{March 12, 2013}   Easy Fix Is Not So Easy

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest DIYer of them all? Not me. But there were a few moments when I thought I was in the running.

When we bought our house about 10 years ago, we completely redid the bathrooms. We put a basic mirror in the half-bath, and it was just fine for several years. But recently, some of the backing along the edges had started to deteriorate, leaving dark areas where the silvering is missing.

I shopped for a new mirror, but didn’t find anything the correct size that I really liked. I recalled a do-it-yourself project for bordering a mirror with tiles. I thought it would be an easy way to disguise the deterioration, and I could add “reclaim a damaged mirror” to my list of new things to try this year.

A quick internet search led me to several DIY blogs with similar tile projects.  One of the bloggers noted she used a glue gun to attach glass tiles to her mirror. I had a glue gun; I was half-way there.

I picked up two packages of glass tiles—some square, some rectangular—at Michael’s for about $7. That night, we removed the mirror from the wall and placed it on the kitchen island. Then I arranged the tiles around the edge of the mirror until I had a pattern I liked. It took maybe 30 minutes.

The next morning, I warmed up the glue gun and started attaching the tiles. It was easy, and I only burned myself once. The tiles felt welded on; I couldn’t even budge one when it looked a bit crooked.

I didn’t glue the tiles that would cover the clips that attach the mirror to the wall. When my husband came home from work, he ground away part of the back of those tiles so they would sit flush with the rest of the tiles when glued over the clips.

With those tiles in place, we put the “reclaimed” mirror back in place. I was pretty impressed with the results. I love the color the tiles add, and I have to look closely to notice the dark shadow barely visible through the tiles where the silvering is missing. My quick fix cost less than $10 and took less than 2 hours total. Success!

But my pleasure was short-lived. The next day,  I heard a clatter. A tile had popped off the mirror and landed in the sink. It was followed by a few more. At end of the week, I got out the glue gun and reattached a small collection of fallen tiles.

The blogger who had attached her tiles with a glue gun reported that her tiles were still in place a year later. I was not so lucky. As the days passed, I heard more clattering in the sink and had more tiles to reattach.

This time, I glued them with Loctite Go2 Glue, which is water resistant and dries clear. It doesn’t dry immediately, so I used painters’ masking tape to hold each tile in place while the glue dried. That seemed to work fine.

Here and there, the tiles I had originally attached with hot glue continued to fall off. I was getting tired of replacing them one by one, so I went through and wiggled every tile, removing any that seemed the least bit loose. I used Go2 Glue to attach a large number of tiles, then taped them in place to dry.

Despite the tape, some of the tiles slid out of place, so the border is not even. Plus, extra glue pooled on the tape at the bottom edge of some tiles, leaving a residue that I couldn’t remove by scraping or rubbing with a cloth soaked with nail polish remover.

In hindsight, it would’ve been better to remove the mirror from the wall and attach the tiles while the mirror was flat. I’ll know better next time.

Although my easy fix didn’t end up being so easy, I’m happy with the colorful, if imperfect, results. And I believe there may be more DIY projects in my future.


{January 11, 2013}   Something Sparkly? Sign Me Up!

As a young girl, I was fascinated with all things sparkly, jewelry in particular. I haven’t changed much in that respect. So my mom knew I couldn’t resist when she invited me to join her for a jewelry making class at Midwest Beads in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

This class, Earrings Galore, was taught by Alice Lauber, the store’s owner. Of the eight women in our session, I was the only newbie. Most had taken several previous classes and had a better idea of what they were doing. I didn’t know a headpin from a bobby pin.

If you don’t know either, a headpin is pretty much what it sounds like: a pin with a small, flat head on it. Beads are threaded on the headpin and the head keeps them from falling off. The end without the head is cut and bent to form a loop, which can be attached to an ear wire or earring post.

Headpins are considered “findings,” the collective term that describes the metal parts used to make jewelry. Other examples of findings are eye pins, jump rings, links, spacers, clasps, bead caps, bead frames, ear wires and earring posts.

Tools at each of our work areas included: round-nose pliers for forming loops, chain-nose pliers for bending wire and closing jump rings, wire cutters for cutting headpins and wire, and crimpers for closing clasps.

The beads and findings for each pair of earrings were ready in individual plastic bags. Pair by pair, Alice skillfully demonstrated each step of assembling the earrings, offering one-on-one guidance to those who needed it (mostly me.)

She moved quickly, so we could complete five pairs in two hours. There were no pauses for me to catch up or take many photos while we worked. Along the way, Alice introduced new items available at her store, showed different ways to use some the findings we had in hand, and offered variations on the earring designs. It was a great blend of jewelry making basics and creative inspiration. (Our class was one of many paid classes the store offers, but there also are free beginner classes that include materials.)

The most impressive part of my experience occurred after the class. I wanted earrings to go with a dress I planned to wear to my husband’s Christmas party. When I mentioned it to Alice, she took a look at the purple velvet dress I’d brought along and said, “Follow me.”

We walked to one of the store’s many tables of beads and she pointed out different ones until I chose a few I loved. She asked a question or two, suggested cool matte silver findings, added extra beads where I asked and put together a modern-looking drop earring in about three minutes. She asked if I wanted to make the matching one. With the new, but rudimentary, skills I’d acquired in class, I surely could do it. But it would be time-consuming. Alice, on the other hand, had the second earring complete in less than two minutes, and I had a custom jewelry to match my dress for about $8. Amazing!

My mom and I spent another half hour browsing the huge inventory at Midwest Beads, and I imagine it would be easy to lose a whole day there. There is so much to drool over: millions of beads made of all types of materials in styles from old-fashioned to modern to classic, plus crystals, cabochons, kits and completed jewelry for inspiration. While I lingered over displays of gorgeous fused glass beads, my mom found the items she needed to create earrings to match a necklace her mother handed down to her.

I left with five pretty pairs of earrings I’d made myself, cool earrings for the party, and the enthusiasm to try my hand at a few more pairs when I got home. It was a fun learning experience and a great way to share my love of all things sparkly with Mom!

Want to know more about my 47 and fearless project? Read my first post.

{May 30, 2012}   50 Shades of Gray

If one person’s trash is another’s treasure, is one person’s boring to-do list another person’s bucket list? Is a ho-hum part of one woman’s routine a huge leap outside another woman’s comfort zone? The short answer is yes. Everyone is different. What you find scary—say scaling heights or squishing a spider–I might do without batting an eye.

So I understand you might not relate when I tell you what I find downright frightening: coloring my own hair. First, if you’re shocked to learn my hair is not naturally this color, take a moment to process the fact, then read on. Second, if the headline led you to believe I was inspired by the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey to share my first BDSM experience, let me assure you I’m not. Yet anyway…LOL.

I discovered my first gray hair when I was 26. When the grays became more noticeable, I went straight to the professionals. I wouldn’t trust anyone—especially myself—with covering the gray while keeping my color looking natural. In my opinion, salon hair color is worth the price. More than a few times, friends who took the matter into their own hands reinforced this belief.

Fast forward to this week. My professionally colored and highlighted hair has grown out, so my grays are showing and my dark roots need a touch-up. My regular appointment falls on a day next week when I’ll be in New York City.  (It’s my first visit to the Big Apple—yay for me!) My stylist, Kelly at Signature Salon & Spa, is in Hawaii this week getting married (yay for her!) So I’m in bit of a hairy situation. Do I trust my tresses to a different colorist before my big trip? Or do I color my curls with an over-the-counter product to hold me over until I can see Kelly in a few weeks?

I do a little online research about refreshing your roots at-home. Revlon has Root Erase. L’Oréal has Root Rescue. Clairol has Root Touch-Up by Nice ’N Easy. Obviously, women do this all the time. How hard can it be?

Clairol’s version promises easy application! Permanent color that blends seamlessly! Works in 10 minutes! I decide on this product but struggle to select a shade. There are 18 to choose from and they all look similar. My natural color—medium mousy brown—is mostly covered with a lighter brown, plus I have blonde highlights. (The camera’s flash makes my hair look red in the photos. It’s not.)

Will “light ash brown” be too dark? Will “dark blond” be too light? Ugh. I wing it and pick “light golden brown.”

I want to do this before I lose my nerve. I open the box and read the directions. Does anyone read much less heed the warnings that accompany these products? Let me paraphrase a few. (The SHOUTY CAPS are my emphasis.)

· DO NOT USE this product until you have completed an ALLERGY test. Apply the enclosed noxious CHEMICALS to the tender skin at the inside of your elbow and refrain from washing the area for 48 HOURS to determine any ADVERSE EFFECTS.

· Perform a “strand” test before coloring your hair. HACK OFF a chunk of hair from a place it won’t be missed (WHAT? WHERE?) then apply the CHEMICALS to these strands to determine the length of time your color needs to process. DO NOT SKIP this step.

· PERMANENT hair color can STAIN or DAMAGE skin, clothing, towels, bathroom surfaces and small children in the area. DO NOT WEAR clothes you care about and be sure to wear the HUGE plastic gloves (enclosed) that will hamper your ability to hold the PRECISION ANGLED BRUSH as you apply the CHEMICALS.

· NOTE: If your hair is highlighted, immediately STEP AWAY from the product and CALL our experts toll-free at 1-800-GUD-LUCK for advice before continuing.

OK, maybe I exaggerate a little. But do you see how this process is fraught with peril? (I love that phrase.) What if my hair turns orange? What if it’s irreparably damaged or simply falls out? What if it looks like (insert friend’s name here)’s hair when she did her own color? What ever happened to “nice ’n easy?”

I had set aside a half-hour to do this. I am not performing an allergy test and waiting 2 days. I am not lopping off my locks for a strand test. It’s now or never.

I add the activating lotion to the tray and squeeze in the tube of color. I stir them together. Oh, no. The mixture looks orange. I refuse to give into fear. I use the brush to awkwardly apply color to the roots along my part. I divide hair in sections, brushing the mixture on to the root areas without precision. I check the clock—the color should process for at least 10 minutes.

At 6 minutes, I start to panic. I envision stripes at the roots. I start combing the chemicals through my hair, hoping it will help blend the new color into my highlights.

At 8 minutes, I freak. What have I done? I run to the sink to rinse out the color. I rinse my hair again and a third time for good measure. I wrap my hair in an old towel.

It’s time for the moment of truth. Did I pick the wrong shade? Did I leave the color on too long?

I comb out my hair and breathe a sigh of relief—no stripes. In fact, once my hair is dried, the color blends nicely with my highlights, and most of the gray is covered. Had I waited a few more minutes, the gray would be completely gone. Whew.

Has my first experience with home hair color turned me into a DIY beauty maven? Not on your life. My next color appointment is scheduled. I relish the two hours of “me-time” at the salon, relaxing with a glass of wine and catching up with Kelly. But it’s nice to know I can do this in a pinch. (For the record, I use that word much differently than it’s used in that aforementioned best-seller.)

Want to learn more about my 47 and fearless project? Read my first post.

et cetera