And for once I was SuperMom

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Is it just a movie?

"What do you want to do with the evening?" is the inevitable question that Scott asks me each night once the children are put away and the house picked up.  This question is often heard with a sprinkling of guilt and indecision.  I should spend the evening writing.  I should spend the evening painting.  What I want to do is curl up on the couch with Scott and stare at something on TV.
I try to see TV and movies as a treat.  After all it is entertainment, and isn't that something you only do when you don't have anything else to do?  An agreeable distraction for the mind?  After all, ladies and gentlemen, I have shit to do.
Occasionally I do give in, an evening is sacrificed on the throne of mindless enjoyment.  Friday night I gave up the evening of potential productiveness to snuggling with Scott, drinking a summer ale, and watching the movie 'Elysium.'  The movie is about a dis topic future where humankind has laid waste to the Earth and the wealthy have retreated to a space station that is akin to paradise.  The plot focuses on the fact that all citizens of Elysium have 'med bays' in their homes, a futuristic MRI-like machine that heals them from all ills.  These 'med bays' are not available to the citizens of Earth.
Without even viewing the movie I knew that the plot was an analogy for the developed world and the developing.  I like movies that provoke thought...

When we lived in Kenya we noticed that the Kenyans often overdressed their babies in super warm clothing.  Down coats and hats in 80 degree weather.  I was constantly asked if Emma was cold.  Eventually we learned that almost every Kenyan knew someone who had lost a child to pneumonia.  The warm clothing was to combat sickness.
When Carys was nine months old she came down with pneumonia.  She had been acting a little off that day, during her nap I read an article in Parents magazine that described the symptoms of respiratory distress in infants.  I went in to her room to check on her, her nostrils were flaring raggedly, and her ribs were fluttering in and out.  Through a series of phone calls I got her to a doctor in about an hour.  She was admitted to the hospital that night and we spent two extremely un-fun nights until the doctor felt she was healthy enough to go home.  Through the whole ordeal I kept my emotions stable by assuring myself that we were in a developed nation, Carys was hooked up to monitors, and there was a room full of trained professionals that would rush in here the moment anything misfired.  I asked my doctor what I could've done to prevent her illness, 'never let her near another child,' was her answer.  I could not have controlled the situation.  But because I live in a developed nation with good medical care Carys lived.  I knew that...
Carys in the hospital.  Being visited by her sister.

But the movie provoked more thought, if I was truly in a nation where I didn't have a doctor's office a five minute drive from my house, and a hospital a twenty minutes from my house, how would that have progressed.  Say I didn't have access to a magazine that told me what symptoms to look for in my baby?  Say I couldn't even read, because my family couldn't afford to educate me or didn't value educating girls?  Say I didn't have access to a car?  Or couldn't pay for a doctor's visit.  Or didn't have a husband that believed me when I called him and said, 'something's not right with our baby, come home and take us to the doctor.'
Where would I have been then?
Where would Carys have been?

The one thing that does bother me about sci-fiction movies like Elysium is that they are so out there that some viewers can miss how truthful they really are.  We watch and think, 'gosh it would be nice to have a med bay in my home, those bastard citizens of Elysium, why don't they share?'
I guess we can start sharing.
Pneumonia is one of the leading killers of children.  We can donate to Unicef.
Malaria is another leading cause of death in the third world.  We can donate to
Both of these diseases are extremely preventable.  Of course pneumonia is an infection that stems from the flu, so educating about hand washing, breast feeding, and treatment of the flu will help.  Think about all the basic knowledge you have to help your children.  Now imagine that you can't read...
There are countless ways we can help, please write me with ways that you have thought of and charities that you have found to be exemplary, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Get Down

"Man, when I'm their age I want to be able to do that," I was looking forlornly at the backs of a 60 year old couple.  We were visiting their neck of the woods in South Africa and they had taken us on a hike.  They were about fifty yards in front of us, or just me, Scott was probably staying behind just to make me feel better.  He did assure me that they were hiking rather fast.
Again, he probably said that just to make me feel better.

Last Tuesday I wheeled Carys into the library playgroup that we've been attending, the lady spotted my flushed and probably sweaty face and said,
"Did you just go running?"
"No, I just took a Spinning class," I responded.  She rolled her eyes, a gentle tease for my overachieving,
"I know, I'm that person," I joked.  I didn't take offense.
I had been tired that morning so chose to attend the class, normally I make up my own workout and then shower before playgroup, but the class is scheduled so that I don't have time to shower.  Arriving red faced and disheveled was not a normal occurrence.  I had debated quite a bit about this decision.  Showering usually wins.  I kept thinking that this was superficial, but really there are only a few times during the week that people I didn't birth see me, so I would like to look presentable.
That Tuesday I chose working out over hygiene.  The next conversation that followed was between myself and two other moms; I was encouraging them to do the things that I had so that they could workout.  They were telling me lots of reasons why they could not or would not.  I let it go, I didn't want to be that person again.
Over the past few months, as I've joined the YMCA and gotten back into fitness, I've had to think through why I am doing this.  I'm in my 30s, and I'm already married, so it's clearly not to attract a man.  He is still interested, so maybe it's to keep him interested, but as I've found with other things if you do something purely to please someone else it doesn't last long.
Am I doing this to look like Jillian Micheals?  Well, that is impossible.  I like bread too much.  I have finally realized that I really cannot compare myself to other women when it comes to looks.  No matter how much fat I lose off my body I am built differently, I won't have my friend's nice long slender waist, I am short, she is tall.  If fitness is based on looks then I better focus on looking like the best 'me' I can.
But eventually looks fade.  No matter how much Spinning, or running, or weightlifting, or yoga I do I know that there certain things about aging that I cannot control.  My skin is looser than it was ten years ago.  I have some permanent lines over my eyebrows that make me look like I am perpetually sarcastic.  (Which I kind of am, so I deserve those.)  This body is going to get looser and gain more lines.

In that same playgroup one of the children had come with her Grandma, I heard the Grandma say this,
"Well, I'll be the first to admit that getting down on the ground gets harder as you get older," I then watched her slowly get down on her knees, like watching a creaky gate close.  The woman that teased me about Spinning is about the same age as this one, she is down on her knees with the little kids all the time.  Probably because she does it all the time.  She works with little kids.  They're on the ground a lot.  I think the body has kind of a 'use it or lose it,' policy.

Then I thought,
'That's it...that's why I do this, I want to be able to get down on the ground with my grandkids.'
In my head I tell myself that I work out to prevent premature aging and disease.  Somewhere in my heart I know that I cannot completely control all of that.  Even though I've been a regular exerciser for my entire adulthood I know that I might pull the cancer card.  I do like to think that I've all that I can.  I would hate to get cancer and know that chemotherapy might not cure me, I should have just eaten more kale all those years ago.
I also like it, exercise, that is.  I like the way my body feels when I push it a little farther.  Achieve that distance I never thought I could.  Get into that yoga pose that seemed impossible six months ago.  Life that weight that wouldn't move a week ago.
Being fit comes in handy too, in my life of lifting children and, well, lifting children, a lot.
I need a macro excuse though, a realistic one.  Getting a six pack in six weeks seems a bit silly, but being able to get down on the ground with a two year old when I am well into my seventies, that seems honorable.

Dearly Departed

Maya Angelou left us today.  She was 86, a life certainly well lived.
She has always been on my list of people that I wanted to have dinner with, I could see her smooth voice patting me on the head, telling me that if I just press on my art will be seen, my writing will be read.

She was one of the first that I read, in that high school and middle school abyss when all you have is time and a library card.  I loved her voice.  I remember the anecdote from 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' where several of the girls from Porgy and Bess where straightening their hair with a new treatment.  The treatment made their hair fall out.  Maya's family wrote her and asked if she was one of the girl's who had lost it to vanity.  Her answer was to send them a picture of herself, big smile, both handsburied in tugging on curly hair that was firmly attached to her head.
I loved that.
Race and land mine hair discussions aside, I always grieve a bit inside when I hear that someone is trying hard to change the things about themselves that they can't.  Hair texture, hours spent in bathroom curling or straightening in the other direction.  Height, bunions and stinging arches from wearing high heels or hunched shoulders from an attempt to shrink.
Thank you Maya for loving yourself enough to not straighten your hair.

Honestly I think that her passing just raises my chances of meeting her, at the rate I am going with writing the next great American novel I wouldn't have found myself sitting next to her at some writer's luncheon.  Maybe on the other side she can put her hand on mine and give me the approval that we all want from great people.  Those people we wish we could be friends with, if only we were greater or our circle of influence wider.  People you hope would like you too.  A kindred spirit, just a few hundred miles away.

She didn't start her memoir 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' until she was 42.  This fact gives me hope.  Reminding me that I am still in the beginning of my life, that I still have some time.

I don't straighten my hair either.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


This is my lawn:
It's really more dandelions than actual grass.
I spent an hour and half weeding dandelions one Saturday afternoon.  I kept getting the distinct feeling that they were laughing at me.  Scott spent his time pulling up a purple flowered vine.

"I keep getting the image from some 80s horror flick, of some monster that only laughs and grows more when you cut it?  You know what I mean?"  I said to Scott about half way through the afternoon.
"You know those lawns that are like carpet?  I want ours to be like that," I said, hopefully.
"I think we're a long way off from that," Scott replied.  Ever the realist.

A friend of mine who had some delightfully crunchy ways came over, she looked at our lawn,
"Oh, you can make dandelion jelly!"
"What?  Because I was literally thinking, 'stink I wish these things were useful, because we have so many of them," I know that they are edible, but I assumed that was really only in case of emergency.
She then proceeded to tell me about dandelion jelly and walk about my yard pointing out all the edible plants I have growing back there. She did confirm that the dandelions were indeed laughing at me.
"Their roots go down a couple of feet, you know," I didn't, but I certainly had my suspicions.
I thought this dandelion jelly thing might be just the thing to join 'em and not fight 'em.  My daughter picks me piles of dandelions.  She loves them.  I Googled it, and it seems that dandelion jelly is a legitimate thing.  So the next afternoon I enlisted the help of my four year old.  The first recipe I found called for 4 cups of dandelion petals.

 My daughter picked her  first bouquet for me.  I pointed out the spot on the measuring cup that we needed to fill,
"Do you think this will fill up to here?" I asked.
Lara, she's only four.
I know that's why I asked, instead of just raining on her parade.

Well, this is what I had after the first batch.
I kept sending her out to the yard for more.

Soon she tired of picking and I ended up just sitting on the grass and picking the flowers from around me.

Funny how when I don't care she brings me piles of them, but the second I want her to do it she's not interested...
I kinda knew that would happen.
Call it mom intuition.

After an hour and a half I seemed stuck at 2 1/2 cups.

I decided to find a new recipe that only called for 2 cups of petals.  I found it.

The next step is to make a 'tea' out of the petals.

Add boiling water, let it sit for a day and then strain.

You should have two cups of tea.

I had one and three quarter cups.  That was after straining it with cheesecloth.
One recipe said you could just add a bit more water.  So I did.

I didn't have pectin on hand so I put the tea in the fridge and waited until I went grocery shopping again.

I didn't pay attention and grabbed powdered pectin, rather than liquid pectin.  Largely because of the price.  The whole point of this is to create super cost effective good food, right?  If I am making jelly out of plants in my backyard I kinda want this whole project to be on the cheap.  I realized that the recipe I decided on asked for liquid.  I plowed right on ahead.  Adding sugar and boiling away.

I didn't look closely enough and added the amount of lemon juice from the first recipe to the second recipe.
One quarter cup, as opposed to two tablespoons.

I usually make jam, and have chunks of fruit to work with, I know what jam looks like when it is done and how it acts.  I am not sure how jelly works.  So when I followed the directions to only boil for a minute or two I shrugged and thought, 'maybe it's supposed to be liquidy.  Maybe it will firm up when it cools, right....?'
Here is my dandelion syrup.  Looks great, doesn't it?  Lovely honey color.  Tastes good, like honey.  My kids love it.  But it is decidedly not the texture of jelly.  Scott thinks I didn't even achieve syrup.  Dandelion water?
I know we all live in fear of 'not jelling'.  I have watched both of my mother's poke at some jam hoping it worked.  There seems to be a bit of superstition surrounding the ability to make good jam.  Maybe I added too much lemon juice?  Maybe not enough sugar?  Maybe I should've boiled the tar out of it.
 Any jelly experts want to weigh in?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Old Becomes New

"Well, this is a gut," my real estate agent leaned in to the bathroom, she turned on her polished high heel and walked out.  I stood feeling insecure in my Target ballet flats...
"I don't know, I kinda liked the tile," I said.
I mean it was pretty dirty, she stopped and came back, she squinted up at the wall,
"I think I like the tile, and the wall paper, but not together," she gave me.
"Hmmm, I could see that," she was being generous with the wall paper.  There were many times that I felt that real estate agents should get some kind of psychology degree along with their real estate license.
This is what we were looking at:

Lace curtains, oh my!

I don't think you can tell, but that is rotting linoleum down there.

There is that tile, and it is aqua.
I don't know, I might be kinda alone on this one, but I like it.  Aqua is super in style right now.

Which means that it won't be, probably by the time that I finish writing this blog post.

That radiator is also painted sea green, I think they were trying to match the tile.
They failed.

Nope, the grout is not brown.  It is white.
Or was white.
Maybe at one time.
The 70s?  Maybe?

And mold!

So that mirror was actually mounted so that I could only see the top of my forehead in it.
I mean, I'm not the tallest of people, but c'mon.

There's that wallpaper.  I can see how someone would like it,
but I still think that my real estate agent was just being nice.

Maybe in a powder room?  With lots and lots of white.  Not with aqua tile, thought.
Not with aqua tile.

I thought you might like to see all the swans.
With the wallpaper, to give you the full effect of the room.

Well, we could not afford to gut the bathroom.  Which I was glad for, because I actually like the tile.
Have I mentioned that?

But we still changed a lot.
Scott ripped out the swan door, in an act of new homeowner aggression.  We removed the wallpaper.
We replaced the toilet.
We replaced the sink.
We had new tile installed.
We had a smaller window installed and put in a bigger and lower mirror.

And here is what we have today:
 The sink doesn't look that different, I know.  Here's the story: I was told (by my contractor) to pick out a 19" vanity, so I spent about three nights on picking out a vanity, because we needed it 'right away.'  Then it sat in the house for a month.  Then about a week from completion my contractor went to install it, it barely even fit in the bathroom.  He told us to pick out a pedestal sink.  Then my plumber looked at it and said, 'I think you're going to need a wall mount sink.'  Then my contractor called my husband and told him that we needed a wall mount sink, and needed it now.  So my husband returned the lovely pedestal sink that we bought and spent all afternoon driving around the North Shore and we ended up with almost the exact same sink.  I wanted an oval one.
But, hey, look at my awesome DIY shower curtain!
And that is a brand new toilet.
Everybody loves a new toilet.

Look white grout!
About a day before we moved in the bathtub was full of construction trash and a shopvac.  Two very lovely friends of mine cleaned out the bathroom and bleached the tub.  I am very thankful they did because I am pretty sure that if I had to get that close to the dirt I never would've been able to use the tub.
Ignorance is bliss.

The art is my daughter's, that I reframed.
I wanted a grey paint that would work for both the upstairs and the downstairs bathrooms.  I chose Misty Moonstone by Glidden; a really light grey that shines blue in direct sun.  The shade will probably become the color of my porch.  If we get around to painting the exterior before Glidden stops making that paint.

The radiator got a coat of white paint,
as did the trim and door.

I actually had a hard time finding the right trim paint.  I wanted a paint plus primer in a pure white gloss, and Home Depot does not carry gloss, they carry 'high gloss' or 'semi gloss.'  I landed at Lowe's with Valspar's Ultra White, in a gloss and paint plus primer.
Lowe's also supplied the new medicine cabinet.  I know that I am supposed to hide all those bottles in cute little packages, but if I don't see my allergy medication I don't take it.  Maybe when Better Homes and Gardens photographs my house I will hide it.

I wasn't quite sure what floor tile could mix with the tile that we were keeping.  Most of the tiles that are in style now are rather large and didn't fit with the small bathroom that we have.
So I Googled 'retro bathroom design,' then I said a little prayer of thanks when I saw the yellow and mint green tile that was in style in this same era.  I also saw that a lot of the bathrooms had this mosaic style tile.
And I love it.
You know how dogs will rub their faces on the ground, and then roll onto their backs?
When this tile was installed I wanted to get down on all fours and rub my face across it.
I didn't.
But I thought about it.

Hey look, I can see my face in the mirror!

I wanted to do a fun funky vintage oval mirror.  Scott wanted a medicine cabinet, so we could put actual toiletries in our bathroom.
He won.
We also got this medicine cabinet at Lowe's.

I am happy to say that mounting the medicine cabinets on the wall was a team effort.  I re-learned how to use a drill.  Had been awhile.

That is a very detailed account of my bathroom.
I hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My home is my canvas

I haven't written or painted much in awhile.  I think I have only completed two paintings in the time that we have lived in Massachusetts.  This is a gut sinking fact.  In Colorado I was inspired by my landscape.  While living there I learned to look at the world around me, being surrounded by huge mountains can only cause one to look up and admire the view.  When I would go back home to Southern California I would look up and notice the hills past the freeways for the first time.  I would make conscious decisions to turn my face towards the ocean and to let my eyes soak, instead of taking that vista for granted.

Moving to Massachusetts seemed a bit more of an inspirational challenge.  Being to used to the expansive vistas of the west I was able to draw out beauty and abstract it.  There were very unique aspects of the landscape that were truly Coloradan and truly Californian.  Here the flora is so varied that really the trees are the same from the Mississippi to the Atlantic.  The landscape is a closer and well populated.  I found it more quaint, certainly lovely, but so far I struggle to find parts of the locality that jump out and scream,

I have felt some inspiration from local flora, maple trees, magnolias, beach grass, and have started plucking away at a few paintings.  I keep waiting for the weather to warm a bit so that I can wander with a camera and see what there is to see.  Without children in tow.

As I rush from room to room of my new house, taking care of the aforementioned children, my thoughts bopping about in my head, I get a little stressed about my future as an artist.  What am I going to paint if nothing inspires me?
Somewhere in there I heard, 'use your house as your canvas.'

If you're like me you're cheap.  Decorating your house is not cheap.  Because I am artist I have art that I can put on my walls, and if I have a blank spot I can always make something.  But somethings I can't make.  Or refuse to make.  Like shower curtains.  Have you ever noticed how expensive those things are?
I mean it's just a big piece of fabric with holes in it, right?

If you're like me you've gone to Target and didn't like all their twenty dollar options.  Or Bed, Bath, and Beyond and all their forty dollar options.  You really don't have time to run into another store while your husband sits in the car entertaining your small children with Veggie Tales videos on his you take a cue from a HGTV magazine article that you read and decide to paint one.
Do you know how hard it is to find a blank, plain, white shower curtain?
Hard folks, it's hard.
After some searching I ended up with this curtain.  Not being able to touch it, because I bought it online, I was unsure of the texture, but figured I could always return it.  When I received it I realized that it was thin polyester and was unsure of how it would take the paint.  I thought about returning it.  Then I thought,
'Hell, I'm just gonna do it anyway.'
What masterpiece did I have in mind?
Blue and grey stripes.
Um, Lara, there are lots of shower curtains that have stripes on them.
Yes, but they were the wrong color blue and grey.
Um, okay, that's not that big of a deal.
Yes, but if you're like me while you are sitting on the toilet you will stare at them and will them to perfectly match your tile. And they were forty dollars.
Forty dollars isn't that bad.
It is more than I want to spend. So there.
 Shower curtain on the floor.
Lara!  On your nice new floors!
Yes, that's why you put the newspaper down.

 I measured off a section of 12 inches. I used the super scientific method of measuring every foot or so and making a mark (with a water soluble marker) and then stretching the tape between each mark.  I am 100% sure that my stripe is not perfect.  And I don't care.  The thing is going to be all folded up when it's hanging, you will never notice.
I will never notice.
If you notice while you are using my bathroom that's your problem.
Dark grey that is supposed to match the grey of the bathroom rug that I purchased from Target.
Because I'm high class, ya'll.

 Another reason that I decided to paint a blank shower curtain rather than buy a ready made one was because I couldn't find one that was exactly what I wanted.
I wanted three stripes that went from dark grey to light grey, uniting the bathroom rug and the light grey paint on the walls.  I also wanted the stripes to go from wide to thin.
I used Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint purchased from A.C. Moore.  I had a leftover bottle of black from another project, I had to buy some more titanium white.

I started to get slightly worried because the paint was drying very stiff, it was also soaking through the fabric.

I decided to throw the shower curtain back into the washer, and see what would happen.  I also kinda may have got some spots on other parts of the curtain and was kinda hoping that I could wash those off.
The run through the washer pulled off some of the paint, softening the stiffness, and producing a mottled affect.  At first since it wasn't what I expected so I wasn't sure that I liked the finished product.
Then I decided I didn't want to paint it again.  Or buy another shower curtain.
Besides the more I looked at it the more I liked it.  Since the curtain is polyester and shiny when the paint was removed it allowed the texture of the fabric to show through giving the grey a silver effect.
I like silver.

 Here is the curtain I did for the downstairs bathroom.  I started by painting the two outer stripes and moving into the center.
I don't know, it just made sense.
I would not recommend this method, I would suggest if you are doing precise that you tape everything first and then paint.
Because I got to the middle and realized that the stripes were off.
HAHAHAHAHA, you did your math wrong!

Ahem, I did not.  The shower curtain was two inches shorter than it said on the package.
Normally I would be all insecure and blame myself, but this time it was not my fault.
Anyway, I fudged it and the center white stripes are seven and a half inches rather than eight inches, like the rest of the stripes.  I am pretty sure it's not noticeable.
If you notice while you are using my bathroom that's your problem.

I wonder if this is the longest blog post ever on shower curtains.
I'd like to think it is.