Refresh Your Shelf

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So this isn’t really a how-to, more of a what-I-did-when-quarantined kind of thing. This little shelf used to belong to my mother as a child. I think her dad or her grandfather built it for her. It used to be white, and she painted it red some time before I was born. Then it was mine for a long time (well it’s still mine). When the Pie and I moved in together I painted it black because it needed a new coat and that was what I had on hand. Since I painted it, it’s always been in my kitchen. I always keep my oils and vinegars on the top shelf, and the other spaces serve whatever needs they serve at any given time, no matter what the kitchen it’s in.

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But it needed a new coat of paint (a lighter one, I thought), and Gen. Zod has developed a weird tendency to bite chunks out of my cork trivets when he comes over so I wanted to make them a little less accessible to tiny sticky hands.

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So. You may remember that I told you that while I was quarantined I made little wire baskets for stuff. Well, I also made BIG wire baskets.

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I custom sized them to fit each shelf (because it’s handmade, each shelf is at a totally different height). They ended up being bigger than the mesh I had so I had to put three sides together first and then attach a back as a separate piece.

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Which involved a tremendous amount of wire winding. My hands were quite tired and sore the next day.

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I made the baskets so they were a snug fit into the shelf so that they couldn’t be pulled out easily.

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All the baskets complete. But that’s not all I’m gonna do.

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The shelf is in dire need of a re-do. Years of glass bottles filled with oils and vinegars have stripped away some of the paint on the top. And in order to get paint to stick to that it’s going to need a serious cleaning.

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So a scrubbing was in order. If you don’t get all that oil gone it will come up through the paint. Like magic. Really annoying magic.

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While it dried I quickly spray-painted all the baskets I made.

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I’d previously been using the Krylon ColorMaster and Indoor/Outdoor because someone recommended it for use on plastic and metal. I’d always had a bit of difficulty with adhesion but I thought I was just doing it wrong or something. But when I was looking for green spray paint I found this Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch stuff that goes on like a double coat AND LET ME TELL YOU IT’S AMAZING.

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So amazing that for the shelf I bought it in a white primer, gloss coat, and sealant.

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The shelf needed a good sanding down from top to bottom. This is the bottom. The underside of that bottom shelf was never painted. Then I clearly forgot to spray the second-from-bottom shelf.

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Gren watched through the garage door.

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All sanded. Then it needed another good cleaning. As did I. I was covered in black paint dust.

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Shelf all painted.

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And in situ.

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And with the basketry in place.

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The General is going to have a hard time eating my trivets now.

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A Quick Patch

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This cute corgi is here to lure you into reading this non-pretty post.

We’ve covered the patching of small holes on Ali Does It before, but this one’s a bit of a doozy. When we moved in to the Tower we discovered that the previous tenants had built a shelf in the garage that attached to the wall. It was huge, and it stuck out so far that our teeny tiny car would not fit inside the garage. So we had to take it out. The previous tenants had built this shelf, however, with more enthusiasm than carpentry knowledge, and the 4″ decking screws they had used everywhere were all stripped and nearly impossible to remove. Finally we had to yank the shelf out of the wall and twist it to be able to saw through the last one, and that’s why we have this giant big hole.  It was the only way.

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Now keep in mind that this hole is about the size of my outstretched hand, and that’s about as big as I would go when fixing using this technique. Anything larger and you’re probably better off replacing the drywall instead so you don’t weaken the structure.

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Not to fret, though, because we can fix it easily.

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First you need to clean it up. Get rid of all the little bits and pieces that are sticking out and smooth everything down. Use a knife.

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Add a bit of crumpled newspaper as back fill (this is really only necessary on big holes). Pack it in there nice and firm so it doesn’t want to come back out again. It’s going to give you something to push against when you’re laying on the spackle.

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Then you use this nifty adhesive mesh tape to cover over the hole and give yourself a surface to work with.

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Mine wasn’t very adhesive as it’s pretty old so I had to use strips that were a little longer so I had more traction.

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Then you grab your trusty spackle and a putty knife.

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I love that this stuff is pink when wet and dries white. I love it.

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Now when you’re patching a big hole like this you want to start from the edges so the tape is well and truly stuck down.

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Don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first go-round – if you press too much on the mesh you’ll just push all your spackle through the holes and that’s not very good. Let that dry for a while.

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All ready for round two. It’s so pretty.

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Lightly sand off all the little protuberances. I like a sanding block for this because it’s easier to hold but you can use sandpaper.

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Now more spackle. Don’t be as generous as last time.

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Try to get the layers on as thinly as possible but still covering up the imperfections. If this were my living room wall I would be more careful but as it’s the garage I’m not too concerned if it’s perfect or not.

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These little lines can be easily sanded off when it’s dry.

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Now you just need to wait!

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I’m not going to leave you with a picture of dried plaster to end this boringly-photographed post, so you get a picture of a happy Gren instead.

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Camouflaging the Freezer

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I inherited this freezer from Mrs. Nice. The one that the Pie and I bought when we moved to St. John’s we gave to Krystopf and Atlas for storing food for Gen. Zod, and then we didn’t have one anymore and Mrs. Nice didn’t need this one so we got it. She’d been using it as a work table of sorts in the garage, however, and so the top of it is a little marred, to say the least.

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So I got this coloured Con-Tact Paper and decided to cover it over.

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First I cleaned the surface of the freezer thoroughly. If you were feeling super adventurous you could cover the whole freezer but I was mostly just concerned with covering up the rust marks so I just did the very top.

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Then I cut the first piece to overlap the lid of the freezer just a little bit at the back and pulled off the first part of the backing. When you’re dealing with a big sheet of adhesive vinyl you only want to pull off a little bit of the backing at a time.

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Then you can easily smooth out all the bubbles as you work.

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Now if I’d been more clever I would have gotten some kind of Con-Tact paper that could overlap better but again, this is a freezer in my basement so I’m not super concerned about the ends matching up.

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It’s simple to score the paper with scissors to trim it at the ends.

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Tada. I’m not looking at the icky bits any more, and I’ve been meaning to do this for EVER. I wish I’d done it to our old rusty fridge in St. John’s so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.

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Cheapo Chandelier

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When this little DIY popped up in my Feedly from Hammer and Heels, a light went on over my head (literally).  We suffer from boob lights in our house (they’re the cheapest lights contractors can buy in bulk), and because we rent I can’t change too many things. This is a great solution to temporarily dress up what’s otherwise a super stupid-looking lighting system.

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You need a coconut hanging basket-type thing. You don’t need the coconut part, just the wire basket. So any wire basket thing you like will do. I found these at Dollarama for $3 each.

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This basket doesn’t have the swoopy elegance of the Hammer and Heels version but I kind of like the industrial nature of it. Plus it was THREE BUCKS.

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And you need some beaded string or wire or something on a string that is pretty and light looks pretty going through it. I found this stuff for decorating wedding bouquets on Amazon for $30. It took a while to get here from China but it was cheap and that’s what counts in this case.

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So remove the coconut lining and the hanging mechanisms from the baskets (if they have them). Save the bits for something else. You never know when stuff like this will come in handy.

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I sprayed two of the baskets (I had four) silver with spray paint. Just one coat did a pretty decent job. Then I ran out of silver and painted the other two gold (and then I didn’t end up making the other two chandeliers … yet. I might just turn them back into hanging baskets, who knows?).

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Once those were dry I could begin. I used a dab of hot glue on the low setting (so it wouldn’t melt my string) to secure the ends onto the basket. Then I wrapped the string around all the little junctions, going all over the basket, making sure that most of the beads and stuff were on the underside of the basket so you could see them better.

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I worked with 10-foot lengths of string to make it easier to manipulate it around all the little twists and turns.

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I just went kind of random after I got a good base of string down, switching directions to fill various gaps as I saw fit. I ended up using 40 feet of string on each chandelier, and I think it was just enough and not too much.

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Now to put it up. This is how it will disguise the boob. But I don’t want anything that will be permanent or will damage the ceiling or fixture.

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Solution: paper clips!

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They’re just narrow enough to slide snugly between the ceiling and the fixture.

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And they clip easily onto my basket, which is not very heavy (do remember that if you’re using a heavy basket, do not attach it directly to the light fixture – anchor it more securely or bad things will happen).

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The first one I used like SEVEN paperclips to stick it up and I needn’t have bothered.

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This one I just used four and it’s totally fine. And you really don’t notice the paper clips unless you’re looking for them. If it bothers you that they look like paper clips, then just bend them into a different shape!

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To me it looks like a dew-covered spiderweb over a chain link fence and I like it a whole lot. The pictures don’t really do it justice, unfortunately.

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Estimated total cost of each chandelier: NINE DOLLARS (Basket: $3; 40ft Beaded String: $6; Spray Paint, Hot Glue, Paper Clips: on hand, and in minimal amounts).

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Humidifying – without a humidifier

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I don’t know what winter is like where you live (if, in fact, it IS winter where you live), but here in the Ottawa Valley winter is cold. Very cold. And very, very dry. It’s not uncommon to spontaneously bleed from the nose as you battle a searing headache and croak for more water through parched lips. And that’s not even an extreme case. In our house, the Pie’s sinuses dry up and cause him to snore. My asthma acts up, meaning I cough and wheeze all the time, and, because we have wall-to-wall carpeting, Gren has been avoiding us because we static shock him every time we pet him. It’s no fun.

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We have a humidifier in our bedroom, and it helps a whole bunch. We did our research and got the one that worked the best for the money we wanted to pay and we’re very happy with our choice (remember, kids: always do your research when buying an appliance). I also picked up a travel-sized humidifier for the various hotel rooms I seem to be finding myself in these days (and Winnipeg is even colder and dryer than Ottawa, and I’m in it as we speak).

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But sometimes you don’t want to buy a humidifier. Sometimes you can’t afford one (the ones that won’t give you Legionnaires’ Disease or fester with black mould tend to run a bit expensive). Sometimes your dormitory has ruled them out (usually for mould reasons). Or maybe you just need to give a bit of extra oomph to the humidifier you have. Here are seven quick-and-dirty tips to help you humidify your home the old-fashioned way.

1. Shower with the door open.

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Yeah, so this won’t work if you have roommates or small children or larger children or children at all. But if you don’t, skip turning on the exhaust fan and get things all good and steamy.

2. Get more house plants.

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So plants, when they’re done with all the nutrients and stuff in the water they suck up through their roots, basically sweat out water vapour through their leaves. It’s called transpiration. And sweaty plants make for a more humid environment.

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3. Skip the dryer.

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When you’re doing laundry, hang your clothes to dry inside the house in a warm spot. As the clothes dry the water on them will evaporate into the air in your house, making it more moist. MOIST. Plus you save on energy costs.

4. Spritzy-spritzy.

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Grab a spray bottle of water and gently – GENTLY – spritz your curtains with a little bit of water. You don’t want them soaked or anything, but a little misting on them will produce the same effect as wet laundry – without putting your skivvies in the middle of the living room.

5. Set out bowls.

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Place shallow dishes of water on sunny windowsills or on top of heating vents and the water will evaporate as it warms. Make them pretty crystal vases and you’ll add to the decor of your home. Add a floating bloom or some pretty pebbles. Granted, if you have small children or pets, leaving a bowl of water on the floor in your kitchen is asking for trouble, so be warned.

6. Wet a towel.

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Run a small dish towel under your tap and then wring it out thoroughly. Lay it over a heating vent (make sure the fabric isn’t so thick that it blocks the warm air completely) and let the heat percolate through and humidify the air as the towel dries. Again, probably not a good idea with small children. This is why we can’t have nice things.

7. Cook!

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When in doubt, cook. Whip up a batch of chilli or soup, anything on the stovetop that will get hot and steamy. I like to make a giant pot of tea, and when the kettle whistles and I’ve poured my pot and turned off the burner, I put the kettle back on the cooling element to let it steam itself out.

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You could also try a “simmer,” which is super trendy right now. Set a saucepan full of water on your stove and heat it to a low simmer. Toss in some whole spices: bay leaves, cardamom pods, star anise, cinnamon, and allspice; or rosemary, citrus zest, and lavender – or some combination thereof – and let that sit there simmering and scenting your house while it steams it up. Just keep an eye on the pot and add more water occasionally so it doesn’t all boil away.

Fun with BLEACH

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Well, that’s certainly a title that’ll get your attention, eh? This is a quick and easy way to personalize cotton t-shirts just the way you like them – it’s not screenprinting, but the results are just as satisfactory and the whole process is way faster. Plus it’s something that even kids can do (if you trust them to use bleach). And I’m going to show you two ways to do it.

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First, you need some spray bottles that produce a fine mist (the squirty ones won’t do you any good here), and some bleach. Make a solution of about half bleach and half water (or maybe 3/4 bleach and 1/4 water if you trust yourself) and pour that in the bottle.

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Now you need a cotton (or mostly cotton) t-shirt in a dark or bright, saturated colour (you can use pastel colours but the results won’t be as contrasty). Wash and dry the shirt to remove any sizing from the manufacturer that may interfere with the bleach.

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Grab yourself some adhesive vinyl or Con-Tact paper.

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Cut your vinyl into the desired shape you want. You can either use the shapes to mask off an area that you will bleach around, or the vinyl can act as a shield to the rest of the shirt and only your design will be bleachy – that’s up to you.

Make sure to press the vinyl firmly into the fabric of the shirt.

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Slide some waxed paper or plastic inside the shirt to prevent the bleach from leaking through to the other side.

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Spray your design lightly and evenly with bleach.

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Just a light misting.

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Use a rag to dab away any beads of bleach that might drip onto your shirt (unless you want them to drip).

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Wait a few minutes and then carefully peel off your vinyl.

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Watch as the design emerges. When you get the right level of bleachiness that you like, rinse the shirt under cold water to stop the bleach process. Then chuck the shirt in the wash and run it through a cycle with soap to get out all the bleach.

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When your shirt is dry, you will be the coolest person out there.

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Another method, if you don’t have adhesive vinyl on hand is to use paper stencils and a glue stick. So you just cut out your design and slather it with glue from the glue stick. Make sure to go right to the edge.

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Flatten it firmly on your shirt.

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Spritz on your bleach, dab, and remove the paper before it gets too saturated with liquid (because that will soak through). Don’t worry if there’s a bit of paper left – that will come off in the wash. On this design (Serenity!), we added a few extra drops of bleach here and there to make it look like the ship was traveling through a nebula in space.

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Tada.

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On this shirt we did a similar negative image with a Rebel Alliance symbol from Star Wars, and then on the back we did the Galactic Empire symbol, so good on the front and evil on the back!

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Here we did a positive image, where the paper served as a shield for the rest of the shirt. You may recognize the Autobots symbol from Transformers.

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Another positive image, this one of a stylized Joker’s face from the Dark Knight film series.

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Because the pupils were hard to glue in place I used a fabric marker to add them back in. The shininess will go away the first time the shirt is washed.

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On this design the stencil I used was too thin and the bleach soaked around the edges. Not to worry!

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I simply used some more fabric markers to trace the proper outline and I really like the finished result.

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Fast Fix Friday: Weatherstripping

Happy New Year!

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If you haven’t already, why don’t you add frugality and environmental responsibility to your list of New Year’s resolutions? I actually did this back in November, but didn’t have a chance to post it until today – and that’s crazy because the whole project took me a whopping ten minutes to complete. And it’s going to save me some serious money on my heating bills. You see that white line in the picture below? That’s daylight showing in from under my front door. Yup. There’s a gap there of about half an inch, right next to a heating vent in my entryway. YIKES.

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So I bought me some weatherstripping. The nice man at Home Depot told me that this stuff worked well for wooden and metal doors (mine is aluminum), and that it was quick to install. And folks, he wasn’t lying.

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All you need for this quick job are a measuring tape, a Phillips head screwdriver (the weatherstripping comes with its own screws), a drill and small bit for pre-drilling holes, and a pair of scissors. That’s it. Nothing fancy, save perhaps for the drill. But you could probably improvise holes with a hammer and nail if necessary.

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Step one: measure the width of your door.

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Step two: cut the vinyl weatherstripping down to size with your scissors. It wasn’t even hard.

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Step three: open your door and slide the strip onto the bottom, with the holes facing the inside. This is when I discovered that my door came with pre-drilled holes … on the OUTSIDE. They didn’t match up anyway.

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Step four: close the door to make sure it actually closes. Adjust the vinyl so it fits where you want it.

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Step five: use the small bit to pre-drill holes in appropriate places, starting in the middle of the vinyl. Screw in your included screw. Keep going outward until you’re all done. Don’t you love the hideous printed fake marble tiles I have? Lovely. I cover them with mats.

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This is it all done.

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And from the outside. I will not be singing Auld Lang Syne to those drafts, let me tell you!

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Wondrous Wallpaper Wednesday

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I want this wallpaper.

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The Pie’s grandparents put it up in their front entryway when they built their home in the early 1950s.  I only  noticed it after we moved everything out and displaced the bookshelf that had been in front of it for as long as I’ve been around.

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Now the house is sold and the Pie’s grandmother doesn’t remember where it’s from.

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So today marks the beginning of my quest to find, if not a replica of this stuff, then something remarkably similar.  If you guys have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

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Bulletin Board Beautification

I think I’ve had this bulletin board for twenty-five years, and someone else had it before me.  It’s held up pretty well, I think, but its age is starting to show.

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There are certainly a large number of holes in it.

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It’s not even made of cork: it’s like burlap and some sponge-y/fibre-y stuff.

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And there are weird scraps of whatnot on the frame.

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But why buy a new one when I can make this one new again?

I had this pretty fabric stuffed in my crafty closet.  It’s actually a stretch cotton, which will help me to get it very tightly attached to the bulletin board.

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I cut it to vaguely fit the size of the board.

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Then I pulled out these metal staples with a pair of needle-nosed pliers.  So I’m left with the frame and the board.

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I stretched the fabric across the board and used a staple gun to fasten the fabric into place.  You could probably use a hot glue gun as well.

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Then I quickly sanded down the frame with fine sandpaper and removed the hanging hardware temporarily. I painted it with this cute metallic teal craft paint.

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I reattached the hanging hardware to the top of the frame, and then fit the board back into place with glue.  It’s a tighter squeeze with the fabric covering it.

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Tada!  I’m glad I didn’t have to replace something that was still functional, and that I could add a personal touch to my office organization!

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It’s hard for me to be artistic in arranging a bulletin board to appeal to the tastes of the internet, and really there’s only so much you can do with license plate renewals, energy cost charts, and a pair of scissors.  Though I did dress it up with a super cute pic of me and Cait that I found while I was looking for something else.  So that’s something.

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Work in Progress: My To-Do List

My house is still chaos.  Or at least it was on Tuesday when I took most of these photos.  By Wednesday it was thinking about being less chaotic, but then I unpacked some more boxes and we were back to nearly square one.  There is so much stuff that has been in storage for so long that once I unpack it from one box it goes directly into another for donation to the second-hand store.

We have a growing list stuck to the fridge of things that need to be acquired: garden hose nozzle. Pantry. Sink plug.  And another of grocery staples that I neglected to pick up that I always forget we need until I remember we don’t have any: oats.  Lemons.  Baking soda.

There’s another list, though this one is just a mental one at the moment: stuff that needs doing around the house.  Some of it is crucial and unglamourous, like deodorizing our carpets (the previous owners, it appears, had a stinky dog.  I’m so glad that Gren is not a stinky dog).  The more interesting ones, things that might turn into blog posts in the near future, I’ll share with you today.

Many of them involve chaos sorting.  This is our living room on Tuesday morning.  On Wednesday it was in a totally different configuration.  My beloved coffee table is too big for the space and has been put in storage for the moment. Two couches are too cumbersome for the narrow room but they’re all we’ve got at the moment, so until we can afford some chairs we’re stuck.

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I need to figure out my bedroom closet situation.  Everything that needs to be hung up is hung up, but we have no dressers for putting things away like sweaters and shirts.  So that’s something to think on.

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The kitchen chaos is ongoing.  I think I’m really going to like cooking here once I get my life sorted out.

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The main issue is that there are three main cupboards and they all look like this one, disappearing into black holes that are completely useless to me.  So that’s going to take some thinking, too.

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My office closet is going to be a major undertaking.  I have a whole closet (!) for all my crafty crap.  So now I have to figure out where all that nonsense is going to go.

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Once everything is sorted out, I have to figure out some currently nonexistent storage solutions.  Like how to fit a few pairs of shoes tidily at the bottom of the stairs. I also need to make a sheer curtain for that window.

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And where to put all our china.  The Pie and I both came into our cohabitation with a set of heirloom china and a sterling silver tea set.  EACH.  Currently it’s in our basement basement, but I want to show it off, because it’s pretty.  And if I am showing it off then I might use it once in a while. It’s been in storage for SEVEN YEARS. I think it’s time we cracked it open.

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I need a small and unobtrusive way to handle recycling on our main floor.  The big recycling boxes are in the basement, but I need some transitional system to keep in the kitchen or at the top of the stairs.

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We need to get a new pantry/food storage system.  Our idea was to keep most of our food in our basement, next to the freezer.  This means that when we unload groceries through the garage, the non-perishables and things-to-be-frozen can stay there and save us having to lug them all upstairs.  While I’m at it, I’d like to paint the freezer, too.  It’s been in a garage for a while and it’s a mite rusty.

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The house needs some TLC as well.  Our garage door has a lovely electronic opener which is really handy, but it’s the LOUDEST thing in existence, and with dogs and small children on either side of us, we’d rather not disturb our neighbours.  My dad swears by this stuff so I’m going to give it a try.

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The trim around the door and the garage door need to be repainted.  Our landlord was going to do it before we moved in but it was so cold and rainy that she couldn’t.  I volunteered, and am just waiting for a nicer day to get started.

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Our outside light also needs a thorough going-over.

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Especially when you compare it to the condition of our neighbours’.  Makes me feel bad.

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The backyard needs to be re-seeded with new grass.  It’s still pretty spongy with water from our recent rains, though, so I’m holding off for drier weather.

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And I need to start my window boxes, with my containers of fresh herbs.  I’m quite excited about that.

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This is the space between our front steps and the garage door.  Most people on the street have done something ornamental to hide the pipes.  I’m going to do SOMETHING here. Just haven’t figured out what.

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Similarly, I have these six glass vases that are apparently leftover from my wedding, five years ago.  I’m not sure what to do with them, either.  Any ideas are appreciated.

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And then there are a number of things that just need to be re-surfaced.  This couch, as you know, is the bane of my existence, and that tired slipcover has needed a replacement for AGES.  You can still get the covers for this KLEPPAN sofa (IKEA) off eBay, so the Pie and I are going to get a white one and dye it an appropriate colour … once we figure out what that colour is.

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These IKEA lamps are also the bane of my existence because the paper shades collect dust like nobody’s business and they rip when you so much as breathe on them.

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I’m going to replace them all with pretty fabric instead.

To-Do List 19

We have eight of these STEFAN chairs (oh IKEA again) and these are staying in the kitchen to go around a teeny tiny table that The Traveler is passing on to us.  We’re going to decoupage them with comic books.  The Pie is super excited about this.

To-Do List 20

These shelves,

To-Do List 4

and these shelves,

To-Do List 11

and these shelves all need a new coat of paint.

To-Do List 12

This used to be the cabinet holding the Pie’s video games but I have now stolen it and made it into my spice cabinet.  It needs a pick-me-up coat of paint and a little sumpin’-sumpin’, too.

To-Do List 10

And these were our bedside tables for forever, but since we ditched our box spring they have become way too tall to be useful to us.  So I’m going to tack a piece of wood onto the top and turn them into a wee pretty vanity table for all my girlie crap.  I’m excited about this.

To-Do List 1

I’m sure there’s more.  But that’s all my brain can handle at the moment.  And I’m sure that’s all you wanted to read about, too.