Ten Dollar, Ten Minute Wreath

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As you may know, I like making wreaths. Most of ’em tend to be of the ephemeral type, not lasting more than a season so that I have justification in making new ones later on. Somehow though I have ended up with a few in storage … not that this will stop me from making yet another one. It’s officially December, so I think it’s time.

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The one for this year is inspired by the super 1980s brass trim on my front door, and by what I snagged from Value Village on Senior’s Day a while back. I found a totally plain grape wreath for $1.99, a bag of gold bead garland for $1.99, and a box of glass balls in gold and copper for $3.99.

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The only other thing I used for this was some fishing line I had on hand so I made the whole thing for less than ten bucks (including tax), and it only took me about ten minutes!

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First I had to untangle the giant bag of beaded garland. That may have taken longer than ten minutes …

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But then I wrapped a section around the wreath. Easy peasy. It didn’t go all the way but that was fine because I had a plan.

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Then I tied the balls on with fishing line.

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LongJohn helped. I can now do things by myself provided that I’m sitting three feet from him in his Jolly Jumper.

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That’s 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.

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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?

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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Spidermageddon

Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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Fill the rest of the spray bottle with warm water, give it a little shake, and spray away!

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

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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Starting Seeds!

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If you live in a northern climate you’re probably starting to hope that spring is just around the corner. In Canada, it’ll fool you. This past weekend I sat outside on our back step in just a tshirt and absorbed the sun into my pasty, pasty skin. But there’s still the threat of frost and so planting season around here begins quite late.

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You can, however, start your seeds inside 6-8 weeks before you plant them outside, and so you start with sturdy little seedlings that are more likely to survive some of the colder spring days.

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Use a potting soil that suits your needs – there are all different kinds.

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Just remember to keep the pots moist (but not dripping) and in a place that gets some decent sun – I’m trying to keep mine all on the same side of the house as where they’ll be planted, in case that helps.

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This mint I bought from the grocery store when I was making the Brazilian Lemonade – it will just root itself in a glass of water after about a week. Mint grows everywhere, and is really hard to kill.

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And when they get bigger I’m putting them in these fancy little holders – the height means that I don’t have to negotiate with my giant belly in order to weed them and I’m hoping it will help to deter the bunnies … WE SHALL SEE!

A little behind the times: Making Your Own Terrarium

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If you live in Canada you’ll know that this past weekend was so cold that it resulted in an extreme cold warning from Environment Canada being set for SIX of our ten provinces. That meant that here in Ottawa the temperature hovered around -28°C (with a windchill of -37°F) for almost three days. For you Americans out there, that’s basically absolute zero (actually on the Fahrenheit scale it’s kind of close to the same thing). It was too cold even to take our extra-furry dog out for a walk, and we were all cooped up inside driving each other nuts.

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As a nod to the spring that I know is coming, I decided to take the time to make myself a terrarium or two. I know I’m behind the trend curve on this one, but now I finally have actual windows that point in directions where sunlight comes in and I’ve been itching to make my own terrariums for YEARS. Now keep in mind that the versions I made are “quickie” versions, ones where the plants inside will need to be re-potted or moved in a couple of months. If you want to do it right, I suggest you read some of the articles I have at the bottom of this post. These succulents I picked up at Home Depot and very carefully bundled them home in a way that would avoid being outdoors for longer than thirty seconds at a time.

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These containers I already had. The little fishbowl thing came from the dollar store and the giant antique cookie jar thing came with the Pie when we moved in together.

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First thing you need is some gravel for drainage (at least until the root systems get bigger and they start traveling downwards). I didn’t have any gravel on hand so I used these glass pebbles I’ve had kicking around the house for like a decade. I’ve used and re-used them for projects like this a million times.

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Then you scoop in some potting soil. I used a cactus and succulent mix, which has decent drainage.

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Then you wrestle with your plants. When repotting anything, make sure to loosen the soil where the roots are – disturbing the root ball will make roots grow in different directions and force them to adapt to the new setting.

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I used  a soup spoon to pat down the soil inside my little fishbowl.

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The cookie jar ended up being smaller than I had anticipated for the plants I bought. These are way overcrowded, so I ended up pulling out one of the plants and putting it in a pot in the living room.

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Then I added a pirate. Looking for treasure.

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And a skeleton.

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To the other one it was some tiny army men.

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One is on my coffee table.

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The other is in the dining room. And both make me happy to see them every day. Spring can’t be that far away!

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How-to-NOT Build a Cactus Terrarium

Nine steps to make a terrarium using succulents & cacti

A guide to making a succulent terrarium

Amaryllis Update and Some Others

By now, my amaryllis has finally bloomed. FINALLY. But you can’t see it, because during the week I go to work when it’s dark out and I get home when it’s dark out and that doesn’t make for very good pictures. So these are pictures I took on Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting. I HAD thought that the darned thing would bloom in time for Christmas.

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But nope.

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Then I thought it’d show up around New Year’s.

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Nope again. Instead it makes its appearance on a Wednesday when there’s nobody around to see it. Typical.

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Other updates for you: we take possession of our house in EIGHT DAYS. Packing is progressing in a haphazard fashion. It’s hard to put stuff in boxes when there’s no place to put the boxes. I cannot wait to be out of this cramped space!

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We’d meant to be proactive and get lots of stuff done while our offices were closed between Christmas and New Year’s but instead we both managed to get horribly ill and we’re still not fully recovered, so needless to say that didn’t happen. But I’d like to share with you the chaos that is my living room at the moment, post-Christmas, mid-packing, and post-holiday cold:

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The corgi, overwhelmed with Christmas and packing, also managed to make himself quite ill. All in all, it was a joyously relaxing vacation.

And one other thing that I feel I should probably let you in on: like some other women I know I have recently developed that peculiar condition where over the course of nine months you lose the ability to see your own feet. This is also another explanation for why my posts have been a little on the lacklustre side since September because holy moly I AM TIRED.

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So long, feet.

So some time in early June things are going to get a lot more interesting in our new house (and yes, that’s one of the reasons we bought the place).  I’m not sure exactly what this whole adventure means for the future of Ali Does It but we can all figure that out together, right? Stay tuned as the chaos only continues to increase, along with my waistline!