Halloween Horror Movie Review 2017 (also 2016 as I took a long break from writing)

It’s that time of year again friends.  Decorative gourds, pumpkin spice flavored everything (vomit), and horror movies (squee!).

Reminder of the rating system:

Ratings as follows –

pumpkindon’t bother, this shit is unwatchable

pumpkinpumpkinsome good points but ultimately failed as a film

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinsome issues but I was willing to overlook them and it was still enjoyable

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkina solid movie from start to finish and recommended watching

 

a dark song

A Dark Song

This was well acted, scripted, and shot from start to finish.  An angry, grieving mother enlists the help of an occultist for something impossible.  There is a sense of claustrophobia, menace, tension, and stress that is visceral while watching Sophia and Joseph’s actions and interactions.  At other times, there are real moments of beauty, humanity and pathos.  I like that you aren’t really sure if these people are just twisted and delusional or there’s something afoot for 90% of the time.  You will find yourself Googling the meanings and symbols of this film.

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

green room

Green Room

Some of the scariest monsters are our fellow men.  A group of O.G. DIY punk rockers are on a tour that goes from bad to worse when they end up getting booked to play for a bunch of neo-Nazis in a rural town outside Portland.  They unwittingly become prime witnesses for some shit that happens in the “green room,” and things go south quickly.  This movie also makes me sad while watching Anton Yelchin’s intense performance as it was one of the last few movies he did before his tragic accident.  Patrick Stewart chewing up the scenery out of his typical character is deliciously worth it.  As the Dead Kennedy’s sang:

Nazi punks
Nazi punks
Nazi punks, fuck off!

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

cooties

Cooties

Circle circle, dot dot.  Now you have the cootie shot.  As kids in the 80’s, we didn’t really know that “cooties” were code for lice, but we used to accuse each other (usually in a showdown of girls vs. boys) of having cooties.  This movie has some really funny bits and basically depicts every teacher’s secret fear – our students will one day rise against us en mass.  Classic cinema it isn’t, nor should you take your children to see this.  People get eaten alive and body parts ripped off.  It’s a fun, gory popcorn muncher.  Check out the hilarious performance of socially-challenged science teacher by none other than Leigh Whannell, screenwriter of Saw, Dead Silence, and Insidious .

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

final girls

Final Girls

If you are a fan of the classic 80’s slasher, this is a great, goofy, self-aware send up of all the tropes, while still delivering a few solid scares.  It’s a film within a film where the dream logic gets a little fuzzy (especially at the end).  The script and story are a bit predictable, but the actors are solid and give it their all despite the script’s flaws.

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

hush

Hush

Ohgodhe’srightfuckingbehindyou!!!  That’s basically what you are internally screaming through a good bit of this film.  A home invasion with a twist-our heroine is deaf.  This makes it even more tense because we not only see, but hear everything that we know she can’t.  Really well acted but predictable, probably because I’ve seen too many horror movies.

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

occulus

Oculus

This one really got to me.  A family torn apart by mental illness and violence.  Or is it some sinister force working on them?  The story is told in parallel flashback.  While you can take this film as a metaphor, you are 99% sure of what’s going on, and watching as it unfolds you are by turns frightened, sad, confused, and angry watching as our protagonists make choice after dreadful choice.

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

deathgasm

Deathgasm

This movie looks and sounds like it would be idiotic.  Get over your prejudice.  Loser metal heads manage to find a way to invoke some really evil shit.  It’s actually pretty fun and clever, and has some good acting.  Not “scary scary” but some good jumps.  The story is a familiar one with a few good twists, and delivers on some great splatstick.  I like the treatment of the main female protagonist, Medina, as well–no pretty princess in need of rescuing.  This came out a while ago and the filmmakers have been promising a Deathgasm 2, with even more gore in the first 10 minutes than this entire movie, but I think it’s been caught in pre-production hell.  Maybe we can do a ritual to bring it to light?

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

 

goosebumps

Goosebumps

Finally, one you can bring your (older) kids too.  Don’t let the title fool you, there are some truly spooky moments in this for a kid’s horror movie.  Mostly it’s a sweet funny story about a new kid in town trying to get to know the cute girl next door, played by Odeya Rush who looks a smidge like a young Mila Kunis-type to me.  If you enjoyed the books as a kid, you will get a kick out of seeing all the monsters come to life on the big screen.  Jack Black playing Mr. Shivers a.k.a. R.L. Stine makes for a nice story within a story, and Slappy the murderous ventriloquist puppet is truly creepy–so don’t call him a dummy.

pumpkinpumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

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Reflux Part Deux: I’m not vegan

go-vegan

I went back and forth taking and not taking the Protonix for a month and a half.  I didn’t like what my research said about PPI’s, nor did I like what it did to my digestion,  but I was not getting better with a reflux diet alone.  I was eating supposedly reflux “safe” foods and having symptoms every day.  I no longer had heartburn, but still had vocal roughness and sore throat, and I had a new symptom – globus sensation.  All day long.  Super uncomfortable.  And I would get it immediately after eating healthy meals.  Then I’d get frustrated and eat a “cheat” food–like pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, and have no globus, but wake up the next day with a sore throat and bad voice.

 

I did tons of internet searches about reflux diet modification and found some journal articles that said what I have (LPR) doesn’t respond well to reflux medications.   I decided to check out another ENT.  I hoped he might have a new perspective, and he did.

 

Right off he said that he agreed it was LPR, that meds don’t work for it, the diagnosis of hiatal hernia was bullshit, and that every GI likes to give that diagnosis.  He wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what actually is causing it, but he said to do a 90-95% plant-based diet focused on whole foods, use an alkalizing water filter, and come back after a month.

 

I decided to go 100% plant-based just because it was nearly impossible for me to know how to estimate what equals 90-95% (this blogger, Speciest Vegan, tried), though it’s been tough to stick to “whole foods” all the time since I like using some packaged/convenience foods, I like baking, and I use a little oil to cook some foods.

 

The diet made some sense to me as I know those are the foods that one eats to be healthy anyway (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds).  I was already inclined to cook and eat Mediterranean-style, and I typically didn’t do a lot of red meat, though my diet used to have quite a bit of white meat, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy.  I already was a meal-planner and I tend to cook a lot of my meals.  For someone who doesn’t, this could be a VERY tough transition.

 

I was a little skeptical about the alkaline water, but I got a pH test kit and found that my tap water, even after I run it through our regular filter, is slightly acidic.  The extra filtering raises the pH which I find does help my voice and throat a little bit.

 

Other than that, eating too fast or too much is a trigger but it’s tough because where I work, I only have about 25 minutes to eat lunch, so it’s gotten me in a bad habit of rushing my meals.

 

I have remained on the diet for a few months now with very little cheating.  Usually when I cheat, I’ll maybe have a few bites of cake at a birthday party, but won’t eat any of the other “no-no” foods at the party.

 

It’s working so I keep doing it.  I was easily able to find great vegan cookbooks (I already owned a copy of The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen) and “replacement” foods at the regular grocery store or the health food store, so I don’t feel too deprived if I’m craving something creamy, cheesy, or meaty.

 

Then of course, there’s also the added wellness benefit of feeling good about reducing my carbon footprint, and getting past that cognitive dissonance of  wanting to end cruelty to animals and then still eating them and their products.  Apparently, raising animals for meat, milk, and eggs is the single biggest cause of carbon emissions in the world, much worse than even the cars we drive every day.  And let’s be real and not try to fool ourselves with free-range hormone-free no-antibiotic farm-fresh meat.  The living conditions of those animals are still less than ideal, and there’s no cruelty-free way to slaughter an animal and dismember it.

smug

These weren’t my primary reasons for changing my diet though, so I call it “plant-based,” not “vegan.”  Some vegans, in my experience, can have a little bit of an attitude if you’re not a “purist,” –like you still wear leather, you still eat honey or foods with confectioners glaze, etc.  I figure, the less meat, dairy and eggs we consume, all the better, no matter the reason.  Fun fact I learned – aside from being acidic and bad for reflux, most wines and beers aren’t vegan, as vintners and brewers may use milk, egg whites, blood, gelatin, crustacean exoskeletons and isinglass in the fining process after fermentation.  Cheers!

 

I also have to manage my symptoms with traditional reflux protocols too.  This makes me sad.  I still need to sleep on a wedge pillow, but it’s uncomfortable so I don’t always.  I try to remember to stop eating about 2-3 hours before bedtime, and my next challenge is to make an effort to slow down and not inhale my food, especially if I’m out all day, haven’t been able to eat and I come home ravenous.

 

I was never a big drinker but if I do drink at all now, it’s just one glass of wine, and not very often.  I’m still trying to find locally available brands of vegan wine.  I can’t eat tomatoes without immediately getting a reaction.  I might put a very small amount of them into cooked foods.  I avoid citrus and peppermint.  I limit high fat foods.  I have smaller avocado portions than I used to.  I have to limit onions and garlic and limit my berries as they are pretty acidic.  Those are tough because I love all those foods.  Many of my previously favorite recipes have the trifecta: onions, garlic, tomatoes.  I gave up coffee, but I was never a regular drinker.  Once in a while I’ll cheat with special low-acid decaf coffee that I cold brew with alkaline water and I still get a little reaction.  I can’t have most teas because the black teas are caffeinated and acidic, and most herbal teas/tisanes I like have mint, berry or citrus which all trigger my globus and sore throat.  I was never a big soda drinker so it’s not hard to avoid that, but I do miss those no-sugar fruit seltzers.  I’m going to have to bring my dark chocolate intake down even lower because it’s a trigger for sure.  I just don’t think I’ll realistically ever be able to get that down to zero. I know who I am.

chocolate

Acid Reflux – not just for smoking, drinking, middle-aged men.

acid-reflux-causes

Back in December, I had a bad cold and lost my voice, but got over it.  Mid-January, I started feeling like my voice was going out again, but this time, I didn’t have any cold symptoms.  My primary doctor, never one to over-prescribe (I prefer it that way), said, “Maybe you just have acid reflux.  Take some OTCs and see how it goes.”

Acid reflux?  I scoffed–I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had heartburn in my entire life.  I eat pretty darn healthy, exercise regularly, drink rarely, and have an app that encourages me to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  I’m well under 50, not overweight, I don’t smoke, and I’m not a man.  How could I possibly have acid reflux?!

So, I took a couple Tums and some Pepsid, but it didn’t make any difference.  I also did what I usually do for my voice – herbal lemon lozenges, lemon ginger tea with honey, and lots of water and rest.  After trying to sing for a whole band practice, I became completely aphonic.  Not great for someone who uses their voice professionally.  After three days of being unable to make any sounds at all and now experiencing full-on heart burn ’round the clock, I went back to my doctor who was concerned but didn’t really have anything new to suggest except reflux.  I got a referral for an ENT and fortunately got an appointment an hour later.

The ENT did a nasolaryngoscopy and said that it looked a little irritated but there wasn’t much swelling so he wouldn’t even give me a cortisone shot to get my voice back.  He gave me a prescription for a powerful proton pump inhibitor – Protonix, and said, “If it works, you have reflux.”  He made it sound like no big deal.  He even said he goes off and on PPI’s periodically to manage his own reflux.

By the way, PPI’s ARE a big deal.  Being on them short term messes up your digestion because they lower the amount of acid in your stomach, so you don’t digest your food well, leading to diarrhea.  Also, they are not localized in their effects–they lower acid in your body systemically which isn’t good because you need acid for your lysosomes to properly remove cellular wastes.  In addition, there are a whole host of other health concerns from long-term use:

“…known risks, including C. difficile infections, which can cause chronic diarrhea; pneumonia; low magnesium levels, which can cause muscle spasms; heart palpitations and convulsions; and fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine. Fracture risks are generally highest in people who’ve taken high doses of the drugs for more than one year.”

from – http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/news/20160608/proton-pump-inhibitor-health-risks#1

I took the pills twice a day for several days and my voice slowly returned, but I was still experiencing heartburn, and an altogether new sensation–a feeling of a giant lump, like food, stuck at the back of my throat.  The technical term for this is globus pharyngis, and doctors aren’t really sure what causes it.  Some believe that there is a problem with the coordination of the swallowing muscles and perhaps they tense up and don’t relax, giving an uncomfortable sensation.  All I know is, it’s annoying, lasts for hours on end, and wasn’t improved at all by taking PPI’s.

Then I went to the library and did some research about reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and found that while, yes, I was experiencing acid reflux, heartburn, and globus sensation, these don’t equal a diagnosis.  These are symptoms.

This is why I get annoyed with Western medicine–I wasn’t diagnosed.  I was treated symptomatically and it sort of helped, but not 100%, and new problems arose.  I also met with a GI specialist to get a second opinion as I didn’t want to be married to these heavy-duty pharmaceuticals forever.  He basically said the same thing as the ENT.  He also refused to do any further testing to find the underlying cause of the reflux, essentially saying, “What does it matter?  You’ll have to treat it the same way, no matter the cause: modified diet, PPIs or H2 blockers, sleep on a slant, don’t eat 4 hours before bed.”

But here’s the thing: you can have acid reflux for a number of reasons including: over-production of acid in the stomach, under-production of acid in the stomach (yeah, counter-intuitive), a stomach that is slow to empty, a hiatal hernia, a weak lower esophageal sphincter caused by lots of things (including taking muscle relaxants).

Also, some fun facts I discovered: having silent reflux might be the reason you are over-producing mucus and have a constant post-nasal drip.  It also makes you prone to getting more sinus infections, and can cause asthma-like symptoms or leave you short of breath.

Coughing Man - Arrows

Depending on the root cause of the reflux, there may be some different treatment options.  I found another GI who was willing to do an upper endoscopy.  This revealed that my reflux is caused by a medium-sized hiatal hernia.  After even more research, I learned that the current surgical treatments for this aren’t that amazing (fundoplication, Lynx, a type of laparoscopic surgery).  Also, I found I don’t have GERD, I have LPR (laryngopharyngeal reflux), a.k.a. “slient reflux” which is why I don’t get heartburn, but I get throatburn and lose my voice easily.  Still, at least I have a diagnosis and can keep up with any new treatment developments.

Overall, I’m still struggling.  I am having a hard time with eating in general, as sometimes foods that should be “safe” seem to give me a problem.  And if I over-eat, eat too quickly, or eat too close to bedtime, it doesn’t matter what it is–I turn into a Gremlin.

gremlins

Oh, and as far as home remedies, I haven’t found any that work.  I got a slant-pillow but I still wake up with a sore throat most mornings.  The whole drinking water and slamming your heels down thing doesn’t seem to magically move my stomach back into its rightful position.  Self-adjusting my abdominal fascia doesn’t offer any relief either.  And for Chrissake, do NOT drink shots of apple cider vinegar.  If that shit worked, there would be no other treatment for hiatal hernia.  Some people anecdotally swear they get relief from these, but I’m hear to tell you there isn’t any research to back that up, and this girl didn’t find it to be true (though I didn’t try the ACV, that’s just cray).

One non-dietary thing that does seem to help is lowering my stress level with better sleep, avoiding unpleasant stimuli, and meditation.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that my symptoms had a sudden onset right around the time a certain popular vote-loser took office and my stress levels ramped up significantly.

There are some theories as to why acid reflux, GERD and LPR are on the rise.  When I find something credible and research-based, you’ll be the first to know.  Stay healthy friends.

Fixer Upper – Turning Everything into Faux-Distressed Pottery Barn Lookalikes

(Exhibits 1-8)

Chip and Joanna Gains, owners of Magnolia Homes, have not only a show on HGTV, but a whole brand they are cultivating.  They are a charming couple with four adorable children and a mess of animals on a farm down in Texas.  I love that they are into rescuing old properties rather than razing them and building new.  Still, every time I see them rip out beautiful wood windows, I die a little inside.  I guess as a contractor, it doesn’t make financial sense for Chip to reglaze.  Also annoying is that they love to make everything open concept (check my girl Roxanne at Justmewith… if you want a perfect explanation for everything that is wrong with open concept in a single-family home).  Also, they tend to ignore the era and style of the original home, making every property look sorta farmhouse-meets-industrial cookie cutter.   Nearly every kitchen ends up too big with an island (annoying and inefficient to walk around).  Nearly every kitchen has white cabinets.  Nearly every home tends to stick to a basic grays and whites palette. Reclaimed wood, distressed finishes, shiplap and subway tile are the only finishes they know, and they have a major hard on for sliding barn doors–a trend which I think will look super-dated in the not-too-distant future.  I wish the owners’ style were allowed to shine through a bit.

I think it’s important if you are looking to remodel or renovate, don’t look to just one t.v. show or source for style inspiration.  Too often people doubt their own sense of style, leaving it to the “experts” who wind up dictating a look that becomes  ubiquitous, repetitive, and boring.

 

 

Pinterest Wins and Losses

Over the past few years, I’ve become full-on Pinterest addicted.  I started out with just three “secret” (i.e. private, for my eyes only) boards and now have about 15 boards, most public.  I used to bookmark websites but it’s so much easier to search through a board of photos to find what I want.  Anyway, I’ve tried out a bunch of DIY stuff I’ve found through searching other people’s “pins,” and wanted to share a quick list of some that I have seen popping up that are worthwhile and some that turned out less than amazing.

rast hack

(This one looks magical.  They even added ball feet!)

Ikea “Rast” Hack – I needed a pair of beside tables.  Nothing too fancy, some drawers for storage, and enough surface area to have a box of tissues, a book, and a glass of water.

Verdict – Easy as shit, and only limited by your imagination and crafting skills.  I painted mine a simple blue with white drawer fronts, and swapped in some mid-modish circular metal pulls.  My imagination is a limitation, but allow yourself to be inspired.   They work great, and hold: all my bathing suits, all my winter scarves/hats/gloves/earmuffs, and some extra books and whatnot in the top drawer.

lemon honey

(Just make tea.)

Blackhead removal with a lemon and honey – Holy Christ this pin comes up so often, and it’s a bunch of nonsense.  If this really worked, no one in the entire world would have blackheads.  This is just going to irritate your skin with the lemon and make you all sticky from the honey with nothing good to show for it.  Fun fact — I found out through research that I don’t have blackheads – what look like clogged pores are called sebaceous filaments.  They are genetic, harmless, and nearly impossible to get rid of.  If your aesthetician manages to extract them, they will reappear in a matter of days, and your skin and pores won’t thank you for the squeezing and tugging.  PUT DOWN THE BIORE!

Verdict – Don’t even bother with this nonsense.

roller shade

Covering vinyl roller shades with fabric to pretty them up  – Get some cheap vinyl shades, get some cheap, thin cotton fabric, get some spray adhesive and slap it together.  Viola!  You have fancy, affordable shades that block out the early morning sun and neighbors’ prying eyes.

Verdict – So, this didn’t work so well for me, but the directions I found weren’t great and I made the mistake of following them blindly.  Instead of only covering the 3 ft or so length of the shade that is visible when the shade is unfurled, I covered the entire shade (as per instructions).  It wouldn’t roll back up because a) it was too heavy for the springs, and b) even the thinnest cotton calico is too thick and it looked lumpy.  I might get brave and try again using just a short length of fabric.  Also, that Elmer’s spray adhesive smells like death, and is super-messy and tacky to deal with (careful of overspray!).  Do it outdoors and leave it to cure out there for at least a day if you don’t want indoor air pollution.

buffalo bites

Cauliflower replacement recipes – trying to cut carbs? Increase veggie intake?  Make an every day food out of your your favorite “sometimes” foods?

Verdict – This actually worked, though if you are a junkfood purist, it will likely offend.  I used my pizza stone and made a decent cauliflower pizza crust, and used cauliflower florets to make baked “Buffalo wings.”  Frank’s makes a Buffalo sauce that isn’t high in fat (just has butter flavor), and it will work.  Great to make for your vegetarian friends at a casual party.

wineapple

“Wineapple” gift – nearly everyone I know loves booze and/or chocolate, often both, often together.  Take a bottle, stick on a bunch of Ferrero Roche candies, wrap the whole thing in plastic, and make some fake spiky leaves at the top with paper/plastic/whatever.

Verdict – Time consuming, expensive, difficult to get it looking good, but everyone loved them anyway.  I found someone selling huge boxes of those chocolate truffles online and had them shipped, as it will take many more of these to cover a bottle than you can imagine.  Maybe next time I’ll dot them around in a diamond pattern to save time, money, and frustration.  I stuck the candies to the bottle with tape as I didn’t want to hot glue it all making them difficult to remove, and leaving the bottle a mess and hard to pour from.  The candies tended to sag out of their wrappers even though the tape held them in place.  Wrapping it all in plastic helped hold it together somewhat, but there was fallout.  Also, it’s hard to spread them out evenly in neat little rows.  If you like your homemade gifts not to have that “homemade” look, and you are a perfectionist, just give them the candy and hooch wrapped separately and call it a night.

Andersen Windows – Pretty Good but Not Amazing.

double-hung-woodwright-interior-400-series-300x300

(They look nice, don’t they?)

Well, looks aren’t everything.  If you’re going to buy new construction windows and are looking at Andersen Woodwright 400’s, don’t even bother with the unfinished clear pine.  That wood is garbage.  Expect to pay an additional $100 or so for the oak or maple.

The response I got from both the company itself and the authorized dealer was, “Well, it’s pine.  It’s a softer wood.”  But really, it’s practically balsa wood, and in some sections it’s just a very thin veneer.  It’s soft, splintery garbage that comes out incredibly blotchy if you don’t use the correct pre-stain conditioner.  Also, I highly recommend using Charles Neil’s Pre-Color Conditioner.  His video made me smile.

http://www.cn-woodworking.com/cn-pre-color-conditioner/

charls neil

(I am not affiliated nor do I get any compensation from his company)

I first tried the Minwax pre-stain conditioner but the wood was a shitty, blotchy mess and I had to strip it back down and redo the whole thing.  With the CN product, the stain won’t come out nearly as dark as it is supposed to, but that’s because the conditioner has to block some of the stain to prevent blotching, so just know that before you choose the color.

Further, the overall quality and feel of the Andersen window is pretty cheap (though the price is not).  I really doubt that these new construction double hungs will last anywhere near as long as my original wood double hungs I bought them to match.  Sigh.  Hopefully when I’m ready to replace them, I can afford to get old-school true divided light all wood DH’s custom made.  A girl can dream.

When comedy has limits, comedy is over.

Difficult-People_0

Also, when people have to have this level of comedy explained, they likely still won’t get it.

Comedy shouldn’t have limits.  It’s freedom of speech.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch/listen.  There are lots of “jokes” that I don’t like but they can bring important issues to the forefront.

In regard to the “Blue Ivy” joke from Difficult People: the joke isn’t the kid.  The joke is that the CHARACTER is a terrible person and makes horribly mean jokes.  And further, the joke is the massive hypocrisy that R Kelly is a child molester and Blue Ivy’s dad COLLABORATED on an album with that filthy pedo which dropped the same year as the sex tape allegations brought against him.  Oh, and then they collaborated again on another album, so clearly Jay-Z is a supporter and fan.

R. Kelly is still out there, and probably has already pissed on another little girl.  And it’s not funny, it’s sick, but comedy can sometimes bring people to justice, at least in the court of public opinion (Hannibal Buress and Bill Cosby, anyone?)

Kitty Litter – reviews of a necessary evil for cat owners. UPDATED

I had both a cat and dog growing up, but after the dog passed away, we only ever had cats.  Dogs are great and I may own one again, but they don’t make sense for me right now.  I would feel terrible leaving a dog alone for a full-time workday.  I don’t want to walk a dog in the cold, early morning hours of winter before work.  I don’t want to travel with plastic poop bags everywhere we go.  Speaking of poop, my cat poops.  A lot.  He’s laid turds that appear to be half the length of his body.  I only feed him all natural canned cat foods without grains and additives because he’s an old man now and has gnarly digestive issues if I feed him “McDonald’s” cat food brands.  He also pees about a gallon a day.

Over the years, I have searched and tested and tried out many brands and types of kitty litter looking for the perfect formula.  I scoop his box on average 3 times a day and need something that can keep the stink down to a dull roar, isn’t too dusty, has no perfume (who wants to smell poo + flowers?), and will clump well to remove all the urine.  As a bonus, I would love a litter that doesn’t “track” out of the box, but I have come to realize that kind of kitty litter is a unicorn, despite claims on packages to the contrary.  Anyone who says cats are clean animals has clearly never owned a cat.

 

In addition, I prefer not to use a pan liner.  I find that my cat tends to tear holes in it, allowing litter and urine to seep under, making it very challenging when it’s time to clean out the box.  I have never found a liner that doesn’t have this issue.

On to the reviews…

 

arm and hammer

Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Unscented

If you want to go with a clay-based litter, this is a very good one.  Medium-dusty and clumps pretty darn well.  It is VERY heavy to carry when you buy in bulk.  Odor control is good.  I found Tidy Cats and  Fresh Step were about as good, so I just went by the price and which was available without perfume.

yesterday's news

Yesterday’s News –

Kudos for trying to be eco-friendly but not a great product.  It doesn’t clump at all so you have to change it more frequently, and it really does nothing to keep down smells.  I read a ton of great reviews on Chewy but I can’t believe these are real because I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t cut it for two cats.  Granted, it doesn’t track as much out of the box, but my real issue is the cat kicking it out when he tries to bury his business.

 

proplan renewnaturesearth-felinepinePurina ProPlan Renew, Feline Pine, and other wood-based litters –

Lower dust than clay, lighter weight, environmentally better, have a smell which reminds me of a hamster cage.  These didn’t seem to clump as tightly so when I’d remove the urine, the clumps would break up and stay in the pan.  Also, my cat seems to kick/track this stuff out even more than the clay.  I really liked that ProPlan was sold in recyclable post-consumer waste cardboard “bottles” but if left in the trunk of one’s car unsecured, the lid pops open spilling its contents which are crazy hard to vacuum out of a trunk liner.

blue buffalo

Blue Buffalo Naturally Fresh Quick Clumping –

I recently started using this and I really like it so far.  It’s made from walnut shells (eco-friendly), seems lower dust than the clay, and it doesn’t have a strong odor (some reviewers say it does, but maybe they weren’t using the “unscented” formula).  It clumps up very tight and dry so it’s pretty easy to scoop out.   It tends to track/get kicked out about as much as the clay litter.  One thing I don’t like is that it has a very dark brown color which could hide the presence of blood in the urine or feces if your cat is ill.  Right now it’s my litter of choice.

kitty litter

Swheat Scoop – current champion

Non-toxic, environmentally friendly, clumps well, keeps down odors pretty well (though I scoop often so nothing sits and stinks too long), and it’s light in color so if there’s blood in the urine or feces you will know.  It’s good but a bit dusty (haven’t found a litter that isn’t), it’s expensive and I use a ton of it with two gatos, so I have it shipped on a schedule from Chewy along with their food.  It works out to be a little cheaper than Petsmart.

Adventures in Self-Taught Window Glazing

window glazing

(Photo courtesy of http://www.PopularMechanics.com)

As loyal readers know, I live in an old house.  It was originally a two-room summer bungalow that was sold several times, expanded over the years and eventually became a permanent residence.  One of the benefits of having an older home is that many of the rooms possess the beautiful, original double-hung, six over one, true-divided light wood windows.  Problem is that the storm windows were never installed properly over them to protect them (they were caulked all around without any weep holes) and allowed moisture to work its way in and the glazing and paint are shot on the exterior faces of these windows.  Every time I vacuum inside the sills, chunks of glazing chip off and rain down.  Nevertheless, there was no way in hell I was going rip them out and replace them with those soul-less vinyls with “grilles between the glass.”  I could never be happy looking at or through windows like that for the rest of my life.

In my desire to be environmentally conscious, preserve beautiful, well made windows, and save money, I decided to attempt reglazing them myself.  To give you an idea of the reality of cost, I recently replaced four (4) windows in the dining room.  They were 56×36 aluminum framed jalousie windows that let in tons of light but were very cold even with interior glass storms.  We replaced them with wood interior/vinyl exterior double hung insulated Andersen’s with simulated divided light (about 56×32).  The cost for the windows alone was $4000 even with installing them ourselves.  That doesn’t include the cost of the staining and wood trim I have to do to match them to the others in the house.  Hence, the attempt at d.i.y. reglazing.  By the way, don’t buy the custom Andersen wood trim.  You’ll save a ridiculous amount of money if you just pick up trim pieces at your local lumber yard.

I am a fairly handy person and can follow directions so I felt that with enough reading and watching of videos that glazing a window should be something I could handle.  After having completed one window (upper and lower sash) I am ready to give my thoughts about the process.

This is not a hugely difficult process overall but it requires the right tools, materials, tons of prep work, and time to get the hang of working with the glazing materials.  My first sashes don’t look so hot, but I think as I go, I will get better. Who knows, when I’m done, maybe I’ll be good enough to have a little side hustle reglazing wood windows and make some bank.

In my quest to keep it non-toxic and natural, I chose to use Allback natural linseed oil glazing compound and linseed oil paint.  To strip the old paint and what was left of the putty I purchased a Speedheater (similar to the Silent Paint Remover they tout on the Allback website but had better reviews and quality control according to many online comments).  I also purchased all the paint scraper tools and putty chaser, shellac flakes, linseed oil, linseed soap, chalk etc. that they suggest using.  i wanted to follow their instructional videos to a T.  I’ve included links to the videos I followed. (Opens in new tab.)

http://youtu.be/OXIauqrMCWU

http://youtu.be/zpJhVnc9zTE

Paint and putty removal:

The Speedheater works great but you really want to do this outdoors or in a super-well ventilated workshop away from your living space.That shit smells when it gets hot.  It also works better on a hot day so that the heating time isn’t being extended by lower external temperatures.  The technique issue I had was in using the scrapers.  Those blades are hella sharp and I unfortunately found myself gouging the wood several times.  Definitely a learning curve.

Removing glazing points:

This was very easy and I didn’t crack a single pane,  Be super careful in handling this glass as the edges are sharp, and part of the old window’s beauty is contained in the antique, wavy glass that you can’t get if you break a pane and have to replace it with new glass.

Preparing the rabbits to receive new putty:

I cleaned these with steel wool as they suggested but this was a mistake and I only did a few passes before realizing that bits of wool lodge in the wood and will fuck up the finish.  Don’t use steel wool.  Keep scraping (gently!) and use a scour pad and microfiber cloth instead that won’t leave particles embedded in the sashes.  I wiped the whole shebang down with the linseed oil and let it sit and soak in.  I came back days later and shellaced the rabbits and let them dry overnight.  Easy peasy.

Backbedding and laying new glazing putty around the panes:

This shit was hard to get right.  I had to heat the putty in the microwave as suggested to get it to a workable level.  It was gooey, sticky and oily.  Very hard to work with and get it smooth.  It would drip everywhere and stick to everything despite letting it sit on wallboard to soak up some of the oil.  Also hard to get off your hands so I suggest working with tight fitting latex gloves.  I probably laid the putty and scraped it back out 3 or so times for each of the panes trying to get it just right.  Still looked like the dogs dinner on some of them but at a certain point, I was over it and needed to finish.  I may try working with a different brand of putty for the next window (thinking of Sarco M glaze).

Painting the exterior:

Since the interiors of my windows are stained, I only had to paint the exterior.  Allback linseed oil paints are a bit tricky to work with if you’re only used to latex paint, though I really believe from all I’ve read and everyone I’ve spoken to that oil paints are the way to go for keeping the sashes protected.  Make sure you have mineral spirits/paint thinner to clean up your hands and brushes because this crap ain’t washing off with their dinky linseed oil soap, Dawn detergent, Lava soap or anything else you had planned to use.  Better yet, don your latex gloves again and make your life happier.  One major benefit to using this putty and natural paint combination is that the smell is tolerable and you don’t have to wait for the putty to “skin over.”  As soon as it’s in, you paint over it and an 1/8th of an inch onto the glass to make a seal.  Folks, take the time to do the prep work and mask off the glass with blue painter’s tape so you won’t be doing the scraping and cleaning later.  Cutting back the paint was a huge pain in the ass and didn’t go as smoothly as they made it look in the videos.

Huge note – drying time for oil paint is waaaaay longer than you’d think.  It actually doesn’t “dry” because it doesn’t contain water.  Instead, the oil oxidizes slowly and it “cures.”   I made a huge mistake of placing the sashes outside temporarily while I cleaned up inside a bit.  Dozens of tiny black gnats were attracted to the paint and stuck themselves to it.  Not fun picking them out when the painted hardened.  All told, I think it was a good ten weeks before the sashes were no longer tacky to the touch and the paint wouldn’t mar when I handled them.  I’ve been told that heating the wood can speed curing time but I don’t have the set up for that and I worried trying to gently heat it with the Speedheater would instead loosen the paint bond.

Do not attempt this if you’re impatient, clumsy, or have trouble following directions.

Halloween movie reviews…

John Dies at the End

John-Dies-at-the-End_10

So I took a little longer to write this because I wanted to finish reading the book before I gave my opinion of the movie.  I know they’re not the same thing, but sometimes reading the book helps put the movie in better perspective.  If you like surrealistic humor mixed with horror told in a sort of stream of consciousness style, this is your jam, homes.  I love how the movie followed the book pretty much verbatim for the first half but then I felt that the climax of the movie was all wrong and totally not a climax.  When I read the book, it became clear that there was a megaton of action, characters, and incidents that had to be combined (sometimes unsuccessfully) and cut to make it film-length.  This hurt the movie as it didn’t have the right pacing and depth.  Still, lots of fun, unpredictable and great acting all around.  Look for the cameo by Doug Jones!

 

pumpkin

pumpkinpumpkin