I wear, I dye, I wear again!*

I am not sure what I did to my favorite sweater to cause these bleached spots on the neck. Maybe the bezoyl peroxide I slather on every morning? But why is nothing else ever bleached? Who knows. Laundry mysteries. I never lose socks so I guess something weird has to happen to my clothes.

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This sweater, which I stalked through Kohl’s until the day it was on sale enough for me to justify to myself buying a brand-new (not thrifted) garment, has been languishing at the bottom of a drawer since I noticed the weird pink blotches on its neck.

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Today I popped in at Jo-Ann’s a got a cheap packet of Rit Pearl Grey dye and decided to give it a go. If I can’t fix it, well, I wasn’t wearing it anyway.

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I mixed it up per the instructions on Rit’s website and dabbed the dye carefully on the ribbed neckband. I don’t know why I started on the inside, but I painted the outside, too. I was really afraid the dye would wick into the sweater itself from the neckband but it really stayed where I put it! This surprised me because the dye was the consistency of water and the sweater is 100% cotton.

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I was very careful, as I worked, not to let any dyed portions touch any portions of the sweater that I didn’t want dyed.

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After the dye sat for 20 minutes I washed the sweater as normal. Here it is blocked out on an old towel to dry. There’s a tiny blotch of dye on the shoulder where the neckband rested on some of the yellow fabric while the washer was filling, but it’s not too noticeable. Looks like lint. I call it a win!

— Amanda

*Please see Mad Max: Fury Road. Please.

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If it’s good enough for my hair, it’s good enough for my armpits

baking soda

My fancy glass container of baking soda with an extra-large powder puff. Yes, my bathroom counters are purple. No, I am not responsible for that.

I haven’t used commercial or homemade deodorant in years.  I don’t even know how many years.  Let me see if there’s a hint here in a previous post . . . Ah.  Two years, it would appear.  I do use something to deodorize, but it’s just a swipe of pure baking soda.  And this single-ingredient, ludicrously cheap stuff keeps me 100% smell free. (I buy it in bulk at WinCo for something like $0.50/Lb.  And yes, I do still sweat – this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant.)

So for two years I have used nothing but baking soda under my arms without incident. I used it directly after shaving and I used it during my on-again, off-again no-shave periods (read: winter). And only now have I begun to experience a problem.  The problem is redness and the appearance of a rash.  I don’t feel itchy or uncomfortable but I have stopped using the stuff until the redness goes away.  Am I butthurt?  No!  Actually, I’m surprised this didn’t happen a long time ago.  It may not look it (or smell it) but baking soda is caustic stuff! The pH of baking soda is 8.3 and the pH of skin is 7. It doesn’t sound like a dramatic difference but remember that the pH scale, like the Richter scale, is logarithmic, meaning that a pH of 8 is ten times more alkaline than a pH of 7.[1] (Also of note: water generally has a pH of 7, also. Both human skin and fresh water are considered to be more or less pH neutral.) I made Matt a stick of DIY roll-on that many a person has raved about but the baking soda darkened his skin after a few weeks and he went back to Tom’s of Maine.

I’m going to derail myself here to make an important point: I do not use baking soda deodorizer because I am afraid of aluminum in commercial deodorant. Just as there is no connection between aluminum cookware and Alzheimer’s, there is also no link between aluminum in deodorant and breast cancer.[2] I use baking soda because A) I dislike the way every cream-based deodorant in the universe leaves a disgusting rime on the armpits of my shirts, and B) I’m cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeap.

So, what’s the solution?* The crystal? Well, I’ve heard pretty conflicting reports about their efficacy, I could not readily find data on the pH of Potassium alum (the chemical name for the crystal), and I didn’t want to have to spend money on one. (Dr. Cox voice: Chuh-heeep!)

So I figured that if my scalp and hair are happy with the one-two punch of baking soda followed by (and essentially cancelled out by) vinegar, then why wouldn’t my pits? Crunchy Betty to the rescue (again): Mix equal parts vinegar and water, dab on, and, when dry, follow with a dusting of baking soda, as usual.[3]

— Amanda

*Unintentional chemistry pun!

[1] Ophardt, Charles E. “pH Scale” Elmhurst College Virtual Chembook. (http://www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/184ph.html) Copyright 2003, accessed 03/18/15. [07/27/15 NOTE: Chembook no longer available online]

[2] “Why Your DIY Baking Soda Deodorant is Causing a Skin Reaction” http://www.lisaliseblog.com/2012/10/why-your-diy-baking-soda-deodorant-is.html.  Accessed 03/18/15.

[3] “New News and pH Balancing Your Old Homemade Deodorant Problems” (http://www.crunchybetty.com/new-news-and-ph-balancing-your-old-homemade-deodorant-problems) Posted 06/22/13. Accessed 03/18/15.

Before and after: bedroom window

I despise mini blinds. I hate everything about them: how they look, how they sound, how they operate, how they totally don’t block any light at all, how frequently they break, how hard they are to clean, how they gouge the inside of the window frame when they’re improperly sized or installed, how cats destroy them for fun.

And, of course, we had them on every window when we moved in.

When I removed the mini blinds in the bedroom window Matt forged a lovely (and rather unique) steel drapery rod for me to put proper curtains on. The rod is very cool, but my first attempt at making curtains was not. I accidentally reversed the width and length measurements because I was so focused on getting the “keyhole” right. (The horizontal rod sort of hangs off of two L-brackets on the wall, which creates a bit of bulk at the corners. A deep rod pocket would have accommodated this just fine but I insisted on making this cutout bit so that the join is visible.) The curtains looked OK but weren’t full enough horizontally so they juuuuuust barely met in the middle. With nothing behind them this meant that every time we walked by the window the curtains flapped open and the neighbors could see us traipsing about in the altogether.

Because we are both natural-born hicks (I am a redneck and Matt is a tarheel) we solved the problem not by buying proper curtains or hanging a shade but by throwing a quilt over the window and holding it up with giant plastic tarp clips and almost never opening the drapes ever again.

The plaid flannel curtains that barely met in the middle.

The plaid flannel curtains that barely met in the middle.

BEFORE: The quilted cover-up.

Before: The quilted cover-up.

Charming.

The window has stayed like that for years now because I couldn’t for the life of me find ready-made drapes or fabric to make my own from that was both A) complimentary to the groovy paint by number landscapes over the bed and, B) not heinously expensive.

I found myself at Fred Meyer a few days ago and I wandered down the window dressing aisle (just to look, I swear) and discovered that just about everything was half off. I snatched up a roller shade, which I had been meaning to get for aaaaages, and then noticed these antique gold faux silk panels. My first thought was, “Ew. Gold? Gold drapes are for hotel rooms with down comforters and dark Berber carpeting and gas flame fireplaces. Not something I can pull off in a double-wide.” But my next thought was, “Hey . . . the frames on those paint by numbers are fakey antique gold, too . . . maybe next to the paint by numbers the gold will look pleasantly tacky instead of ostentatious. Mid-century kitsch! I can’t make a Craftsman cottage out of my mobile home, but I could certainly pull off the ranch house look.”

At 50% off, the package of two panels was about $20. Good luck finding a decent home decor fabric in the remnant section of Jo-Ann for less than $15 –a yard. (And I would have needed 4-6 yards depending on width.) So they came home with me and got shortened (and keyholed) this morning. The gold is going to take some getting used to, yeah, but I was right about the paint by numbers. When you look at the drapes and the paintings together you want to snicker instead of pull a face.

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After: Gold curtains and white roller shade.

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After: Gold curtains, closed.

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And, for reference, by beloved mid-century paint by number paintings, off-kilter, as always.

My aesthetic may not inspire awe but I’ll settle for bemusement. I think, though, that if a staff writer from Better Homes and Gardens circa 1953 was magically transported to my bedroom she would approve. (After she got over the shock of me going to the grocery store in jeans and a t-shirt.)

—Amanda

P.S. After removing mini blinds, but before hurling them, javelin-like, into the bin at the dump, snip the blinds themselves into 6-12″ sections. They make excellent garden markers!

Make a $40 wreath for $5

I have lamented the high price of fake flower wreaths in a previous post. I like having a seasonal accent on the front of the house, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay as much for it as I would for a date night dinner at the local Greek-Italian pasta house. If have fifty bucks to spare you can bet I’m opting for dim lighting, all-you-can-eat garlic bread, and a trough of Alfredo over a sprig of plastic cheer.

But today was my lucky day. I was in the neighborhood so I dropped in at Jo-Ann to see if they had anything that wasn’t laughable in the clearance bin. Fall stuff is moving in (and at Jo-Ann fall means Halloween, which takes over half the store) so spring and summer stuff is getting shunted off to the land of cut-throat price reduction. In and amongst the fluorescent peonies, washed-out miniature daffodils, and psychedelic gerbera daisies I chanced upon thee bunches of really good looking red geraniums. Score! I have a big basket of real red geraniums hanging from the eave, so this was fitting. Also, they were marked down from $5.99 a bunch to $1.49 a bunch. Even better.

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To make the bunches into a wreath my first move was to cut them apart into their various parts. I snipped the bunches just above the point at which all the stems were fused into one ugly plastic knob.

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Here’s all bits that went into one bunch. These were nice, full, bushy bunches, which made them ideal for my project.

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After they were all taken apart I wired the bits back together like a garland by wrapping around the stems with fine gauge wire.

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And then joined the ends of the garland by overlapping them and wrapping a whole lot more. Since all my stems were also wired I didn’t need any additional reinforcement (like a grapevine wreath or a circle of thicker gauge wire).

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Ta da! (Or should I say DING!) I now have four wreaths, one for each season, which by my own twisted logic makes me an adult.

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As always, please ignore the bird poop. I just washed it off over the weekend and couldn’t be bothered to do it again for the photo.

The end result is virtually indistinguishable from the geranium wreath Jo-Ann was selling in April for $39.99. Except that mine actually has more flowers. (Neener neener ha ha.)

— Amanda

Hold it

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I have failed Selfie 101. For starters, I should have taken a picture yesterday when I was all fluffy and voluminous. But I think you can almost make out (through the blurriness) how shiny and almost-curly my hair is. This is dry, crunchy hair, before finger-combing through the initial gel stiffness.

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What appears to be a rogue curl sticking out of my temple is in fact the camera strap dangling down from my raised arm. For those of you who are wondering: yes, I dye my hair. Religiously. I’m going gray at warp factor ten. The crew have abandoned the ship and the disembodied voice of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry is calmly counting down the self destruct sequence.

I have changed my hair gel! This is big news because I make my own. For the last three years or so I have used plain, unflavored gelatine as my “sculpting product” but I have recently made the switch to flax seed gel. It needs to be kept in the fridge between uses (truthfully, I should have kept my gelatine gel in there, too, but I didn’t). It’s not any more time-consuming or expensive to make the flax seed gel and it, like the gelatine, does not have any noticeable smell on its own. But best of all is that when I really gob it on it works just like the storebought stuff in the plastic tube, but without flaking. Plus, the omega-3 fatty acids in flax seeds really and truly is good for your hair and skin, whereas the long-held idea that gelatine is good for hair and nails turns out to have been a marketing ploy that dates back to the era before enforceable truth in advertising laws.

Here’s how I made a week’s worth of flax seed gel:

Combine 1 tablespoon whole flax seeds and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. stir constantly (to keep the seeds from permanently adhering themselves to your pan) for about five minutes or until the water begins to thicken and the spoon leaves a “comet trail” of froth (like the stuff that forms on top of your fruit when you make jam or jelly). Promptly pour the stuff through cheesecloth and squeeze to extract all the gel. Don’t wait too long or the stuff turns into Flubber and you can’t sieve the seeds out. Store in the fridge between applications.

Here’s the warning: the texture of the finished product is pretty gross. Very mucous-y. Exceptionally snot-like. It doesn’t bother me, but if, like someone with whom I cohabitate, you are very sensitive to heinous textures, you might not want to attempt this.

— Amanda

Coffeemaker hotplate renewal

The kitchen floor is almost (but not quite) done thanks to a quick lunch break that turned into hours of vehicle trouble. Should be done today, though.

In the meantime, I present this largely photographic tutorial on how to fix the burned-off coating on the hotplate of your old coffeemaker:

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Here’s our old, one-button coffeemaker.

And here's the hotplate.

And here’s the hotplate.

And here's some high heat spray paint Matt left lying around.

And here’s some high heat spray paint Matt left lying around.

Let's take this outside, shall we?

Let’s take this outside, shall we?

Half a dozen very light coats later.

Half a dozen very light coats later.

Now that I’ve done this I would make two recommendations to anyone else who wants to try:

  1. Use the gloss paint so that your carafe glides, rather than catching on the matte surface.
  2. Wait 48, rather than 24 hours, before using the coffeemaker again. I burned a few little holes in my new surface where the paint was not quite dry and it bubbled.

All in all, though, a vast improvement! Mr. Coffee does a lot less hissing now.

— Amanda

Restyle: relining a coat

This is among the best of all my thrift store scores. I took this awful beast:

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Oh my gawd!

And transformed it into this sweet thing:

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Outside . . .

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. . . inside!

I followed the wonderfully simple instructions on CraftStylish, which I found on Pinterest.

Problem numero uno wasn’t even the shredded, tissue paper-like lining. It was the smell. Most items that come from the thrift store smell like Gain laundry detergent, and continue to do so for a wash or two. No biggie since the smell is not offensive and I am not allergic to artificial fragrances. This thing, though – P.U.! From a distance it wasn’t bad at all. It smelled like perfume, but it smelled like a nice perfume. Something my aunt Toni used to wear, in fact. But when I got it into an enclosed space (my car) I realized just how strong the smell was. It wasn’t like someone had a heavy hand with the atomizer. It was like someone had emptied an entire bottle of perfume into the bathtub and then rolled in it like a dog.

I tried everything. I started small: I washed it normally and hung it to dry. No change. I washed it with heavy duty scented detergent. No change. I doused it with a vodka and water mixture recommended by theater actors. No change. I soaked it in, and then washed it in, baking soda and water and rinsed with vinegar and water. No change. I hung it outside for a week. No change. After three more soak-and-washes with regular detergent and another time-out on the laundry line it was down to a manageable level.

But in the processed it had pilled like a poodle.

My sweater shaver, one of those cheap models from the fabric store, gave up after about half a sleeve. I threw it out and ordered a Sweater Stone. Let me say this about the vaunted Sweater Stone: 1) It works. It works well. 2) It smells like sulfur. 3) It makes an incredible mess.

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Before Sweater Stone.

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After Sweater Stone.

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The Sweater Stone and the mess it creates. (This after just a few strokes.) Also shown is one of my favorite clothing care tools: a rubber lint brush that removes any loose stuff, like shaved pills or sawdust or pet hair, and rinses clean.

At that point I could finally start the lining replacement procedure. I removed the existing lining, ironed it flat, and taped up the zillions of tears. Someone had already replaced the sleeves with some sturdy brown ripstop nylon so I left those alone and just whipstitched them to the new body lining. I used the old lining as a pattern for the new lining, which I cut out of metallic gold synthetic brocade. Installing the lining was much easier than I anticipated. Even getting all that wool and slippery brocade through the sewing machine wasn’t too hard. Hemming the lining was a bitch for some reason, but I got it to work well enough in the end and I even learned how to do French tacks.

Now I just need to replace the buttons. (It’s missing one and they’re kind of ugly and dated. Also, I just like replacing buttons.)

This project was a definite success: my five dollar thrift store score now looks like a several hundred dollar off-the-rack coat and I gained some serious sewing confidence. I look forward to repeating this experiment with other coats and jackets – maybe even some of the unlined ones in my existing wardrobe!

Another great tutorial on lining coats, this one bag-style, can be found on GrainlineStudio.

— Amanda