Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tactful Confrontation

I have never been good initiating a conversation where I have to tell someone something unpleasant.  You never know how people will respond.  Sometimes they surprise you and laugh it off, or are understanding.  Or  things might not go so well.  Regardless of the outcome, I usually make it a million times worse in my head before the event actually takes place.  So you can understand why I have been putting off a conversation that I needed to have with my new neighbours.

My neighbours seem to be a lovely young couple.  They also have a lovely, youngish, male dog that has been frequenting my yard.  Today he and my large breed dog got into quite a fight inside my wireless fenced in yard.

After I put my dog in the house and calmed down, I decided that I needed to go over and talk.   I explained my concerns about the dogs fighting, one of them getting hurt, and the possibility of one of my children also being hurt by their dog.  It wasn't pleasant saying these things, but my neighbour was understanding and said they would try harder to keep him home.  I was hoping for a bit more to be honest, but hopefully they will be more diligent now that they know my concerns.

A year ago I would never have been able to have knocked on their door.  I would have sent my husband over to talk.  Today, I knew my concerns had to be addressed, and now I've got to rely on myself.  This summer of shovelling topsoil and gravel, digging up pavement and digging trenches has apparently not only made my body stronger, but my inner strength has gotten stronger as well.  Though I would never, ever, wish this year on anyone, there is something personally gratifying knowing that you are able to rely upon yourself.  That you are stronger than you thought you were.

A quote from Winnie the Pooh comes to mind tonight, “If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart... I'll always be with you.” 
― A.A. Milne

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to Caulk Neatly

The front of my house was resided during the recent house renovation.  We went with a wood siding.  My verdict is still out on the siding as, although it looks nicer than the vinyl, there have been quite a few cracks.  I'll have to get them replaced before the warranty runs out.

The contractor began caulking the edges of the siding, where it met up with the windows, corner trim etc.  Unfortunately my husband felt that the caulking job was rather messy and ruining the look of the siding.

I had to ask them to stop.

I have been working section by section over the past few weeks to get the caulking completed before the cold sets in.  It was snowing here on Saturday, so I'm pushing it!

Here is an example of what I'm starting with.  A 1/4" or so gap between the window trim and the siding.

I think a beige caulking, if it matched the siding colour, may have been easier and produced a neater look.  Because a door and two windows were already done with the white caulking, I had to use the white.

I found that going over the edges made my bead a bump, and when I tried to smooth down the bead, it smeared onto the siding.  The siding is quite rough and it was hard to get the caulking off.  I came up with two ideas to hopefully make the end product neater.  The first was to use painter's tape.  Some brands stick better than others to the siding.   It can be a bit finicky and sometimes the caulking gets pushed underneath, but it allows you to do several strips at once.

The other solution I came up with involved my chip box from Halloween.  The cardboard was strong and lightweight, so I tore off a rectangular shape.   I was able to push the top edge up under one piece of siding and align the longer edge with the section that I needed to caulk.

I ran the bead of caulking down the gap and, using a wet finger, I ran my finger down the bead to fill in the space and flatten out the caulking.

I gently slid the cardboard out and wiped it off.  It was ready to go on to the next board.  I found that I could set up three or more boards at a time and work fairly quickly.  The edges came out nice and clean.  I think it came out neater than the painter's tape sections actually, though this method is a bit slower.

When you are using a caulking gun, it can get pretty messy.  After I ran each bead, I put my finger over the end and with the other hand, released the pressure foot thing.  Then I took a nail and stuck it into the end of the nozzle.  This prevented any more caulking from escaping.  Be sure to have lots of old rags on hand.

Here are the comparisons:

Contractor's job                                                                    My job

I won't tell you this was a fun job, but it will be rewarding to have it completed.  I  may try to remove the contractor's caulking, but that will have to wait until it warms up again.  That water I used for keeping my fingers wet was getting mighty cold!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Lightbulbs Keep Burning Out on Me!

I have been working on a huge, time consuming project that I will hopefully be sharing with you in a day or two.  I'm dying to be finished with it.  In the mean time, I have been having what I thought was a weird, electrical problem.

For some reason, every time I replace a light bulb lately, the bulb snaps and burns out within 30 minutes.  It did this a couple of times with one lamp, and now the light in my office.  So I started to think it must be some kind of electrical problem.

After a quick google, guess what??  It is a very common problem, and a very easy fix!  You can go here Askthebuilder for a more detailed and professional explanation, but I'll give you a quick over view.

In the bottom of each light socket, there is a brass strip.  This strip should be slightly angled up to connect properly with the bottom of the light bulb.

On the bottom of the light bulb, there is a small silver blob made from solder.  If the brass strip is not touching the bottom of the light bulb in the proper manner, the solder melts and the light bulb no longer makes the proper connection.  The light goes out.

The fix?  Simple.  You turn off the power to the light.  You should likely turn off the breaker to the light for extra safety.  I used my fingernail to reach into the socket and gently pull up the brass strip.  Insert a new bulb and voila!  The sockets are all now working again.

How do you prevent this problem?  Screw your bulbs in with the power on.  When the light comes on, turn the bulb only until the bulb feels secure.  Over screwing the bulb into the socket is what pushes the brass strip down and creates the problem.

Thank you Ask the Builder's Tim Carver for saving me from calling my ex husband, the cost of an electrician and the expense of buying endless boxes of light bulbs.  I love a quick fix that I can do myself!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Homemade (and free!) Halloween

Luckily for the trick or treaters (and their parents), the weather decided to cooperate last night.  It was a chilly night, but that just makes for more fun!

My guys decided they wanted to be an astronaut and a space alien.  Fitting really.  I found a couple of examples in the book cute and easy Costumes for Kids , and though the heads did take some time to dry, the project itself was very simple.

For the astronaut, I used my son's karate gi.  I used safety pins to attach a felt design I made onto the front of the gi.  The air tanks were a big hit and were made by spray painting a couple of recycled pop bottles white.  I used blue electrical tape and a bit of hot glue to hold them together.  I picked up a piece of flexible tubing in the free box of a recent yard sale, and taped that to the bottom of one of the bottles.  The helmet was made using paper mache over top of a large balloon.  We painted it white and trimmed the openings with blue paint.

For the alien, I followed the instructions in the book and made a tube out of green fabric in my fabric box.  I cute out some circles and glued them on.  His head was made following the same techniques as the helmet but I cut out a mouth shape and added some paper teeth.  For the eyes, I took a few plastic Easter eggs from my cupboard and hot glued a pompom on each.  I insterted a twisted pipe cleaner into the bottom of the egg, and inserted the other end of the pipe cleaner into a slit cut in the top of the head.  The eyes were a huge hit with neighbours and friends!

Everyone loved the costumes, and the kids enjoyed the process of making them.  That is one of the things I most remember about Halloween as a child, making our costumes.  We didn't have huge stores in those days where you could spend hours selecting a costume.  We came up with ideas and used what we had to bring the idea to life.  Sure it takes a bit of work.  But the costumes were unique, free, and hopefully the boys will remember the time we spent together making them.  That is better than candy any day!  ladybug-blessings 

Friday, October 28, 2011

I received a lovely, uplifting surprise yesterday!  My picnic table was featured on Ohdeedoh !  How cool is that?

I check out Ohdeedoh every day.  I love the wonderful ideas and inspirations I find there.  I'm so thrilled that one of my ideas was featured.

Monday, October 24, 2011

4x4 Pumpkin Porch Decoration for FREE

I saw these lovely pumpkins made out of 4x4's . Having a pile of wood from a portion of my deck that was removed just lurking around, I was sure I could scrounge up enough   4x4's to make some pumpkins. I ended up making 6 of them so that I could gift a set to my mom.

I cut three lengths of 4x4, and using the instructions on the craftmeup website, I used a chisel to gouge off the corners and some dents in the sides.

Here is a tip: lay your 4x4 partially on your lap and the other end resting on the floor. Then use your chisel and hammer to take off the corner on one of the bottom corners. I started by sitting the 4x4 flat on the floor and trying to take off a top corner. Taking off a bottom corner is much easier and does a neater job.

I then sanded, painted, and sanded again. I used thick branches for the stalks, and attached them as suggested on the website.

I didn't have any dark wire to make that lovely curly wire accent, BUT, I had removed a couple of coil bindings from some old manuals and had them sitting in a craft box! I took them outside and spray painted them black (they were white), and BINGO! I now had lovely dark coils. I clipped a few inches and added them to the stalk base along with some leaves from my craft box. Then I painted a sign and stretched out my coil binding to attach the sign.

I love how it turned out! And I'm so glad I kept that book binding! You never know when or how you will use this stuff, but it is fun when it finally comes in handy!

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