Year of Pleasures: Tide Pods

Tide Pods
I know because this is such a naked recommendation this might seem like a commercial, but I promise, nobody is paying me or has even asked me to say this: Tide Pods may have changed my life.

I saw the commercials and it seemed like such a trivial thing – using a pod instead of measuring – that I rolled my eyes at one new thing to try and get us folks excited about laundry detergent, and how lazy our society is that we can’t use a measuring cup and how the kids today won’t get off my lawn. But then it was on sale and I figured, eh, why not, and I fell in love.

No measuring means no more drippy soap containers in my cabinet, crusting all over everything. It means never having to search for a measuring cup because I ran it through the wash and lost it in the dryer. No more using too much soap because I can’t stop pouring in time and it overflows all over me and the clothes I’m wearing.

It is a trivial thing, but it means there is one stupid chore in this stupid grown up life that I no longer have to dread.

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DIY Nail Stickers

DIY Nail Art Stickers

DIY Nail Art Stickers

So with the DIY Nail Art tools I shared yesterday, I’ve been practicing my nail art skills and come to the realization that I’m not great. There are a few things working against me – not being terribly ambidextrous, not putting in any practice time – but the thing that gets me every time is waiting for all the layers of pretty paint to dry. I botch my nails EVERY TIME I put paint on them. Literally. I cannot seem to wait for the paint to dry, and then if I’ve managed to be still long enough for it to dry, I always forget about giving it time to cure and mess it up with dents and gouges. You add multiple layers of paint or, oh for goodness sake, pools of paint like in polka dots, and I don’t have a chance.

I’ve gotten in to nail art stickers, but they’re pricey. And as a rule I can’t stand paying for something I’m technically capable of myself. So I needed to come up with a way to make my own.

DIY Nail Art Step 1
The secret is parchment paper. It has to be parchment paper – not wax paper. There is a very significant difference. On parchment paper the polish lifts up like a dream. This might work on tinfoil or plastic bags, but I didn’t bother experimenting. It’s so dang perfect on parchment paper.

Paint ten rectangles bigger than your nails. Paint two or three coats, as necessary, to get the base color you want.

DIY Nail Art Step 3
Decorate to your heart’s content. After coming up with this I’ll never try and do polka dots any other way. It’s amazing to just leave these to dry overnight and know you’re coming back to completely cured polka dots with no smearing.

DIY Nail Art Step 2
Peel the stickers off of the parchment paper, being careful not to tear them. Paint your nails with a base coat and while they’re still wet apply the nail sticker and press firmly to smooth it in place. Depending on how neat you painted your rectangles, you may want to trim the base in a rounded curve to give you a smooth place to start applying. Just cut the sticker with a small pair of scissors.

Nail Art Stickers ApplicationApply just as you would any other nail stickers. Use a nail file or orange stick to press the sticker into the cuticles and nail bed and tear the extra away. I also used a pin for this for good results, but the best results of all came from just using a fingernail. The stickers are so thin that they’re super easy to tear. Which is a bit of a problem when you’re lifting them off the paper, but the best when you’re smoothing them to the nail.

Whenever I use nail stickers I finish with a couple of thick layers of top coat, paying extra attention to the sides. With a thick topcoat you can make your manicure last for over a week.

If I was just painting a solid color I think it’s more time efficient to just paint your nails. But once you start adding all the decorative flourishes, I don’t think I’ll do it any other way. I get to ensure that everything gets all the way dry before I mess it up, I get the benefit of using my dominant hand for everything, and I get to do it on a flat surface and not worry about coloring outside the lines. It’s almost too good to be true.

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DIY Nail Art Tools

DIY Nail Art Tools

DIY Nail Art Tools

As firmly on record as I am with not obsessing about the condition of my nails, I’m also not immune from pretty things. And when I feel so inclined, it’s a really nice treat to have my nails looking pretty. But because of, you know, life, I can’t spend a lot of time making my nails pretty. So I’ve been paying attention to how to get great results in the easiest way. For today, it’s nail tools. The pros and the artists use professional quality tools. There are dotters and liners and all kinds of special nail art brushes out there. But I don’t want to pay for specific tools when I barely do my nails, and when I have tried a brush I was frustrated that I could never get the nail polish out. One use and a brush felt like a brick.

Here’s my perfect solution: disposable, do it yourself nail art tools. Nearly free so you don’t need to worry about tossing it or making another if you want to switch up your colors.

Nail Art Tool Step 1
Snip off a tiny amount of hair. I mean tiny. A bang trim is more than you’ll need in length and depending on how thick you want to make your brush you really only need a few hairs. Liner brushes should be a bit longer and thinner, painting brushes should be a bit shorter and fatter.

Nail Art Tool Step 2
Rip off a piece of duct tape, about 3 inches long. Tape your hair snips to the very corner of one end.

Nail Art Tool Step 3
Then roll it up to make your handle. Give your brush a trim if you have any wayward hairs or to create the effect you want.

Nail Art Tools
If you want to make dots, all you need is a dull pencil. The size of the dot changes based on how much paint you have on the brush. Between your little disposable brushes and items you can find around the house, there’s no need to spend money on tools.

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Project Put Together: Best Eyeliner

Loreal Lacquer Liner

Loreal Lacquer Liner

I have a well-documented obsession with eyeliner. It’s the single product that makes the largest difference in how I look. Some people never leave the house without mascara, some will always go for a lip gloss, for me, it’s eyeliner.¬†I only put on makeup a couple days a week because I don’t like putting in the time. So when I do feel the need, I have to know what is worth¬†the effort.

Having tried so many different eyeliners in so many different formats – liquid, pencil, gel – this is my current favorite. And best of all it’s just a drug store brand. Loreal Lacquer Liner. It’s a nice thick consistency with a good deep color, but what I like the best about it is its staying power. I put this on in the morning and if left alone I’ll still see traces of it 36 hours later. Since my eyes have a chronic problem with keeping makeup in place, that’s kind of a miracle to me.

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What I’m reading: Traveling Mercies

Traveling Mercies

It’s been a challenge to make time for reading in my already overpacked life, but it’s something that has fed and sustained me my whole life long. I can’t afford to abandon it. It’s just so hard since it’s the one thing I do that I can’t multitask. Even my knitting is done while listening to a podcast or watching TV.

But I’m going to do it. Thus: that goal over there in the sidebar. One book a week.

The first book I’ve finished this year I wanted to give special mention to, most books won’t get their own post, but I had to mention this one because I think it’s my current favorite. I’m so not the type to rank favorite movies or books or whatever, but for right now, this book has my heart.

Anne Lamott is my kind of lady, my kind of Christian, my kind of writer. Whenever I read a book of hers I want to write a whole book back in response. There’s something so relatable about her that her books seem more like a conversation than an expert spouting off from their enlightened sphere. And when she writes about Recovery or Faith, it’s the kind that resonates with me – not some holy untouched thing, but something worn and used and ragged. Her faith is a faith that isn’t about having the right answer to the big questions, but about just being sensitive. “I had no big theological thoughts but had discovered that if I said, Hello? to God, I could feel God say, Hello, back.”

I deal so much with people who are convinced that they are RIGHT, and want to discuss why they are RIGHT and how they are RIGHT, that reading something from someone who is content with the mystery of it all is like discovering a freshly made bed after a long hard travel. People of faith are supposed to not have answers for everything, that’s how faith works, and yet it’s more rare than you’d think to find someone who actually lives that way. “This is plenty of miracle for me to rest in now.”

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How to stop mascara smudging under your eyes

How to stop mascara from smudging under your eyes

How to stop mascara from smudging


You may have noticed that most of my makeup posts in this little Project Put Together series revolve around eyeliner and mascara. As a freckleface I don’t do much for the rest of my skin, but it’s my eyes that have always caused me frustration when doing my makeup. Dark circles, puffiness, and fleshy eyelids mean that this is where I spend all of my makeup time. But since I have what the makeup pros call “oily eyes” and also what the ophthalmologists call “too small tear ducts,” all of that makeup regularly ends up rubbing off or running down my face. My dark circles are regularly compounded by smeared mascara and eyeliner.

Setting mascara step 1
So here’s how to stop mascara from smudging under your eyes: powder. You need a blotting powder or some other kind of powder that dries translucent. You don’t want your eyelashes to be the same color as your skin, so nothing with a color to it.

Setting mascara Step 2
Use a small powder brush – something you’d use for eyeshadow application, but make sure it’s clean – and dip it into the translucent powder. I like to go really light and apply a few coats, to make sure that I don’t get goopy or take away from the dark color I’m relying on the mascara and eyeliner to give me. Brush the powder on everywhere you’ve put makeup, making sure to get the tips of the lashes that come in contact with the rest of your skin.

I’ve had it recommended to me to use a setting or finishing spray on top of this, but I have yet to try it out myself. I’ll be sure and report back when I do.

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Why I don’t fix my nails

Chipped nails
A lifestyle blogger knows that she’s going to receive criticism for what she puts out there. A blogger like me who regularly blogs elsewhere about the most controversial possible issues in life knows that I have to put on my thick skin armor and deal with other people’s reactions. But there is one thing people respond to over and over again that I find completely mystifying. My nails.

Whenever I post a craft tutorial that requires me to take pictures of my hands, somebody has something to say about my nails. They’re too long, I need to cut them. They’re too ragged, I need a manicure. And most of all, if my nail polish is chipped, people lose their minds. They insist, over and over again, that chipped nail polish is so distracting they can’t possibly pay attention to what I’m actually demonstrating.

I think this might be one of those things that is surprisingly common, but I never knew about it until I started working on the internet. Like the people who are really into latex, or act like chewing into a microphone is as uncouth as insulting your mother.

But I can’t help but think that there’s something else at play here. The way those commenters are so derisive – like I’m taking pictures of myself with my skirt tucked into my underwear – like they’re embarrassed for me – the way they comment as if having chipped nail polish undermines any credibility I might have as a crafter or blogger – I think it’s about being a woman.

A man who works with his hands and has the marks to show it is considered manly. A man with rough hands and callouses is pretty universally respected, if not thought of as sexy. I am not only engaged in crafting – covered in paint and glue and solvents and dyes everyday – but engaged in parenting and washing my hands every hour and washing my kid every other. If I made sure that my manicure was perfect before every picture I took – I’d never take any pictures.

At one of these conferences I go to regularly, I talked with a woman who was a tech reviewer. She had the same problem. And in her case having nails was a really helpful part of the job – you wouldn’t believe how many phones and other devices are designed so that women with nails can’t use them at all. Not crazy Guinness records nails, just run of the mill nails you see at any nail salon in every strip mall in America. So as a tech reviewer being able to point out – women with nails can’t use this – was actually a pretty cool and valuable insight. And yet when she posted pictures of her hands, commenters would go nuts about her nails.

I think that it’s another way that women’s bodies are up for grabs, less than, viewed as public territory, a woman’s beauty something she owes to the public. And I think that’s gross and crappy.

I also think it’s gross and crappy that someone feels they can criticize me for not spending enough time on my appearance when I’m teaching them how to do cool stuff.

When I go to these conferences and pitch my “brand,” (bleck.) I always tell them that I am about authenticity. I write a blog, and not a magazine or work for some big media conglomerate, because I like the personal nature of it. I don’t want to be glossy and pretend that I have the answers to everything. I don’t want to be a Pinterest mom. I don’t want to pretend that I’m perfect and shiny and can do all the things I do with one hand tied behind my back. To do all the things I do, somethings gotta give, and if the only thing that’s giving in a certain day is my manicure? I think somebody should be throwing me a parade.

In other words: it’s not just laziness. Every time you see a photo of chipped nails, know that I am taking a stand. Against people who think that women have to look a certain way in order to have something worth listening to, against an artificial version of perfection promoted by blogs, even against poor time management. My life is not going to be dedicated to how my nails look, or how my face looks, or even how my clothes look, (and I obviously love my clothes.) I get to enhance or ignore each of those things as it feeds my soul, it’s not something anyone owes you.

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Project Put Together: Food Dehydrator

Dehydrating Bananas
Trying to reduce my gluten intake means I need to find all new snack foods. I love snacking. Dangit, I love it SO MUCH! But I have to let go of the crackers and find something else to eat.

When I was a young teenager I used to babysit for a family that had a food dehydrator and would dehydrate everything. Their shelves were stocked with fruit leather and vegetable soup mix, and dried bananas. And every time I was there I made a beeline for that pantry and gorged myself on those bananas. I did it so often that the bananas eventually disappeared and I swore they hid them from me. Gosh I was a terrible babysitter.

But that memory came back to me when I was thinking of what snack food could possibly replace my beloved Cheez-its. So I kicked up the old Amazon Prime and in a couple of days I was making them myself. Although I made the mistake of giving Atti some, and now a war is waging over the “candy bananas.” They don’t last very long around here.

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Canned Soup

Home Canned Soup

As I try to keep my gluten reduced, trying to eat from scratch, really just cutting out some processed foods “diet”, I knew I needed to give myself a safety net. There are a lot of days around here, a LOT of days, where dinner time comes around and I am too worked over to even think about lifting a finger. Or I’m up against a deadline and can barely stop to eat let alone cook. Or Bear is working late and then planning a seminary lesson and I’ve got Atti by myself for his whole waking day. Dinner is one of the first things to go when I’m evaluating my ever shifting priority list. That and laundry. And sweeping. And basically cleaning anything in my house that doesn’t create smells.

So to try and set myself up for success I knew I had to have something prepared and handy for those days when I couldn’t scrounge something together. Whether it’s for our health or for our budget, whenever we set the goal of eating at home I always blow it when I’m too tired to make dinner and the call of In N Out is too strong. I had to have something ready to beat back that temptation.

My love of canning comes in handy again. I bought a pressure canner years ago once I realized that I was ready to commit to canning as a way of life, but the only time I’ve used the pressure feature is when I canned tomatoes earlier this summer. Pressure canning is no harder than water bath canning, but there is a bit of a learning curve.

I put up my homemade vegetable soup, my garlic cilantro chicken soup, and a curried split pea and ham soup, and the process was not entirely successful. I started with the chicken soup, and it was there that I learned you need to give yourself a lot more headroom in the jars. Like, an inch and a half. The high pressure gets the soup boiling hard and high and I had a LOT of lids that didn’t seal because the broth was bubbling out. I refused to learn my lesson and had to process a bunch of the jars so many times that I basically have vegetable mush in chicken broth.

Canning the split pea soup I learned that the long canning process REALLY intensifies the seasoning. Of course, I didn’t realize this until all the canning was done and I cracked open a jar to discover that the soup was basically inedible because of the amount of salt and curry flavor that overpowered everything else. Go easy on the salt. The liquid reduces during canning and you’re left with a whole lot more salt flavor than you had going in.

By the time I canned the vegetable soup I figured out what I was doing and had nothing but success. This round of chicken soup and split pea soup might all end up in the compost and chalked up to a lesson learned, but at least I’ll have a whole bunch of vegetable soup to rely on as the weather turns cold and I’d rather curl up with a blanket and a cat instead of cooking a meal from scratch.

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Happy Canning Accidents

Canned Pear Goods

I’ve loved canning for years, but since making the goal to eat from scratch I have been canning non-stop, whenever I’ve been well enough to stand. The bounty of produce in this region is just ridiculous, and I’ve been going nuts with apples and pears.

But I’ve also been trying a bunch of new recipes. I’ve made Peach Pepper Jelly a bunch in the past, so I decided to try a Pear Pepper Jelly, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to set up. After a ton of pectin and loads of cook time, it just refused to be jelly. So that means I just made a great pear pepper sauce. Even easier to use, when you think about it. It would mix easier into cream cheese for a great dip, and pour right over meat for a marinade or sauce. I might just do it this way intentionally next time.

I also made pear butter, but my giant pot is a cheap pile of tin and I always end up burning my fruit butters. Luckily this time I caught it early enough that it just added a nice smoky taste. I accidently made caramelized pear butter.

That’s how all my favorite recipes are made – through screwing up, I mean experimenting.

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