{April 12, 2013}   Crafting Cloisonne

If you’d told me a year ago that I could create a piece of cloisonne jewelry, I wouldn’t have believed you. You might just have well have told me I could make my own mattress or shoes. Crafting items like those requires specialized skills, tools, and materials that aren’t readily accessible to an average person.

Cloisonne, an enameling technique that’s been around since the 8th century, sounds like it demands precision, talent and expertise. Maybe that’s why my sister-in-law Lisa didn’t use the word and instead asked if I’d like to make enameled jewelry. Enameling sounds more approachable. So I agreed.

Our sister-in-law Kathy also joined us. These two talented women have been with me from the beginning of my year-long quest to try new things. Lisa is an art teacher and showed me how to make and glaze pottery. She also joined me for indoor rock-climbing, the Dirty Girl Mud Run and the Polar Plunge. Together, she, Kathy and I took a class on blowing hot glass and spent an evening painting with acrylics.

This time, Lisa walked Kathy and me through the process of making a cloisonne pendant. Broken down into steps, it was simpler than I could have imagined.

First, we each sanded a 1-1/2-inch copper disk and punched a hole in it to make it into a pendant.

Next, we used pencil to draw our designs on the disks.

Then we bent special silver wire to match the shapes of our designs. Each piece of wire must have a bend or fold to keep it from falling over in the kiln. The wires form the cells that hold different colors of enamel.

When we finished creating our design in wire, we brushed the copper disk with a gum solution to help hold the wires in place. We arranged the wires on our disks and sifted a thin layer of fusing flux over the pieces. Into the kiln they went for 3 minutes.

After they cooled, it was time to add color. We referred to an enamel chart to select our colors. Working with one color at a time, we mixed water into the colored, powdered glass to form a paste. We used flat toothpicks and paint brushes to fill the cells with the paste. We filled cells that did not touch with different colors before the pendants were fired in the kiln.

Once they cooled, we went back and added additional colors and filled in low spots before firing them again. I think we added colors and fired our pieces four or five times.

To finish the pendants, we lightly sanded the fronts to bring out the silver wires, popped them in the kiln a last time, and then spray-painted the backs. They turned out great! Mine lacks the glossy even layers of enameling that Lisa’s and Kathy’s possess. But I know that’s because I was not as precise or exacting when I filled the cells. (They both love intricate work like that—not me.)

Overall, it was a successful afternoon: I learned a new art form and now have a piece of brightly colored cloisonne jewelry to show for it.


{March 22, 2013}   Tasty Twists

I like to bake cakes, cupcakes, brownies and other treats, but shy away from homemade breads, rolls and other recipes that call for yeast. I don’t have the patience or confidence to bake with it.

Making soft pretzels from scratch has been on my list of new things to try since I started my 47 and fearless project. When the boys were off school one chilly day last week, we spent it in the kitchen learning to make yeast dough for pretzels.

I did some online research and chose Alton Brown’s recipe for Homemade Soft Pretzels from the Food Network website.

The boys measured the temperature of the water, waited for the yeast to foam and added the flour. “It looks like we’re making clay,” Dylan commented as small chunks of dough combined to form a ball in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

The dough looked a little dry, so we added a tablespoon of water and continued to let it knead. After a few minutes, we agreed the dough looked good and covered it to let it rise.

When we checked an hour later, the dough had not risen as much as I’d expected. Was there a problem with the yeast? Was the kitchen not warm enough? I don’t know. We forged ahead anyway.

I cut the dough into eight portions. We each rolled one into a long rope and twisted it into a traditional pretzel shape. The boys wanted to try other shapes, too, so Dylan formed a braid and Jamie made a ring and an elephant.

Now, it was time to give them a baking soda bath. I dropped each pretzel into a boiling mixture of water and baking soda for 30 seconds and placed them on parchment-line baking sheets. The boys brushed them with egg wash and sprinkled them with kosher salt.

I popped them in the oven for 6 minutes, turned the pans and switched racks after another 6 minutes, then baked them 2 more minutes until they were brown.

We could hardly wait to let them cool before tasting them. They were warm, dense and chewy. Dylan said they were as good as the frozen ones from a box (SuperPretzel). He meant it as a compliment. He dipped his first in honey-mustard, then in cinnamon-sugar, then in both. He finished every last bite.

Jamie covered his elephant pretzel with butter and cinnamon-sugar, but couldn’t eat the whole thing. I couldn’t finish mine either. They tasted good, but were too big and heavy for my tastes. I had hoped for a lighter texture.

The boys had fun and were happy with the results, so we’ll make them again. Next time, I’ll be sure the kitchen is warm enough to see if that helps the dough rise. I think we’ll divide the dough into more portions to make smaller pretzels or maybe even pretzel nuggets. And we’ll try them with cheese sauce, too.

Do you have any other suggestions for our next try? We’d love to hear from you.

{March 20, 2013}   Thrills and Chills

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like being cold, so I tend to shy away from outdoor winter activities. But this year, I’ve made an effort to warm up to them. I went kite-flying in January and did the Polar Plunge in February. A few weekends ago, our family went snow tubing with families from Dylan’s Cub Scout Pack at Sunburst Ski Area in West Bend, Wis. It was a blast!

The day was sunny but cold with temps in the low 20s when we arrived. After purchasing our tickets, we grabbed inner tubes from the supply at the base of the hill and joined the line for a ride on the “Magic Carpet,” a 540-foot conveyor belt that carries passengers and their tubes to the top of the hill.

We got in line with Dylan’s friend Liam and his family. While we waited, we watched skiers and snowboarders perform some impressive maneuvers on a nearby hill. The line moved quickly, so we were on the lift in a few minutes. The conveyor ride takes just a minute or two. Folks who don’t want to wait in line can simply walk up the hill alongside the conveyor, pulling their tubes behind them.

The main tubing area has 12 tubing chutes, each 900 feet long with a 10-story drop.  Dylan and Liam chose chutes next to each other so they could race each other down the hill. Not to be outdone, Liam’s mom, Marci, and I did the same. My tube spun as it picked up speed, so I had no control of the direction I was facing, sliding backward part of the time. Our race ended in a dead heat, but what an exhilarating ride! We couldn’t wait to do it again.

According to Sunburst’s website, snow tubers can reach speeds of more than 40 mph. I have no idea how fast we went, but with the frigid wind whipping in our faces, it felt mighty quick and mighty cold.

After a few times down the main runs, we moved to an area that has chutes that allow tubes or mini luges. Instead of a conveyor belt to move people up the hill, it has a tow rope with tubes fastened to it. To use it, a passenger must sit in a moving tube while holding on to the rope of a free tube. It takes some coordination to get in and out of the tube, but I managed to do it without incident, though not gracefully.

Unfortunately, Dylan was not so lucky and had trouble at the top of the hill. His boot got stuck in the tube when he tried to get out, and he lost a glove. The tow rope had to be stopped for a few minutes while his items were retrieved and returned to him. (A mishap like that is one reason I’m reluctant to down-hill ski; it’s unlikely I’ll be able to get on and off the ski lift without embarrassing myself.)

The incident didn’t deter him in the least. He and his friends first used tubes to slide down the chutes, then tried the mini luges. Those little contraptions looked much harder to control, and riders rarely seemed to complete a run without falling. Jamie, in particular, had a spectacular crash halfway down. But he popped right up and got in line to go again.

Despite being bundled up, Jamie had enough of the cold weather a short time later. Since my fingers and toes had been frozen for awhile, I was happy to head to the Tubing Cafe with him to warm up with some hot chocolate while Doug and Dylan continued tubing. They joined us half an hour later, tired and red-cheeked from the frosty fun.

The boys say they’d love to go back. I would, too. But maybe not until next winter.

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

My friend Jen, who has two children close in age to mine, and I were enjoying a coffee date in December when the conversation turned to new things we could do together. (Learn more about my project to try 47 new things in a year here.)

Jen and I ran the Dirty Girl Mud Run together in August, and she has agreed to do a polar plunge with me next month. On her own, she has gone skydiving, dove off a cliff into a river and tried a lot of other things that make her much more adventurous than I am.

She asked, “Have you ever been arrested?”

“What? No!” I replied.

“Me neither,” she said with disappointment in her voice. I don’t recall the exact wording, but she continued on to say something like, “I wonder what minor offense we can do to get arrested? We should get mug shots.” Umm, did I mention she has a wild streak?

Thankfully, the conversation moved on…to tattoos and piercings. I have one tattoo and a few ear piercings. She has more of each and was looking to increase that number. Did I want to join her?

My first thought was piercing my eyebrow, because I like that look. But I worried I’d catch the ring on everything. With a little encouragement from Jen, I decide on piercing my nose.

Several weeks later, Jen and I headed to Starship Tattoo in Milwaukee, where Steve was the trained and certified body piercer on staff.

For me, the process was easy. Steve discussed the procedure and proper after-care, wore gloves, used antiseptic to clean the area and used sealed packaged tools and jewelry–all good practices for a person who’s putting holes in your body. Inserting the teeny-tiny gemstone stud into my nose was a piece of cake. It took seconds and was nearly painless.

julie pierce

Jen got an orbital—a ring threaded through two holes in her ear. It took a bit longer, and from her reaction, it hurt a helluva lot. But she was happy with the outcome, which I think looks really cool.

jen with orbital

The most fun part of this experience? Buying “non-piercing” rings while we were there. The package, with an old Halloween Express $3.99 price tag still on it, read: “Be Cool * Have Fun * Impress Your Friends”.

fake rings

Gosh, who doesn’t want to do that? How could I resist?

When I returned home, I posted this photo on Facebook with the caption: “Yikes! What did Jen talk me into?”


But my Facebook friends were too savvy to fall for that.

My children were not. So a little later, when the boys came home from school, this is how I greeted them.

for boys

The 5-year-old asked, “What are those? Why are you wearing them? You look weird.”

Following a few steps behind, the 8-year-old took one look and said, “Wow. I like it!” He was disappointed when I took them off and showed him they weren’t real. He wanted to try one on until he realized, “Oh, Mom! You had one of these in your nose. Yuk!”

Before Doug came home from work, I put a ring back on my lower lip. When he walked in the door, I continued making dinner as I greeted him and asked him about his day. He glared at me and didn’t say a word. I said, “Well, Jen and I might have gotten a little carried away.”

He replied, “Yeah, carried away…” as he shot me a dark look. He was not happy. When I took the lip ring off, his mood brightened considerably and he said, “I was wondering if it was fake.” Hmm… The glare he first gave me told me otherwise. He doesn’t get the appeal of piercing my nose, but he has accepted it.


It’s been a few days, and I forget I have the piercing most of the time. And should I decide I don’t like it in the first few months, I can remove the stud and the hole should close up quickly. But if I decide I do like it, that might mean more piercings in the future. I know Jen is ready for more. But I don’t think my husband is.

What fun, silly or adventurous things have you done recently?

It’s exactly three months until my birthday and the deadline for my 47 and fearless project. (What? It’s not marked on your calendar? You’re not counting down the days? Inconceivable!)

If you’ve noticed my lack of blog posts in the past two months, you’d guess I’m way behind schedule.

Though I am, it’s not as bad as it looks. I’ve been trying new things; I just haven’t been making the time to write about them. I hope to do that soon or at least post some photos.

My plan is to blog about my most recent experiences first and then catch up on the older ones when I can.

Here are a few things you can expect to learn about:

–Flying kites in frigid weather at the Cool Fool Kite Festival on Milwaukee’s Lakefront

–Making five pairs of awesome earrings at a beading class with my mom

–Being hypnotized to break a bad habit

–Designing a Cub Scout float for a local Christmas parade

That said, I still need to kick into high gear if I’m going to complete this project on time. On tap are two winter activities that will be firsts for me (if I go through with them) and take me way outside my comfort zone: a polar plunge and downhill skiing.

If you have ideas for other new things I can try in the first three months of 2013, please share them.

In the meantime:

new year

Happy New Year!

{August 16, 2012}   Taking a Chance on Belly Dance

Have you ever clicked with a person when you first met and felt like you had known him or her for years? Or tried a sport or activity that came so naturally that you felt you were born to do it?

My first experience with belly dancing was…nothing like that. In fact, quite the opposite.

Most (all?) types of dance require qualities I don’t possess, such as flexibility, rhythm, balance, coordination…must I go on? In fact, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding activities that call for those skills.

So taking a belly dance class is way outside my comfort zone. Fortunately for me, I had a fun partner in my crime against dance. My friend Tammy Kolbe agreed to take the class with me through a local Park & Rec department. It was just an hour a week for six weeks…how hard could it be?

I knew it was going to be a challenge during the first class when our instructor, Suzy Swearingen of Spirit Filled Dancer, demonstrated the proper posture. Feet together, knees slightly bent, pelvis tucked, shoulders back, head lifted…

Wait up! You lost me at “tucked!”

By the time I was properly positioned, I could barely think about moving. And then Suzy went on to demonstrate pelvic circles, hip slides and snake arms among other movements. What had I gotten myself into?

Suzy cheered on all of her students, who ranged in age from teens to sixties. She kept us going with her positive comments and helpful guidance. It’s a good thing I have the ability to laugh at myself, or I wouldn’t have returned.

At the end of the second class, Tammy and I were sweating from the workout. Tammy is musically inclined and graceful to boot, so she’s a natural at dancing despite having back problems.

By the time the sixth class arrived, we had been taught shimmies, arm undulations, hip lifts, belly pops (don’t ask), and much more. I could follow some of the steps…sort of.

As if trying belly dance was not enough outside my comfort zone, I’m really pushing myself by including this unedited video of a follow-along dance we performed at our last class. A perfectionist at heart, I’m uncomfortable showing it (I just watched it a second time…change that to really embarrassed) because it’s proof that I’m not very good at belly dancing, or apparently, following along.

But I am good at following through, so I’m happy to add this to my Countdown to 47 List. And as a bonus, I have two cool coin scarves to show for my efforts. Maybe I’ll sign up for another belly dance class after all.


{August 6, 2012}   Learn a New “F” Word

frolf [frawlf] frolfed, frolf·ing

1. Verb: To vomit due to ingestion of grande amounts of fromage; French slang

2. Noun: A holistic manipulation of the frenulum (membrane connecting the inside of the lip to the gum) to relieve chronic musculoskeletal pain and stress; orig. Ida Pauline Rolf (1896–1979)

3. Noun: A sport in which plastic discs (Frisbees) are thrown into baskets, usually 9 or 18 in succession, situated at various distances over a course having natural or artificial obstacles, the object being to get the disc into each basket in as few throws as possible

When my friend Angela learned about my 47 and fearless project, she asked, “Have you ever been frolfing?”

I believe my response was something like, “What the heck is frolfing? Oh, it doesn’t matter. I’ll go.”

Unlike the first two definitions listed above, the third is not a product of my imagination. Frolf is Frisbee golf, or disc golf, as the Professional Disc Golf Association prefers to call it.

My boys and I recently met Angela at Miniwaukan Park in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, for our first frolf outing.

There are many cool things about disc golf. Among them: It’s fun. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes me, too. But I digress…

There are many nuances to frolf, but for a beginner, it’s simple: Aim the Frisbee at the “Pole Hole” (elevated metal basket) and throw it. That’s it.

Yes, it’s helpful to perfect your grip, vary your footwork (run-up) to maximize distance, use different throw styles (Tomahawk), learn the lingo, etc. But those things are not necessary to have a good time.

Angela is a fabulous coach and helped us navigate the course while she offered suggestions in a low-pressure way.

We didn’t keep score as we progressed through the nine holes, and we completed them in little over an hour. Jamie, 5, had fun until he tired around the 7th hole. Dylan, 8, said the outing was “awesome!” And I thought it was a beautiful morning spent outside with great company. We got some exercise, had fun and didn’t break the bank. (We bought two discs ahead of time at $9 each; there is no fee at most disc golf courses.)

Added bonus: I didn’t need to eat a lot of cheese (though as a Wisconsinite, that is an activity I enjoy.)

Have you ever been frolfing? Or do you have suggestions for other activities I should try? Let me know!

After my last blog about walking the plank on a pirate ship, my mom commented that I “sure do have a knack for finding great things to do.”

I’m not sure that I have a knack for it, but I do think my 47 and fearless project has reignited my natural curiosity, which has opened me up to new experiences and new people.

After my first belly dancing class last week (definitely one of my 47 new things; I will be writing about it in a future blog), I asked a fellow student where to buy a coin scarf that belly dancers wear. She mentioned the scarves are often for sale at area ethnic festivals as well as the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where she works.

Then she went on to give a plug for the faire, adding that a baby dragon from the live stage show of “How to Train Your Dragon” was going to appear the coming weekend.

Because Dylan is such a dragon lover, I knew we had to attend. We bought tickets for the Bristol Renaissance Faire and were thrilled to catch a glimpse of the baby dragon Nadder (click on the link below to see our video).


We also watched jugglers, acrobats and entertainers of all sorts. The boys couldn’t wait to brandish the new wooden swords and shields they picked out while solving riddles to track down an evil villain during a Kids Quest adventure.

As we watched a glass-blowing demonstration at the faire, I thought I recognized the man acting as the “apprentice” in the demo. I was sure I had seen him at my glass-blowing lesson—#5 on my 47 and fearless list—earlier this year. After the demonstration, I asked him about it and learned he was indeed at the hot glass studio that day.

Now dressed in period costume for the Renaissance Faire, the apprentice (Bob) had a 6-foot whip hanging from his belt. Dylan, who also is a fan of Indiana Jones, wanted to know why he had a whip when most other costumed performers carried swords or other weapons. Bob gave a thorough historical explanation of how a whip could reach an enemy before the enemy’s sword could reach him. Then he went on to say that the whip was made by his good friend Adam Winrich, also known as Adam Crack.

Adam, too, is a performer at the Bristol Renaissance Faire and holds nine Guinness World Records for his skills with a whip. Bob’s suggestion led us to see Adam’s show and his amazing performance cracking fire whips (click on the link below to see our video.)


Conversations like the one we had with Bob—that offer a bit of history or introduce a new art or activity—can pique curiosity and make any event more interesting.

Now the question is: Should learning to crack a whip be one of my 47 new things? What do you think? I can see it coming in handy…when our boys need to clean their rooms…or…

{July 8, 2012}   Oh, the Places You’ll Go!


“You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.”
~ Dr. Seuss

I’m 3 months into my 47 and Fearless project, and if I stopped right now, I’d be happy with the results. I accomplished one of my goals—to encourage my sons, Dylan and Jamie, to embrace something new, even if it’s scary.

Recently, the boys and I made our first attempt at indoor rock climbing at Adventure Rock. Dylan, 8, initially said he didn’t want to go.  He’s cautious in general, so I really had to talk up the experience. But Moms can only do so much. The fact that his Auntie Lisa and cool, 16-year-old cousin Mac were joining us for the afternoon sealed the deal.

Adventure Rock’s Clip ’N Go Program makes it easy for beginners of any age to start climbing. After a short orientation that explains how to use the hydraulic auto belay system, climbers are fitted with harnesses and encouraged to try the many climbing stations on their own.

To use the auto belay, you remove the clip from its anchor on the wall, clip it to the loop on your harness, check that the clip locks and then start scaling the wall. The clip is attached to a cable that runs to the top of the wall and over. As you climb, the system automatically keeps tension on the cable so if you lose your grip, you won’t fall.

The best tip the staff member gave during orientation was to climb a few feet, then grab the cable to slowly descend. This gets you comfortable with the feel of coming down before you’re at the top of a 20-foot wall, looking down and feeling nervous.

Mac had visited Adventure Rock before, so he was a great guide for all of us. He helped both boys feel secure on their first climbs. Like me, Lisa was new to the sport, but eager to learn. We preferred to start out at stations that had convenient hand and footholds.  Once we got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun—and a lot of work! It didn’t take long to break a sweat, and I was out of breath after a few climbs. (The next day, the muscles in my arms, shoulders and back reminded me that I’m not in the best of shape.)

We worked our way up to the tallest walls, which top 35 feet. Rappelling down was the best part!

Jamie, who is 5, liked to climb up a few feet, then hang from the wall for a bit before climbing back down.

It was watching Dylan grow in confidence as he climbed higher and higher that truly made my day. He scaled even the tallest walls, and when the rest of us were tired, he was eager to continue. As his mom, I couldn’t be more proud of the places he’s going.

I will remind the boys, whether they are climbing rock walls or embracing other challenges, that Dr. Seuss is right:

“On and on you will hike and I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems whatever they are.
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

{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