Sunday, April 28, 2013

Getting my Motivation On

The Man and I were hard at work in our yard again this weekend.  He finished edging and mowed again, and I planted twelve new plants after removing countless weeds and two huge grass mound thingies.

Seriously, who plants "ornamental" grass?  Unless we're talking regular fescue-type grass called a "lawn," I don't really see the point.  Just plant flowers already.  Lame!

I stuck two bleeding heart plants in the ground on the shady side of our house to help control water runoff.  They should do pretty well there, especially when I find some ferns to go with them.  I can't wait to see them take off like I know they will and produce those beautiful arms of pink flowers.  Hopefully they will be happy in their new home.

Stepables in our weird little no-man's-land
In our front yard, we have the ugly sprinkler boxes and I think an electrical box or something sticking out of the ground.  It is near the property line and looks unsightly  so it's a bad place to plant anything in the first place.  As much as I would like to hide the whole area with a Japanese maple, I don't want to have to tear the maple tree out if someone needs to get to the electrical box or water shutoff.  Instead, after grubbing out the two grass mounds (complete with snails inside--eew), I planted ten Stepables.  These are little plants that, once established, can actually be walked on without damaging them.  A few of the plants I got are creepers, but they can't possibly be more invasive than the junk grass we have spreading everywhere.  I wouldn't mind having less grass and more non-mowing stuff.  Mom has some and says they're really easy to trim back.  The non-creepers are simply little plants that just don't get very big.  I am excited to see those grow out a bit and cover the area to prevent more weeds.

Also, I am SO over weeding this year.

Between last weekend and this weekend, we've spent about $100 on our yard (not including a brand new cordless string trimmer--that we got on sale plus another 10% off!).  With the almost 40 hours of work so far this spring between three people and the hours spent planning and dreaming, at minimum wage, we've elbow-greased another $500 into our yard.  I was comparing the before-and-afters from last summer when we bought the house, and it's an amazing upgrade.  Our four rhododendrons are almost ready to explode, so then we'll get a ton of color and amazingness for a couple months.  Yay!

Look, Mom, I can do yard work!
One of the first things we did when we moved in was put up our flag.  We got an all-weather flag and fly it 24/7 unless it is really stormy and windy (then it goes in our garage to hang dry).  We have a little spotlight on it so it is lit at night (as is proper).  We were the first to put up a flag in our neighborhood, and now there are four beautiful flags on our side of the street between our block and the next.  We started a trend!

I think I can finish up the last little bit of killing/pulling grass and spreading bark dust one night this week.  After that, we just have the backyard to completely overhaul.  No big deal.  *runs screaming in the other direction*

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dear J.C. Penney: This is your Intervention

Dear J.C. Penney,

I write to you today to remind you of your target demographic.  That'd be me.  Well, really, that would be my entire extended family--and, by extension, most of middle America.  We're all loyal "Penney's" customers.  I grew up looking forward to the late summer when my parents would drive me to the next down and pick out brand new school clothes.  I learned to shop for myself in the juniors' section, carefully selecting tops and bottoms that were sure to attract attention from all the right boys without drawing ire from my parents and teachers.  I learned about sales and the value of good clothing.  As I've grown, I've continued to shop at your stores.  However, as I've grown, I've noticed some erratic and disturbing behavior on your part.  It is time for rehab, J.C., and this is your intervention.

Ten years ago, I could easily walk into any J.C. Penney store and find high-quality, durable, and modest clothes at a reasonable price--sometimes on sale, sometimes not.  I could get Levi's and Lee jeans, Dockers, Land's End, Worthington, and other known brands reliably in my size.  The clothing would last beyond my requirements, either until I grew out of the size or got tired of the style, and I could donate it to someone else knowing they would also be wearing good clothes that would last them a long time.  Your stores are now filled with clothing that is sheer or incredibly thin, and those items wear out with just a few washes.  Even the jeans are thinner than they used to be.  I haven't seen a shirt designed for a regular woman that has anything but a cap sleeve, a 3/4-length sleeve, or low-cut front on it in years.  Worthington, the stalwart business clothing brand, doesn't include a placket to the top button on women's shirts anymore, so it is impossible for me to not show cleavage (business appropriate, I think not).  I haven't seen a proper skirt or non-formal dress in eons.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not overly modest, but I want the option of buying conservative clothing.  I don't want high fashion: I want good clothes that last.

When it comes to your store layout, I'm not sure what you've been thinking.  I don't want to walk into a J.C. Penney and have to hop from mini-shop to mini-shop just to find all of the khaki pants and compare the sizes, colors, and prices.  I want you to go back to the wall of khaki pants where I could find and compare them all at the same time, feeling the fabrics and looking at tags.  The mini-shop idea is confusing and time-consuming.  While that might make you think I'll spend more time in your stores, the reality is that I don't want to go in the stores at all now.

I know that a lot of people were turned off when you dropped the coupons and went to lower prices, but that didn't really impact whether I shopped at a "Penney's" or not.  I liked the even price numbers and no guesswork or trying to determine which coupon gave me the best deal.  I really liked that I could get a better deal every time I shopped versus shopping at a competitor for the same item.  Raising prices and offering coupons isn't going to change whether I shop at your stores.  It isn't about the money.

Please consider bringing back items of value.  Return to the old days where the average person could reliably find durable, modest clothing at a fair price.  Ditch the mini-shop model and make it easy for customers to find items.  Remember your target demographic, and don't leave me hanging.

Sometimes you have to step back to move forward.  You can do this.

Good luck,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Yard We Didn't Know We Had

The Man and I bought a house on a small lot.  It isn't microscopic, but it isn't exactly what anyone would call acreage at about 3,500 square feet.  If you consider how much space is taken by the house and garage, we really only have to manage about 1,000 square feet of actual yard.  Less if you take out sidewalk, the unfinished backyard, and the section between our house and the neighbor's that we don't even look at very often.

Seeing that this is our first home and neither of us have much experience with yard work--admittedly almost zero on my part, a small yard is a good thing.  While gardens and outbuildings and space would be fantastic, we'll work up to that level eventually.  Right now, grass and a few shrubs are plenty.

We moved into our house in late summer last year, so we didn't have much of a chance to get going on the yard before the rain came.  We mowed and trimmed and edged, but that's about it.  Throughout the whole winter, we ignored the yard.  Weeds grew and spread.  The grass went dormant and died in a few areas.  Mushrooms sprang up in the front yard.  Moss started advancing and overtook significant areas.  Crane flies deposited eggs that have turned into leatherjackets all over in our yard.  It was a huge mess.

About a month ago, Mom came over with the intent to clean things up a bit, but she broke her arm in the process.  And then it rained one weekend, we were busy another weekend, and it just didn't work out the next weekend.  Between the have-to's, the don't-want-to's, and the we're-busy's, we didn't get to the yard until this weekend when my father came over to finish the job that Mom started.

With Dad's help, The Man and I were motivated to get the job done in one day.  Dad and I pulled weeds for a few hours while The Man mowed and edged all of our grass.  I purchased a dozen bags of bark mulch, and we worked that into the flowerbeds.  We filled our yard debris bin with clippings, and we've made yet another trip to the home improvement store for additional supplies.  Lime, more seed, and both herbicides (natural!) and pesticides (not so natural... but we have to kill the leatherjackets before they eat our whole yard) are headed into our yard soon.  In one day, we went from having the crappiest yard on the block to having the least-crappiest yard in our area.  That's not to say our yard looks amazing yet--thought it will.  It just isn't crappy anymore. :)

We're learning that a yard, no matter how small, still requires a certain amount of work to maintain.  We learned that we actually like some of the work, and we're learning that we're up to the task.  And we're also very thankful that our yard is as small as it is.  Now that we have things looking nice, we can turn our attention to the mud pit that is our backyard.  We're going to need more than a weekend...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

In one ear, and blowing out the other

I knew that my cold last week had one more trick up its sleeve.  I was mostly convinced the head cold would turn into a chest cold as I had that annoying tickle down the back of my throat.  Thursday night, however, I reassured myself that this thing was really over except the last little bit of mucus hanging in my sinuses.

It could be argued that I get the ability to effectively clear my sinuses from my father, but neither of us will admit to the volume our technique produces.  Let's just say we have trouble blowing our noses quietly.

After my shower on Thursday night, I blew my nose.  I didn't blow terribly hard or more forcefully than I have been blowing it over the course of my cold.  Apparently I did something differently because I heard a loud POP! Pssssss! Krrrrrrsssss! Scrugyscrugyscrudgy noise, and I could feel air coming out of my ear.  I also had a massive headrush feeling as the pressure in my sinuses and ears all normalized.  Then I got really dizzy for a few minutes.  It scared me at first, but then I realized I had blown my eardrum apart.  It hurt at first, but that went away pretty quickly.

Since there really isn't anything anyone can do to fix my pierced eardrum and I can hear fine, I am not going to see a doctor about it.  I haven't had any pain after the first few minutes and a dull ache the next day.  I can hear a little whistle or crackle sometimes when I blow my nose really hard--which I am trying not to do.

One last little "hey, I'm still here" from that evil cold.  Now it can be gone for good, and my ear will heal on its own in a few weeks.  ARGH!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Worst Cold Ever

I've had my share of colds, but the one that I got last weekend set a new standard for awful colds.  Seriously, I don't think I've ever had one that bad.  Evil, terrible, nasty bug!

Last week, The Man was sick.  He had a cold, but he seemed to be coping pretty well.  He took a day and a half off from work, nothing major.  He was good as new a few days later.  Our housemate got the cold about a day or so ahead of me, and he was much sicker than The Man.  Lots of sinus pain, some coughing, and more body aches.  Apparently it was a downhill trend because by the time I got the bug on Saturday, it had morphed into The Cold from Hell.

After a brief "oh, maybe it isn't allergies" series of hours on Saturday, I awoke Sunday morning to witness both of my hands morph into Kleenex boxes.  I was so congested that even blowing my nose until I saw stars did nothing to combat the pressure, pain, and snot packed into my sinuses.  I slept all day on Sunday.

Monday, feeling no better, I stayed home from work.  Same story.  Miserable.  I moved from my bed to the couch at one point, but that was just uncomfortable and difficult to rest (though our kittens did try to make me feel lots better with cuddles).  My nose was completely raw by Monday night, and I hadn't been able to breathe through either nostril at all until my shower that night.

On Tuesday, I woke up feeling pretty good aside from the blocked sinuses, the raw nose, and a lingering low-grade fever.  I decided to go to work.  After putting out many fires and stoking a few more, I called it a day at lunch and went home.  The snot hanging down the back of my throat kept causing me to gag--and then to hurl--so I was more miserable than ever.  It was a very long evening and night trying to rest and keep food down (though I never was queasy like with the flu).

Wednesday was just like Monday: at home, packed sinuses, unable to sleep or rest well.  Awful!  But it was on this day that I discovered VapoRub.  Works great to keep sinuses clear once the big chunks are not blocking things up anymore!

It is now Thursday, and I actually had air enter and exit my body through my nose today.  I have eaten real food and drank my thousandth cup of tea for the week.  I don't sound like I have the plague much now, although I am a little stuffed up still.  The Man had a bit of a cough after his cold, but I haven't had too much indication that this will settle in my chest.  That would be cruel.  Here's to hoping it's all behind me.  I have too much going on this weekend to deal with a stupid cough!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Old Spice is for Women Too

After years and years of talking myself out of it, I took the plunge today and bought myself some Old Spice deodorant.  That's right, I am a woman, and I am wearing a man's deodorant.  Stop the presses.

There were two factors that led me to such a decision: scent and marketing.

My dad wore Old Spice Classic aftershave when I was younger.  Combined with the smells of metal, grease, and wood, his "Dad" smell was so incredibly comforting.  I've tried many times over the years to find an equivalent female product, but all of the deodorants and perfumes are decidedly fruity or floral.  I don't dislike fruity or floral scents on principle, but I can't stand how they smell on me.  I also don't like the idea of smelling like food or a garden.  An orange should smell like an orange, not a person.  I finally convinced myself, "you know what, I like the smell of Old Spice, so that's what I'm going to wear."  It's my money, my deodorant, and I'm the only one wearing it, so screw what anyone else says.

After doing some digging, it seems I am not the only woman out there to make this decision.  Many of the product reviews of the deodorant I settle on were actually written by women saying how much they loved the scent for themselves.  I learned that Old Spice was originally marketed to women, and only lagging sales and some clever marketing turned the scent over to men. 

Furthermore, I had to determine the exact line between a "man's" product and a "woman's" product.  Why is Old Spice only for men?  If a man uses a tampon to stop a nosebleed, is he using a "woman's" product, or is he simply using a product?  If a woman sleeps in boxer shorts, is she sleeping in a "man's" underwear, or is she sleeping in her own shorts?  I'm not saying advertisers and branding people are doing anything wrong targeting a specific audience.  It just strikes me as ridiculous that anyone would tease someone for wanting to wear a [widely available and commonly worn] scent.

The Man even commented that the scent I chose, Komodo, is a rather gender-neutral scent.  He likes it on me, and I love it.  So there.  Old Spice is for women too.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Post-Quilt Activities

I have been taking it easy on the blog lately, but I'm making up for it by living my life in the real world.  Now that I'm not buried under yards upon yards of fabric with the king-sized quilt project, I have been able to breathe!  The Man and I are working on a long-term project together (not crafting or kids, just a project), and we're looking at options for redoing our entire backyard this summer.  I took on a small sewing project for my mom--and she got out of repaying me for the work by breaking her arm two weeks ago.  When I haven't been doing the same ol' things like cooking, cleaning, or working, I've spent my free time the following ways:

Watching!  I love watching TV and movies, and after inhaling every Doc Martin episode on Netflix in one week last month, I discovered United States of Tara two days ago.  Beautifully written, wonderfully cast, and all-around delightful to watch.  Not as cute as Doc, but it holds my attention just the same.  I highly recommend both series.

Reading!  I read Craig Ferguson's autobiography, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot.  Ferguson, known best as the host of The Late Late Show, came to the United States from Scotland.  His life story is both astounding and triumphant, and his patriotism is refreshing.  Seeing how he first experienced the U.S. and how he came to earn his citizenship was nice for me, a native.  I don't often step back and see what this country is or how others might view it, and Craig's unique take on life here really made me think.

Playing!  The Man and I are still sporting the odd Band-Aid from our now eight-month-old kittens.  Annie launched herself out of my arms, up over my shoulder, and down my back last night in response to The Man's protein shaker bottle rattling.  We got them an Easter present, a small furry lamb, and Eddie has kept the lamb all to himself.  Annie, the mighty hunter, prefers jumping games and climbing as high as possible.  She really likes it when my father comes to visit as he makes her work hard for the toys.

Shopping!  We made a pilgrimage to the outlet stores recently, and miraculously we both left with new clothes!  Usually only one of us will find clothing, but this time was awesome.  I got three shirts and two spring jackets.  The Man got two dress shirts and two pairs of pants.  The sales were very good, too.

All of this gets piled onto my regular life.  People keep asking me what my next quilt project will be, but I don't think I'll have one picked out for quite a while.  I am having so much fun being free of crafts for the moment.