This and This and That

Greetings, friends!  I know I’ve been waning on my blogging duties lately, and that disappoints me because I was just starting to get to all the art projects I’ve been working on that I wanted to share with you.  Buuuut… I’m still navigating the learning curve with this Lupus diagnosis, and just when I thought I’d be in and out of a quick flare, I got a bad sinus and upper respiratory infection, I injured my knee in an apparent sleeping accident (another fine benefit of Lupus), and then another flare followed.  So, this…

…is the second Medrol (steroid) pack I’ve had to take in the past four weeks.

…is the new (and grossly disgusting!) homeopathic turmeric milk drink I’ve started taking daily to attempt to help with inflammation.

…is the remnants of a cute little egg I found on my doorstep.  (Any ideas on what hatched from this would be greatly appreciated.  My first guess was a ringneck snake because we have a lot of those here, but after Googling it, this egg is too round and large.)

And then this…

…is when the shingles for my new roof were delivered this week.  (How cool is that conveyor belt truck?)

…is the roofing crew installing my new roof this morning.  (Actually, this is what my roof looks like naked!)

…is the color scheme that Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I will be painting (or attempting to paint) the exterior of our house this weekend (though with my current state of health and the medical recommendation that I avoid the sun, I believe my contributions may be more in the nature of a supervisory role).  The house will be the Mined Coal grey, the trim will be Bakery Box white, and the accent trim will be Little Black Dress (to match the new charcoal roof).  And once that’s done, I’ll be building two gable pediments which will be white.  Since we are using an airless sprayer for the first time, we’ve all also been busy watching YouTube and See Jane Drill tutorials on how not to end up wasting 15+ gallons of paint.

So, since I’m not able to do the regular blog-thing again quite yet (but hopefully after the house is painted and things are a little more back to normal), I just wanted to pop in today and share some photos I took in Washington D.C. last year, and a couple from other places, and also say that…

…I hope each of you have a Happy, healthy, and SAFE Memorial Day weekend!

…I hope you all remember the purpose for Memorial Day is to honor America’s servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation’s values (and that whether you agree with each and every one of those values or not, you at least appreciate the sacrifice that was made when these lives were lost…I already know you do).

…you all (or at least all the Americans) remember that on Monday at 3:00 p.m. in whatever time zone you are in, that is the time for the one-minute moment of silence.  (In case you have never heard of this, in December of 2000, Congress passed the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” which asks Americans, wherever in the world they may be at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.)

Finally, thank you to all the amazing heroes that serve or have served in our nation’s military.  And thank you to all the front-line workers, essential workers, and to those who are helping keep us safe during this current Covid-19 crisis.

Let’s talk:  What are your plans this weekend?  Have you ever painted the outside of a house with a sprayer?  Do you think we’ll do a great job or have the biggest headache of our lives in this attempt?  (I’m sure it will be one extreme or the other, with no in between.)  Did you know about the 3:00 national moment of silence for Memorial Day?

My Soap Box

Howdy, friends!  I hope everyone is still healthy and holding up well under whatever your area’s current conditions may be.  We’re all okay at my house.  A few days ago, I woke up so swollen I couldn’t walk, but by the time I was able to get in to see my rheumatologist, things started to get a wee bit better.  (It was a little creepy sitting in the waiting room with other people, though most of us were wearing masks).  My doctor ordered the standard Lupus blood work, and my sed rate and CRP levels (which measure inflammation markers) were about three times the highest “normal range” number, so that explains things.  At any rate, I started a steroid pack, and am feeling much better now.

Last week, I started discussing my “artsy” projects.  I forgot to mention that as far as the house repair or remodel projects that we’ve undertaken, I found the most awesome website called See Jane Drill, and it’s geared toward teaching novices how to do carpentry jobs.  The woman who teaches in the videos is a master craftswoman and a journeyman plasterer, and she’s an amazing teacher!  She’ll tell you to “mix the drywall with water until it’s the consistency of pancake batter or buttercream icing,” and you know exactly what to do.  As a matter of fact, she’s not just for the ladies!  My son now watches her for tips for the jobs he does around the house.

But moving along, not too long ago, I shared how Sister Michelle and I were making and selling homemade soaps, but I didn’t tell you where we store them.  Originally, we just had a small variety of fragrances, and those were fine to store in a closet somewhere.  But when we decided on making our favorite twenty-two designs and scents, we needed a dedicated place to keep them, and it needed to be conveniently located where guests could peruse them if they wanted to purchase any.  We agreed that it would be pretty cool if we could find an old library card cabinet and do something with it, but any we found had a large price tag and took up a lot of room.

So, I started searching YouTube for hacks to make my own.  Turns out Ikea had a cute little “blank canvas” which gave me a good jumping in point.

We purchased five of them and Sister Michelle painted them black.  I then turned the drawers around backward so the little finger hole didn’t show.  I bought some black, white, grey, and red scrapbook papers and lined each drawer then covered the front of each drawer to match the lining.  I made sure some papers were textured to add to the visual interest.

I purchased three types of card holder drawer handles, and after deciding how to arrange each drawer and which type of handle to use, drilled the holes and installed the handles.  I attempted to use the grinder to cut of the backs of the screws inside each drawer, but the tool was too large and bulky for the thin wood, so I found a Dremel bit that worked well.

All told, I’m pleased with how it turned out, and I believe it looks good in my living room.  Each drawer holds seven or eight bars of soap (depending on if they are beveled or wavy cut).  When the drawers on the top are especially full of heavy soap, it does get a little difficult to open and close the lower drawers, but once a few bars are removed, they all work fine.  And, of course, when I start to mention “my soap box,” I can weed out the crowd if I don’t want to be around them because they will assume I’m talking about getting up on the other soap box.

Let’s talk:  Do you ever look for furniture hacks on the internet?  Have you ever re-purposed or refinished a piece of furniture to make it look completely different than it looked before?  Have you ever heard of See Jane Drill?  Have you had to see a doctor since the Covid-19 outbreak hit your area? 

Excused Absence?

Hello, friends.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted after my recent “big comeback tour,” and I apologize.  I’m sure we’ve each been dealing with Covid-19 issues, whether they may be, in our own little corners of the world, and I was no exception.  Thankfully, I have not been infected.  I was, however, afraid my daughter was.  She had been sick for more than two weeks, and the Health Department and hospital refused to test her because she hadn’t been out of the country in the past month.  Nearly three weeks in, she was finally able to get tested, and turns out she had the flu but was thankfully negative for Coronavirus.

You’ve also probably heard a lot about Hydroxychloroquine in the news lately.  I happen to take that to manage my Lupus, and even though some rumors were out there that people with Lupus could not get Coronovirus for this reason, several in a couple of Lupus groups I’m in who also take this medicine have turned up positive, and one case was pretty serious.  And then the “fatal side effects” news came along.  So, between worrying about my kiddo as well as dealing with the stress of my medication being on shortage when I needed a refill, and then stressing over the idea that it causes heart issues, my Lupus went into a full-blown flare, and I was pretty much incapacitated these last weeks.

Anyhoozle, I’ve been waiting to get all the other stuff out of the way that I’ve been saving up to blog about so that I could start sharing the “artsy” stuff I’ve been doing around the house.  That time has come.  It’s such an extreme difference in how it feels to finally own a house versus having always rented.  It really inspires me to create.  It also inspires Sister Michelle to utilize all her talents to their finest, such as painting the walls and trim, replacing the plumbing, etc. (among her other many talents), and it brings out Son Jeremy’s magnificent ability to watch YouTube and learn a new skill then conquer the heck out of it on the first try (such as replacing all the baseboards and crown molding).   As for me, my skill is in seeing a space and envisioning it to be something else, then making that happen.

When we moved in, there was a 90s “wall cubby” in the kitchen that was being used by the previous owner as a computer station.  But that wasn’t for us.  I wanted a large pantry that looked a lot more modern than the 1997 build-date of my house.  We hired a contractor to frame it out, and unfortunately, that was our first realization that contractors: 1) are difficult to find; 2) will likely drive up the price after they make a quote; and 3) may not hesitate to take advantage of women because they think we don’t know what they’re talking about.

The contractor who framed out our pantry: 1) didn’t make sure the door was level (not 45 degree angles around the door); 2) knew I intended to add shelves on both sides, yet didn’t add any additional bracing studs to hold shelves (which were obviously intended to hold heavy items such as cans); and 3) did not even tape and mud where the new walls met the existing wall, leaving large gaps.  As it turned out, his knockdown texture also didn’t match the existing pattern size, so I bought a hopper and skim-coated everything and re-textured it (and later, just about the entire house).

After Sister Michelle and I figured out the best way to get the shelves up and be sturdy, she painted and I got busy on the computer designing a transom window.  I bought a thick piece of glass and took it to a vinyl cutting shop where they printed and affixed my design, then I bought a sheet of frosted glass stick-on and applied it to the back of the glass, then had Michelle assist while I built the window frame.  She painted it, then with Jeremy’s help, she installed it, and I found the fancy corner brackets on Etsy (pictured in the bottom photo).

As for the inside, I got some different sized plastic bins and added chalkboard decals and wrote whatever categories of food would go in them with a white paint marker.  For the bins behind the first row, I made additional labels that I affixed to wooden clothespins so that the contents could be seen at a glance.

If you can see the wine shelf above, you don’t need to tell me that the bottles should be stored on their side… I know I need to build or buy something to lay them flat in, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.  Eventually, we hope to remodel the island area of the kitchen and add a wine refrigerator to the cabinet area underneath.

Let’s talk: How are you and your family holding up under the Pandemic?  Have you ever used a drywall hopper to texture a wall?  When was the last time you made a significant change to your house?

Blogger Interview: Sandra

Hello, friends.  A few of weeks ago, I encouraged fellow writers (and anyone else who wanted to play along) to write a short story to accompany the writing prompt I featured and then allow me to interview them.   As with many things new, a lot of times people like to wait until they see someone else dip their toe in the water before they take the plunge.  But I anticipated as much when I put the challenge out there.  So, rather than waiting for someone to be the first to respond to my writing prompt, I’m jumping right into the interview mode, without the homework.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of my newest blogging sisters as well as one of the most artistic and creative photographers I know, Sandra.

Please tell us your name and the links to your blog, website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.  When did you start photography? What motivated you to undertake learning all you could about photography?

Thank you again for having me over Rachel! My name is Sandra. I have been posting on Square One Notes since 2010. I have a Twitter account, my handle is: @squareonenotes although I’ve taken a social media hiatus lately. WordPress is currently my only regular haunt.

As far as my picture collection goes, the backstory is that my husband Erik bought me a Nikon for Christmas about five years ago. I took a class to learn how to use it and have enjoyed experimenting with it ever since.

Sandra

Do you offer any of your photos for sale?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase your work:

I’m more of an enthusiast/hobbyist. I don’t consider myself a pro. I share my pictures on my blog. Taking pictures gets me out of my head. It allows me to disappear into my surroundings instead of my thoughts. It’s become a daily practice. I really enjoy it.

One of Sandra’s beautiful photographs!

What is the one thing you have done and the one thing you have not done during the course of your life that would most surprise (or shock) your readers? 

I have set off the fire alarm more than once while cooking a meal.

I have not had a drink in 17 months!

What is the one thing you have done and the one thing you have not done during the course of your life that would most surprise (or shock) your mother? 

I regularly serve store bought tortillas to my family. My mom always made them for us from scratch. They are so delicious when they are homemade but they are time consuming and labor intensive. Sorry mom, it’s true.

I did not always go to bed on time. In the days of call waiting I would dial up the lady who tells the time so my friends could beep into the line without the phone ringing so we could talk when I should have been sleeping.

If you could travel through time, what is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self, and would your younger self listen?

I would have given my younger self the money to buy tickets to that Nirvana concert I missed right before Kurt killed himself. I didn’t go because I was a broke college student at the time. Still makes me sad that he is gone.

If you had one year to prepare, which record do you think you would have the best shot at breaking in the Guinness Book of World Records?  Have you ever actually attempted to break a world record at anything?

I have never attempted breaking a record. I loved reading this book when I was a kid. I think I would have the best shot at breaking the record for most t-shirts worn at once. It would make my concert t-shirt collection famous!

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing time with you Rachel! Thank you for welcoming me so warmly to your blog!

Xoxo,

Sandra

***

Thank you, Sandra, for answering my questions with such fun responses!  I hope everyone else has enjoyed getting to know you as much as I have.  (If I could talk to your and my own younger selves, I’d have gotten together the money and gone to that concert with you!)… By the way, I if anyone’s looking for me, I think I’m going to Sandra’s mom’s house for dinner! 😍

(If YOU would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please visit my Call to Writers for details.)

So, this happened…

When Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I bought our house a couple of years back, we, of course, had our mail forwarded.  We were so proud to own our first house and no longer be renters that we changed our Driver’s Licenses, Voters’ Registrations, magazine subscriptions, various insurances, etc., as soon as we could.

Between the three of us, we probably get a total of about five or six magazine subscriptions per month.  When you go on the magazine’s website to change your address, most of them tell you that it will likely be after the next issue is mailed before the change will take place, so be sure to notify the Post Office of your new address.  Okay, no big deal.

All three of us spent a lot of time those first couple of months camped out at Home Depot, Lowes, and Floor and Décor, among other home improvement stores.  We had tons of changes to make to make this place feel like it was really ours, and nothing was going to stop us.

Meanwhile, the mail piled up on a table by the door while we busily learned how to build walls, change out light fixtures, paint textured walls, etc.  Then came the day that we took a break and sorted through the mail.  That’s when we found this magazine.

Or what was left of a magazine after the Post Office damaged it.  (If you can’t tell, this is literally the bottom corner of the cover only of a magazine!)  At least they apologized for their error and included their wishes that the problem didn’t cause us too much inconvenience.

Let’s talk:  Is this hilarious, or what?  Did you ever get something like this from the Post Office?  What’s the most damaged item you’ve ever received from any shipping company?  Regarding the last place you moved, did you make any changes as soon as you got there, or did you wait a while?

Underneath

I do realize I need to clean the glass on my front door.  But, putting that aside, look:

How rude!  Good thing I didn’t clean the glass yet, or I’d have to do it again to get the slime off.  (But seriously, he’s still small enough to be cute.  When the larger guys come to the door, that’s not as photo worthy.)

Let’s talk:  Cute or creepy?  Have you ever eaten frog legs?  How are you and your family holding up?  What’s changed this week in your city?

Hitchhiker

These days of the unknown are certainly frightening, and the cabin fever doesn’t help.  Which is why I guess when I went out in search of food and somehow picked up this hitchhiker, he gave me just the hearty laugh I needed.  (He seriously didn’t want to leave!  I had to get out the car and hand-feed him some French fries to coax him down.)

Let’s talk:  How are you and your family holding up?  Do you have a curfew or stay home order where you live?  Are you running low on supplies yet?

Just Doing My Part

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  As I’ve mentioned recently, when my Lupus health complications have kept me from being able to devote my time and focus to writing or editing, or even sometimes reading (much less blogging), I’ve found that I could sometimes take on small projects.  One such project has been in helping other authors format their manuscript for self-publishing, and then either designing a cover for them or tweaking a design they already have in mind.

One such author is your friend and mine, Mike Steeden.  You may recall in 2015 when I helped him format his first book “Gentlemen Prefer a Pulse” and designed the cover out of a photo of his wife Shirley that he sent me.

Mike’s original photo

You may also recall when that same year, our esteemed buddy Craig C. S. Boyack allowed me to create the covers for his “Will O’ the Wisp” and for “The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.”  (While Craig did his own book formatting, it was an honor to help him with his covers — They were both a lot of fun!  Though I do have to bow to the phenomenal artist he has been using for his more recent publications.)  [[Be sure to check out all of Craig’s work for sale on Amazon!]]

Craig knew what he wanted right down to the type of leaves on the trees! This one was such fun!

With Craig’s idea in place of what he was looking for, I made this one entirely from scratch with the exclusion of the snail photo I took on the beach a few months earlier. One of my favorite things in designing projects like this is “weathering” the look of something (i.e., the coffee stains, the nicks and tears, and the crackles on the gold fleck of the writing).

The following year, I went back to working with Mike who was kind enough to allow me to format and create the cover for “The Shop That Sells Kisses.”  His son George came up with the cover concept and Mike allowed me to run with it.  It, too, features Shirley on the back cover.

In 2017, came Mike’s “Notoriously Naked Flames.”  Mike had a friend who had previously made the art that he allowed Mike to use on the front and back covers, so my job there was just getting the title formatted as well as formatting the book.

Also that year, Mike’s son, George Blamey-Steeden, known to his followers as Zoolon, got in on the family’s book-writing pastime, and allowed me to format and create the cover for “The Words and Thoughts of a Dyslexic Musician,” to help promote his music business.  This was a particularly fun project because I was just sent a couple of photos of George and got to run with them however I was inspired.  (I thought adding the guitar patent drawings in the background was a cool touch, and the word DYSLEXIC is written [according to my research] such as the way a dyslexic person may see letters.)  [[Be sure to check out Zoolon’s book on Amazon!]]

If you’ll look closely, you can see where I changed the name of the store in the background to be more fitting for this book.

In 2018, Mike surprised me with two titles ready to publish: “Fanny, I Think of You Often,” and “The Elastic Snapped.”  With each of these, he located a public domain image that he wanted to incorporate, so I altered them extensively to be more of what he was looking for.

Mike found this royalty-free art that was his vision of “Fanny.”

And this is how I transformed “Fanny” into a cover

Likewise, this was the royalty-free art Mike felt was perfect for “The Elastic Snapped.”

…And this was how I transformed her into a cover.

In early 2019, Mike was at it again, but this time had co-written a novel with his lovely wife Shirley Blamey.  Once more, they sent me a public domain image that they wanted to incorporate into “Whatever Happened to Eve?” and this time, I knew from the content and type of book it was, I knew I needed to add a chapter graphic that went with the story’s theme.

This was the cute chapter graphic I made to go under each chapter mark.

This was the royalty-free picture Mike found that he wanted to resemble his cover, but he wanted some changes such as more peacocks and the removal of the pipe and hookah.

We ended up with this cover.

By 2019, Mike referred me to his buddy Clive who we all may know better as the satirical Danny Soz.  While the main artwork for “The Whitechapel Welk” was pretty much done by the time it was sent to me, I added the text to the front and back covers and helped format the book for publication.  [[Be sure to check out Danny’s book on Amazon!]]

The only cover art help I had to do was add text.

As soon as Sire Soz left through my revolving door, good buddy Mike walked back in through the other side with his latest completed work, “The Blue-Eyed Cat.”  Once again, he located a few photos in public domain that he wanted to incorporate, so I got to run with those and add my own touches to the front and back covers.  [[Be sure to check out all of Mike’s work for sale on Amazon!]]

Mike found this royalty-free photo and knew it was his main character, but he wanted me to move her braid to cover her nudity.

Mike wanted this lady’s hat to be on the woman on the back cover (but in blue).

And Mike found this royalty-free lady to be the woman on his back cover — but not so blue.

And here’s what we ended up with!

So, if you have a book you’re just itching to publish but could use a little help with formatting or cover design, I would be more than happy to offer you my services.  And even if you don’t have a book you want to publish, please take a moment to peruse the works of these fine gentlemen and the products of their hard work, skill, talent, and boundless imaginations.

Stay healthy!

-Rachel

NIJOD

When I read the word NIJOD, I know I can cast my worries aside and enjoy peaceful sleep.  “What’s NIJOD?” you ask?  Allow me to explain…

My 26-year-old son Jeremy lives with me.   But at 26, he’s not a child, so he does his own thing and it’s not like I can stop him, even if I think whatever it is he has planned might be a bad idea.  However, because we are technically roommates (and because he doesn’t have the most reliable truck and is no stranger to speeding tickets and traffic accidents), I still get a little mama-bear-worried if he’s not home around the time he says he will be.

My 30-year-old daughter Stefani does not live with me and hasn’t for years.  While I still get pangs of mama-bear-worry over her, they don’t usually come unless I happen to know she’s in a potentially dangerous situation (such a traveling out of state with bad tires or brakes).  But as for her day-to-day life, since I don’t know her hourly plans, I just have faith that she’s doing well unless I hear otherwise.

My sister Michelle lives with me.  We are technically roommates and have witnessed a lot of the worst life has to offer (unlike my kiddos who are still young enough to think bad things won’t ever happen to them), so because Michelle and I are both old ladies responsible adults, we’ll both still give a courtesy call to each other or even to Jeremy if our plans have changed and we’ll be home significantly later than expected.

It took several years times of trying to explain to Jeremy that I’m not trying to control his every move, but rather just want confirmation that he’s not been in an accident or ended up in jail for some reason (not that he’s criminally mischievous – he’s definitely not, but he also would have no qualms about defending himself by beating the crap out of someone if he felt they were threatening him).

Finally, I got him to agree to texting me a code word if he’s going to be very late or not come home at all that night.  NIJOD.  NIJOD is our code word, and it’s an acronym for “Not In Jail Or Dead.”  I used to text him “NIJOD?” and hope he replied, but now, he almost always automatically sends a quick NIJOD text on his own and I go to bed without imagining all the possible reasons why he might be so late.  Apparently, texting NIJOD is a lot cooler than answering calls from your mama-bear-worried mommy who calls to check and make sure you’re okay if you’re not home when you said you would be.

So, if you’ve got a teenager or twenty-something kiddo who still lives with you but doesn’t feel like they should still have to report their whereabouts or change in plans, you can feel free to adopt NIJOD for your own covert communication efforts.

Let’s talk:  Do you call or text your at-home person or people when your plans change?  Would you be happy with a code word if your at-home person or people was running very late?