Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Doomsday preppers

Charming’s favorite recent obsession (when not watching cooking shows) is Doomsday Preppers. It’s rapidly becoming one of our favorite hobbies to watch episodes and make fun of the rednecks until we almost pee our pants.

For those who have never seen the show, it’s a documentary-style program that follows 3 people/families per episode as they prepare for the end of the world. From things like a series of F5 tornadoes, nuclear power plant explosions, electromagnetic pulses, economic collapse, super volcano eruption and the sudden switching of the north and south magnetic poles. Ohgodwe’regoingtodie.

An incredulous-sounding narrator carefully ignores the mental illnesses driving these people as they stockpile live chickens, .22 caliber bullets and pea soup.

Then a panel of “expert practical preppers” completely arbitrarily scores these people on their preparation in 5 categories: water, food, shelter, security and X-FACTOR. X-Factor being things like “you live in the woods” and “you’re young.”

Here are some of our conversations from last night's viewing: 

Prepper Johnny O: I believe in redundancy, so I married my wife, who’s a twin. Gotta have redundancy for family continuity if something goes wrong.
Me:…So he just wants to bang his sister in law.  

Prepper Johnny O: The crow is in the nest, repeat THE CROW. IS. IN. THE. NEST.
Charming: The raven is in the endzone! The dolphin is in the ocean!
Me: Wait! The dolphin is in the aquarium! And it’s killing a human!
Charming: Our codes are getting too complicated!
Me: No, it’s really killing a human! Redundancy in dolphins was a terrible idea!
Charming: The dolphin is so horny… sooo horny….

Random fact across screen: In 2010, an 82 year old nun and two other people broke into a nuclear facility in ...Tennessee. 
Me: There's a radioactive nun on the loose! It's like a radioactive missile sent from God! 

Narrator: What Robert Earl calls building materials, most people would call… trash.
Charming: Why won’t they just build with actual materials that we have now??
Narrator: Other preppers might focus on practical things like building living quarters first…
Charming: Why is he building with bottles and kitty litter?? He can just buy cinder blocks now!

Big Al is a record producer in Nashville who has written a song about doomsday prepping. He has an underground bunker in some remote location 1800 miles from Nashville. Because when the Russians nuke us (his scenario), he’s totally going to have 2 ½ days and plenty of gas for his ancient SUV to drive there. On the roads that will magically survive the explosion.

Narrator: Big Al’s bugout home… totals 2000 square feet and is 2 stories tall. But you’d never know it, because it’s 5 feet underground.
Charming: Those are the shortest stories EVER.
Narrator: So when Al’s in bunker mode, he looks for ways to keep himself sane. Like experimenting with his 1500 cans of food on a recipe he calls… Bunker Stew.
Charming: That’s not a recipe! You’re just dumping 5 cans of vegetables into a pot!

Big Al: Well don’t just say he lives underground, so he’s a nut! Am I nuts, or are you?
Charming and I: Nope, it’s you!

Narrator: In desperate times, rattlesnake blood can serve as water
Me: *incoherent screaming*

Fifteen year old Jason is a doomsday prepper who gets his supplies by stealing them. From his mom. He also builds fires in buildings. Because he doesn't understand things like Wood = More Fire and Oxygen also = More Fire. Seriously, someone let this kid and his 2 underage friends build a fire in an abandoned building (with some bottled water to put it out) and then filmed it for TV.
Me: His eyes ... they're soulless. *Hides under Charming* Hold me.
Charming: This kid is totally going to shoot up his high school in a year.
Charming: How is this not a liability for the film crew? WHO OWNS THAT BUILDING??

Charming: I really can’t believe your dad hasn’t jumped on this prepping thing yet… 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chalk-painted dresser

Two projects! I’ve now completed two whole projects!

When we first moved in, I mentioned that I had a million projects I wanted to do. I listened carefully to everyone’s well-intentioned advice about doing one thing at a time and not getting overwhelmed, promised to abide by it, and then in true Heather fashion ignored it all and dove into pretty much everything at once. Whoops.

But I’m super excited about this one. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a true ‘before’ picture, but I took an ‘early in the process’ picture, so that’ll have to do.

When Charming and I moved back up to DC, my mom immediately began attempting to foist spare furniture off on us. She remarried, and she and my stepdad combined two full houses worth of furniture, so there are lots of spare pieces. Like two complete dining room sets, more dressers than I have clothes (amazing!) and god only knows how many sets of china.

One of the first pieces we took was an old dresser that I think my mom picked up at a yard sale many (10+?) years ago. It was in rough condition, with one of the legs basically taped on, and packing tape being used on the top to protect against accidental stabbings. But it was perfect for our apartment in DC, because we could beat the crap out of it getting it down the stairs into the basement, and it fit.

But once we moved to our new, grown-up person house, something had to be done about it.

Enter: Annie Sloan Chalk paint. If you’ve ever read any sort of home improvement/DIY blog before, you’ve seen people raving about this stuff, so I was desperate to try it. Its main selling point is that you don’t have to pre-sand – it just sticks to whatever finish you’re painting. With my odd mix of impatience and utter laziness, it seemed like the perfect type of paint for me.

I could only find one local shop that sold it, and they weren’t open during any hours when I could possibly get there (seriously? 9-3 M-F?), so I ordered some in Provence blue, along with the clear wax, from the lovely Shaunna at Perfectly Imperfect.  

First I had to fix the damaged sections of the wood. Since I was painting, and it didn’t have to look perfect, I got a big tube of wood filler and used a putty knife to fill in the gouges. The edges were harder to do, since there was nothing to brace the filler against – in retrospect, listening to my stepfather and using spare wood to create a makeshift edge would have been smart, but I didn’t have any spare wood, so I just very carefully used the putty knife to shape it into a straight edge. Re-creating the curved arch in wood filler along the bottom left edge was also difficult, but that really appealed to my long-dormant artistic side, and I ended up being really pleased with how it turned out.

There was one section on the top left corner where a large strip of veneer was coming off, so I gorilla-glued it down and then sanded the extra glue away. Unfortunately that’s the only area that didn’t come out perfect – I should have just broken off the damaged piece of veneer and filled in the gap with wood filler – it would have come out more even. Hindsight.

I don’t read directions, because directions are for people without common sense, duh, so once the wood filler was dry, I grabbed a regular paint brush (they recommend special brushes sold by the company) and dug in. Splashed in. Whatever.

The first layer went on a little thin and streaky, and I had some trouble with bristles coming off and getting stuck on the dresser because the paint is so … I don’t know, coarse, I guess? It’s got a thicker consistency that sticks to furniture and also paintbrushes, so I just had to be careful to pluck out any stray bristle-strands that got stuck in odd places.

That's Charming's hand - he got in on a little of the painting action. And ugh, those floor tiles. Those are on my project list one of these days... 
 The paint dries really fast, and the color changes a little as it dries so you can easily tell when it’s ready for the second coat.

I didn't paint the inside because a) I figured it wouldn't show with the drawers in place and b) have I mentioned I'm lazy? 

Once I had two coats on, I decided that painting the drawers the same color might be too much of a good thing in that bright blue. So I went back to Shaunna and ordered a 4 oz sample pot of the pure white, which was more than enough to do 2 layers on 5 drawers.

Everyone talks about creating the ‘French look’ with chalk paint by distressing the paint after it’s finished, so I decided to give it a shot on the detail on the top two drawers. Unfortunately, I only had really rough sandpaper, so it went all the way through the paint. Next time, I’d get off my lazy ass and go buy some finer sandpaper, but I still think it actually turned out okay.

After it’s painted and distressed, you add a coat of wax (there’s clear or some sort of antique finish that I was afraid to try) to protect the paint. This stuff stinks. Open windows. Then yell at your fiancĂ© for opening too many windows because it’s freakin’ cold outside. No wait, that’s not actually part of the process - sorry, Charming.

I just rubbed the wax on with an old t-shirt-turned-rag and let it dry for an hour or two, and it was ready to go.

Shaunna also sent me a free sample size of the French Linen, which is an awesome beige-y grey color, so I used that to redo an old Target picture frame that had chipped and been filled in with Sharpie many a time.

And here’s the final result, including the newly-painted picture frame (with a picture of my darling horse):

The color looks a little different in this light - but this image is probably more accurate than the other two. 

I absolutely love this chalk paint stuff, and my mom has already offered me an old bookcase (she has at least 2!) that I can paint to coordinate with the dresser. But I’ve promised myself that the stupid kitchen is getting finished first, so the bookshelf will just have to wait… probably. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why I'm an Ass

Mitt Romney, who may actually have emerged from the 1850s just in time for this Presidential election season, still has not figured out that things said near recording devices are often – in fact - recorded. Fortunately for us, he’s a Republican, so he’s the Only. One. Responsible. if he keeps touching that hot stove over and over and over and over again.

This time, he told a group of donors that President Obama won reelection because he “focused on giving targeted groups [blacks, Hispanics and young voters] a big gift.” You know, I really thought there was a chance Republicans might have learned something from this election, but it turns out assuming really did make an Ass out of me.

Also? I’m young. So where’s my gift?? I was hoping for a Chloe bag, but I guess I’ll settle for personal autonomy and the right to control my own reproduction. Oh look, an emergency hospital visit that won’t send me into crippling debt. So practical. Thanks, Uncle Barry.

Those gifts he’s talking about? Some of us like to call them “recognition of our basic humanity and rights as American citizens.” Yeah, I get it, “gifts” is less of a mouthful. And naturally, cognitive dissonance firmly aside, the tax breaks Romney promised to the wealthy wouldn’t have been gifts. Because Rich White Men have Earned It. It’s not a “gift” if you claim God ordained it.

Psst, Republicans: The path to wooing minority voters is still not down Keep Calling Them Moochers Lane.

When you run a race and lose, blaming the other guy for training harder and having better equipment and being more athletically-gifted than you doesn’t help you win the next time around. You know what does? Figuring out what you did wrong the first time and fixing it. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, Republicans… 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A letter to Republicans in the wake of the election

Dear Republicans,

We’re now over halfway through day 1 of Obama’s first day of his second term as President. I know it’s a bit early yet, but Muslim terrorists haven’t hijacked the White House (and we stopped the Christian ones from doing it last night!), the world has not gone up in a fiery inferno, and your paycheck has not suddenly shrunk by half (unless you were doing some online shopping last night, like me).

I know this is hard to stomach, but Americans really don’t want to be led by a man who straps dogs to the roof of his car and who thinks you appeal to Hispanic voters by spray-tanning. Sadism and racism are two things you generally want to avoid when electing the leader of the free world. Write that down for future reference.

But I hope you as voters learned something from last night's election results. Americans don't believe that equal opportunity is "socialism," we don't believe that using positions of power to enforce your religious beliefs on others is "religious freedom," we don't believe that rape is a gift from God, we don't believe that LGBT individuals are second class citizens, and we don't believe you deserve to be president when you don't pay taxes for 15 years, then pay less in taxes than someone making $40k a year, and dare to call the rest of us freeloaders.

Victim-blaming is not moral superiority and it’s not an effective party platform.

And you would be well-served to remember that when nominating candidates at the local and federal level if you have any hopes of being heard within the political system in the next 50 years or so.

That divisive 'them vs. us' shit? It’s not working anymore. Those blacks, those sluts, those Mexicans, those homosexuals, those welfare recipients whom you hate so much? They’re also Americans. And they vote.

The right-wing fringe elements are always going to vote Republican (or pray that God smites all liberals, or whatever it is they do all day) – you don’t have to pander to them and their money. What you as Republicans do have to do is send a message to your party that you no longer want to be the Grand Ol’ Patriarchy. Or the Grotesquely Oppressive Party. You can run on a small government platform without having to be small enough to fit into the uterus of every woman in the country.

I honestly do hope the Republican Party reboots and I hope they get the religious extremists out of positions of power so that going forward, we can have actual political discussions and solve some problems that weren't resolved 40 years ago. And maybe we can even do it without trying to use religious beliefs to curtail my human rights.


A much more relaxed Heather

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Go vote. Before the Republicans take away that right, too.

So it’s election day. What more is there to say at this point, really? You’ve all probably figured out that I hate Mitt Romney and his idiot cohorts and their regressive,  nonsensical, woman-hating policies.

There really are people out there (in my own family even, unfortunately) who truly believe the Republican rhetoric that demanding equality is just gateway communism. They’ve bought into the belief that allowing employers and religious entities to enforce their beliefs on the general population is not fascism, but freedom. They believe with what shriveled specks of dust remain of their hearts that “victim” is a dirty word.

They tell me I have a ‘victim mentality’ because I think I deserve equal protection under the law. They tell me I have a victim mentality because I think I deserve equal pay for equal work. They tell me I have a victim mentality because I believe my LGBT friends should have the same right to marry whom they love that I have. They tell me I have a victim mentality because I think my reproductive rights ARE my fundamental human rights and that those rights shouldn’t be subject to religious and political pandering. They tell me I have a victim mentality because I think the First Amendment gives me the right to live by my own religious beliefs, not the beliefs of the evangelicals with the most money.

They blame me for demanding my Constitutional rights, because it’s easier than having to recognize WHY I’m so goddamned angry.

Are there “welfare queens” out there who milk the system for an extra couple hundred bucks a year? Sure. But you know what? Those people don’t hurt me as much as Mitt Romney’s $100 million in unpaid taxes. Those people don’t hurt me as much as the man who assumed because I’m female and I’d walk his dog that I’d fuck him for money. Those people don’t hurt me as much as regressive politics that would jeopardize my privacy and my health care and my very life.

Anyone who truly believes and understands that this election is about freedom should be voting for the incumbent.

My biggest fear, though, is that this election will come down not to a split in ideology between those who think equality is something to strive for and those who think equality is another word for communism, but to those who control access to voting mechanisms vs. those who don’t.

In Florida, people are waiting in line for upwards of 6 to 7 hours, because the Republican election board restricted voting hours in heavily Democratic areas. In Ohio, the Republican Secretary of State has authorized the last-minute installation of ‘special’ software made to his exact specifications and changed the rules for how provisional ballots are counted. In Arizona, Republicans are robocalling Democrats and giving them the wrong voting location addresses. In Pennsylvania and Virginia and Kansas and Tennessee just to name a few, voter ID laws are in place that predominantly impact low income and minority voters – the majority of whom tend to vote Democrat.

If Mitt Romney wins this election, I don’t believe it will be because the majority of Americans really think women and LGBT individuals should be permanent second class citizens (at least I can’t believe that if I want to sleep at night) – it will be because they cheated. Plain and simple.

So if you haven’t already, I hope you vote today, and I hope tomorrow we’ll still have a President who respects this country and will do what’s right for its people. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pinterest made me paint my refrigerator

Oh Pinterest. Pinterest has convinced me that not only should my home always look like a perfectly-accessorized spread from Better Homes and Gardens, but that it should do so for a total budget of $27. Using nothing but a miter saw, a cute bandana and some chalk paint, of course.

I like to think I have a creative streak, but unfortunately my DIY skills are probably a lot like Snooki’s parenting skills: there’s a lot of alcohol and crying involved.

I tried to install a floating shelf in the bathroom the other day, which required pre-drilling a hole for the screw. I grabbed my trusty cordless power drill and got to work, although I was quickly frustrated by how difficult it is to drill through plaster. Turns out it’s also difficult to drill with a screwdriver head instead of a drill tip. Whoops.

But potential for inevitable failure aside, I decided that something absolutely had to be done about our early-90s off-white ugly-as-sin Kenmore refrigerator. I came across a pin about chalkboard painting a fridge and I was sold. So we headed off to Home Depot to pick up two cans of chalkboard paint (I only ended up needing one) and when Sandy hit, I had the perfect opportunity to get to work.

Here is the fridge, comfortably nestled amongst the horrid pink cabinets, in all its 90s glory.

Taunting me with its blandness.

I grabbed some blue painters tape and got to work. Which leads me to Lesson One: Don’t get lazy and impatient and only tape 3/4 of the fridge to begin with – by the time you’re ready to tape the rest, you’ll be covered in paint and you’ll have accidentally left the scissors in the freezer, so they’ll be really cold.

I decided to start by painting the inner edges so that stuff could dry while I was doing the rest. I used a small brush for the door edges and such, and then a small roller for the rest of the fridge. FYI, those things splatter – I looked like I had blackheads all over my hand/arm by the time I was done.

You can see where I got lazy and stopped taping at the bottom of the door. To be fair, taping is really boring! 

After the first coat of paint, it looked pretty streaky and terrible and I was trying to figure out if I could just hide the whole thing under the bed until I could go buy a new fridge to replace it.

Ugly! Really ugly! Oh god, is this what it's going to look like? What have I done?! 

But I let it dry for about 45 minutes and the second coat looked a million times better.

The box says you should use the company’s magnetic primer, but I always assume that’s a scam to get you to spend more money (no, Garnier, I do NOT need your entire line of shampoo plus level two conditioner plus level three defrizzer plus anti-humidity spray…), so I skipped it. The refrigerator itself is already magnetic, so things still stick to the chalkboard paint. Lesson Two: Don't bother reading directions, it's a total waste of time. 

You’re also apparently supposed to wait 24 hours before using it, but if you haven’t guessed already, I’m a tad bit impatient, so I ran to CVS and bought chalk and drew on it about 2 hours after it was finished. And it’s totally fine [sticks tongue out at box]. 

Lesson Three: I am a DIY Goddess!! Ok, probably not, but at least this first project was a success! 

Whatever. I never claimed to be an artist.