Repurposing materials

In response to the great support I received from my earlier post on the micro living movement and my increasing interest in living small, I thought I would dive into a popular aspect of this movement: repurposing things.

Resourceful is a characteristic I’ve prided myself in, and whether you call it scrappy, creative, or just cheap, it has certainly helped me out in all of my moving adventures. I think there are two sides to being resourceful in terms of physical, material things. The first is seeing potential in an item. The second is seeing how an action from you can change the item.

Meeko says she repurposes her nap space to anywhere she feels like
Meeko says she repurposes her nap space to anywhere she feels like

Seeing what else an item could be, what properties it has, or what changes you can bring to it increases it’s usefulness. Maybe you have a friend who re-paints old furniture pieces, or glues sequins onto T-shirts. I see this as a form of resourcefullness, and repurposing. You have an option to go buy a brand new shirt that reflects a trend, or you have an option to add (or take away) from a shirt you already have. Of course, to do this takes time, which is a privilege, so we all pick and choose what we do ourselves and what we buy from people or companies who can do it faster and cheaper.

With the boom of websites like Etsy and Saturday markets, people are certainly getting their craft on. I remember when my mom bought me a hot glue gun a few years ago, and I laughed, remembering her projects of gluing Ric-Rac onto curtains or googly eyes onto cards. Well the joke was on me because I have used that glue gun for more home projects than I could have ever imagined. In the past few months, two pairs of shoes started “talking” (separating from the sole) and I glued them right back together. I also fixed my glasses case, saving me from a purchase I would have been very unexcited about.

Meeko posing by the toolbox and drill
Meeko posing by the toolbox and drill
It's messy but it works.
It’s messy but it works.

This may all seem quite small scale, or perhaps you are thinking that owning a glue gun is a bit too feminine for your taste. I strongly advise you get over that because a glue gun is as useful as duct tape and a staple gun (my personal favorites for fixing stuff back together. Just ask Kevin, I staple-gunned the fabric falling off the ceiling of his car. Home improvement, car improvement, done.)

In San Francisco I got really into estate sales. The ultimate repurposing from people who generally had high quality things. I found three hard suitcases at one of them, realizing their potential immediately. The guy running the estate sale jokingly asked if I was “late for a train,” when I walked up to pay for them. As in, people haven’t used hard suitcases since the days of waiting at the train station with your parasol and a handkerchief. Well sir, would you be laughing now when one suitcase has become a table, another a foot rest while I write, and the third… Well actually the third is just a hat box, because how could I not have a hat box for $5??

suitcase as a skinny table. The "normal" tp holder fell out of the wall with the last tenants and I would have to do a pretty serious drywall update to the wall. This is an easier solution.
Suitcase as a skinny table. The “normal” tp holder fell out of the wall with the last tenants and I would have to do a pretty serious drywall update to the wall. This is an easier solution.
The previous owner of this hard suitcase went on cruises.
The previous owner of this hard suitcase went on cruises.










Buried beneath all of these suggestions, I know there is a fear of becoming a hoarder of things that you “might use one day.” The truth is, the ability you have to hang onto potentially useful things is directly tied to how much actual space you have within your home. For me, a smaller space forces me to complete projects quickly, and prevents me from having a build up of projects, which will only cause me more stress. It can be a fine line to walk, but that is something every household has to figure out for themselves. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to turn into the infamous “dumpster divers” from the show Portlandia. Watch what I’m talking about here: Portlandia Dumpster Divers

In integrating my things and Kevin’s things, I reluctantly realized that my large wooden table (a great find on craigslist from a schoolteacher who was moving) could not fit under the loft bed with all of it’s leaves in. I stood in front of that table, hands on my hips and asked, “what am I going to do with you?” Unscrew the rounded extensions of the table and turn them into wall shelves, that’s what.

In my English 102 class that I teach, I encouraged my students to question everything about the world around them. Why does something have to be the way it is, just because that’s the way it’s been? Of course, it’s difficult to question something when you don’t even know there’s an alternative. This was exactly the case for me before I stumbled upon the micro living movement. As a homework assignment, I asked my students to pretend that they had the power to add one required class to the entire University’s curriculum. Something everyone would have to take. I encouraged them to be as selfish in their own interests as they wanted, and not be afraid to have fun. We were all surprised at the amount of of students, men and women, who argued for a survival class, a basic construction class, or something similarly hands-on.

There is so much information out there about using tools, repurposing materials, and even just painting something a different color. Question the things you are used to, especially within your home. The questioning itself will be freeing, but the exhilaration that comes from fixing or changing something is truly special. We should all be less afraid to pick up a tool and do something. Not just for the sake of fighting gender roles, not with the intent of never buying something ‘nice’ again, and not in the hope of feeling like a superior human being to others. Try it because it’s fun, because it’s rewarding, and it challenges the idea that every new issue within your home requires the purchase of a brand new thing.

I’d love to hear what things you have repurposed in your apartment or home– feel free to share in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Stinsen Beach and a new sweater

I finally went across the Golden Gate Bridge! This Saturday Ashwin, the doggies, and I headed to Stinsen Beach: population approximately 500.

After a long and extremely winding drive, we drove into the beachtown’s main area.  It’s crazy how many micro climates there are in Northern California. This beach town was at least ten degrees warmer, and even though the breeze was still there, the sky was free from fog and clouds. We got a quick taco and quesadilla lunch at a restaurant with an outdoor patio. Meeko and Snickers each got a tasty nacho chip– yum!

The main stretch of beach turned out to not allow dogs. This led to an Ashwin rant wondering why the world was against doggies. Unfortunately, I think it comes down to people not picking up their doggies poop. I certainly wouldn’t want to walk around stepping in that! Though in reality, all the sidewalks in San Francisco are covered in dog pee so…

We drove a few blocks north to a different section of the same beach, designated “County beach.” In other words, dog friendly! There were much less people, and all the dogs (except for one, but he was leashed) were well behaved. Meeko quickly found some friends to play chase with and graciously shared her favorite squeaky tennis kong with anyone who was interested. She even play wrestled for the first time with a 2 year old puppy! It was so fun to see her play biting, and teasing the other dog even though he had her pinned upside down in the sand.

Snickers had some pep in her step and even chased Meeko a little bit! She didn’t care for the cold water though, so we stayed away from the waves. We walked far down the beach, watching huge cargo ships floating slowly in the distance. Meeko entertained herself by galloping in circles around us while Snickers stuck by my feet. As we were leaving the beach, Snickers found a dead fish to roll in and got a second wind of energy. She sprinted around us, obviously very pleased with her new scent. I told her “We’ll see who’s laughing when you are getting a bath”

After some oatmeal shampoo and more running around the house, the dogs settled down for a nap and I made some chocolate chip cookies for the humans in the house. Ashwin said they were the best ones I’d ever made!

In other news, Snickers got a new sweater so she isn’t so cold on all of our hardwood floors. I think she likes it!

A Snickers in Golden Gate Park

Sunday afternoon Ashwin’s Dad met us at a lake in Golden Gate Park. Our main goal was to tire Ms. Meeko out, but Snickers was the surprise star of the day!

The park itself was beautiful, and we met lots of friendly puppies. Children of all ages were smiling at Meeko but for once she was oblivious. All she cared about was the soccer ball under Ashwin’s arm. That may sound cute, but I was annoyed that she couldn’t just relax and enjoy her walk like she usually would. We made a mental note to bring a bag for the soccer ball next time.

Back in her youthful days, Snickers was an avid swimmer. An Olympic champion of chasing ducks across entire ponds. I have many memories of being done with a walk and calling out to Snickers to get out of the water. She would turn her head towards me like, “Yes I heard you, but I’m not done yet!” and keep swimming. Now when we come across a body of water, Snickers doesn’t always feel like swimming. But not this day!

As soon as we came up to the shore of Stow lake Snickers started getting excited. Her little tail was wagging and she was growling playfully at the ducks. The ducks on the other hand were more like, “What, you want some of this? Come and get it if you’re so tough! *quack*” Snickers kept putting her front paws in the water, then changing her mind. All of the sudden she was climbing out onto a fallen willow tree that was hanging over the water! She was 2 feet above the water standing on this tree when she realized that she was stuck. At this point other people had stopped to watch and were taking pictures. Ashwin and I were laughing and calling to her “Snickers! Why are you in the tree?” She tried to turn around but lost her footing and fell into the water.

As she doggy paddled back to shore, the look on her face was priceless. She was so embarrassed! When she pulled herself onto the shore, she walked past us and the other people and shook herself off on the other side of the path. “It’s okay Snickers, nobody saw you fall” I lied.

After walking up the hill on the island in the middle of the lake, Snickers went round 2 with the ducks on the same shoreline. She successfully chased them and then came back to me. Much better!

My only regret for the day is that I didn’t get a video of Snickers in the tree because I was too busy holding onto Meeko’s leash.

More from the National Seashore

Yesterday I drove my sister to the airport to visit my Mom. I am staying at my sister’s place in Corpus Christi for a few more days. Snickers was very sad to see her real Mommy leave, but they got plenty of snuggling in while she was here!

So far we have been to the same part of the National Seashore beach twice. I thought this Tuesday morning would be a perfect time to take the dogs back for another adventure. When we arrived, the first thing I noticed were the waves. They were huge! A line of wooden posts blocking cars from driving down one side of the beach were mostly underwater, where as the last time we visited, they were all visible.

There were two cars parked far down the beach fishing, so we headed past the wooden poles to enjoy the beach all by ourselves. I’d noticed some large blue jellyfish looking creatures washed up all over the beach before. After some quick research I discovered they were technically not jellyfish, but Portuguese Man of War. Even days after washing up on shore and dying, they were still toxic and could produce a sting if touched. We had a close call with Meeko inspecting one that appeared to be alive due to the wind inflating it and making it move. Luckily she did not decide to eat the “cool looking squishy blue thing.” She did finally get to chase some seagulls though! I pointed out a huge V of pelicans in the air, but Meeko didn’t catch on.

We played on the beach for about an hour. A helicopter flew overhead which startled Meeko a bit. Also startling Meeko was this evening when I turned on the garbage disposal. I forgot she hadn’t heard one before! Her reaction was to wake up from a nap, run over to where I was standing in the kitchen and wait for a treat.

Right now I am trying to figure out my route for the rest of my trip, and when I should arrive in San Diego to drive up the coast of California. I’ve been on the road for so long, sometimes I forget that I’m actually moving to San Francisco!

Location: Corpus Christi, Texas (Turns out, this is Selena’s hometown!)

A Porpoise in Corpus

We arrive at my sister’s apartment late Tuesday night after an epic 10 hour drive of Subway, smoothies and roadside stops for the doggies.

My sister had several things planned for all of us to do while we were visiting. One of the things Corpus Christi is known for are it’s beaches, often as a Spring Break hotspot. Lucky for us, it’s June, and most people work during the day. One afternoon we packed up the car and headed for the beaches of Padres Island National Seashore. I was very curious to see how Ms. Meeko would do with the ocean.

Most Shelties do not have a natural love of swimming, and though I’d done my best to make Meeko comfortable with getting baths and having her feet wet back in Pittsburgh, she had not truly gone swimming in a large body of water. Entering the park, we turned down the first beach access road. There were sand dunes along the side of the road, and the wind was whipping up swirls of sand along the tops. Parking was directly on the beach, and on a Thursday afternoon there were only four other cars there.

As soon as I got out of the car, a bit of sand got past my sunglasses and went into my eye. Unfortunately I did not have any eye drops or (fresh)water to rinse it out. I tried not to scratch at it, determined to still have a good time. We headed out towards the waves and walked along the shore. My sister held Snickers leash while I got Meeko. Snickers was a little intimidated by the waves, though she wanted to go swim. I started gently leading Meeko towards the waves. At first she jumped back at the first wave spreading over the sand. Then I made her stop and wait for the wave to move across her feet. Her face seemed to say, “Oh! That wasn’t that bad!”

I waded into the ocean with Meeko still on her leash, getting her belly wet. She didn’t seem as scared, but I couldn’t tell if she was truly enjoying the water. After my sister and I walked far enough that there weren’t any other people around, we let the dogs off their leashes. Snickers took off sprinting with Meeko right behind her. They ran far down the beach chasing each other, but they both came back when I called them. Still playing, Snickers leaped into the waves and Meeko followed her! They snaked up and down the beach jumping through the water, getting their faces smacked by the huge waves. Meeko decided she liked hopping over the waves, and from a distance she looked like a little furry porpoise, arching out of the water and back into a wave.

Click here for a video of the doggies playing in the water!

I’m having a lot of fun in Corpus Christi, and will be staying here for a few more days before I start heading North. In other news, I got word from a short fiction contest that I entered about 6 months ago. I didn’t win, but they have chosen to publish me anyways! The magazine is called Paper Darts. More details soon!

Location: Corpus Christi, TX

22 Days: Meeko is driving me crazy

Things she has ripped up or eaten in the past few days: pajama shorts, pair of socks, 6 undies, one shoe and a bra.

I decided to sell her metal puppy crate and have been transitioning her to a canvas travel crate. It has zipper-doors and a top that zips open so she can pop her head out and look around in the car. Her most recent feast of Jackie clothing happened because she managed to hop out of her crate through a small opening in the top. I had left a bit of it un–zippered so that she wouldn’t get too hot. She spent her next four hours of freedom going through my laundry basket and “redecorating” my room with shredded clothes. Thanks Meeko!

As for the bra, yes, she actually ate it. I know this because Monday morning as I was trying to get ready for work she puked it up, one piece at a time. She didn’t even chew the straps, she just ate them whole, like angel hair pasta. Yes, you really needed that visual.

She’s getting spayed this Thursday, maybe that will calm her down a bit?? No offense Ms. Meeko, but the world doesn’t need any crazy puppies from you!


Puppy Timeline part 2

When puppies are very young, they don’t really bark. They squeak.

Once a week all throughout December, my boyfriend, Snickers, and I made trips out to see the Sheltie litter at Merlyn Kennels. Very soon, the two female puppies knew that we were there to see them. They would jump at their pen and lick our hands while the boys in the litter would continue falling on top of each other and knocking over their water dish. I felt like a proud parent– They are just so smart! We knew from the beginning that the breeder would be keeping one of the female puppies to become the next matriarch in her line of show dogs. Essentially, whichever puppy best represented what the Sheltie breed aims for, in looks, personality, etc., would be the one she would keep.

I’ll be honest, I had fallen in love with the other female puppy. I’d tentatively named her Bianca, from Disney’s The Rescuer’s. Eva Gabor does the voice for the character, a Hungarian mouse who works in a mouse-version of the UN. (If you have never seen this movie, please do) This puppy walked around like she was the prettiest thing ever, and she was always posing. The other female puppy seemed to have little interest in me–she’d rather play with a toy by herself than let me pet her. The breeder explained that just like human kids, puppies can go through awkward phases where they are emotionally ‘behind’ or have little interest in humans. This was hard to accept when Bianca seemed genuinely interested in interacting with me (and Snickers, despite the many growls and snaps that came her way). I crossed my fingers, hoping for Bianca.

Finally, right before the puppies’ 10 week birthday, we stopped in for our visit. “Here’s your puppy!” the breeder greeted us. I studied the puppy–which one was it? Looking quickly, it could be tough to figure out who was who, their colours and markings were quite similar. I remembered that Bianca’s feet were white only on her paws. This puppy’s feet, legs and chest were all pure fuzzy white.

I asked how she made the decision of which puppy to keep. She explained that “my puppy” was beautiful, and had perfect markings for a show dog. In fact, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. Unfortunately, the markings that would make her a great show dog carried potential problems for her future puppies. If my puppy were bred, there was a risk that her puppies could be born with all white faces, or large amounts of white in their fur. Not only would this disqualify them for showing purposes, but the genetics that cause white faces in Shelties often cause blindness or deafness. So, while puppy Bianca was not as “technically” beautiful in the world of show dogs, she was the more ideal candidate for producing show quality puppies.

Hiding my disappointment with a smile, I reached out for my new puppy, unsure of what to expect from her, let alone what to name her!

Puppy Timeline Part 1

There has always been a Sheltie in my life. When I was really little, we had Gallie, an oversized Sheltie with an overbite. When I fell down a ditch into a riverbed, she ran back to our house barking at my Mom until she followed Gallie to my rescue, Lassie-style. Turns out ‘Gallie’ was short for ‘Galleria,’ as in the mall. When I discovered this I felt genuinely bad for her.

Then there was Misty, aka Moose. I was in 6th grade and my biggest wish was finally coming true– my parents told my sister and I that we could each get our own dog. I had my heart set on another Sheltie, while my sister was debating between a Beagle or a Jack Russell based solely on the cuteness of their faces. My Mom, sister and I drove out to the first breeder we’d gotten in contact with. She bred show dogs, and had one puppy left from her latest litter of champions. I remember sitting on her couch, listening to the sounds of about ten Shelties barking at us from outside, when she placed a tiny Sable Sheltie into my lap. The breeder began to explain that she was the runt of the litter, and that she would probably stay pretty small. I looked down and the puppy had fallen asleep stretched out across my lap. I sensed this dog and I had something special, so I whispered to my Mom that we didn’t need to look anymore. Moose was my “soul Sheltie,” like a soul mate only fuzzier.

While I was still in college, Moose had sudden kidney failure and passed away at the young age of 10. My sister’s puppy pick, Snickers, was depressed for weeks. At meal times, she kept waiting for Moose to sneak up and steal her food. She looked for her in every room. When I graduated from college, I became the only family member that was in a position to take Snickers. I moved her down to Pittsburgh, happy to have a dog back in my life. But the idea of having another Sheltie was always in the back of my mind.

After several phone calls, emails, and begging, I finally found Meeko’s breeder at Merlyn Kennels. She had a litter of Sable puppies due at the end of October 2011. There were five total, three boys and two girls. We started visiting the puppies once a week in December, not knowing which of the two girls we would get.