Moveable Memories

Moveable Memories 1

For Christmas, I gave the Pie a stick. This stick, to be specific. It’s actually a piece of moulding too knotty for my dad to use, and I scavenged it out of his garage. Trust me though, I have a plan.

Moveable Memories 2

I’m sure all of you have a relative with a cottage or grandparents’ home where, be it a door jamb or a piece of wall panelling, they have accumulated the heights of all the family members as they’ve grown over the years. At the cottage my great-grandfather built (now owned by my mother’s cousin), these height markings go back several generations. And it’s always sad when the time comes to leave that house behind, together with those memories that are so firmly a part of the house. Sometimes you can get away with removing the fixture they’re on, but sometimes not.

We plan to stay in this house for a long time, but you never know what will happen, so I wanted to make sure that when we leave we can take our memories with us.

First order of business is cutting down the wood to fit. I made sure it was cut so it sits above the moulding on the floor, runs parallel to the doorjamb in our guest bedroom, and ends at the top of the lintel, so it’s low profile. Then I drilled three holes (one at either end and one in the middle), and sanded it down.

Moveable Memories 3

During one of LongJohn’s naps I popped just outside the backdoor and spray painted the whole stick white. Then I had to kick around my newly white leaves so the Pie wouldn’t see them. Fortunately it snowed soon thereafter so I was safe.

Moveable Memories 4

Once the paint was dry I started marking distances with craft paint. We use mostly Metric in Canada but because we’re so close to the United States we are pretty fluent in Imperial as well, so I decided to go with both. For the centimetres I made a bigger mark every 10 and for the inches I made a bigger one every 6. I also made sure to start my measurements on the stick at the distance it sits from the floor, which when you take into account the moulding at the bottom of the wall, was about 10cm. In retrospect I wish I’d used a finer paint brush but what’s done is done.

Moveable Memories 6

I added in the numbers in a different colour (again, wish I’d used a finer brush). Then I sprayed the whole thing with a clear lacquer to keep the markings fresh.

Moveable Memories 10

Then I wrapped it and hid it behind a bookcase. Now when we take our measurements, we mark them in permanent marker and I dab a little clear nail polish over them to keep them from rubbing off. And when we’re ready to leave, we can take it with us!

Moveable Memories 12


Found Objects with Fussellette

Found Objects 12

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.

Found Objects 2

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

View this post on Instagram

Crafts with Auntie Sam. #alidoesit

A post shared 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.

Found Objects 4

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

Found Objects 5

Found Objects 7

Found Objects 8

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

Found Objects 14

Ali Fails: Lighting up the wee small hours

Light Clock 3

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?

Light Clock 4

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.

Light Clock 1

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

Light Clock 5

Light Clock 6

I think it’s quite spiffy.

Light Clock 8

When dry it’s a nice darker green.

Light Clock 9

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?

Granny’s Porch, and other Memories

Granny's Porch Furniture 3

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.

Granny's Porch Furniture 1

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.

Granny's Porch Furniture 4

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.

Granny's Porch Furniture 6
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.

Granny's Porch Furniture 5
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!

Granny's Porch Furniture 8

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.

Granny's Porch Furniture 11

In the late afternoon sun though the stuff positively glows!

Granny's Porch Furniture 13

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

Granny's Porch Furniture 14

Ali Asks: A Temporary Re-Vamp?

Look! I finally did it! Up until Easter Sunday this room was still just full of boxes, but I finally sat down and cleaned everything up and put things away and unpacked. For some reason I’m missing the legs that go on the two sets of wire shelves I normally use, and we’re going to put another table in here to serve as a workstation (and add some pegboards and other things), so it’s still a work in progress.

Closet Door 3

But in the meantime, it’s BEIGE. And as I’m sure you’ve seen me mention before, beige is my creative equivalent of a soul-sucking straw – I can’t deal with it. We’re going to completely gut this room sometime in the next few years – have the asbestos removed and lower the floor to the same height as everything else on this level (and install a heated floor!). But until then, there’s no point in trying to gussy it up too much. And yet … BEIGE. It might be some time before we get around to this room, what with our impending chaos. I don’t want to go crazy in the interim.

Closet Door 2

So I was thinking, with regards to this bifold closet with slats (now, with EXTRA vintage!), that I could jazz them up a bit. They’re what you see when you walk in the door, so I thought they could be a bit more eye-catching. I was thinking of doing a simpler version of what I did with the coffee stirrer wall art and that wooden tray – of course, painting the slats as if they were the little wooden pieces. I’m just going to use craft paint but it’ll be a fun rainy day project.

Closet Door 1

What do you think? Should I go for it?

And if so, what colours should I use? Leave your comments with your favourite colour scheme!

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).

Ocean Room Phase 1 1

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 3

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

Ocean Room Phase 1 4

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 5

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 7

Clearly nobody painted under that mirror for a while:

Ocean Room Phase 1 6

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

Ocean Room Phase 1 8

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 9

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 10

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.

Ocean Room Phase 1 12

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

Ocean Room Phase 1 14

Coat one!

Ocean Room Phase 1 15

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!

Ocean Room Phase 1 19

Welcome to our chaos

I wish I had a better post for you guys today, but we’re totally exhausted at our new place. We kind of moved all the furniture over in a rush on Saturday so we’re still trying to figure out what is going where. We know we’re missing some essential pieces now but we’re willing to live without until we figure out what we really want.


The kitchen is still a hot mess. I mostly just shoved things in random cupboards all weekend while directing people where to put things. The Pie and I figure we’ll wait a couple weeks until we’re less tired and actually give some thought as to where we want things to go.


Because I was mostly directing from the kitchen, our dear moving crew, when told things were to go in the basement, basically shoved absolutely everything into my office. So it’s a little impassable at the moment, and my computer is currently set up at the dining room table.


Things that we didn’t immediately have a place for are in the future baby’s room.


The guest room is half-assembled because I don’t want to put it together until I’ve painted it (it’s going to be green!).


But the living room *kind* of is useful at the moment (i.e. there’s a couch, a coffee table, and the TV is hooked up to the internet).


Gren is settling in fine, I think. We gave him some fancy drugs our vet gave us on moving day and those helped his anxiety a whole bunch (as did a Kong full of frozen peanut butter). He’s still prone to sulking in weird spots.


And he and I are having trouble with these super steep back stairs. We’re going to see if we can’t lessen the slope by adding an extra one at the bottom at some point soon.


But the Pie has started to figure out where things are going to go in the room the previous owners called “The Cave” (it was on an envelope filled with paint chips).


And I can already see myself sitting in my favourite chair with my feet up in front of this fireplace. I’m looking forward to it!




… at the new house of course. And being the technical people we are, we follow where the internet goes, which means that as of this weekend we will officially be living in our new house!


Here are some updates of what we’ve done in the interim: mostly we have filled it with boxes over the past week. For those ever-so-helpful-and-advice-filled folks out there: *I* did not do any heavy lifting but I did some scrubbing of most of the rooms to get rid of the previous owners’ cat (the Pie is allergic) and I patched all the weird holes they put in their walls. And took down the blinds. I hate blinds. Actually, Mrs. Nice took down the blinds for me because she’s lovely.


And we painted a bit! We knew that once we moved our king-sized bed into the master bedroom we’d have significantly less space to move around so we made sure to paint it beforehand.


The previous owners had been a little careless in their previous paint jobs and we ended up having to repaint the ceiling and the trim in addition to the walls so it took us longer than expected. The other bedrooms won’t be occupied for a while so we can do them at our leisure.


Once we get all the furniture in we can start to put some of the myriad boxes away. Hopefully I can get some decent pictures during daylight for you this weekend and show you what our plans are!

Rack Refurb

Rack Refurb 2

I have this toiletries rack hanging from the shower in our current bathroom. It was a decent price and it does the job. It is, however, very rusty at the moment.

Rack Refurb 3

No worries: a little CLR bath overnight will cure that.

Rack Refurb 1

First I pulled off all the little pieces that didn’t need to be de-rusted, including the suction cups, and immersed it in my laundry sink with water and CLR and left it for several hours.

Rack Refurb 4

The next morning, a wee bit of scrubbing with steel wool got all the rust off!

Rack Refurb 5

Then I quickly spray painted it with Rustoleum in glossy white to prevent further rust incursions. I do not recommend doing this in your garage when it’s -20°C outside: the paint does not behave properly. But it did the trick and here it is, reassembled and now inhabiting my NEW bathroom!

Rack Refurb 7

It’s OURS!

To quote @mu_your_mind, “MOFO YOU OWN A HOUSE.” #alidoesit

A photo posted by Alison Bell (@alidoesit.herself) on Jan 14, 2016 at 2:45pm PST

We own a house! Closing went ahead as scheduled, barring some minor panic when the lawyer on the other side didn’t get back to us until late in the afternoon the day before. In fact we closed early. We were all set to pick up our keys at 3:30 yesterday afternoon. I used to work for a lawyer who did real estate and I can tell you that THAT is early.


We got to the lawyer and the receptionist handed us an envelope. On the envelope it read [Pie’s first name] Toppenham and Heather [My last name]. And it contained a cheque. No keys. They had accidentally given our keys to someone else who had a similar set of names! The poor receptionist’s head practically exploded. After they tracked the guy down who had taken our keys the receptionist drove them to the Tower to us, so we didn’t get into the new place until around 6:30, so these pictures are all taken at night. But I hope you can get a good idea of what it’s like – and all the work that needs to be done!

Home to Bel-Air First Night 3

Finally, an entranceway with a door that can be shut to prevent canine and toddler escapees. And for the first time ever we don’t have to climb a huge flight of stairs after coming through the front door.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 4

Living/Dining room facing the front.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 5

Living/Dining facing the back.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 7

Yes, that’s a gas fireplace. The first thing I did when I walked in the door was crouch down, learn how to ignite the pilot light, and turn that sucker on. This is on the list of things to update but it’s not a priority at present.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 6

Dining room on left, entranceway on the right, looking into the kitchen.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 12

From the living room through the entranceway to the stairs that go up. So many less to climb with a baby on the way!

Home to Bel-Air First Night 24

There’s a large cubbyhole on the stairway. Not sure what we are going to hide in here.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 13

The bathroom is to the left at the top of the stairs. It’s been recently redone and is quite nice.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 14

Home to Bel-Air First Night 15

Plus there’s a storage closet inside the bathroom and then the linen closet is immediately outside the door.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 16

This is the guest bedroom, which faces front and is closest to the bathroom.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 17

It has a pink closet.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 18

And a somewhat dodgy paint job.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 19

This will be the baby’s room, because it’s smallest and close to the master bedroom.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 20

It has a purple closet.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 21

The master is long and narrow with a giant red wall and some severely broken blinds.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 22

It has a green closet.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 23

And no outlet covers. I suspect the Pie and I are going to show up at the ReStore some day soon and buy out their whole stock.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 8

Back downstairs. The kitchen, which faces the backyard.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 9

The countertops need a re-do, but we have an interim plan that is cheap that will hold us until we have some more money to do something drastic.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 10

More of the kitchen. We might actually have enough cupboards this time to keep our food IN the kitchen instead of in a cupboard in the basement.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 25

Back door off the kitchen. I no longer have to take Gren down two flights of stairs to shove him into the back yard.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 26

Stairs to the basement. They’re actually quite steep and the more pregnant I get the less I may be heading into the basement.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 27

The “main” basement level. That’s the door to the garage, and then the door to the right is the room that will be my office/craft room.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 28

Laundry sink is next to garage door, handy for making messes.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 30

And directly next to that, with no wall or door or anything in between, is our hallway/laundry room/second bathroom! This is why our house was so cheap. Clearly this is a priority fix for us. My dad apparently has a plan for it cooking up in his head already. For now while he’s in Florida we’re just going to rig a curtain so that people who gotta go can go.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 31

This is my little office. It has a closet which is oddly placed. The ceiling has been dropped and the floor raised so the Pie actually has issues standing up in it. It makes him grumpy but I keep telling him he can simply stay out.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 33

It also contains a fridge, which will be handy for many shenanigans. Note the cut off part of the door because the ceiling is so low.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 32

Re-doing the office is one of our moderate priorities, because it’s the most dated part of the house, but it will be a serious undertaking because yep, those are asbestos tiles. Woo.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 37

Here’s the garage. It’s long and narrow and smells of cigarette smoke. It also contains a corroded, ancient fuse box (with glass fuses) that is in danger of shorting out at any moment (and which also does not meet a modern-day house’s need for extra outlets). So it’s our highest priority fix at the moment. If you know a reasonably priced, certified and reliable electrician who services the west end of Ottawa, please let me know!

Home to Bel-Air First Night 38

Anyway, from the weird part of the basement there’s another door leading down into the second basement. Which has been re-done recently.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 49

To the left is workshop/storage, and to the right is the Pie’s new office nook.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 50

In the main space, the previous owners put fluorescent bulbs on the windows to give the impression that daylight was pouring in. It’s not a very good illusion.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 51

The nook is actually way bigger than we originally thought.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 54

And has this super-rad textured original wallpaper.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 55

Which they’ve painted over in some places.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 43

The workshop/storage area has four unique workbenches, each clearly for a different purpose. I suspect we will end up tearing out three of them to make room for other things.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 46

Home to Bel-Air First Night 44

Home to Bel-Air First Night 40

Home to Bel-Air First Night 45

The sheer amount of custom shelving is both admirable and totally overwhelming.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 41

Under some shelves you’ll find the door to the cold storage room.

Home to Bel-Air First Night 42

A.K.A. the murder room. I suspect that our children and their friends will lock each other in here from time to time.

So as you can see, there’s a lot of potential here for the Pie and I to learn how to do things on our own – with a little help from our friends and family of course and their expertise. I think we’re going to enjoy turning this house into something we can raise a family in. Stay tuned for all our shenanigans!

%d bloggers like this: