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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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).

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Ali Fails: Lighting up the wee small hours

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I’m currently sleeping in LongJohn’s room (though he talks in his sleep and I miss my giant squishy bed) and I bought this cute wall clock from IKEA so I could keep an eye on the time while I was there. The trouble is that I can’t read this clock in the dark. I don’t want an alarm clock that just has the regular glowing lights, a) because glowing lights annoy me in my sleep b) there are very few outlets in LongJohn’s room and there’s no convenient place to plug one in, and c) I wanted something a bit more subtle that wouldn’t mess with my night vision should I choose not to get up and turn on the light.

So I thought, what if I bought some glow-in-the-dark paint and made some modifications?

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The nice thing about most IKEA things is that they can be hacked and it was simple to undo the springs at the back and take the crystal off.

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Then I went to town with my paint. Followed the instructions and everything.

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I think it’s quite spiffy.

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When dry it’s a nice darker green.

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But it DIDN’T WORK! I’m not expecting this thing to glow all night or anything like that – just something to give me a faint hint of what ungodly hour it is when I wake up in the middle of the night (fortunately these are rapidly getting closer and closer to 7AM but in the interim it’s nice to know, ya know?). But nothing. LongJohn’s room is the brightest in the house during the day but even several hours of direct sunlight did nothing. Is the paint bad? Any other ideas?

Modding the Mom Hat

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I hope you all enjoyed your Canada Day/Independence Day long weekend! And if you didn’t get to celebrate a national holiday this weekend then I hope at least it was sunny where you were. Speaking of sun, I bought this hat at IKEA last summer for 99 cents. It is great to wear to baseball games to protect my pasty white skin.

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Now I’ve discovered that it’s also a fantastic wearable parasol for LongJohn (so named because he’s a lanky albatross like his dad) when I’m wearing him out and about.

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The problem is that in a good breeze the parasol becomes a parasail and I lose the darned thing. It’s very hard to chase down a hat while wearing a baby. So I need to make some modifications to keep the thing on my head, and while I do that, I might as well have some fun with it, right? With that in mind, I dug out a huge pink grosgrain ribbon.

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I cut it to match the band around the hat. I set that aside for the moment.

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Then I took two more pieces and wove them into the inside of the band, for straps to tie coquettishly around my chin. I felt very much like a Jane Austen character, dressing a bonnet, while I was doing this.

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Tied off the ends to prevent fraying.

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And then decided I needed a feather in my cap.

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And because it was Pride Week in Toronto (Ottawa’s isn’t until August and it’s much more low key), I decided to put a rainbow of feathers in my cap.

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I wound them together with some wire.

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Used a bit of hot glue to ensure they stayed that way.

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Then wove the wire end into the hat to fix the feathers in place.

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And I managed to do all of this while still wearing LongJohn.

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Then I glued the first piece of ribbon around the band, leaving room for the hat to expand as it gets squashed on my head.

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And I took another piece of grosgrain, this one in black, and fashioned a rosette out of it.

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The rosette fit nicely on top of the feathers, hiding the wire machinations.

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Tada, my Mom Hat that I can wear with Pride!

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Granny’s Porch, and other Memories

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This little furniture trio was a permanent feature of my grandmother’s screened-in veranda at her cottage. We would bring them out in the spring and haul them into storage in the winter. For wicker furniture, they’re surprisingly comfortable, and I have many memories of enjoying Slimo while listening to cicadas in the shade.

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They’ve been bright yellow for as long as I can remember, but my mother says they’ve been other colours in the past, like a paler yellow and a deep green. In any case, it’s been a while since their last paint job and they’re in serious need of a touch-up. I asked the Pie what colour he wanted to paint them, and – no surprise – he picked orange. Orange it was to be.

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This little metal patio bistro set I bought with Cait when she first moved into her solo apartment almost a decade ago. It was cute and green and suited her little tiny balcony perfectly. She no longer lives there, of course, and the furniture no longer suits her new place, so, being Cait, she foisted it off on me. After many years in the sun the green is more of a pastel than it used to be, and needed a bit of a boost.

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Gren supervises from an almost-safe distance.

Now time for spray paint! Full disclosure: I have a box of half-finished cans of spray paint in the garage. The Pie thinks it’s more than that. I have another box full of empty spray paint cans in the garage as well. They’re waiting for a day when I’m not pregnant and can sit down and empty all the air out of them before putting them in the recycling. So he’s not keen on me buying yet MORE spray paint. In this particular case, however, I perfectly estimated the amount that I would need. Because the metal set just needed a boost from its original colour, no major repairs or changes, I needed two cans to coat all three pieces (four if you count the table top and legs separately). For the wicker, I estimated that I needed two thick coats on each of the three pieces, and that it would take me two cans each. So I bought eight cans of spray paint, in total, to the Pie’s horror. After it was all over, I have a few spritzes of the green left and I’m totally out of the orange. It’s like I knew what I was doing or something.

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Not to worry – I wore that mask, gloves, and eye protection the whole time I was painting.

Look at the cheery difference already with the first coat!

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The orange stuff took significantly longer to do and was much more finicky, what with getting around legs and whatnot. I was very tired of bending over and squatting down by the time I was done.

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In the late afternoon sun though the stuff positively glows!

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Now all I need is a non-rotting deck to fully enjoy it (that’s next summer’s project).

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My Outdoor To-Do List

We were almost out from under all our snow, and then this happened.

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And we expect more in the next day or so. So very not cool, April.

But I can now actually traverse my own yard for the first time since we bought the house, which is exciting. And in doing so, I’ve realized there are so many things that need doing. You know I love my to-do lists (where I rarely complete everything on them), so here it is for the outdoors:

That ugly hedge outside my office window (yay basement office) I’m pretty sure is the reason that my office windowsill was lined with the corpses of ants when we moved in. Plus if you’re trying to get into the garage while there’s a car in that part of the driveway, it will rip your face off. And I’m not a fan of anemic evergreen hedges threatening to grow into my foundations. That sucker is coming out.

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The driveway is rather narrow, and it looks like we’re not the only residents or visitors to have to drive over parts of the lawn on occasion in order to fit a variety of cars around the curve. When we eventually re-do the driveway we’ll widen it, but for now I think I’ll put down some pavers in these bare patches so they don’t look so terrible.

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This swing hangs in the front yard, a depressing, raggedy reminder of spring and childhood safety issues. I’ve had to stare at it swinging in the blizzards all winter and I want to murder it a little. As soon as the ground is un-soggy enough to support a ladder the Pie is cutting it down and burning it.

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Also once the ground is unsoggy we will have to do some serious raking. The previous owners weren’t so fond of landscaping or lawn maintenance and so after the last open house they clearly just left the lawn to serve as a collection spot for EVERY SINGLE BRANCH IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD.

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Our back fence. One thing of especial note: they planted a tree (and a rather expensive one at that) directly in front of the gate. Why? I have no idea.

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The fence is also rotten and wobbly and is also made up of like three different types of fencing. And an absolutely overgrown cedar hedge.

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This tree is dead. Why nobody cut it down years ago I have no idea. But I own a chainsaw. So you know what I’m planning.

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Through the blocked gate and into the backyard. Look at my air conditioner. Trust me, the cover actually improves its rusted-out appearance. It looks like it was installed before the turn of the century. We don’t even know if it works. I guess we’re going to find out soon enough.

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Oh look, it’s that hedge again. It’s like five feet wide.

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And then gets another four feet taller towards the back of the yard. It has successfully blocked all the wind from the other side into the backyard such that the parging and brickwork on this side of our house has never really dried out and is crumbling. When the hedge comes down we’ll have much better airflow and a yard that is about five feet wider than it was before.

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We’ll also replace the fence all around with something solid and standard. This other gate doesn’t even latch because the whole thing is falling down.

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There was a pergola in the backyard that we did not purchase, so it left. But it left behind these exciting steel spikes that are embedded in the ground at the perfect height to trip you up and then poke your eye out when you fall on another one.

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Especially this one that is at the bottom of the steps. I look forward to severely injuring myself on this one.

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Remnants of pergola town. I’m going to pry this random square up and re-seed the whole lawn.

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The tiny deck off the backdoor has no railings down the steps and also hovers over a retaining wall with a two-foot drop, so it’s only a matter of time before someone falls off it. Probably me. Also the wood is rotten and needs replacing.

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Oh and look, another horrid hedge. This one is being held up by that odd assortment of concrete and wood. And it’s definitely making forays into my foundation. Also coming out ASAP.

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I don’t even want to try to talk about my garage. Waiting for a day when it’s warm enough I can work in there with the door open. Which, at the rate this Canadian spring is going, might not be for some time …

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Fast Tip Friday: One Little Bit

The dishwasher that came with our house has taken some adjustment. For one thing, it’s not a fan of the size of our Denby stoneware (though there are few dishwashers these days that accommodate it, and if you own Denby I’m sure you’ve had this experience). That aside, it seems like a pretty powerful little machine. But the sprayer on the top level continually fell off during the wash cycle. So the interior of our glasses and anything else on the top would be clean, having been rinsed out by the sprayers below, but the top would be crusty with caked on food particles. Not cool.

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But rather than call a repair person to come and fix it (and have to pay for that), we did some research. First, we found out that this was a common problem with our version of dishwasher (which is lame). But that also meant that it was easy to find a solution. All we had to do was replace one little part. A simple snap-off, snap-on, and we were good to go.

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All it cost us was a drive to the parts store and $6 for the part. BOOM. So the lesson here is to do your research before you call in the big guns – it could save you some serious cash.

The Ocean Room: Phase One

With our summer schedule set to impending chaos, getting our new house in order has been a priority for us since we moved in mid-January. That said, life always gets in the way of the best of plans, and two months into our residence here, we’re not even half done. Not even close. It doesn’t help that I’ve spent the past three weeks out of the country.

Anyway, one room that we have mostly gotten into order is the future nursery, which we’re calling the ocean room. We have enough marine-related knickknacks and art that we’ve collected over the years to make a loose theme in there that we think the baby will like (our other two bedrooms will be the desert room and the forest room, respectively, though we haven’t gotten there yet). Here’s what the ocean room looked like when we moved in: a nice bright, sunny, YELLOW room. There was even yellow on the ceiling (because the previous owners were terrible painters).

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First I needed to patch all the weird holes they’d left in the walls – this wall was covered with weird plastic screws so I have no idea what was there before.

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I also removed this mirror that was bolted to the door, as it was warped and totally unflattering.

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Then I used painter’s tape all over the place. I know how to paint a room without it but when you’re tired and you have other helpers who are perhaps not as adept as you, it’s handy.

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And here’s where paying a little more for a certain brand will stand you in good stead. I use Frog Tape, which is wayyyyy better than the generic green painter’s tape.

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Clearly nobody painted under that mirror for a while:

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It took several coats of primer and trim paint to restore it to some sense of normalcy:

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The inside of the closet also needed a good priming. I left it with the tinted primer for now, because anything is an improvement over the insane purple that was in there before.

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And then my lovely big brother Krystopf came over to help me paint! After accepting his offer I learned he’d never actually painted anything before, which complicated things, but it was nice to have an extra pair of hands as the Pie was occupied with other household projects at the time.

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The first coat of primer (and Krystopf’s painting skills) did little to hide the yellow from view, despite me using a tinted primer instead of plain white.

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Finally ready to start cutting in with our blue paint – it’s called “Seashore” which seemed appropriate.

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Coat one!

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Coat two, trim, and ceiling done and finally we can put some stuff back in. I still need a mattress for the twin bed (where I will be sleeping) and a few other things, but we have some fun projects lined up for this room, so stay tuned!

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