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!

Linking up to:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Puppet Theater

My oldest child was heavily into making up stories.  He would flip up the seat cushion of our of our chairs, hide behind it, and use it as a base for a puppet show.  So I knew it was time to build a real theatre.

This was actually a pretty simple project.  I used a sheet of plywood and cut two small ends off.  These would become the sides of the theatre.  I cut a window out of each piece, as well as a large rectangular window out of the remaining piece of plywood.  The two ends were attached to the main section using a couple of hinges.

Here is what it looked like unfinished:

Puppet theatre, lemonade stand.... so many uses!

I wanted the theatre to also act as a kind of reading nook, or an inside fort.  I wanted it to be somewhere they could sneak away to and have a quiet time (or maybe I could!).  So I thought I would paint it to look like a tree house.  I base coated the plywood with a light beige/cream colour.  Then I used a ruler and pencil to mark off "boards".  Next, I used a chocolate brown acrylic paint to add the board details.  I also gave a few highlights to the cracks and knots with a white acrylic craft paint.  I made a little glaze by adding some water to the chocolate brown craft paint and washed the whole thing down.  It muted the colours nicely.  I also added a few fun details :)  

My kids have enjoyed the theatre and used it for many creative displays.  I especially love to see my oldest child put on plays for the youngest.  Most of the time the humour they enjoy is something only two brothers can experience.  They find the storyline hysterical while I sit there trying to figure out what I missed :)  The bond of brotherhood!

Linked up to:

Tip Junkie handmade projectsPhotobuckethomeworkConfessions of a Stay At Home MommySomewhat SimpleBeyond The Picket FenceThe Shabby Nest

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lego Storage Man

If you have Lego in your home, you have no doubt pondered the best way to store the pieces.  I myself would love to see the kits built, displayed, played with and returned to their shelves.  But Lego is meant to be played with and reconstructed time after time.  In order to do that, you need to have a lot of freely stored pieces.  I have tried a few methods, and hopefully this new idea will at least allow me to have the lego sorted, stored and displayed in a fun manner.  Maybe it will even encourage them to put the pieces away by themselves!  

I noticed one day that my Kirkland Peanut Butter jar looked an awfully lot like a Lego head.  Do you see the resemblance?

So I finally picked up a bottle of flat yellow spray paint and was keen to get started.  I found a 2x4 and set it so that it was extended over my deck.  Then I inserted the opened jar over the end.  This allowed me to spray the whole jar evenly.  It worked really well.

As the paint was drying, I created a Lego face and cut it out of paper.  I didn't have any spray adhesive to hold the paper in place, so I just taped the stencil on as tightly as I could.

Using a light, steady pressure, I sprayed black spray paint over the stencil.  I waited as long as I could before removing the stencil - which was only a minute or two!


I plan on eating my way through enough jars of peanut butter to make one head for each colour.  Wouldn't they look cute all lined up on a shelf?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bra Alteration

After years of knowing that my bras do not fit properly, I went in for a fitting.  Not only was I not wearing the proper size, but it turned out to be an irregular size and one that no department store would carry.  You can guess that the price for such a bra would not be cheap.  So I had one properly fitting, must be handwashed bra.

After looking at all the cute, cheaply priced bras one day, I attempted to once again find one that fit.  I did not, but I did decide that it was time for me to address the problem and come up with a solution.

Here is what I did.  I am very small through the rib area and larger in the chest.  So I need a large cup but a small band size.  I tried on several bras and found a cup that fit well.  Then I went home and lay my expensive bra on top of my new bra.  I matched up the centre point as best as I could and I marked the location of the clasp sections.  Then I cut along those marks, resulting in both clasp portions being removed.

Cut off any bits of extra fabric attached to the clasp section.  Next, take a seam ripper and open up the back portion of the clasp section.  Slide this opening over the cut edge that you made.  You may have to tuck in the fabric as it may be wider that the portion you removed.  Sew the clasp portion in place.  Do this on both sides, making sure that you are attaching the clasps in the proper direction.  The circled areas below show where I opened up the seams and inserted the fabric.  Hopefully you will have matching thread at your disposal as I somehow ran out of black thread before I started this today!

Sometimes I have to move the shoulder straps too.  Just use your seam ripper to open up the back seam and remove the bottom portion of the shoulder strap.  Mark the proper position and stitch it into place.

This is not difficult to do, and I am so excited to finally be able to wear well fitting bras without having to fork over hundreds of dollars.

Linked to:  Blue Cricket Design Someday Crafts Sew Much Ado Gingersnap Crafts

Monday, September 12, 2011

Picture Frame Revamp

I've had these wooden picture frames around for, oh, 20 years.  I haven't actually had them hanging up for the last 12 years or so.  They held wedding photos.  Since I definitely won't be hanging those up any time soon, I thought it was time to make these frames wall worthy!

First I removed the photos and gave the glass a good washing and the frames a good dusting.  What I will do with huge wedding photos will have to be a later post.  Cut them up for a mosaic piece??  I'm sure there will be something I could use them for.

Then I took the frames outside and sprayed them using a flat black spray paint.

 I am always amazed at what a coat or two of spray paint can do.  Completely transforms!

Back inside, I took the cardboard backing that was in the frame and I placed it on top of a piece of white fabric.  I cut out around the cardboard leaving extra material all the way around.

Then I took a stapler and starting with the corners, I stapled the material taut.  You need to go as close to the edge as possible so that the staples don't show up on the other side once the fabric backing is inserted into the frame.

 This is what it looks like on the front.  Nice and tight and flat.

 I chose some favourite digital scrapbooking pages that I made a while ago and taped them onto the fabric.

I took some black bias tape from sewing box (another item I use a lot and adore).  I cut four pieces of bias tape for each picture, mitre cutting each end to give a nice frame like look.  I used a good glue to glue these into place.  The bias tape overlaps the photos a tiny bit, but are not glued to them so that I could change the photos if I wanted to.  Why I would I don't know, but I was trying to think ahead.

The black borders really made the photos pop.  I love digital scrapbooking, but I'm not experienced at the normal form.  So those white spaces will eventually be filled with little trinkets or items associated with the photos.   For now, I think they look great and the black and white combo really draws attention on the taupe wall.