The Canadian Car Poncho

Car Poncho 32

There’s the idea that you shouldn’t put your kid in a big puffy snowsuit in their carseat because the snowsuit doesn’t allow you to do up the straps as tight as they need to be and that could be unsafe if you were to get into an accident. Accordingly, they sell these things called “car ponchos” for small children, and they’re all fancy with faux fur trim and buttons and snaps and zippers and whatnot and they cost like SEVENTY BUCKS. Seriously? Eff that. Also, this is CANADA, and here it’s always colder than it is in other places. So most of those fancy car ponchos are wayyy not warm enough to combat that howling wind when it’s minus twenty.

Car Poncho 2

I figured, seeing as I’m doing all this sewing these days, why not make my own? At the fabric store near us, fleece is pretty expensive, usually about $7 a metre, but at IKEA, you can pick up a POLARVIDE fleece blanket for $5.99, and they’re almost 2 metres. They come in a variety of colours depending on the store and the season, and sometimes they go on sale and they’re even cheaper. I picked up two, for layering.

Car Poncho 1

FOR THE LAZY: Just use one blanket. Sewing two together is less than easy.

One side of the fleece has little round flibbety things that stick out, so I cut them off using my rotary cutter.

Car Poncho 4

FOR THE LAZY: Leave ’em on.

Then I went through a million permutations of how to layer the blankets together so that the raw edges were inside the blanket. But it was much too complicated for me so I just folded each in half on the short edge and flipped them so the folded edge of one blanket was against the open edge of the other.

Car Poncho 5

FOR THE KEENERS: Sandwich the open edges inside so that the folded edges show on both sides.

Then I started sewing the blanket together, starting with a straight line right down the middle, followed by another that bisected it perpendicularly.

I kept going, dividing each un-sewed section in half and sewing through it, then I sewed around the edge. I did this to keep the different layers from bunching around each other. Four layers of fleece is hella bulky and it was really tricky with my little pink machine.

Car Poncho 6

FOR THE KEENERS: Maybe try a bias binding on the outside edge, or sew your lines radiating out from the centre at angles.

So now I have this big bulky blanket with four layers of thin fleece all quilted together. I need a head hole in the middle.

Car Poncho 7

Here I am doing a very scientific measurement of LongJohn’s head diameter using a salad plate. It’s a little big, but babies heads grow alarmingly so I know it’s better to go too big here than too small.  If you’ve ever tried to shove something too small over an angry baby’s head then you know what I mean.

Car Poncho 8

Car Poncho 9

Then I used the salad plate as a guide for cutting out the centre hole.

Car Poncho 10

I waited until everything was sewn together before cutting out the hole because I knew I wouldn’t necessarily be able to line up all four holes properly if they weren’t already permanently stitched in place.

Car Poncho 11

I’m trying to figure out what to do with the circle I have left. Any ideas?

The resulting hole was a bit jagged (cutting through four layers of fleece at once with a circular blade is also less than easy). But it was easily tidied up with a pair of scissors.

Car Poncho 12

Then I had to consider the hood. I was considering not doing a hood but babies don’t wear scarves and I didn’t want LongJohn’s neck all exposed to the elements, especially seeing as the head hole was so big.

The VITMOSSA blanket, also from IKEA, is only $2.99. It’s a thinner fleece with a bit of stretch, and I figured that if I doubled it, I’d get a decent flexible hood.

Car Poncho 13

I measured a distance of slightly over half the way around the circle and I cut a length of the blanket accordingly.

Car Poncho 14

The idea here is that if I fold the piece over itself, the seams line up and the hood forms naturally.

Car Poncho 15

Car Poncho 16

Because I want this thing to be reversible, I opened up a few of the centre seams in the poncho so I could sew the hood into the space in the middle.

Car Poncho 17

Then I folded the rectangle that I cut out in half across the short side again. Inside-out.

Car Poncho 18

And sewed up the two open sides perpendicular to the fold.

Car Poncho 19

Turn it right-side out and then line up the two seams.

Car Poncho 20

Tada, a hood! It has a pointy top so I would not recommend making this out of white fleece, if you know what I mean. Just to be politically correct.

Car Poncho 21

FOR THE KEENER: Sew down the pointy top.

Then I pinned it into the head hole of the poncho.

Car Poncho 22

You can see here that it fits between the two colours of fleece.

Car Poncho 23

Pin, pin, pin.

Car Poncho 24

The hard part here was now sewing the hood into the poncho (that’s six layers of fleece, if you’re counting). I had to shove so much bulky blanket through the little arm of the sewing machine. And then rotate it as I went around in a circle. Slow and steady was the best course of action here.

Car Poncho 25

Once finished, you can see how it works on the gray side …

Car Poncho 26

… and on the red side. I actually had to go around on the red side again because I’d missed a layer in my excitement.

Car Poncho 27

FOR THE LESS LAZY THAN ME: Be more careful and get all the layers sewed at the same time.

And now the test on my model.

Car Poncho 29

As you can see it’s roomy in the neck at the moment but I can always pin or clip that closed for now. He’ll fill out soon enough. He’d wear the poncho like this when I was carrying him or he was walking around. Which hopefully is far distant in my future.

Car Poncho 28

Then here he is in his high chair, which is standing in for the carseat (because it’s freaking cold outside today and I’m not going outside just to take a picture for you guys). The back of the poncho flips over the back of the car seat and the front part can be twitched aside while you do up the straps snugly against your little one. Then you just tuck it back down again and your kidlet is warm and snug!

Car Poncho 31

I’m making another one for a friend with a much bigger baby (makes a great gift!) and I’m confident my head hole size (22cm diameter) will be entirely appropriate. I also have enough left of the VITMOSSA blanket to make a thinner, warmer-weather poncho too!

Car Poncho 30

Advertisements

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.

Spidermageddon 2

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.

Spidermageddon 3

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.

Spidermageddon 4

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.

Spidermageddon 6

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

Spidermageddon 8

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.

Spidermageddon 9

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!

We’re Moving! AGAIN!

It’s finally happened. The Pie and I have joined the impoverished proud ranks of people who are horribly in debt forever first-time homeowners. And we couldn’t be more terrified happier.

DSCN8693

We close on the 14th of January, so we’re on a tight timeline to pack up the Tower and get ourselves over to the new place. So in the meantime, please excuse the mess you see in the background at Ali Does It, and possibly more cheater posts than normal in the next few weeks. I promise you that we will be back to regularly scheduled programming – and more! – by the end of January. We bought a house that is almost 60 years old and came with a good many of its own quirks – which we will, in true Ali Does It style, make our own.  And we will make sure to fill you in on all the craziness while we’re at it. Crazy corgi included, of course.

DSCN8694

Plus the house has way more space for making stuff and doing things (it. has. a. WORKSHOP. and. COLD STORAGE. I am so excited), a bigger, brighter kitchen, more light in general, and NO MORE BLUE CARPET. So things are only going to get better from here on out, on the blog and otherwise. Stay tuned!

DSCN8695

Pet Pop Art

Doodle's Cats 22

I’m going to preface this by saying I’m a bad friend. Doodle and I, you know, have almost the same birthday. Which was in March. Which was like four months ago. And do you know when I finally had a chance to make Doodle’s birthday present? It was last week. And the impetus behind that was that Doodle would actually be in town for me to give it to her. See? Bad friend.

Doodle's Cats 21

But while I may be a bad friend, I DO make wicked awesome birthday gifts, and I’ve had this idea on the brain for MONTHS.  I have been sitting on this photo frame since like JANUARY. Doodle and her husband the Cyclist have two cats about whom they are seriously nuts. Like if you think I am a little too obsessed with my dog, then you don’t know obsessed. Anyway. I got the inspiration from this idea at A Beautiful Mess and kind of ran with it.  When I told the Cyclist about my idea he proceeded to spend the afternoon sending me picture after picture of his beloved cats.

Doodle's Cats 1

I boosted the contrast on the photos and resized them to fit in the appropriate spots in the photo frame.

Doodle's Cats 3

Then I printed the photos out in black and white on neon paper. You can pick this stuff up at Staples or Wal-Mart. It’s important to print out two copies of the photo on two different colours of paper.

Doodle's Cats 2

Once I had them all printed, it was time to start cutting.

Doodle's Cats 4

First I cut out the photos from the paper I printed them on and made sure I had appropriate pictures to put in all the vertical and horizontal spots in the frame. There were eight spots and I had nine photos to choose from just in case I needed to do some manoeuvring.

Doodle's Cats 5

So now you have your two photos. Decide which one is going to be your background colour and then just leave that one completely alone.

Doodle's Cats 6

Take the other one and figure out what the object is that you want to show up against the background and carefully cut it out with a craft knife.

Doodle's Cats 7

Then take the cut out piece and apply some adhesive to the back. I used a glue stick because I knew that the paper would then be pressed against glass and so I wouldn’t have to worry about it peeling off. Then you just stick the contrasting piece right on top of the other piece, using the image as a guideline. It means you can’t screw it up.

Doodle's Cats 8

Then you just do it all over again.

Doodle's Cats 9

Having the same image underneath means you can match up shadows and sticking it on makes it much easier.

Doodle's Cats 10

Finally everything is cut out and stuck.

Doodle's Cats 11

Then it’s simply a matter of putting the pictures in place.

Doodle's Cats 12

Doodle's Cats 13

The finished product – it’s leaning on a granola bar for balance at the moment.

Doodle's Cats 14

I can’t decide which picture is my favourite!

Doodle's Cats 19

Indy News

Unfortunately it’s sad news, everyone.

Gren’s aggression to Indy has been escalating in the past week, not de-escalating, and we brought in an experienced dog handler, Lynn Hyndman of Dogs in Harmony (thanks for the recommendation Danger K) to see if anything could be done.

Unfortunately, what she saw only confirmed the growing suspicion I’ve had in the past couple days that things were not going to get any better – that in fact they were simply going to get much, much worse.

Gren is an anxious dog, always has been. With our limited knowledge we tried to mitigate it as best we could over the past four years. We thought that getting him a companion would be a welcome distraction for him and help to calm him down a bit. Instead, the opposite happened. And if we let it continue it would only lead to a dangerous safety situation for Indy with damaging psychological effects in the future, and would make Gren even weirder than he already is.

So yesterday the Pie and I drove Indy away and gave him back to the breeders, who promised to find him a good home where he’ll get the training and affection he needs.

I am by no means an advocate of giving up on pets for the sake of convenience – that’s why animal shelters worldwide are over-capacity. The Pie and I were willing to do whatever it took to make sure we had two happy and healthy dogs. In this particular case it means that we had to give one to someone else and embark on a rigorous rehabilitation program for the other in order for that to happen.

Lynn will be working with us for the next while to help combat Gren’s near constant level of anxiety in the hopes that we can make him a more chill and happier dog who maybe one day will be able to welcome a new dog into the home. Maybe.

So we are not giving up, though it sure feels like it right now. We hope Indy finds a great home somewhere and grows up happy and healthy and we already miss him so very much.

Flower Easter Eggs

Update on the Indy Sitch

So it’s been almost two weeks since we picked Indy up and brought him home.

2015-03-26 14.23.33

Things are going more or less as expected. When Gren was a puppy I tried to crate train him and it did not go well. Neither of us slept for six months. For Indy we went with the pen approach and it seems to be working so that’s a relief. Puppies can usually go without peeing for as many hours as they are months old. Indy is currently ahead of the game at three hours against his two months of age, so we set our alarms every night and all four of us troop down to go outside in the wee small hours of the night. But then afterwards, Indy goes back to sleep and we can get a bit of rest ourselves.

2015-04-01 19.40.58

Thankfully, Indy, like Gren, is a routine-based animal. We get up at 5:30 AM, go outside, have breakfast, get exercise and playtime, and then he passes out at 8:00 AM, which is when the Pie starts work (he works from home full time). Indy will then sleep until noon, when he will get up, go outside, have lunch, get exercise and playtime and then he passes out until around 4:00 PM, and now that I’m back at the office I’ll be arriving home around 4:45 so that works out pretty well.

2015-04-01 19.35.23

Gren is starting to calm down a bit. Originally, we were letting them play until they got annoyed with each other, because we were relying on Gren to teach Indy boundaries. However, this has led to some scary incidents where Gren goes all snarly with his teeth, and while he hasn’t hurt Indy in any way, we’re not used to seeing it from our cuddly bunny of a dog and it’s a little disturbing. The problem is that Gren weighs forty pounds and is almost four and a half years old. Indy is barely past two months and weighs about six and a half pounds. So when they’re playing, Indy tends to get squashed a bit more than he likes, and because he’s naturally more dominant than Gren, he gets annoyed. So when Indy is annoyed (which seems to be often), he starts growling and barking and going after Gren’s face. Eventually Gren can’t tolerate this anymore and he snaps and goes into scary mode. Gren, my beautiful momma’s boy of a sook, has even growled and snapped at me from the stress and that’s no good. Then we have to go through the rigmarole of calming them both down and separating them, which neither likes.

2015-04-01 19.45.38

Last week we were separating them by gating Indy into the kitchen, which gave him room to move around but separated him from the hub of activity in the house, which is the living room. It also made Gren anxious because Indy was too far away and plus the kitchen is where the magic happens.

IMG_20150325_082710

So we got a new, taller pen, similar to the one in our bedroom, and we moved the dining room table and set it up in the living room. Now Gren and Indy can be near each other but not in each other’s space and I think both of them really like that.

2015-04-02 08.12.28

IMG_20150331_201026

We’ve started to incorporate walks into Indy’s routine, as he’s surprisingly adept with leash walking. The Pie will take him around the block a couple times while Gren and I go for a longer walk, and then we meet up at the end and go around the block a couple of times together. Not only does the walk tire each dog out but walking together gives them an opportunity to be together while doing an activity that doesn’t involve eating or playing.

Indy Sitch

We are also trying to teach them that when they are together they don’t HAVE to be playing all the time. They can just be enjoying pets and cuddles or playing with their toys separately. We have separate toys for Gren and Indy, to avoid any jealousy on that front as well. Gren has never been particularly territorial about his toys before, but usually he shares them with dogs who then go away again. If Indy takes his toys here and we let him it makes Gren feel like he’s being replaced and he doesn’t like it.

2015-04-01 19.39.56

Every time we encounter a setback, like Indy has an accident in the house (at least he does it in the same spot every time) or Gren snaps at Indy and we have to pull them apart, we have to remind ourselves to stay calm and remember that it’s only been a short while. These things take time, and the progress we have made in this short an amount of time has been very impressive. So things are going well, I think. Stay tuned!

Indy Sitch

Introducing our New Little Ball of Chaos to our Older Bigger Ball of Chaos

Indy's First Weekend
You may have seen this on my instagram feed.

Some big news: last weekend the Pie and I went on a little drive and came back with THIS furry friend. His name is Indiana Jones (named after my idol) and he’s 8 weeks old – well, almost 9 by the time you read this.

Indy's First Weekend

We got him as a companion to Gren, who can be rather jealous of the attention that I give to other small animals and babies. So the plan was to get him a friend to keep him distracted and to divert the amount of spoiling he gets so that we can start thinking about maybe having kids without dealing with the angst of a 40lb furbaby.

Indy's First Weekend

But that’s a way in the distance. This baby corgi is enough to deal with at the moment and needs some training. And he needs to establish a relationship with Gren. I did a lot of research before bringing Indy into the house and I will present here a few tips and tricks I learned from doing my research and from trying it out on the two fiends, interspersed with pretty puppy pictures. Make sure to do your own research when getting a puppy, including whether a puppy is even really suited to your home life and activities.

Indy's First Weekend

Plan it out: you’re going to need to set up some things when Puppy comes home, and one of those things is going to need to be some kind of crate or pen for Puppy to go into when Dog has had enough of its shenanigans and you don’t want Dog to EAT Puppy.

Prepping for Puppy 18
Puppy penitentiary. The rug has a rubber backing to prevent accidents from seeping through to the carpet. So far Indy has been mostly accident-free.

And if you have a super neurotic dog who is really into his routine like I do, you are going to want to set up the pen a little in advance, just so he can get used to it being there. I moved things around in increments for a few weeks leading up to Indy’s arrival so Gren wouldn’t freak out about too much change at once. One day I set up the pen, and another I rearranged the kitchen to allow for a second set of doggie dishes.

Prepping for Puppy 7

You also want Dog to sleep on a couple blankets in advance, to get the puppy familiar with his scent. This is a good thing to bring with you when you pick Puppy up so he’ll have advance notice of what he’s getting himself into. Not a bad thing to chuck into Puppy’s bed, either.

Prepping for Puppy 14
Gren obliged when asked to shed his dog hair all over a blanket for Indy.

When you go to pick up Puppy, leave Dog at home. You have enough to deal with. Take Dog for a really really good walk before you leave so he’s nice and calm and tuckered out for when you come back.

Prepping for Puppy 17
Something is definitely up.

Meet and greet: the first introduction between Puppy and Dog is very important because you need to let them establish their own hierarchy without any issues. You may think that Dog will be the boss because he’s oldest and has been there the longest but that might not be the case. And it’s not up to you to figure that out – this is the job of Dog and Puppy to figure it out on their own. Your job is to make it as easy as possible.

When you arrive home with Puppy, don’t go inside. Put Puppy on a leash (even if he’s not really all that leash-trained at the moment) and take him down the block or to the park. Have a friend or family member get Dog, put him on a leash, and meet you at the park. This is neutral territory.

Prepping for Puppy 16
Gren is highly suspicious.

DO NOT. Just DON’T introduce Puppy to dog by holding Puppy and bringing him close to Dog. This puts Puppy on a different physical level than Dog and can make them both very uncomfortable as Puppy will feel vulnerable not being in control of getting away if necessary and Dog will feel that you have elevated Puppy to a different status.

Make sure both Puppy and Dog are firmly on the ground when they meet for the first time. Keep hold of both their leashes so you can pull them apart if necessary, but don’t pick Puppy up if you can at all avoid it.

Prepping for Puppy 15
The sheer size difference between the two means we have to be extra careful.

Now that they’ve had a chance to sniff, take them for a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long one (Puppy will likely not have the stamina of Dog nor the leash training). This will just give them a chance to get used to each other still on neutral territory but also in doing a normal daily activity.

Bringing home baby: when it’s time to come home, make sure that Dog gets to go through the door first, before Puppy. This reinforces to Dog that you are aware of his place in the household and you are not replacing him with Puppy.

Prepping for Puppy 13

In the house, you can take Dog off the leash and let him go and do whatever it is that he wants to. Chances are he’s going to follow you around because Puppy is a new thing. Keep Puppy on the leash and slowly walk Puppy from room to room, letting him sniff around a bit but not letting him go everywhere. Keeping him on the leash establishes boundaries for Puppy, so that he knows that this is your house, not his, and that he can’t just go anywhere he wants and pee on anything he wants.

Prepping for Puppy 12
As you can see from his nose, Gren was never far behind in this tour.

Still on leash, walk Puppy to his water bowl (for the first bit, keep food and water bowls separate between Dog and Puppy to avoid fights), and show him places that he can pee (like the backyard or puppy pee pads).  Show him the place where he will be sleeping and introduce him to his toys.

Prepping for Puppy 11

Once you’ve done the tour, you can take Puppy off leash and see what he will do in the territory that you have allowed.

Prepping for Puppy 10

Keep an eye on Dog to make sure he’s not getting too stressed out by Puppy. If he starts panting and his eyes go wide he’s getting anxious. If he starts growling and showing his teeth to Puppy you should put Puppy away in his place for now.

Indy's First Weekend
Because Gren doesn’t have a tail and his ears always stick up, you have to be really good at reading his facial expressions. He pretty much never smiles, and usually only does so when he’s stressed out. So this is a stressed face for him.

A little bit of tension is expected and allowed if Dog is to establish a relationship with Puppy, but you don’t want full-scale hostility that could damage either animal in the long term. You know your Dog enough to know when he’s had enough and you need to respect his boundaries in that way by putting Puppy away for a while until they’re both calm again.

Prepping for Puppy 4
Another stressed face. He got upset when Indy cried from his pen.

In the days to come: don’t under any circumstances leave Dog and Puppy alone together for several weeks, until their relationship is firmly established. If you aren’t there to break up potential fights then who knows what might happen? Keep Puppy in a separate area from Dog when you are not around to supervise.

Prepping for Puppy 9
Dogs in motion are hard to capture in photography.

Show some respectremember that Dog was there first and until Puppy arrived he thought he was the only one in the world for you. When this fuzzy interloper comes around and everyone falls all over themselves to smoosh him, Dog can feel jealous, and like he’s being replaced. This can result in tension and aggression towards Puppy. So until they sort their stuff out, make sure to give Dog preference in all things. If you’re petting Puppy and Dog comes up and pushes Puppy out of the way so he can get petted, listen to Dog.

Prepping for Puppy 3

Give him the attention he needs to show him that you haven’t forsaken him. Keep letting him eat first, go through doors first, whatever needs to be done, until the two of them figure out who goes where in the family hierarchy.

Indy's First Weekend

We’ve got an uneasy truce after the first few days. Gren is constantly checking to see where Indy is, and he gets worried when Indy cries. But he also doesn’t like it when we pick Indy up to bring him up and down our stairs (small corgis are not allowed to jump until they get a bit bigger), and after 7PM he turns into a grumpy old man who wants nothing to do with the pup he was playing with just a moment before and will snap at him if he gets too close.

Indy's First Weekend

It’s a work in progress, but progress is being made!

Indy's First Weekend
Most expensive foot warmers ever.