Monday, April 19, 2010

Oof, my head

Oil-based primer is not my friend. I've always heard it was a hot mess, but I didn't quite get it. I mean, what can be so messy about some paint. Boy was I in for a shock. And a splitting headache.

Today I bit another bullet and started to go to town on the guest bathroom vanity. It's starting out as a lovely (read: pukey) honey oak, and I'm painting it white. This was my "test project." If I like it and it goes well, the master bathroom and perhaps even kitchen cabinets will follow suit.

Well, about three coats in and a whole lotta mess, some thoughts:

1. Sand, sand, sand. I think I forgot to sand one portion of the vanity and I am regretting it.
2. Prime, prime, prime. Yes, it's nasty, but it really does help. I only did one coat, and I wish I had done two. Three coats in and I'm still see a bit of bleed-through with the wood grain. That combined with my sanding screwup is not making this project fun.
3. Having a black Labrador does not help when you're painting. I decided to keep all the painting in the guest bath, because Olivia never goes in there. Well, that was fine until I started taking quick breaks and walking around the rest of the house. I tracked a bunch of hair back in with me and it keeps getting onto my cabinet doors. Ugh.
4. I really love my chosen white "Powdered Snow" by Behr. It's really pretty, and the exact white I was hoping for, but it sure does point out how dingy my doors have become. It's so true that once you start one DIY project, it's a roller coaster from there.

I'm hoping to finish up the main painting tomorrow. More then.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Well, if you can't tell I'm super proud of myself. The great Just Paint It Challenge of April was a rousing success.

This is what I started out with (notice the awkward arrangement of the doors creating about 50 square feet of unusable space):

Here's a closeup:

It wasn't the greatest view walking in from the garage, and I hated the wasted space. The only thing that seemed to land there were dust bunnies of a certain pooch's fur. Yuck.

So it's been about three years of debating what to do with this space. I debated painting, covering the door with some sort of shelving unit or covering it with fabric. I even considered turning it into a functional chalkboard calendar and a place to hang coats and such. I hemmed and hawed and basically just ignored it.

But when Ryan got into grad school and it started to look like this house might be my home for a bit longer than I originally had hoped, I decided I needed to do something to make this eyesore a bit easier on my psyche.

I took inspiration from its location smack in between our dining area and our living space. It needed to service both functions, so I decided it would best be used as a hostess station. A place where I can display some of my nicer pieces and also jot down a note or two. The key would be that this station would have to be somewhat portable in order to get into the utility area once a month to change the air filter.

So on Saturday I got down to business and painted the door:

And on Sunday I bit the bullet and did two coats on the air intake. That's 150 separate slats in that intake if you can't quite count.

And then it was time to make the area functional. I moved our cherry wood ladder bookcase and desk from the office into this transitional space. Here is the unit in the office (it was totally weighed down by lots o' sports memorabilia that will find a future home in Ryan's classroom someday):

And here it is in our living area:

Some perspective:

I was able to display my wedding album and pull some beloved wedding gifts out of the storage closet.

I know it's not a perfect solution to a necessary evil, but I think it's a good compromise. (Plus a cheap one. I didn't spend a dime outside of paint supplies.) I didn't expect to hide the door completely, but I believe it was the best I could do with the circumstances I was given.

And thanks to the "Just Paint It Challenge," I'm no longer afraid to paint. I had never painted anything before this, and my pals can attest that I was a nervous wreck. It was much easier than I had expected and I can't wait to tackle many more projects to come.


Today was one of those days I just love. I woke up this morning, thinking I wasn't going to get a thing accomplished for a variety of reasons: laziness, lack of confidence, time and money. But I sucked it up and got started on a few projects.

After standing in the rain for *approximately* four hours at Touch-A-Truck, I headed over to Home Depot and used about $90 of my gift cards (procured through AmEx rewards! Yay for free cash!). I bought all the necessary supplies to redo my drabby utility door. I popped for the fancy Purdy paintbrushes, picked up a foam roller (which was as awesome as Ashley over at Decorating Obsessed claims) and also snagged a pretty kick-ass power sander for $40.

After a great HD trip, I stopped by Westwood Gardens and let a teenage boy pick out my plants for me. I recently dug out my bed around the mailbox wanted some hardy groundcover. We, I mean, he decided to go with Snow on the Mountain, which has a beautiful mix of greens. It flowers in the early summer, so we should be seeing some pretty white blooms shortly. This plant should outlast any attempts by my postal carrier to deliver my mail by driving onto my lawn.

I finished up the day by planting the groundcover, starting the flip on my living room bookcase, painting the door and prepping the vent. Tomorrow I plan on painting the vent and bringing the ladder bookcase/desk out to the entry area to see how it looks.

Where'd the door go? That vent better watch its back.

See that mysterious hole where the doorknob should be? Well, in just a few short weeks, I will be the proud honor of new (to me) antique brass levers! I found a huge lot of them on eBay for $200, and miraculously the lot contained the exact combination of privacy and passage levers as well as deadlocks and entry doors. And in a "pinch me" moment, the seller is in Omaha and agreed to knock $50 off the price if I could pay cash and pick them up locally. So my wonderful father-in-law agreed to help this cheap DIY-er (in training) out, and he'll pick them up Monday. I'm so excited!

Be on the lookout for more updates once I finally complete some projects and continue prep for the Great Garage Sale of 2010.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Things I've learned while preparing for a garage sale

1. When you get a present you don't like, chuck it, regift it or donate it right away. Years later, those socks are still going to be in the packaging.
2. I have lots of dress socks, but unless they're argyle, I don't wear them.
3. My husband owns seven belts in two colors.
4. I'm still pretty attached to some T-shirts I haven't worn in more than a year and I'll never wear again. (Most interesting is my purple Yucca Girl Scout troop shirt that I've had since first grade and, yes, still fits.)
5. Gag gifts are the gifts that keep on giving (and still remain hidden in my closet).

More on this and my attempts to write up a game plan for all billion of my DIY projects coming this weekend.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Almost four years later...

I'm up for some home improvement.

(Oh, and hi, welcome back to my blog.)

I've never been savvy with decorating or DIYing, but I think it's time to step up to the plate. My pal over at Decorating Obsessed challenged her readers with a "Just Paint It Challenge," and that really got me thinking....

And thinking...

And thinking...

So what started out as a simple idea to paint this vanity white...

...turned into a list about a mile long:

Guest Bathroom
1. Paint vanity white.
2. Change light fixture.
3. Add hardware.*

1. Buy this Ikea workstation.

2. Add traditional office chair and smaller chair.

Master Bedroom
1. Move tall dresser into guest bedroom and rearrange furniture to improve flow.

Master Bathroom
1. Paint vanity white.
2. Change light fixture.
3. Add hardware.*

Living Area
1. Paint large bookcase, hope chest and TV stand white. Also recover hope chest.
2. Paint utility door and trim to match wall and move existing bookshelf unit with mini desk in front of it. (Will look into adding lockable wheels to ease getting into this closet to clean filters.)
3. Paint Aunt Wilma's occasional chair white and recover.

1. Paint cabinets white.*
2. Add backsplash.*
3. New faucet (current one is yellowed plastic -- yuck!).
4. New darker floor.

Throughout house
1. Replace brass doorknobs (blech). There are 14 internal doors and two external.
2. Repaint trim and doors.

I've put asterisks next to things that are likely pipe dreams.

I think all of these little projects will really turn our house from a dud into a more interesting space again. When formulating my list I tried to think of things I could accomplish by myself (or with an extra set of hands) and for little money. My goals were basically to update the house, brighten up the main living space and get the house market-ready (whether we're actually market ready ourselves or not will not be determined for some time).

I'm super excited and intrigued to move our existing leaning bookshelf/desk in front of the utility door. 1) That door is ugly and awkward and is horrible to look at when you walk through the garage door. 2) The arrangement of the doors created about 144 square feet of totally unusable space, which is I hear is pretty much the most awful thing ever when it comes to selling your house. Putting this unit there will turn that area into a bill-paying station and will provide storage space for dining linens and other hostess-related items.

The best part is I think I can do all this for less than $1,000. The most expensive things will be replacing the kitchen floor (we plan to use groutable peel-and-stick vinyl squares that cost about $1 a square foot but we have a fairly large kitchen), changing the doorknobs (I'll be scouring eBay/overstock/Craigslist) and adding the office furniture (hello tax deduction!). Even the mosaic glass tile I found online is relatively cheap at $8 a square foot. We're going to try to finance some of this by having a garage sale the first weekend in May.

So... Look here for details after I get back from my trip to D.C. and Philly as I start to break down the projects and plan. I'm hoping to get the majority of the work done by the end of the summer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I'm Enjoying Right Now

1. Arrested Development: We borrowed the series from our friends, Laine and Adam, and just started watching it a lot the past few weeks. We're still on Season 1, but we really like it so far. It's also a fave of Marissa's, so I don't know why it took me so long.
2. Exercising: I resurrected my Polar HRM the other day and I'm really enjoying kicking into high gear. I've been taking Les Mills' BodyPump class at my gym for a little more than two months now and I really love that as well.
3. Makeup: This is a relatively new and minor thing, but I'm trying to relearn how to wear makeup again. I don't have a lot of the basic tools (brushes and things) or the basic skills (liquid liner still is not my friend), but I'm enjoying it so far. I'm trying to take better care of my skin as well.
4. Cooking: I decided about a week ago that Ryan and I were going to avoid shopping until August. I figured two weeks would be enough time to deplete our well-stocked pantry a bit. It's been fun cooking a bit more again. So far I've made steak, honey mustard chicken and blueberry pancakes.

Book #32: Columbine

Columbine Columbine by Dave Cullen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Amazingly, Dave Cullen was able to cut through hundreds of thousands — maybe millions? — of paperwork to write the authoritative journalistic work on Columbine shootings. From the first page, this book was riveting. Cullen breaks down the hysteria and misconceptions surrounding Columbine. He tells the stories of that day (and the ones before and after) so well. I think this book is a must-read for any journalist, educator or historian.

View all my reviews >>