Archive for the ‘Workaround Sue’ Category

When you move to Austin, right after everybody tells you how much cooler Austin was X years ago, everybody tells you that if you don’t have allergies now, you’ll get them in X years.

Here is what you do about that. It is kinda gross, but you’ll live.

When you get desperate enough, and you’ve taken all the allergy meds you legally can, and a medieval blacksmith is still refereeing a step show in your skull, get a neti pot/plastic bottle and some saline mix. Lots of these are for sale out there, and lots of instructions too, so I’ll just give some advice my friends and family have confessed to, after we all confessed to doing this.

  • The saline packets are cheap at pharmacies, but you can mix your own (see below).
  • Don’t save time by using cold water. And really, go slow, and pour like they say to do. Squirting a bottle of cold salt up your snoot is unpleasant enough to deter you from trying this a second time. Don’t get deterred.
  • You can expect a small amount of relief right away. If your head clogs up again later, head back to the sink and repeat. And repeat.
  • You’re going to need to know about the brain-eating amoebas. My friend Mary Ann wrote ’em up a while back. Bottom line: Use distilled water. (See below for one way to warm up the water.)

Saline mix

One part baking soda, one part kosher salt. For example, a cup of soda plus a cup of salt. Stir them up good, and Mom says maybe even whirl them in the blender real quick, which makes them more powdery and quick-dissolving. Mom history factoid: Kosher salt doesn’t have anti-caking ingredients, which apparently were the big advantage of Morton’s Salt back when they started using the slogan “When it rains, it pours.” Which is why the girl on the label is carrying an umbrella while salt rains down on her, which never made any sense at all to me till Mom said that just now.

Mom’s neat trick for warming the water

Since you are not using warm tap water because of the amoebas, and since you are probably not doing this in the kitchen because your family would disown you, here is one way to warm the water in the bathroom. If you are using a plastic bottle for your neti pot, that is.

  • Get one of your big plastic cups from the football concession stand. Or as I call it, the Aggie wedding registry.
  • While you’re in the shower, catch some hot water in the football cup.
  • Float your neti bottle (filled with water/saline) in the warm cup of tap water.
  • Test the saline solution’s temperature (on your wrist, baby-bottle-fashion) because it warms up pretty fast, and it can warm up too much.
  • When roommates ask what the eff you are doing, tell ’em it’s a backwoods bain-marie.

Why do we have sinuses anyway? Is it a mammal thing? I never see deer with headaches.

Anyway, I hope this helps a few folks — please leave more tips or nice notes to my Mom in the comments if you want! 🙂

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Ladies like me who don’t have pierced ears but occasionally like to wear big sparkly earrings, I am about to share something I wish I’d known 20 years ago.

Look at the earrings you’re thinking of buying. If the main part of the earring dangles from a small ring, you’re in business. Like these dime-store lovelies:

When you are sure your earrings can be altered, buy them. Then hie yourself down to the craft store and buy, for a few dollars:

  • A cheap pair of round-nose jewelry pliers
  • A packet of cheap earring clip-backs in gold or silver-toned base metal (see note at bottom for real gold and silver)
  • A packet of open jump rings, medium-size, say 3.5 mm, in the same metal color

You might not need the jump rings, if the clip-backs you find have an open ring, like the one below. You need jump rings only if you’re hooking together two solid rings, or if you need an extra ring to make the front side of the earring dangle in the right direction (think of how a chain’s links alternate — straight, sideways, straight, sideways). But jump rings are cheap, so you might grab them anyway.

This is an open ring that is very conveniently integrated into the clip-back:

Use the pliers to get rid of the pierced part of your earrings. Here, I just had to open a ring on the French wire:

Next, attach the earring to the back. The metal is pretty easy to break with pliers, so be gentle. Here, all I had to do was hook the solid ring onto the open ring. Make sure the dangly part of your dime-store earring faces forward before you close the open ring with pliers.

You are done! Behold your new clip earrings.

Tools: Read about the different kinds of jewelry pliers here. If you’re gonna make jewelry, you might need expensive ones or several kinds. But if all you’re going to do is repair or alter a few earrings, I think a cheap pair of roundies will do you fine.

Real gold or silver: There is absolutely no reason why you can’t do this with real gold and silver jewelry. (Except that, as you already know, clip earrings fall off your ears much more easily than pierced.) The same pliers will work fine, and the craft store might have gold-filled or sterling parts right there in the beading section. But clip-backs in precious metals are much harder to find than that, usually.

Try sources such as Monsterslayer.com (the name’s a reference to a Navajo origin myth), Artbeads.com and Jewelrysupply.com. Shipping is often free. The parts will cost several dollars more — I find that a single sterling clip-back can cost $8 — and be careful when ordering because these expensive items are in fact sometimes sold singly, not in pairs. Ya don’t want to eagerly rip open your package to find you only have one earring back.

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When I went loopy and redid our two front rooms, I foolishly did all the chair rail part by myself.  The real problem was trying to miter the joints with a cheap plastic miter box and a hand saw — I thought going slowly would allow me more precision, but it didn’t work like that. Precisely joining 45-degree angles ain’t easy; I made gaps so big I literally had to spackle them. Most aren’t too noticeable, and the overall effect of the new paint colors and the molding makes the rooms look nice, but a few of those joints are right out in the open, and I cringe.

Corner joint shows the gap before I spackled and painted it. Small planks temporarily taped to the wall -- my "extra hands" -- hold the trim piece level while I nail it in place.

So my first bit of advice is to pay someone to do this for you. If you’re still reading, my second piece of advice is to rent a power miter saw for this project, which I assume would give you more precise joints. No pre-cutting at the store is going to work, because you have to fit these lengths as you go along — walls aren’t perfect, and all sorts of variables will throw you off. (Usual advice is to start in a corner and work outward from there.)

My third piece of advice is to not mess with laser levels or chalk lines or however you were going to mark the straight line on the wall. Just take a yardstick and mark the same height all around the wall. Fast; and no futzing with tape measure error. And if you somehow marked a line that was perfectly sea-level true, but wasn’t parallel to the floor, it would look wrong anyway. Right?

Standard advice on placing chair rail is about 32 inches from the floor, or alternately 1/3 the height of the wall. You could also go old-school and put it where your chairs’ backs actually strike the wall.

My fourth big tip: Tape a line on the wall first and eyeball it. If the height you’ve chosen looks strange, it’s easier to move tape than to repaint.

Sneakiest of all, though, was how I got around only having two hands. I bought little poplar planks and sawed them off at uniform height. Then I taped them to the wall I was working on (see above). Apply a little glue to the rail and hoist it up onto the slats; the slats prop it up level long enough for you to smack in the first few nails. Voila, spare hands!

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The other day I was attaching a strap to my new purse, and I decided to do it with little leather tabs riveted to the purse. So I needed to make little holes in the leather tabs to put the rivets through, and I didn’t want to use my awl — my awl is cheap, doesn’t fit in my hand well, etc.

So I got out my hand drill. I love my pretty little Ben Franklin hand drill (it doesn’t really have anything to do with Ben Franklin, but it looks like it ought to), and the job took two seconds.  I could choose any size hole I wanted, limited only by my collection of drill bits.

Then I realized I didn’t even need the drill, really: I just needed the bit. With a little patience, you can just spin the drill bit carefully in your fingers. (This is probably easiest with a small hole and thin leather.) [EDIT April 2012: And a sharp new drill bit.]

Scrap leather and a 5/64 drill bit


The bits are sharp as heck, which means watch your fingers, but it also means they carve into the leather smooth as anything. You wind up with a pretty tidy little hole.  So the next time you need your belt to cinch a little tighter, or your stirrups to go up a little higher, or you want to put a carabiner through your tool belt or who knows what, just pick up your drill bits.

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This was my pre-Christmas tip on Twitter: Tin snips, which will only run you about $14, are the answer you have been searching for to annoying plastic packaging.  They cut through that stuff the way scissors slice through paper.  It’s very satisfying.  Also, grab these when you have to cut up credit cards.  Snip!  You’re done.

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Aug. 11, 2013: This is the most-clicked post on the blog, which is terrific. Happy white sinks, everybody! Here’s the short version:

THE METHOD: Coat the stained part of your white sink with a layer of dishwasher paste — the thick gloopy stuff you put into the dishwashing machine, not the liquid soap you use for hand-washing dishes. Let it sit for a while (start with a short time span, perhaps). Then wash it off. Hopefully your sink’s now back to white!

CAUTION: Dishwasher paste can etch surfaces. Test it in a small area, or start out by only using it for a minute or less.

SUCCESS STORIES: Victory has been reported over ordinary grunge, blueberry stains, tea stains and other marks. Most of us had tried bleach and other cleaners with no luck. Here’s one success story with photos. Other surfaces it’s worked on: Formica countertops, the Corian-type stuff my shower is molded out of, stone-type beverage coasters that tea had slopped on, my white-enamel saucepan.

WHY IT WORKS: I have no idea. The dishwasher paste smells like bleach, but I’d already tried bleaching the stains with no luck. I’m guessing the cleaning agents in the paste are just super-mega-strong. (See CAUTION above)



Accidental discovery: Our kitchen has a white enamel (or “porcelain,” as I incorrectly call it for reasons unknown) sink, and despite our efforts with bleach to remove stains from tea, blueberries, etc., gradually the sink has been getting yellower and yellower.  Especially around the drain.  Ech.

Recently I dumped out some old dishwasher soap that I’d been informed had gotten too gloopy to use in the washer. Planning to recycle the bottles, I let the soap drain into the sink, where it made a layer about a half-inch thick. It sat there a couple hours while I did other tasks. When I came to rinse it out:  White sinks!  (It didn’t remove scorchmarks, but it clobbered everything else.)

I filled the sink with water, dumped in the remaining liquid and left it for a few hours, stirring occasionally. This whitened up the sides, too.

So try coating your white enamel sink with a layer of dishwasher detergent and letting it sit awhile.  I’m sure you don’t have to use a whole bottle.  But regular hand-washing dish soap has never done my sinks much good, and this does. No scrubbing, either!

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I picked up a cute little hutch for a dollar at a craft store, and kept picturing it done up with milk paint and beadboard. But wooden dollhouse-scale beadboard or siding — adorable though it is — comes in big expensive sheets (plastic is cheaper), and is thick enough that it would really reduce the shelf space. (What good’s a mini hutch if your mini laptop and mini magazines don’t fit on it? Hmm? Yes I know I’m crazy.)

Then I had one of those aha! moments and realized that if I have polymer clay, I have beadboard. In much the same way that if you have polymer clay you have buttons… and game piecesdisplay stands for anything…  custom stamps… but I digress.

So I pressed a straight piece of wire into a thin strip of Fimo to make a beadboard tool, which I baked… then rolled out more clay very thin, cut it to size and laid the pieces on ruled notebook paper to help me line up the tool right.  Impress a series of lines on each piece, bake and you have a very thin but strong/flexible sheet that can be trimmed to fit with scissors, then painted any color you like.

It’s not perfectly regular, and my method only creates small pieces of board. But it’s just what I wanted for this application. And see, the laptop and magazines fit!

[Added 2/3/10: I see many people are reaching this post looking for dollhouse beadboard, so I thought I’d share where I buy it: Miniatures.com sells plastic sheets of 7″x12″ or 7″24″, although I actually prefer to use their wood sheets sold as siding. Let me know if you find it cheaper elsewhere!]

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