810_185251988_HDR (1)But wow, guess what? I’m going to sound like the big cheese at an IEP meeting, but there are “financial constraints.”

There are other constraints too. Sometimes you can find someone willing to sell you the playground their kids have outgrown for a song, but the catch is that you need to disassemble it, haul it to your place, and then reassemble it yourself. I’ve assembled playgrounds, and I’ve disassembled playgrounds. In my experience, it takes about 2-3 times as long to disassemble a playground as to assemble it. That’s because there are no instructions, the metal parts have gotten rusty, the wooden parts have rotted and splintered, and the playground has sunk into the ground. You may find this to be worth your time, but it depends on your situation.

Since I wasn’t doing the whole swingset thing, I found it easier to just build a little slide.

I looked for a used plastic slide in my area, but I didn’t have any luck so I ordered one online.

I built the support for the slide out of thrifted lumber and hardware from the Habitat for Humanity store.

At my local store, people donate all kinds of building materials, some of them new and some of them used. They have a big pile of lumber out in the back and I picked through it three weeks in a row to gather the boards I needed. I used 4x4s, 2x4s, 4x6s, and 1x whatevers. The boards I bought were all sorts of lengths, and parts of them were damaged, so I did a lot of trimming. I had some screws and other hardware on hand, and the rest I bought at the Habitat store.

IMG_20160806_171322289 (1)Since my son is a teenager who knows that he shouldn’t jump off the top of the slide, I did not bother putting a rail or fence at the top. If I were building this for a younger child, I would do it differently.

I put drawer handles on the deck at the top so that my son could easily pull himself up.

I also put some solar lights at the top right near the slide part because my son is really into reflectors. I mean he is really, really, really into reflectors. He likes to play in the dark just so that he can see the lights.

Since I used thrifted lumber, this slide may not last as long as a slide built from brand new lumber. I’ll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it’s safe to use. I guess I would do that anyway though.

IMG_20160806_171238702I built a ladder right into the tower for the slide. My son doesn’t like it so much, so when I get a little free time, I’ll make him a ladder too. He’s right, it is easier to climb up when you can do it at an angle. But he’s enjoying his slide just fine in the mean time.

IMG_20160810_185251988_HDR (2).jpgI can tell he likes it by the ruts in the landing area.


Why am I crocheting warm slippers in the hot part of the summer?

Why? (Because they are small and they use up scraps.)

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I had some chunky brown mystery yarn and a leftover bit of something soft and chunky and blue. Even though my feet were sweating buckets, I felt the need to crochet some warm slippers. I know, I’m sick that way.

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Then I held a strand of the brown chunky yarn together with some fuzzy stuff and made another pair.

I used an old-fashioned “no pattern” type of pattern. (magic ring, 6 sc for first round, 12 sc for second round, sc around for awhile, then make the opening and keep crocheting until the slipper is a little shorter than my foot. Then sew up the heel. Sorry, that’s as detailed as it gets for me.)

I was able to use up some scraps of yarn, and I’m sure in a few months, I will be very glad for some warn slippers!


What to do with this weird yarn…

I picked up a couple of skeins of mystery yarn at Big Lots a couple of years ago. It’s Gala yarn, which seems to be a hodgepodge of (maybe) big name brand yarn that is slightly irregular, or discontinued..or something like that. Sometimes Gala yarn is weird and sometimes it is gross and sometimes it is nice. I’ll classify this as weird.  🙂

mystery yarn 1

It’s a light yellowish color (or maybe a very pale lime green) and it looks like cotton crochet thread with caterpillar-like clumps of sparkly fluff. Does that sound weird? It might be a little weird. The thready part does not feel like cotton. It feels like acrylic to me. The fluffy parts feel like polyester, and I suppose the sparkly bits are nylon.

I’ve played with it a bit and decided to crochet a big double crochet rectangle.  Very complex, I know! And then I’ll turn the rectangle into a shrug or something. My daughter is into shrugs right now because her school does not allow tank tops. With a shrug, she can wear her tank top but have herself technically covered. It’s a bit of a dance because we live in North Carolina and it gets hot long before the schools are allowed to turn on the air conditioning. So she needs to stay cool, but covered.

mystery yarn 2

I’ll keep working on this as a just-before-bed project. So far, I’m having trouble deciding if this is fun and artsy, or if it looks like a cat mauled it and then rolled it in lint. Maybe a little of both.

DIY to encourage good manners. Well, improved manners anyway.

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do get tired of talking about going to the bathroom all the time. But I have children. One of my children in particular has issues. Issues with anxiety, issues with language and communication, issues with knowing when it is not appropriate to talk about one’s issues with anxiety regarding digestion…

So I thought I was clever when I introduced the idea of referring to poops as victories, because that just sounds better. I now understand that we will probably never get through a day without talking about pooping. A more achievable (but probably still unlikely) goal would be to talk about pooping in less graphic detail. Or at least to reduce (but not eliminate, sorry for the pun) our frank and graphic discussions of pooping while some people are trying to choke down their dinner without gagging.


I printed up this nice little encouragement and sealed it with clear Contact paper. I could have used the glass that came with the frame instead, but glass in picture frames is a no-no at our house.

Since I’m an optimist, I used a dry erase marker to fill in the zeroes. A realist would probably have used a Sharpie, but I try to keep it positive around here.

The cardboard at the back of the frame was mangled, so I fixed it with cardboard, a soda can tab, and a blob of hot glue.


I am expecting wonderful things!

At our house, “victory” is the code word for “poop.”


Another music stand carrying bag – this one a little more masculine

It’s concert time again, and this time my son is in the band too. I threw a little bag together for him with a scrap of upholstery velvet. I turned it inside-out so the velvety side could cradle the stand and (in theory) keep it from getting all scratched up. I made the handles out of some webbing.

In my free time (ha ha!) maybe I’ll add a button or snap or a little velcro, but this will get him to school today and the concert tonight just fine.2015-12-10 22.26.06

That’s his sister’s case on the step below. A little more flowery for her.

Thanks for checking in!

Utility apron for me!

poly knit utility apron

I wear an apron around the house most of the time.  I use my smart phone a lot, and I like to carry it with me.  But if I put it in my pants pocket, I’m concerned that I might crack it.  And some pants don’t even have pockets.

Alright, alright I’ll tell the truth.  I’m afraid I will forget my phone is in my pocket and drop it in the toilet.  OK, are you satisfied?

I have been using a freebie apron from the lumber yard.  I can’t complain about the price, but I think it’s more of a “guy” style.  Other aprons I have seen are awesome but maybe a bit too frilly to be practical for me.  I’m not going to choose between durable and good-looking.  I’m going to have it all.

I found some weird-looking polyester knit fabric at the thrift store.  Of course, I had to have it.  It looks like something from the 1970s.  Kind of a diagonal gingham check in dark green.  It’s a nice heavyweight knit fabric, and all polyester, so you know it will wear like nobody’s business!

I made it with big slanted pockets.  My phone goes on my left hip, my keys on my right, whatever else I need can go right in the middle.

I paid 59 cents for the fabric (and I have some left over) and I used part of a dollar store spool of ribbon for the ties.

A special gift for a special teen – a locker-sized shark week bag

shark week bag

I made this out of a very cool rummage sale sheet I bought several years ago. It looks like a wave in the ocean. How sick – clearly, I’ve been planning this for a while!

I drew a rough outline of a shark onto some Heat ‘N Bond Ultra Hold, then ironed it onto a bit of silver tissue lamé, then cut it out, flipped it over, and ironed it onto the sheet fabric.

I thought I would have to stitch down the edges, but it’s holding very well on its own.

close up shark applique

I lined the bag with some white muslin.  You can congratulate me now for my restraint.  I had a piece of red satin lining that I could have used, but I chose the more modest white.

I stitched in a bit of white grosgrain ribbon for the loop handle, and then added some velcro at the top.

The bag is huge – about 14 inches by 14 inches. Plenty, plenty, plenty of room!

How to refill a non-refillable pepper mill

I got a pepper mill at the dollar store.  I was thrilled because I’m a tightwad, but I have fancy, expensive tastes.  Fresh pepper, ooo fancy!

But look at the back!


Logic would dictate a screw top to make the pepper mill refillable.  I hate inefficient stuff like this!  I know there are real problems in this world and annoying pepper mills are not that big of a deal, but what can I say?  It bugs me.

“Do not refill??”  Challenge accepted!

You will need:

a poorly-designed supposedly non-refillable pepper mill

a mug

an inch or so of hot water (or cold water and a microwave)

a towel

some peppercorns or whatever you would like to grind in your pepper mill

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I used a microwave, and I heated the water for 33 seconds.  That’s because I like to be efficient, and looking for the 3, and then looking for the 0, and then pressing start is more complicated than looking for the 3, pressing it twice, and then pressing start.  If your microwave has a 30 seconds button, that would be even better.  I thought about getting a microwave like that, but they were more expensive, and when I calculated the cost per use versus the amount of time saved pressing buttons, I realized it would be even more inefficient than calculating the time cost of pressing buttons for every microwave I was looking at.  So I got the microwave where you have to push more buttons.

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Tip your emptyish pepper mill into the cup upside down and leave it there a minute or so.  You are waiting for the plastic cap to expand a little bit more than the glass jar.  So don’t leave it for five minutes because your water might cool and then it won’t work right.

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I spent the time fooling with my phone camera because I wanted to make these instructions for you, but you could use the time to open a can of mixed vegetables and dump it into the crock pot (without draining it).  If you’re quick with the can opener, you could also dump a little leftover spaghetti sauce or salsa in there too.  And some water and rice.

Now take your pepper mill out, wrap it in the towel (because it’s a little slippery), and snap the plastic top off.

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It’s a little messy, but that’s OK.

Try to remember how the pieces go together.

Then drop the plastic top in the cup of hot water to rinse it off.  Use the towel to dry each piece of the pepper mill.

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Fill up the bottle, and then put it back together the way it was.

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You’ll have to press on it a bit.  Use the towel if it hurts your hand.  When I did this, it made two snapping sounds when I got it back together.  Once to get it on crooked, and once more to straighten it out.

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Dump the cup in the crock pot.  Now you’ve got a full pepper mill, plus some yummy vegetable soup!

All you math geniuses are going to quiz me on how much money this actually saves.  The answer is “not much.”  The pepper mill is from Dollar Tree, so that’s $1 for 1.4 ounces, or 0.714 per ounce.  I used some very fancy peppercorns, which are a little more expensive than regular peppercorns.  Say it, melange.  See? Fancier.  These go for about $5 at Walmart for 7.5 ounces, which is 0.667 per ounce.  (I got it for less at a discount store, because I’m a tightwad.)  Regular black peppercorns are $5 for 9 ounces at Walmart, or 0.555 per ounce.

So if you like black pepper just fine, and you know your dollar store is going to carry these pepper mills forever, and you have a way to recycle the lid and jar, and you’re going there anyway, and you don’t want to waste any more time than you’ve already wasted reading this blog post, you should probably just buy a new pepper mill.  But if you want to grind up fancy pepper or maybe cinnamon or something else, or if you just like doing things yourself, I hope my little tutorial has made your life a bit more fun.

Thanks for checking in!

I found some more white Spark A Doodle, plus Freddy Fazbear mask and ribbon organizer

FYI I found some more of that white Spark A Doodle yarn.  I’m going to list it for sale in my eCrater store on Sunday night as soon as I get the kids to bed.  Bed time is 9 pm Eastern time, so probably about 9:15 or so.  I had to spend a little more to get this yarn, so I am only selling it on eCrater to keep the price as low as I can.  (The fees are much higher on eBay and Etsy.)

I will list it right here on Sunday night 10/25/2015 just after 9 pm Eastern time.  I know it’s hard to get and I have a few people asking for it.  I want to be fair and give everyone a fair shot at the yarn, so that’s why I’m selling it this way.

doodle04 (2)

I have four balls of yarn with the label and seven balls without the label.  The yarn with the labels will go for $11 and without for $10 each.

And here’s some random stuff we’ve been making at our house:

Ready for Halloween!
Ready for Halloween!

I helped my son make a Freddy Fazbear mask for Halloween.

In case you don’t have the privilege of FNAF-obsessed people living at your home, Freddy Fazbear is a video game character from Five Nights At Freddy’s.  The game is a horror game suitable for children.  It’s pretty scary, and the scares are jump scares, not blood and gore or violence.  It seems to be based on the old terrifying Chuck E Cheese theme restaurant.  (When I was a kid, Chuck E Cheese had a giant robot band of Chuck E Cheese (a mouse) and his creepy friends on a stage that would “perform”  while diners attempted to choke down the most awful pizza I have ever tasted.  Chuck E Cheese is still around, and the pizza is still disgusting, but they’ve ditched the rat robot band in favor of video games.)  I wonder if they have a FNAF game at Chuck E Cheese?  That would be cool!

We watched this video to get ideas for the mask, and then used stuff we had at home to make it.  We didn’t have a giant piece of brown felt, so we used some other fabric we had.  I think the felt would have been even better, but my son is very happy with his mask just the way it is.  I’m proud of him!

ribbon holder
ribbon holder

And here’s a ribbon holder I cobbled together out of a really annoying over-the-door towel holder and some stuff I had lying around.  I think there’s room for a couple more rows of ribbon in there, but I guess I’ll have to move my poster.  That constitutes a major redecorating move for me, ha ha!

Thanks for checking in!

How I fix my plastic skeletons

I love the plastic skeletons, but I hate them too.  I got them a few years ago at a rummage sale.  The woman who sold them to me said she couldn’t take it any more because they broke so easily.  Here’s the problem:

the "ert thing"
the ert thing

The problem is the ert thing.  The skeleton goes together by popping the ert thing into the hole on the next bone.  My eldest does not like ert things.  They bother him.  So he breaks them off.  Even if he didn’t have a thing about ert things, these ert things are very flimsy.

the hole
the hole

Trying to connect the hole to another hole doesn’t work, but we can’t just make another ert thing.

Junk to the rescue!


I use bits of flexible plastic from a broken cup, some string, and a hole punch to make a repair doohickey.

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I twist or fold the plastic and jam it in the hole on each bone.  Here I’ve got it twisted.

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Here it’s folded.

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The repair is done!  Well, for one joint anyway.

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