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Friday, October 12, 2012

Laundry, laundry everywhere...

I little over a year ago, S and I bought our first house.  It needed, and still needs, some work to get it just how we want it. But time and money seem to keep it in an under-construction state.  Several rooms are half-finished, with piles of stuff in the middle of the floor.  Admittedly, it does not help that I cannot do just one project at a time.  I have to have several projects going on, or else I get bored.

Anyway, with all of the piles everywhere, I got a bit lazy and started throwing my dirty laundry in to piles, too.  I HATE washing laundry, so the piles grew.  As the piles grew, S grew more and more annoyed with me.  (And I don't blame him.  I was being quite a slob.)

I decided to do something about my dirty little habit, and I turned to Ana White's blog for inspiration.  Not only did I find the inspiration I needed, but I found a solution -- a very easy, why-didn't-I-think-of-that solution.  On Ana's site, I found, and printed, plans for a laundry basket dresser.

The laundry basket dresser is basically a plywood (Purebond plywood) box.  The box has six supports -- three on each side -- to house three standard laundry baskets.  The baskets can just slide into the dresser when you need them.  Genius!

I took Ana's sketch, added legs to it (but without a brace--they're just screwed in), and got to work.

Unfortunately, the day S took me to Home Depot to get plywood cut, I was in a lot of pain.  And pain medication + writing down measurements = wood cut to the wrong width.  The back of the dresser is about an inch too short, but it's not noticeable at all with the back being against the bedroom wall.

When I was more clear-headed, I built the box, working hard to get things square.  (Getting projects square can be a bit challenging when S is at work and I'm building by myself.)  In a very short time, the dresser was built.  I then painted it with two coats of Annie Sloan's chalk paint in graphite.  After a soft wax finish, it was ready to go into our bedroom.

I bought three laundry baskets and labeled them for sorting.  I put a thin basket on top of the dresser for my silks and cashmere.  A small glass candy dish is a catch-all for items left in our pockets.

And since I hate laundry so much, I thought I'd try to make it seem a little more pleasant by placing one of my favorite possessions on top of the laundry dresser.   When my sister was pregnant with my niece, she didn't announce her pregnancy.  She wanted us to all find out at the same time.  So for Christmas, she gave each of us a framed sonogram photo.  My little niece has brought so much joy to my life and that photo reminds me of how blessed I am.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lupus update

I now have a local rheumatologist, and I LOVE her!  I'm back on my 3 mg of prednisone (yuck) and my Imuran (I was off it while my liver enzymes were sky-high).  I'm still on the same dose of plaquenil that I've been on for several year.

This summer, after I got out of my funk, I was doing well.  I had bad days, but they were outnumbered by the good days.  But, now that it's getting cold, I feel worse.  I'm getting several oral and nasal ulcers.  My joints are so sore.  Granted, when you live with daily pain, you can often push through the soreness.  I had to do that during the race today.

When I got home from Iowa this afternoon, I was wiped and had to take a nap.  After I woke up from my nap, I realized I kind of overdid it this weekend -- and the weekend is only half done!  One of the first things I noticed when I woke up was the presence of that oh-so-lovely butterfly rash.  When my face starts to discolor, I know I need to scale back a bit and relax.

Race 14: October 6, 2012 - 12:1 Half Marathon in Danville, Iowa

Last night, I went to bed very early (between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.) since I had to wake up at 2:00 a.m to get ready for my drive to Iowa.  S. couldn't join me on this trip, so I needed some rest to make it to and from Danville, Iowa safely.  When my alarm -- or alarms, since I set 6 alarms just in case -- screeched it's morning wake-up song, I really did not want to get out of bed.  It was in the mid 30s outside, and I was quite comfy on my heated mattress pad.  But I somehow managed to get up, get ready, and get out the door by 2:45 a.m.

The drive was peaceful and uneventful.  That early in the morning, there were hardly any cars on the road.  I made it to Danville with plenty of time to pick up race packet and bib.

But when I entered the expo, there was no bib with my name on it.  Apparently, my name was in the computer with at 2010 registration date!  The address under my name was incorrect.  It was a big, odd mix-up.  The race workers were so sweet, though, and found a bib for me.  They didn't charge me another fee.  But since the race was for a good cause (clean water for underdeveloped nations), I gave them all the cash I had.  I was just so impressed with how kind and courteous everyone was.

It was 34 degrees at the time of race start, so I stood inside as long as I could.  I only braved the cold after the race instructions were issued to the runners.  Luckily, I warmed up pretty quickly after I started running.  I started at a pretty good pace, but quickly realized my time goal would have to change.  I wanted to finish under 2 hours.  But once I discovered how challenging and brutal the VERY hilly course was, I decided I wanted to finish under 2 hours and 20 minutes.

I spent the first 6 miles in complete awe of the scenery.  This was probably the most beautiful course I've ever run.  The course went through two amazing parks and over a lake.  All of the leaves on the trees were turning, so we were surrounded with golden and fiery leaves.  It was mesmerizing.

I continued to admire the course for the rest of the race, but I was a little distracted because I started talking to another St. Louis area resident.  An older man who was running the same pace as I was talked to me about his 50 states goal.  He and his wife (who ran much faster than we did) were completing their 18th race.  It was so inspiring to talk to him.  And it's a lot harder to focus on the tough hills when you're busy talking.

I left my new friend when we reached mile 12.  Once I see the finish line, I can't help but speed up.  So, I raced to the end, and reached my goal.  I ran 2:19:26 according to my stopwatch.  Yay!

After the race, I hid in the bathroom and cried.  I was just so relieved to have completed a race after taking so much time off.  It was one of those wonderful moments that you need to keep going.  I'm am just so thankful.

Race 13: April 17, 2011 - Kansas Half Marathon in Lawrence

I've been meaning to update this for a while.  Now, I no longer remember the details of my 13th race.  I blame it on Lupus brain ;)  I remember it was a beautiful sunny day, and I had fun looking at the town as I ran through it.  But, really, that's all I can recall. 

The only hints I have about this trip are photos S. and I took with a crazy-looking Jayhawk statue.

Sadly, this was my last race until today.  I went almost a year and a half without completing a race because life just got in the way.  My grandfather was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and S. and I used all of our race fee money on gasoline to drive to visit Grandpa and Grandma as often as possible.  My grandfather was a strong and sweet man -- he loved running with his dog, delivered meals on wheels to seniors younger than himself, and was still so in love with Grandma.  He fought hard, but in January, the cancer finally won.  After that, I was admittedly a little depressed.  I no longer had the energy nor the strength to run.

I didn't start running again until June.  In June, S. and I registered for the Walt Disney World Marathon.  Registering for this race and paying the exorbitant race fees gave me the kick in the pants that I needed.  I began running again, starting with short 3 mile runs.  Now, I'm back up to race distance runs.  Last Saturday, I had a very successful 17 mile run.  Today, I ran a somewhat slow half marathon on a challenging and hilly course.  It may sound out, but finishing another race today was such a relief.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Earring holder

During my husband's second year of B school, we were living in a two bedroom duplex in a house built in 1908. This older house had little built-in storage, so we were constantly trying to combat clutter. And since one of us is a sentimental pack-rat (yes, I fully admit that I cannot let go of items), the clutter always seem to grow.

To control my wardrobe, we bought nice looking storage boxes to store sweaters and the like. My jewelry went into two large jewelry boxes. My scarves were stored in a drawer in my nightstand. And, once put in those places, those items stayed there. These storage solutions did help with the clutter, but they did not help my wardrobe. If something was out-of-sight, it was out-of-mind. I quickly realized that, being a very visual person, I did not wear clothing or jewelry that I could not see. Therefore, I began a search for new ways to store clothes and jewelry--ways that would let me see the jewelry and clothing, but would still be neat and organized.

I stumbled upon this picture on the Pottery Barn website (unfortunately, the link no longer works and they no longer have this item).

I fell in love with the idea of using my jewelry as art, and realized I could easily DIY the earring holder. So, I took a cheap $2 wooden frame (from Wal-Mart), silver paint, small wire nails, and some thin wire.

First, I painted the frame silver--I hated the dark black frame and wanted it lighter. Then, I decided on the number of rows of wire I wanted. I debated using two or three, but decided on two. I used small wire nails and hammered them into the back of the frame where I wanted the wire to end and begin. With a pair of needle-nose pliers, I attached the wire, twisting it tightly around the base of the nails. Then I added my earrings.

I loved the finished look! I could see my earrings, yet they were neatly corralled. This was a perfect storage solution for our apartment.

Even though I made this holder a while ago, I'm posting it now because I recently unpacked it and realized that the wire had stretched and bent during our move. :-( Bummer. I decided to fix up the frame a little bit (the corners were separating, so I filled them with putty) and make a new jewelry holder. This time, I'm going to use cup hooks and hang my necklaces from them. I now have two new earring holders (one from and one from Target), so I no longer need the PB-inspired earring holder anyway. I can't wait to finish the necklace holder and post pics!

Living (or not) with lupus

Lupus seems so much worse during winter. The cold temperatures really mess with my joints, causing more pain than during the warm, humid summers. This makes living a "normal" life during the winter months very difficult. Things that other people dread but still do (e.g., going outside to scrape the ice off the car windshield) can cause me so much pain that I'm basically immobilized for the remainder of the day. In the winter, I have to be more careful about planning and juggling things.

I know that doing certain outdoor activities will render me useless for several hours, if not days. So, while I plan to go ice skating with my husband tomorrow night, I know I should keep my Saturday clear so I can recover. I also know that I should do some work (I'm way behind on writing articles) before we leave to skate, since I won't be able to type after being in the cold.

Because of lupus, I have mixed thoughts and feelings about winter. I want a good long freeze to kill the eggs of the bugs that will invade my very organic garden this summer. But I don't want to feel the freeze myself. I long for summer, when I can feel a little more normal.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple console table

I love Ana White’s website. And I have a bit of a girl-crush on Ana herself. She is amazing and skilled at building things. I totally want her to move to St. Louis so we can be BFFs and work on projects together :-)

But in all seriousness, if you haven’t checked out her website, I highly recommend it. There are a lot of woodworking project plans with free tutorials. Lovely!

After getting irritated with my husband’s habit of just throwing down his wallet and key on any empty surface in the house, I decided he needed a designated spot for his stuff. Naturally, I went to to look for plans for a console table. There, I found the Simple, Cheap and Easy Console Table plans. This table has nice, clean lines. The simple angles fit with the many pieces of Asian décor that we have. So, the Simple, Cheap and Easy Console Table was a clear winner.

Since this table was a gift for my husband (and a small gift for me since it would mean he’d no longer just throw his stuff around), I worked on it while he was at work and after he went to bed at night. It took a little longer than I had planned because I bought cheap white board from big box lumber. I bought the straightest pieces I could find, but even these pieces were mildly warped. So, pulling the pieces square was difficult since I was doing the work without help and without clamps. (I bought new clamps after finishing this piece.)

Painting and sealing were a bit of a problem on this piece. I wanted to use low VOC paint, so I was stuck using latex on wood. Wood and latex paint are NOT the best of friends, and the finish can have a bit of tack. The sticky, tackiness goes away after a while, but it can be annoying at first. I prefer the look of an oil enamel on wood, but the latex is more environmentally friendly.

I was disappointed with the brown latex finish, but as it's cured, it has grown on me. My husband picked out the color and really likes the finish. I'm just glad he now has a bowl on a table to keep his stuff tidy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Race 12: March 20 - Germantown Half Marathon in Memphis

With Lady after the Germantown Half Marathon

I forgot to write about this race and race 13. So much has been going on in our lives that it
just slipped my mind.

My hubby eating Memphis barbecue the night before the race

This was a fun race for me. My husband, our dog, and I camped out at a state park in the Memphis area the night before. It was a beautiful place to camp, and I was thrilled that my husband could be there for this race.

The race start - aren't the trees beautiful?!

The race was a modified out-and-back course. It ran through a neighborhood, where the residents sat outside in their yards to cheer us on. This makes any race better! There was even a little girl dressed up in a princess costume cheering us on. :-)

Like most races, I ran with complete strangers who quickly became friends. There's something about traveling over 13 miles together on foot that just brings people together! Only at the final stretch did we breakaway from each other to finish.

At the final stretch -- we all broke away and finished at our own speed.

At the end of the race, my husband and dog ran beside me as I finished. I love how supportive my husband is! After I cooled down a bit and ate some bananas, we went downtown to eat brunch at a restaurant with a dog-friendly patio. We then strolled around downtown, and walked to the park at the riverfront. Lovely!

The three of us after the race.

A DIY upholstered ottoman

Our new ottoman. Ignore the mess in the background--we are still unpacking!

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been making a lot of furniture and décor for our new house. One of the things I really wanted was a storage ottoman for the living room. I wanted a replacement for our coffee table after I turned it into a bench (more on that later). But when I searched for an ottoman, I couldn’t find one I like for a price that I thought was reasonable. So, I decided to make it myself.

Here are the steps I took when making our new ottoman. This is not a tutorial per

se, but just a list of the steps I took to make our ottoman.

Step 1: Look online for inspiration pieces.

I scoured the internet for inspiration ottomans. I looked at all of my regular sites: West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate & Barrel, Jonathan Adler, and Pottery Barn. I then searched through all of the ottomans at Finding the perfect inspiration was hard, but I finally found one that I loved.

This is the inspiration piece--from

Step 2: Put the inspiration picture on

I had to put the picture of the inspiration on my Future DIY board. This kept me accountable—I couldn’t procrastinate too long knowing it was posted for all to see. Granted, it sat on my DIY board for over 5 weeks... It might still be sitting on that board if it hadn't been for the Pinterest challenge hosted by Young House Love, Bower Power, Ana White, and House of Earnest. Even though I'm not sure it really qualifies for the challenge (does it count if I pinned it myself?), this challenge still lit a fire under my rear, so to speak. It got me building and blogging.

Step 3: Decide on the size

I used the measurements of the inspiration piece as a starting point. But since I had specific items that I wanted stored (e.g., my husband’s RockBand accessories), I put the items in a pile and measured them. Using the sizes of the items to be stored, I found my minimum measurements. I then added 2 inches to both the length and width so I could be certain that there would be ample storage.

Step 4: Build a box

Building an ottoman really isn’t too hard. Basically, you build an open box using your measurements. I used 3/4" plywood to create my box and lid. It’s pretty logical and self-explanatory. I cut the plywood to measure and used kreg screws and lots of glue to hold all of it together.

Step 5: Build a lid

If you don’t care about the height of the lid, I suggest just using a flat lid that rests on top of the box portion. This is the easiest way. And, since I like to complicate things, this is not the way I chose to do our ottoman. I chose to have a tall lid that is 4 inches high. This means I had to cut 4 extra pieces of plywood. But I love the way it looks, and think the added effort was worth it. If you plan on tufting the lid, drill your holes now.

Step 6: Add the legs before you upholster

I just used scrap 2x2 pieces as legs. Since I was planning on lining the inside of the ottoman, I just screwed the legs to the box from the inside. Easy, peasy.

Step 7: Upholster

Upholstering the ottoman required quite a bit of sewing. I used a separate piece of fabric for each surface, and stitched them together using my sewing machine. For the lid, I used some single welt cording that I made by cutting the fabric on the bias and sewing it around some cord. (Because I’m cheap, I re-used the free cording that Lowe’s gives you to tie your trunk shut.)

The body of the ottoman after upholstering, before lining.

Step 8: Tuft

I used a button maker to make covered 7/8” cover buttons. Using these buttons and heavy duty upholstery thread, I tufted 8 spots on the top of the ottoman lid. This step isn’t necessary, but it definitely makes the piece look a bit more professional and a bit less DIY.

A view from the top -- it shows some of the tufting.

I love the end result. It wasn’t very expensive, and it houses my husband’s belongings perfectly!

Here’s the breakdown of the costs:
3/4” plywood (I used purebond, so it was a bit pricey) $41.00
2x2 legs – they were made from scrap $ 0.00
Spray paint for legs – leftover from another project $ 0.00
Fabric – 2 yards on sale at Hancocks $18.00
Buttons $3.00
Approximate total $62.00

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lupus and pain scales

When you tell your doctor that you are experiencing pain, the doctor often asks what type of pain you are feeling? Sharp pain? Stabbing pain? Dull pain? But the problem with lupus is that the answer can be all of the above. You can feel a dull ache in your joints while resting, but an intense, sharp pain when you try to bend them.

And the answer is also complex when the doctor asks, "On a scale of 1-10, how is your pain?" Different areas of the body experience different levels of pain. And as a lupus patient, you live with almost constant pain during flares. So, you start to get used to pain. And as your pain threshold grows, your pain number can decrease despite no change in actual pain levels.

When I'm stressed, my pain levels fluctuate so dramatically. This makes it so hard to plan activities and to plan projects. And not being able to plan projects makes the stress levels increase. It's very cyclical.

Anyhow, this pain has made remodeling and building difficult. In the last 3 months, I've not accomplished as much around our new-to-us house as I have planned. We have a huge list of to-dos, but haven't made as large of a dent in it as I'd like. But we have made a dent, and I'm thankful for that. We have had our wood floors refinished. One of our bathrooms has been remodeled, although the contractors didn't do a very good job and we're going to have to redo it. I have made a beautiful upholstered bed and tufted headboard for our bedroom, a new rustic & modern dining table, an upholstered storage ottoman, a tilt-out garbage bin, a liquor cabinet, a side table, and refinished two chairs for our den. I still have to finish a daybed, chairs for the dining table, a bench for the dining table, a laundry basket dresser, a shoe dresser, and two small square ottomans for in front of the daybed. The to-do list just seems so large! I just hope it's not too cold of a winter as the cold makes the pain worse! I just have to remind myself that I need to suck it up and deal with it :-)