Monday, June 29, 2015

Closet Reveal!

Part three in my bedroom redo! Part one shows the start of the closet organization, part two takes you through the exciting world of heating and cooling.

When the new carpet went in, I was at work. Then I worked the next day. Then the next. Then it was Sunday, and I was exhausted but very eager to finally have my room put together. I knew I wouldn't manage all of it at once, but I wanted to do as much as possible.

One thing I realized as I lived without a closet was that I really liked just having a few outfits inside the closet with no additional stuff. I decided my goal would be the following: The closet could contain clothes, shoes, and handbags. Scarves could go on a hanger and be included. I could also use the closet to store my hamper, my cleaning supplies (which are hypoallergenic and basically made from liquid gold, so they are kept where family members cannot burn through a bottle in an afternoon, leaving me desperately placing an order on Amazon for more Seventh Generation window cleaner and all-natural orange oil), and the little fan I pull out on occasion when it gets stuffy.

Darcy has been so miserable lately, I also wanted to leave space for her little bed, so she could hide in the closet during the thunderstorms she hates so much. Poor puppy.

She thinks the storm can't see her in here.

Mum and I went to the hardware store again. I bought six fabric 10.5" square boxes. When we went home, five went across the top shelf. Different kinds of shoes filled four of them, purses and a tote bag fit into the fifth. The sixth box holds my fan during the summer, but I could change that at some point if I don't use the fan a lot and think it would be better off stored in the basement.

The top shelf I installed last month now holds my cleaning supplies and a fabric box. The bottom shelf has various knitting project bags I'll reach for all the time and the two purses I use the most (aside from the one I'm using now. Below the shelves, I have my two pairs of boots.

Darcy's bed is in the center of the closet floor. On the right, I have my hamper for laundry. Eventually more clothing will be inside, but we spent the week without a washing machine, so I have a LOT of laundry to do. I stuck to my goal, though. I only have the essentials in my closet. I'll soon be taking a trip to donate what didn't fit inside!

I sanded a section of the door to remove discoloration. I now need to stain and seal!

Eventually I'll pull everything down so I can cover the bare wood of the shelves with some wallpaper. I just have to go wallpaper shopping first. I think that will bring the whole closet together and make it look even nicer.

What storage solutions do you use in your closet? I love to hear what other people do to make tiny--or big--closets more organized!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Best Friend Tag with Jennifer!

Jennifer and I wanted to do a blog collaboration of some kind, and I have been addicted to YouTube videos of late, so I've been watching lots of tag videos. "Tag" stands for something, who knows what, but I imagine it is similar to "tag, you're it!" because that makes sense. But it's questions that either you answer on your own or with a friend. There was a best friend tag, so naturally, I thought we HAD to do that.

This way, you get to know us a little more, and you get to see how well we know each other. Which is really, really well. What this tag does not contain is how Jennifer can know by looking at a dress that it will fit me, which I think is a sort of superpower. And how she then texts me links to fashion posts that show me how to wear said dress, because she knows I tend to buy dresses and then stare at them instead of wearing them. Here's a link to Jennifer's blog so you can get to know her better, because YOU SHOULD. She is made of awesome.
When and how did we first meet?

Jennifer: This is an easy one. We met in our high school human physiology class. It was time to choose our "piggie partners", a friendly term we used to describe the person who would be our partner during the fetal pig dissection. I think it's safe to say that you get to know a person pretty well while performing a task that most would consider unpleasant.

Laura: We officially met during human physiology, but I remember knowing who she was from band, back when I was too afraid to talk to her, because I thought she was cool and I was too nerdy to be in her presence.

What is our favorite food?

Jennifer: This question, as Laura would probably agree, is impossible. How does one choose among so many loves? However, I can say with certainty that some of Laura's favorite foods are also the ones she's sensitive to, like tomatoes.

Laura: All food. We seem to be partial to Italian, given our restaurant choices. Except if we are including beverages in this, Jennifer’s would be coffee, especially Starbucks Iced Coffee (in the refrigerated section with a green lid) that you can get cheaper at Target than at Kroger.

What are the two things your best friend does not know about you?

Jennifer: Why did I choose this question!? Anyway, I guess the two things she doesn't know about me are that I tend to hide it when I don't feel well and also that I've never owned a library card...ever (don't hate me).

Laura: Well, Tuesday I found out I’m violently allergic to Stevia. She doesn’t know that because I haven’t told her yet. Other than that, she doesn’t know stuff that I would cry about if I told her, like how she pulled me through depression during my last year of college.

How would you describe your best friend’s ideal partner/spouse?

Jennifer: He would be a mixture of Bruce Banner and The Hulk; confident and intelligent enough to carry on an interesting conversation, but possessing at least one weakness that keeps him from being too full of himself. Also, I have to approve of him ;)

Laura: Her actual husband!

What do you most admire about your best friend?

Jennifer: Hands-down her memory. She can remember more of my life than I can. No joke.

Laura: Her loyalty.

What is your favorite inside joke?

Jennifer: This whole post is like a cruel reminder of how terrible my memory is. How ironic. Anyway, I'm going to hand this one over to Laura…

Laura: We laugh about so many things, but we do have one story about picking up a backpack that we laugh about all the time…

What was your first impression of your friend?

Jennifer: She was nice, weird, and a loud talker.

Laura: I thought she was gorgeous, quiet, and WAY too cool to talk to my nerdy high school self.

What is your favorite memory together?

Jennifer: I can't really name just one (there are too many), but I do know that some of my favorite memories include our idealistic discussions on how to improve the world, which either end in a collective epiphany or with us laughing until we’re crying.

Laura: All my favorite memories take place in the car, on the way to or from somewhere, laughing or ranting about anything and everything.

Describe each other in one word.

Jennifer: Complex.

Laura: Musical! (Although describing anything or anyone in one word is almost physically impossible for me.)

If you could go anywhere in the world together, where would it be?

Jennifer: Harry Potter World!!

Laura: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter OR Italy. Or both. Can we make it both?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Adventures in Registers!

Part two of my mini-bedroom remodel. If you want to read part one, go here!

All my life. ALL of my life, there has been a register in my bedroom that has taken up nearly one entire wall.

It was the color of the putty plumbers use to seal sink drains into place. It was over six feet long. It could not be opened all the way to allow cold air or hot air into the room, or closed all the way to block said air out. Worse, it could not be removed.

Why was that a problem? Well, the standard size for duct-work (meaning, for the tube that brought air from the furnace/air conditioner to my room) is...not six feet. No. In fact, the biggest register cover the hardware store sold for my sort of register was 22 inches long. That is not even two feet long. That is one foot and ten inches long. That is called maths.

Years ago, I took a flashlight and knelt beside my register, shone the light down through the metal slits, and squinted. Indeed, there was a vent. But the vent was only on one side of the register. On the other side, there was a bare wooden board.*

I showed Mum, but she told me there was nothing for it. The register wouldn't come apart and she'd tried and tried to remove it, but couldn't. It was stuck, probably forever.

This was understandable, because the people who built our house were two things 1. psychotic and 2. great believers in overdoing their building efforts. So, someone who did not want the register to shift at all had taken a nail gun, cement, and the powers of darkness and used those forces to permanently affix the register to the wall. And floor. And this sphere of existence. Mum and I both thought that removing the register would probably also mean removing a section of wall.

But I decided this year I would get new carpet. The old carpet is very old, it cannot be cleaned properly anymore. It has practically felted with wear. I knew this was my one chance to rip out the register without having a giant hole in the carpet sitting there until I recarpeted AGAIN in another twenty years, so I got out a pry bar and a hammer, a handful of screwdrivers, a carpet knife, and I set to work.

I must have been having some kind of out-of-body experience when I decided to do this, because it was already 8:30 PM when I began, I failed to take any kind of "before" pictures, and I thought I could just smash the register with a hammer to make it fall apart. This wasn't quite how it worked out.

After a few minutes of listening to me slamming the hammer into the register, Dad arrived to see I'd made very little progress. Together, we physically ripped the front--and its rusted-shut screws--off the register using the pry bar and hammer. Then, we tore up more carpet and were able to reach the OTHER set of screws, which came out easily. We used the pry-bar to free the nails in the floor and the wall. We tore the now-mangled thing free. Immediately, we discovered why 1. my room has a tendency to smell dusty no matter how much I clean and 2. what the biggest reason is for NOT putting in a register three times the size of your vent...

The dust, people. It was like its own carpet, so thick and disgusting that I refused to take a photo of it. It was speckled with dead bugs, because it wasn't gross enough already. I wanted to die. That has been inches from my head every time I slept for most of my life. I started cleaning. I vacuumed, I scrubbed, there may have been bleach.

Darcy says, "What strange madness is this?"
This was when she realized it wasn't actually fun. 

Just to give you some perspective, here are some pictures. First the vent, with a pencil for scale because we were all out of bananas when I began this demolition project:

Ignore the filth of the carpet. It's gross because the register was RUSTY, too.

And now the whole gap in the carpet left behind when Dad and I ripped the register out. What's that down there? Oh, it's the same pencil in the same spot, which I left there to give you an idea of JUST HOW GIANT THE REGISTER WAS. It was taller than me. And I am plenty tall.

So big, I had to stand on a chair to take a picture of the whole thing.

The next day, I had to patch the many holes in the wall left from the nails and screws the former owners had used to install the old register. This was accomplished with plaster, because yes, plaster walls.

Register right after I installed it. Weird marks on wall above it are made of plaster dust.

Then I spent my Saturday lying on the ground with a scraper, chipping off the line of old paint above the register. It had left a ridge above where the register went. I did not want the ridge. So chiseling happened. Then sanding. Then paint where the register had been. I already had a new (correctly-sized) one. I cut trim boards to the lengths I needed to fill the gap between the new register and the trim.

Why the weird register? It was the only one in stock in the right size and color.

Later in the week, I stained the boards and used several coats of polyurethane to make it sort of match the trim already in place. Then I used my super-strength to nail in the new boards to fill the gaps on either side of the new register which, you guessed it, I had attached to the wall. I took care to use only the recommended number of screws when installing the register so that in 50 years or so, some other person won't have to injure herself or her loved ones trying to rip it out of the wall. Four screws and it's out. It's just that easy. The new trim is slightly shorter than the old, so when I installed it, I had to make sure to line it up along the top. making sure to keep it level and trusting that when the new carpet was installed, the gap along the bottom of the trim boards would be invisible.

Sneak peek of new carpet, along with barely-visible register and fancy trim I put in all by myself, like a boss.
See? Invisible gap along the bottom. I'm pretty happy about that trim.

And now the new register is behind my nightstand, looking all normal, able to be opened and closed on a whim, and whenever I want, I can take the front piece off and CLEAN INSIDE IT. No more insect graveyard, no more blanket of dust inside, just one perfect register designed with the allergy sufferer in mind. I call that a win.

*By "bare" I mean, of course, coated with centuries of dust, dead bugs, and did I mention dust? But I couldn't see that at the time. I was blissfully ignorant of the horror to come.

Monday, June 22, 2015

What AREN'T You Allergic To?

I did a post last week about LUSH. I love LUSH, which surprises most people because I am allergic to everything. People think, "Laura, LUSH stuff has a smell and you said you were allergic to stuff that has a smell. Are you saying you're NOT allergic to smells?" This is when we get Sciencey.

I am allergic to lots of things. Some of them are the normal sorts of things everyone is allergic to, like mold. But, for the most part, I am allergic to fake stuff. This means if something as a fragrance that is made in a lab and not made from squeezing fruit and berries, I am allergic to it. If it is made out of petroleum byproducts, or petrochemicals, I am allergic to it. If it is used to keep meat or salads shelf-stable for months, I am allergic to it.

Here is a Venn diagram:

The natural things I'm allergic to include: wasps, mold, mangoes, tomatoes, and Seth MacFarlane.
The reason why LUSH works is because 1. they stick to natural ingredients as often as possible and 2. they disclose EVERYTHING. What's nice about LUSH is that I can actually compare the list of deadly deadly chemicals to their ingredients and know that if I use this soap or that conditioner, I won't get sick. Usually I can only tell if something's going to give me a reaction by doing a patch test on my arm and waiting for a problem, even with so-called "fragrance free" products...which aren't always fragrance free. My reactions can range from: nausea, headache, asthma reaction, sneezing, rash, chemical burn (this was unpleasant), joint pain, lightheadedness, and probably death.*

This is where I continue to advertise for companies without getting paid, because I found two other sources for bath and body products that people like me, with hideous allergies, can check out.**

Lavanila Laboratories was my big find of this year. Lavanila makes all sorts of natural products like deodorant and body butter, that have NOTHING unnatural in them. I would have Lavanila's baby if it were a person and not a company. Their stuff smells amazing, works incredibly well, and I can trust that anything I order from them will be safe for me to use.

Another company for allergy-friendly products is The Honest Company. I haven't tried a lot of their products, but I ordered sunscreen from them this year after I discovered why I was feeling sick every time I used normal sunscreen.*** The Honest Company makes sunscreen without chemicals, so it's safe. I also want to try their bug spray, since--you guessed it--I'm allergic to DEET, too. They make all sorts of things, including cleaning products, and since I'm allergic to the vast majority of commercial cleaning products, I'm interested in trying some.

* Death hasn't happened yet. We'll see.
** Seriously, feel free to pay me. My dream job is to be paid to use stuff I already love.
*** Sulfa, an antibiotic that I'm allergic to, is related to PABA, which is in, like, every sunscreen ever. I'm also allergic to other sunscreen ingredients, so it's just safer for me to avoid sunlight and, failing that, to go with all-natural sunscreen.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Closet Shelves

This is the first in a sort-of series, all about the home improvement work I've been doing that's kept me away from the gym, this blog, and consumed all other aspects of my life. My bedroom has been my 2015 project. I'm hoping to wrap most of it up this summer.

I have a tiny little closet that is only walk-in if everything inside it is removed and the person walking into it is under 200 pounds. Really, it isn't a walk-in. It is a door you open. Inside is a rod. Above the rod is a single shelf. That is the whole closet. I find I can comfortably fit a laundry basket inside, a few shoe boxes on the shelf, and clothes on the rod. Along either side of the doorway, the rod goes in about a foot. Both sides are pretty much unusable, because if clothes are pushed one way or the other, you can't see them.

I wanted to make the space actually work for me, so I decided, as I was getting ready for my new carpet, I should put in some shelving along one side. The other side, I thought, could be for the laundry basket and the middle would be for clothes. The shelf on the top of the closet would be for shoes or bags, and the rest of the closet would be empty.

I decided that nothing that could not be worn--no yarn, no books, no picture frames, NOTHING else--would be allowed in the tiny closet. Tiny closet = clothing, shoes, purses, scarves, belts. That was that.

This led to a trip to the hardware store.

I picked out a nice smooth board and had the lumber guy cut it in two. Then, I bought a piece of trim and had the lumber guy cut it into six pieces, to create a ledge around the closet where the board could sit.

Then I went home and began my expert Twitter tutorial, which I have put below for your home improvement entertainment needs.

I painted the wood trim the shelves sit on, and the boards, along with the board at the top of the closet, are going to be covered with wallpaper, as soon as I find a remnant of a pattern I like at the discount wallpaper place. Which I will have to go visit some time, but that doesn't need to happen immediately.

I'm also getting some kind of storage for my shoes, hopefully something easily-accessible. I think a trip to T.J. Maxx is in order, so I can get some of those crates, baskets, or fabric boxes they have. We'll see. (There will be an official closet photograph when that happens.)

I'm excited to have a space that isn't packed so tightly! What projects are you working on this summer?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

LUSH Splurge

If you are Jennifer or The Brother, you know that all I've been watching lately (other than home improvement stuff) has been YouTube videos from beauty vloggers like Essie Button, Amelia Liana, Megan Rienks, Zoella, and Ingrid Nilsen. And one constant between all their channels is haul videos. I don't know why I love haul videos so much, but I do. Maybe it is because other people are spending money, so I get the happiness of new things without having to spend any money.

But today. Today I did spend money. At LUSH, which is one of my favorite places.

Part of this is Rachael's fault, because I tend to shop fast and today she looked around longer than I did, resulting in my thinking "Maybe I need two more things..." and then buying the two things. I told the lady at the store to put everything in the one bag, though, so it would seem like I did not buy stuff and then buy more stuff. The shame of checking out twice wasn't enough to stop me from buying more, it was just enough to make me want to HIDE that I was buying more.


I try to only go into LUSH once every six months or so, because it's a problem. I mean, I'm allergic to almost everything that has a smell, and there's LUSH, all good-smelling and NOT causing me to almost die of asthma! At LUSH, I get to decide "I want this because it smells good," instead of "I have to buy this product even though it stinks or doesn't work, because I did a patch test and didn't get sick."

LUSH is a miracle place, and my love for it is akin to the love the average preteen girl had for Bath and Body Works when I was in junior high. Except, back then, I couldn't understand why all the pretty-smelling lotions gave me a migraine or made me throw up and want to die. Now we know.

Here's my LUSH "haul." That is in quotes because no, I am not making you a YouTube video. That is not my thing.

Oatifix face mask. The face masks at LUSH have to live inside your fridge or they go bad, because they include fresh fruits and things. This one is oatmeal and smashed bananas and other goodness. It's supposed to moisturize your skin and calm it down. It makes your face smell like a cookie.

Honey, I Washed the Kids soap. This is what I went to LUSH to buy. It is my favorite soap of all time, the first LUSH product I've ever used, and the one bath product I cannot live without. It smells like honey and caramel and everything that's right with the world. The soaps at LUSH come in giant chunks like the huge wheels of Parmesan cheese you see in fancy shops. They take a knife and hack slices off for you to buy, so if you want, you can get big pieces to keep at home. I just get soap-shaped pieces so I have an excuse to go back to LUSH. This is called self-sabotage.

Soft Coeur. This is a massage bar, but no one is giving me any massages, so I plan on using it as a solid moisturizer. That's what the lady at LUSH told me to do. You rub it on your skin and it melts a bit, then you put down the bar and rub your skin some more until it is absorbed. I got this specifically for my elbows and knees. They need some extra TLC. Also I got this because it smells like Honey, I Washed the Kids. If you tell me something smells like that soap, I will buy it no matter what it does.

Stepping Stone. This is a foot scrubber. It is shaped like a foot. It smells, I kid you not, like lemon Pez. It reminds me of everything that was good about my preteen years, and by that, I mean it reminds me of The Pretender.* Also it is shaped like a foot. LIKE A FOOT.

Sun. This is one of LUSH's perfumes. This smells like citrus peel. It's bright and summery and makes me happy. Plus--See how safe LUSH is for me? I can actually buy their perfume...and WEAR it. I can wear perfume on special occasions now, or when I've been outside and gotten overheated and want to pretend I've showered! This is brilliant. I have their Vanillary solid perfume, too. I love it!

I know that's too much stuff, but now I am at home, surrounded by lovely-smelling things, and I feel like this guy:

* Jared always ate Pez.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cigarette Javelin

Saturday, I was at lunch, and a man (who was basically the hillbilly version of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files--suit and cane but with beard and farmer tan) was smoking a cigarette outside of the local museum. He was all of a foot from the entrance. Then he decided he was done and, without warning, threw the lit cigarette like a javelin at me while I was walking down the sidewalk.

Then he stared at me like he'd never seen a woman before.

I was like, "Dude, I would expect to have lit cigarettes thrown at me in a biker bar, and that's why I don't go to biker bars. But in front of a museum?" I was unprepared.

Then I was like, "Do I stand on this cigarette butt, which is still smoking, or do I carefully walk around it so that my feet don't perpetually smell like cigarette smoke for the rest of the day at work? I opted to pretend that the cigarette butt did not exist.

Now, I have seen this dude before, always outside this very museum.

I don't know what show this is from, but I always feel this way when I see people smoking right outside
the entrance of a building.
This leads me to believe he 1. works there, 2. volunteers there, or 3. is on the board of directors or trustees or something. No matter which of those things is true, you'd think that professionalism would stop him from standing at the entrance, his hand on the doorknob, to take his cigarette break instead of doing so behind the building outside of view. Not to mention the fact that, in Indiana, you have to be eight feet from the entrance of a building in order to smoke, even though I have never seen this law enforced by anyone ever.

The only thing I can think of is that going behind the building would mean he'd have fewer targets at which to throw his cigarette, or that he really wasn't supposed to be taking any kind of time away from the inside door of the museum while it was open.

So, I guess what I want to know is, on a scale of "Stuck Watching the Same Ad Again and Again While Streaming a TV Show Online" to "Kicked in the Back for Hours in Coach on a Tiny Plane by a Loud-Talker with B.O.", how annoyed would you be by having a cigarette hurled at your head while you take a walk during your lunch break?

(Seriously just Googled "Hillbilly Cigarette Smoking Man" to see if there were any images. No one had made this Photoshop magic happen yet.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Small Goals for June

I gave Jennifer some genius suggestions (only some of which involved food) for her new lifestyle posts on her blog. (I am choosing to call them genius suggestions due to goal three down below.)

One of them was to do what Nicole over at Writes Like a Girl does--Small goals! Nicole posts once a month with ideas for what she'd like to accomplish each month, then she updates us at the end of the month with what she's finished and what she's still working on. I love this because it makes me feel like, by reading about someone accomplishing their goals, I am finishing something myself. This is a complete lie.

Jennifer did a small goals post in a FANCY way with all manner of pictures. I mean, just look at it.

She made that picture happen. Because she makes things. I have decided to do the same, in a more Laura way.* I am sure this is not what she had in mind.

This has stolen all of my free time lately, and it has involved so much work. This Thursday, the new carpet comes, then I promise I will do a series of posts about everything I did. There was so much stuff. If I wasn't at work, I was staining, sanding, painting, polishing, organizing, get the idea. There are only two things left, the carpet and the headboard. I have been trying to make this headboard for two years. Let's see how this goal works out for me, shall we?

Because goal one has stolen all of my time and energy, not enough fitness has happened. I have been bike riding (and almost dying in thunderstorms), but it is not the same. Go back to the gym, Laura.

I am the meanest person in the myself. This will be a goal forever, but this month I am really trying to do better. I'm trying an app called Headspace on the recommendation of Maureen Johnson. I read her post about anxiety and decided to give it a try. We'll see how that goes.

I have wanted to do this for three years. No one will go with me. Maybe I'll go by myself. Maybe Darcy will go with me if I bribe her with beef jerky.

I redid the closet. Complete with new shelving. I am not refilling it with everything that was in there. It was a mess. I must go through my clothes, get rid of everything that does not fit and everything I do not wear. I am bad about this. I always think, "I might get bigger again and need this," or "I will probably wear this again, even though it has been four years since I've looked at it." I redid my closet, and I am not putting clothes back inside it that don't get worn. If this means making a capsule wardrobe, I will do that. But seriously, something has to give. I cannot have a closet full of clothes and only six shirts I wear.

* This is for two reasons: 1. I do not know where to find fancy pictures 2. I did not want the crisis of choice. It takes me hours to choose a single piece of clip terrible would I be in a world of stock photos? This post would never be written.