Monday, August 8, 2016

Why Not Spokane?

Last week, my mom, my sister, and I took a trip to the great city of Spokane. Over the past year, a bunch of our extend family decided to all relocate to Spokane. And now that they've settled in, we expected them to host us. We spent the week reconnecting with my grandmother, aunt, cousins, and cousin babies (like second cousins or something? I don't know) and exploring Spokane.

My aunt's house was fairly close to the Spokane River that we would walk down to it in the evenings. Compared to the desert, this was something completely foreign to me. Trees, green, water. It was great.

We even saw some sort of water critter. {Sidenote: Mom, sorry to include this video. I love your commentary. If you want me to remove it, I will.}


Another foreign concept was enjoying meals out on the deck without instantly exploding into flames. Mojo was sad that I wouldn't share my breakfast with him.

While we did enjoy our down time to chill and catch up, my aunt tried to fill each day with some sort of experience. Day one was a visit to Lake Couer d'Alene, right across the Idaho border. We started down some of the trials around the lake and the kids splashed in the water. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot.

Our second day was full of the best peaches I've ever had. Apparently Spokane has a whole pick-your-own produce suburb of town. It's a loop drive full of farms that have almost every time of produce and late July/early August is peach season. I was so happy because peaches are my favorite fruit and it's so hard to get good peaches in Tucson. Ninety-five percent of the time, they're either rock hard or mealy. So we packed everybody up and headed off to the farm. We rode a tractor out to the peach orchard and filled four boxes full of peaches and apricots. We ate peaches straight from the tree. I don't know how my cousin's four year old did it, but she must have had at least four peaches. She would walk through the lines of trees with a peach in one hand and my sister's hand in the other. It was one of the cutest things I've seen in a long time, kid wise. After filling up on fruit, we spent a good amount of time petting sheep, playing in a gravel pit/sand box thing, and sliding down the world's most uncomfortable slide. Eventually, we worked out a system where my sister would load my cousin's kids at the top of the slide and I would catch them as they shot out of the bottom. Top it off with some fresh peach lemonade and it was a great day. And an evening of board games. My Catan luck has been terrible lately. No matter how good the odds, my numbers never come up.

On our last day, we 'rafted' the Spokane River. For some odd reason, my aunt decided as soon as we arrived that we should take a rafting trip down the Spokane. Of course, she didn't want to join us, but the three of us and my cousin would love it. On the way back from peach picking, we stopped at Target to stock up on supplies, like water-wicking clothes. When we returned home to book our trip, the trip we wanted to book was all full up. It took a couple of tries, but we finally got ourselves signed up for a raft. We would have been so embarrassed if we'd excitedly bought all these new clothes and couldn't catch a raft.

Because it was late in the summer, all the winter run-off had already occurred so the water level in the river was really low. Low enough so that you really couldn't call what we did 'rafting'. It was more like a leisurely five mile float where we occasionally paddled when all momentum was lost. Not that I'm complaining, it was a great time. We saw an otter and an osprey, not at the same time. We splashed in the cool, clear water. We tried to interpret the meanings of the graffiti on the bridges we floated under. We did survive some low, slow rapids, so I can say I've white water rafted, but only in the most official sense.

It was a great trip. Next time, we'll definitely be more prepared for all the outdoorsy-ness of it, but we survived.

Friday, July 22, 2016

We Work Because We Work Together

Today, I went to lunch with a coworker of mine. Usually the group of us lunch-goers is three or four deep, but since the others are out on vacation, it was just the two of us. Me and a coworker who I usually get along with smoothly. Let's call him 'Bill'.

Bill is in his late sixties, has kids older than me, and has been working for our company for over 30 years. I've known him for almost ten years now without a single hiccup.

When I got in the passenger seat of his car as he graciously drove us to lunch, the radio station description caught my eye. Fox News.

Uh oh.

I am not a Fox News person. I have no problem with Fox News, in theory. It's just their history of perpetuating hateful stereotypes and inaccuracies through fear mongering that is not my cup of tea. Maybe Bill had just been listening to it for the weather forecast, so I decided to ignore it to enjoy our lunch outing.

Since it was noon on a Friday, the sandwich shop we visited was filled to the brim. As we sat there, in the middle of the crowded restaurant, eating our sandwiches, Bill brought up the latest mass shooting. One in Germany not even hours ago. As of right now, the news is reporting at least nine people killed.

"I can't believe a religion would promote killing like that," Bill said out of nowhere.


I hate talking politics and religion, but here I was, trapped in the middle of a sandwich with no way out. With my coworker who might be blaming the entire Islamic religion for yet another mass death. But maybe not? It was loud in there, maybe I had misheard him. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried to clarify.

"Yeah, it's terrible what these tiny, extremist sects are resorting to."

"No," he whispered back, "the whole religion promotes killing people who don't believe."

At least now I had established what I was dealing with.

"No, the religion doesn't promote that," I said, wanting not to argue, but needing to correct his ignorance.

"I read an article that said they did."

"Not any more than any other religion does. I took an Islam course in college. All religions have these small groups of extremists."

"That's not true. You don't find groups in other religions. Like Protestants," he retorted.

"What about the KKK? The Bible promotes violence, liking stoning people for their sins. There are these groups in any religion."

By this point, he became quiet. Either he was considering my points or he had realized that I wasn't going to agree. We both went back to our sandwiches and eventually went back to small talk as well.

I don't like to talk politics, even here. But the reason I chose to document this story was because I am worried. I'm seeing more and more people who are refusing to be reasonable. People who are afraid to see the best in the people around them. People who believe their problems are caused by strangers. People who stereotype and blame.

Once the conversation became light-hearted again, Bill and I discussed the fact that humanity has only survived this long because humans looked out for each other.

We work because we work together.

It's something I have a hard time remembering, but I'm trying to become more conscious of it. And maybe everyone else should, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Find Great Antiques in Tucson, Arizona

Granted, I've never really tried to go garage sale-ing anywhere other than Tucson, but man, Tucson is incredibly hard to find good second-hand pieces. It's the unfortunate trifecta of:

1. Being a relatively new city: Although technically founded by missionaries several hundred years ago, people didn't actually live in Tucson until like the 1950's. Even then, the town didn't take off until the 80's. It's hard to have as many antiques when people had to move big, heavy furniture with them.
2. Close to the border with Mexico: If you ever garage sale in Tucson, you will run into several men with old pick-up trucks who go from sale to sale and fill up their trucks with basically whatever they can find. At the end of the day, they head back across the border with their scores. You need to beat these guys to sales if you want a shot at true treasure-hunting.
3. Snowbirds: Most snowbirds are people from northern, cold states that choose to spend their winters here. When you have two homes and only lives in Tucson for six months out of the year, odds are your winter home isn't where you keep your best stuff.

Since Tucson has more idiosyncrasies than most for antiquing, here are my best tips for great finds in 'odd' places.

Garage and Estate Sales:
1. Have a list
Garage sale-ing can be incredibly over-whelming. There are tables of random crap in front of random houses full of random strangers (most likely). Make the process less anxiety-filled by having goals. Have a well-curated list of things you're actively looking for and don't waste your time on anything else. My list is usually fisherman's orbs (those green glass orb things), custom and unique artwork, and anything authentically Art Deco. And if the garage sale doesn't have anything on your list, feel no guilt about wasting no more time there. Seriously, we do a lot of drive-bys where we slowly drive passed, scope the goods, and not even stop. No guilt at all. Secondly, once you have am established list, it makes it easier to target the appropriate types of sales. You'll have better luck for bigger items at moving sales and estate sales than garage sales. Garage sales are great for smaller, niche items, like vintage video games.

Original Post: 'How to Clean an Old Jug'
2. Do your research
One thing that happens when you garage sale A LOT is you start to learn tricks to make it easier on yourself. Over the past five years, I've determined one of the easiest ways to find treasure is to do your research beforehand. Every once in a while, we'll just drive around on a Saturday morning chasing arrows drawn on the side of cardboard boxes, but the odds of success are much lower. The best insurance for finding good pieces is to know how to hunt before ever leaving your home. First, know your town. Know which neighborhoods are more likely to have the type of stuff you're looking for. Second, hop on Craigslist and start evaluating sales. My favorites are always estate sales, but I'll also keep an eye out for well-organized garage sales. I don't waste my time on people who are trying to make some cash off a bunch of bits and bobs they should have just donated to Goodwill. Lastly, the more pictures the better.

Original Post: 'Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part II'
3. Become familiar with estate sale companies in your area
Here's a tip that will make your life loads easier: know the estate sale companies in your area. Estate sales are a perfect storm for finding great pieces. First, it's usually full houses of antiques to poke through. Second, the quality of pieces are much better since (as morbid as it sounds) it's not people getting rid of their stuff. They just can't take it with them. Third, companies don't have personal attachment to the pieces they're selling, so prices are more reasonable. I have a company in Tucson I prefer, so I'll check their website on Friday night to see where they'll be Saturday morning and if there's any pieces worth waking up for.

Original Post: 'Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part II'
Antiques Fairs and Markets:
1. Go regularly
Get to know vendors and keep an eye out for pieces on your wishlist. If it's there two months in a row, you can probably get a good deal on it. That's how I got my beautiful arch lamp. After eyeing it at the Antiques fair and seeing it still there a month later, we talked them down to less than half of what it was originally priced. Winner winner. Additionally, if you get to know some of the regular vendors, they can keep an eye out for pieces that are harder to find. They see a lot of inventory and if you give them some contact info, they probably have better connections to those hard-to-find gems.

Original Post: 'I Love Lamp'
2. Go early, or late
If you want some of the most and amazing pieces, go early. How sad would I have been if this Unicorn mirror had slipped through my fingers? The best pieces sell quickly, but no one wants to pack their trailer back up. Once vendors start packing up their booths, which is often earlier than you expect, you can strike up some great deals. Prey on their laziness.

Original Post: 'Hunting Antiques'
3. Take your time
Antiques fairs are the opposite of garage sales. These booths are full of items that are well-loved and well-curated. The percentage of crap to gems is sooooo much better than garage sales. Because the odds are more in your favor, take your sweet time. The best little gems, like my bird sconce, are not always as obvious as they should be. Get your hunt on!

Original Post: 'Project House Update: The Birds and the Beach'
Some Overall Tips:
1. Understand your skill set
It's incredibly easy to see a piece and it's potential, yet have no realistic way to get there. For me, my skills of transformation are limited, at best. I can paint something or scrub it clean, but that's about it. Dan's got more skills, like rewiring and rebuilding, but over the years, we've learned to stay away from big projects, like resurfacing and reupholstering. Pass on pieces that are too much work for you or include the cost of hiring professionals in determining the value of the deal.

Original Posts: 'It's a Ridiculously Small World After All' & 'Project House Update: Prepping and Polishing'
2. A great deal is only 'great' if you actually have a use for it
We've gotten pretty lucky and found uses and homes for every deal we couldn't pass up. However, a mid-century modern dresser did live in the middle of our entryway way longer than it should have. I have friends who haven't been so lucky, especially if you aren't in a 'permanent' housing situation.

Original Post: 'And So the Craziness Begins'
3. Understand how the calendar affects sales
Garage sales and antiques fairs always suck more when the weather is bad. People don't want to move big, heavy items around when it's hot or potentially rainy. In Tucson, that means the summer when it's possible to cook yourself on the sidewalk. In college town, you can get some great finds at semester ends (December and May) when people move out of dorms and apartments. And since many antiques fair vendors are snowbirds, the fairs are at their peak when they're back in town.

That's it. That's all I got. I've found some great pieces that I absolutely love, therefore, I'm clearly an expert in this. And if you want more info on a city or town near you, go check out this post from Invaluable. So, go forth and find that catch your life needs!

Monday, June 27, 2016

You Can't Please Everyone

Lately, I've spent a lot time thinking about people-pleasing.

It's been a rough couple of months at work and everyone is on edge, myself included. Friday afternoon, I pushed back against a coworker who was trying to take advantage of my helpful nature. By all logic, it's what needed to be done to keep myself from being walked all over. His excuse of ignorance of never having done this type of work in the past doesn't mean that it's suddenly my responsibility. It was his job to either learn how to do it himself, talk to his team about who does this type of work for them, or, if in a real pinch, ask me as a favor. If he had asked for help, I would have helped. But he didn't. He assumed it was my job to do his work, which it isn't. And to top it off, he tried to make it look like I wasn't doing my job to my team and I stood up for myself.

However, afterward, my hands were shaking. And it's been the only thing on my mind all weekend. I stood up for myself and this coworker probably doesn't like me anymore. Now, I keep rationalizing it every way possible. Why should I care if this guy likes me? I shouldn't like him. I was protective myself from someone overstepping. Anyone else in the same situation would have stood up for themselves so why do I feel bad? I shouldn't care.

But the truth is part of me cares. Some portion of me deep down cares what other people think. I have absolutely no problem speaking my mind to people close to me, but acquaintances and strangers are a different story. I have never sent back food at a restaurant. I make eye contact and smile at strangers even though I don't really want to. The contractors failed to clean up after themselves when they built the shop, but rather than yell at them and get them back to finish, I spent days sullenly bagging rusty nails and wire clippings they left in our driveway.

And beyond the part of me that cares what people think, a whole different part of me worries that this people-pleasing fear will hold me back. That it will keep me from rising up the ranks. How can a leader be afraid to make the tough calls? And more importantly, how can I be expected to stand up for other people if standing up for myself makes me this anxious?

The only thing that makes sense to me is that it's OK to care. It's not a bad thing to care about upsetting other people. Maybe it gets easier to handle with time and experience, but wouldn't it be a worse thing if I didn't care about upsetting people? All these motivational quotes about how you shouldn't care about what other people think doesn't make that feeling suddenly vanish. I have to imagine it's like public speaking: it's always slightly terrifying, but it gets easier and that anxious feeling deep down doesn't last as long.

At least that's what I hope...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Fan of Friday: Week of 6/24/2016

Have you ever been watching a replay of a livestream of three grown men playing a children's video game and thought to yourself, "Hey, those puzzles look fun!" No? Just me? Ok...

I've made my love of Mostly Walking known before, but when the guys played a Nancy Drew game, which I also love, I fell in love with something new: Nonogram puzzles.

A Nonogram puzzle is a number puzzle kind of like a Sudoku. You're given a square, empty grid with the goal to fill in the grid with black squares in the appropriate positions. You determine their position by assessing the number clues/guidelines presented around the edge. These numbers represent the number of black squares in a row, with a blank square in between.

I have an addictive personality. That has been well established. Fortunately, as I get older, I'm better at channeling it at 'healthier' things, not like finishing an entire family-size bag of potato chips in one sitting like I did as a teenager. This new addiction I consider 'healthy'. It's brain puzzle! I mean, playing for hours a night probably isn't 'healthy', but I'm getting so good at them!

The website I visit has six different levels of  difficulty, including a massive weekly 30 by 30 puzzle. It usually takes me two or three attempts before I can defeat it.

They are really fun, little puzzles once you get the hang of it. I highly recommend trying it out if you haven't before. {Sidenote: I don't know how feasible they are to play on a touch screen/without a mouse. They are much easier to play when you can mark 'blank' squares with a right-click.}

Monday, June 20, 2016

Project House Update: The List - Version 4.0

This has been a big year. One of our biggest so far. I realized how much I could push Dan and how much we could get done if we sadly used our vacation time on projects instead of trips. We're already setting up for a lot of progress next year, too. Some of these pictures are already outdated with progress. That's the beauty of having a million things happening at the same time: there's always something else to work on if you get bored.

If you'd like to go back and see what we've accomplished in previous years, click one of the older versions of this list below, otherwise, let's see what's changed!

June 2013: Version 1.0
June 2014: Version 2.0
June 2015: Version 3.0

* means something Dan wants to do and I am trying to talk him out of.
# means something I want and Dan is ignoring and hoping I'll forget/change my mind.
bold means something new or completed since the last version of the list.


Done: Painted, installed new light fixture, set up corner table, hung some art, modified closet, repainted and upgraded doorbell
To Do: New flooring, new baseboards, new light*, coat rack or console table.

Dining Room:

Done: Painted, hung curtains, installed recessed lighting and repainted, new chairs, hung some art and new shelving
To Do: Find a big statement art piece, new flooring, new baseboards, new light fixture, redo dresser into china cabinet

Formal Living Room:

Done: Hung curtain rod and curtains, hung ceiling fan, painted, upgraded light fixtures, tiled fireplace, bought lamp, new floors, arranged furniture and hung art
To Do: Make mantle for fireplace, new molding, build built-in bookcases, get fireplace working

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook:

Done: Painted, new ceiling fan in breakfast nook, removed awkward ceiling fan in kitchen, installed new microwave, purchased refrigerator
To Do: New floors, new cabinets, new range instead of built-in oven and cook top, new counter tops, additional lighting under cabinets, pendant lighting over the sink, new bar stools, finish painting chairs for breakfast nook, new windowsills in nook*, new sink.

Great Room:

Done: Painted, purchased entertainment center, hung art, hung TV, routed cables through the wall, new coffee table, added more seating, new ceiling fan*, hung star mirror.
To Do: New floors, new molding, maybe repaint a more subtle color#, widen doorway to entryway, add sofa table.

Master Bedroom:

Done: Painted, installed new ceiling fan, purchased dressers, new blinds blades, hung curtains, purchased bed frame
To Do: New floors, redo fireplace, install crown molding, new door (instead of stupid sliding pocket door)#, find side table for Dan, more lighting.

Master Bathroom/Closet:

Done: Replaced sliding glass door, removed and patched toilet paper holder, upgraded toilet room
To Do: Paint, new floors, new vanities, remove overhead dry wall pocket*, new mirrors, add wall sconces, french doors into closet, new shower*, new shelving and organization in closet, chandelier, twinkly lights around top, furniture (including a standing mirror and an island/ottoman)

Guest Room/Guest Bath/Guest Closet:

Done: Painted bookcase and end table, bought bedding, painted room, installed new ceiling fan, window treatments, magazine shelves, new end table
To Do: New floors, modify/new bed frame, new cabinets and counter top, new toilet, new shower doors, paint bathroom and closet.


Done: Paint, new lighting, hung art (1 and 2)
To do: New floors, add baseboards

Hall Bathroom:

Done: Hung some art, removed drywall and purchased tub, removed carpet and wall to create one space
To do: Penny floors!, paint, new toilet, update tub, new lighting, new cabinets and countertop*


Done: Hung art, new dresser, new window, new windowsill, new desk, new ceiling fan
To Do: Stain shelving, remove desk and install cabinets, built-in cat box, new window treatment, paint, new floors, new lighting.

Workout Room:

Done: New windows and window sills, wiring for ceiling fan, paint, ceiling fan, new lighting
To Do: new floors, new window treatment, base boards, paint closet sliding door frame

Laundry Room:

Done: Purchased washer and dryer, electrical work on lighting.
To Do: Paint, new floors, move sink into garage, build platform for washer/dryer, purchase deep freezer, straighten out crooked pantry, install some shelving, find bench and storage for shoes, new lighting.


Done: Built Turtle's habitat, removed pokey bush
To Do: Remove gravel, plant some trees, fire pit, build housing to hide pool pipes, convert exterior shower into a shed, replace outdoor lights


Done: Removed fountain, planted some trees, removed a ton of dead cactus, new porch lights
To Do: redo driveway, paint garage door, new driveway lights, paint pergola

Other things we've done: new roof, updated pool solar heating, adobe bricks sealed.

Other things in progress: built Dan's external shop (Part 1, 2, and 3)