Best of Friends.

Okay, so the thing I made for the Pie’s birthday, remember that? Well if it wasn’t quite your style, maybe this one, using the same technique, will be more to your liking.

Cait’s dog, Ruby, is very sweet, but, being a dachshund, she doesn’t really get along with most other dogs.  When Cait became  mom to an anxious golden retriever named Cooper, we all held our breath to see what would happen.  It turns out we needn’t have worried.  Ruby enjoys having a big brother to boss around and take care of, and Cooper’s anxiety is so much less with a constant companion. I took this super cute photo of the two of them at a cottage last summer (for the microsecond they actually sat still).  They are the best of friends.

Cottage Life

Now, Cait’s birthday is only four days after the Pie’s, so, working on the success of the Pie’s gel transfer painting, I decided to do something along the same lines.  I messed this up before I got it right, so I’ll show you what I did.

First, I had to alter the photo to make it fit on the 16″ x 20″ canvas, and change the colours a bit in the photo to make sure both dogs stood out.  It’s hard when you have a dog with a black face and another  with an almost white face to make sure they both show up.  So I put a vintage filter on the photo, put a light vignette at the edges, and boosted the contrast a little.  These things tend to work better with high-contrast pictures.  Then I flipped it horizontally so it would come out facing the right way.

*RoobyCooper - FINAL

I had the picture printed out at Staples, and because it was so big it came out on their high gloss poster paper. My first mistake.

Best Friends 2

Best Friends 3

I couldn’t find my sponge brush, so I just used a regular plastic bristle paint brush to smear on the gloss gel medium.  My second mistake.

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Then I used my squeegee to smooth the photo face-down onto the gel medium-ed canvas.  The centre of the canvas was pretty flexible, so I should have put something underneath to support it as I pushed around on top.  My third mistake.

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You’re supposed to leave it to dry overnight, but after an hour I could see that the thing wasn’t working.  The poster paper was too thick to conform to the huge grooves in the gel medium left by my paintbrush, and there were giant streaks everywhere.  Because there was no support in the centre of the picture when I pushed down with the squeegee, there were whole spaces where the medium hadn’t adhered at all to the photo.

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Part of Ruby’s face was completely missing.

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No worries.  I can fix this.  I scraped off the parts of the gel medium that were still wet and left the thing to dry completely.  Then I covered the thing completely in a few coats of antique white craft paint.

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It left a bit of a texture, but nothing that couldn’t be smoothed over with a new batch of medium and some careful application.

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To get the picture printed on thinner paper (the regular 25lb stuff that comes out of photocopiers), I had to split the photo in half, so each part measured 10″ x 16″ and would fit nicely on a tabloid (11″ x 17″) piece of paper. You need a photocopier or laser printer for this job, as the ink in an inkjet goes through too many layers of the paper and will not work.

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Here I am trimming the white edges off the paper.  My paper cutter is really nice, but it isn’t big enough to do the long edge of the 17″ sheet.  I managed, but it was dicey.

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This time I put some books under the centre of the canvas to hold it up.

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I used a sponge brush AND the squeegee to get the medium evenly across the whole thing.

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I did my best to line up the photos as closely as I could, though it wasn’t perfect.  I was very careful with the squeegee when pressing it down not to press too hard in any one area.  I examined it minutely for bubbles and pushed out any that I found.  Then I left it the hell alone overnight.

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The next day I had roofers come to fix our leak so I hid out in the kitchen while chaos reigned.

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I used my handy spray bottle full of water to wet the paper.

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Then I began to rub off the wet layers of paper.  I used just my fingers, because I didn’t want to rub too hard on the dogs’ faces and accidentally remove the colour.

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I ended up wetting it and rubbing it at least three times before I was happy with how much white paper I took off.

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It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s supposed to be, so it looks good with the vintage cast of the photo.

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Even the dividing line turned out mostly okay.

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Because there is a big chunk of empty deck space in the centre of the photo, I wanted to put in Ruby and Cooper’s initials, to make it extra cute.

I freehanded the letters onto some card stock.

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I then painted the card stock.  With glitter craft paint.  Just to be ridiculous.

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When those were dry I glued them to the canvas with Mod Podge and left that overnight.

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I then painted it with two coats of gloss polyurethane to seal it.

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And added picture hanging hardware, same way I did for the Pie’s present. So shiny …

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And there it is!

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Animal Magnetism

Animal Magnetism 4

By now I’m sure you’re familiar with my odd addiction to rare earth magnets.  I just love how STRONG they are.  These I made up for Rusty’s babymama and I think that both she and baby-to-come will enjoy them.

I had a handful of small plastic animal figurines I’d picked up in a bag from a thrift store.  I sprayed half of them silver and half of them gold with spray paint.

Animal Magnetism 1

Then I laid them out and used GOOP to affix the rare earth magnets to the animals.

Animal Magnetism 2

I lined a small box with scrap book paper …

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And then used tiny pieces of tape to stick the dried magnets to it.

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The dinosaurs are my favourite.

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Though I do love how the magnet is stuck to this gorilla’s butt.  It makes me giggle.

Animal Magnetism 7

For the Birds: Edible Holiday Ornaments

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For the Birds 13

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying the winter holiday season, whichever tradition you celebrate.

Today we’re going to celebrate by feeding our backyard birds.  Both the Pie’s parents and my parents are supremely fond of the feathered creatures that appear outside their windows, so we thought we’d make them a little holiday treat, courtesy of Design Sponge.

First, I’d like to show you a little behind the scenes shot of my office during my Christmas gift-making chaos.  I made these on a tiny patch of floor I’d cleared specifically for the purpose.  It’s amazing what you can hide in a close-up shot …

For the Birds 1

Aaaand the closeup.  You will need these things: waxed paper, a spoon, a giant bowl, a tablespoon measure, corn syrup, flour,

For the Birds 2

and a honking hunk of birdseed.

For the Birds 3

Plop 2 cups bird seed in your bowl with 3/4 cup all purpose flour (we doubled our recipe, hence the enormous amount pictured).

For the Birds 4

Give that a stir, then drop in 3 tablespoons corn syrup and 1/2 cup water.  Stir that up too.  It’s gross.

For the Birds 5

Prepare your moulds.  You can use cookie cutters on top of waxed paper, but I used these cake moulds I picked up at the Superstore.  If your surfaces are non-stick, that’s cool, but if not you might want to spritz them with a bit of cooking spray first.

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Spoon your sticky birdseed into your moulds and pack it down with a spoon.

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I had extra (obviously), so I made little pucks of bird seed in a muffin tin as well.

For the Birds 7

Use a paint brush or straw or pencil to wiggle a hole at the top of each of your bird seed packs. Don’t make it too close to the top of the ornament, as you’ll need enough dried birdseed there to support the weight of the thing.

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Let them dry overnight and then tip them out onto waxed paper.  If they’re still wet, leave them longer to dry or, if you’re in a hurry, bake them for an hour at the lowest temperature in your oven.

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See, it kind of looks like a Christmas ornament …

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I used butcher’s twine to string up my ornaments.

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Then I wrapped them up in waxed paper and tied them with string to give as gifts.

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For the bird lover in every family.

For the Birds 16

Grape Crate Pet Beds

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 12

We currently live in an Italian neighbourhood and in the fall a good many of our neighbours squished their own grapes to make wine.  The result was that there were plenty of these nice wooden crates at the curb when they were done.  I knew I HAD to have them, to make SOMETHING, but I didn’t know what, exactly, I was going to do with them.  Then my brother-in-law got a cat.  Then my brother got a cat.  Then my sister-in-law mentioned that she was going to get a cat.  And cats like boxes.  And these boxes are cat-sized.  So there you go.

Grape Crate Cat Beds 1

First I had to clean them off and scrape off the labels and sand them a bit.

Grape Crate Cat Beds 3

Grape Crate Cat Beds 5

The sides of the crates were made from particle board, so I didn’t sand too much, naturally.

Grape Crate Cat Beds 4

I did wonder how the porosity of the particle board would affect my ability to stain it.  I guess the only way to find out is to do it!

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I used a variety of stains for this, the dregs that were in the bottoms of cans from previous projects.  One was a gel stain, which I had never used before.

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You can see how dark it goes on.

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It almost covered up the ink on the sides of the crate, but came back through once I wiped off the excess.

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Here you can see the other two stains, which were more translucent.

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Wiping off the excess with a rag after painting it on.

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It came out darker depending on the roughness of the wood.

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And I forgot about the whole STAINING part of stain, and forgot to wear gloves.  Oops.

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Once they’d dried, I painted on a quick layer of varathane.

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Again, because I didn’t sand them too much, we weren’t looking at baby’s bottom smoothness here.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 1

The completed boxes.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 2

I bought three pillows, each 13″ x 20″, which nearly fit the inside of the boxes.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 4

Fortunately my mother has what amounts to a fabric store in her basement, so I had plenty of patterns to choose from for cushion covers.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 5

I made the cushion covers in the same fashion as I make all my other cushion covers: with the simple overlap in the back that eliminates the need for buttons or zippers, which are beyond my skill level.  I double-sewed all the seams because I wanted them to last through being removed for washing.  I got the whole thing done super quickly, too, because I was using my grandmother’s sewing machine, which has two settings: terrifyingly fast, and supersonic.  And I didn’t sew my thumb to anything, either, so I count that as a win.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 6

The cushions, stuffed inside the covers.

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And inside the box.  There’s a little gap on the sides, but once the pillows get squished down by the cats they’ll fill the whole space.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 9

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 13
I decided they were too tricky to wrap (and a waste of paper), so it’s more of a token wrapping job.

Grape Crate Cat Beds Final 14

Toothpaste for your Furbaby

Office Gren 2

We do our best to brush Gren’s teeth almost every day.  Granted, it’s a two-person operation: one person has to put the dog in a headlock and the other risks getting covered in paste and dog saliva on “scrubby duty,” but we do it because we love our little fiend.

I finally came to the end of the supply of dog toothpaste (vanilla flavoured, if you must know) that came with the latest doggy toothbrush (which I have since abandoned for a soft people toothbrush).  As I was about to go out and get some more, I chanced to look at the “all-natural” ingredients list.   Sorbitol?  I don’t even know what that is, but it’s the second ingredient.  And why does it need to be sweetened with stevia?  Since when do dogs need sugar?

Dog Toothpaste 1
I’ve since learned that tea tree oil should not be ingested. And after several reminders from you dear readers I edited the post, so although you see it in this picture I no longer use it in my recipe.

So I’m going to make my own.  And there’s a ton of recipes on the internet.  Many of them require you to use glycerin, which I guess is the sticky-togethery ingredient that actually makes the paste into a pasty substance.  But that sounds like a pain in the ass, so I’m going to go with a version that uses coconut oil instead (used in small quantities coconut oil is beneficial to your pet’s health), and modify it a wee bit.

Dog Toothpaste 2

Start with a bouillon cube, and dissolve that in 1 tablespoon water.  Or, in my case, use this gel-like one instead.  This is mostly for flavour, so use something your dog will like.  Gren has issues with chicken and beef so I would use pork or vegetable.

Dog Toothpaste 3

Add in 2 tablespoons baking soda (a deodorizing abrasive), and 1 teaspoon cinnamon (a fragrant abrasive).

Dog Toothpaste 4

I also ground up about 1 teaspoon dried parsley (for fresh breath) and added a pinch of ground cloves (an anti-parasitic).

Dog Toothpaste 5

Looks tasty!  Actually it didn’t smell as awful as I thought it might: just like vegetable soup with too much cinnamon added.  Not bad in the end.

Dog Toothpaste 7

Then you need to work in about 1/2 cup coconut oil.  If you have trouble mixing everything up you can soften the oil or melt it, but you want it to be solid in the end.

Dog Toothpaste 8

You can store this mixture at room temperature in a sealed container for several weeks.  Brush often!

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Many sites actually recommend using your finger and a clean washcloth instead of a toothbrush for maximum efficacy, so we might try that at some point.  Fortunately, Gren seems to like the taste of this stuff better than what we were using before, so he struggles a lot less.

Dog Toothpaste 10

Immediately after we brush his teeth Grenadier goes and gets his Tricky Treat Ball, which we fill with the other half of his dinner.  Trundling around with the ball, he will snarf up the kibble that falls out of the hole, and in gulping it down he will produce more saliva to further aid in cleaning his teeth.  When he’s done he usually drinks a whole whack of water too, to wash everything down. And then he goes to sleep.

Lazy

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Treats

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This is the last pumpkin post, I swear.  We’re finally rid of it.  Fortunately, there is one member of our family who will never tire of pumpkin, and that is The Short and Spoiled One.

Experimenting with Animal Portrait Settings
Have we met?

This is a quick recipe that I put together with inspiration from Betty Crocker and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups brown rice flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  It occurs to me after the fact that you could also use a mixture of brown rice flour and quinoa flour, seeing as quinoa is the new superfood for dogs these days.  Very trendy of you.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 1

In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs with 1 3/4 cups (or 1 14 oz can) of pure pumpkin purée (not the pie filling) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (all natural, with no added salt or sugar, please).

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 2

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until a shaggy dough forms — you may need to use your hands.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 3

Sprinkle with more flour and stir that in if it’s still tacky.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 4

Take the dough and form it into a small ball with your palms.  Flatten it into a patty and place it on the baking sheet.  Angle your thumb sideways on one side of the cookie and press it into the dough.  Use the point of one of your fingers to make four indentations along the curve of your thumbprint.   So it looks like a wee paw print.  Cute, eh?

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 5

Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookie.  A finished cookie is crisp and dried out.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 9

Allow them to cool completely on a rack and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple weeks.  At room temperature in an airtight container they’ll keep for about a week.

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Gren obviously enjoyed testing them.  Here he is waiting for my okay.

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Scarfing down the first piece.

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Discovering the second.

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Scarfing that one too.

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Are there no more?

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Gren was nice enough to share with some of my coworkers’ dogs, and this was the review:

Photo credit: E. Wright

Corgi Fun Time

Porch Corgi

I don’t have a DIY post for you today.  But I think that corgis make every Friday a bit better.

Traveler has been a friend of ours for over a decade.  He went to high school with the Pie, and then I met him when I met Stef back in our first year of university in 2001.  And he’s probably wanted a dog since then.  But with school and work and his jet-setting lifestyle, having a pet wasn’t feasible.  Until now.

Signal Hill

Recently, Traveler began his search for a pet in earnest.  He was looking for an adult dog, so he could skip the puppy stage that would require him to be a helicopter parent.  And, having met Grenadier and fallen in love with him (because no one is immune to Gren’s charm — NO ONE), he wanted a corgi.  I put him in touch with the man who bred Gren, thinking that he might know a retired breeding bitch in need of a home.

It was serendipity, really.  The breeder wrote back that the one girl from Gren’s litter, Bahkita, was available.

The pups at 6 weeks. Bahkita is on the left, Gren is the big lug next to her. Photo by Ben Lobo.

Every dog in that litter had come out with huge ears (you’ve seen Gren’s, right?), and Bahkita’s were a little on the floppy side, so he couldn’t in good conscience breed her knowing her pups might not conform to the champion standard.  And as much as he would have liked to keep her, city by-laws prevented him from having more than three dogs at any given time, so she needed a home.

Surveillance
Gren’s ears at six months.

On the Friday night after I arrived in Ottawa last week, Traveler and I (and Gren) drove out to the breeder’s house for a meet and greet.  In-residence were Patty (Gren and Bahkita’s sire), Bahkita (Gren’s sister), and a three-month-old puppy.  Add Gren to the mix and there was a party in the making.  I apologize in advance for the blurriness of these photos.  It’s hard to take decent shots of animals who will not sit still.

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Ganging up on Gren.

It was shocking to see how large Gren had turned out.  We had always known he’d be big for a corgi, and at his last weigh-in at the vet’s he clocked in at 34.4lb, which is at the extreme high end of the corgi weight scale.  I had thought that Patty, his dad, would be the same size but I was so very wrong.

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This is Patty. He likes to climb people to get kisses.

All the other dogs present were pretty much half his size, with shorter coats and narrower shoulders.  Patty, whom I’d always thought was big, weighs about 26lb.  Bahkita weighs about 22lb.  These are normal ranges for Pembroke corgis.  Turns out I just have a gigantor corgi on my hands.

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Don’t be fooled by the puppy on the ground. She was in control the whole time.

Despite being the biggest in the bunch, Gren’s natural submissiveness meant that he was dominated at every turn, even by the puppy.  It was pretty cute to see him getting beaten up time and time again.  He needs a blow to his ego every once in a while, the spoiled jerk.

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More ganging up on Gren.

After playing like mad with three other dogs for an hour and a half, Gren came home and promptly fell asleep on my brother’s feet.

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And outright refused to get out of bed the next day.

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Traveler ended up taking Bahkita home on Saturday morning, and on Sunday night, after she’d had a chance to settle in and get to know her new family, Traveler brought her over for a short playtime with her big brother.  My pictures here are a little better, because they were both tired and therefore slower.

Bahkita and Friends

Bahkita and Friends
Already very attached to her new dad.

Bahkita and Friends

We look forward to having many more play dates like this in the future.  Stay tuned for Christmas when we will be featuring Corgis in the Snow!

The Empty Ocean Spray Bottle

Like a good little girl who suffers from frequent UTIs, I consume some form of cranberry juice on a daily basis.  In my experience, Ocean Spray has the right amount of cranberry goodness in their juice to make me feel all right.

Ocean Spray Bottle

As a result, I end up with a lot of empty Ocean Spray bottles.

So as a result of THAT, I recycle a lot of empty Ocean Spray bottles.

But you can do more than that.  The lovely squareness of the Ocean Spray bottle makes it a good fit for many things.

Currently, there is one, filled with water, inside the tank of my toilet.  It tricks my ancient toilet into thinking that it’s fuller sooner and so I don’t waste as much water every time I flush.

Ocean Spray Bottle

You can use them as  cooling packs as well.  Fill one about 2/3 full of water (because water expands when it freezes) and chuck it in the freezer.  Not only will it help you to keep your freezer full and thus working at peak efficiency (this is not a problem I have) but it will also make a handy cooler addition for picnics and camping.  The squareness of the bottle means it will fit anywhere, and as the water melts, it will keep your food fresh and provide a nice refreshing drink at the end.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Let’s not forget that you can re-use them for their original purpose, and put more juice, like the stuff you make from powder or concentrate, back in them.  They’re also a good way to store iced tea that you’ve brewed, or to flavour water.  I like to have an extra container of filtered water in the fridge for dinner parties, because we tend to get thirsty with all that talking and eating and my Brita pitcher just can’t keep up.

Ocean Spray Bottle

The squareness, again, lends itself to storage just as nicely.  Small pastas, like macaroni, or rice or any other small nodule-like dry good (jelly beans?), will be easy to find and compactly stored in your pantry — just make sure the bottle is fully dried out before you pour in your foodstuffs.

Ocean Spray Bottle

And if you want to get really creative, you can turn the empty bottle into a bird feeder to help out your avian friends over the winter.  Make it into a giant spare change holder.  Or  drum.  Or use it as a float (filled with air) or a weight (filled with sand) for keeping track of your dock moorings at the cottage.

Cut off the bottom and use the top as a funnel for birdseed, cat litter, sand … whatever you need to funnel.  Fill it with water and bury it in your garden to keep your tomatoes watered.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Use the square bottoms as drawer organizers that you can move around at your whimsy and fill with all your odds and ends.  Decorate them and keep them on your desk, in plain sight.  Make them hold pencils or buttons.

Ocean Spray Bottle

Many years ago I had a client who was a bit of a hoarder, and he had kept all his bottles, filled with water, and lining the shelves that ran near the ceiling in every room.  He was preparing for the apocalypse, I suppose.

That’s about all I can think of.  If you have any other uses, please feel free to add them in the comments section.  I would love to have more things to do with all my empty bottles!

Fast, Fun, Free “Fine” Art

This is probably the most awesome thing you can do with a printer in five minutes, for free.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Do you know what this is?  Probably not.  But don’t worry, you will soon figure it out.

I found out about this through Creature Comforts, and I loved it.

So you go to this site and you can use their online application, called The Rasterbator (gross, I know), or you can download it and use it on your computer.

Just follow their instructions to upload a photo of yours or to link to another photo on the internet.  Select the size you want and how you want to crop it, then get the program to rasterize the image.  Your computer will download a multi-page PDF document that you can then print out and assemble.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Of course the pages are in order, but they’re not as easy as you think to put together.  But you can figure it out.

Use a paper cutter or scissors to carefully cut out the excess border and then stick them all together.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Is this … ?

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Yes, it’s Grenadier!

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

I used this photo here:

Gren Learns to Swim

Now, it’s not a perfect job by any means — you can see the tape and the edges of the paper.  But for something this simple, it’s hella cool.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

And now it’s up in our kitchen, the only place with any free wall space.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

I can see these shellacked to a board for more permanence, or used as decoration at a party — the picture is the guest of honour, perhaps.  Or you could print one and give it, unassembled, to a friend for them to put together.  What a lovely surprise!

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Does your dog eat too fast?

Dog Eat Too Fast?

Gren, being a typical corgi, is a total food hound.  He’s obsessed with those two most important times in the day: breakfast and dinner.  Everything else is small potatoes in his little world.

Chicken and Poutine

When he was very small, before I taught him how to wait, I used to have to physically hold him back until I  had put his food on the floor.  Exhausted with his struggles, he would then eat sitting down.  Lazy bum.

Standing while eating is too hard.

Nowadays, he knows to lie down and wait until we give him the okay to start eating.  But when we do so, he leaps forward and swallows his food in less than thirty seconds.  I’m not sure if you can swallow 3/4 cup of kibble in thirty seconds, but he can.  And we really don’t think it’s very good for him.  I’m afraid he might get indigestion.

Luckily, he’s a pretty small dog, so we don’t need to worry too much about bloat or any of the other more serious medical conditions that can arise from eating too fast; nonetheless, the food we buy him is pretty expensive, so it would be nice if he savoured it a little before shoving it down his gullet.

Gluten-Free Dog Treats

There are solutions you can purchase for this problem.  There are food bowls with built-in obstacles that the dog has to work around to get to his food.  And you can also buy large stainless-steel balls that you can just plop on the food, which the dog then has to negotiate to get to his food.  Both of these options are fine, and they are proven to work.  But why spend the money when you might have the solution lying around your own house?

The Pie is huge into baseball, and has played both hardball and softball over the years, so we have a lot of spare balls lying around.  This softball is synthetic, so won’t degrade through exposure to doggy saliva.  It’s also too large for Gren to pick up in his mouth and remove from his bowl.  So he has to work around it, bringing his eating time up from 30 seconds to around 2-3 minutes, a marked improvement.  We just plop it on top of the kibble after we’ve measured it into the bowl.  It works great and it was free, whereas that stainless steel ball was $18 at PetSmart.

Dog Eat Too Fast?

Don’t have a ball?  Maybe try a can of corn or beans, or, in larger food bowls, several smaller cans, say, for tomato paste, all stuck in together.  Whatever works for you.

Dog Eat Too Fast?