Spidermageddon

Apple Clafoutis

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the entire spider population of the world. I’m happy to live and let live with my “spiderbro” friends. But ever since we moved into the new house, we’ve been completely overrun with spiders. They’re just the common North American house spider, and they mean no harm, but each room contains at least a dozen. There are no other bugs in the house, so we assume that they’re just eating each other to survive.

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Mostly they just build little nests, fight, and mate with each other. Sometimes there’s serious drama that occurs in the corner of the shower or the living room ceiling.

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Recently, I was reading in bed and found one crawling up my arm – I squished it accidentally because I thought it was the dog touching me with his wet nose. And then I thought about whether I wanted these creatures crawling around the new baby and I got all skeeved out …

So Spidermageddon happened. I took my vacuum and sucked up all the cobwebs, tiny nests — spiders too — that I could find. Some spiders hid behind objects but I managed to winkle all of them out eventually.

Then, before they could come back, I whipped up a quick and natural spider repellent. Spiders not only walk with their front feet but they eat with them too, so anything strong-smelling that they’re walking through gets in their mouths and they really don’t like that. So any pungent essential oil will do – I picked some that are particularly strong.

Grab a reusable spray bottle and tip in about 5 drops each of your essential oils: here I used lavender, peppermint, and citronella (I figured the citronella would repel the OTHER bugs should they come out to play this summer). Add in as well a dash of dish detergent – the soap will help to disperse the oils better than if you didn’t use it.

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You can also add a splash of white vinegar. The acetic acid is an irritant to spiders and other bugs, but it may also discolour the surface of what you spray it on so be warned. I was using it on the walls and windowsills so I wasn’t worried.

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

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Make sure to cover all the spaces where you found spiders in the past, like ceiling corners (they like pale or white surfaces to attract mates), and places they might enter the house, like windowsills and sashes.  I went through two bottles of the stuff in order to get all the rooms in the house.

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A week later I find the occasional spider, who gets deported and then the spot re-sprayed, but we no longer feel outnumbered in the house. I consider it a success!

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DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

I’m posting this here today because Wednesday’s post is a sticky one, and you’re probably going to need this by then. This is a quick way to make an effective all-purpose spray for a fraction of the cost of the ones you buy in the store. In my first mix I made the mistake of using lemon juice (a solid antibacterial agent), but the mixture curdled when I added the Castille soap and smelled terrible. So don’t do that.

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Leave the lemon juice out of the picture (though you’ll be able to see its curdling effect in my pictures below).

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Start with about 2 cups water. Add in 4 tablespoons Castille soap (this one is orange-flavoured, to go with my citrus theme).

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Now tip in about 40 drops essential oils. I used 10 tea tree, 10 lemongrass, and 20 sweet orange.

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Give it a good stirring and pour it into an empty spray bottle.

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Don’t forget to label it carefully and with style!

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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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Hakan-Themed Gel Transfer

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I’ve been sitting on this project for what feels like FOREVER.  I made it for the Pie’s birthday and despite it being a first attempt I’m nevertheless pretty stoked about how it turned out.

I’ve seen a few blog posts on the internet where people take photos or photocopies and use a medium to transfer them to canvas or wood for a folksy sort of artistic-like thing.  And I wanted to do that.  So I did.  But a bit differently.  You’ll have to forgive the photo quality, as I did most of this at night while the Pie was out.  Playing Street Fighter.

First I took this image, which is Hakan, the Pie’s character of choice in Super Street Fighter 4.  You may remember him from a birthday cake I made a few years back.

From http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki/Hakan

Then I ran it through Rasterbator.  Because I like dots.

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Then I printed it out. Trimmed it.

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Assembled it with tape.  If I did this again I would skip the tape part and just assemble it in situ.

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Then I cut it into four pieces and hid them in the closet where the fuse box is and worked on my canvas.

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These are four 20″ x 16″ canvases I got at DeSerres.

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Hakan’s colours are sort of maroon-y purple and turquoise, so I vaguely mixed some craft paint together in a dish and smeared it across the four canvases.

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I’m quite pleased with the effect.

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Once it was dry I grabbed my gel medium.

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I smeared that generously across the whole surface of each canvas.

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I then used my screen printing squeegee to smooth the printout pieces face down onto the gel medium.  It’s important to note here that your image will be reversed from how you originally printed it out.

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Then I hid it back in the fuse box closet to dry overnight.

To remove the paper, spray it with water and get it nice and soaked.  Then you can just peel off the other ply of the paper, leaving the ply with the design on it stuck to the medium.

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You can use your fingers or a soft towel.  If you pull up some of the design, don’t freak out — this is supposed to look a little weathered.

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I used a gentle scrubby for it as well.

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This takes for-freaking-EVER, FYI.  And it’s messy.  Paper bits get everywhere.  This is blurry but you can see the scrubbed side versus the non-scrubbed side.

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And then once it dries you can still see some white leftover.  So I went over mine a few times.

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Eventually I had to give up and just leave it as-is.  It’s not supposed to be perfect, in any case.

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Some of my dots are missing.

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But the rest looks pretty badass.

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Look now neat that is!  I did fill in a few spots with black craft paint where I thought it was necessary.

To get rid of some of the whiteness, I coated the whole thing with glossy polyurethane top coat a few times.

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Nice and shiny.

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The finished piece, assembled on the floor.

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Now to make it hang-able.  Gren stood watch for me while I did this in secret.

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You can get little hanging hardware kits from department stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores.  In each kit will be a bunch of these little loops with screw ends.  Measure down from the top of your canvas an equal length on both sides and screw them in.

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Then you have this wire stuff.

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Cut a length and loop it between the two screwed in hooks.

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Pull it tight and wrap the ends around the wire to keep it secure.

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Make sure if you’re using multiple canvases that the length of the wire and where it’s situated on the canvas are consistent across the board.

Also make sure when you’re putting in hanging hardware that you can hang the picture without the hook pushing into the surface of the canvas.

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The Ultimate DIY Glass Cleaner

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Don’t get me wrong.  I love my Method glass cleaner.  The mild minty scent, the streak-free shine … It’s all good.  But I was almost out, and I’m kind of on a make-your-own-cleaner kick at the moment, because I have no money (what else is new?).  So I decided to make my own.

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Fortunately the internet already did all the research for me, and Crunchy Betty in particular did all the heavy lifting in determining what the best homemade glass cleaner should be made of.

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Her “Alvin Corn” cleaner combines the best of everything: alcohol, vinegar, and cornstarch.  Cornstarch.  Though if you read the ingredients for the Method stuff you’ll also see that it has corn based ingredients.  Seems legit.

Basically, all you gotta do is chuck it all together in a spray bottle and away you go.  Grab a funnel if you find that easier and dump 1 tablespoon cornstarch into it.  Wash it down into the bottle with 2 cups warm water, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, and 1/4 cup white vinegar.

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Make sure you shake it extremely well before using, as the cornstarch may settle, and you don’t want that clumping up your spray nozzle.  I decorated the old Method bottle a bit to pretty it up.

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I think the best test of a new glass cleaner is on my ultimate cleaning nightmare: DOG NOSE GOO.

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dun-dun-DUUUHHHHHN!

If you have a dog, you know what I mean.  It’s that crap they leave behind when they’re looking out the window, because for some reason they can’t do that without actually applying their noses directly to the window itself.

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One of the few things that cleans dog nose goo really well, I find, is straight rubbing alcohol, but using it straight tends to take the paint off the window, as well.

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So having rubbing alcohol IN the cleaner itself is a plus for me.

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And once I pried the dog away from the window, it easy peasy.  All that dirt you see that is left is on the OUTSIDE.  And it’s too cold for me to attempt that today.  The spray does smell strongly of alcohol (I contemplated adding a few drops of lavender essential oil but wasn’t sure if it would leave streaks), but that quickly dissipates as the alcohol evaporates, and overall I’m really pleased with this stuff.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!