Tuesday, January 22, 2019

While there's still pepper in my salt

Hair, it grows on you!
When it comes to my hair, I'm neither a trend setter nor a stick-in-the-mud. While there have been moments when I chopped it all off and went from long to super short, typically I'm not too daring or out there, and definitely not a person to plunk down wads of cash to get a certain look. I've always thought the same about hair as I do nails, it's this dead stuff that comes out of our bodies, do I really want it to be the center of my universe?

Well, I can now admit that my hair has become the center of my universe. It's practically all I think about, Google about, Pinterest and YouTube about. And not just hair, but grey hair. Yes, I have decided to jump off the diving board of vanity and dive head first into the latest craze, going grey.

When I was 15 years old, a friend saw and yanked a half grey, half brown hair off my head. That wasn't the beginning of my ascent into a head full of grey, it was just a weird anomaly. I can't really say when I started to really notice the silver hairs peeking through the browns, probably in my mid-to-late-thirties? I started covering the nasty intruders with Natural Instincts, because it's perfectly instinctive to color up grey hair, isn't it? While it may be instinctive, it's not natural, and I was never good at all with the coloring process. Hair color on the walls, hair color on the floor, hair color on the toilet seat, it seemed the color went everywhere it wasn't supposed to. I'd have the best intentions of just covering the roots like the instructions recommend, but once I got that pair of cheap plastic gloves on my hands and the chemicals filled the bathroom, I would just say forget this and I'd empty all the contents all over my head. And the floor, and the walls and the toilet.

This has gone on for years, except for the times my friend and sometimes stylist, who is really good with color, would convince me to get my color done by someone who knows better than to get it all over the walls. This involved lots of time sitting in the salon, piles and piles of foil pieces, time under the dryer, more sitting, and after feeling like a drowned rat, emerging from the salon with lovely color. And a depleted budget. But what cute color!

Until it grew back.

And hair never grows faster than when you love the cut or you love the color. If you love both, don't blink because hair then goes into speed growing mode, and before you can say "Oh this color? It's just kissed by the sun" those grey roots start rearing their ugliness and ruining whatever social event you've got planned that involves showing your head.

So then comes the decision, do I go back and get more professionally done color, or do I slink into the aisle of the store and try to pick out the color that comes within hopefully ten shades of what my hair color was when I was five. Buy the box, hope it looks halfway OK, undo all the work done with foils by the expert, more drips on the floor, and walls and toilet. I probably went with the at-home process 95% of the time.

I had no intension of changing the status quo. In fact, when I picked out the color of my Baha hearing device that I wear attached my head, my choices were grey, blond, black, brown and reddish brown. I went with reddish brown, because that's my hair color, right? When I exchanged one of them for a smaller model, the audiologist chose black without asking me, and commented that black goes with everything. Little did I know how much I would appreciate her choice.

A few months ago a friend we had known in Tahoe posted on Instagram that she was "ditching the dye, going grey." I was shocked! Just like I was shocked that another friend from Tahoe had done the same thing the year before. My thought was, "More power to you sisters, but no way, not for me!"
I sort of put off the decision by saying "Maybe I'll go grey when I'm sixty."

After getting my hair colored at the salon in summer, and seeing how fast the grey came back, especially at my temples, and following it up with a bad box color that seemed to just look flat and blah, I started seriously rethinking my no-way-on-the-grey. I did one more box color which according to the receipt was November 9, 2018. About a month later I decided for sure to let my roots come in and see what happens.

What is happening is not what I expected. I assumed I was completely grey all over. I'm not, and the color of my roots in back is cracking me up. Dark brown, a color of hair I associate with my Mom as a young woman. Brunette, without a hint of warmth. It's totally neutral, and if it comes in like this I may have to rethink half of my wardrobe.

I had some highlights put in to help with the dreaded "line of demarcation." I sort of wish I had bitten the bullet and just gone without this step, but the lighter color is helping me get used to the bigger changes ahead. A friend of ours who is very daring with her tresses, whose hair may or may not have been pink just a few weeks ago, saw my hair and said she loved the "Ombre Look." I'm going to close my eyes and accept that as a compliment.

As much as I didn't want my hair to grow fast after a coloring, either from a box or the salon, it's the opposite now. I want my roots to grow, I want more grey, more natural color to see what I've been covering up all these years. If I believed it would help, I'd take hair growth supplements. But this is a time for good old fashioned patience, something I am in short supply of. If only I had as much patience as I have grey hair.

Summer convention, grey is peeking out!

Plunked down some money to get it colored right.
But it grew. Stupid roots, stop growing!

So I box colored it again. Cheaper, but blah.

The day I decided to ditch the dye.
Faded and dark auburn/brown, blond highlights, grey roots, dark roots
I can't wait to find out who I am.
To Pixie or Not to Pixie, That is the Question.

Feeling pretty good about the future.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A bear hat for Ernst and a bear hat for Ernest 

Using patterns from Repeat Crafter Me, I've crocheted my fair share of animal hats over the past few years. Bears, pigs, foxes, puppy dogs and monkeys, in the end they are fun to make, even if the feature placement causes me to tear my hair out. Where to put that nose? Are the eyes crooked? Will the ears flop down or stand upright, or worse yet, will one ear be stubborn and make the whole thing look whacky? A lot of worries over a hat, I"ll admit, but they seem to stare at me wanting to be perfect.

When my husband requested a hat he could wear to Sacramento Republic FC soccer games, a bear hat to be exact, I figured I wouldn't stress too much. This hat would be all in the family, super easy! We went to the yarn aisle at our local Joann Fabrics together, and he decided on a brown multi-colored yarn I'd used before. It's always nice to use up yarn that's lying around. He chose the accent color (didn't have that color lying around) and we talked about the general look. Cute but not silly. Got it.

I used the basic pattern from the dog hat on Repeat Crafter Me, but decided to finally branch out and make my own design for the face of the bear hat. I wanted a big white area on the face so the black nose would stand out, plus it would give me a place to sew on a smile with the burgundy yarn And then I got the grand idea, because the ears always give me such stress, to make some pom pom ears. They would be so cute, and would tie in all the colors of the hat, the brown and white and burgundy, all in a happy little pair of puff balls right on the top. You know, just like real California Brown Bears have.

I made the hat while working my night shift job, taking care to do my work first and foremost of course. But since the goal of this job is first and foremost to not fall asleep, crocheting is allowed. The puff balls, or rather pom poms, turned out so cute fierce and menacing looking, ready to strike fear into the opposing team's fan base. I took a picture of what the finished hat was going to look like, for approval from the guy who is willing to wear a crocheted bear hat in public.

The reaction? Tepid, most certainly tepid. "What's with the ears? Those don't look like real bear ears." Hate to tell you this, but that's not a real bear, Buster. I was crushed. My Pom Poms got a big No No from the Big Bear, and that's unbearable. But I pushed through the pain, and made him some boring old true-to-life bear ears fit for a Grizzly.

But I had those pom poms left. What's an animal hat maker to do?

Enter Ernest. Not Ernst, that's my husband's name. We now had an Ernest with two E's on his way, and I saw my perfect opportunity to palm my pom poms off on the new kid!

Ernest was the expected baby of a new couple in our congregation. Without giving any details, I'll just say they just moved here, were very brave in the country they just emigrated from and put themselves at risk under a regime that has made life miserable for many in the last few years. There, that's all I'm saying, besides that they are cute and she was so hardly showing when I first met her I kept accidentally touching her pregnant tummy as I tried to not botch her language too much. She didn't make me feel dumb about either the tummy bumping or the language botching. I loved her right away. When my husband heard of their bravery and then when he heard they were planning on naming their baby Ernest, he was positively smitten. It doesn't matter to him the baby's name was chosen before they arrived here, or that there is an extra E in the name, Ernst was very excited to meet baby Ernest.

He told the couple he would come to the hospital when the baby was coming if they wanted, and they said yes. Don't know if they were aware of this man's fear of birth, small detail. The plan was the baby's two aunts would be there for most of the interpreting, and Ernst for if anything major went wrong.

We got the text on New Year's Day that mom was in labor since 4:30 am and that they were now at the hospital. Wow, this was amazing, a baby coming on the first day of the year, a gorgeous blue sky day when we both had nothing going on whatsoever.

It was a pretty amazing experience! I kept wondering what my role there was, it turned out to be chief photographer of a lovely and beautiful birth. The peace and love and calmness and serenity between mommy and daddy was almost more of a miracle than the birth itself. Ernest was here, he was healthy, everything was beautiful. What a way to start 2019.

A hat for Ernest.

Welcome to California, little guy!

You are in good hands.

No worries.

Yep, smile away!

Your mommy was amazing before, during and after.
Daddy too.

Ernest :) Boy

Ernest and Ernst.
Ernst and Ernest.

Should I crochet some bear booties?

Friday, December 14, 2018

No-Waste November? Let’s talk trash!

We may need a smaller can.

We've been eating a whole-food, plant-based, low-sodium, minimally-processed and no-oils diet for so long now, it's become second nature. Chop an onion and saute it in a bit of low-sodium vegetable broth, add some garlic...ya da ya da...and pretty soon we have dinner and leftovers that last at least through lunch tomorrow and possible dinner tomorrow night. 

This way of cooking makes me feel good physically and deep down good inside too. In our quest to save money too, we buy lots of unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a good amount of frozen foods, canned goods and depending on my schedule, pre-chopped vegetables from Trader Joe's. I limit myself on pre-processed fruit, because I'm just never that busy. But bags and bags of produce enter our house each week. And all those bags eventually make it into our trash.

Many times after a marathon cooking stint, I would be surprised how much trash I had just thrown into the kitchen trash. Of course the recyclables went where they belonged, the compostables went in the garden, and the better compostables like potato and carrot peels went into special batches of dog food for our Molly girl. But the one-time-use only bags and cartons were the ones that bothered me. The frozen corn bags, the clear plastic produce bags that I would never manage to save and either reuse or bring back to the bin at the store. Each week we filled up our trash can with lots of unrecyclable plastic that was going straight to the landfill. And I'm sure if you asked the land, if it could talk, it would ask that we stop trying to fill it. Ditto with the oceans.

So loving a good food challenge, we decided to use November 2018 as a test ground for a zero waste month. We dubbed the month No Waste November, knowing we were shooting for more of a Low Waste goal. If I have a catchy title, I can do just about anything in a month, so the end of October had me using up as much of the food we had in single-use containers. These items were mostly the frozen vegetables and fruits in the freezer, and bags of items such as nuts, flour and dried fruits. I invested in reusable mesh produce bags from the grocery store and started washing out and saving plastic produce bags from the store. I also got a few wax coated food covers from Trader Joe's. These would be in addition to the washable plastic covers I had from GladWare, the ones that look like something your grandmother wore at the beauty parlor. I've never been one to fight with plastic wrap, it always wins.

First shopping trip? Not Trader Joe's, where the one-use plastic bags are king. No, I headed straight to Sprouts Market with my reusable mesh bags. I marched into the produce department and started filling up mesh bags. And then quickly realized I was going to need more bags. I think I'm at nine now, we could probably use 12. I did start just throwing similar things in one bag, like herbs and smaller vegetable bunches such as radishes. I bet the cashiers mumble under their breath at shoppers who do this, but there is only so much mesh I want to mess with. 

We had a great month of dried bean soups, vegetable soup, more dried bean soups, followed up with some more soup. Because the month of No Waste was also the month of No Oven, the off button on our oven decided to quit, so roasting, baking and casseroles were out of the question. Soup for days and days and days. 

We are only two people, but we eat home-cooked meals probably 95% of the time. That makes one tall kitchen can of trash each week. With really watching the one-time use plastic, we reduced this to only one can for the whole month. It felt so odd to throw away that tall kitchen bag with so little trash in it, that I started to just up-end it into the outside bin and reuse the bag. There was no food trash in it to speak of, so it wasn't even smelly. Amazing results. This little experiment has made me think twice about the packaging of even the healthful foods we purchase, and whether there is an alternative means to buy that same product.

How were the cost-savings? Our shopping habits definitely changed, but we were not attempting to save money, just plastic. But nonetheless, money-wise we did pretty well. Minus the days we went to Southern California for a get-away, our average food costs were $9.88 per day. Not quite as good as the $6.66 all-time record from eating at the 99 Cent Store for one month, but not too shabby either. 

Wax lined food covers.

My only complaint is that they're opaque.
Opaque, yet so charming.
It made me feel like our food in the fridge had all turned Amish on us. 

The ultimate in packaged foods. 
Recyclable, but not really reusable.

Not recyclable, but reusable.

Only good for one use.
Unless we took it on the dog's walk. Hmm.

Such "apeeling" packaging!

Jar salads, they fit right in last month.

No plastic here, fruit filling in for fresh flowers.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Getaway Guilt

The morning of November 8th started off dry and breezy and much too warm for a November day. Too dry, too warm, and that breeze turned into quite a windy morning. An icky wind. A wind that had me thinking "this is one of those days when something really bad could happen in California."

Unfortunately I was right, and soon I learned that the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento, was pretty much wiped out by the worst fire in California history. The numbers of dead and/or missing are hard to fathom, as are the over 12,000 homes burned. I didn't know anyone there, but it's one of those places that makes you smile when someone claims from that town. Paradise - it must have been fun to write that down as a return address.

The day of the fire and the next, the skies in Sacramento became horribly smoky. Then Saturday it got downright scary. The streets looked foggy, but it was lung-burning and eye-tearing smoke. I saw a person with a full face respirator in the parking lot of Trader Joe's, and someone inside had a smoke mask. I thought they were being a bit dramatic, then I saw when I got home the air quality was in the hazardous range, all groups were advised to stay indoors. Suddenly that carton of soy milk didn't seem that important, I made a mental note to add smoke masks to our Go Bag kits.

The next few days were just a blur of depressing news, and more smoke. We had an inversion layer and the stuff would not budge from the skies, besides the fact that the Camp Fire to the north continued to rage. The stories of the evacuation were trickling out, and it sounded apocalyptic. My mood was matching the dreary skies. But we had a trip planned to Southern California, and I was looking forward to getting away. With the house cleaned for the dog sitters, we caught our early morning flight to my husband's conference in Irvine.

Knowing that the fires in Malibu were still active, I didn't expect to see great improvement in the air quality, but a change of scenery was due. I love staying in hotels, especially for my husband's conferences. Sleeping in, binge watching decorating shows, not making the bed, it's all good. The skies leaving Sacramento a week after the fire were still so bad, I'm surprised our flight wasn't cancelled. But oh was it nice to lift above that layer of smoke and fly away from hazardous air that was keeping us inside. The air in Long Beach was blue and it smelled fresh and lovely. I felt super guilty for enjoying the clean air, I wished I could turn a fan on and send it up north. The air back home was cancelling event after event, the local school district closed for a day, along with my husband's district and every other one in the area, including all the college campuses. I can't remember another disaster, except for maybe the 1989 earthquake, that was such a gut punch to Northern California in so many ways.

After our short stay in Irvine, we took a ferry to Catalina Island to catch up with an old friend from our days in South Lake Tahoe. It had been a long time since we had seen Laurel, a very long time.  Ernst gave the talk that Sunday for the little English group, and we got to sleep in the equally small Kingdom Hall on a Murphy bed in the back room. We had breakfast each morning at the hotel where our friends live and work, so between the free digs and the free food, we only had to pay for the ferry ride. Our three nights on Catalina were a soothing balm for us, heart, mind and body. And lungs.

So long, Sacramento.

Hello SoCal.

I was in the mood for some thrift store shopping!

And spicy Korean food.

Irvine streets are completely empty of walkers.
 Except me.

Great thrift store in cute Old Town Orange.

Meh, the Beyond Burger tasted like meat.
I'm over meat.
Give me a lentil burger any day.

My Orange outfit!
Rather, my outfit from Orange.



Prettiest mini-golf course ever.

Adorable harbor!

Golf carts - it's how people get around the town of Avalon.

Tiny hall!

These fish work at Laurel's hotel.

We love conferences!

"This side makes my bill look smaller."

Good-bye Avalon.

Hello Molly!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bag Buddies, my new fabric friends

With several craft fairs under my belt, I'm finally getting the hang of it. But it took a mad scramble to make a completely new product to get me back in the game.

The craft fair I've had the most success with, hands down, is the one at the Sierra 2 Center in the Curtis Park area of Sacramento. My upcycled rag quilts have a target audience: Environmentally-conscious shoppers, not in the demographic that is frantically trying to downsize, and some disposable income doesn't hurt either. I've done two craft fairs at the Sierra 2 Center, and they were both very happifying to this rag quilt maker.

One year I couldn't make the Curtis Park fair because of my brother-in-law's wedding. Another year, after paying the sign-up fee, I decided the flyer was too Christmasy, so I bowed out. The flyers since then have been much more inclusive to those who don't celebrate the holidays, so I take that loss of money as a win. Last December, even with a horrible emergency regarding our dog's health and a late start to the day, the good folks of Curtis Park came through for me and made for a successful fair. 

This year I couldn't participate because of a work conflict. So I decided to finally give the Davis Craft and Vintage Fair a try. It's got several things going for it - namely a start time that isn't at an ungodly hour, plus it's on a Sunday, which works much better for me. It's outside, so weather is a factor, but hey, some cold blustery weather is good for quilt selling, right?

Welcome to November 2018, which saw the temperature topping 80 degrees this last Sunday! Did I get a lot of looks at my quilts? Yes. Did anyone want to buy one on a day that had me peeling off layers before 9 am? Nope. No quilts were sold. Boo.

But my late blitz of making about 60 "Bag Buddies" to diversify my product line was successful. Not only are they super fun to make, I used up some of the fabric that just wasn't finding a place into any of my quilts. Yeah for Bag Buddies!! They will be a part of future line ups. I'll try again in Davis on the first Sunday in December. Maybe the temperature will dip below 65 that day, and someone will feel the urge to buy a cozy and warm upcycled lap throw. If not, move over quilts, I'm befriending these little squares of joy.

Put them on your luggage handles.
Your suitcase will be the envy of the luggage carousal.  

They are reversible. 

No, they're not pot holders.
They are buddies for your bag.
And they are incredibly fun to make.

My hats are even jealous. 

The quilts are getting nervous!
Bag Buddies, they're stacking up!