DIY Project: Converting Mini-Blinds to Roman Shades

I have lived in this house for 14 years, and have wanted to do something with the window treatments in the living room for that entire time.  Time, money, and simply not being able to decide what I wanted to do have kept me from doing something.  Story of my life.  😀  The windows currently have cheap vinyl mini-blinds that have taken a beating over the years (one got quite enthusiastically chewed on by a kitten who liked to sit on the back of the recliner in front of that window).  There’s no extra decoration of any kind.

Those of you who know me know I have a tendency to pick big, challenging projects and then take a long time to finish them, because I also tend to have a little too much on my plate.  But this idea for a simple conversion from mini-blinds to Roman shades seemed liked something I could certainly tackle in a relatively short period of time.

Even though I can sew, and I have made window treatments before, I like that this idea doesn’t require any sewing at all.  I haven’t bought the fabric yet, though, so I’ll have to see if I’ll need to finish the raw edges.  I suspect that I will put a small hem all the way around, even if it’s not required, just so they’ll last longer.  And since you remove most of the slats anyway, I can pitch the chewed ones.  😀

I also want to build a wooden cornice with a built-in shelf.  I prefer stained wood to painted, but since the window trim is painted, I’ll probably paint the cornice to match.  I want to use these small shelves to put Rob’s Coke collection on display (it’s currently squashed together on the mantle downstairs) as well as his Star Wars micro-machines collection (currently packed away in a box).

We have six windows total, two singles and two doubles.  Even if I get moderately priced fabric (although I’m hoping for a real deal), it will save a LOT of money doing it myself.  Besides, then I get EXACTLY what I want!


This is the double window behind our sectional sofa. You can see it’s pretty plain.


Here’s the kitten-chewed blind.

I’m planning on doing something similar to this for the shelves


My last big project was refinishing a recliner.  Very rewarding, but very challenging and time-consuming.  I’m expecting this project to be much less of both.  I’m looking forward to making the living room more inviting!


Food: Good Versus Evil

I thought this blog post, Why Food is Beyond “Good” and “Evil”, was a breath of fresh air.  It really brings to the table (pun intended) the idea of developing a healthy relationship with food instead of

Too often we vilify certain foods because they are not “good” for us.  I’m not saying we should exist solely on potato chips and ice cream, but we really need to adopt a healthier relationship with food.   Ultimately, food is fuel.  I believe we should nourish our bodies primarily with the kinds of fuel that are best for them, so our engines don’t sputter around on crappier fare.  But I really think we do ourselves a disservice when we approach asceticism in our attitudes towards food.  And some people need to honestly be concerned about eating disorders.

If we berate ourselves for an rare indulgence, we do not have a healthy relationship with food.   If we never even permit the occasional indulgence, we do not have a healthy relationship with food.  If we allow the occasional indulgence to become far more often than occasional, we do not have a healthy relationship with food.  None of these approaches are healthy, either physically or mentally.  Nor are they sustainable.

What we need to do is give up the idea of indulgence completely.  Everything is allowable, nothing is an “indulgence”.  I try to mentally group foods more into categories such as “very rarely”, “occasionally”, and “regularly”.

Now I’m not talking about foods that actually cause us problems and really should be avoided all together.  Obviously, those things belong in the “never” category.  I have discovered that I am gluten intolerant.  This affects roughly 15% of the population, which is far more common than I ever imagined.  (Read more about gluten intolerance here.)  I really need to try to avoid gluten completely if I want to be healthy.  Likewise, if someone has a food allergy or sensitivity.  But I’m talking here about treats that we tend to beat ourselves up about eating.

“Junk food” should not be a main staple of our diets.  But one occasional cookie is not going to permanently harm us, nor should we consider the “slip” on our diet to be an excuse to give up on the attempt to eat better. In fact, I’m all for giving up dieting altogether.  When we allow ourselves to have the rare treat, completely guilt free, we will be far better off than if we fall into a cycle of strict adherence punctuated by binges.

Dieting is, ultimately, self-destructive.  Eating a healthy diet is far different from dieting.  I eat a healthy diet.  Does that mean I never have an “unhealthy” food?  No.  Does it mean that I never take in more calories than I burn off?  No.  It does mean that I have stopped counting calories, stopped bowing to the number on the scales, and stopped beating myself up for not having the willpower to say no.  When you truly give yourself permission to eat anything, you’ll find that the temptation to binge wanes.

The beauty of this approach is that it is so simple.  Eat when you’re hungry, instead of going by the clock.  Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, instead of cleaning your plate regardless.  You don’t have to carry a food scale and a set of measuring cups with you wherever you go.  And let’s not even talk about those calorie booklets.  Simplify your approach to food.  Be kind to yourself.  Self-flagellation is not going to remove that piece of cake you just ate from your thighs.  In fact, love your thighs, and the rest of your body too.

For a while, you may want to have cake for lunch.  Go ahead and savor it; it’s not going to kill you.  Unless you never eat anything but cake, ever again.  Eventually it’ll lose its “forbidden fruit” status, and the allure will fade.  You may still want to have cake occasionally, but you’ll stop feeling the desire to have ALL of the cake.  You’ll also probably find that you really enjoy eating nutritious foods just as well as not-so-nutritious foods.  And once everything starts to balance out, you may just discover that you really like the way you feel when you feed your engine high-nutrition fuel.


Inner Beauty: Simple Kindness

Following along with the post about respect for others, I would like to encourage you to find simple ways to show kindness to others.  Sometimes we get so busy in our daily lives, rushing here and there, having more things to do than hours in the day, and we don’t take the time to extend simple kindness merely because we haven’t left ourselves the time.

If we can’t slow down long enough to notice that there’s a person right behind us with their hands full, it won’t occur to us to invest the extra few seconds to hold the door for them.  If we walk around with our eyes glued to our smart phones 24/7, we won’t realize that there are people all around us who could use a tiny pick-me-up.  It will cost us something.  Usually time, and sometimes a minimal amount of money.  I’m not telling you to go pay off a random stranger’s mortgage.  But even the tiniest things can brighten someone else’s day, and give us a boost as well.  Making someone else smile is a fantastic reward for a few seconds of time.

Here’s one important point, though.  Don’t do it with an expectation of adulation.  The purpose is not to get others to notice your “good deed” and praise you for it.  If it’s something you can do anonymously, do.  If not, remember that your mission is to bless someone else, not to get a pat on the back.  Let someone borrow your truck.  Rake someones’ leaves or shovel their snow.  Do something for a family member or house mate that they normally have to do.  But don’t feel let down if they don’t heap praises on you.  I have known far too many people who do “nice” things for others solely for the ego stroking that they think they deserve.

So I challenge you (and myself) to make a conscious decision to look for opportunities to bless someone else this week.  Hold the door for someone.  Pay for the latte of the person behind you in line.  Let the other person take the taxi or the parking space.  Make a meal for a friend who’s been sick.  You’ll find if you make a point of looking for ways to commit a random act of kindness, you’ll find lots of opportunities.  It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be all day, every day.  But every time we lift someone up, we make our little corner of the world just a tiny bit better.

Check out this Dare to Be an Angel task list for more ideas.  Feel free to make more suggestions of your own.  Be creative!  The more you practice looking for new ways to be helpful, the easier it will become.

Have you ever been struck by a random act of kindness?  Please share it with the rest of us!

Meet the Mudgirls

This is such a great idea! I’d love to build an oven!

Shawndra Miller

I’m always intrigued by people who are able to take the more complicated aspects of modern life into their own hands. Maybe that’s because outside of your basic paring knife and garden trowel, my own hands are pretty fumbly. The realm of natural building just amazes me.

Natural building involves using materials occurring in nature (and sometimes recycled materials) to construct homes and outbuildings. For example, back in Too Many Tons I posted a video featuring a DIY builder from Indiana making bricks from mud. Materials are sourced locally—perhaps clay from a neighbor who’s digging a pond, sand from a nearby excavation, straw from a local farmer.

Recently I discovered a British Columbia-based women’s collective specializing in cob building (using a mix of clay and straw). Meet the Mudgirls.

For the past seven years they’ve worked together as independent builders, doing seasonal work throughout the Vancouver Island area. Though…

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Inner Beauty: Respect for Others

I started to come around to this topic in my last post, and I’d like to delve a little more deeply today.  I think one of the most fundamental things about someone’s character is how they treat others that they consider “less” than themselves.  Less beautiful, less affluent, less privileged, etc.  The issue here is that they think of them as less of a person.  Just because someone has less money than you (something that can be objectively calculated) does not make them any less of a person.  Nor does the perception that they are “less attractive” or “less moral” (things that cannot be objectively determined).

But the thing that has been at the forefront of my mind lately is the uproar about gay marriage.  I don’t want to start a knock-down, drag-out argument here, because I think that there have already been far too many on this topic.  Many of you know that I am a Christian, and I’m sure you are (unfortunately) aware of how many “Christians” have been reacting to the subject of gay marriage.  People who know me well know exactly how I feel about that subject.

Let me put forth this idea:  REGARDLESS of whether you think that gay marriage should be legalized (an issue that should be resolved between you and God, not you and some reporter, or you and Facebook) there is no excuse for the hate-mongering that has been going on in the name of Christ, any more than invoking the name of Allah excuses what happened on 9-11.  

The issue here is not even really about gay marriage, or equal rights, or all of the other catch phrases that everyone keeps spouting off.  The core issue is respect.  The moment we allow ourselves to consider someone, ANYONE, as less than a full human being, we are on dangerous ground.  For a soon as we convince ourselves that someone is not “worthy” of something that everyone else is worthy of, we have in our mind committed a crime, and our behavior will inevitably follow.

This is how ethnic cleansing gets justified in the minds of those who perpetrate it.  You may think that statement is a little extreme, but I don’t.  It all starts somewhere.  It just takes baby steps of marginalizing a group, a little bit at a time, and before we know it, we’ve rationalized all sorts of inhumane treatment.

And now I’ll rant for just a little bit about Facebook.  I have a Facebook account, and I check it fairly regularly (although not as often as some people in my life would like me to). In general, I like the idea of being able to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of my friends and family that I don’t get to see as often as I would like.  The problem I have with Facebook is that some people use it as a tool to hurt others, while hiding behind the separation.

Most people wouldn’t say many of the things they post on Facebook directly to someone’s face.  (Some would, but they’re a different topic altogether.)  It’s easier to be rude when you’re not face to face with the person you’re being rude to.  It seems like some people think that being physically removed from the situation gives you permission to be a bully.

So I guess I could quote Craig Ferguson at this point.  Before you decide to run off at the mouth, think about these things:

  1. Does this need to be said?  (Maybe it’s something that shouldn’t be said at all)
  2. Does this need to be said by me?  (Maybe it needs to be said, but I’m not the best person to say it)
  3. Does this need to be said by me right now?  (Maybe I need to say it, but this is not the right time, or I’m not currently in the best frame of mind)

I might add a fourth: Does this need to be said in these words?  You see, I have no problem with sharing your opinion.  It is the timing and the wording that often leave something to be desired.  You can still speak your mind without being deliberately hateful.  Consider whether there is a way to select your words carefully in order to still convey your message without inciting complete verbal warfare.  Because we can never have a constructive dialog on any topic once it breaks down into name-calling.  Come on, people.  This is not the elementary school playground.

Some people even use FB as an opportunity to argue with, shame, or otherwise manipulate their significant others.  This is probably the type of post I find the saddest, because it is a sign of a relationship in dire trouble.  If you can’t resolve your issues between yourselves, getting your friends to take sides on FB is definitely NOT going to help the situation.

It seems like I kind of ended up focusing on gay rights, only because it has been a very recent, very loud source of discord, but this concept really applies to any other topic that we tend to argue about.  If you would like to cultivate your inner beauty, one of the most important characteristics to work on is to learn to respect ALL others, even if they don’t agree with you.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t state your case, or that you’re not free to disagree.  It means that you make a conscious decision to not tear others down with your words just because they don’t believe the same way you believe.

It’s not easy.  Those topics that get us really riled up are the ones that we feel the most strongly about, and we really WANT to lambaste  the person who doesn’t agree.  But consider whether there is a better way to state your case without outright aggression.

What do you think?  I’m not really asking whether you think gay marriages should be recognized (although I suppose you are free to post that as long as it’s civil!)  I’m asking if you think that we have allowed the impersonal aspect of the internet to excuse our verbal attacks on one another.  Do you think that we have gotten significantly less considerate?  Do you think respect for the feelings of others is a thing of the past?  Have you ever posted something in anger and regretted it later?  Do you sometimes (often) wish people would PM each other instead of getting into an argument on their page, for all the world to see?

Self-Esteem: Beauty Does NOT Equal Worth

Ok, one more post about outer beauty, and then I’ll shut up about it. For now. I’m sure I will revisit this subject because not only is it a work in progress in my own life, but I see it as such as issue with society at large.  I guess I’ll just have to be one of those few small voices that try to counter all the garbage we’re fed from birth.

You’ve heard me say that there are things that are beautiful about you.  I may never have met you, and have no idea what you look like, but I’m certain that there is something beautiful about you.  You see, I think I have a slightly different idea of beauty than many people.  I usually tend to not zero in on other people’s warts (literally, or figuratively), and instead try to focus on what I like about them.  Most often, the primary thing is their smile and/or their eyes.  Not the thinness or fullness of their lips, the crookedness of their teeth, or the lines or dark circles around their eyes, but they way their face expresses what they’re feeling when they are happy.

For a smile truly is contagious.  And when a person that others might think is ugly smiles, for me, whatever might have once seemed unattractive disappears.  The really unfortunate part about this is that those people who perceive themselves as ugly are far less likely to smile.  If you are fundamentally unhappy with the way you look, and are constantly self-conscious about it, you kind of squelch the smiles that want to come out.

I can’t think of anyone who would have had less reason to smile about the way he looked than Joseph Merrick, aka The Elephant Man.  Rather than fill you in on all the sad details of his life, I’ll encourage you to familiarize yourself with his story.  For now, I’ll add a picture, and a short quote:


“The doctor [Frederick Treves, who took him in] arranged for a friend of his named Mrs. Leila Maturin, “a young and pretty widow”, to visit Merrick. She agreed and with fair warning about his appearance, she went to his rooms for an introduction. The meeting was short, as Merrick quickly became overcome with emotion. He later told Treves that Maturin had been the first woman ever to smile at him, the first to shake his hand.”

Keep in mind that he was in his early twenties by this meeting.  His mother had died when he was 13, his father beat him and his stepmother verbally abused him, and he left home at 15, spent some time in a workhouse, and then as an oddity in a traveling show before finally being taken in by the doctor who ended up caring for him for the remainder of his life.  He was emotionally overcome by this simple gift of a smile and a handshake.

I can’t imagine spending my entire life being met with horror and revulsion every time someone looked at me.  Most of us, however unhappy we might be with our appearance, do not truly have to deal with this.  And how would we respond if WE met Joseph Merrick?  I certainly hope that I would be the woman who could shake his hand without hesitation, and offer him a genuine smile.  For no matter how deformed he was, he was still a human being.  

Was he worth less than Brad Pitt or any other attractive celebrity?  Was he less worthy of kindness, consideration, or friendship?  Intellectually, we would say certainly not.  Our knee-jerk reaction however, may have been different in meeting him for the first time.

Why then do we ridicule others who do not fit into the current definition of “beauty”?  The hatred and bullying I have seen online towards morbidly obese people is horrifying to me.  Just because someone weighs far more than is healthy does not mean that they are not a human being worthy of respect.  But often it happens to those who are not even that far off of the “ideal”.  I was disgusted by the “reporting” in this article showing Kelly Clarkson on stage and making unrepentantly nasty statements about her appearance.  Regardless of whether you think that she could have chosen a more becoming outfit, she is definitely not anywhere near being “Whaley” as they called her.  And even if she weighed 400 pounds, would she deserve to be called a whale?  Why do we think it’s ok to be hateful to people who are overweight, even if they are extremely so???

Kelly Clarkson fat

And even if we’re not overtly vicious like these people were, do we internally think, “well, at least I don’t look as bad as that person”?  Are we silently body policing others, comparing ourselves to those who are “fatter”, “anorexic”, “uglier”, or otherwise “less attractive” than us, just to make ourselves feel better?  If you find yourself doing this, it’s got to stop.  Not only is it completely unfair and inconsiderate of others, but when we make a habit of being cruel to others (even if it’s only in our own minds), we tend to do it to ourselves, and we will assume that others are policing us as well.  It really is just another form of bullying.

I have been concerned recently that I have come off as a skinny-basher myself.  I certainly have no conscious intention of doing so.  I have posted primarily about being fat because that is what I know.  I am rebelling against the idea that skinny is the ONLY definition of pretty.  But I am afraid I have in the past crossed that line and said that a certain girl really should eat more so that we can’t count individual ribs, and that is wrong of me, just as wrong as it is for someone to say that I need to stop going to buffets because I’m fat (incidentally, I hate buffets).  Even if it is said out of genuine concern for someone’s well-being, it can still be hurtful.  Chances are, they are painfully aware of the fact that they are dangerously fat or dangerously thin.

So how should we deal with this attitude, either in ourselves or others? If we catch ourselves starting to think things like, “She has no business wearing X”, “She needs a sammich”, “Step away from the buffet”, we need to make a conscious decision to halt the thought.  If we’re hanging with friends and hear one start fat-bashing, skinny-bashing, or otherwise belittling someone for the way they look, nip it in the bud.  If someone dares to spout hateful nonsense at us or a friend, we need to call them out about it.  This is unacceptable behavior.  I’m not sure how it ever came to be perceived as acceptable in anyone’s minds.  It should never be OK to trash someone else in order to feel better about ourselves.

Women, we need to stop attacking one another.  We need to stop assuming that we know the reason someone isn’t a “healthy” weight.  We even need to reject the idea that a very narrow weight range is the only way to be healthy.  We also need to reject the idea that a very narrow definition of beauty is what is or should be attractive to everyone.  Not only do we all come in different shapes and sizes, desire comes in different shapes and sizes as well.

So I will leave you with some more reading on the topic.  It’s such a prevalent issue, and it’s causing such profound self-hate from such extremely young ages.  We have to start talking about it, and making the steps to change it, first in ourselves, then in our circles of influence, and on to the rest of society.  Our well-being and the well-being of our children depend on it.

Ashley Judd wrote one the best attempts by a celebrity to address this issue last year when her puffy face (due to steroids to treat an illness) caused speculation about her having “clearly” had plastic surgery.

Asia Hates Body Policing has a lot of links to quotes and articles on body policing against both “too fat” AND “too skinny”.

Are You Guilty? 10 Ways We Body Shame Each Other Without Knowing

Helpful Tips:  How not to be a boorish body-policing jerk   One of the best lines is right at the end: If it would bother you to hear it said about yourself, don’t say it to someone else.  This could successfully be applied to anything that might come out of your mouth, and the world would be a far friendlier, compassionate place.

Fat: Using the Other F-Word

Fat: Using the Other F-Word 

Here is a fantastic article about being comfortable in the skin you’re in, regardless of your size/weight/shape.