Victorian-esque Hanging Mirror … from Toilet Paper Rolls

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Okay so I’m not really setting any trends these days when it comes to weird stuff I make that I find on the internet.  I must be getting old.  Or it might be that I seem to never be sitting in front of my computer anymore.  In any case, I made this thing, and you can see things like it all over the internet.  But this one is mine.  And I like it.  So the basic ingredients you need for this are toilet paper/paper towel rolls (how many?  MANY.), a mirror, and something to mount your mirror in.  In this case, I had a 10″ round mirror so I stuffed it in a 10″ embroidery hoop.   You’ll also need scissors and pencils and rulers and glue and paint and something to stick to the whole shebob so it hangs.  Sorry for the technical language.

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Geez, where to begin?  Okay, start with your paper rolls, which you have been assiduously collecting for a month or two.  Or three.

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Pull all the paper bits off them, of course. This is how many I had. I didn’t end up using them all, but I figured from the outset it would be useful to cut them all in case I needed them later.

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Then I measured the depth of my embroidery hoop, which was about 1/2″ inch.

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So then I cut all the paper rolls into 1/2″ segments, to match.

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Now, I discovered that the mirror didn’t fit in the embroidery hoop if the inner hoop was still in place …

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So I took it out and tightened the outer hoop and that was fine.

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I set the hoop (minus the mirror) on my work surface, and then started thinking about a plan. There are many different patterns you can make with those little paper cat’s eyes.

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But I figured the best way was to lay it out around the hoop and see what it looked like. This was one incarnation. I may do that one again sometime.

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Then it all started to come together. I had a design in mind similar to those overly ornate Victorian embellishments, so that’s kind of what came out.

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I figured I would freehand the rest. So then I started gluing, using a hot glue gun.

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But at the top, I had that screw to contend with.

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So with some poking of holes and cutting of slits and things I got it all worked out.

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Then you just kind of keep going.

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When I was satisfied with the number of pieces of paper I’d glued together, I tested out the size and weight. Remember that adding a glass mirror to your design will make it significantly heavier.

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Then I painted. I bought a craft spray paint that was supposedly designed specifically for wood and paper. It turned out to be a different colour than advertised, and it seemed to just get absorbed into the paper and wood, but that was fine. I finished it off with a spritz of glitter and some sealant and there it is.

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Back onto the work surface, face down.

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I set some erasers inside the hoop to hold the mirror at the height I wanted it.

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I bought this mirror from Value Village years ago and I think it was one of those display mirrors for crystal collections, so it already had this nice felt backing on it. I did two tracks of glue around the border and then extra-glued on a piece of hanging hardware.

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It’s cloudy today but you get the idea. I’m quite pleased with it.

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Doodle’s Felted Wool Afghan

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I feel kind of bad.  Here I am, third-place winner for Best Blog About Crafting and I haven’t put up a crafting post in an age.  Sorry about that.  But rest assured I’m working hard on two major projects.  They’re just the sort of long-term ones that don’t make for exciting blogging.

Two people who are very dear to me are getting married this summer.  My eldest brother, Krystopf, ties the knot in early July, and my high school best friend, Doodle, gets hitched in mid-June.  I am making both of their wedding presents, and both of them are blankets.

Doodle and her soon-to-be husband, The Cyclist, live in Portland, Oregon, a place with weather very similar to what it is here in St. John’s.  By that I mean, windy and rainy.  So an ideal present would be one that encourages cuddling and coziness, right?  And we know from previous experience that felted wool is the coziest of them all.

When we were in Ottawa over Christmas, the Pie and I scoured the local second-hand stores to acquire as many genuine lambswool, merino, and cashmere sweaters as we could, in a specific range of colours.  Doodle and I agreed on red, white, blue, and black, as sort of a combination of Canadian and American colours (and black goes with everything).  I wanted to do something a bit different with this blanket, and have the colours sort of blend into each other, rather than have a pattern of alternating coloured squares.  So it’s going to be a bit trickier than normal.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here you can see our initial haul (and Gren).  This is the colour scheme I am going with.  You can see that the main colours are represented at the corners, and then they blend through the other colours in the middle.  Like a square colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now, if you feel like undertaking a similar project, I just want to give you a heads-up first.  A lot of up-cycling and recycling projects are economical and a good way to save money.  This is not one of them.  A 100% wool or cashmere sweater, even second-hand, will run you between $9 and $14, depending on the quality and size, and for this project, we will be using approximately 25 sweaters.  So you can do the math there.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I felted all the sweaters while at my parents’ house (to take advantage of the fact that they were footing the power bill), and we mailed the sweaters back to ourselves in St. John’s.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Then I dismantled them.  I carefully cut out all the seams, so all the pieces of sweater lay flat.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

I’m saving the seams.  I think they would make good toy stuffing material.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Here are all the sweaters, officially laid out in their colour wheel.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

The sweater in the middle will serve as my keystone, if you will, and then I’ll use the rest of it to construct some baby toys for some wee ones I get to meet this summer.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

Now I have to start cutting out the pieces.  I want to do it more as a puzzle or interlocking oblongs than as simple squares, so I’m going to have to work out some ratios so that all the pieces will fit together nicely.  I will keep you posted.

Doodle's Felted Wool Afghan - Part 1

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!

Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles

Cutting Glass

This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago.  Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself.  Because that’s what I do.  I do it myself.  It’s kind of the point of this here blog.

The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program.  Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress.  What the city does not recycle, however, is glass.  I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is.  We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free.  As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass.  But some of that stuff sticks around.  I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet.  Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage.  And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.

Light Box Tests

So how can we re-use it some more?  You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around.  Their function is practical but limited.  So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.

I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.

Cutting Glass

This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies.  In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it.  But why mess with something that works so well, right?

Cutting Glass

You need some glass for this project.  Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you.  Bottles, jars.  You name it.  The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.

In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first.  This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well.  If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter.  It works really well, I promise.

Cutting Glass

So now I’m all set.  With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.

And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water.  I will show you both.

This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles.  As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.  I needed more practice.  You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.

Cutting Glass

Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles.  Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack.  The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock).  So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.

Light Box Tests

Scoring the Glass:

So this is how you do it.

The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface.  This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.

Cutting Glass

Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands.  You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this.  It is scoring the glass.  Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click.  This is you hitting your original score mark.  Now you can stop.  Don’t score over the same spot twice.

Cutting Glass

If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut.  I do this often.  I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to.  This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.

Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass.  We want to do this slowly and evenly.

Water Shocking Method:

I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Cutting Glass

I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.

Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark.  Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it.  Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.

Cutting Glass

Now, pour on the cold water in the same way.  You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.

Cutting Glass

Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water.  There will be more cracking.  Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart.  If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own.  Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.

You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.

Cutting Glass

And then this is how it fell apart.

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They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.

Cutting Glass

Fire and Ice Method:

Cutting Glass

For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.

Cutting Glass

Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark.  Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.

Cutting Glass

When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.

Cutting Glass

You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate.  Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.

Cutting Glass

Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually.  The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.

Cutting Glass

Finishing:

When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.

The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.

Cutting Glass

It’s a little messy though.  I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper.  You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!

Cutting Glass

Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.

Cutting Glass

You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.

Cutting Glass

So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.

Cutting Glass

Which I filled with juice.  And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.

Cutting Glass

And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else.  They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.

Cutting Glass

Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!

Cutting Glass

Piñata-Copter, or, How I Didn’t Eat Enough Paste As A Child

It's a Secret Part 2

The Pie and il Principe share a birthday.  Sure, the Pie is now 29 and IP is only 2, but they can still enjoy the festive atmosphere of a birthday party.

And what’s a children’s birthday party without a piñata?  It’s — well, it’s pretty much just a party without a piñata.  But that’s besides the point.

The Pie and I thought that we would combine il Principe’s love of vehicles with his destructive tendencies, and a piñata filled with toys (because this 2-year-old has enough extra energy) was the perfect gift.

First, I spent a peaceful evening with the dog when the Pie was out tearing strips of newspaper.  These are old copies of a certain legal newspaper popular in these parts.  While it’s a very good newspaper, I must admit to a certain satisfaction in tearing up all that legal verbiage.

I also prepared my helicopter rotor blades (I decided that this particular helicopter has six blades, so there), as well as the tail and all the other bits.  I pulled old cereal boxes and such out of the recycling for this.

And I cut up some clear plastic out of the recycling to use as windows.  This is going to be one classy chopper.

So now that you’ve got everything ready, you need to make your paste.  In a bowl, mix together 2 cups flour with 3 cups water.

I like to use a spurtle to stir my paste.  That’s right.  A spurtle.

Mmm, pasty.  Everyone always makes jokes about “that kid who ate paste” in kindergarten, but we didn’t have that.  We did, however, have the girl who, when asked, DRANK (like I’m talking glug-glug-glug) Elmer’s School Glue.  Bleugh.

And now we need ourselves a balloon, which forms the basis for many, many papier-mâché projects.  The last time I did papier-mâché I made an enormous head with a huge nose, cut out holes for eyes, borrowed one of my dad’s fedoras (he also has a large head), stuck a Press Pass in the brim and went around for Hallowe’en as a reporter.  It was a good costume.  I swear.

I attached the tail to the balloon with tape.

Now we paste strips!  Run one side of your strip through the bowl of paste.

Use your fingers to squeegee off the majority of the paste.

Slap that baby on your structure and smooth it down.

Continue with more strips, being careful to slightly overlap each one.

If you need help with balancing your project as you work, why not try propping it up in a bowl for stability?

Once you have finished a complete layer, use your fingers to smooth on some extra paste.

Let that set for a bit to become tacky and sticky.  While you’re waiting you can put paper on your other bits.

For the wheels, for example, I wanted a little bulk, so I dipped a few strips, crumpled them up, and stuck them to the wheel template before wrapping the whole thing in other strips.

Set those aside somewhere to dry.

Repeat the layering steps a few more times, creating three or four layers of paper on your main structure.  The focus should be on creating what will be a hard shell around your balloon.  I tried to add a bit more paper at the bottom of the chopper-balloon to help compensate, balance-wise, for the weight of the tail.

When you have enough paper on your structure, put it somewhere out of the way to dry overnight.  The top of our fridge is as good a place as any.  Plus it’s nice and warm there (our fridge is ANCIENT) and with the current humidity I’m hoping it will give the paste a boost in drying.  

I saved the extra paste, just in case.

Now to clean up!

The fortunate thing about flour paste is you just have to wet it again and it comes off anything really easily.

The Next Day …

Actually, this was two days later.  It was so gloomy and humid that the darned thing just would not dry.So now we get to get around to our painting and assembly.We bought this lovely metallic blue paint at the dollar store and thought it would look good on a helicopter.  It did, but the problem was that it was transparent paint, something the made-in-China label didn’t tell us.  Nor did it tell us that the paint fumes were highly objectionable.  But you get what you pay for of course.Onto plan B, then.  I painted the props and the wheels with the silvery-blue stuff and went off to find a more opaque solution to the plane problem.Thus I came up with India ink.  And ink is awesome because it dries really fast.It's a Secret Part 2Of course, you can still see the metallic paint through the ink, but I figured I would just paint over the quick-dry ink with more metallic paint.

It's a Secret Part 2Mercifully, just as I’d finished, the sun came out, so I left everything to dry for a bit.

It's a Secret Part 2So now we need to cut out a wee hatch through which to insert the prizes.  Using a box cutter, carefully pierce your shell and the balloon underneath.  POP!

It's a Secret Part 2

Cut a hole only just big enough for your purposes, leaving a little flap so you can close it up again later.

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There’s that shriveled balloon.  You can throw that out.

It's a Secret Part 2

My helicopter is going to have a window, so I measured the “glass” to the side of the chopper.

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Cut out a hole.

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I think I may use the piece I cut out to make a fascinator at some later and unrelated date.

It's a Secret Part 2

I fixed the window in place with hockey tape, that lovely universal adhesive.

It's a Secret Part 2

I used a paper punch awl to poke holes to hang the suspension wires from.

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You can see that balance is going to be an issue here.  I ended up taping a few rocks into the tail of the chopper to balance it out.

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I stuck the props on.  The wheels refused to stick and were therefore scratched.  Bye-bye b’ys.

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Don’t forget to put your prizes in!

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Then the helicopter needed some accents.  On one side of the tail I painted on il Principe‘s initials and the year he was born, to look like some kind of ID code.

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On the other I did his birthdate (21 July) followed by HB – happy birthday.

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Then I added some dots that represent flashing lights, and blacked out the frame parts of the window.  And yes, I just made up where they went.

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And there you have it.  Il Principe can’t wait to destroy it.

It's a Secret Part 2

Deathtrap Defeated

***EDIT: Check out this fun bookshelf organization video.  Trust me, it’s more entertaining than it sounds.***

This is my mother’s kitchen bookcase.

As you can see, anyone who chooses a book from any of these shelves runs the risk of becoming imperiled by falling books.

I sat my mother down and made her go through all her books the other day.  My style of organization is purpose-oriented.  The stuff you use, you keep somewhere in the open.  The stuff you don’t use, you either get rid of or you put it in storage.

So anything that my mother hadn’t used in the last six months went into a pile to go into the basement.  It will be her job to sort through it on her own time to decide what she wants to keep and what she can give away.

A much smaller pile of books went straight to a second-hand shop.

This stuff got recycled.

This is what remains, which I sorted by type.

Then of course I got to dust the shelf in a rare state of emptiness.

So of course what is on the top shelf are the books we use the most: Joy of Cooking, family recipe books, the usual.  Also books on baking, just because that’s what I’m doing a lot of these days.

Here we have the all-round cookbooks, ones that cover full meals and a variety of dishes.

Here is the Brazilian version of a Dutch oven, and more all-round cookbooks.

Here are the slow-cooker books and the specialty books, ones that deal with specifics, like marrow bones, pasta, or dumplings.

On the bottom we have soup books and barbecue books, as well as some binders for collected clippings.

Now remember: just because there is empty space here doesn’t mean you have to fill it!