Monday, July 14, 2014

Stuff I Gotta Do: Yard Work Updates

It's been a busy few months over here in my little world, between work, throwing out my back a bunch of times, and working on the yard when my back isn't out.

As I've stated before, my yard is pretty huge by Vallejo standards.  It was completely overgrown with weeds, volunteer trees, more weeds, a 20'x15' blackberry bush, and other plant life.  This summer, I've made it my business, with the help of my family and friends, to get this nasty yard into shape.

But you wouldn't believe what kind of progress we are making back there!  It still looks rough, but we're pretty much stripping it down to its bare bones so that I can plant beautiful things next year, and invest in more attractive landscaping features.

The other thing to consider is the drought here in California.  I'm not watering the "lawn" (and by "lawn" I mean "patch of dirt and weeds"); only the vegetables and plants are getting water as needed.  The plants I've purchased so far are drought friendly, so mine isn't the most lush of gardens.

Anyway, here are some updates. Click on through for pictures.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New Favorites: Vol. 2 - for the Blondes

This week's new (to me) favorite things include:

The phrase "tawny blonde": It's not a new thing - in fact, that's what my hair color used to be called back in the day - blonde hair that is dark with a lot of gold and red in it (like a lion's mane).  I learned of this phrase from Aunt Peaches' post about Diana Vreeland, late editor of Vogue, whose fun, long-running Harper's Bazaar column "Why Don't You" suggested that tawny blondes "wear bright yellow pajamas with carved coral bracelets," to which I'd like to say, "I don't know why I don't, but I definitely should."  Also, can the term "dirty blonde" go away please? It's terrible.

The fact that there's a support group for tawny blondesUnfortunately, my membership has not yet been confirmed.

The disappearing blonde gene/blonde extinction hoax:  Also not a new thing, but I stumbled across it today and it's making me laugh.  What would a world without blondes be?

This video called "blonde woes":  Most of these were more true when I had SUPER blonde hair (from the bottle).  Most times I now get, "so, um, what do you call that hair color?" (see the support group link above)

By the way, 3+ months of co-washing, and my hair still looks pretty great!

Have an excellent weekend!

Elle Woods image credit

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Stuff I Gotta Do: Yard Work

If you're like me, you have a to-do list a mile long, whether it's a mental list or a written one.  Or both, as is the case with me.   For example, I've been meaning to get a pedicure for 6 months.  It's on my list, and my toes look terrible, but it's such a hassle I just keep putting it off.

Right now, my to-do list is yard-focused.  I've mentioned before that I have a really big back yard.  My little house is seated on .26 acres, which is pretty huge by Vallejo standards.  The size is great, but when I bought the house two years ago, it had long been neglected and overgrown.  Since I didn't grow up doing yard work (I have a brother, y'all), it was intimidating, so I didn't do anything with the yard the first year I lived there.  Last summer (my second summer in the house), I started doing a little here, a little there, but not much.  This year, however, I couldn't take it anymore.  I made it my goal to get 50% of that yard in shape by labor day.

And by "in shape," I mean not a total nightmare.  And by "not a total nightmare," I mean not covered in young trees with fist-sized spiders chilling in minivan-sized webs between them, and not covered in blackberry bushes, ivy, honeysuckle, and other invasive vining weeds that strangle plants.

So here's the "right now" list.  I crossed out the ones that have already been done.

  • Cut down all unnecessary trees (especially the oleander) to make room for seating areas and fruit bearing trees
  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Steal back the juniper stump from the neighbor
  • Clear and level the south side of the yard and plant ground cover
  • Cut back the blackberry bush that is roughly the size of two A-Team vans end-to-end
  • Install trellises for the existing climbing roses
  • Dig up the Lilies-of-the-Nile under the bedroom windows and plant roses and lavender and other pretty things
  • Clean up the flower beds that are in various locations throughout the yard
  • Pull down the old random fences that are in various locations throughout the yard and serve absolutely no purpose
  • Remove the corrugated plastic from the pergola and plant and train climbing flowers 

Some of these I've started doing, like clearing the yard.  I bought seeds for ground cover.  I have started cutting back the blackberry bush, but I've hardly put a dent in it.

On the other hand, the climbing roses are all falling over because the trees that were holding them up have been cut down.  So I need something to support them.

Speaking of the trees, my step-dad Ed and I, between his chainsaw and my tree loppers, have been cutting down trees like it's our job.   Check out this pile of trees.  It's about 3x that size now.

I bought a lawn mower, a leaf blower, a shovel, ax, gardening tools.  I feel so grown up.  But since I just learned how to mow a lawn, I also feel like a clueless child.

And! AND!! I planted a vegetable garden.  A keyhole garden, to be more accurate.  Have you heard of these things? They're amazing.  More on that later.

And then, of course, there's the saga of the stump.  It's really just a large section of the juniper tree that used to be in my front yard.  I had it cut down back in October, while I was at work.  My neighbor, who is a chauvinistic jerk who will only speak to my parents regarding my house (which they neither live in nor pay for, but will sometimes stop by to do yard work when I'm at work), took advantage of the situation and apparently asked the tree guy if he could have the section of the tree.  The "tree guy," who is actually a friend from church and is great, probably didn't think I'd mind.  I don't blame him.  I blame my presumptuous neighbor, who didn't ask me, took it anyway, and then let that piece of tree sit in his front yard untouched for six whole months.  Every time I pulled into driveway, I'd see it there, sitting, and got madder and madder.

So one day, Ed and I - joined by a neighbor who had nothing else going on and saw us struggling - loaded that thing up on a hand truck and put it in my back yard. Wouldn't you know it, the neighbor had the nerve to march into my backyard, to ask if we took it? Lucky for him, he only found my step-dad back there, or he'd have gotten an earful from me.  Lucky for me, Ed is 6'1" and was probably holding a chain saw at the time, so I got no trouble from the neighbor, who hasn't said a word to me since.

Suburban drama.  I could have my own reality show, but only my mom would watch it, and she's pretty much already there for all the good stuff anyway (hi momma!).

In the coming weeks, I'll be sharing my vision, my progress, and since it's me, the challenges I encounter/mistakes I make.  I hope you'll tune in!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Coastal Adventure - Part II: Solvang

As I mentioned last week, my friend C and I have been talking about taking a little trip to Solvang for a super long time now, and finally did it.

In case you aren't familiar, Solvang is a town in Santa Barbara County/Santa Ynez Valley that was founded by Danish settlers in the early 20th century.  It's pretty cute if you like wooden shoes and windmills and flowers and charming things.  If you don't, you're probably dead inside.  Just kidding.

I will say this much - there isn't a lot to do in Solvang besides check out cute little shops and eat pastries.  I wouldn't recommend going for more than a couple of days, but I found that two evenings and one solid day of roaming around was sufficient for adventuring, buying silly souvenirs, eating, walking, and taking photos.

We picked the perfect time to go.  The weather was gorgeous, but since it was a weekday, there weren't tons and tons of tourists to compete with.

Click through for more photos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Coastal Adventure - Part I, Hearst Castle

I've been busy, y'all.  The last month has been a whirlwind.  There was Easter to prepare for, seeds to plant, trees to cut down, and a little getaway to go on.

My friend C and I have been talking about going on a trip to Solvang for a few years now.  After rescheduling a couple of times, we finally made it happen.

The plan was, leave Easter afternoon, stay in San Simeon overnight, go to Hearst Castle, then head down to Solvang for a couple of days.  We mostly stuck to this plan, except that we left a few hours later than planned, decided to detour through Monterey for dinner, and accidentally wound up taking Highway 1 to San Simeon (thanks, GPS).  This meant that I was driving THISCLOSE to the edge of an ocean cliff for about three or so hours until 1 a.m.  Lots of prayer and loud music.

We arrived safely, thank God, and although the hotel staff was rather surly at 1 a.m. (who isn't, though?), our budget hotel room was really nice.  The next day dawned a pearly gray, and after a free waffle breakfast at the hotel, we hit Hearst Castle.

Click through for photos and all the Shan-ified narration.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New Favorites: Vol. 1

Remember when I used to do "Favorite Things Fridays"? I didn't either, but it wasn't that long ago that I did it.  They say the memory is the first thing to go...

Well, anyway, here is the new, revamped version of FTFs, which I'm calling "New Favorites Fridays" because who doesn't love NEW STUFF??

The thing is, I always have a "new favorite" something or other.  But I still have old favorites, like these and this.  It's possible to have old and new favorites all at once, right?  To paraphrase Rachel McAdams in that weird time travel movie (not this one, or this onethe other one; what is it with Ms. McAdams and movies about men who travel through time?), I'm going to go with YES.

New Favorite Place: Charming Charlie in Vacaville - although Vallejo Goodwill is a close second.  I've heard of this store, but until I went in, I had no idea what I was missing.  So much pretty, shiny jewelry. In so many colors. So organized. So inexpensive. It was a rainbow colored dream.  I scored this pretty necklace for only $13.

via (the picture looks really dark for some reason, but it's a pretty bright white)
New Favorite Food:  Chile Colorado.  I made this (with a few tweaks) for my stepdad and me last week when momma was in the hospital, and it was pretty spectacular with some shredded jack cheese, cilantro, sour cream, and brown rice (and not very hard to make).  Too bad I didn't take photos.  I was too busy eating it.

New Favorite Blog:  Aunt Peaches.  My friend and I were searching for a DIY project that I had mentioned, and stumbled across this blog.  As soon as I read the tag line ("Messy. Sparkly. More Fun than a Bag of Possums."), I knew I'd never wanted to read a blog so much in my life.  Her Chrysanthemum Chandelier tutorial (and discussion about Anne of Green Gables spelling the word) is great.


New Favorite Shoe:  These camel leather/black suede wedges from Sole Society.  They're so soft and feminine and comfortable.


New Favorite Cosmetic:  Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil eyeliner in Stash, a pretty olive green and gold shade that I wear almost every day.

I hope you enjoy my new favorite things - maybe one or two might end up being one of YOUR new favorites!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Co-Dependent, or, How I Kissed Shampoo Goodbye - Part II

If you missed yesterday's Tuesday's post and introduction, find it here.  Sorry about the delay.  My camera was having issues.  And also, I hate taking photos of myself.

This is the lowdown on how I switched to the co-wash method, washing my hair only with conditioner.

The morning after washing with conditioner, my hair looked pretty good.  It was smooth, soft, manageable, and had good volume.

However, the next two to three days were horrible.  My hair looked oily and frizzy and heavy all at once and I wanted to shave it all off use shampoo so bad.  SO BAD, you guys.  I resisted the urge, but it was hard.

Thankfully, after about a week, my hair went from super gross to normal to - shut the front door - looking great.  It was smooth, glossy, and had a lot of bounce and movement.
Then after two weeks, something weird and unpleasant happened.  My hair started to feel like straw and I could hardly get a brush through it.  All I could think was - great, I've ruined my hair and I'm going to have to cut it all off AGAIN.  It didn't make sense though; how could conditioner ruin my hair?  

So, I was determined that it could be fixed.  Maybe it was too dry? I slathered my hair in coconut oil for a few nights thinking that might do the trick? But it only got worse.

It was time to turn to the most powerful resource on earth: the internet.  I ran several searches until I got an answer.  Here's what I found:

1.  There are entire forums dedicated to curly/wavy hair, co-washing, no-poo, semi-no-poo, long hair, short hair; you name it. 
2.  Other people have had this problem with co-washing
3.  There are categories, according to, for curly/wavy hair types, based on curl pattern, porosity, density, width, and length.

It turns out that I have type 2a hair - "Type 2a is gently, slightly "s" waved hair that sticks close to the head; it won't bounce up, even when it is layered. 2a hair tends to be fine, thin and very easy to handle. It is also generally easily to straighten or curl. Type 2a hair tends to have quite a bit of sheen."  

Yup, that's me.  I also discovered that I have low porosity hair, which is sensitive to protein buildup. And THAT was the problem - the conditioner I was using has added proteins, and my hair was experiencing buildup! 
I went to Target and bought a clarifying shampoo, as recommended, a deep conditioner (sans proteins), and another washing conditioner that had no proteins - Suave Ocean Breeze (also cheap, HOLLA!).

I used the clarifying shampoo and the deep conditioner for a week, and then starting co-washing with the other Suave conditioner.  All was well again.

All told, I've been using the co-wash method for two months now, and I think I'm going to stick with it.  I have used the conditioner exclusively for a month, and it's never looked better.  It's smoother, the color is more vibrant, and it has a lot more volume.  I have been able to give up all the curl products I had been using and blowing my money on.

Here's a little comparison of my daily hair product usage:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Anti-frizz serum
  • Mousse
  • Hair spray
  • Curl activation spray
  • Smoothing balm
  • Conditioner
  • Mousse
  • Hair spray (sometimes)
That's quite a difference, no?  I also spend exponentially less money on hair products = WINNING.

 If my waves get out of control, I use a minuscule amount of coconut oil to smoothe them out. Also, I think I need to use the clarifying shampoo once a month to get rid of buildup; otherwise, it's all conditioner-all the time.
All that fuzz on top is new growth.
So what do you think?  Anyone else up for the challenge of breaking up with shampoo?

Please note: This is not a paid endorsement for Suave products or Target.
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