Saturday, February 8, 2020

Thoughts on Islands and Belonging

I recently returned from visiting my husband's parents on the island in the Hebrides where they live. My life is really tough, I know. It was a beautiful trip book-ended with a few days in each of the Scottish main central belt cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
I love both cities and we were relatively busy, seeing friends, family, and doing some sight-seeing. We generally spent long days walking around and nights either dancing at a ceilidh or having some drinks out. That kind of activity led to me passing out immediately when I got in the bed, jet lag notwithstanding.
But then we took a car to the train to a bus to the ferry to a car to his parents' house and I couldn't sleep; I felt really tired and almost drugged. I guess jet lag caught up with me, or the change to quiet and slow days unsettled me, but I had some midnight thoughts about what was going on there.
His parents retired to this island - they spend most of their working lives, and my husband's childhood, in Edinburgh and it's suburbs. This island has maybe a couple thousand year-round residents but also many tourists and part-year residents. They come to the Scottish islands mostly for whiskey but there are many retirees from around the UK. I asked around and there were maybe one or two American residents. My husband's parents have been there for probably about a decade and have many relationships and community ties on the island; it helps that his mom is very outgoing. However, to me, there's a strange sense of striving for authenticity and belonging, in a place that reeks of history and traditional industry (literally you can smell whiskey all over) but is also only fully populated because of people who moved there because they admired it. Maybe there's a part of me that believes you aren't fully and authentically from a place if you don't kind of hate it and want to leave, even if just to find a better job or something. Maybe I'm just from a boring place.
My paternal grandparents also lived on an island. Theirs was a barrier island between the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay, a little spit of a sand with houses on stilt. Again, there were whole parts of the island that were almost exclusively holiday homes and a small group of year-round residents. For many years my grandparents were part-time residents - my poppa commuted off island for work, and eventually they built another small house inland where they lived during about half the week. It was my grandma who wanted to live on an island. I recently found out that she grew up on the water in Florida and she was the kind of woman who got what she wanted. She told me once that we have salt water in our veins. They were also very involved in the community, going to church, friends with other fisher-people, participating in local clubs.
I think the sense of unease is that on islands there are usually few jobs, and the jobs that exist tend to be rather working-class - shrimp boats, hospitality, whiskey warehouse, farmer. Islands, like any rural area, tend to lose population to the mainland, they always have trouble hanging on to young working-age people and families. The schools are adorably minuscule. Perhaps this is changing when now many of us can work from home as long as we have good wifi? Regardless, it's strange to be in a place where many of the homes are full of people who couldn't ever have made a living there, and many of them made a really good living elsewhere and are now enjoying the lifestyle that made possible. I have a sense that some of the islanders might resent this - especially when I see many abandoned homes and farms. However, I think many of them don't mind because the money of the newcomers is being spent largely in their local economy and in their businesses. It just seems ironic - you grow up in this beautiful remote place, you have very limited job prospects if you want to stay there, and it's now full of people who have money who weren't there when you were small. If there was a class-based resentment, I wasn't close enough to sense it.
I'm definitely showing a bias here which is that "real life" is the life of working-age people. Of course the lives and economies of older folks are just as valid - but in order for an island society and economy to function, you need jobs.
I'm from a small but less idyllic place, which I left not because there were no jobs but because it didn't hold the excitement, and yes, educational and vocational possibilities, of a big city. If you want to be a lawyer or professor, you probably can't stay in your island home.
And it isn't that to be a true resident you should show a jaded disdain for your home. You can't really pretend to be a life-long generations-old resident of a small place like an island as a transplant, but you can make it your home if you want. Maybe I felt unsettled by this simply because I haven't made that choice yet - to move to a small but beautiful place that might be a new home for me.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Spare Room Floors Reveal

If you'll remember, in my last post I shared a bunch of phone pictures of the process of tearing up the terrible stained carpet in our spare room, and the horrible vinyl tile underneath that, revealing the original wood floors! It was a long process, made longer by the discovery of asbestos in the tile, and the fact that we decided to repair and repaint the plaster walls at the same time. The picture below shows the plaster wall, looks like before paint. You can see how it is somewhat uneven, that is classic plaster. We ended up hiring a guy that painted our friends' house to fix the many cracks, mostly he just mudded over them but some of them he repaired with a mesh. He missed a crack or two in the kitchen but other than that did a great job. The cracks may come back over time but he sort of assured us they are not the sign of a major structural problem. In fact, I read that a lot of old houses get them because of repeated jostling due to big trucks and trains nearby, which of course didn't exist when they were built. They can also be caused by minor settling of the house in the foundation over time. None of the plaster was falling out or falling away from it's slats (inside the wall) so it was in pretty good shape. One thing I hate the most is on renovation TV shows when they knock down plaster walls and replace them with drywall. Plaster gives such a lovely character to your interiors, it is MUCH more substantial, and it can be repaired and patched in almost all cases!
Ok, back down to the floors! I thought about hiring an electric sander from Home Depot and doing this myself, but after reading some advice online and consulting with my most DIY-handy relatives over the phone, I decided to hire some floor pros. They were amazing! My husband and I both worked from home the morning they came over, and mostly tried to stay out of their way (on the back porch) but I snuck in and got these photos of the sanded-down floors. It was a magical moment to see them look so clean and perfect, after all the agony of the tile and all the researching and hoping they would look ok! As you can see, the planks are similar in width to the flooring in the rest of the house, which I was NOT expecting. Most of my reading suggested they may be a wide plank sub-floor, but we got lucky. The existing wood floors are probably 3/4" higher than these floors, making me think they are actually laid on top of similar floors. However they are in really good shape so, if it ain't broke...

The threshold between the kitchen and spare room is that weirdly wide and taupe-colored trim piece. I hate it, but I'll maybe just paint it. That used to be the color of all the trim in the kitchen, can you even?! I can't even.

In the photo with my foot you can see how the planks are a bit loose and less than perfect in that one corner but the flooring guy was totally blasé about it when I fretted about "will moisture drip through?" You can also see the radiator holes more clearly. Those were very interesting to note as I had thought the house was originally heated by wood-burning stove, according to my research of what was common in the era for a working-class home. However it's still possible that radiators were a later addition and then, sadly, taken out when the central heating and air was installed. I personally love radiators. They tend to be warmer, you can get near them if you are cold, they have a nice vintage look, and they don't blow on you or dry out the air as much. However, my husband has lived in a place with cold radiators, radiators that make a ton of noise, so he has the opposite opinion. My old apartment had radiators I couldn't control that made the apartment super outrageously hot, which I LOVED but also made me lethargic. It is a bit stupid to be opening the windows in the winter because your radiator is either cold or hell-fire.

One final observation is the closet floors which you can see in the bottom right picture below. As you can see the plank width changes at the front of the closet, and then at the very back it changes width and direction again. The front part is very likely wider-plank pine and then it turns to thinner pine (I think) with wide gaps. This is always going to be hidden behind piles of stuff, but I think it's interesting! When I was painting the closet and installing shelves, I noticed that the walls are also different from the rest of the room. For these reasons I think the closet was a later addition which explains why the trim around the door is awkwardly cut off. This room is at the very back-right corner of the apartment and behind it is an enclosed but unheated stairwell down the the basement and up to the upstairs neighbor's back door. The closet is squeezed in the narrow space at the end of the stair landing, which explains why it is always so cold.

When I first saw the tile, I had a theory that maybe this room had once been the kitchen. I mean, why else would you use kitchen-looking vinyl tile? Also, pre-open-concept-everything, a separate kitchen would make sense in a back room. However, the tile and floor underneath were totally unbroken, no holes for stove or other appliances, no indication there had been anything like cabinets sitting on top of it. It is a mystery, but so are many things in this house.

Anyway during all of this I was hemming and hawing, looking online, and calling my uncle and dad and grandpa to decide what kind of finish to use. Despite basically everyone's advice, I decided on a penetrating wood stain, which sounds dirty, but is more-or-less all natural, zero VOC chemical off-gassing odor, can come in a very low-sheen finish, doesn't change the color too much, and has easy maintenance. I didn't want to do a poly because I didn't want a layer of plastic on my beautiful old floors, and if you scratch the surface you have to sand it all off and redo it, but with this finish you can just re-oil that area! There's a very popular finish in Chicago area called the Swedish finish which is hard as a rock but also extremely toxic. This finish was particularly annoying because you need to do at least 3 coats 24 hours apart, and then let it all sit and dry and cure for 7 days before moving any furniture back on to it. Anyway, my floor guys hadn't used this finish before but they were game for it and LOOK HOW IT TURNED OUT!!

Although I didn't know what I was going to get under the carpet and tile, so I wasn't dead-set on a certain look, this was exactly what I wanted! It's very similar to the floors in the other rooms, in terms of plank width and the warmth and tone of the color. I love how it shows the natural variation in the planks and grain in the wood, and how it has such a nice, rustic, down-to-earth low sheen. I feel like the floors can breathe, and the wood is very close to its natural sanded texture so it feels great to the touch. I love the look of very pale, Scandinavian floors, and stains have their uses, but for this small apartment I felt it was best to try to keep things harmonious. I mean, they are just floors, but they give me such a good feeling when I see them and touch them, like they were meant to be here. I think this is probably because of all the work and decision-making that went into them, but also how their natural simplicity fits with this simple little apartment. 

Oh, and we also painted the walls very light pink and the trim glossy white! It had a bit of a baby girl's room vibe at first, but once all my wood furniture and mostly dark-colored stuff got in there, the pink kind of recedes. I chose pink because it's flattering and this is my dressing room. Also the room gets only late afternoon light, and in the winter it's dark all the time, so I wanted to warm it up a bit. Small all-white rooms can get kinda dim and depressing if they don't get a lot of light. Besides, I like pink so this kind of a room is a good excuse to use it. Actually, 3 of our 6 rooms are pink! There's only 6 if you count the tiny entry hall, but the bedroom and bathroom are different very light and subtle pinks. They do not read as pink and my husband likes them. I swear.

Finally, a picture of the IKEA Ivar bookcase I bought to replace the evil Billy that broke. However, had that bookshelf never broken and stained the carpet further, we probably never would have gotten it together to redo this room, and by extension our bedroom, so I should be grateful to Billy! I also spent a really long time trying to decide what bookshelf to get. Ivar is solid pine, very adjustable, and is the tallest and yet shallowest bookshelf I could find short of getting something custom. This is important so it doesn't stick out too far in the room, fits with space for the chest of drawers seen just at the edge of the photo on the right, and can hold my insane collection of books, magazines, printer, and boxes of photos and other nonsense. I like the unfinished wood and I like how it's skeletal nature allows it to almost disappear once it's fully loaded. It's also on the low end of any bookshelf budget!

On the back side of the room, next to the closet, is another dresser (I have a lot of clothes!) and the still-in-progress jewelry cabinet / wall mirror which I made! Shown in this picture is the wall mirror with frame, because I still haven't attached the frame to the cabinet with hinges or mounted it to the wall. But I will, and it will be amazing. I was also going to whitewash it but now I don't want to deal with that in the winter. After I finish it, I'll make this room look pretty, hang some art, and then take some pictures! Right now in addition to its purpose as my giant wardrobe/library, it holds random stuff like art project materials, out-of-season clothes waiting to be put away at the back of the closet, Christmas wrapping paper, and a poster that fell off the wall. If I can find homes for that stuff, I can make a space for my sewing machine and it can be my craft room too!
Anyway, stay tuned for the same process in the bedroom, and more finished pictures of the spare room!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

New Floors: Spare Room

I never wrote a post about how we ended up re-doing the floors that I talked about here and here. Back in June, we finally tore up the carpets, removed the tile, and had the floors refinished. It was an ordeal but the floors look amazing now! First, here's a picture of my cat cuddling the laptop next to the pile of books that, for SIX MONTHS replaced my bookshelf after it broke in a great New Years Eve crash.
Here's Ed's leg, while we prepped the room for carpet removal. You can see the extremely horrible stained carpet here and in the following photos. This is all in the spare room, or as I like to call it "Amy's room." The long narrow closet is my closet now, and I keep all my books and clothes and other stuff in here. Pierre the cat was a good model for the "before" pictures.

Yeah, just looking at that carpet makes me itch. That green stain in the last photo is nail polish which broke when the bookshelf spontaneously crashed down. Taking out the carpet wasn't too hard, but it is a two-person job. I just pulled up a corner using a pliers for grip, and then just ripped it up and rolled it up. We carried it out and left it in the alley because that's what you do in Chicago with anything you don't want (except, spoiler alert, asbestos-containing materials). We also pulled up the carpet padding which smelled awful and chemically. It was tacked down in a few places with staples. I also pulled up all the staples which was super enjoyable.

Underneath the carpet, I was so afraid it would be rotted and mildewy and damp but it wasn't! Under the carpet in the spare room was this awkward not-quite-checkerboard pattern of black and white square streaky vinyl tile. YAY. Seriously, what do we call this? Staggered stripes? Lightening bolt zig-zag stripes? It's awful. It was also splattered with paint. Presumably whoever put down the carpet painted first and didn't bother to protect the floor.
In these photos you can see the furring strips around the edges of the room. These were nailed into the tile and had spikes coming up that the carpet pressed into. I removed them with a hammer and sometimes a screwdriver as chisel. This photo on the right gives an idea how the closet is situated. Annoyingly, the tile covered the whole closet as well. It's about 2.5 ft by 7 ft. We also taped all the wires and stuff up, as the router is in this room and we can't live without internet, obviously.
We can, however, live without any other functioning rooms. This is our kitchen, piled with everything in the spare room. The living room was piled with everything in the bedroom, and there are no other rooms. All my books are under the table. All my clothes are on it. We tried to have a plan so that this would get back to normal as fast as possible but it ended up being I think 3 weeks, mostly because floor contractors won't agree to give you a quote until they see the floor without the tile, and then they can't come out immediately. It's also because I picked the slowest possible floor finish, involving 3 days of application and 7 days of waiting for it to fully dry. IT WAS WORTH IT THOUGH.
As I may have mentioned, the tile turned out to have a small percentage of asbestos, I think around 10%. Anything over like 3% needs to be treated as hazardous. Fortunately the adhesive didn't, because there was a ton of it left on the floor and it ended up getting sanded. The main risk for asbestos is when it becomes airborne. This tile was "non-friable" meaning the asbestos were baked into the solid tile, so unless they were pulverized then the asbestos remained stable and relatively safe. I also read that asbestos are used in brake pads so spending your life out on city streets gives you similar exposure to asbestos. Regardless, we took the proper precautions. We taped the walls with plastic to contain any dust that might have been created (even though there wasn't any). We wore protective gear including a Very Sexy special mask that filters out any tiny particles. And we wetted the tile before prying them up carefully, minimizing breaks, in order to keep any small particles from becoming airborne. Actually, I say "we" but Ed did most of this while I was at work since he was on sabbatical. We double-bagged all the tile and all the plastic and put them on the porch, where they live to this day. I finally found a dump in the suburbs that will take them but we are too lazy to bring them out there. It cost hundreds of dollars for disposal, but if you get in the pros, they'll basically do what we did but charge you thousands.
You can kinda see in the closet picture on the right how the wood floor, which finally emerged, changes. It changed yet again in the back of the closet. It was obviously a later addition.
At last, the original floor! That black adhesive was hard to get off, I went at a small section with soapy water and it scraped off, but the electric sander that the floor guys brought in made quick work of the rest of it. The floor ended up being narrow planks without too bad of gaps except around one side. There were some holes from former radiators. The floor guys filled a couple of them or just replaced the whole plank. As seen below there were a couple areas that looked a bit dicey but they actually cleaned up really nicely. As the tile was coming up we were worried about if we'd ever get the black adhesive up and if the floors would be in good shape. Come back soon to see how they turned out!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

SPF moisturizers giant roundup

I decided to chronicle my experience with various SPF moisturizers, since I started using an SPF product almost daily around 2013 or so. There's so much to learn about them! It's actually so overwhelming. But a great distraction from current US politics!

I used Aveeno "Active Naturals" Protect and Hydrate Sunscreen Lotion in two samples without any lost love. 

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (8%), Octisalate (4%), Octocrylene (4%), Oxybenzone (5%). Purpose: Sunscreen. Inactive Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Silica, Cetyl Dimethicone, Dimethicone, Ethylhexylglycerin, Beeswax, Benzyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Behenyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylyl Methicone, Acrylates/Dimethicone Copolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Propylene Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Arachidyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Diethylhexyl 2,6-Naphthalate, Sodium Hydroxide, Stearyl Alcohol, Fragrance, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Cetyl Alcohol, Lignoceryl Alcohol, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Codium Tomentosum Extract, Potassium Palmitoyl Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Hydrolyzed Oat Protein.

  • According to EWG, "Oxybenzone is a common UV filter in sunscreen. It is a hormone disruptor and allergen. Sampling by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has detected it in the urine of 97 percent of Americans. Despite emerging concerns, the sunscreen industry continues to rely heavily on oxybenzone as an active ingredient."

Aveeno does test on animals

Before that, I used Yes to Carrots Nourishing Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15. It's active sunscreen ingredients are Zinc Oxide 3.2% and Titanium Dioxide 2.9%. Other ingredients are: Water,Ethylhexyl Palmitate,Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Certified Organic Ingredient),Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil,Glycerin,Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride,Cetearyl Alcohol,Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil,Magnesium Aluminum Silicate,Coco-Glucoside,Phenoxyethanol,Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract (Certified Organic Ingredient),Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil (Certified Organic Ingredient),Butyrospermum Parkii Butter,Cetyl Alcohol,Xanthan Gum,Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum (Certified Organic Ingredient),Maris Limus Extract,Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil,Tocopherol,Aluminum Hydroxide,Gluconolactone,Glyceryl Isostearate,Hydrated Silica,Polyhydroxystearic Acid,Sodium Benzoate,Triethoxycaprylylsilane,Calcium Gluconate,Citric Acid,Potassium Hydroxide.

Yes To (Carrots, Cucumber, Tomatoes, whatever) is, like Ahava, an Israeli company, however, since about 2010 they moved to the US. There's some controversy about whether they are hiding Israeli roots and potential use of Israeli Dead Sea mud in order to avoid boycott from people who believe that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal and therefore products made from ingredients taken from these occupied territories are also morally and legally unacceptable. However they now say that they are completely made in the US and removed any connection to Israel or use of Dead Sea mud from Israel (or Israeli-occupied territory) from their marketing.
   Yes To does not test on animals 


I also used up 3 partial bottles of Mary Kay Time Wise Day solution in various versions. In one Mary Kay formulation, the SPF actives are Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5%, Zinc Oxide 3.88%, Oxybenzone 3%.

Mary Kay does test on animals  


Right now, my sunscreen is Ahava Time to Smooth Age Control Even Tone Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 which my friend who lives in Israel gave me as a present at my wedding in a cute little set. I like it ok. For sunscreen actives it has Avobenzone 3%, Homosalate 7%, Octisalate 5%, and Octocrylene 2.7%. With the exception of the Homosalate, this is exactly what the Estee Lauder cream that I believe led to breakouts used, which makes me now think that the sunscreen actives were NOT what were breaking me out because I haven't noticed any issues with this. It's a bit greasy, and it came in jar packaging, so I decanted most of it into an old, well-cleaned out Mary Kay pump bottle, after I finished the last of the Mary Kay SPF lotions (this took years). The Mary Kay lotion was much thinner so the pump tube was too small to work, I had to use the pump from an old serum, and even that didn't work until the thick lotion settled. I still use the jar in my gym bag and I'm not sure it's really getting the job done in terms of SPF, so I've been layering with a BB cream type product, which I prefer to use anyway when my skin is less than ideal.

Tested on animals -? This story says that their website claims they don't, though I didn't find that on their website. This list states they are a company that does not test on animals. However, Beautypedia says they do. Beautypedia doesn't have a review of this exact product, just an SPF 15 version which didn't have the sunscreen ingredients listed as actives, this was from 2012 so I'm guessing they have improved on the formula, and hopefully reformed the testing process.

There's also the controversy surrounding Ahava, which is planning to move it's headquarters and main factory out of a town that is in the Israel-occupied West Bank. They've said they are going to move after some international pressure/ boycott, but I don't know if they have yet. The activists say they are still using product (including the dead sea mud) which they excavate from occupied territory. A Chinese company Fosun bought them earlier this year, so maybe that is why I am seeing more and more Ahava products showing up on the shelves, like at Ulta. This is a seriously messy situation that I didn't intend to get into while reviewing sunscreen! Nothing in this life is simple.

For BB creams, a couple months ago I finished up a bottle of Maybelline Dream Fresh. This is marketed to teenagers but honestly I had no complaints with it.  
Maybelline tests on animals 

Active: Titanium Dioxide (1.15%), Other: Water, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Octyldodecanol, Silica, Pentylene Glycol, Octyldodecyl Xyloside, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Isohexadecane, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 80, Potassium Sorbate, Propylene Glycol, Methylisothiazolinone, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides

  • Methylisothiazolinone: generally not recommended in leave-on products due to its sensitizing effect (from Beautypedia)


Now I'm using Sarah McNamara Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20 Face. It's a very similar product in terms of color and coverage. The Sarah McNamara product is a little bit thicker and less liquidy. 
Not tested on animals. 

Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.5%, Octisalate 5.0%, Oxybenzone 2.0%, Zinc Oxide 1.5%. Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Methicone, Cyclohexasiloxane, Water, Dicaprylyl Ether, Boron Nitride, Octyldodecanol, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Glycerin, Dimethiconol, Ubiquinone, Tapioca Starch, Mica, Physalis Angulata Extract, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polysorbate 80, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Potassium Sorbate, Hydrated Silica, Serenoa Serrulata Fruit Extract, Hexylene Glycol, Silica, Isoceteth-10, Retinyl Palmitate, Benzyl Alcohol, Phytonadione, Cholecalciferol, Tocopherol, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.

Beautypedia says the mica adds a subtle glow, the silicones give it the silky, velvety texture.

Beautypedia also says "The original formula was called out due to a low amount of zinc oxide. This sunscreen active is the only ingredient present that is able to cover the entire spectrum of the sun’s UVA (think aging) rays, and the previous version contained a paltry 0.85%. The current formula contains 1.5%, which is better and enough to propel this product to “Best” status." Unfortunately I think I might have the old formula :(

Interestingly, Beautypedia doesn't mention the problem with oxybenzone that Environmental Working Group does.

I've started to notice a bit of a yogurty smell, I hope it's not going off. I bought this at Sephora after I think getting a tiny sample of it.  The salesperson suggested that it wasn't a very popular product, which surprised me a bit considering they had given so many people a free sample and that I had liked it so much. I've never worn foundation and don't want to, so I may be in the minority in my love for extremely subtle coverage. I have the hardest time matching a concealer to my skin -- they are almost all too yellow -- so it's just nice that it disappears, leaving my skin looking marginally better but not like I have a layer of makeup on. It evens out redness from old acne scars or other blotchiness, leaves a nice velvety finish, and also makes concealer stay on better and blend better with my skin. It seems that you can get it at Ulta now, but not Sephora, or online maybe in some kind of informercial shady-sounding scheme.

Next up in my larder is a small sample of Garnier SkinActive Clearly Brighter Sunscreen Broad Spectrum 15 Brightening and Smoothing Daily Moisturizer
extra marketing hype: Antioxidant Complex Vitamin C + LHA; Oil-Free

Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 5%
We shall see. I'd prefer to try more physical/mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) but at least this doesn't have oxybenzone in it. 
Tested on animals 
Low SPF, though, and high fragrance. Beautypedia says the LHA is a derivative of salicyclic acid, also known as BHA, however, the pH is too high for it to be of exfoliating use.

After that, I also bought (because it was on sale): CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30
Marketing hype: For normal to dry skin, MVE delivery technology, invisible zinc, non-comodogenic, non-irritating, with ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid

Actives: homosalate 10%, meradimate 5%, octinoxate 5%, octocrylene 2%, zinc oxide 6.3%
I bought this becuase of the zinc oxide, niacinamide, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, seems like a great moisturizer! Beautypedia LOVES it, however it gets some bad user reviews for poor application and/or irritation, so I'll just have to try it myself.
Not tested on animals. 

Estee Lauder creme gives me breakouts

On our honeymoon, I started to get a few small spots, which was disappointing because I had basically perfect skin at the wedding. I had only some very faded scars from spots past. I got very lucky because I was getting a tiny bit sick and pretty stressed what with getting married and all the work, decisions and pressure of a DIY destination wedding with people coming from multiple continents. Anyway it's not surprising that my perfect skin didn't last, since sometimes things like stress and illness take a little bit to show up on one's skin, and our honeymoon was a lot of "glamping" and hiking, and I was only using honey as a cleanser. I just want to have it on the record that our honeymoon was one of the one of the most fun, relaxing, beautiful times of my life and I would go back to that yurt in North Carolina in a heartbeat.

Anyway, I lost faith in that routine when it stopped working perfectly and started to experiment again with products that needed using up or that I couldn't resist not buying. At some point I started using another product swiped from my grandma's house, Estee Lauder Resilience Life Firming/Sculpting Face and Neck Creme SPF 15. I was alternating it with whatever was in my gym bag, probably Mary Kay, but used it exclusively when we were on vacation in May, and broke out terribly. Usually on vacation I have nice skin, I think because I don't pick and I'm not stressed and not exposed to pollution. But I experimented by taking breaks from the Estee Lauder and eventually used a lot of it up on my body, and now that it's finally finished, I think it was the cause of my breakouts. They were mostly closed comedones, small hard skin-colored or whiteish spots, and some more infected/inflamed spots.

Here are the ingredients:
Avobenzone 3%
Octisalate 5%
Octocrylene 2.7%
Water, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Cetyl Alcohol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Polyethylene, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Di-C12-15 Alkyl Fumarate, Petrolatum, Butylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Propanediol, Octyldodecyl Myristate, Hexyldecyl Stearate, Dimethicone, Laminaria Saccharina Extract , Algae Extract, Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract, Plankton Extract, Artemia Extract, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Linoleic Acid, Malachite, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria), Saccharomyces Ferment Lysate Filtrate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Yeast Extract\Faex\Extrait De Levure, C12-16 Alcohols, Ethylhexylglycerin, PEG-100 Stearate, Whey Protein\Lactis Protein\Proteine Du Petit-Lait, Trehalose, Thermus Thermophillus Ferment, Ergothioneine, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Acetyl Glucosamine, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile), Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperoxidase, Caffeine, Cholesterol, Sorbitol, Palmitic Acid, Decarboxy Carnosine HCL, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Polysilicone-11, Caprylyl Glycol, Isohexadecane, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Glucose, Zinc PCA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Behenyl Alcohol, Citric Acid , Sodium Hyaluronate , Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate , Polysorbate 80 , Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Sorbate, Maltodextrin, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Lecithin, Potato Starch Modified, Hexylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Yellow 5 (Ci 19140), Red 4 (Ci 14700), Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Mica

Holy shit, that's a lot of ingredients. This little jar costs $52-82, which is an interesting thing to know about my late grandma, that she was willing to spend that. It could have broken me out because it was well past it's expiration date, or because of any number of those ingredients. I wondered if it might be one of the chemical sunscreen ingredients? Many people can find them irritating and prefer a "physical" sunscreen like zinc oxide. 

On second thought, I wonder if it was the yeast extract? I tend to have allergy issues with yeast.

Anyway, I'm on the way to healing my skin again. Things were looking really good until I got impatient and ordered an ultrasonic spatula skin "scrubber" which I had read good things about. It did appear to get out some oil or sebum, but it led to lots of obsessive picking which of course led to irritation and breakouts. It was also defective (the power button only worked sometimes) so I'm returning it. Prior to the Estee Lauder I don't remember closed comedones really being a problem, and they are the devil! I try to be patient and use salicylic acid daily (I'm using Paula's Choice), but eventually I pick them which of course makes things worse. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shampoo & Conditioner Empties!

My reviews of skin and hair care products continue! This time I collected a bunch of shampoo & conditioner products that I finished over the past few months.

First up! Moroccan Oil Hydrating Shampoo. This is a fancier salon product, which obviously I did not buy, but I stole from my cousin, probably when she left it behind at my grandma's house. There wasn't a ton left but I used it up. This was nice shampoo but I think knowing it was fancy made me like it more? It's sulfate free which is something I'm thinking about getting into, but you want sulfates to clean the silicones out of your hair and I love the silicone laden conditioners & leave-in products that beat my hair into submission leave my hair tangle-free.

LUSH Big Shampoo sample, and not pictured, Rehab shampoo sample. I got this when I was on my quest to deal with the patches of dry & flakey scalp that weren't responding to dandruff shampoo and I eventually cured with a visit to dermatologist and rx-strength shampoo & steroid treatment. Anyway. Big is a weird shampoo with large sea salt grains in it, it's supposed to exfoliate your scalp or something. It was fun to use, if awkward, smelled great, sudsy as all get out, but really, kind of a gimmick? I was sad to find out that Lush hair products have SLS (see: sudsy) so I don't think they are worth the price. I mean, it made my hair feel light & fluffy but also dried it out a bit. As for the Rehab shampoo, at least I think it was Rehab because the label wore off, I kept the sample so long it started to separate so it couldn't have been that good. Personally I love the strong smell of most Lush products but I know they are not everyone's cup of tea.

It's a 10 Miracle Hair Mask sample. I love a hair mask, I love a free sample, I love It's a 10 leave-in spray, so I loved this. Similar to Aussie's 3-minute Miracle this is a heavy, creamy hair mask that you can use while in the shower shaving your legs or whatever. I got two uses out of this packet even on my long thick hair. Makes my hair silky soft. Win.

John Frieda Root Awakening shampoo - I could not WAIT to be done with this shampoo, I probably had it for 5 years! Longer? The bottle was literally disintegrating by the time I finally finished it. Side note: the bottle is super annoying because of the cap at the bottom, which allows water to pool up in there and grow slime. This did not cause problems with my hair but it didn't do anything either. I was probably on my endless quest for products that will keep my super-thick and fine hair from just lying there heavily and limply, dragged down by its own weight, and keep my problematically dry & flaky scalp happy. This didn't deliver. 
I have nothing to say about this hotel conditioner except it was fine for travel but not memorable.

Not sure why I took this picture in front of the toaster. 
Herbal Essences Long Term Relationship Shampoo, and, not pictured, Conditioner - This name is accurate because I bought this when I started spending a lot of nights at my then-boyfriend's house, and now we're married, and I finally finished the products, like 5 years later. Why does it take me so long?? I have too many products in use at the same time, and I wash my hair only twice a week. I used the conditioner first because I use a ton of conditioner (thick hair) and it was pretty serviceable, not super thick. The shampoo was also fine. I started to hate them before I was finished.

Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Conditioner - this used to be a bit of a cult product for curly-haired people, but I heard they changed the formula. It's super cheap, like $4 or something, and it's a nice, light, I think silicone free conditioner. I got it when I used to dye my hair with henna and needed copious amounts of cheap conditioner to wash out the henna paste. But it also lasted forever. I really prefer super thick conditioners but this did a good job despite being thin.

also pictured: an empty jar which held homemade shaving cream, which wasn't that impressive and I went back to using soap and/or BioOil or homemade sugar scrub when I'm feeling fancy, and a small jar that held homemade salt & oil exfoliating scrub which was fun but honestly, most homemade products like that go bad before you can use them up, especially living in the humid environment of the shower, and especially things you dip your wet paws into. Hence the tiny containers, but still I didn't use this very fast as the salt was pretty abrasive and the oil made the bath surface slippery.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Flooring Update

As you remember, last time I blathered on and on about the ugly carpeting in our bedrooms and the horrors that likely lie beneath. I thought we maybe had linoleum based on the age of the house but after further research, and talking to someone at Home Depot, I now think I was wrong. It does happen.

1880s-1890s linoleum would actually be super awesome looking, likely highly patterned like in this historic home:
This post suggests sheet linoleum in a marbled or swirled pattern would be authentic, not the checkerboard tiles that most people think of. Sheet lino is that stuff you sometimes think of in schools or hospitals that curls up the wall forming the baseboard. It's cool too. Here's some modern examples. As discussed previously, it's a natural material, made of a canvas backing and linseed oil mixed with powdered cork and other things. That's what makes it kinda squishy and comfortable underfoot. A lot of times when people have cheapo sheet vinyl, like my mom does in her kitchen, they say linoleum, but that is inaccurate. This is the stuff that is like plastic contact paper, and easily gets holes if you drop a knife. You can repair a knife cut in linoleum, it's like a starfish (not really but you can fix).

However, everybody says that if you have 9"x9" tiles that are rigid, it's probably vinyl tile. Vinyl tile has a lot of names, VCT for vinyl composition tile which has more limestone in it, luxury vinyl tile, or LVT, etc. A lot of the cheaper fake stone and wood-look tile I saw at Home Depot are vinyl tile. LVT is totally waterproof, made of polyvinyl choride or PVC, and is pretty new. There's also laminate flooring, which is basically a layer printed to look like wood glued to high density fiberboard. It is similar to IKEA particleboard furniture except high density instead of medium density fiberboard (MDF). At least in MDF there is a concern about formaldehyde, I'm not quite sure about HDF. Laminate is generally cheap and kindof crap.

Anyway, I have 9x9 tile, in a weird off-set grid pattern in black and white streaks. Much like this:
This is straight-up VCT. You can still buy tiles like this, but according to a comment on this post, most 9x9 tile is VAT: vinyl asbestos tile. Asbestos is a naturally-occuring mined substance used to make things stronger, heat-resistant, etc. It's a big business removing it but it's my understanding that it only really causes health problems when it become particulate and is inhaled in large quantities over a long period of time, mostly in an industrial or work setting. However, I'd prefer not to take too many risks, especially for my little cat who never leaves the house and has a small body. So after doing some research on local companies, I decided to take a sample and send it out to a lab to get tested! Wish me luck. If we do have asbestos, I might take the cat to a friend's house during demo and then get the air tested.

As you can see in the top photo, under the tile, and the paper or cloth backing, there's wood!

Angels sing.

AND we pulled up a corner in the bedroom and there's wood floors underneath and no tile! Thank you, floor gods!

This makes me think that the back spare room might have been used as a kitchen, once upon a time. That would explain why you would put vinyl tile (or whatever it is) in a bedroom, and I also learned that it is directly above the upstairs neighbor's kitchen so the plumbing may have been aligned at one point in time. The kitchen we have now looks pretty 90s, so if it was moved out there say, 20 years or more after the kitchen in the back room was built, that makes the likelihood of my tiles being in the asbestos era even higher. But still, there's hope.