Goodbye, Glen

An old musical friend left us yesterday: Glen Campbell. As a child in the 70s, we listened to all the greats, including Glen Campbell, John Denver, Anne Murray, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson etc. One thing about Glen Campbell was his ability to convey strong emotions just with his voice. I have always loved his music, even though it is severely outdated and of its time. There is no chance of a revival of Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, simply because we don’t really have housewives in America anymore.

From the bright tones of optimism in Country Boy to the deep seated loneliness in By The Time I Get To Phoenix, a Glen Campbell playlist can take you through the gamut of feelings. Galveston on the surface, is a poignant song about the coastal town in Texas, but upon a deeper listening, it is a protest song that conveys the fears of a soldier in Vietnam. Honey Come Back is a sentimental piece of resignation by a man who screwed up and knew it. His intonations and use of inflection was masterful, as though he truly felt every emotion, and I find myself hoping for a modern singer to recreate it but I’m always left disappointed. The closest I have found to the plaintive sadness and finality of By The Time I Get To Phoenix is Daylight by Maroon 5, but even that song – which is one of my favorites – feels lacking when compared (skip to 1:50 on that clip to get past the talking). Perhaps it is modern technology. My husband complains that digital remixing tends to “flatten” the depth in music. Or perhaps it’s not that at all, because I’m Not Gonna Miss You is a song that can bring you to tears if you let it and that is a song recorded in recent years, after Glen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Glen Campbell was of a musical moment that really doesn’t translate to the new millennium, sadly. The orchestration on some pieces, and the stripped down simplicity of others are too “old fashioned,” and the lyrics are now “quaint” and obsolete and sexist. Young people either can’t relate to the hobo lifestyle of Gentle on my Mind, or technology has advanced enough to eliminate the need for a Wichita Lineman.

But for me, this is music that speaks – to the soul, to the heart, wherever it touches. He may not have missed us due to his memory loss, but I am sure going to miss him.

I’m not even going to touch on his musical ability here, except to say that if you ever thought Keith Urban is a super talented guitar player, take a look at Glen Campbell. He was renowned for his talent. For a bonus, here is a clip of Keith and Glen playing together in Vegas – what a treat.

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Living in, and through, your remodel

Remember that TV show Trading Spaces? The one where friends overhauled each other’s living rooms, sometimes with amazing success? My husband and I loved that show, and were inspired at the time to think that we could take on the task of repainting our kitchen cabinets. The home we lived in had these really dark brown circa 1972 kitchen cabinets that were just oppressive.

We learned the hard way that there are professionals for a reason. Although DIY projects are fun, and lots of people are capable of tackling these kinds of projects and having great results, we are not in that group of people. Our cabinet repainting project was not an amazing success. At all. At our next house, we worked with professionals, and we learned that home upgrades, when done by someone who knows what they are doing, are not all that bad. We enjoyed seeing the progress every day. The changes we made helped us sell that house and buy the home we live in now.

Our current home was effectively the same as it was in 1959, with updated appliances and flooring. We are now approaching the end of a significant remodel of this house, and we have stayed in the house through the entire process, except for three weeks we spent in a hotel when we had to leave due to health and safety concerns – you know, like asbestos removal. We started the project in August 2016 with the outdoor demo. It is now June 2017 and we still have a couple months to go.

Many people cannot afford to do their project if they have to move out and rent an apartment or second home, so staying in their home during the work is a popular solution. Living through a renovation is a serious decision that you and your family must commit to so you don’t run into too much family conflict. Had we fully known what to expect, we might have done a few things differently, so I wanted to share some of my learnings to hopefully help you make the plunge into happy home renovation.

Here are my tips on how to prepare for living in – and through – your renovation.

  1. Plan to discuss every decision with your partner openly, and reach an agreement together before taking any action. If you don’t agree with each other, you have to find some way to come together in compromise so you can happily live in your home once the work is done. Communication is important in general so that you don’t harbor any resentments or negative feelings that may develop during the project. Your remodel is a huge step in home ownership and should be one of excitement, not lingering anger or annoyance.
  2. Decide what your style will be. Once we realized we liked and wanted to embrace the mid-century modern style of our home, everything was easy. When you have no idea what you want things to look like at the end of the project, there can be confusion about floors, walls, door styles, baseboard styles, cabinets, etc. You don’t want styles to clash or not work with the flow of the home. You may choose to work with a designer, and that can be helpful if you are uncertain about what coordinates, but be sure to interview potential designers to make sure they “get” your style and you. We also spent literally hours researching on the internet. Any minor thing we were unsure of we looked for pictures. How should the baseboards meet the kerf jambs? Look on Houzz. Should we use light or dark grout on the kitchen tile? Google it. Another resource is YouTube. There are literally thousands of videos that just show snapshots of a theme – if you want to see French country kitchens, retro diner inspired interiors, or homes made out of Airstream trailers, well you can.
  3. Pare down your belongings as much as possible. This one is a hard one for many people, but what is the point of doing a massive remodel or upgrade, just to fill it up with “stuff” once finished? I’m not saying you have to get rid of Grandma’s quilt or Uncle Fred’s baseball collection, but do have storage solutions for the things you are going to keep. I have a collection of family serving dishes so we built a china cabinet into the kitchen cabinets so it can all be displayed and used. Referring back to #2 above, if you are changing your style, there is no sense in keeping things that won’t mesh with it. You can get rid of your old dishes and buy all new once your home is finished if you like. More importantly, if you are planning to live in your home during your remodel, you don’t need your stuff 1.) in the way or 2.) getting damaged. Keep only what you absolutely need for day to day. If your project will last several months like ours, make sure you keep your winter clothes handy while you are packing in late summer, otherwise you will find yourself cold and shopping in December (not that I speak from personal experience, ahem.) Be prepared to continually pare down your stuff as the project progresses. Finally, if you are planning to store your stuff off site, carefully evaluate whether the cost of storing that single-use appliance or collection of soup ladles is worth keeping them. For us, the answer was frequently “no” and the people at Goodwill knew our car by the time we finished packing.
  4. Work with professionals. Unless you are a general contractor, most people don’t have the contacts in the industry to hire all the necessary trades, schedule all the different jobs, arrange for city or county inspections, and manage the overall process. A licensed, insured and bonded general contractor is worth every penny. They will spell out everything in a contract so you shouldn’t have have any questions, and if you do they should answer them all. They also know lots of people and companies in the building industry, and can tell you who to talk to, and guide you to brands they have good experiences with. Any additional personnel you hire should also be professionals – architects, designers, landscapers – and should be able and willing to work with your general contractor to move the project along toward completion. When the trades work against each other it only creates delays and headaches. Finally, if there is an issue during the project your general contractor should be your advocate to ensure you get what you want.
  5. Negotiate pricing wherever possible. We worked with a local appliance wholesaler who would price match. You bet we searched every item on sites like Amazon and Best Buy. When we were researching tile for the kitchen, we talked not only to the distributor our contractor likes, but several others, and we did shop them against each other. No shame here, this is a major investment. Get the best price you can without being cheap or rude. Remember that the people you talk to at the wholesale houses just work there. If the tile you like gets discontinued before you place your order, it’s not their fault so don’t scream at them. Don’t forget that you get what you pay for, so be educated on the differences between laminate, hardwood, vinyl, and tile, for instance. If you buy cheaper supplies, you may have to replace sooner than later.
  6. It will be much more dusty, dirty and inconvenient than you could imagine. We were fortunate to have two bathrooms and the ability to split our project into two parts so we would have a full working bathroom throughout the project. However, sharing a small bathroom with your whole family involves coordination and patience. Try to keep routines whenever possible (for kids in school, work schedules, etc) but be flexible with one another. Keep the spaces you use as tidy as possible. Cramming your whole family into one bedroom can get crowded, and clutter will just make Mom and Dad irritated, leading to yelling and crying – no fun for anyone. There is very little privacy. Consign yourself to wearing slippers and/or shoes all the time – if you are like me and like bare feet, this is no fun at first but there will be nails, screws and splinters dropped on the floor. Drywall dust is pervasive and you will find it everywhere, even in the rooms you don’t touch. If your kitchen is being redone, consider setting up a place in your house for a toaster oven, microwave and coffee maker. This will be your kitchenette for the duration, and will help keep you more healthy than if you eat out every meal. Don’t forget that you will be washing dishes in your bathroom sink. If you enjoy wine, don’t be afraid to drink it.
  7. Accept that there will be delays and things may take longer than you expect. There will inevitably be delays. Things happen and there will be situations that are out of your control. We had a window get delivered in CO instead of CA and the extra shipping broke it. Getting a new custom built window delayed us almost a month. This is no one’s fault. The installation of flooring is precision work and should be done with care and attention to detail. If your contractor budgets 2 days to tile a 2000 square foot house, something is not right there. Some days we could hear the workers hammering but had no idea what they had done all day. While demo, framing and drywall are very visual and seem to go really fast, the detail work is slow but just as important.
  8. Draw a line in the sand on change orders. As you install wiring for a wall-mounted TV, you may be tempted to install wiring in every room in the house. If you did not include it in the original project, this is a change order, and change orders are what send well planned projects over budget. The new kitchen cabinets may make the unchanging bathrooms look shabby. If you paint the walls but keep the existing floors, the floors might start to look dingy. Prepare for changes during the project but agree upon a point where there will be no more changes. This will save you money and heartache in the long run.
  9. Be prepared to cut things from your project. This can be necessary if there is hidden damage exposed when drywall comes down, or previous work on your house isn’t up to code. Having a set amount of money is a blessing and a curse at times. You only have so much, so you need to prioritize how you spend that money. When it came down to it, we chose to replace large plate glass windows with safer tempered glass and we cut into our A/V spending. Health and safety come over in-wall speakers.
  10. Get to know your crew. We have developed a healthy respect for the various trades and the people who perform this work for us. Living and working here, we see them every day. Not too many people ever think about what goes into building or remodeling a home, but it is the largest purchase most of us will ever make. Know the people who are helping to make your house into your dream home. Not only will you appreciate their workmanship, they will want to do the very best job they can for you.

BONUS ITEM – Take tons of pictures. Of course, you will take pictures! Take more than you think you will need. We have saved ourselves some pain long after the fact because we took pictures during the framing, plumbing, electrical, and every other stage. Once that drywall is up, you might not remember where the sheer wall ends, where exactly those pipes were set, or where the electrical wires wind through a stud. A photo can give you and your team a better idea when they have to make adjustments. If your camera can do a panorama view, take a few of those from the same location throughout the project. It is fun to see how that space changes over the months. We used a time lapse camera for some parts of the project, such as framing, drywall installation and flooring. It really works best in a large space. We also did monthly video recordings updating what had happened in the previous month. These will be fun for us to review in the future.

I hope that these tips help you as you prepare for your remodel. Make it as enjoyable as you can so that once the project is concluded, you will have many happy memories of it coming together. For some fun, check out my Instagram feed for pictures of stucco going on, custom cabinets getting installed and more.

Girl Scout SWAPS Ideas, Tips, How-To

My girls are progressing on through Girl Scouting and are finishing their first year as Juniors. We have camped a few times, and girls are always encouraged to trade SWAPS with other Scouts. What are SWAPS?

Special Whatchamacallit Affectionately Pinned Somewhere

When I was a girl we called it a potlatch. It is the same basic thing – a doo dad you trade with another scout. It can be simple or elaborate. It can represent your troop or the event you are attending. SWAPS need not be difficult to make and they do not need to last forever. Some girls collect their SWAPS on a jacket, hat or banner. There are museums with tremendous collections of SWAPS that include items from all over the world. It is a little reminder of the fun event they attended, in addition to any patches or other keepsakes, and they are completely optional. The younger your girls are, the easier to make the SWAPS should be.

For a recent trip, the girls could not decide on one SWAP idea, so we gave them the option to make up to three different ones. Can I just recommend for all leaders out there considering this, it can create drama so think carefully about your group before making this an option for your troop. If Suzie wants to make 10 rainbow clouds but there’s only enough supplies to make 5 per girl, there may need to be some negotiation and conflict management happening.

There is a thriving industry out there of Etsy shops and the like selling kits for making SWAPS. You can do what works for your troop. We just decided to brainstorm and create our own – parents donated the materials. What have we made, you ask? Rainbow Clouds, Troop Crests, S’mores and Unicorns. Following are some quick How-to’s on these. Click any picture for a larger image. I’m not an artist, but I was able to free hand all of these shapes because I like easy SWAPS. Each item should be around 2″ diameter or smaller when finished, for ease of portability and collection.

All supplies were purchased at a chain craft store. Patterns to trace were made out of a manila folder.

Rainbow Clouds

Supplies

8.5×11 sheets of white felt or fun foam

1/4″ ribbon in rainbow colors, cut into 1″ snips

Craft glue

Safety pins

Marker

These were cute and very easy to make, except for the cutting out part. I ended up cutting out all the clouds and rainbow snips. Depending on your Scouts’ ages, they may be able to do that part. Trace the pattern onto white felt or fun foam. You can get 20 on an 8.5×11 sheet. Cut the ribbon into 1″ snips. I used little cups to catch them so they didn’t scatter everywhere.

Use craft glue to attach the rainbow ribbon snips to the back of the cloud. Allow to dry, turn over. Then using a Sharpie marker or similar, write in your troop number and/or whatever else you want. Attach safety pin. Total assembly time is about 10 minutes including glue drying time.

PS these would be cute for a bridging activity!

Troop Crests

Supplies

Green fun foam

Craft paper in red and light yellow

Flower punch

Craft glue

Safety pins

Marker

These took about the same amount of time to assemble but much longer to prep. This particular crest is the Hawaiian Lei. You will need a paper punch to make the flowers, they are about $5 at your local craft store. Again, I did all the cutting and punching but you can adapt to your troop.

Trace the crest shape onto the fun foam. You can get more than 20 per 8.5×11 sheet if you space them well. Punch the flowers from the red and yellow papers. I punched them into a little cup to keep them from scattering. Also, you can space the punches so as to maximize the number of flowers you get per sheet of paper. I worked it out so I could get 17 flowers on the 11″ side of the paper and was able to make 7 rows.

Using craft glue, glue alternating flowers in a circle. You will need 3 of each color. Once dry, write your troop number above the lei, and add the safety pin. Maximum assembly time was 10 minutes, but really closer to 5 for the faster girls.

S’mores

Supplies

Fun foam or felt in light brown, dark brown and white

Craft glue

Safety pins

Markers

These are a popular one and super easy! Plus the cutting is mostly in straight lines so might be easier for younger girls. Cut out the light brown squares as 2″ squares. Cut out the dark brown squares as 1.5″ squares. Cut out the white circles as 1.5″ or so circles.

Glue two light brown squares, one dark brown and one white circle. Use a marker to draw on the little dots you see on graham crackers. On one side, write on your troop number and whatever else. Add the safety pin. We found that glue on fun foam took much longer to dry than on felt, so use it sparingly.

Unicorns

Supplies

White felt or fun foam

1/4″ ribbon in rainbow colors, cut into 1″ snips

Sequins/crystals/googly eyes

Markers

Safety pins

Craft glue

Did you notice that the Rainbow Clouds and Unicorns have almost the same supply list? Haha that’s because I had enough left from the Rainbow Clouds to make another SWAP! Use resources wisely, right?

Trace the unicorn shape onto the felt. You can get 20 on a sheet of 8.5×11 when they are spaced tightly. These ones are a pain to cut so if YOU are doing the cutting, give yourself a few days to make a lot. I ended up procrastinating and trying to cut out 100 before the meeting and the hand cramp was wicked.

Glue the ribbon snips on one side of the unicorn shape and let dry. Turn over, then draw on the “twist” of the horn and a mouth. Our girls also filled in the ears with pink, some added bows, smiling mouths, etc. Write the troop name at the bottom of the neck. Next, glue on the eye. My coleader found a ton of crystals at a garage sale, but you can use pretty much anything cute here and don’t have to break the bank. Add the safety pin and you are done. Total assembly time was longer, maybe 15 minutes because of the ribbons being on the back of the shape and needing the glue to dry before turning over for the rest of the face.

Quitting Zyrtec

A long time ago, when I was single and had roommates, we had several cats. I had two to begin with, then took on a roommate who had two and then got a third, and then we got another roommate who had one cat. Yes, we had six cats in our three-bedroom bungalow.

For some reason, four of the six liked my bedroom best. I have always been mildly allergic to cats, but four of them hanging out in my room was just too much. I was itchy all the time, watery eyes, sneezing, etc. my doctor put me on Zyrtec (ceterizine). At the time it was prescription only, and it was a lifesaver for me!

Eventually, the herd thinned by way of roommates moving out and I was back to my own two cats. I tried stopping the Zyrtec, but got really bad itching, so I figured I had been overwhelmed with all the allergens and was more sensitive than I used to be. Thankfully, Zyrtec became an over the counter item you could buy at the local drug store and very affordable. I wasn’t terribly concerned and my doctor wasn’t either. She agreed that I could continue to take it due to my cat allergy.

Flash forward many years. I no longer have cats. They have gone the way of the big litter box in the sky and I don’t want to get another one because of my allergies. After my second cat passed away (at 20 years old, I may add), I waited a full month, cleaning and vacuuming diligently to remove all dander and hair, before I stopped taking Zyrtec.

After a few days, I was intensely itchy. Like, ants in your pants itchy. Someone put itching powder in my clothes itchy. My scalp itched. The insides of my elbows itched. The palms of my hands itched. The soles of my feet itched, no lie. I went back on the Zyrtec because I could not bear it! It didn’t seem right though, so I did something I rarely do, and that is consult Dr. Google. I don’t usually trust Dr. Google because there are a lot of people who are not medical professionals who are trying to advance their theory on X medicine or whatever. But, this time, I discovered that LOTS of people have had difficulty stopping Zyrtec. The general side effects are intense itching and an increase of congestion, among others.

It makes sense when you think about it. Zyrtec is a histamine blocker, meaning it stops you from sensing any histamines, and histamines are the things that make you itch, among other things. Doctors do not tend to recognize a withdrawal syndrome from Zyrtec for some reason. While it can happen with any allergy medication, it seems like the Zyrtec withdrawal is the worst. Many people online complained of these intense side effects after taking Zyrtec for a month, six months tops.

I took Zyrtec for 17 years.

Holy cow.

The cold turkey method would just not work! Zyrtec tablets are scored so you can cut them in half. While I considered doing that and then weaning myself off, I tried a slightly different method. I switched to a generic brand of Claritin (loratidine). I took this for about a week, then I changed to every other day for about a week. Then I stopped taking it.

Day 1 I was itchy, but nothing like the Zyrtec withdrawal itchiness. Day 2 it was less. Day 3 I noticed I was more congested but less itchy. It has been a week now that I haven’t taken either medicine, and I feel confident in saying that I don’t need to ever again! On the off chance I will be going somewhere that has cats or certain plants that bother me, I will perhaps try a non drowsy Benadryl and cortisone 10 for any itching on my skin. I don’t want to become dependent on a medicine again!

So, this is my experience with quitting Zyrtec. If you found this blog because you too are trying to quit Zyrtec, I can honestly say “I feel your pain, I know what you are going through!” Stick with it, though. If I can stop it after 17 years of use, you can do it too. I wish you all the best!

 

Is it a burrito? Is it nachos?

It’s a BURRACHO

My husband made up this tasty fusion in a fit of desperation when I was away from home and I have to say, it’s delicious!
The burracho combines all the great parts of burritos and nachos into one tidy package. It has taco meat, cheese, tortilla chips and anything else you might enjoy. We added chopped green onion, but diced tomato would add a lot of great flavor as well. The crushed chips need to be small enough they won’t poke your mouth but big enough to add their flavor to the mix. No bigger than a quarter is good. 
To make your own burrachos here’s a handy how-to:

1 lb ground beef or turkey

Large flour tortillas

Shredded cheese

Crushed tortilla chips

Chopped onion

Chopped tomato

Salsa

Preheat oven to 450. Cook ground beef with taco seasonings (or just use 1/4 tsp each cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder). Drain meat. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. 

In the center of a tortilla, layer a spoonful of ground beef, shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, onion & tomato (or a scoop of salsa). Fold in the left and right sides, then the top and bottom sides. Don’t pull too tight or the tortilla can rip. Place seam down on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have as many as you want to make. We did 5 and had at least 1/2 the meat left. 

Place in the oven for about 12 minutes. The shell should be firm but not hard. 

Pro tip: You can do interesting things, like brushing with melted butter, a dollop of red sauce or cheese. Make it your yum. 
Serve with whatever salsa or hot sauce you like. 

On staying silent

This past week has been rough for America, on top of an already rough year. I don’t think any sane American can look over the divisive political race or the devastating number of people shot through various means and think everything is peachy right now. I don’t have an answer or a solution or even advice for other people who are dealing with this; I can only speak for myself.

Through the past year, I found myself becoming more vocal about certain situations, and the more I tried to persuade people of the very logical and rational things I was saying, the more angry and frustrated I became. I made a conscious decision not to post anything about the political climate on my Facebook page because I didn’t want to draw in the ire of those who might disagree with me, or those who wanted to try to convince me of their opinions, nor did I want to offend people I really like and care about who have different opinions from me. It’s a well known fact that you can’t change someone’s mind by arguing with them on the internet, and if it isn’t a fact it should be. The internet gives us the ability to think through our arguments, planning with carefully researched data points and articles to reinforce our position, but to what end? The other guy is doing the same damn thing, and all it really does is bolster our own opinion of how right we are.

So, no more politics on my page. I was much happier, until last week. We saw some terrible events unfold last week, and I was truly devastated by them. Those of you who know me know I am extremely patriotic. I fly my flag, I support our troops, I teach my Girl Scouts patriotic songs, I place flags on veterans markers at the cemetery. I cry when I read about the death of a police officer, heck a police dog will have me bawling. I respect our law enforcement officers and I fear for the LEOs I know because their jobs are dangerous and getting worse every day it seems.

Strangely enough, if you believe that police brutality should be investigated and eliminated, to some people that means you are anti-police. This is not the case. The same as I believe doctors should not be given a pass on malpractice that injures a patient, a police officer should not be able to use excessive force in the performance of their duties. There are thousands of police officers who maintain ethics and standards every single day, regardless of the fact that they usually see Americans at their worst. They do not roll up on people in the best mood of their lives, happy and sharing lemonade and sunshine with all who cross their paths. The fact remains that the percentage of officers who find themselves in the spotlight or on the evening news is a very small percentage of officers in America, but these are the ones shaping the country’s view of how law enforcement works. These are the exception to the rule, and these are situations that warrant an investigation.

After the shooting of a man sitting in his car, I said something on a friend’s post. What I said at the time is not important. What is important is that a mutual acquaintance took offense to what I said. He not only argued at me in public, but then followed me into Facebook Messenger and sent me messages every day for several days. I repeatedly told him to stop messaging me, which he ignored, all so he could “prove he was right” about me. Whatever that means. He accused me of not supporting the police because I didn’t change my Facebook status to denounce the terrible shooting of police officers in Dallas, all while ignoring the fact that I hadn’t said anything about any shooting of any person.

Do I really need to publicly state that I am devastated, outraged and weep for our country?

I am, and I do.

Do I really need to justify myself to someone I have literally met one time for five minutes?

No, no I do not.

This has led me to evaluate how I use Facebook, and I think I’m going to stay silent for a while. I’ll be there, looking at posts and pictures, I might even like some. I don’t think, though, that I am going to be using it to define who I am for someone who doesn’t really know me. Facebook is something that makes you feel like you know someone, or makes you feel like you are keeping in touch with friends and family, when in reality people really only post what they want you to see about their lives. If you want to really get to know me, shoot me an email, find me at an event, make friends with me. I love coffee and wine, not in the same glass and not at the same time, but both are good with conversation. I’m not all that bad and I bet you aren’t either. I might disagree with you on something, but that doesn’t make either of us bad people. If we can talk about our opinions in a healthy fashion, it might actually make us better friends and stronger individuals. It’s amazing what actual conversation can do. Until such time as I don’t fear I will be harassed by someone who doesn’t know me, I’ll be staying silent.

 

Dancing Queen

2016 Recital 4

Thank you once again to Impact Dance Center in Los Alamitos for an amazing recital! Melody performed in three dances – I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning, Pink Cadillac, and Space Cowboy.  Her love of tap dancing hasn’t ebbed at all, and we look forward to more tap and jazz lessons in the 2016-2017 season.

2016 Recital 6 W 2016 Recital 1 2016 Recital 5