A Wee Vacation: Part Two

By drawing this out into two posts I’m hoping you kind of feel like you’re traveling along with us. Plus it gives me time to recover from my rest and relaxation enough to come up with some new content for you!

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After our day in Niagara we headed south across the border to Cooperstown, which is about four hours away. It’s a beautiful drive on the back roads, especially with the fall colours shining in the sun. The weather was totally amazing the whole time we were there, about 22°C most days, so all the sweaters I packed went unworn.

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Cooperstown was founded by American literary great James Fenimore Cooper‘s dad and is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s chock full of beautiful old buildings and colonial houses and everything is pretty as a picture.

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Great food can be had here.

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It sits on the shores of Otsego Lake, otherwise known as Glimmerglass for its smooth surface and high reflectivity. There’s an opera house and a state park by that name in the neighbourhood.

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We stayed at the absolutely delightful Landmark Inn, right downtown in Cooperstown and loved every minute of being pampered by the staff there. The Pie adored all the baseball touches around the place like baseball checkers, a hat from every team in the front hall, and I loved the peanuts and Cracker Jack on offer  on the front hall table. I highly recommend staying there – they even have wheelchair accessible rooms and will make any accommodations they can to any of your dietary restrictions.

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Landmark Inn, built 1906

If you’re into baseball memorabilia, then this is your mecca. Every store is full-to-bursting with signed baseball cards, photos, bats … you name it. The Pie and I are much more into picking up locally crafted artisanal items when we travel so we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of that in Cooperstown itself (or even a bookstore for the literary travelers), but it was still fun.

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One thing we really did appreciate about Cooperstown was that everything was locally made and sourced. All the restaurants served products that were raised locally, or beverages distilled locally (there are a ton of breweries and distilleries around). At the Inn we were treated daily to hot apple cider from the Fly Creek Cider Mill, just a few miles out of town, so we had to go and check it out for ourselves.

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The Pie thinks the sign is inaccurate. I think he’s just shrinking in his old age.

We liked it so much we went back again the next day. The place is a giant store of goodies, each one with a little sample plate so you can taste before you buy (booze too). And they had ducks you could feed!

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These ones looked like Donald Trump.

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This duck looks better than Donald Trump.

We also found an epic antiques place in Milford called Wood Bull, which is a giant barn converted to be a repository of absolutely everything you can think of. I only took the one picture but if you watch the intro video in the link above you’ll get an idea of how insane this place is. It seemed like absolute chaos until you walked around a corner and found a room that had been perfectly curated to contain only tin trucks from the early 20th century, or only Fiestaware. Or a room entirely filled with white objects only.

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I almost bought my dad this tin pig but it was a bit pricey for my taste. Plus apparently he already has a tin pig.

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So if you’re looking for a relaxing place to putter and appreciate the beautiful scenery, you’ll want to check this little gem out!

A Wee Vacation

I’m cheating here. The Pie and I spent last week on vacation and I spent most of the weekend cleaning the house and visiting family and doing laundry so I don’t have a good DIY for you today. Instead, you get some photos of my trip. After spending the weekend with Chel in Toronto (more photos of my costume up on her site tomorrow), we spent a day in Niagara Falls before heading across the border to waste away the rest of the week in Cooperstown, NY. We had a fantastic and relaxing time, and here are a few of the things we did while we were gone.

Going on vacation in the off-season is great because there are fewer crowds and everything is cheaper. This is especially handy in Niagara Falls, where everything is a tourist attraction. We managed to skip most of the crowds, stay within a ten minute walk of the Falls, and see a few of the fall colours while we were at it.

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The town of Niagara Falls has many casinos and lots of touristy stuff in it, things the Pie and I tend to avoid, but if you’ve never been, you should definitely go take a peek at one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This is the “American side” of the Falls. In the winter the water freezes in great stalagmites on the rocks and it’s lit up at night.

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And this is the “Canadian side.” From this distance I was actually a little disappointed that they weren’t bigger.

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But then we got closer and I realized how big it really is, and how much water is pouring over the side at a crazy fast speed.

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If you’re not into the super touristy stuff, I would recommend visiting the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture and visiting the botanical gardens there, which are breathtaking.

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They have some absolutely stunning old knobbly trees.

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And a butterfly conservancy! I took so many pictures but here are a few:

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That’s Niagara, in the nutshell that we saw. I’ll do another post on Wednesday about Cooperstown because I really don’t want to not do it justice – it’s a great place!

My Adventures in Small Town USA

I’ve been traveling so much recently that I haven’t had a whole lot of time for making stuff around the house – I have no idea how I’m going to make Christmas presents this year … Anyway, two weeks ago, I went to Indiana for the first time. This time around, I didn’t get to spend any time in the capital city of Indianapolis, so hopefully I’ll get to go back sometime because I hear it’s nice. They certainly like their cars.

Just on the edge of the American Midwest and right on the cusp of the central/eastern time zone border, Indiana is flat, temperate, and quite pretty. The town I was staying in, Carmel, is a suburb of Indianapolis and is pretty much dead center in the middle of the state. The reason I stayed in Carmel is because the town I was working in, Sheridan, is too small to contain a hotel.

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Wikipedia says the population of Sheridan is nearly 3000, but when I was there it felt a lot closer to 300. It also felt like a movie set; being one of those quintessentially American small towns you see all over the silver screen.

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#smalltownusa

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I had to drive into the town every morning from the suburbs on tiny narrow roads with no shoulder to pull over and corn fields as far as you can see … except that it was so foggy in the mornings that I couldn’t see much past the first row of corn … and I had to take each road at 55mph so I wasn’t really looking … I would have liked to have stopped and taken a picture because it was so delightfully eerie, but safety wouldn’t allow it. In Sheridan, the movie set simply changed from horror film in the morning to all-American rom-com in the afternoon.

Sheridan’s an old town, and it’s full of some absolutely beautiful architecture:

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I got to work in an old bank for the week, and they kept the old vaults in place (“for locking up bad workers” they joked).

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And I was told that two years’ previous, there had been another beautiful old building just across the street, but that it had caught fire and actually collapsed into the building where I was working.

They were still fixing the brick work while I was there, which meant that no matter where I parked my white rental in the morning, by the afternoon it was a nice rosy pink.

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Carmel is a bit bigger, a little more quaint, and wayyyy more organized. I think it has the highest density of traffic circles (roundabouts for you non-Americans) in the US. I certainly went through about twenty of them every morning on my way to work. It’s a highly planned city and also highly suburbanized, so everything is very clean. Even the drainage ditches are pretty.

There are some interesting things about Carmel, specifically the Arts & Design District, which was where I stayed:

There’s a portion of sidewalk that was clearly laid during the fall because it’s full of leaf impressions like this one.

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Bushes in abandoned parking lots blast country music in the dark. I’m not even kidding.

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The place is ever-expanding with more and more beautifully laid out and completely identical developments.

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There’s the world’s smallest children’s art museum.

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And a museum of doll houses (which was never open when I was free).

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And an absolutely delightful collection of odd and whimsical characters dotting the main street.

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Oh pardon me …

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If you happen to be somewhere around Hamilton County any time soon, pop in and say hi for me.

So I went to Atlanta in August

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Part of my job entails traveling around Canada and the United States to teach people how to use the custom software we make. I’m usually gone at least one week a month, sometimes two. Most of the time I end up in Toronto, for some reason (and other than hanging out with my squishee Chel I’m not a huge fan of the city). Or I end up in places that would be nice if I weren’t there at that particular time. Like when I went to Winnipeg. In February.

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Or Atlanta, in August. If you follow me on instagram you may have seen a daily photo diary I posted while I was there, but I thought I’d fill you in a bit more on the trip. If I’m traveling more, then I can’t be cooking and crafting so you’ll just have to get me as tour guide instead sometimes. 20150819_081822 Anyway, I went to Atlanta in the last week of August. I thought about posting this back then but I got busy and you know how stuff like this happens …

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If you’re not used to southern American climates, I wouldn’t recommend going to Atlanta in August. Every day I was there, it was 100% humidity with lows of about 29°C and highs of 35°C. I spent much of my day sweating while traveling between air-conditioned locations. And every night it rained. Like, FLOODED. I had to learn how to un-soak my shoes with my hotel hairdryer. Every night.

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But Atlanta (at least, the downtown area where I stayed), is a very interesting city. To give you a bit of background, all the architecture within the central city limits is all new. Atlanta, a railroad town, was invaded during the American Civil War in 1864 and they burned down EVERYTHING. So Atlantans don’t have a huge attachment to historical architecture, and the modernistic style that has taken over much of the downtown core makes me feel a little bit like I’m walking through some dystopian film set. I was working in the Capital Hill area so most of the buildings I passed every day looked like this.

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Atlanta 2015

I would hang out with Jimmy Carter in the mornings and check my email before going to work.

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I never notice all the big grandstanding touristy things. The stuff I notice when I travel is all little. Like this tiny mosaic embedded in a sidewalk.

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And the fact that all the shrubbery is holly. ALL OF IT. I’m used to just seeing this stuff at Christmas.

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This 9/11 tribute really struck me.

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I went to the Georgia Aquarium as well. I did think that some of the tanks looked a little small for the size and amount of animals in them, but the displays were cool.

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AND THEY HAVE WHALE SHARKS.

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You can also go behind the scenes and see how everything is maintained.

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When I left the aquarium it was absolutely pouring rain. Of course.

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I also visited the Coca-Cola Museum, which is neat. Coke was born in Atlanta, and you can learn all about the history of it in the place. You also get to sample Coke products from all over the world.

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And the gift shop is a little nuts.

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Of course when I left it was pouring rain. If you’re planning to do more than one touristy thing in Atlanta (I would have but I ran out of time), then I would recommend getting a CityPass. These attractions are expensive and this will save you a bit of cash.

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I also popped into Twin Smokers BBQ and had the absolute best bourbon milkshake of my life. I highly recommend. Plus they give you a carousel of the barbecue sauces of your choice.

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Everyone was so nice. I gave directions to another lady visiting the city (thank you Google Maps) and dinner recommendations to a Floridian tourist. At one point I was walking down the sketchy part of Peachtree on my way to work and I stopped to answer a text message. One of the habitants of the street asked me if I was okay and if I needed help, simply because I’d stopped walking. Even the rampant homeless population was nothing but cordial.

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Thanks for a great visit Atlanta!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

I do not know this Instant Gram of which you speak.

I did it. I did the thing. Trav and Chel have been harassing me independently for a while to do the whole social media photo-majig and finally when I was last in Toronto with Chel I let her browbeat me into signing up.

And so.

Now you can follow me in this instantly-gramming extravaganza. Both allythebell and alidoesit were taken. So I’m now alidoesit.herself.

But it doesn’t matter. I’m on there. Follow me and things. You can see the link in the sidebar to your left.

This is the first picture I posted:

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Jelly

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Yet another gel transfer. But different.

There’s a story behind this one. My dad, in his office, has a massive collection of pictures of various RCN ships he was involved with, ships’ crests, together with some sketches my grandfather did during the war. It’s a very nautical room. For his birthday yesterday, I wanted to give him another nautical trinket, using that nifty new technique I learned of gel transfers … but on wood.

The two most important ships in his history (that I can remember at least) are the HMCS Miramichi, which was his first command, and the HMCS Regina, which he commissioned as Executive Officer and which was the last ship he was on before we moved to Ottawa and he eventually retired.

In debating which ship to use, I was having trouble finding a good one of the Miramichi. It’s no longer at sea so there aren’t too many shots of it on the internet (if you do a Google image search you come up with only a handful of pictures of the exact Miramichi – 163 – I’m looking for). Except perhaps this one, which looked really familiar to me:

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You see those two people standing in the foreground? That’s my mother on the left, and the short one is me. I have my hands behind my back because I used to like to stand like a weirdo, and my mother is taking a picture with her camera, which is why her elbows are up. There weren’t many other little girls living on that particular base at that particular time, so it is definitely me and my mum. Whenever my dad went off to sea we would go down to Duntze Head (which is where those cannons are) to wave goodbye. When he came back, and he sailed past our house (yes, I was that lucky), he would have someone signal us in gibberish Morse code. It became a sort of tradition.

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So anyway, because I’m actually IN that photo, that’s the one I have to use, naturally. It’s not a terribly high-quality shot – taken before digital photography became really popular, this was clearly developed from film and then scanned on some terrible early digital-era scanner (I am that old), so when you blow it up it doesn’t look perfect. But the nice thing about these gel transfers is that the lack of detail actually improves the result. So I cropped it to fit on my work surface, boosted the contrast, and desaturated it. Remember when you do this to print the image with a laser printer or photocopier, as inkjet images are too heavily sunk into too many layers of the paper to work properly. Also remember to print it in reverse!

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My supplies: 8″ x 10″ artists’ board canvas ($3 at Dollarama, bonus!); reversed laser printout on regular printer paper; sponge brush, gel medium, and a squeegee.

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We’ve done this twice before. You’ve probably got it down pat. But I’ll do it for you again, just so you can be confident. Use the sponge brush to smooth a generous amount of gel medium evenly across the surface of the board. Pay close attention to the edges, as they will tend to accumulate less medium (though it enhances the effect in the end if you aren’t looking for perfection).

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Make sure there aren’t too many big brush marks on the surface. These are fine; you just don’t want huge peaks and valleys of the stuff.

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Use your squeegee to flatten the image face-down on top of the gel medium. Set that sucker aside to dry for a couple hours.

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To rest for readiness, peel up one of the corners a bit and see how much toner stayed stuck to the surface. If it’s all still stuck to the paper, you either didn’t use enough gel medium, you used the wrong type of printout, or it’s not dry yet.

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Spray the surface of the board with water and let it sink into the paper.

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Use your fingers or a soft cloth to rub off the bits of wet paper. You will likely have to let it dry and wet-rub it again a couple times before you get all the white paper off that you want.

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Finally the surface was as smooth as I could get it.

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The yellowish tint of the wood underneath added an antique cast to the picture that I quite liked, despite the pixellated nature of the shot.

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I painted the sides of the board frame a mixed turquoise with craft paint, then sprayed the whole thing once with a satin-finish sealant.

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It doesn’t suit my gray walls but I think it will look great on my dad’s wall!

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Happy Hallowe’en!

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We’re excited to spend our first Hallowe’en in our new place – there are tons of kids everywhere, so we went all out. They’re predicting rain for today so I’ve only put up half of our decorations for now. We can’t wait to have our own house with a big front yard that we can fill with all kinds of spooky spectacles.

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I have some red lights to put in the chest cavity of Skully, our skeleton.

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I’m especially pleased with the pumpkin this year – I got a ghost pumpkin, the white kind, and made it into the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the evil villain from Ghostbusters, one of my favourite movies of all time.

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And my fall leaf wreath is seasonally fitting as it decays.

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Our Hallowe’en party isn’t until tomorrow, but the Pie STILL doesn’t have his costume ready (TSK!). I’m going as a gorgon, as the party is monster themed. Because I have short hair, I made a hat of snakes to look like my actual hair. I used Model Magic because it’s flexible and lightweight. I named myself Zola, so I could introduce myself as the Gorgon Zola (like the cheese! Get it? GET IT?)

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This is WAYYYY less itchy than that horrid beard I wore last year (though I did win best costume because Wolverine is awesome).

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Have a safe and happy Hallowe’en!

Mysterious Mushrooms

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Two days after we came back from our week in NYC, I pulled aside the back of the curtain hanging at our balcony door and discovered a giant pile of orange dust. Everywhere.

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A MUSHROOM was growing on the inside track of my balcony door.

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And I looked outside and there was its twin, growing happily between two of the boards on the deck.

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Inside mushroom, outside mushroom.

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I hazmatted up and sprayed everything inside and out with bleach, which turned the orange spores pitch black. Gross. I took down the curtains, too, and washed them with vinegar.

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Post bleach inside.

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Post bleach outside.

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The thing is, the day before we left, we finally had eavestroughing installed on our roof, which meant that now we didn’t have water pouring at a million pounds per second onto the planking of our (now rotting) deck. So because it was now protected, I figure it gave the fungus a chance to show itself. I’m less clear on how it got INSIDE the house, though I suspect the seal on the door isn’t that great, seeing as I’m forever cleaning up water spots on the interior of the one downstairs.

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Just in case this ends up being alien spawn or the portent of the next apocalypse-bringing plague, let the record show that I’m keeping the mushrooms in a Ziploc bag in my garage in case the CDC or NASA needs them later.

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Ali Does NYC – On the Cheap

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Today is the tenth anniversary of the Pie’s and my first date. What did we do on that date? Well, we ended up going for a walk. A really long one. And that’s kind of what has characterized the past decade together: we get places, on foot, and we like it that way. We lived for five years in Newfoundland with no car, so really it was our only option for a long time. When we travel, which we do occasionally, we prefer to get around the places we visit on our own steam.

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To be honest, we make terrible tourists. We avoid the flashy souvenir meccas and the ideal place to take that perfect selfie. Mostly, we just wander around and make snide comments to each other about the weird people (usually other tourists) that we see. On the plus side, this ends up saving us a bunch of money that we can then spend on eating local food. Which is a much better experience, for us, than enduring a crowd to purchase some tchotchke item.

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So when we went to visit my brother and his family in New York City in the first week of September, we did it our way (*Sinatra reference, sorry). We calculated that the most cost efficient and shortest travel distance was to drive from Ottawa to Syracuse (crossing the Canada/USA border at Hill Island), then take the Amtrak Empire Service route from Syracuse to Penn Station in NYC. Long term parking at the Syracuse train station is $7 a day so it was only $49 total for a week. Had we driven all the way to Manhattan, our parking costs would have been more like $60-$75 a DAY. The Empire Service route is really pretty because it follows the Hudson River all the way down to pretty much where it empties into the ocean. You pass all sorts of pretty little towns, amazingly constructed bridges, odd empty lighthouses along the river, and even a ruined castle.

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Ando’s family currently lives in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and about a block away one of their friends runs an Airbnb, so we got to stay at her place for free and it was extra convenient. It’s a good example of those studio apartments for which NYC is famous, and we were so grateful that our lovely new friend let us stay there.

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We also got a little snippet view out the window of the East River.

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And if you go that extra distance this is the whole of the East River.

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The block and a half walk from where we were staying to my brother’s place is the classic picture of what you expect in New York, with assorted brownstone buildings, dripping air conditioners, and wrought-iron railings.

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One of the first things we did upon our arrival in the city was purchase a 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard, which cost us $30 each and meant we could travel as much as we wanted on any bus or train in the city. And it was probably the smartest money we spent on that whole trip, because we used public transit ALL THE TIME (when we weren’t hoofing it, that is). New York City is a big place with a crapload of boroughs and it takes a long time to get anywhere. Fortunately the New York Metro Transit Authority (MTA) is really easy to figure out and we had the subway system pretty much down pat after about a day.

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If you’re a baseball fan, then New York is a great place to be, because they have TWO professional teams in the city. Of course, if you want Yankees tickets you’ll have to donate a kidney to afford good seats, but if you’re a diehard supporter of the much-less-successful New York Mets, then being a fan is a little less hard on your wallet (because they’re terrible so seats are cheap). Teedz got the Pie tickets for his birthday, so Teedz, Ando, Tego, the Pie, and myself all trooped off to Queens to see what all the fuss was about.

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We sat in foul ball territory in the blazing sun, enjoying Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and ice cold lemonade. It must’ve been at least 35°C/95°F in those seats. We all got extremely tanned, and that was just the beginning of the hottest week that NYC had experienced all year. I spent much of the game watching the clouds pass overhead and wishing a few of them would stick around and prevent me from being burned to a crisp.

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Just as the Mets game was ending (and after they had, surprisingly, and despite several huge errors, actually WON the game), the skies opened up and it poured rain. There was much thunder and lightning as well.

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All of the fans taking public transport hid out under the nearby highway, with NYPD officers yelling at those who attempted to jaywalk. We were soon joined by fans of the US Open, which was going on right next door. Teedz and Tego made many jokes about how this was a good opening for Sharknado 3.

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Finally our bus came and we took a short ride to Flushing, which is just one train stop over from CitiField and the last one on that particular line. Flushing is basically a giant Chinatown and we grabbed twelve crabs for only $12 and took the train back to Manhattan to eat our spoils. The 77th Street subway stop kind of became our home away from home for the next week, as we ended up here all the time.

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Labour Day Monday dawned hot and sticky, so we elected for a beach day at Coney Island. On the subway through Brooklyn I caught a nice glimpse of Manhattan from the other side, complete with Brooklyn Bridge. You can see the tiny Statue of Liberty just to the left of the large part of the Bridge in the centre of the photo.

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Coney Island was totally nuts.

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But I got a decent picture of the Pie as he hid his pale redhead skin under the umbrella.

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The carnies are now gone but the remnants of the olden times still remain. Even the people fishing off the pier have been doing so for decades.

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Plus these kites were pretty nifty.

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We left the beach just as the thunder was rolling in and decided in a fit of grownup bravery to ride the Cyclone ($9 each with free bag check), a wooden roller coaster built in 1927. Teedz was a good sport and went along with it even though she’s terrified of these things. The Pie and I sat in the very front car, and it was truly terrifying to approach those apexes and not be able to see the rest of the track in front of you. I may have a few additional gray hairs after that adventure.

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The Tuesday we were in Manhattan was the hottest day the city had reported in well over a year. It was humid as could be and well into the 40s Celsius (over 100 Fahrenheit). And this is the day that the Pie and I chose to trudge all over Manhattan. Because that’s how we roll. Fortunately, the middle of Central Park was not too far away from where we were staying, so we started there.

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It was cool to look at the iconic landmarks in the Park that often appear in movies.

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The Pie was particularly taken with the super nice baseball diamonds within the Park.

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From there we trudged down Broadway to Times Square. One thing I have learned about Manhattan is that if you want to find anything, the chances are really good that you will find it on Broadway. Everything is on Broadway. It’s a very long street.

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Anyway, Times Square was nuts. We went into the three-storey M&M store but didn’t buy anything because we don’t like M&Ms.

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Nuts.

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Naked Cowboy!

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Buzz Lightyear, some reporter, Mickey Mouse, and Spider-Man!

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This Minnie Mouse accosted me asking for a hug after I took this picture. I may have run away.

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Even the NYPD gets their share of neon lights in Times Square.

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As we continued to trudge we ducked into Bryant Park for free WiFi and a chance to sit in the shade for a few minutes. It also gave us a view of the Empire State Building, which you can see from pretty much everywhere.

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In Bryant Park you can sign up to play ping pong on your lunch hour for free.

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We didn’t intend to see all those famous and important buildings on purpose, but as we trudged along Broadway, we ran into them all. The New York Public Library (FROM GHOSTBUSTERS MY FAVOURITE). We ducked in here as well for air conditioning and WiFi. It’s lovely.

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Its iconic lion statues.

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The Chrysler Building. Because it’s my favourite.

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The Flatiron Building. Very skinny.

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After this we were completely exhausted and looking for a way out. Fortunately the 14th Street Union Square station will pretty much take you anywhere you want to go.

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On the Wednesday we decided to visit the 9/11 Memorial. As we approached the area, we were blinded by the light reflecting off the new World Trade Center tower. Say what you will about American imperialism and capitalism and all that, but this building was like a giant middle finger aimed at those who would dare to crush the American spirit. It was quite brilliant.

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The memorial itself is absolutely beautiful. The museum was too crowded for us that day, so we walked between the footprints of the two buildings and read the names etched into the borders. Volunteers at the memorial place white roses on top of the names of those who would be celebrating birthdays on a particular day, which is sweet.

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This may be one of our favourite spots in the city, because despite the crowds and the heat it felt so tranquil.

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We filled our water bottles at a fountain on the grounds. The water tasted like freedom (or was just really good considering how hot it was).

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That night the Pie went to a Street Fighter thing in Brooklyn so Teedz and Tego and I went out to dinner with an acquaintance of mine from long ago. We had some delightful and affordable Indian food in Murray Hill, affectionately nicknamed Curry Hill for its abundance of Indian cuisine.

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On the way back we got to see the Chrysler Building at night.

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And the UN, though they take all the flags down at dusk. Boo.

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As the days progressed and the Pie and I got more and more tired, we went less far in our travels. On the Thursday we hit up the High Line, an old subway track turned into pedestrian path. It was very crowded and pretty touristy (and I had to shove aside a few European tourists who were shoving me right back to get through) but it was nice to see the city from a different angle.

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I really like the odd mix of new and old.

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From there we wandered through the Meatpacking District and looked at all the fancy things in stores we couldn’t afford. Of course the Empire State Building was waving at us.

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And the Chrysler Building.

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I took a picture of this window as we walked past the central post office, just because I liked the metalwork. After I did, a million tourists behind us stopped and stared up at the window and snapped pictures, trying to figure out what was so important about it.

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We ended up at Grand Central Station. We’d been through the underground part of it countless times at this point, but we wanted to see the rest of it. It was definitely one of our favourite spots.

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Just like the 9/11 Memorial, this place was a busy hub of activity, but it also gave you such a sense of space that you can’t really get elsewhere in the city, and that made it peaceful.

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Friday we mostly just ran around with Ando and Teedz. We went to the Chelsea Market which was kind of neat, but again pretty touristy. Krystopf and his family were stopping through NYC on their way to Europe, so we got to spend the evening with them and we managed to capture one of the few photos of myself and my brothers all in the same room that wasn’t taken at a wedding. We are all dorks. But we’re dorks as a family, and that’s what matters.

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The next time we go we will probably go in the winter, so we’ll skate at Rockefeller Center and go to all the crazy toy stores and do all those sorts of things. I’ll keep you posted!