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How To Prune An Overgrown Leggy Aloe Vera Plant


I love aloe vera plants. They are both an interesting feast for the eyes and useful. I'm not too sure about the science behind rubbing a sunburn with aloe vera, but I do know that it sure makes it feel better, and that's reason enough for me to always keep this plant in our house.

When we first moved into our house a few years ago, my mom gave us an aloe vera plant. I had since neglected the plant and only paid attention to it when I needed to steal one of its leaves. I just kept winding its leggy stalk around the pot. 

Well, yesterday my husband had a sunburn. He was pouring concrete in the hot sun all day. I ran over to my trusty aloe vera and stared down at its sad state of being. I made a silent promise to the plant as I plucked one of its leaves, that tomorrow, I would prune it. 

I kept my word.



I thought I would make this into a tutorial as aloe vera plants are kind of unusual and how to prune them is not as immediately obvious as many other common household plants.

Materials:

- Aloe Vera Plant
- Fresh Potting Soil 
- Hand Shovel
- Scissors (clean)
- Rooting Hormone (optional, but recommended)

Method:

Choose your workspace. I chose to work outside, as working with plants can get messy. If you can't work outside, line a hard surface floor with newspapers before proceeding.

Gently lift your aloe vera plants out of the soil. Mine wasn't even really connected to the soil. It was just sort of laying on top of it. Lay your aloe vera plant(s) aside in a safe place.



With your hand shovel, work-up the soil in your pot. If your soil looks unhealthy, use fresh potting soil instead. Press the soil into the pot firmly but gently. You don't want to compact the soil too much.



Now, back to the aloe vera plants. Just look at that long string of aloe vera. It was actually a lot longer than I thought it was.


To begin, look along the length of the entire plant, do you see stalky portions with no leaves? Take your scissors and cut across the stalk in these places. I made 4 cuts in total, turning one long plant into 5 shorter plants. 



Line up your 5 plants and remove any dead, dry, rotting, or mushy foliage with your scissors and any areas of dry, dead stalk.



Now, we need to create some roots. Gently pull off the bottom 2 leaves from each new plant. This will expose some roots or root nubs (small brown protrusions which kind of look like small claws), which will later become roots. 



Dip the roots or nubs into your rooting hormone, if you have some. The rooting hormone will help the new plants grow new roots faster. I highly recommend it. If you can't find rooting hormone to buy locally, you can purchase it on Amazon by clicking HERE (Amazon Affiliate Link).



Now, your plants are all ready to go, we just need to plant them. With your finger, poke as many holes in your soil as you have plants. Insert one plant, in each hole and firm the soil around it. 



Give your plant a drink of water, but do not overwater. Aloes don't like too much water. 

Now, stand back and admire your new aloe vera plants! 



But wait, don't leave yet, there's more! Look at this huge pile of aloe trimmings. Go through your pile and collect any healthy, juicy looking aloe leaves.



Bring them inside. Wash and dry them carefully. Package them up in a sandwich bag and store them in the freezer to use on future sunburns! 



The rest of aloe scraps that are not useful can be placed into your compost bin!

Well, there you have it, folks. We're all done. Here's one more picture of the aloe plant, returned back to its home beside my kitty cat draft chaser.



I hope this tutorial gives you the inspiration to prune your own aloe vera plant! Do you enjoy my tutorials? If so, you can Like me on Facebook by clicking here.

DIY How To Paint Fabric Vertical Blinds


When we first moved into our house, all of the window treatments were included. They were a mishmash of modern and extremely dated. The vertical blinds in our kitchen being the oldest. I could see why the previous homeowners kept them, though, as they were extremely well made. I would say they are from around 1970. They vertical slats are made of a thick, stiff fabric that looks sort of like woven canvas. It was their orangey brown color however, that really gave away their age. 



I decided that it was time to take the plunge and try to revamp my fabric blinds to make them look more modern. I scoured the internet for inspiration but came up empty handed. I couldn't find any information on how to change the color of this type of fabric blind. So, I threw caution to the wind and decided to do it my own way. Here is how I did it, in case you would like to revamp your blinds as well!



This project wasn't particularly expensive, it was more time consuming than anything else. All together it took me 2 days to complete, with a lot of time sitting around and waiting for my paint to dry. I was working in my kitchen with limited space, so I could only work on 10 blinds at a time out of 30.

Here is what you will need to get started.

Materials:

- Primer. My blinds were very old and I wanted to block any possible stains from showing through the paint once they were finished. 

- Paint color of your choice. I used an acrylic latex paint in white, as it was what I had on hand.

- Contact paper with a design or a strip of pretty fabric to create a new look for your valance. If you like the design that I used, you can find it on Amazon HERE (Amazon Affiliate Link)

- A Paint brush. I used a 2-inch angle brush. It's nothing fancy. To be honest, I think it came from the dollar store, but I use it for everything!

- A large garbage bag to lay your vertical slats on while painting. Do not skip this step, or your floor will be covered in paint. When I started, I just covered the floor with a sheet and the paint seeped through onto the floor. Then I had to clean the paint up with acetone. Don't make my mistake!

- A fan. This is optional, but it will speed up your productivity as it will make your paint dry quicker.

Method:

1. Unhook each blind from the valance. Mine came down quite easily as they are just hooked into little plastic slots at the top. 

Lay your vertical slats on the floor with the back side up.


Paint on a layer or primer. If your blinds were anything like mine, they will really suck up the primer, so don't be alarmed. Make sure you don't leave any bare spots.



Once you have all of the backs of the blinds painted, put the fan on and leave them to dry. Fabric takes quite a bit longer to dry than a hard surface as it is porous. Mine took about an hour until they were dry to the touch.

2. Once they are reasonably dry, flip each blind segment over. Now, apply a coat of primer to the front side of each blind. When you are done, turn on the fan and wait until they are dry.

3. Now that the primer is dry, it's time to paint! Turn all of the blinds over, so you will once again be starting with the back side of the blinds. 

Using your brush, apply a generous coat of paint, but make sure it's not drippy or globby. Pay close attention to make sure that you do not leave any bare spots and that you are achieving an even coverage. Once you have finished, turn on the fan and let it dry.



4. Once it is dry, flip the blinds over and apply a coat of paint to the front of the blinds. At this point, I decided to let the blinds dry overnight as they basically had 4 layers of paint/primer on them. I allowed them to dry for an hour on the floor and then rehung them from the valance to let them continue drying for the rest of the night.

5. In the morning, take a good look at your blinds. Is the color uniform? Did you achieve good coverage? If your answer to either of these questions is no, then I would suggest a second coat. Luckily, my blinds looked amazing after the first coat of paint, so I did not need to apply a second coat.

6. Now, it's time to work on the valance! Take down your valance. Mine was very easy to take down as it just slides into 2 slots, one on each side. 

Remove the fabric strip from the valance. The trim on my valance was very yellowed with age, so I quickly and carefully painted on 2 coats of white paint.

If you would like to paint the fabric strip and keep your valance the same color as your blinds, then you can feel free to do so. 

However, I decided that I wanted to go with a different look, so I attached a strip of self-adhesive contact paper to the valance. This took quite a bit of time and persistence to get it perfect, but I am quite happy with the result.



That's pretty much it. One thing I should mention is that painting fabric will ultimately change the texture, my blinds are stiffer now than before I painted them. I actually prefer the texture now better than before. Painting blinds will also make them more opaque, so they will let less light through. This doesn't bother me as I like to have my blinds open during the day anyway. 



I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it gives you the inspiration you need to tackle your own blinds! I'm really happy with how mine turned out. They really brighten up my room now and add some character. 

Have you ever painted fabric blinds before? Are you going to now after reading my tutorial? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you.

Don't forget to LIKE Keen Koala on Facebook for instant access to the latest posts, exclusive content, and contests by clicking HERE!

How To Remove Bugs From Potted Plants

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If you're anything like me, the idea of watching a prized potted plant die this fall just makes you very sad. For me, it's a succulent with pretty pink flowers that I just had to have!

Outside plants harbor insects that when brought indoors can become quite a nuisance, particularly those little flies called fungus gnats that live in plant soil here in Canada. They buzz, fly up in your face, and multiply rapidly.

What if I told you that there is an way to easily debug your outdoor potted ornamental plants so that you can bring them inside without worry. Well, it's true! It only takes a few minutes, doesn't require any harsh chemicals or special products, and it's dirt cheap. Hehe, get my pun? Nothing better than a little gardening humor to get the project started.

Without any further adieu, let's clean some plants!

What you will need:

A large and tall pail (I used a clean 5 gallon pail)
Clean water
Mild liquid soap like Ivory, plain Dawn, or Dr. Bronners
A potted plant

Method:

Fill your pail with water that is the same temperature as the air outside.  Add a few squirts of soap and mix well.

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Carefully lower your potted plant into the soapy water. Try to cover all of the leaves.

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If the plant is too tall, use a cup to ladle water carefully over the leaves as if you were giving it a gentle bath.


Allow the plant to soak in the water bath for 10 to 15 minutes. This will kill any insects on the plant.


When the time has passed, remove the plant from the water and set aside.

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Dump out your pail and rinse it. Refill with clean water. Submerge your plant again for 5 minutes to remove soap residue.

After the time has passed, gently lift out your plant and allow it to drain, either outside or in a sink.

Once the water is finished draining, repot the plant if it appears to be getting too large for it's pot, then find a nice sunny spot for it indoors.

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Looking stunning after her gentle
bath and repotting.

Repeat this method for any other plants that you would like to bring indoors.

Also, I should note that this method will also work for houseplants that have become infested with bugs!

I hope you enjoyed this quick and simple tutorial. Now, don't delay, we only have a few more days before it freezes, at which point it will be too late to save your plants!

Don't forget to "Like" Keen Koala on Facebook for instant access to the latest posts, exclusive content and contests by clicking HERE!

How To Remove Cloudiness And White Discoloration From Plastic Eyeglass Frames


Plastic eyeglass frames are awesome. They are trendy, light weight, and very comfortable. What's not so awesome though, is the white discoloration and cloudiness that occurs after months or years of wear.

YUCK!
At first I thought this discoloration was a build up caused by a combination of makeup, face cream, and the environment. I tried my best to clean it off with mild dish soap and gentle scrubbing, but it wouldn't budge.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the problem was much deeper. The plastic/acetate material itself had become cloudy, so in order to get rid of the discoloration, it would be necessary to remove the discolored layer of the plastic all together. I'm guessing that this discoloration happens because of a chemical reaction between the products we use on our face and hair and the plastic. It may also be caused by oxidation or a combination of the two reasons.


Here is what I did to fix my frames so that you can fix yours too. Be sure that you are very careful because plastic frames are a bit flimsy and require a gentle hand*.


Here is what you will need to get started:


- Discolored plastic or acetate glasses frames

- A Revlon Crazy Shine Nail Buffer. These can be found in most drug stores. They are shaped like a large tear drop. I just used an old one that I have had for many years. I would NOT recommend substituting with any other type of sand paper or nail buffer as they may scratch your frames. The Revlon nail buffer is very gentle. If you can't find this nail buffer locally, you can purchase one on Amazon by clicking HERE (Amazon Affiliate Link).



Method*:


Looking at the nail buffer, you will notice that it has 2 sides, a rougher side and a very smooth side. To begin, we will start with the rougher side.




Locate the discoloration on your glasses frames, for me it was on the arms and they were so discolored that they were embarrassing and you could no longer tell that they were tortoise shell frames. Using the rougher side of the buffer, gently file away the discoloration. Support the arm of the glasses with the other hand and be very gentle as plastic glasses arms can be a bit flimsy. Use gentle strokes along the arm. The grit level on the Revlon Crazy Shine nail buffer is quite mild, so it is unlikely to mar your frames, but still be gentle. Also be very careful that you do not touch the lenses with the buffer. If your discoloration is near the lenses, I would strongly recommend either taping over the lenses or removing them before proceeding, in order to protect them.



It's impossible to photograph a 2 handed project by yourself!
Use both hands. One to support the arm of your glasses and the other to buff.
Once you have been buffing for a while, you will notice that the discoloration has totally disappeared. Well, it hasn't really disappeared, you filed it off.


I can see the tortoise shell print again!
Now that you have removed all of the discoloration, you may notice that your frames may look a little lack luster, but never fear because that is what the smooth side of the Revlon Crazy Shine Nail Buffer is for.

Using long and gentle strokes, buff along the length of the arm until it looks smooth and slightly shiny. Make sure to support the arm of your glasses and don't press hard.



Some more awkward one handed photography.
Use both hands when you do this. One to support the arm, and the other to buff.
Once you are satisfied with how the arm of your glasses looks, inspect the entire frame carefully to see if there are any other areas that need some work. For me, it was just the arms of my glasses.

Once I finished using this method, my glasses looked as good as new. I feel proud to wear them again! Seriously, before doing this, I thought I was going to have to buy new glasses, but not anymore! They look just as good as the first day I got them now, and that is really saying something considering my glasses are 5 years old! 



Don't they look beautiful? Clean, shiny, and as good as new!
I hope this tutorial helped you! Did you try it yet? Leave me a comment below and let me know how it went, I would love to hear from you.

For more great tutorials, don't forget to LIKE Keen Koala on Facebook for instant access to the latest posts, exclusive content and contests by clicking HERE!


*Disclaimer: Use this method at your own risk. Your results may vary. I will not be held responsible or liable for any damage that occurs to your eyeglasses from following this tutorial. Thank you.


DIY Upcycled Outdoor Solar Chandelier Tutorial


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So, the other day I was out at my dad's farm. We were in the Quonset, which is a long circular steel building where farm machinery is stored. I was helping him choose a color to paint the bucket of his tractor. On the way out, cans of paint in hand, I spied an old, rusty chandelier hanging from a hook near the door. I mentioned it to my father and he jumped at the opportunity to bestow the old "treasure" upon his favorite daughter. He pulled over a ladder and quickly climbed up its precarious rungs. He handed the chandelier down to me. It was heavy and completely caked with layers of well-aged dust. Beneath all of the grime and rust, I knew this chandelier had the potential to be beautiful again.

Now, I know not everyone is lucky enough to have an old chandelier thrust upon them, in fact, I had been looking for one for quite some time myself. I would suggest checking your local thrift stores, garage sales, online classifieds, or your grandparent's storage shed. 

Well, without further adieu, let's make a solar chandelier! Here is a list of what you will need to get started:

Supplies: 

Chandelier
- 5 Round Solar Stake Lights (the number of lights you will need will depend on how many receptacles your chandelier has). 
- Fine Grit Sand Paper (I used 320 grit)
- Primer (I skipped this step and it still turned out great and has withstood many downpours)
- Exterior Latex Paint (I used brush on paint, but a spray paint would work great as well)
- Paint Brush
- Silicone Adhesive. 
- Scissors

How to:

Unscrew glass bulb covers and set them aside as you will not be needing them for this project. Be careful, the first cover that I removed shattered when I removed it. Old glass can become brittle.

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With scissors, carefully cut off the electrical cord from the top of the chandelier. In the image above you can see where the brown electrical cord is coming out of the top of the chandelier near the chain.

Hang chandelier from a plant hanger or shepherd's hook outside where you can easily reach it.

With a wet paper towel, clean off all the dirt to expose the metal. Tighten any of the chandelier components that may have come loose during travel. I had to tighten the base. 

Dip your sand paper into a pot of water and gently sand the chandelier until it's shininess is removed. This is an important step, as paint adheres much better to a rough surface than it will to a shiny surface. Try to remove as much rust as possible with the sand paper. Re-moisten your sand paper if it becomes dry.

Use a wet paper towel again to clean off the chandelier to remove the debris created by sanding. Allow the chandelier to sit until it's completely dry. 

Apply one coat of primer. Let sit until dry. After priming, the chandelier will look splotchy, but don't worry, the paint will even everything out.

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When the primer is dry, I waited a full day, apply 2 coats of paint. I waited 5 hours in between coats. Make sure to dab your brush into all of the nooks and crannies. Painting the chain is the trickiest part! It began to rain about half an hour after my first coat, so make sure to check the forecast. Luckily, my apple tree sort of protected it. 

The next day, once all of the paint is dry to the touch, you can begin attaching the solar lights. This is the trickiest part of the whole project. Remove the solar lights from the round stakes they attach to. They will just pull off quite easily. Apply a thick bead of adhesive caulking around the base of the light. Place the light into one of the receptacles on the chandelier. Smooth the caulk gently with a wet finger to ensure good contact between the light and the receptacle. Once you have attached all lights, adjust any that appear crooked. Check back every hour or 2 to ensure that the lights are still sitting straight. The next day, I applied a second coat of caulking to ensure a strong bond. I would strongly recommend you do so as well. 

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Once the caulking has dried, it's time to hang your chandelier! It's much easier if you have a friend to help. My husband held the chandelier while I stood on the ladder and affixed the chain to the tree with a strong wire. I used pliers to twist the wire which ensured a strong hold. 

Below is a picture of the chandelier hanging from a strong limb of my apple tree. I'm so happy with how it turned out and I have received many compliments from guests. It does a wonderful job of beautifully decorating and illuminating an otherwise dark corner of my yard. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it inspires you to make your own solar chandelier! Please share it with your friends.

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How To Hand Pollinate Zucchini And Squash Plants

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It's that time of year again. Garden plants are getting bigger and everything is so lush and green. I just love this time of year. Some mornings when I go outside, I feel as though my plants have literally shot up overnight.

That was the case this morning. I awoke to two beautiful zucchini flowers, along with my first female flower of the year. I had seen several male flowers before, but never a female to accompany them. 


Now, let's pollinate those zucchini and squash plants! I will be pollinating a zucchini plant today, but the directions are the same for both zucchini and squash.


Before we begin with flower sex identification and pollinating, I should let you know that the best time to pollinate flowers is generally in the morning, as this is when the flowers are the most open, they tend to close themselves during the heat of the day. I like to do my pollinating before 8:00 in the morning.



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So, how exactly do you tell the difference between male and female flowers? It's quite simple once you get the hang of it. Let me teach you how.


First, you need to look at the stems attached to the flowers. 


Male flowers generally have a thin, spindly stem.



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Two Thin Stemmed Male Flowers

Female flowers, on the other hand, have a thicker, more robust stem that could potentially turn into a zucchini IF it is pollinated properly. The stem looks like a mini zucchini and it will be green or yellow depending on the color of fruit your plant produces. My stem is yellow because this zucchini plant produces yellow fruit.



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Thicker stemmed female zucchini

Now, let's take a look at the flowers themselves.


The male flower will have a long single stamen which is covered in a yellow powder called pollen. 



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Male Flowers Stamen

The female flower, on the other hand, will have a stigma. This protrusion has multiple filaments. It kind of looks like a flower inside of the flower.



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Female Flower's Stigma

The pollen from the male's stigma needs to make its way to the female's stamen for proper pollination and fruiting to occur. Bees and butterflies are great pollinators, but with the bee populations in decline, I don't leave this task up to chance. This is where hand pollination comes into play.


With your finger or a cotton swab, gently rub against the stamen of the male flower. I keep a cotton swab stuck into the ground beside my zucchini plants specifically for this purpose. I use the clean side for pollinating. 



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Collecting Pollen From The Male Flower

Take a look at your finger or cotton swab, you should see a yellow powdery substance. This is the pollen.


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Pollen!

Move over to your female flower. Gently rub your pollen laden finger or cotton swab onto the stigma of the female flower. Look closely to make sure that you have deposited the pollen onto the filaments and the center of the stigma.



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Depositing Pollen Onto The Stigma

Congratulations, you have just pollinated your first flower! Give yourself a pat on the back. I'm serious. Most people will likely live their entire life and never hand pollinate a flower. Now, when you see your zucchini fruit start to grow, you can feel proud knowing that it's all because of your help!

Here's a handy dandy diagram I drew of male and female zucchini flowers. I'm not a very good artist, but it works!




Oh, before you go, I really should mention one more thing. If you happen to have an abundance of male flowers, you should try eating some. They're seriously delicious. You can eat them raw or fried lightly in butter. They're quite the summer treat. The only way I can describe the flavor is dreamy!


Happy pollinating everyone! If you liked this tutorial, please Like my page on Facebook here!