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?

Rub-A-Dub

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  I can’t believe it’s been nearly five years since I last shared my homemade soap-making adventures with you. At the time, I’d been making my own soap in three different fragrances – gardenia, lavender, and almond with oats & honey for a few years.  I made one batch of each fragrance about twice a year, so about six batches a year in all.  Sister Michelle and I made them mostly for ourselves due to allergies, and we’d occasionally give a couple of bars away to friends who expressed interest.  We used homemade wooden molds, we used a knife to cut them, just eyeballing the size, and they weren’t necessarily pretty.  In fact, they were pretty ugly. Looking back, I realize they didn’t even smell very strong because we cooked the oils so long to burn off the lye that it got so hot, it burned off the fragrance.  But it was moisturizing and had a nice lather.  We called it “hippie soap.”

This was our old “hippie soap” in my old house.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the middle of a “too much in pain to really do anything productive” mood when I sporadically looked up any updated soap-making techniques. There’s actually a lot out there now as opposed to when we started.  (Back then, everyone was so secretive with their success secrets.  I guess once the cat was out of the bag, there was no reason not to spill the beans, and the secret-keepers then decided to capitalize on getting the most hits for their how-to videos.)

I learned a LOT of amazing new techniques, and I also played around with ingredients until I developed a much better recipe.  The results:  We now make really beautiful bars of soap that smell amazing and are still very sudsy and ultra-moisturizing.  So, Sister Michelle and I took our soap show on the (metaphorical) road and opened a soap shop.  Or maybe it’s a shoppe.  We haven’t decided yet.

We started off just selling to friends and family, but we’re starting to get referrals from them now, so we had to set up a Facebook Page (which is still short of about half the photos I need to add because we had less than four bars in stock of each of those, and I like to include four in each promo photo).  However, I don’t really want a full-time career in soap-making, so I have no plans to take it to Etsy or any of the other on-line sales sites (especially because postage rates are so high now), or even to the local Saturday markets that sell such goodies (because I have no desire to come into contact with all the germs).  It’s just for a little extra income and because we have fun making it.

We’ve developed about twenty fragrances so far plus other seasonal scents.  Sister Michelle loves “Autumn Pumpkin” the best, so even though we were done selling that fragrance in November, she still uses it.  My favorite is “Gift of the Magi” which was a Christmas scent of frankincense and myrrh with stripes of gold mica and gold-covered frankincense nuggets on top.  I have one customer who comes a couple of times a month to buy the Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake soap and a sea sponge for her many girlfriends’, daughters’, and granddaughters’ birthdays.  (And I think also because she loves chocolate!) But Coffee Shop seems to be just about everybody’s collective favorite.

A lot of people tell us they smell good enough to eat, though I wouldn’t recommend it.  They may look and smell delicious, but I can almost guarantee that they still taste like soap.  Our regular fragrances include Goat Milk Oats & Honey, Coffee Shop, Casanova, Berry Blue, Spearmint, Lavender, Country Apple, Goat Milk Dreamsicle, Lemon, Naked, Gardenia Garden, Raspberry Beret, Lavender Lemongrass, Peppermint Orange, Peppermint Lavender, Hawaiian Luau, Pink Diamonds, Garden of Eden, Dirty Hippie, Spruce Forest, Dark Chocolate Birthday Cake, and Hazelnut Toffee Birthday Cake.

At any rate, I wasn’t really writing about this today to promote anything, but just to show you the (HUGE!) difference between my former “hippie soap” and what I’m making now.  (Though if you wanted to Like my Facebook page, I wouldn’t mind in the least.)  I went from six batches a year to a minimum of that each month.  It’s a lot more artsy-looking now, don’t you think?

Let’s chat:  Have you ever made homemade soap?  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have allergies that prevent you from using any particular store-bought item and force you to make it at home instead?  Would you ever use soap that smells like food?

Checking In

Greetings, friends!

I hope and trust you are all doing well.  It’s been a while since I last blogged, and at the time, I’d been discussing some of my life’s new changes.  One of the changes since that time was that I started taking chemo pills for my Lupus, and they made me so sick and sore!  I was on them for sixteen weeks, and they were causing me so much pain, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t walk well, and it was excruciating to use my hands.  About six weeks in, my rheumatologist actually increased the dosage because she thought the Lupus was the problem, not the medicine.  But I became much worse over the next ten weeks, so she took me off everything except the drug that protects my organs, and I got Cortisone shots in my shoulders and wrists.  Fast forward a week, and I’m currently feeling the best I’ve felt in the two years since I was diagnosed!  There’s still a bit of pain, but it’s not nearly debilitating as it once was.  Anyhoozle, I’m not here to focus on that today, but rather to share some cooler things…

I mentioned the time before last that I’d been working on decorating the new house (as well as remodeling, renovating, remediating, etc.!).  From my medical status mentioned above, you can probably guess that I’m growing increasingly frustrated that this project hasn’t moved along faster than it has.  I’ve got several rooms in various stages of repair and decoration, and I have several art projects in various stages of completion.  Two of them will require a trip to the beach for sand and shells to complete, so I’ve been quite anxious to feel good enough to venture out.

Today’s post will just feature a few of the projects that have been finalized.  Nothing as far as the remodeling is completely finished yet, so I don’t yet have before/after photos of that hard work.  Anyway, here goes…

As you can probably be able to tell from my living room, Joanna Gaines is my hero!

The only clock that is actually running is the red one.  Actually, they’re not all clocks:  One’s a barometer, one’s a thermometer, and one’s a hygrometer.  The other clocks are all set to different “secret codes.”  (The codes aren’t that secret, and in fact I’ll share them with you now:  They’re set to birthdates of all of us in the house and a couple of important anniversaries or dates to remember.)  Above the clocks is one of those 1990s shelves they call “dust catchers.”  I intend to drywall that closed, but we’re considering leaving a secret door when I do and putting a time capsule inside since the wall is themed with time.

The initials are also for the people in the house, myself, my sister Michelle, and my son Jeremy, the “C” is four our last names, and the four is because we have four cats  The four was white when I bought it, so I painted it and added the diamonds.  The “C” was orange, so I painted it.  My sister’s “M” was purple and wood colored!  That was a little trickier to paint.  Jeremy’s “J” was a lot rustier than I wanted, so I cleaned it up quite a bit.  And my “R” was plain white.  After I painted it grey and sanded it to grunge it up a bit, I covered it with chicken wire to give it texture.  (Don’t worry; it’s nothing psychological like I feel caged. LOL!)

This bit of work was a bit trickier.  I went to the library and copied an old map book of the area where my new house is.  (Back when this map was printed, my yard was actually part of a large phosphate pit!)  I then printed the map sections out in red and, here’s the tricky part, I made the canvasses.  My sister cut the wood for the frames (I hate using the chop saw!), and I stapled then gessoed the canvas to the frames.  Then I painted them black, ripped the edges of the maps, and Mod-podged everything.  And to finish it off, the old-fashioned key is where my house would be built a couple of decades later.

Moving on to my bedroom, it has (or rather will have) a writing theme.  Or, as I like to call it, a “writerly” theme.  [WARNING: THIS PART MAY ANGER SOME AVID READERS.  Because I have transferred my library almost exclusively to digital, I gave away a bunch of books a few years back, but I saved some favorites, knowing I’d be using them for art.]

This “R” above is made out of “Gulliver’s Travels.”  I got the initial idea from this “W” on Pinterest, but I didn’t want the flower, so I had to rack my brain to think how I could theme it to the book.  That’s when the giant nails and string hit me like a ton of bricks.

This copy of “1984” is mounted on a board, and, no, the camera mounted on the book is not real.  (Though it’s funny how many people are actually tricked by this.  What’s not funny is that when I explain that it’s just art, more often than not, the people I’ve come across then have a vacant stare because they don’t realize why a camera on a book is art.)  The backboard is just covered with book pages and a few of my favorite excerpts are outlined in black paint.

If you can’t guess from this one, it’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”  The roof was a bitch to make!  I used comic book collecting backer boards to cut the individual circles, but I should have used card stock.  The thickness of the material made it difficult to work with.  I glued cut out book pages to the circles, then painted a black wash over them, then painted the edges of each “shingle” and attached them all to another backer board to make the roof.  I don’t know if you can see it well in the photo, but there’s a little bird on the roof, and a cat and a lantern in the upstairs windows.  The fence is partially whitewashed and partially dirty, and that’s Tom’s fishing pole waiting to be used on the left.  For the base of this, I actually glued sand to the wood.  (I was going to use sandpaper, but it was a little too small.)  The “grass” is floral moss.

Finally, here’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  I used the 2, 5, 7, Queen and King cards because, if you know the story, those are the key players.  I don’t know if you can see everything on the teacups, but there’s a flamingo, a key, a keyhole, a “Drink Me” vial, a white rabbit’s head, a tag that says “In this style 10/6” and a pocket watch with the numbers going counterclockwise.  I wish I wouldn’t have spread the embellishments all around, but placed them where you could see them all from the front.  I didn’t think that through at the time.

Well, that’s all for today, friends, but I hope to be back soon with some more updates as well as to check on all of you.

Let’s talk:  Would you deface a book in the name of art?  (Do I really want you to answer that?)  Have you created anything that hangs on any wall in your house?  If so, what?  Do you know why the camera is significant to “1984”?

Lucky YOU!

Hi, friends,

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been M.I.A. lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about you…  It’s just that the day job has me burning the candle at both ends and the middle at the moment.

However, despite my hectic schedule, I couldn’t resist sharing the coolest deal with you!  My friend (and yours), Craig Boyack, has done it again!  Yes, he’s published a collection of short stories and micro-fiction entitled The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack.”

The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack

(And not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but, yes, I did design the cover from scratch!  I’ll blog more about that as soon as I’m back to Bloggyville full time.)

Now, the really cool thing is not only that Craig’s stories are so awesome, but so is the price!  Just click that Amazon link above, and you’ll get a dozen or so stories for only 99¢!  Yes, you read right… Twelve different stories by a talented writer will cost less than one dollar!  That means that each story costs only 8¼¢!  And if it takes you sixteen and a half minutes to read each story, that means you’re paying only a half a cent per minute for pure entertainment pleasure!

If you have small children, you know that even a Little Golden Book can cost upward of $7 these days, and I promise every one of Craig’s stories are much better than The Little Engine That Could.

So what are you waiting for?  Hurry on over to Amazon and snag a copy of “The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack” before Craig realizes he’s priced these too low!  I’ll see ya soon!

~Rachel

‘Tis the Season

I bet from my title, you can already guess the theme of today’s Throwback Thursday.  However, you might still be wondering how I plan on incorporating that into something currently happening in my life.

When I was a kid, the best Christmases were of course the ones where I got the best presents.  The year I turned two was a great Christmas.  Three days after my birthday, Santa came and left me a purple tricycle, a green desk that was a chalkboard on the top and a flip-open magnetic board inside, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll that I carried everywhere until about three years later when my dog ate her head.

Three days after I turned eight was also terrific, because that year, I got two baby dolls instead of just one!  I wasn’t much of a Barbie girl, but I loved playing babies.  However, I never kept their names that came on the boxes.  I don’t know if you can read these dolls’ boxes or not, but the big one’s name was Fran, and the little one’s name was Agatha!  YIKES!  Those sounded more like grandmother dolls than baby dolls.  Their names were immediately changed to Heidi (from the book by the sane name), and – get this – Phronsie (from the book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew)!  Yes, really!  What was I thinking?

These days, the best Christmases are the ones where I can afford to get my kids tons of gifts, get my friends something nice, actually pull off all the surprises I have planned, and have the rest of the day to do something relaxing.

So why did I choose to talk about Christmas today?  Because today, I’m actually busy directing and producing six commercials that I wrote for my boss, and one of them is a Christmas ad.  That means that despite the 90° that feels like 113° (UGH!), last weekend, I spent both days actually shopping for Christmas items to use (Yes, Hobby Lobby actually has a lot of their Christmas stuff out already!) and putting up two Christmas trees.

We’re also filming a Thanksgiving commercial, so my sister Michelle has been doing tons of holiday baking this week.  And we’re filming Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day commercials, so I got to make a “Memory Wall” which I can’t wait to photograph and share with you.  And the two remaining commercials are not for holidays.

So, tell me, how are you spending your day?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal or put up and decorated a Christmas tree?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever shopped for holiday decorations?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…  No, wait; that’s Star Wars.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m not going that far away… or that far back in time.

Back in January, I showed you the photos of my new couches.  Since then, my sister Michelle and I have been redecorating the entire house.  In the living room, we’re going for a late 1950s/early 1960s inspired theme, so we got a couple of funky rugs with wavy lines for the living room and foyer.

I’ve also been going through my Grandma’s old 50s/60s vases to sit around the room.  What’s so frustrating to me is that even though her favorite color was green, and my living room’s main color is green, she apparently had every other color vase but green!  This is so aggravating!

So, I’ve now amassed a nice collection of vases to store in my closet, and still have nothing for the living room.  Grrr!   I’ll keep you posted as we go along…

Time to talk:  Have you ever redecorated a whole house at once, or do you take it one room at a time?  How often do you redecorate?