Categories
DIY Life

Habitat for Humanity: Learning and Giving Back

I am concrete, detailed learner, so playing around and figuring things out on my own does NOT work for me. I need a lot of hand-holding and specific step-by-step instructions. Naturally, I am drawn to classes, manuals, and the “watch others and imitate” method.

One day when I was researching local classes online, I browsed the Habitat for Humanity site and clicked on “Volunteer”. There under the list of events was a special day designated as “Women Build.” This seemed like a great opportunity to pick up some handy-woman skills, at the same time do something nice for others. Win-win!

I was a bit naive about what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I thought it was something that you did on a church mission trip, driving to the Appalachians for a month and building one house in the middle of nowhere. In reality, there are Habitat homes and developments almost everywhere, often in the middle of developed cities and neighborhoods. Chances are there is one within 30 minutes of you.

It was an interesting day and I met a lot of really nice people. However, there was a lot of standing around. I’m sure the site managers are used to their regular volunteers coming in, picking up their tools, and getting to work without needing many directions. We, on the other hand, were a room full of women – many first-timers – who had no idea what to do or how to do it. I learned that to fit in at this particular site, you need the confidence to step right in and not wait to be told what to do (definitely not my strong point).

But there were a lot of things I did learn on my first day of volunteering for Habitat:

  • Drilling a concrete drill bit with an impact driver into the concrete foundation of a house makes your entire body shake for 15 minutes afterward.
  • Carrying insulation in shorts and a t-shirt makes you itch. A lot.
  • Snakes can pop out of dirt piles at very inopportune moments. There are no pictures of this because I was too busy running away and screaming like a 6-year-old girl.

Most of all I learned that Habitat does not give their homes away, but sells them to hard-working and deserving families who, for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times and truly want the opportunity to turn their lives around. They have proven employment, attend classes on financial management, and are required to log hundreds of hours volunteering with the construction of their own home and others. On the day I volunteered, there was a Habitat couple there who are homeowners in the community. They met their hourly requirement MONTHS ago, but still show up every weekend to build because, according to the husband, “I can’t sit on my couch looking out my window at other people helping when so much has been given to us.”

Wow.

I also learned that giving back is about so much more than showing up on a worksite for a few hours one day and hammering a couple of nails. I’ve got a long way to go before I can say that I’m a committed volunteer, but I’m looking forward to going back.

And next time, NO SNAKES.

Categories
Lifehack

All About Cold-Sores

They are nasty. And guess who has had the pleasure of getting them periodically since birth. Yes, I know, it’s terrible. But after many failed attempts at different products and recommended remedies, the good news is that I can share with you what works out of all the “stuff” that’s out there.

First, though, let’s understand what exactly a cold sore is and what causes it. A cold sore is a painful blister around your mouth that gathers pus and can easily spread. You might also know it as a fever blister or the herpes simplex virus (this virus is contagious). They are annoying, they hurt, and they don’t look good.

If you look online, they’ll tell you that the cause of cold sores is a virus. Well thank you, that sure helped me a lot. I’m not any closer to understanding how to deal with these sores. Since the virus is contagious, you shouldn’t be kissing anyone who has a cold sore unless you want one too. They say that the virus isn’t curable, but I guess you never know. I like to avoid using finalizing words. But for now, what if you already have the virus? What do you do?

Work on preventing the cold sores from forming. I noticed that I easily catch cold sores if I am cold (you get the shivers), stressed, or especially when I sweat and then cool down quickly. For example, the other day I was running errands outside with just a sweatshirt on. I definitely should have been wearing a coat because it’s very cold right now. I shivered a couple of times and wasn’t my warmest. Then, I was walking barefoot on the cold tile in my house later that evening. Sure enough, in the morning I had a cold sore. This is just an example of things that can trigger the virus to appear. It can be different for anybody.

There are two steps to quickly healing a cold sore. (And by quick I mean in just a few hours if you catch it in the beginning stages.) You need to burn the sore and nourish your lip. The cold-sore from the above experience was gone in a few hours but I had the scab for a few days.

Before we go on, you should know by now that I don’t post anything on this website unless I have tried it myself and have had experience with it. I consider myself an expert in cold sores. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve gotten since I was a child and it was only in the past year or so that I have been able to pinpoint what works.

  1. Oregano Oil
  2. Swedish Bitters
  3. Elderberry Syrup
  4. this First Aid Cream

As I already mentioned, you want to burn the cold sore and then hydrate your lip. The reason is that this sore is contagious. So if you get the pus anywhere else, you will most likely spread it. Burning the sore will cause it to drain and scab over. Nourishing the sore means hydrating it and keeping it from cracking and bleeding.

Swedish Bitters is the most effective way to burn your cold sore unless you are very brave and use the oregano oil. The oregano oil has a much stronger burning sensation than Swedish Bitters, and I still recommend Swedish Bitters because I have had more experience with it. This tincture sucks the pus out and quickly creates a scab. Next, I like to rub elderberry syrup on it. Sound weird? It works! I don’t completely understand why, but placing elderberry syrup directly on the “wound” seems to speed up the healing process. Lastly, after you wash off the elderberry syrup, rub the cold sore with the First Aid Cream. I prefer this cream because it numbs and readily hydrates any cut.

Well. There you have it! I hope my downpour of information and experience will help you deal with your bout of cold sores. If they are not avoidable, we can at least learn to quickly and efficiently deal with them.

Let me know what works for you or if you’ve tried the same things or something different. I’m interested to know!

Categories
Life

“Swimwear for moms”?

I got a press release today from the folks at Lynnina, a new swimwear manufacturer founded by Lynn Werner, who is described in the release as “a California-based mom who wanted to create a chic swimsuit alternative that delivered style, coverage, and comfort”. Lynnie’s debut swimwear line “features boardshorts in a variety of colors and prints, with complementary mix and match tops…that ensure that unsuitable suits never get in the way of a cool dip on a hot day or splashing around with your kids at the pool.”

I sooooo want to support Lynn and momtrepreneurs in general, but oh sweet Lord, these suits are FUG. Check them out:

If Mom’s Jeans were swimsuits, I’m afraid these would be them. Even these cute, skinny models look dumpy in them. Bleech. No. Freaking. Way.

Even though I do it all the time, it makes me sad that the word “mom” is so often associated with the pejorative. Ugly jeans are “mom jeans”, big ‘ol, unsexy minivans are too “mom”, etc. I know there’s this whole “hot moms” movement, complete with books and television pilots and skinny celebs who grace the covers of Us Weekly looking Victoria’s Secret runway-ready an hour after giving birth, but you know the female image that comes to mind when “mom” is uttered isn’t JLo. More like Patricia Heaton’s character on “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

Just the other day, I was in the workout wear store Lucy with Momtourage member Dana, and she was encouraging me to try on a pair of Lucy pants that she loves. They were cute and quite comfortable. However, they gave off a “this is as put together as I could get today – some workout wear/exercise clothes” vibe to me that I immediately associated with “mom” – and not in a good way. When I asked Dana if they were too “mom” she was like, “Um, I’ve got news for you, Chels – we are.” True, but does that mean we have to sacrifice attractiveness/style because we have kids? I refuse.

I know my body’s not the same as it was before I had kids, and thankfully, there are some pretty hot-looking Miraclesuits and Spanx swimwear options out there. But this crap? Kinda feeling like it’s an insult to moms everywhere. Lynn, honey, give us a little more credit! Or at least some better colors and patterns.

Categories
Life

My Perfect Mother’s Day Menu

So Mother’s Day is a whopping 2 days away, and other than a family BBQ in the afternoon (no different than any other Sunday, really), we have no plans. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Why? Because I’m in charge, of course, and it’s been the last thing on my mind. I plan my birthdays and those of everyone else in this household, so I shouldn’t be surprised — but I’m drawing a blank. I have no idea what I want to do, although I could list upwards of 10 things I don’t want to do, like laundry, dishes, nap time, and bath time.

Categories
DIY

The Farmhouse Table Restoration

Sometime soon, I’ll write about the Kitchen renovation that drove the need for this table. For now, I’ll stick to the table. The kitchen table is the center of the family home. Especially in our house with 3 boys. Our oldest builds bridges, tree houses, clubhouses, and other stuff with his mega blocks on the table so his brothers can’t get to it.

The twins (turn 1 this month) spit out all their baby food on the table and surrounding area, and my wife and I share peaceful and romantic date-night-home dinners there…every few years :). The kitchen table we had was great. It was passed down from my grandparents to my parents and then to me. I re-finished the table and chairs the summer before our wedding, and it’s been at the center of our home ever since.

The table could last us for years to come, but I’ve always had this dream of sitting down to dinner with my whole family around a table that I built with my bare hands.

Fortunately, my wife is supportive and loves what I do so she commissioned me to build us a “new” table. We wanted a table that was warm and inviting, and sturdy enough to hold up well to years of abuse from dogs and 3 boys (4 if you count me).

I had my eyes set on a reclaimed barn wood table. I saw them in magazines, on Pinterest, and everywhere else. But, I had one problem: where I am going to get barn wood? I don’t have a barn in my backyard, no one in my family owns one, and most people that have it either won’t trade it or are happy to sell it to you for $5-$10 a board foot ($500+ just for the table materials). I kept looking though, and one day it showed up.

A 550 board foot stash of 80-year-old lumber. Rough cut Oak and Birch found in the loft of a Wisconsin barn, have never been used. I had no idea what I was going to do with all this lumber but I knew I wouldn’t find a deal like this again soon so I went for it. The guy was very nice and even delivered it to my house. So there I was sitting in my garage, literally half full of dirty, weathered lumber grinning from ear to ear. I already had 3D plans done using Sketchup so I got to work.

My design centered around a strong desire to build a table with no metal fasteners. That seemed like the manly way to go. It didn’t take long for me to realize how different it is working with 80-year-old Oak compared to hardware store oak.

Every cut with the saw was slow. After the first joint was complete, I gave up on the table saw and switched to my trusty circular saw. The entire table base was made using a hammer, a $5 chisel, a circular saw (used the table saw a few times), wood glue, and oak dowels…oh, and lots of grunting, sweat, sawdust, and sandpaper. Three days in, the table base was assembled. I was leave sanding for last…it’s messy and not nearly as fun as construction.

I had this crazy idea that I wanted the base to be rustic, full of character, and then contrasted with a beautiful tabletop sanded smooth and a high gloss finish. So I headed over to a friend’s shop to run 8 boards through his jointer and planer. 3 hours later I was down to 5 boards, none more than 3/4 thick, and most looked like….well, oak. 2 boards were stunning, but not enough to build a tabletop.

Now what? I spent two weeks considering various options: I didn’t want to bother my friend again, all the remaining rough boards were of various thicknesses and not exactly straight, and I was running out of time. I decided that I would build a “temporary” tabletop until I could afford the power tools necessary to do it “right”.

I picked 6 boards, laid them out, and joined them with pocket screws. I then spent 6 hours (3 separate days) sanding and HAND PLANING (never used one before this) getting the top of all the boards level and smooth. I rested the top on the table base and I fell in love. It was stunning. It wasn’t perfect, and I think that’s why I love it so much.

Throughout the entire build, I was reading about St. Joseph. He, too, was a carpenter, and as I worked I the table I felt connected to him. There is something spiritual about taking the remains of an oak tree God created over 100 years ago and turning it into something equally beautiful that serves a completely different purpose. God gave me the skills of a carpenter, and I hope that, through Him, I can bring Him glory in what I create.

Categories
Food review Life Recipe

A Great Sauerkraut

With St. Patricks Day around the corner, I thought I’d share with you an awesome Sauerkraut my husband discovered. It’s very delicious and yes, a bit more expensive, but ever so worth it.

Categories
Life

International Women’s Day

So today is International Women’s Day. It is celebrated all over the world and has been observed since the early 1900′s. There have been many struggles and achievements reached by all different women in our past. Clara Zetkin, who was a leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, came up with the idea of an International Women’s Day. In 1910, she proposed that every year there should be a celebration on the same day in every country to press for women’s demands. This idea sprung from the oppression and inequality women were feeling in the early 1900′s because of hours they worked, the pay they received, and voting rights.

Categories
Lifehack

How to Heal and Prevent Ingrown Hairs

The best way to safeguard ingrown hair is to shave your legs the right way.
The first thing you must do is prepare your skin with a gentle scrub and polish it onto the surface of your skin while it’s dry. Step into the shower and soak water onto the area you wish to shave for 5 minutes. The warm water will help soften the hair down and when it’s time to shave, use a shaver that has a sharp razor blade because one that is dull might cause your skin to damage and skin not smooth.

Categories
Recipe

Four Bean Salad

I made this delicious, classic four bean salad as a quick side last night, and it was a great reminder of summer cookouts and picnics to come! It’s one of my husband’s favorites. If you aren’t much of a cook, and you were asked to bring a side dish for any dinner in the future, trust me… you should give this one a try. It’s easy, it’s quick to throw together, and after just an hour in the fridge (or travel time), it will be delicious. Even better the next day!

Categories
Life

Obesity is on the Rise — But So is Meditation

I love Deepak Chopra. I mean, how could you not? Just listening to the sound of his voice is so soothing, calming, and grounding — not to mention what comes out of his mouth. His “spiritual solutions,” meditations, and even just basic responses to interview questions all seem so simple, and yet he is where he is because his musings are, arguably, genius.