Sunday, March 30, 2014

Me time

It's no secret here that I am a girl who needs her alone time. March has not been so accommodating of that. 

I love that my boys are involved in extracurricular activities -- one in track, one in dance and singing, one in Model UN this year -- but it has me feeling more than a little stretched right now.

This month, with its Mayo Clinic visitors, a kid in driver's ed, and me at the center of a church service for today (which went off without a hitch), has been busy.

So busy that, aside from the new Cosmos, I haven't seen much TV -- even the news. So much that I still have not even downloaded the book group book. So much that I vowed to dye my hair on Thursday, and the box sits on my bathroom counter, as yet unused.

I am ready for some me time -- preferably with a book. We all choose how to spend our time, but with my job , the boys, church, friends and a wet basement, I have had few choices. It's, frankly, been a drag.

March has been cold -- today's high was supposed to be 62, but a stiff breeze and cloudy skies left it feeling colder. We are all frustrated. I am looking forward to a trip tomorrow, the first college visit. Just me and Garrett, in what I hope will be fun and eye-opening and inspiring for him, as I guess all parents hope when they embark on such trips. We 're not going south, but a change of scenery will do me good regardless of the temperature .

March. There's one day left of you, and somehow I have a vague, unsettled feeling that you'll get your licks in until the last possible minute. You have not been pleasant, and I will be glad to be rid of you.

I just hope that whatever you have up your sleeve is something I can handle.

April, come on in. Bring your showers, as long as temps are closer to 60 than 30. I'll take it -- and my camper (and a few good reads) are waiting.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mine field

March has been a mine field.

When my boys were small, we had several years (5 at least, maybe more) where March was nothing but one runny nose/cold/stomach flu after another. I would have sick kids, each bringing home a different illness, then sharing it with his siblings, so that we had a round-robin of disgusting symptoms coupled with fights over taking medicine and kids so clingy I couldn't go to the bathroom alone.

Fortunately, we are done with that phase, and things have been calm the last few Marches.

But this year. Oh my, when it hit, it hit hard. A friend's mom with a scary diagnosis and a decision to move in with said friend for access to docs here at the Clinic. Temporary. to be sure -- just a couple of months. But it throws things off to have a houseguest for weeks, especially if said guest is maybe not feeling well. Would any of them do it any other way? I think not. But that doesn't make the hard parts less hard.

In the midst of that, the loss of a beloved pet. Because, why not face mortality on 2 fronts, right? Tough days for that family, for sure.

Then, extended family members and the loss of another beloved pet.

Another friend is in a leadership position in an organization that is facing some challenges that are shaping up to be a battle. Unnecessary, unpleasant, and stressful for me on a different level because I am part of the organization.

Extended family in town for tests at Mayo.

Friends of friends here for the same reason, now extending their stay to 2 weeks or more, hoping for answers.

I am trying to be a good friend, to be supportive without being prying or intrusive, to accept whatever information people feel comfortable sharing. But I feel like I am standing in a mine field, and my friends are walking all around me, and every few seconds something else blows up.

And Sunday night, my own explosion. After a long and painful separation, difficult but necessary, I will have the opportunity to reconcile a relationship, exorcise some demons, and provide comfort (I hope) to someone I love.

This morning? A friend I have known for nearly 10 years online lost her dad.


Life is a mine field. We are all, I guess, dodging fireballs and hoping we can navigate our way through with as little damage to ourselves as possible while still providing support to those around us. I hope you and yours are well, if you're reading this, and if you're in a mine field of your own right now, take comfort that you're not alone, and remember Winston Churchill's words, "If you're walking through hell, keep going."

Monday, February 03, 2014

It's Beautiful

There was, apparently, a kerfuffle over a Coca-Cola commercial that aired during yesterday's Super Bowl. It shows people of different cultural and religious backgrounds and "America, The Beautiful" is sung in a number of languages; Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish, Hebrew, Senegalese-French, Arabic, Keres (spoken by the Pueblo people of New Mexico), Mandarin, and I may have missed one or two. Click the link and it will trigger a number of behind-the-scenes videos showing the recording of the song, too.

The metaphor for America that I have always loved is that of the tossed salad-- all mixed together with each culture maintaining its own unique flavor. This is what makes us strong. If you don't like this commercial, you are missing the point of this country. In the mix is also this longer video that shares the stories of the people who appear in the video. It's a powerful reminder that we really are far more alike than we are different, and that pretty much all of us want the same things for ourselves and our families.

In an America that is a tossed salad, I myself am a tossed salad, too. As a white woman I have noticed that often it is assumed I have no cultural identity other than "white." While my ancestry, as far as I know, is all European, I actually have ancestry from many areas: Holland, France, Ireland, Norway, and the UK. And, if you get really picky (which I do), I have ancestry from Wales, Great Britain, and Scotland, each a part of the UK with distinct culture, language and traditions. All of those cultures (to varying degrees) are part of my experience and my heritage; lumping them together and calling me "white" removes my own individual cultural identity. I am not whining, just making an observation; for me, understanding my friends of different backgrounds happens when I hear their stories and understand some of what makes them who they are. I think that is true of everyone, regardless of their race, religious or cultural background. It would seem Coca-Cola agrees with me on this point.

At any rate, acknowledging the linguistic, cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of our great nation is wonderful. I guess there were some people who were unhappy with the song being sung in languages other than English. I, on the other hand, applaud Coca-Cola for showing the incredible beauty of this country AND its people. For lunch today, I'm having a salad -- and a Coke.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Finally, photos

Last year I posted about being inspired to create a couple of end tables out at the camper. We hope to add a deck this summer and these will add some color and be functional, too.

We found a little red side table in Lanesboro at a vintage shop. I think we paid $25 for it, which is high, but Lanesboro is a tourist town and when I tried to bargain, the guy told me he had just put it out and he knew he could get that price. He was right, so I bought it.

I brought it home and wiped it down with a damp cloth and then just let it sit for a few weeks. As is my usual style, I knew it would eventually tell me what I should do with it. At the same time, I was collecting a few Minnesota themed items, digging things out of boxes, picking up a vintage postcard here, and an old wooden fishing lure there, thinking they might have something to do with the table, or perhaps another project for out at the camper.

Now we will flash back to about 1999 or 2000; Rob and I watched a lot of HGTV. Keep in mind that this was before the home improvement and DIY craze; we did it because we had bought an old (1952) house that needed updating and we couldn't afford to hire the work done. There was an episode (not sure of the show) where a family in California turned their garage into a family room. (Not uncommon, Minnesotans -- square footage is at a premium out there.) Anyway, they did it in a 50s diner theme, with black and white checkered flooring, chrome and hot rods. So cool. They had a bar with bar stools in one area of the room, and they placed diner-style paper placemats, flatware, etc. as if they were place settings, added a few Hot Wheels cars for color, and poured an epoxy resin over all of it.

It. Was. Genius.

Rob and I have mentioned that dozens of times to each other -- it was unique, fairly simple, inexpensive, and a conversation piece. But I never had the project to try it on.

Until we found the red table.

The epoxy is a mess. Two different jugs that you mix together. I was surprised because it was more expensive than I had expected, although still affordable in the overall project budget; I got ours at Menards. There are small containers for smaller projects; the tables required 2 of the biggest kits they carried.

Tips for working with epoxy resin:

Lay newspaper everywhere. Multiple layers.
Be somewhere that is well ventilated but where the objects can dry without being disturbed by insects, dust or debris (so outside is not recommended).
Buy several measuring cups and rubber spatulas at the dollar store. You will not be able to clean this stuff up.
Be patient, follow directions, and DON'T PANIC. (Thank you Douglas Adams).

Rob built a frame for the table edges so that the resin would build up and stay in place rather than running off the table edge. He used scrap wood and covered it with duct tape so the resin would not stick to the tape. He clamped the corners and I got to work. It took several layers -- I would mix, pour, let dry, and repeat. Allowing adequate drying time meant it took a couple of days.

I placed the items haphazardly, as if they might have just been casually tossed there, and the result was this:
Not great photos, but you can sort of see in the top one that the wooden fishing lure actually sticks out from the surface a little bit. The paint is the color that was on it -- it had a few splashed of beige and brown paints but I strategically covered up some of those spots and left it alone. The company hasn't done any testing o how the epoxy holds up in cold weather, but this one made it through the winter last year in the shed at the campsite. It is maybe a little yellowed, but for this application, I am okay with that.

Next up? Its companion piece, a French Provincial nightstand I found for $10 at a garage sale. The color is Superior Blue, for our lovely lake, and I did the same trick again, only this time it required a lot of sanding and mucking about with prepping.

This one has a bobber on it, a photo of my paternal grandparents' lake cabin, a vintage postcard of Rochester's own Plummer building, a rock that I picked up at Kris's place after she died, a Mayo keychain, and a birchbark postcard that was sent by my grandma to her parents in the early 1940s. The card is curved and sticks out a bit from the surface -- the curved one is the original. I added a photocopy of the writing on the back as well -- that is that darker brown rectangle on the left. The bobber sticks out a bit, too, but I like that it has some dimension.

SoI did have the table done in time for the party, as mentioned in the entry I linked. I just (clearly) took a little longer than expected with sharing this project.

All in all, it was worth the expense of the resin and the time involved -- Maybe by this fall I will be able to post a picture of the two tables on the deck next to the camper!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Crafty New Year!

Happy New Year! As usual, I am an inconsistent blogger. Oh well. Maybe that is just how it's going to be around here for a while.

The holiday season was ok this year. My Seasonal Affective Disorder is not bad. I think the Vitamin D supplement helps, as does my little blue light.

For Christmas, my uber-talented mother-in-law hit one out of the park by giving me a set of super cool embroidered flour sack towels. I have a few vintage ones, and an old set of Martha Stewart Days of the Week ones that have seen better days. These each have a different garden veggie embroidered on them, and they are AWESOME.

So now I want more. I decided I want some with the little Dutch girls on them (you've seen those, right? Picturing a chore for each day of the week.) So I went to eBay, found the original vintage uncut, unused patterns and ordered them.

I love them so much I am a little afraid to get started on them so I found another set that I also love and decided to start with that, in one thread color per towel to keep it simple for me.
A trip to Fleet Farm for the towels, a JoAnn Fabrics run for the embroidery floss (OMG I totally had SO. MUCH. FLOSS when I cross-stitched. Sigh.) and I am on my way. PS -- Embroidery is hard because you are supposed to keep your stitches even. I am not so good with that yet. Don't judge. It's more important that I have the towels and that I did the embroidery, right?
As long as I mentioned my mother-in-law's incredible talent, I should post a picture of her knitting work, too. She knits Christmas stockings and there are families in our home town that have 2 and 3 generations with stockings she has made. These patterns are just a few of the designs she can do. If you are interested in ordering stockings you can email her at joannknits [at] harveland [dot] com
Obviously she will only take on as many orders as she can produce, so ordering early is best. Email her for pricing quotes and any other information you need, andthanks.

So I have started yet another crafty thing, but I am justifying it by telling myself it's a useful one. The new year is underway, and we are sliding out from under this crazy cold spell. Back to work and school tomorrow for all of us, and highs in the 30s by Friday.

Soon? An update on my most favorite Black Friday purchase EVER, and perhaps more.