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?

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?

Not My First Rodeo

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  By now, people around the world are getting cabin fever regarding the “social distancing” orders concerning the current global crisis.  My daughter, Stefani and I can say that though this is no fun, it’s not our first rodeo quarantine.

If you’re a parent, you already know that all good parents have regrets.  Unless your kids are grown, however, what you might not realize is that the regrets we have as parents are most likely not the same things our kids would go back in time and change if they could.  I have one of those World’s Worst Parenting moments that’s haunted me for 23 years!  Seriously, I have felt guilty about this since my firstborn child (who is now 30) was in the second grade.  (The hilarious thing is, when I recently spoke about this to Stefani, she didn’t remember a thing about it!)

Stefani was seven when she developed a rash.  Her school nurse called and told me I needed to pick her up and take her to the doctor, and that she couldn’t return to school without a note.  I took her to her pediatrician, and he diagnosed her with Fifth Disease, which is a viral infection caused by parvovirus.  It’s known as Fifth Disease because it’s one of five common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

For her troubles, Stefani was granted three days off school, plus a lot of Disney movies, popsicles, a new Barbie, and attention.  Score!

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Monday morning, Stefani was getting ready for school, I was getting ready for work, and Jeremy, who was still a baby, was playing with my Grandma in her room.  Stefani gets a stone-cold serious look to her face and tells me, “Mommy, I think my Fifth Disease is back.  I’m itchy.”

“Mmm hmm.  Nice try,” I tell her as I grab her backpack.  “Let’s get going.”

“No, really.  I better stay home,” she says.

I put on my Angry Mommy Face.  “Stefani, you are not sick!  Now go get in the car and I’ll be right behind you.”

She whined the whole three blocks to school, and I restrained myself from laughing at how clever she really thought she was.

About an hour later, the school nurse called me and said Stefani had a rash.  She said I’d need a doctor’s note before I could bring her back to school.  I was livid!  I couldn’t believe my little seven-year-old could be so conniving as to fool a nurse!

I tried to keep my cool as I waited in the doctor’s office for her to be seen.  I tried not to roll my eyes as the doctor examined her and said, “Didn’t I just see you here with a rash a couple of weeks ago?”

The doctor called a nurse in and they whispered, then she left and came back with a shot and a syringe to take some blood samples.  Wait, what?  This didn’t happen last time.

We were left alone in a room to wait for a while, and Stefani and I drew cartoons on the paper that covered the exam table.  After what seemed like hours, the doctor came back and announced, “She has scarlet fever.  You’re going to have to quarantine her.  She’ll miss at least a week of school…”

Crap.  I felt like a giant ass for ignoring my little girl’s pleas for help that morning.

I took her home, got her set up in her bedroom, explained things to my Grandma (who watched the kids while I was at work), went to the store and tried to redeem myself by buying Stefani tons of coloring books, crayons, fun pads, books, videos, card games, another new Barbie, ginger-ale, popsicles, etc., then I took them to her and went back to work.  That night, I read her story after story, and watched a bunch of silly videos with her to make up for my Bad Mommy Day.

The next day at work, things were going well until my office manager noticed I kept scratching my torso.  “I hadn’t even noticed,” I told her.  I raised my shirt and was covered with a billion red blotches!  My office manager told me to get to the doctor right away and don’t come back without a note.  Yes, you guessed it.  I, too, had scarlet fever and we were both medically quarantined!  (Meaning the doctor gave a LONG list of specific instructions basically saying we needed to live in a closet and not breathe until we were re-examined.)

Stefani moved into my bedroom.  Jeremy moved out of my bedroom and into Grandma’s bedroom.  The doctor said we both had a pretty bad case of it.  Stefani and I spent the next EIGHT DAYS in that room with Grandma leaving our meals outside the door.  These were the days where televisions were small, only got a few cable channels, the internet was dial-up and didn’t have a lot of fun stuff to do, there was no social media, and it was boring as hell!  Not to mention, neither of us felt much like doing anything anyway, but still, it was no fun!

So, I guess the lessons to be earned from this are: I lived though a quarantine before, so I know I can do it again; at least there are more entertaining things one can do at home now versus back then; and apparently my daughter doesn’t remember what I would consider my largest parenting fail, so I can finally stop kicking myself for it and let it go.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had scarlet fever?  Have you ever been under a true medical quarantine?  Would a new Barbie buy your way out of a bad parenting call?  Are you upset that this post was not actually about a rodeo?  Do you have cabin fever yet where you are?

Dear Writer…

I tried this last month, but didn’t get a big response.  So, let’s try this again.  (And, no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.)

The following announcement is geared mainly toward my writer friends.  Of course, if you’re not a writer, you’re still welcome to read, reply, and play along, but if you are a writer, you might have a particular interest in what I have to say today.

In the past, one of my more popular blog features has been my author interviews.  Not only did these help draw new traffic to my blog, but they helped market your work to a broader audience. I’ve decided to start a new feature called “Writing Prompt Wednesdays” wherein I will post a writing prompt, either text or pictorial, on the first Wednesday of each month.

I invite you to then take (click to open in a new tab, then right click and save) the prompt over to your own blog and use it to write a short story – say (roughly) between 100 and 800 words, telling what happened to lead up to the prompt, what happened after the prompt, why the prompt, or anything else relevant to the prompt.  Then reply to my post with the link to your post and be sure to include your email address so I can interview you.  For each subsequent Wednesday for the rest of the month, I’ll select one of your responses to feature on my blog along with an interview with you and the links to where we can purchase your work.

April’s Writing Prompt:

Click on this image to open in a new tab, then right click to save.

Actual history of this photo:  This awesome guy actually drives this Radio Flyer car around town, and I see him every so often.  He always gets a lot of looks, stares, honks, thumbs up, and people stopping traffic to get their cameras out and photograph him.  I think it looks really cool, but I’m afraid I’d be too embarrassed to drive it.  Bit I would  love to know what it looks like inside.
Photo: ©R. Carrera

Let’s talk:  Will you be participating in my Writing Prompt Wednesdays?  Would you have taken a photo of this “wagon” if you saw it driving down the road?  Would you ride in it?  What’s the strangest motor vehicle you’ve ever owned?

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?

The Late for Christmas Feety Foot Shoe Socks

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  Ever since my daughter Stefani was little, jokes about feet were our “Mommy-Daughter Thing.”  Every Christmas stocking, Easter basket, or birthday gift bag I ever gave her always included a little something foot-related.  They were always just stupid little insignificant things, like a foot-shaped eraser, but they were one of the ways I let her know I loved her.

That’s my lovely daughter!

A couple of years ago for Christmas, I’d done all my shopping except for the “foot thing” I’d forgotten.  So, to remedy the situation, I got on Amazon and found the ugliest pair of feet socks you’ve ever seen.  Actually, they were “feety foot shoe socks.”  The socks were, for the most part, flesh-colored, and the top over the feet were feet slid into pink flip-flops, and the bottom part under the feet were the bottom of the flip-flops.  Hideous, right?

Well, after I submitted my order, I got a message that they would, in fact, not be here in time for Christmas.  We had Christmas that year, and I kind of forgot all about the “feety foot shoe socks” until sometime in late January when they arrived.  I opened the package and removed one sock and inspected it.  It was goofy and cheap, but otherwise, not remarkable.  It had a right foot painted on top, and a shoe bottom painted on the bottom.

Here’s what they were supposed to look like, top and bottom

Then I removed the other sock.  I laughed so hard, I might have wet myself.  [I will nether confirm or deny if I really wet myself.]  The second sock also had a right foot painted on top.  It also had another right foot painted on the bottom!  All told, we had three right feet tops, and one foot bottom.  I giggled the whole time that I wrapped the “feety foot shoe socks” up then called my daughter to come over for a surprise.  When she opened them, we both laughed so hard, our bodies were shaking uncontrollably, and we weren’t making any noise.  It was that hilarious!

But instead, here was what we received.

And here, you can see each top and bottom together.

Let’s talk:  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever ordered that was different than what you expected when you received it?  Have you ever laughed so hard you didn’t make a sound?  Do you name certain things odd names like “feety foot shoe socks?”  Do you have a certain repetitive inside joke “thing” with one or more of your kiddos?