Friday, February 24, 2012

Can you say, "Comfort Zone"?

My boy's first Steampunk convention is coming up.  It has been a big rush to finish up the fabulous costume he has been building, yes building, for our first day at the convention.  Oddly enough, I was able to find my outfits for day one and two from among my own possessions.

The boys insisted that I dye my hair "Amy Pond Red" to complete my Steampunk Victorian look.  No way! Not gonna do it, not no way, not no how, never gonna happen.  I love her hair color but I could never purposely go so bold.  I still found myself a few weeks later, however, standing in a beauty supply shop in the center of a double 25+ ft. long aisle of hair color products looking at different shades of red, wondering if I had the guts to go for it.

The store clerk with the lavender purple hair assured me that if I tried a temporary color it would wash out in only a few days of shampooing, a semi-permanent in only four to twelve.  I immediately shied away from the temp. colors as all five or six of them that were available were in the bright, daring versions of her own hue, and started looking at the red/browns.

Fortunately, the few pesky strands of gray hair that are showing up with more frequency over the last few years in my own hair haven't been bothersome enough to have me considering covering them, and with the exception of toying with color a bit, years ago, I have no experience with such things.

My natural hair color is brown with the subtle red highlights that are prevalent among the members of my father's side of the family, so in the color aisle, I looked at color samples that were redder than my hair has ever been.

I'm not a shopper or browser.  I am the kind of person, for the most part, who runs into a store to buy what I need and then out as quickly as possible.  The twenty minutes it took me to decide on a color, or if I even wanted to color my hair, still standing in that one aisle was beyond frustrating.  I finally, after hounding the poor violet haired girl with more questions, decided to choose a color that would wash out in four to twelve shampoos, figuring that I could stay home and wash it that many times before I would be seen in public or by anyone I know if it turned out to be one of those horrific hair disasters I am always hearing about.  "Amy Pond Red" was definitely out.  I'm not the kind of person who can pull that off, so I settled on a reddish brown that looked more red than brown, and that was that. 

All week I hemmed and hawed and had nearly decided that "I didn't have time" to try out the new hair color.  Then there was the strict warnings on the bottle instructions about allergic reactions and this test patch on the inside of my elbow that I was supposed to perform to see if I would have a reaction to the dye.  There were also the lumps that remain from what I suspect was a spider bite I received a few weeks ago to worry about.  Not broken skin, but still hanging around at the nape of my neck, nonetheless.  Too much trouble and worry and so much else to do this week.

Well, I did the test patch and nearly 24 hrs. later got up and decided to go for it, gloves.  You are supposed to wear gloves to apply the color.  Oh well, there goes that, I thought.  Then I remembered my stash of plastic grocery bags.  I wonder...  I found one with no store logo on it and thought that I should choose it rather than taking the chance that I would be adding the color from a store's logo to my dye job.  But could I do it one-handed and keep the toxic chemicals from getting into my eyes as the bottle also cautioned against?

I did and after 25 nerve-wracking minutes of sitting with extremely red goop all over my head, the job was done.  I rinsed and rinsed, so nervous to see all of that red, RED water going down the drain, wondering if I had done something really really dumb, until the water finally ran clear, at least another 25 minutes later.

After blow drying it into place I popped out of the bathroom, ta da! style to see if my husband would have the same reaction to the change as I had when I saw the first dried strands in the glow of the bathroom vanity lights.  He did.  He peered closer, squinting his eyes to detect any difference from my natural color whatsoever.  Like myself, he saw none.  I was trying not to laugh as I dragged him into the bathroom behind me and stood on tiptoe as close to the overhead lights as I could.

"Now can you tell?  It's like the color of Cherry Coke when you hold a two-liter up to the light, you know, like it was before I colored it."

"Oh yeah", he finally said, still wrinkling his nose."

About an hour later, with a lot of hinting from me, my kids finally saw "the change".  One said he noticed that my hair was shinier.

Oh well. I'm comfortable, at least, not totally freaking and washing my hair until it falls out as I'd imagined could happen.  Those 20 to 30 pesky gray hairs?  Gone.  Washed away like the money I just sent swirling down the drain by buying a bottle of hair dye the exact stinkin' shade of my own.  Dummy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Balmy with a chance of showers.

Icky day yesterday.  Not bad at all, just icky.  We all started feeling under the weather on Sunday and one of us had mysterious symptoms on Saturday night which made more sense the next day when the rest of us followed.  Sounded like flu, all the same symptoms, but so mild it couldn't have been, especially since the one family member with the flu vaccine has been hit the worst with it, not that that really means anything.  Don't get me started on vaccinations...

With big plans for this coming weekend, however, we ditched all of our usual "Mondays", nitty gritty top to bottom cleaning, cooking, and teaching for me, heavy lessons for the boys, and took the time to recuperate.  No one wants to miss out on the weekend and it is already paid for with non-refundable tickets and room reservations, so we WILL be better.

I did something I never, well very seldom do, laid in bed and watched t.v.  I didn't write or blog, I didn't read, but for one chapter of a new book, check my email, I just plopped on the bed and watched one thing after another.  It was FABULOUS!!  I started with one of my favorite movies, Fight Club, then V for Vendetta came on (had trouble focusing on that one and ended up taking a long hot shower and doing a little cooking through it),  Paranormal State, one of the few series I watch on a regular basis, a show on the Gettysburg Address, then one on the Battle of Gettysburg which both, to my surprise, brought tears to my already leaky, puffy eyes.  I just love that Mr. Lincoln!

I did some hand stitching to mend some items and dozed off around 7 p.m., which I consider napping; something I find that I am only able to do once or twice a year if I'm sick because my brain barely even slows down enough for me to sleep during the night.  I know, you'd think that because of the insomnia I'd crash during the day.  Nope. 

At 7:09 my boy came bursting into the room to ask me a question so that was the end of my "nap". At that point, I realized my lips were dry so decided to get up and do something about it before the boys and I watched Blade Runner, a movie my teenager wanted to see after watching a documentary on the creator of the film. 

I got out my coconut oil and the little bars of beeswax I have stored away for wood floor waxing, and the bottle of almond oil I keep as a carrier for essential oils.  Within a few minutes I had the most fabulous lip balm I've ever used. Take that Burt's Bees with the lip balm that contains peppermint oil and makes my rosacea flare up with extended use!

The movie was as boring as I remember from watching it in the 80's, though Harrison Ford is still my favorite actor and I totally missed as a teenager how touching and poignant the ending was.  Then I went to bed for real and watched I Survived and My Ghost Story until I fell asleep and woke up at 5 a.m. for no good reason.  Actually, my back was stiff like after the first day of a new workout and I know for certain it was simply from all the laying around while watching t.v. the day before.

Here's my lip balm recipe.  I didn't take any photos.  If you need to know what it looks like, it's creamy and yellow and has the appearance of candle wax or...lip balm.  It is so emollient, however, that I am also using it as hand cream, though I do need to wipe the excess oils from my palms before I pet the cat or type on the laptop or use the t.v. remote, etc.

None of Your Bees Wax! Lip Balm

1/2 ounce bees wax
1 1/2 T cold pressed organic virgin coconut oil
1 T almond oil

I made a double boiler to melt the bees wax in by putting a small stainless steel bowl over simmering water in a small saucepan.  When it was melted, I stirred in the coconut oil and almond oil.  I poured some into a clean and empty container with a lid that came from a lotion sample, more into tiny chocolate molds, and the remaining, much more than I expected to make, I poured into a small Rubbermaid container with a lid.  I would have preferred to use glass jars rather than plastic but I didn't have any of the right size.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Breakfast Room

I have so many plans for this little cottage and farm.  Because it's winter and rainy and tax season and I have a husband who is a tax software engineer and is always working which leaves me with no help for projects...I have decided to tackle what I can on the inside of the house.  Well, I thought I had no help.  I usually don't, but my boys are so big and helpful now, that combined, it's like having another adult to help.

They had no problem taking a hammer to their lesson room when I decided to turn it into a sunny breakfast room.

When it came time to rip up the old vinyl flooring I had put down when we were "bandaging" the house well enough to get a good appraisal as renters so we could purchase it, they were demolition monsters!  I've never seen anyone rip into something like they did with that floor.  Specially outfitted with dust masks (until they realized how uncomfortable they were) and leather gloves, they went to it and finished before I could say "allowance bonuses this week."

It was my husband's idea to make that room a breakfast room.  You have no idea what a big deal that is.  I did mention that he is a software engineer?  He's a genius.  I know this.  I can't even comprehend the things that go on in that head of his, but if you've ever met anyone of this mentality you know that ordinary, every day things and artistically creative endeavors are as foreign to them as a sandbox is to a fish.  This fish out of water of mine (I have called him on different occasions an alien, robot, Vulcan, human computer, and now a fish.) usually has no idea what I am doing when I talk about renovating, landscaping, cooking, or when I pull out the power tools, hammers, wrenches, and screw drivers with a plan that must be executed by the end of the week, preferably by the end of the day if I'm to sleep soundly.  So when I was rambling on about a gas stove one evening and how I couldn't believe that I am still cooking on an electric, then began wondering aloud where would we even put the size stove I'm thinking about and he very simply suggested making the room that adjoins the kitchen into a breakfast room, I think the Earth stood still for a moment.  The fact that I agreed with him probably knocked it off its axis for another.  The fact that it worked out so beautifully is just mind boggling.

We are the same kind of people, basically, but beautifully opposite in so many ways.  The important thing is that our tastes are the same, with the exception of music and lipstick color maybe (he likes "Hooker Red', I don't), and we differ only in the ways in which we are creative.  We are both work horses, honest, by the book, caring, family oriented, old-fashioned nature lovers but because we are gifted in different ways we don't work well together...AT ALL.  He drives me nuts which drives him nuts.  He sees things in a completely different way (the "wrong" way, of course...I mean, he is a man after all.  Giggle.).

So, he is my calculator, my wood cutter, board holder, wire fence puller, plumber, and electrician, and that is about all he's allowed to do around here.  I happily take on the rest knowing it will save us both a lot of frustration in the end and he is more than happy to let me have at it.  I say all of this knowing that he is in full agreement and won't be offended in the least when he reads this.  Love you, honey!!  Oh, and you are more than welcome to continue taking the trash to the recycling center on your way to work.  Thanks.  My hero.

That's why I am still so pleasantly surprised every morning when I sit in my new breakfast room with the morning sun streaming in (or rain pattering at the windows) knowing that I never would have had this precious space if it weren't for my husband's brilliant idea.

We are a homeschool family.  We need an entire room devoted to school, don't we?  I thought so.  Everyone seems to think so.  I never ever thought that room could be something other than a school room or a nursery, had we ever been sprung with the surprise of another baby on the way.

The room was odd to begin with.  It had in the corner, a neat little cabinet and small closet, about half the size of an armoire, long short windows, siding on one wall that used to be the outside of the house, plumbing in the corners, and an extremely low ceiling.  It was so obviously added on to the back of the house over an old patio and sandwiched between two more additions, a bathroom and a laundry room, that I decided when we moved in that it would be the perfect office/lesson room.  My farmhouse kitchen table just had to go in the middle of the farmhouse kitchen, or so I thought.  As a result, I have spent the last six years rotating the kitchen table and refrigerator around and around the kitchen trying to find the "perfect" arrangement.

When we really started looking around the lesson room, we realized that we only used the closet, which I had added shelves to, the cabinet, and two drawers of one of those ridiculously large, mid-twentieth century metal file cabinets to do our school work.  Parts of speech cut outs and two bulletin boards with hanging calenders attached were the only other school related things in the room.  It was an easy decision to make once we realized that we could still use the closet and cabinet and consolidate what was in the file cabinet so we could get rid of it all together and just move the bulletin boards.  My son was very happy to have the computer and printers moved to his room since his brother already had an antique of a desk top in his.  With the decision made and the idea that we could easily return it to a school room if any of us panicked after the job was done and thought we had made a mistake, we set to work. 

I started out planning to only demolish the core door I had put up on day one of moving in as renters to give us something of a counter to use in that room, remove the file cabinet, and repaint.
I chose the same 1940's "Coke bottle" green that is in the kitchen.

I love it when I find more Pepto Bismol pink paint in this old house.  It shows me that I really do live in an antique. I have left the pantry shelves this original color so that when you open the doors you see right away that it's a special house. I will abide it for as long as I can.  Now that I am living with the green, I wonder how we ever stood the chocolate brown.  What kid wants to do school work in a cave?

These neat little cabinets were built in when we moved in.  They line three walls at the ceiling.  Perfect to hold our movie collection.

I did those things, but on morning number two I got the brainy idea to redo the floors in black and white checkered tiles to match the kitchen so it would be a continuation of that space, maybe knocking out part of the wall eventually to combine with an existing doorway to make a larger entrance.

The boys and I headed out to our local home improvement center and looked at our options.  We ended up deciding on a concrete stain that would make the floors a vert-de-gris hue and ditched the checkered idea.  My older boy thought the black and white would be too much of the same.  I agreed.  The only problem was that I had torn up a portion of the old floor that morning and saw that it was in terrible shape.  It was cracked and unlevel in so many places.  I knew something permanent would have to eventually be done about it.  The cleaning and concrete staining process was daunting and seemed dangerous and BIG and I just wasn't prepared to go the whole nine yards knowing that we would cover the floor one day.  Instead, I decided to buy concrete garage paint and do my best to make it look like green stained concrete.

The boys ripped up the rest of the vinyl, then I scrubbed and removed all the grit from the floor.  I painted next with a dark green paint and let it dry.  I had to let it dry completely because it was oil and the other colors I was using were latex and like oil and water, oil and water-based paint don't mix.  I dry brushed on white, then worked it in and rubbed it off with a rag.  Then I did the same with a dark brown that I watered down.

I was going to seal the paint when I was done with the technique with a heavy duty polyurethane, but when I was finished I wasn't sure enough about the look to seal it in permanently.  I decided to pull out my favorite project stain, one I used a lot when "antiquing" furniture and hand painted signs for clients when I sold art and antiques, brown Kiwi shoe polish.  I used almost an entire large can that I had left over from those good old days and decided to leave the floor as it was and live with it for a while to see if I wanted to stain it a deeper color.

We moved the furniture in that night and started decorating.  It was so odd.  Every time I added a piece, it looked as if it had been waiting its entire life, a life much longer than mine for most items, to be placed in that room. 
We are going to build a cabinet on the left that matches the one on the right to cover the plumbing and water filter.  I had planned to build a bench with storage along the wall between the two cabinets, but I am loving the bench that's there.

I love this bench.  I made it years ago out of half a shipping crate and a twin head board.  It wasn't supposed to go in this room, the red toile isn't really appropriate, but now I love it. 

The first day I saw the 1883 Victorian home my parents had bought in the Blue Ridge Mts. I found this bookcase in the attic and pulled it into room that would be mine.  As a 16 yr. old in the late 80's, I knew I needed somewhere to apply all that Aqua Net and electric blue mascara, so scavenged around some more until I found an old mirror to hang above it.  When my dad sold the house over a decade later, he saved it for me.  One of my prized possessions!  The house itself is for sale again.  I often toy with the idea...

The next morning the boys and I ate breakfast at our little 50's red chrome legged table with the sun coming in the window and our ducks happily wagging their tails on the other side.

We found that we enjoyed doing lessons much better in the room with it re-purposed and everything we needed was still within reach in the existing built-ins.  Sadly, I realized that since my older son is considering attending high school and, either way, I only have a few years left with them before they are grown men, that I was very glad we had changed the room together and I never have to do that alone and suffering from empty nest syndrome while they are off at college.  It will be hard enough dealing with empty bedrooms and an empty house when the time comes.

I set to work again and planted my herb seedlings which I knew would grow well in the sunny windows.

Because we moved the coffee cabinet, an off brand of an old Hoosier which contains our coffees, teas, mugs, microwave, and coffee makers, into the breakfast room, the boys found it fun and convenient to make tea without even leaving the room.

We drank a lot of tea together that day, and in the evening, we made chocolate doughnut holes with our electric maker right on the table in the breakfast room.
I can tell by looking at the edges of the ceiling where it is unfinished in a couple of places that there is old bead board underneath.  I really want to rip that silly plywood down and see what condition it's in.  Another time.  I'm tired and it isn't going anywhere.  This old light fixture,  however, did...go somewhere.

Our new light in its box.  It is now installed, but I have yet to take a picture of it.

Our new red and "chrome" clock.  Perfect!  It quit working about an hour later, when the box it came in had already been taken to the recycling center, of course.  I hate Kmart.   

Looked all over the place for my dadgum meat mallet so that I could pound chicken for Chicken Marsala one night.  "Oh yeah."  Fortunately, I remembered that while decorating I found that I needed one more metal kitchen implement to hang from this rack in the breakfast room to complete the look.  Dinner was saved.

No, I don't "have" a Coke memorabilia collection.  It just sort of happens when you have a red mid-century kitchen.  The thermos was my grandfather's, the coffee carafes were my godmother and German grandmother's. There was one more but I broke it about two days before the renovation.  I guess it wouldn't have fit on the shelf, anyway.  The Calumet baking powder can I found in the old garden shed of the house when we moved in.  Treasure.

Almost two full weeks later, lessons still get done without a lesson room, even though I've been asked on two different occasions by well-meaning, concerned individuals, "But where will you do your lessons?!" Everyone in the family is sublimely happy with the change.  It's the only place in the house where morning light streams through and I wonder how we survived all along without it and the heavy curtains that used to block the light of those windows so everyone could see the computer screen.

The kitchen is a little bare now that we moved so many big pieces out of it, but looks a little more grown up.  There's plenty of room for my must have big gas stove.  Hubby loves the change and loves taking credit for the idea, which I gladly give.  He walked in on day two of decorating and said, "I like how open the kitchen looks now.  It doesn't look as...white trash as it did before."  Well, I hope the next time something around here looks a little too hillbilly someone will tell me! And I guess that means that since the things that are missing from the kitchen are now in the breakfast room that it looks trashy?  Oh well, one man's trash...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Darkest Days...Not mine, theirs.

What does my music immersion have to do with green living, gardening, healthy eating, cooking...not a dadgum thing except that while doing these things lately I am burying myself under layers of deep music.  I say deep because I don't like loud music unless I am at a concert or alone in the house where I can't bother anyone else with my moodiness which tends to come in waves and accompanies the need for "my" music.  Loud, live music is an escape for me, thus the concert addiction. Deep music, anything that moves me, be it instrumental Celtic, classical in what I consider to be somber tones, or heavy metal with a great singer, usually a gruff, deep-voiced, male, crooning away seeps right to my core.

I'm not a shopper who finds release in "retail therapy", I love to watch movies but can barely sit still through one and movie theaters are torture for me unless I'm watching an epic film (or a hilarious one) that catches me up and stays with me for a lifetime.  I can tolerate hobbies only for so long and have only a few that give me creative release.  With very little time for family days out, a husband whom I only see while he is sleeping any more these days, and drowning myself in cooking for my family and my blog, I have found that I need concerts in my life to ease an almost ongoing restlessness.  I'll run to one of our local venues hours, sometimes minutes before a concert is to begin, on the off-chance that I'll get in and "get away" for the evening.  Others are planned months in advance.  There is nothing for me right now that equals live music with the exception of just plain silly times with my boys, of which there are many. 

Even jaunts in the woods among nature, the ultimate escape for me, have been few and far between the last year and a half.  It's simply not safe in these mountains to take your family out into the woods when the weather is being fickle and you don't know what will come next.  It can change so quickly in our area, especially with the rains we've had this winter and last summer being nearly non stop which makes for slippery, dangerous trails and flash floods.  Last winter was bitterly cold, too cold for venturing out much.  I am missing it terribly, lessons by the river with my boys, drives in and through the mountains, and can't wait for spring.  In the meantime I feel as if I'm waiting and waiting and waiting for life to begin and things to settle down for our family and for the weather to mellow.  It's gone on for months and months...

I haven't even been able to find peace in yoga and meditation for the past few weeks, can't seem to tolerate my usual soothing forms of music and have been specifically avoiding those three things which usually calm me tremendously.  So on go the headphones.  Away I go. 

It was during one such phase, around a year ago, (Hmm...I wonder if the season/holidays ending has anything to do with it?  I just realized that yesterday was a year to the day.  How odd.  Some kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder???) that I was coming home from grocery shopping with my boys one early evening and remembered that the band Hinder was playing nearby that night.  I did some quick calculations and decided that by the time I made it home, unloaded the groceries, reapplied my lipstick (hee hee), drove back into town to drop the boys off with my husband and drove the hour it would take to reach the concert venue, I would just make it...if they still had tickets.  They did.  I made it. 

The big deal of the night, however, was not the headlining band, not one of my favorites to begin with, but after learning that there were four bands playing that night, I settled in to a spot front and center of the standing room only performance center prepared to wait through whatever crappy bands would open for Hinder. 

Crappy bands, my butt!  Here come these boys bursting out onto stage, all of them young enough to be my children, well almost, and I was blown away, simply by the quality of the lead singer's voice.  A few songs into their performance when they did a cover of Duran Duran's Come Undone I 'bout peed my pants.  It was pretty darn amazing to hear live. I like loud music, love rock bands, but only if the band members are actually singing, as in carrying an actual tune and staying on key with minimal bits of senseless, angry screaming. Needless to say, when I was a teenager in the 80s, I wasn't a fan of metal with the exception of my all time favorite band, Def Leppard, who weren't really heavy metal to begin with. It's the music, the guitar riffs, the drums, and ultimately the voice for me.  Well, this boy, Matt Walst of My Darkest Days, can sing and I was sold.  I could have gone home at that point, with two more bands yet to play, feeling as if I hadn't missed a thing.

While some of their songs get awfully teeny bopper and others are outright trashy, I am happy to see that these boys have really come along in the last year since their first album was released.  I have been waiting for them to finish their last tour and the production of their newest album to see if they would be swinging back down south again.  They are.  And what a doozy of a concert it will be.  My tickets (birthday present from Hubby) are already purchased and not only will I get to see those boys perform again but they are touring with Nickelback, Seether, and Bush.  It will be a night to remember and an escape I am seriously looking forward to.  I never counted on having the opportunity to hear the other three bands, though two have been favorites of mine for quite some time, and have only recently realized, through the help of a friend, that Bush is Gavin Rossdale, Gavin Rossdale is Bush, don't know how I missed that one, so am pleasantly surprised to be able to see him live, as well.  What voices these men have!  Spine quivering...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Song Du Jour

Can't get this out of my head today. Hauntingly beautiful.

 Breaking Benjamin ~ Breath 

"Is it over yet?  I can't wait! 
So sacrifice yourself and let me have what's left.  I know that I can find the fire in your eyes...
You take the breath right out of me.  You left a hole where my heart should be.  You've gotta fight just to make it through 'cause I will be the death of you.
This will be all over soon.  Pour the salt into the open wound.  Is it over yet?  Let me in!
I'm waiting.  Realize!  You take the breath right out of me."