Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I did it for the bees...

Without fail, every time the temperature drops below 70 degrees my lips start to chap. Nothing has ever prevented this from happening. As soon as the season starts to shift from summer to fall, I start applying lip balm like a madwoman in a vain attempt to stop my lips from turning into cracked and reddened monsters that demand moisture every 10 seconds. It rather feels like going around with the plant from "Little Shop of Horrors" attached to my face. Every minute of the day, I can hear them screaming "FEED ME!!" (well, to be more accurate they actually scream "HYDRATE ME!!!", but that doesn't sound as funny), and I frantically delve into my purse or pockets in search of more balm.

I've tried every kind of lip balm out there. Chapstick doesn't really do much for me. Nor do the super fancy healing balms that proclaim they're so good that you'll practically sprout a lush tropical oasis in the middle of your face, complete with tiny waterfall. No, my balm of choice is Burt's Bees. I'm addicted to the stuff. In the event of a zombie uprising, those little yellow tubes will become to me what twinkies were to Woody Harrelson's character in "Zombieland". I will gather all of the balms that I can and hole myself up for the rest of my life, converting the empty tubes into miniature pipe bombs (pipe balms?) to defend my territory.

The weather has edged into the cooler temperatures, and one morning I felt the annoying tingle in my lips that meant if I didn't start slapping on the balm NOW, I'd suffer for it. I dug around in my purse, and...nothing. I rooted through my car. Nothing. I turned every purse in my closet upside down, in hopes of finding some balm.


See, we moved back in Spring. Somewhere in the shuffle, my container of extra lip balms vanished. I had one tube left, and hadn't bothered replacing it because I was simply too busy to think about it. But I knew I had another tube somewhere, because I'd used it just the other day. Perhaps I'd left it at work, I thought, or it had rolled under the couch. Trying to ignore the ever-increasing demands of my lips, I started pulling laundry from the washing machine. As I yanked pairs of jeans out of the washer, I heard it..a telltale "plonk..rattle rattle" in the barrel of the washing machine.

I peered inside, and there it was. My precious yellow tube of lip balm, ruined beyond all hope. I uncapped it and sniffed it, and it had turned into a squishy gooey substance that smelled like fabric softener.

In the back of my mind, my lips shrieked "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

It was OK, I reasoned. I'd be at the mall the next day, and there would surely be a store that sold more balm there. I'd be stuck there for a few hours, since my husband's car was in the shop and we were carpooling until it was fixed. He got out of work after I did, so I'd just kill time by window shopping until he was ready.

The next day I roamed the mall, licking my now cracked and flaking lips over and over, unable to stop myself even though I knew it would make them worse. Waldenbooks, I thought. They sold my preferred brand of lip balm. I knew I could find salvation there. I fairly trotted down the mall corridor, my mind focused on that one goal: obtaining more lip balm. I had to have it. Could imagine myself ripping the plastic seal from around the cap and ringing my mouth with sweet, sweet moisturizing manna from heaven.

Unfortunately for me, it didn't quite work out that way. I saw the display of balm at the register and grabbed one precious tube, clutching it like it was the holy grail. But there was no one at the register. I waited, growing increasingly anxious as the seconds ticked by and no one appeared to take my money. I looked around the store, but could see no employee anywhere. The woman behind me became impatient and actually started calling out for help, but no one came. It was like we'd entered into some alternate dimension where the book store was staffed by no one. I waited for two full minutes before I finally realized that I would not, in fact, be getting my balm from there. Dejected, I put it back into the display and left the store, mind frantically scrambling to think of where I could obtain more.

It was the mall, I thought. Surely some other store in the entire mall sold plain lip balm, right? Right??? I went the Hallmark store, where I discovered that Yankee Candle had started making lip balm. It came in tiny tubes that were shaped like the candle jars, and the flavors apparently were the more popular food related candle scents. It was also something like $5.95 for an incredibly small amount of balm, and I couldn't into the whole idea of smearing my lips with something that looked like a miniature candle and smelled like one, too. I went to Sephora, next, where I was reminded of the time I went to Victoria's Secret in search of a a plain half-slip. You see, Sephora simply does not do plain lip balm. if it's not glittery, tinted, plumping, or $45 a tube, they don't have it. With a sense of rising panic, I tried every department store, gift store, and kiosk in the mall. No one sold Burt's Bees, except for Waldenbooks, which was still evidently without a clerk manning the register.

I was now completely obsessed with finding lip balm. I got into my car and drove to store after store in the area, finding nothing. By that point I was so desperate that all I could think about was my increasingly chapped lips. Really, this is why I've never even tried anything addictive like cigarettes or alcohol. I'd probably go from "person who enjoys an occasional drink" to "raging alcoholic who drinks vodka at work" in a matter of days. My single-minded focus on things is useful in some situations, but when it's centered on something I do not have and cannot obtain, it only makes things worse.

Eventually I gave up my search, and went to my husband's place of work feeling completely dejected. I slumped on a stool and contemplated my misery, my lips now a mass of cracked and burning skin. My husband sighed, told his co-workers "I'll be right back", and came back 15 minutes later with a tube of Burt's Bees, having gone to Waldenbooks and hunted down the missing clerk, who apparently waited on him with great reluctance.

This, my friends, is why I married him. Also, because he cooks, and were it not for him I'd exist entirely on boxed macaroni and cheese and cereal.

I've since stocked up on balm, and am trying to remember to check my pockets before I toss my jeans in the washing machine. Hopefully these things will prevent me from turning into a gibbering idiot, standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign that proclaims my willingness to work for Burt's Bees.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making the Cut

I've made it my goal to learn at least one new technique a year.

My jewelry making has evolved a great deal over the years. I started out stringing beads, and then went to beadweaving. From there I went to bead embroidery, and then wirework, and then to etching. Now I've purchased a jeweler's saw, so I'm going to add piercing/cutting to my range of skills. Or so I hope, at least. In my previous post I mentioned my tendancy to injure myself, so this new idea may not end very well for me.

I've always been very obsessive when it comes to new things. When I find something I enjoy, I focus on it with great intensity and do only that thing for months. I'm that way with everything from food (I will eat the same thing for lunch every single day for weeks on end) to books (a new genre that I enjoy will become the only one I read for months). Techniques are the same way for me. Of course, I don't totally abandon my old favorites. They still get incorporated to some degree, re-visited, adored all over again. Nothing beats that initial learning process, though, that satisfaction when the first truly good piece is created after dozens of cast-offs and botched designs.

I don't know why I didn't learn how to pierce and cut sheet metal sooner. I cut my sheet metal now with a heavy set of metal shears, but those are heavy and clumsy and can only really produce a few simple shapes. I want to be able to make intricate cut-out designs, to be unlimited in what shapes and designs I make. It's time to learn something new, as well. I still love to wire wrap, and to etch copper, but this will open new doors for me.

Hopefully I won't damage myself too much during the learning process. I have my doubts about that, though. I'm sure there will be at least a little bit of blood at some point. I'm sure it will be well worth it, as my previous injuries have been while I've learned new things.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Pumpkin Queen

Growing up as a home schooled and very accident prone child, there were certain experiences that I missed out on. Carving a jack-o-lantern for Halloween was one of those things.

Now, I had a very rich and varied education with a lot of activites thrown in for good measure. I went places, and did things, and got to try as many arts-and-crafts projects as I wanted.

Except for anything involving pointy objects. I'm the girl who nearly cut the pad of her fingertip off on a catfood can lid. I once cut a chunk out of my middle finger with a pair of safety scissors. Yeah, that's right. Safety scissors. The sort that you're not supposed to be able to cut yourself with. I still have a scar from those things.

Over the years my injuries have been many, and the majority of them have involved my wrists and hands (and my head, a few times, but only bad enough to need stitches one time).

So pumpkin carving was something that was simply not done. That, and my mother was simply not fond of Halloween, having come from a country where such a holiday was not observed. She would dutifully take my sister and me trick-or-treating every year, and would even make all of our costumes by hand, but we didn't really decorate the house for it. I got to grow pumpkins as a kid. I had a whole garden full of the things, ranging in size from tiny to massive. But I was never permitted to take a knife to any of my home-grown pumpkins. I completely understand and appreciate my mother's reasons for this. Would you give me a knife for the purpose of disembowling a pumpkin and carving faces in it? Probably not, as the likely result would be a trip to the hospital and a halloween jack-o-lantern that was covered with real blood. I instead made my jack-o-lanterns out of construction paper (using the aforementioned not-so-safety scissors).

So I made it to the ripe age of 29 without ever having carved a pumpkin. I love Halloween and all of its trappings, so I don't know why I never just went out and bought myself some pumpkins one year and had at them. Probably some ingrained "must not risk fingers" instinct that was keeping me from ever considering it. My husband, however, discovered that my experience was sadly lacking, and decided to remedy this fact.

Last night we sacrificed one of our wedding pumpkins (I'd purchased some to use for decorations, and later re-located them to our front porch after the wedding was over) for my first jack-o-lantern experience. I let Adam cut the top off, and then I scooped out all of the guts. I'd forgotten how raw pumpkin smells..not like the delicious scent of pie at all, but something rather less pleasant. I chose the most basic jack-o-lantern design: Two triangular eyes, a triangle nose, and a gap-toothed grin. Adam added a stitched frankenstein-esque scar to the side.

It's not the prettiest jack-o-lantern around..nor the scariest. It's rather simple looking, but last night when we put it out on the front porch and lit the candle inside, I was terribly proud of myself.

I also managed to get through the experience with all of my fingers intact, and my friend and I are going to have a pumpkin-carving extravaganza this weekend. She and her mother are actual award-winning pumpkin carvers, so I fear my pride will be seriously squished by the end of it, but that's OK. One day, perhaps, I too will be the Pumpkin Queen..but for now, I'll settle for just being the Pumpkin Peasant.