Baby Hack

So Ali Does It has never been a parenting/mommy blog, and it’s not my intention to become one. For one thing, I know nothing about parenting. I am totally winging it. But I do have a kid now, and sometimes things come up that are useful for me because I have a kid, so you’ll see them on the blog. But I’ll try not to overload you too much with that stuff.

For various reasons, we don’t have a change table in LongJohn’s room and we change him on the floor. This was our setup for a while, with a portable change pad overtop a mattress pad, with a burp cloth added for softness. Ghetto, I know, but it worked. Except that when LongJohn peed on me (he is a boy after all), the pee would run up his back and into his hair and I didn’t like that overly much.

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I have this dog bed left over from back when we were doing Gren’s rehab training – it never really suited our purposes so we didn’t use it, and it was just kicking around. It has a nonskid backing and is nice and cushy without being too soft. Plus it washes well in the machine. Perfect.

Change Mat Hack 1

I cut it in half.

Change Mat Hack 2

And used some of my grosgrain ribbon to finish the raw edge on both sides.

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Don’t judge my stitchery. I’m not even sorry to be bad at sewing.

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Then I grabbed some vinyl leftover from way back when I made lunchbags (yeah, that was a long time ago). LongJohn helped me cut it out (you can see how long this project took me by how much he grows in the photos in this post).

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I hemmed along two sides of it, because LongJohn is really kicky and I didn’t want him to cut himself on the sharp edge.

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And I attached snaps to all four corners of the vinyl and then the underside of the mat.

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Then I snapped it on and here we go! The vinyl ends where the baby’s shoulders go, preventing pee from getting into the hair, which is key. The vinyl itself is easily wipeable, and unsnaps so you can put the mat in the washing machine. Because the snaps are on the underside of the mat, there’s no chance that tiny fingers can find them to undo them. The other mat I finished the edge and I used it as a playmat for LongJohn until he outgrew it.

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There’s LongJohn in situ to give you an idea of what it looks like in action. This was taken so long ago that now his legs extend far past the mat – but it still works great!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Fruit Cookies for Fall

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I whipped these up for dessert at Thanksgiving and like all my made-up cookie recipes, they’re dead easy and use the same base. Experiment with what you chuck into them and enjoy!

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Start by whisking together 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a dash of cinnamon. I put the cinnamon in not just for flavour, but also to help me determine if I’ve mixed in the baking powder well enough – if I can’t see streaks of cinnamon then that means there aren’t any streaks of baking powder either. Set that aside.

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In the bowl of a mixer, or by hand if you’re Hercules, beat together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until it’s stupid fluffy.

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Crack in 1 large egg and a dribble of vanilla and beat again until fully incorporated.

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Slowly tip in your flour mixture and beat on low until smooth and completely combined. The dough will be pretty stiff.

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Then grab yourself some of your favourite dried fruit!

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I tossed in rough handfuls (and remember we measured my handfuls and they’re precisely 1/3 of a cup) each of dried papaya, cranberries, golden raisins, and pineapple (though I tore up the larger pineapple pieces first).

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Chill the dough for about 30 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Roll the dough into smallish balls and space evenly on the baking sheet (they will not expand very much).

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, and then set the cookies on cooling rack to chill out.

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Quick Hack: Your Trash, My Treasure

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I promise, I SWEAR, that I have a backlog of posts for you. The things are done, the photos are on my camera … it’s just a matter of me wrangling LongJohn into the basement and the garbage dump that is my office recently long enough for me to write them down. But I will not forsake you!

On a related note, another thing I did not forsake was this ugly platter thing that LongJohn and I picked up at a local church rummage sale for all of fifty cents. IT SPINS.

Platter Hack 1

I’ve long been looking for a better way to organize the area under my sink – which is very awkwardly situated in the corner of my kitchen. Believe me when I tell you that what you see here is actually way better than it was before when I was too pregnant to get down on my hands and knees and sort it all out.

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Emptied you can see that the space is vast but most of it is unusable because of the awkward angles and the fact that the cupboard door is quite narrow.

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That’s where a lazy susan comes in – TADA, my new platter! It can’t go in the centre here because anything on it would get knocked off on the pipes, but it WILL fit in the corner …

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… right here.

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Tada, all my stuff fits and I can just swivel the tray to grab whatever I need. BRILLIANT.

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Happy Windfall Handpies

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There’s this tree in the green space where I walk with Gren and LongJohn in the mornings. It’s a beautiful old apple tree. I know it’s old because the apples on it are tiny and REALLY sour. But that doesn’t stop people from picking them – no sir. All the apples within a reasonable reach have been removed, so I scoured through the windfall after a recent storm and brought home about 15 or so more or less unscarred apples (because as you know I can’t resist stealing fruit from public places). I wanted to make turnovers, or handpies.

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Holy Hannah are strollers ever handy for carrying crap. And babies, I suppose.

This is the first bit of baking I’ve done while solo in the house with an active and demanding baby on my hands, so it was a challenge to test both my rusty cooking skills and my son’s patience threshold. All in all, it worked out for the most part. I also cheated and used puff pastry but can you really blame me?

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We didn’t cut the lawn for a long time and the long grass killed our mower. So now we REALLY need to cut the grass.

First, you need to peel the apples. I used about 15 of these tiny sour things but if you’re using regular apples maybe 3 large apples would suffice. Actually, before you peel the apples, you need to install the baby in his swing chair with Raffi for company. This will buy you about fifteen minutes.

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It takes a while to peel 15 tiny misshapen apples.

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Avoid the wormy ones.

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Chop the apples up roughly and sprinkle the pieces with lemon juice, both to keep them from going brown and to add some tartness to the mix (not that you really need tartness with sour apples). Wrap them up and set them aside.

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Next, whisk together 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water.

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Tip your apple pieces into a pan with some liberal dashes of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and some sugar. Use about 2 teaspoons sugar for each regular apple – for the sour ones I went a bit more generous and added about 6 tablespoons for the whole lot.

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Re-install your baby in a new location with new focal points. You’ve got another fifteen minutes or so.

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Cook the apples on medium heat until they’re bubbly and the liquid is starting to cook down.

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Tip in the cornstarch mixture (you may need to re-whisk it because it’s not a solution and the cornstarch will likely be sticking firmly to the bottom of your dish).

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Stir quickly in and watch the juices thicken.

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Remove from the heat and spread in a thin layer on a plate to cool. Attempt to put your baby down for his nap.

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After failing to put your baby down for his nap (strange how a logical argument does not work on a three-month-old), grab some thawed puff pastry (this stuff comes in a box with two rolled out squares in it) and use a rolling pin to gently expand the sheet. You want the pastry a little thinner than it comes standard.

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Cut the square into 9 equal(ish) pieces.

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Place a dollop of the cooled apple goo on each square.

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Mmm, cooled goo …

Carefully peel the pastry off the paper and fold it over itself to form a triangle. Pinch the seams closed.

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Puff pastry objects to being handled so roughly so they look a little demented.

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Give your baby a different toy to punch. Encourage him to yell obscenities at the toy (I don’t speak baby so that’s what I’m assuming he’s doing) to buy yourself some more time.

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On the second sheet, I didn’t roll the pastry out as much, and it was easier to remove it from the paper. They looked less demented.

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Crack and beat an egg and brush each of the pastries with a bit of egg goo. Set them on a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet.

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Bake your pastries for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F and eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to hold in your hand. The demented ones stayed together better than the non-demented ones – just keep that in mind.

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Non-demented …
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Demented …


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Found Objects with Fussellette

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Our Newfie friend Fussellette spent the entire summer this year wayyyy up in northern Ontario doing geology and getting really dirty (two things she loves). Like me, Fussellette likes to pick up random objects on her travels, and she found these two identical pieces of brick in a burnt out campfire full of tin cans.

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When she came to visit LongJohn recently she took advantage of my massive craft supply inventory and gave them a bit of a makeover.

Crafts with Auntie Sam. #alidoesit

A photo posted by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on

Taking things you find and making them into something else is one of the things I enjoy the most about making and doing stuff. Fussellette is the same way, and I hope that LongJohn can come to enjoy it too when he’s a little older.

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With a little bit of craft paint and some Sharpies, she turned these pieces of brick into little pieces of The Rock.

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One was a gift for her hosts, and the other she left with me when she saw how much I liked it!

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Trimming My Bush

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If you think the title to my post is funny and/or risqué, then please get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about this bush here. When we moved in I thought it looked sickly and planned to take it out. When springtime came around, however, it produced all this new growth so I decided to leave it in. I started to think that there was a reason it was a little bit bald below the belt. I’d already hacked away some of the branches that overhung the driveway, so I could see under its skirt.

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I took a risk and went at it with my pruning shears and saw. I’d seen another similar bush in the neighbourhood with bare knees and I thought I could pull it off if I were very careful … Once I got under there (and got so many pine needles in my underwear) I saw that someone a long time ago had cared about this tree and had intended the same thing I was about to attempt, so I followed those guidelines and snipped away at all the dead stuff. Pro (Amateur) tip: when slicing and dicing your shrubbery, make sure to step back often to make sure you are maintaining the right shape!

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Tada! It needs a bit more work getting the stubs off on the bare branches, and I’m going to let the new stuff on top get a bit more established before I give it some shape next spring. I think it’s a vast improvement, and opens up more space for the hosta garden my dad is slowly filling in underneath it.

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Ali Asks: What Would You Do? 

I’m at my wit’s end, readers. I’m hoping you can help me. I’m about to show you my house and describe it in such a way that if you are in my city you’ll know where I live. So please don’t rob me. I actually have no money – I’m unemployed after all. And don’t stalk me either. I’m really not that interesting.


We live on the corner of a street, directly across the street from two large elementary schools. There’s no sidewalk on our side of the street, but there’s one on the other.


And there are clearly indicated crosswalks at the intersection where we are situated that will safely take people across to the sidewalk.


The issue we are having is that people like to use our property as a through-way to get from one street to another. Next to us is an abandoned church and we have no other neighbours so I guess they assume our lawn is also public property.


Granted, the side yard is completely undeveloped, largely I think to the fact that there are no windows on that side of the house so nobody’s looking at it. We plan to rectify that in the future (both with windows and some landscaping).



The side yard will have a full raised-bed vegetable garden, with bunny fencing, of course.


And a few more strategically placed hedges to keep people from cutting the corner.


This little shady spot is a popular hangout for people making phone calls and smoking. Which is very annoying as they leave their butts on my lawn. Again, the Pie and I are planning our gardening next summer in such a way that this becomes an awkward place for people to trample across.


But the huge issue is my driveway. Does it look like a sidewalk to you?


Because people will use it as such, walking right up and down it, even with my car parked in it and me standing next to my car, ignoring me completely. People will even walk between the car and the house, pretending they don’t see me standing at the huge window staring at them.


Of course this drives the dog absolutely nuts, which can sometimes interfere with LongJohn’s naptime. Short of sitting on my front porch with my extremely loud dog and a shotgun (which, this being Canada, would get me arrested really quickly), I’m not sure what would be the most effective.


I’d put up a sign, but nobody would read it. I’ve asked the school to remind their students and staff that the houses in the neighbourhood are not public parks but they’ve asked me to photograph all trespassers for proof (so easy to do when I’m carrying around an infant). So how do I make my driveway unappealing to pedestrians?