DIY · Homeschool · Kids · The COVID files

Day 560: Photo I.D.

A new rule came into effect in Ontario recently: to go to a movie, eat inside at a restaurant, go to the gym, and probably a handful of other situations, one must show proof of vaccination and photo I.D. This is all fine and good, until you consider that this applies to everyone who is eligible for vaccination: that is, ages twelve and up. What twelve-year-old has photo I.D.? I wondered.

I knew that Ontario had some kind of photo I.D. for people who don’t have a driver’s license, so I googled that to see if I could get one for K. Nope—it’s only for people ages sixteen and up. Our provincial health cards don’t have photos on them for anyone under sixteen, either. What’s a young teen (who wants to see a movie) to do?

It occurred to me that a non-homeschooled twelve-year-old might have a student card with their photo on it; too bad homeschooled kids don’t get photo student cards… or do they?

Since we’re talking about how I solved a problem, the solution should be obvious to those who know me: as with everything else, when I couldn’t find what we needed, I made it myself… sort of.

I started with a search for “inkjet compatible plastic I.D. cards blank” and came up with a bunch of options for a thermal printer. Not helpful. But the internet algorithms came through for me and suggested that Zazzle might have what I needed. Boy, did they ever.

That’s how I ended up designing BFHS student and staff I.D. cards and having them printed and shipped to us. They weren’t even particularly expensive, which is why I also made one for our mascot, BukBuk. I invented student numbers for each kid (using gematriya, the art of assigning numbers to the letters of the Hebrew alef-bet) and gave them all an expiry date of 2027—it would be annoying to have to print them every single year, right?

Anyhow, our cards arrived and everyone was pleased with them. Then, on the news, they announced that people under the age of sixteen could use their health card as I.D. even though there’s no photo… so my project was basically useless.

Oh, well. At least they look cool.

Image description: Two nearly-identical cards with our school logo in the top left, “Student” or “Staff” in the top right, a photo, and the cardholder’s name. The one on the left is K’s, and the one on the right is Bukbuk’s.

DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 549: At the Last Minute

Not sure who planned the timing on our (amazing, fabulous) weekend away (oh, wait, it might have been me,) but we got back home today at noon, which was about 7 hours before sundown marked the beginning of Sukkot.

No big deal, I thought to myself. I labelled everything so carefully when I took the sukkah apart last year—it should go up in an hour or two.

An hour or two? Ha! It took me around 6, start to finish. I haven’t figured out how it happened, but half of my carefully written-in-Sharpie labels were wiped clean, forcing me to guess which parts belonged where. I guess I’ll have to find something more permanent than Sharpie… maybe engraving with a Dremel?

Around 3:00 I realized that I was not going to have time to make dinner; I informed Mr. December, who went and told K and R that tonight’s dinner was their responsibility.

“Can’t we just order pizza?” They whined.

“Sure, if you’re paying with your own money,” Mr. December countered.

We didn’t order pizza.

K made Alfredo sauce from scratch and boiled an entire (big) package of fettuccine; N braided the challah dough that I’d had the presence of mind to take out of the freezer earlier; R made rice; then K made a “salad” of Multigrain Cheerios, dried cranberries, and almonds… with chocolate “salad dressing.” It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to eat, but rules is rules, as they say, so I ate what I was given. The Alfredo sauce was very good—just the right amount of pepper and enough garlic to fell a 250-pound vampire.

So… a slightly under-decorated sukkah and a last-minute dinner by two child chefs. Not bad for the first night of Sukkot.

Stick around for a few days—I have so much to tell you. Right now, though, I need sleep desperately. I’m going to sneak upstairs before Mr. December and the kids notice I’m gone.

crafty · DIY · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real

Day 529: A bit better

Image description: a clear plastic shoe organizer on the back of a white door; the pockets are filled with craft supplies.

I am not made for idleness. Today’s enforced rest—no building, no assembly, no practicing my instruments—really got on my nerves. Proving that I’m constitutionally incapable of not doing something, I went digging around in the storage room and found a plastic back-of-door shoe organizer and said, “Ha! This is perfect for organizing the craft room!”

I couldn’t install the screws or hooks to hang it on; but Mr. December was amenable to helping me do this completely random and not-strictly-necessary task (he’s been admonishing me to rest for a few days, but he’s smart enough to know that sometimes it’s just a good idea to humour me.) All I needed from him was to install four screws into the back of the craft room door, and as soon as he’d done it, I started filling the pockets of the shoe organizer with all kinds of non-shoe things: pipe cleaners, rolls of contact paper, bingo dabbers, pom poms, popsicle sticks, fake autumn leaves. They’d all been stuffed together in a single bin I called “craft supplies overflow”; now I can see everything at once.

(Don’t worry, I managed to do it all one-handed. I may be impatient, but I’m not completely reckless.)

It’s better. Not by a lot, but by enough… kind of like my hand, which isn’t bleeding profusely, but is still sore. Improvement is improvement, no matter how small. Right?

Our homeschool year starts tomorrow. I’m as ready as I’m gonna be… wish me luck.

DIY · Keepin' it real · lists · whine and cheese

Day 528: Things I won’t be doing…

Things I won’t be doing for the next week:

  1. Kayaking
  2. Biking
  3. Playing viola
  4. Playing guitar
  5. Playing flute
  6. Swimming
  7. Using power tools
  8. Assembling stuff
  9. Giving high fives with my left hand
  10. Anything requiring the use of both hands

Things I won’t do ever again:

  1. Forget where the palm of my hand is in relation to the drill bit that’s on the other side of the board.

(No worries, my hand has been cleaned and glued up and I’m on the mend.)

DIY · Homeschool

Day 524:

Remember when I told you about getting a painting lesson from the manager of our local paint store, where I learned how to paint a cabinet door with no brushstrokes?

Yeah, me too. I even remember being there and listening to her and understanding everything. But now, five years later, I seem to have forgotten everything; at least, that’s what my drawer fronts are telling me right now.

It doesn’t seem to matter how quickly I work or how much paint I use; I’ve done three coats now (and sanded in between) and the brushstrokes are definitely visible. It does not look good. I also tried a roller, although perhaps a more velour-type roller would work better than the sponge roller I had. Maybe tomorrow I’ll see if I can just squeegee paint across the surface. That shouldn’t leave any marks, right?

At least the insides of the drawers are looking nice now. I bought self-adhesive velour flocking drawer liner and as soon as it arrived today I started installing it. I only got through two of the drawers before I ran out of liner, but I’ve placed an order for more that should arrive tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve loaded the top drawer with small instrument cases and the bottom drawer with kids’ music class instruments, and it looks pretty smart even without the drawer fronts. I did the top one a bit differently, only lining the bottom of the drawer, but I think I like the way the bottom drawer looks with the flocking all the way up the sides.

Image Description: two wide drawers lined with blue velour, with no fronts. Bottom drawer is full of small percussion instruments, top drawer contains seven instrument cases.

In other news, I finally started to set up my online homeschool planner. Now I have to select my curriculum for each subject and tell the program how many days a week I plan to teach each subject. I’ve already set it up so that the kids can log in and see their own task lists, which I sincerely hope will save me from the, “Yes, but what exactly do I have to do?” that N begins as soon as breakfast is over and doesn’t let up until all has been revealed.

DIY · el cheapo

Day 522: Where everybody knows my name

I’m a friendly sort of person. Where Mr. December would go into a store, pay for his stuff, and get out, I’ll be chatting and smiling and asking how the cashier is doing. I do it because it makes me happy, not because it gets me any benefit… but sometimes I actually do reap the benefits of friendliness.

I went to my happy place—Lowe’s—because I needed plywood to make the drawer fronts for the library. I had actually called in my order to the Pro Desk (they call me a pro!) so they could have it cut and waiting at the front for me; but when I got there, my order wasn’t ready. As it turned out, the phone number on my account is my landline which I never use and which has a full mailbox; they had tried calling me three times to tell me that they didn’t have the product I’d ordered.

So there I was at the Pro Desk, asking one of the associates who knows me why the website said the plywood was in stock when it really wasn’t. She took a walk through the sheet goods aisle and offered me a few different options to replace the plywood they didn’t have. I approved one and we walked over to the cutting area together to find an associate to cut the board; but just as he started off towards aisle 51, I spied something between the back of the track saw and the rack of wood behind it.

“What’s that?” I pointed. “It looks like the kind of thing I’m looking for.”

“It’s scrap,” they told me.

Scrap!? It was a piece of ¾ inch plywood with sanded sides, at least two feet by seven feet. Who on earth bought the rest of a sheet and left that beautiful piece behind?

“I’ll take it,” I announced.

And that’s how I scored some free ¾” good-one-side sanded plywood. I asked the associate at the cutting area what they usually do with pieces like the one I’d chosen. “It’s sad,” he said, “but it usually goes in the garbage.”

So I’m a little happier because I didn’t have to spend $90 on a full sheet of plywood, and the earth is happier because that’s one less perfectly good product going to waste. Win-win.

When I got to the cash another guy who knows me asked whether I had been given a price for the partial sheet. “No,” I said, “It was from the scrap pile.”

He looked to the first woman I’d dealt with for confirmation.

“It’s Sara,” she told him. “She can have it for free.”

I have to say, I felt kind of special. I love the folks at the Pro Desk.

Next, I needed paint. So I called up our local paint store, where the three employees have helped me with a lot of paint-related needs. One time, the manager gave me a mini-lesson in painting technique for getting a brushstroke-free finish on cabinet doors.

It was the cheerful young man who answered the phone with a jaunty tone of voice. I ordered the paint I needed and told him I’d be there in half an hour. When I went to pick up, we chatted for a while and he made some notes in my file of which room or project the paint was for—handy if I need to go back later, I guess. When I left, he opened the door for me and wished me a great afternoon and good luck with the project.

Back at home, I set to work cutting the drawer fronts and installing the mounting hardware on them. Then I removed the fronts from the drawers and took them downstairs to start painting. They’re downstairs in the Makery, awaiting more coats tomorrow. And here I am at my desk, reflecting on how much I like to shop where everybody knows my name.

Camping it up · DIY · family fun · Homeschool · Kids · water you paddling? · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 520: Another Quiet Week

Sometimes life gives us do-overs.

We dropped K, N, and R off at music camp today. Last time we did a camp drop-off, they jumped out of the car without looking back; today they actually took the time to say goodbye. I guess that’s progress.

It’s brutally hot and humid right now, so I decided that after we’d unloaded the kids at camp, Mr. December and I would take E to a beach on the way home. We ended up at something called “Whale Beach” in Orillia: a lovely little beach with a playground, splash pad, kayak rental, and snack bars.

The water was warm—almost too warm to be refreshing—and we dunked ourselves before inflating our kayaks and setting out for a paddle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I need a better kayak. Last night we went to the beach downtown and I saw a folding kayak and another kayak that comes apart for ease of transport; time for me to do some more research, I think.

Where was I? Oh, yes.

With the three big kids gone this week, I’m hoping to get some serious work done. Everyone knows that a great way to ensure you’ll do things is to be accountable to others; so I’m telling you what all I plan to have done by this time next week.

  • Cut, paint, and install drawer fronts in library.
  • Finish shelving all library books.
  • Finalize which book sections we have and order labels for the shelves.
  • Firm up our travel plans; buy plane tickets and book accommodations.
  • Learn to use Homeschool Planet, an online planner that looks like it’ll make my life easier. Plug in all the curriculum information and figure out our schedule.
  • Prepare history binders for R and E.
  • Make time for myself every day: see some friends, paint some rocks, go kayaking, whatever.

Looks like a full week, doesn’t it? I think I can do it as long as the weather cools down. If it doesn’t, well… I’m no Wicked Witch of the West, but I’m mellltiiiiing…

crafty · DIY · hackin' it · Keepin' it real

Day 514: I learned some things tonight.

Remember that time I told Mr. December that I was going to involve K in an epic DIY project that could maybe involve wrecking a table? Well, K and I decided tonight was the night for a trial run.

Now, here’s where I’ve grown as a person: ten years ago, I would have just started the project and let the chips fall where they may. These days I do a practice run first. I grabbed one of the extra leaves from our old table (the one that’s on its way out) and, using a hair dryer and a scraper, carefully peeled off some of the veneer. I learned a few things in the process:

  1. I need to wear work gloves next time. My knuckles got kind of shredded anytime the scraper slipped (which was often.)
  2. IKEA’s wood veneer is extremely thin, but is definitely wood—which means that it splinters and doesn’t scrape off all in one piece.
  3. Stripping the veneer off this table leaf wasn’t teaching me anything, since the table I was hoping to work on is topped with Formica, not real wood veneer.

By the time I accepted lesson number three, I had already pretty much wrecked the table leaf. There was nothing left to lose… so I invited K to help me cover the bare particle board with poured paints. I mean, why not? It could look cool, or it could be a flop. Either way it was going to the dump.

K had already mixed some epoxy, so after playing with the paint for a while, we said, “What the heck,” and went ahead and poured some epoxy on top of the paint. And now we wait; I wonder how the paint and epoxy will interact as the epoxy cures (and puts out a ton of heat)?

Final lesson learned: just leave well enough alone and accept the table as it is.

3 Images: 1. a birch-coloured table leaf with a section of veneer missing, with the particleboard substrate visible. 2. Close-up of the poured paint covered with epoxy. 3. The same table leaf with two large patches of poured paint and epoxy.


Day 507: Well Enough

After a week of being sick I finally felt well enough to do something. Not that I’m fine—my sinuses are so congested that I can feel the pressure in my teeth—but I’m well enough, and itchy to get working on the library again. It was finally time to conquer the drawers under the roll-out desk.

There were two drawers before, that were badly built and didn’t even close straight half the time. Then there were two gaping holes where cabinet doors were supposed to be; that was where we stuffed everything that didn’t have another home in the music area. So my djembe bag, the little wooden toy violin I made for E, flute and clarinet cases, and my music therapy equipment were all crammed in there with no door to hide them.

I decided a while ago that drawers would make more sense than big cabinets, so I ordered some Blum Antaro drawer kits: they hide a multitude of sins with the adjustable hardware that can move the drawer fronts around until they fit perfectly. Anyhow, the drawer kits came last week, and I decided today would be the day that I’d build the drawers. First, though, I needed plywood for the bottoms and backs.

I have to say, I love Lowe’s. They’re not paying me to say that (although I wouldn’t balk at a sponsorship deal,) it’s just that the folks who work the pro desk are knowledgeable and friendly—it’s a bit like Cheers, actually, they all know my name—and I can always find what I need. Thanks to Scott (at the pro desk) I have a contractor account there, which means I can do things like pick up the phone and order a sheet of plywood cut in thirds and have it waiting for me when I pull my car up to the door… which is exactly what I did this morning.

Over the course of the day I managed to build and install four drawers, sans fronts. They glide like a dream. Tomorrow I’ll cut and paint the drawer fronts, give them 48 hours to cure, and then I’ll be able to check off another tiny box on the long list titled “To do: Library.”

Image description, left: Four drawers with metal sides and no fronts, pulled out to show they they’re holding a whole lot of stuff. Right: those same drawers, closed, still with no fronts.

DIY · gardening · what's cookin'

Day 506: On the Counter

Under normal circumstances, if you see weird equipment or supplies lying around the house, they’re for whatever harebrained scheme I’m working on this week. Mr. December is the type to clean up after himself every day, so anything that’s been left out is almost certainly not his.

Except for this time.

I’ve been sick, you know, so I haven’t been keeping tabs on when and where people leave the house; I guess that’s why I was very surprised to walk into the kitchen and see this:

Image description: a giant (two-foot high) white pail with a handle, a lid, and a clear plastic device sticking out of the top. The whole thing is sitting on the kitchen counter.

I was baffled. But the plot thickened: I noticed that the enormous tub of plums we’d picked was gone, and only a small bowlful remained. It seemed reasonable to assume that the plums were now in the bucket.

And then, a Nyquil-fogged memory came to me:

“Honey?” Mr. December appeared in the doorway, holding the car key, K peering at me from behind him. “Where’s that place where we bought the malic acid for chemistry class?”

“The home brewery store?” I croaked. “Same plaza as the trampoline place.”

Oh. Of course.

I don’t know whether he’s trying to make wine, brandy, or beer. I haven’t seen what’s inside the bucket, but I’ve been warned that three pounds of sugar will go missing from my pantry tomorrow.

I don’t care about the three pounds of sugar (little yeasties have to eat something to make alcohol, right?) What I do care about is how long it’ll take for this concoction to be drinkable. And does it have to take up all that valuable counter space?