Tread Carefully!

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We moved into a split level house specifically to cater to the needs of tiny children and aging dogs. Grenadier, believe it or not, is now six years old! He’s still spry and sprightly but next year will mark the beginning of his senior life and he’s slowing down in little increments. I see him hesitating at the bottom of our 5-step jump between “upstairs” and “downstairs” and it makes me sad. Slippery hardwood is hard on old joints. Not to mention that in a few months I’m likely to be watching LongJohn make his first forays up and down that mountain of stairs.

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So I thought I’d make the stairs a little safer for all of us. You may remember that I put some adhesive grips on our deathtrap stairs in Elizabeth, but I didn’t do a very good job there. It’s amazing how home ownership will prompt you to make sure you do something right the first time.

At first, I thought I was going to be stuck buying black or gray adhesive grip tape and that I was going to have to get creative with how I laid it down so that it wouldn’t look like I’d just slapped safety tape on my stairs. I was going to have to MEASURE for crying out loud. Pah. Then I discovered that 3M makes CLEAR safety tape, so I picked up a roll of that. I also needed a rubber roller to properly apply this stuff, and 3M sells that too. Handily, my mother, who has done some printmaking in the past, had a stock of them so I nicked one from their basement for free.

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First things first: measure (or eyeball) and cut strips. Now that I didn’t have to worry about laying things down in fancy patterns, I cut one piece to fit the stairs (according to the package instructions), and then measured each subsequent piece to the first one.

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Then I had to sit there with LongJohn in the Jolly Jumper while I painstakingly rounded all the edges.

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Because one of the travelers in our house has four legs with small feet, I put a few extra strips in place to ensure that Gren could find grip no matter where he stepped.

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Next, I had to clean and de-grease the steps to ensure that the tape stuck. I used a Magic Eraser to gently abrade the finish of the stairs and make it more welcoming to the adhesive. The instructions recommend stripping the varnish off completely but there is no way I’m doing that!

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Then you just stick the stuff down! Peel off the edge, line it up, and away you go.

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Once it’s down, take the roller and go from the middle outwards, pressing quite hard (my hands were sore the next day).

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Done! You can see bubbles in mine because the floor isn’t perfectly smooth.

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It’s funny, you know – the tape shows up here quite clearly on my camera, but when you’re looking at it with the naked eye it’s barely visible at all. You can only see the bubbles on the top step when you come upstairs and the sun is shining brightly through the bathroom window. So it’s pretty much invisible. And everyone feels a lot safer!

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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.

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I cut it in half.

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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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Snap Happy!

Didja miss me? A whole twelve days without something new from Ali Does It? Shenanigans! We are starting to find ourselves in a routine with now month-old LongJohn (for the most part) so hopefully I’ll be able to get back to some kind of regular posting schedule in the near(ish) future.

Anyway, here’s something for you now. I recently found myself looking for a birthday gift for a mom friend of mine, who takes a good number of pictures of her kid on her phone. As a new parent too, I find myself doing the same thing – my phone is usually to hand when my actual camera is not (if you check out my instagram you can see what I mean …).

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So on my searches on the internet I found a company called Photojojo, and their specialty is photography. And they had these nifty kits with camera lenses you could attach to your phone! So I got one for her, and one for myself. Naturally.

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Each lens comes with several little adhesive rings so you can attach them to your phone, your partner’s phone, your tablet … whatever. The ring clips easily to a magnet set into the lens itself. No fuss, no muss.

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Simply stick the ring to your phone (that blue plastic comes off) and let it sit for half an hour.

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I got all the bells and whistles in my kit.

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Including this wee pouch that holds all the lenses!

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Here’s the ultra fisheye lens securely sitting on my phone …

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And its effect.

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You have to zoom in a bit so that the lens itself doesn’t show up in the shot:

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I’m especially interested in the wee macro lens that also came with the kit. Most of the stuff I do here on Ali Does It is in macro so I think I can have some serious fun with it. Stay tuned!

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It’s truly Magic!

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This is not a sponsored post and nobody’s asking me to do this post. Which is too bad. I totally would do stuff like this for money (SEND ME FREE STUFF). But I want to ask you all WHY THE AITCH-EE-DOUBLE-HOCKEY STICKS did it take me this long to discover the Magic Eraser? Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical. I once bought a generic store brand one and was horribly disappointed by its performance so never bought it again and continued to clean off scuff marks with my tried-and-true toothpaste method. But this way is SO MUCH EASIER.

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Like this requires NO EFFORT whatsoever. Magic melamine foam.

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All you do is rinse it under the tap and squeeze it out (gloves are not required but my hands are wrecked due to it being winter so I’m keeping them out of this business).

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Then you find a giant scuff on your wall.

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Give it a bit of a rub.

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And it’s all gone.

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Check out this bugger.

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ALL GONE.

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My only beef with this magic machine is that I bought the one that was supposed to last a long time and after about twenty minutes I’d already put a hole in it.

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But other than that, it’s AWESOME.

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Fast Tip Friday: Getting to the Bottom of the Tube

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions now that I’m super poor due to owning a house is to get the last drop out of everything I own. Tremendous thanks to my bestie Chelle for filling in this Friday with a guest post. If makeup and fitness are your thing, make sure to check her out!

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Hi everyone! My name is Chelle and I run the beauty blog Makeup Your Mind. I’m helping out Ali today by passing along one of my fast tips (I actually got it from my mom, but we’ll ignore that for the sake of this post…).

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So you’ve almost finished your favourite lotion. Unfortunately, it won’t squeeze out of the tube any longer but you can see that there’s still plenty left inside. Sure, you could bang the bottle against your hand and splash it everywhere, but do you really want to do that?

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Instead, take a pair of scissors and cut right through the tube.

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You’re left with two separate pieces and easy access to your product inside.

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Now, my bottle was semi-transparent so I could see how much was left inside, but I think you’d be surprised how much lotion is left inside opaques tubes that we believe are totally empty. I’ve got at least several more days’ worth out of this one!

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To close up the bottle after you’ve scooped out what you need, insert the bottom half of the tube onto the new “lid” and tada! You’ve got easy access to the remainder of your product AND you get to keep it fresh!

Snakes and Soda Bombs

In our house, all the drains in all the sinks are screwy. The sinks are slightly tilted in the wrong direction or the bottoms of them are flat so the water doesn’t actually LEAVE the sink. And I suspect that most of the drains were partially clogged when we moved in, because getting water out of them has always taken a while. Now that we’ve been here over a year (and will shortly be leaving as quickly as possible), we’ve added our own mix of dog hair and muck to our drains and the two in our bathroom, the tub and sink respectively, need some TLC.

Remember when I cleaned our dishwasher and it was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever done? Well this is way more gross. These pictures are going to be graphic so feel free to skip this post if you think you might lose your stomach contents. If it makes you feel better I gagged often while actually doing this thing. This is my bathtub drain. You can see the gunk surrounding it because it’s not draining fast enough to wash everything down so little bits of dirt get stuck, and nothing dries, so I get that lovely orange mildew line. Yummy. The pop-up plug thing that goes with the tub never worked so we pulled it off and bought a regular rubber plug. It’s somewhere around the house …

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When you’re first cleaning out a drain, before you reach for chemicals or solvents, grab one of these. This is a drain snake. It’s just a wee one. If you have some more serious drain issues than a bit of dog hair then you might want something more complex, but this one does the trick when you’re trying to navigate around funny-shaped plug bits jammed in your drain.

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So you take the snake, and you shove the brushy end down into the drain and scoop it around until you feel you’ve caught a bunch of stuff.

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Bring it up and clean it off. Try not to throw up. I would recommend wearing gloves. Because bleugh.

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This is all the gross hair I pulled out of the drain. Holy ew.

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Next, to make extra sure you’ve got everything in there, put a kettle of water on to boil and grab some vinegar and baking soda. Block off any other vents or drains that are attached to the one you’re trying to clear using tape or a rag.

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Tip about 1/2 cup of the baking soda down the drain.

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Then add in 1/2 cup of the vinegar and jam the plug down. Leave that for however long it takes your kettle to boil. I found it made a very satisfying noise throughout the house as it gurgled through the pipes. The chemical reaction that’s going on is breaking down all the fats and oils and stuff that cause that sludgy goo and getting rid of them.

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When the kettle is ready, empty it down the drain to flush all the now loose bits away.

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And the drain is now as good as new – or at least, as good as the day we moved in. Maybe slightly better. Who knows?

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My scary sink is a whole ‘nother kettle of stanky fish, because it has that stupid pop-up plug thing going on and I can’t get in there with even my wee snake. What I need to do is take the little pop-up thing out and do all sorts of horrible things. It will involve much swearing and probably some assistance from the Pie (because we make a good plumbing team). And you don’t need to see that (because I know it’s jammed with like a year of the Pie’s beard hair and that is GROSS). But if you have the same problem, I found an amazing video that lays out what to do much better than I ever could. You can access it on YouTube here.

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Scented Pine Cones

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October hit Ottawa with a sudden drop in temperature and we were forced to turn the heat on for the first time this year, which made me sad. I don’t like the way a sealed-in house gets musty over the summer or winter, and with our massive piles of sad-looking carpet (which, no matter how much I steam clean it, still retains essence of smoker and large smelly dog, the previous tenants), our house gets musty – fast.

I’m not a huge fan of artificial perfumes or masking smells with other smells, but sometimes my cleaning regime needs a bit of a boost. I picked up these pine cones while walking Gren out on the Farm. You’ll note the dog poop bag I used to haul them home. This is often how I bring home my dog-walking finds.

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Wash them carefully in warm water to get rid of dirt and bugs and whatnot.

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Look at the fun colour they turned the water! Tannins are an interesting scientific thing.

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Shake them off and lay them on a baking sheet (if you like the baking sheet, line it with parchment paper to prevent any sap from sticking) and bake them for 1 hour at about 200°F so that they can dry out completely. Wet pine cones = mouldy pine cones, and we don’t want that.

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While that was going on, I quickly zested a lemon and an orange that had seen better days and tossed the peel into the oven as well to dry out. Waste not!

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When the pine cones are fully cooled, sprinkle them liberally with the essential oils of your choice. I went with clove and orange oils.

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Seal them (and any other scented objects you have, like the peel) in a plastic bag for 1 week to meld the scents together.

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Then display in a nice bowl and give them a good sniff as you walk by.

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Work in Progress: Poison Ivy Hallowe’en Costume

It’s getting to be that time of year, folks. And the annoying thing about posting seasonal stuff on a blog where you don’t necessarily plan too far ahead is that things like Hallowe’en costumes can’t be posted until *after* Hallowe’en, which is a little lame. But at least they can be inspiration for next year.

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This year, the Pie and I are heading out on vacation and we won’t be home for Hallowe’en. The Pie has a tournament in Toronto that weekend so I’m teaming up with Chel and her friends and we’re doing a group costume: Batman, Robin, and assorted villains. I am unreasonably excited to go as Poison Ivy and join the group. This costume has taken a considerable amount of planning, so it may even top Wolverine as one of my best costumes to date.

I’ll show you what I have come up with so far and hopefully it’ll inspire you as well.

One of the issues with female comic book characters, especially those written by DC, is that they tend to come scantily clad. And I don’t want to show that much skin. There will be children in our group. And sometimes it snows on Hallowe’en in Canada. And nobody likes being naked in the snow. So part of the challenge was to take the traditional PI getup and make it a bit more … modest. Because holy Hanna that is just not my style.

I started off with the basic corset, in green, and I found one on Amazon that also had a wee skirt that came with it (the skirt is MUCH shorter than advertised but oh well).

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After strapping myself into it in a rather undignified manner I realized that the flimsy, slippery ribbons that made up the laces were all that was holding the whole thing together. And I have quite a bit that needs holding in. I could see one of them snapping under the pressure and having a disaster on my hands.

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So I replaced the laces, front and back, with a sturdier material: parachute cord.  Not only was I now more confident that the corset bindings wouldn’t spontaneously explode, but it was actually easier to lace up because there was more friction with the cord.

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Now I could lace it up good and tight and it wasn’t going anywhere. Problem was, this thing is made for people with smaller … assets than I have, and there was some danger of a spill (and there will be children present), so I had to wear a bra underneath to keep everything where it should be. And the bra peeked over the top of the corset. Not good.

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I had to therefore disguise the bra as best I could (because there was no hiding it and I was sure as shooting not going without). Fortunately for me the local Fabricland is about five minutes from our house, so I popped in and found exactly what I needed.

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I basted some trim and sequins onto the bra wherever it was exposed. I also put some more trim at the bottom so that it would blend in with the similar trim at the top of the corset. The sequins might be overkill but I love them.

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Right. I’m not hanging out anywhere now. This is good. But I’m so tightly strapped into this thing that I’m having trouble breathing. It’s not like I can simply loosen the laces – the whole thing will fall off. And it has no give whatsoever. I needed a bit of a release valve built into this to save my lungs. I bought some 6″ wide elastic from Fabricland as well, and I will cut out two of the back panels and replace it with four pieces of sewn-together elastic. This way the corset can still be as tight as it needs to be but my ribcage can also expand and contract as needed. But I had to go out of town twice for work (I’m in Indiana as I write this and as you read this) so it’ll have to wait until I get back.

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Then, there was the issue of hair. PI’s hair is red and long. Mine is short and brown. Normally I dress as a dude for Hallowe’en simply because having short hair makes it easy to do. This year I had to go to extremes. I picked up this wig for super cheap (thanks Amazon), and after an interminable wait it arrived.

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It’s been about ten years since I’ve had hair this long, or this red.

But how am I going to stay warm, you ask? Well I found a pair of green fleece tights and a pair of fingerless green elbow gloves and those are going to be very handy.

And then there’s this. This is an opera cloak hand-sewn by my great grandmother about 100 or so years ago. I used to play dress-up with it all the time and amazingly it’s still in beautiful shape. It hasn’t fit me across the shoulders and chest since I was about nine years old, however (my great-grandmother being one of those tiny elfin type ladies). After some consultation with my mother we decided to remove the sleeves to give me some more room to move around. She’s working on it as we speak.

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I have some other grand plans including temporary tattoos, fake vines, and lots and lots of glitter. I’ll keep you posted about how they turn out!

Handy Items: Circle Cutter

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This right here is a circle cutter, and it’s a pretty ingenious device, which is deceptively simple to use. This one in particular is made by Martha Stewart, and we all know she has her sh*t together when it comes to handy tools.

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So you have this ring, which holds a clear disc inside with a million holes in a spiral. The centre disc spins inside the ring.

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And you have this tiny witchy yet super sharp wee blade on a small handle, which also spins.

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And you have your thing that you want to cut. In my case this is Con-Tact paper made to look like stainless steel. I originally tried to do this with my 2″ circle punch, but things went badly.

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On a reliable and steady cutting surface, place your material. Top with the ring, and figure out how big you want the diameter of your circle to be. Insert the tiny evil blade into the requisite hole in the disc that matches that measurement.

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Then carefully draw your hand around in a circle. The blade will rotate as you go, and the disc will spin. And then all of a sudden you have a perfect circle.

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I’m making quite a few of these. It’s not as fast a process as it would have been with a circle punch but I like the flexibility to make my circles any size I want. I’ll keep you posted as to what I plan to do with them.

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Fast Tip Friday: Filing in a Flash

This is a work-related post which is extra-sweet specifically because I am not at work today – I’m watching the Blue Jays hopefully kick some butt on their final home stand of the regular season. I was going to make this for my messy partner at work while I was decorating his office but he’s leaving us (tragedy!) so I’m making it for myself. I work in a mostly paperless office but sometimes you need to print things out to use them for reference (like phone lists) or a client still insists on seeing a hard copy of something or another. So I don’t need a whole filing cabinet, or even a drawer (I DO have a filing drawer, but currently it is filled with snacks). I just need a few files, preferably some place I can reach them on my way out the door. For this you just need some file folders (any size, any colour) and some tape (I have here washi tape for the decorative parts and double-sided tape for the sticking-things-together parts). Maybe a ruler if you feel like being measure-y.

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My office actually uses these pretty blue and teal files for storage so they were on hand, and I simply arranged them in a pattern and orientation that I found pleasing (Chel I can see you making use of a nice rainbow one someday).

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I measured and marked them (okay, so you need a pencil too) so they’d be evenly spaced.

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Then I used copious amounts of double-sided tape on the back to stick all the folders together.

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Now I need to do something about the open flappy sides. I was originally going to poke holes and kind of lace them together but I decided that was too much effort for work decor.

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Washi tape to the rescue! I love it because it’s so light and comes in millions of colours. Thanks Japan for yet again making functional things pretty as well.

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I did a couple of layers for security.

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All ready for the bus ride to work!

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I used 3M command strips to stick it to the wall next to my door. It works great!

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