Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hanging a Cutting Board (on the fly)

One of the gems I found in my mum's storage shed was the cutting board I made her way back when I was 7th grade. She is the one I owe thanks to for my love of chickens in the kitchen, and bestowed my gift back to me now that I have a big ol' kitchen of my own. The only thing was I had no cabinets with space on top, like she did, or free counter space to display my chicken-themed, wood shaping prowess. The last thing I wanted to do was drill a gaping hole (say, where the eye should be) to hang it off a nail by a thread. It would just look wrong; it would ruin the cutting board. And god knows I'm not really willing to part with my money (probably $15 worth given my experience with prices on domestic stuff) on a cutting board hanging apparatus at one of the expensive kitchen/box stores.

In one of the boxes of things that should have gone to the trash, but somehow ended up getting moved over, I found our former gold-colored curtain rod hooks. They are useless now because the windows in the house already came equipped with hooks (in old metal-covered in white paint color) in addition to the fact that I only had 3 of the 4 hooks that originally came with the rods. Frequent loss of some, but not all, matching things is a given occurrence during moves with bonus points if they are irreplaceable without buying a whole new set, too. The final hook will probably show up as we're moving again in a box we previously checked 15 times or more.

Seeing that it could no longer serve its original purpose, I was about to toss it out when I realized that they could indeed hold something. A cutting board perhaps? Yes! Bear pointed out that if I flipped over the hook so that the opening faced down, there was a nice flat part for the cutting board to rest on. It was then that I wondered if we could bend the opening completely closed for a 2-in-1 deal: combination cutting board wall display and oven mitt hangers.

The gist is, you take those old curtains hooks and bend the u-shaped part closed with a strong enough tool.

Before the squeeze.

After the squeeze. It would be useful to insert the bent napkin rings just before you get it closed all the way. We did not have that solution figured out by then.

Get a ruler, level it, and mark on the wall where you'd like to put the hooks. Then drill the screws in a bit, put the hooks on, and finish drilling in to the point where it's snug, but not too tight. Oh, and make sure to measure how far apart you'd like them (so you don't put them too far apart or too close together).
Make sure it's level! Ours is just a tad off, but we're not too worried about it.

Yay! Up on the wall to proudly display my chicken-rendering abilities!

Mum brought up some bargain napkin holders. Two of them (out of the twelve total) were a little bent anyway so I thought they'd make great hangers. I simply  bent the ring upwards to hang (inside will work better if you've planned this out ahead of time, unlike me) and then pulled one of the "vines" out to make a hook that could hang the oven mitts. This will probably only work with napkin ring holders that are made of cheaper aluminum and have a lot of give. Anything else will either be impossible or snap on you, making you upset and the hanger useless.

Less effort for me means a happy Rabbit, indeed!

All done! I can finally rest easy knowing I have a place for my mitts.

From the porch-front: shelves are still in progress and very frustrating for Bear. Though things are moving along slowly, they are moving along! Keep checking in...I think when I find the hardware I'll post my pattern and tutorial for a clothespin bag!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Saw Rabbit Speaking with the Devil!

We're in the midst of building shelves and such, which takes a bit more work than we expected. Actually, Bear is in the midst of it and getting greatly annoyed, so he stopped for a bit. That left me, after a very bad week that I won't get into, taking my time and keeping the pace down by replacing that ugly pantry blue/white grid with something more down my alley. It's still vinyl covering, but at least I like the pattern more than the old one.

What I really wanted was a chicken pattern, but upon being able to find none I went with a scrolled black and white design that was marginally more agreeable than the faux wood, fiesta, or plain white options I had at the Dollar General. Why did no place have an ugly, ridiculous, and lovable chicken pattern? I have no clue. This stuff is primarily used for kitchens, and I only accept chickens as adequate kitchen decor. Everything else is sub-par. So there.

This vinyl covering for shelves is called Magic Cover. I thought this was merely a marketing ploy to emphasize the easy application of said vinyl. After working with it, with the knowledge that I am not a smart woman, I am convinced that what I have participated in is indeed a form of witchcraft. It was too easy to apply the first shelf's worth, and the second shelf's problem was that I am a firm supporter of "measure once, cut twice."

First, I pulled up the old vinyl covering after wondering if it would come up and picking at it. Turns out, it comes off easy and revealed the original, unpainted shelves that are quite nice, but just not okay enough to be left alone. Someone painted the edges white, and they were sticky from what I'm guessing is years of vinyl covering. Just not really acceptable for the time-being, although Bear took a look at it with that glimmer in his eye and stated vaguely that "it's gonna be a summer thing," which sends a shudder across my entire body and makes me wince. With the way the shelves are going, I may have to stave him off. He really is capable, and has a natural knack for woodwork (genetic...his grandfather did a lot of woodwork in his time, and his great grandfather built a church or two). The problem is that he is impatient. This will be covered in another post on the battle between Bear and the Oak.

 After peeling that up with great ease, I started cutting the vinyl. They provide a nice little grid on the back for straight cutting, and my shelves are a simple rectangle that made measuring a breeze. No shelf parts to cut into the vinyl and such.

With the cutting done, I peeled about 4 inches of the backing away, folded it under as I laid the vinyl right-side up, and started laying down the exposed vinyl. As I smoothed the sticky vinyl down with my left hand, I continued to peel the backing away bit by bit with my right hand, making my work a constant study of "did I screw anything is obviously witchcraft."

With the top completely down, I marveled at my pretty decent work. I did manage to have about 1/4" hanging out over the front edge of the shelf, but taking a hard-cover book spine and rubbing it along the vinyl really hard (but slow) got it to finally stick down firmly. The second shelf was the problem.

Let me just say, the magic was still in effect. Magic Cover was doing its sorcery just as it should. I was short in measuring. God, was I short. Instead of doing what I did originally--laying it down in the roll on the shelf, pressing down firmly at the end so that it made a crease in the paper backing, and then cutting 2 squares up from the crease line--I decided to just use the ruler provided on the backing (goes from 0-18" repeatedly)! How (not) smart of me! Little did I think, the roll doesn't necessarily start at 0. It obviously didn't, because I was 6" off from my "last" cut at 17.5" for the first shelf. I ended at 18" just to be safe for the second shelf...and yet I was 6" short. Yup. So I botched that one. Oh well.

All fixed! The overhang was later tamped down and I might actually cut it with a straight razor because if it pops back up I'm not going to deal with that.

That's right. Oh well. I'm totally okay with it. Why? Because I'm going to cover that slip up with Bear's soap making supplies and it will never be seen by the eyes of company. Oh sure, you'll see it here, and I'll see that damn overlap in my nightmares, but visitors at my house...if they really need to look at my pantry for some reason, will not be able to see it. And that will make me very happy, because I love to fool myself a lot of the time.

Bottom shelf: Bear's soap supplies. Top shelf: more cooking stuff. Within 10 minutes of taking this photo, I put a hole into the vinyl with a cutting board edge.

So, the bottom pantry shelves look a lot better to me (they may be hideous to you, but get your own pantry if you don't like it!) even though the house is an absolute wreck. Things are moving slowly. After this awful week I've had, though, I'm going to start measuring success not in how much closer I am to the finish line, but in the things I see along the way.

I put a spell on you, but you're free to go now!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bless This Mess

Sorry, folks. Bear and I did not mean to be away for so long, but life happened and we were waiting on a very important piece of mail that hindered a lot of our efforts at working on the Home. What piece of paper could possibly prevent us from cleaning up some more and getting our Home into order?

Our security deposit return. It's no new fact that moving costs a lot, and that librarians don't exactly make bank. So, when it comes to a check in the mail totaling a rather large amount that could make or break our efforts, it's a pretty big deal. Well, on Saturday, we finally got the check and it was more than we really could have imagined. I did put a lot of effort into cleaning the old place, but I was pretty sure, based on old experiences and word of mouth about our old Warren company, that we wouldn't be seeing much of our security deposit come back. There was only one charge: the gas charge to shut off our account when we left. So with this minimal deduction, we ran to the bank and deposited the check and made off like bandits to some discount/cheap stores to get what we needed.

Around Big Town, we just got a new store called Home Goods. It's basically Marshall's or TJ Maxx for domestics, which means hit or miss on good deals. It also means you either find really awesome things or a lot of junk depending on their weekly/monthly shipments. You have to shop often, and in the meantime gird yourself in shopper's armor to make sure you don't leave with bags of stuff you really don't need. I do this by containing my search to the clearance shelves. Luckily we found a lot of stuff that we needed and that I felt were essential to getting started on settling things. Bathroom rugs, for instance, and some rug pads to keep the new rug (thanks Mum!) from slipping around on the hardwood floor, and a 3-tier basket thingy for fruits and onions/potatoes/garlic. On the other hand, we were still out a new set of towel racks/toilet rod/etc., curtain rods, bookshelves, etc, because those things were pricey at Home Goods and I wasn't about to pay $15 for a fancy toilet brush (we went to Target and found that a week after the students arrive, EVERYTHING domestic is basically on clearance and got a plastic version for $5).

Besides that, we also invested in mover's coupons offered by USPS, and then signed up on Bed, Bath and Beyond for mover's coupons. So, when the time comes to shop again after Bear has recouped from shopper's exhaustion (it takes about 1 hour of relaxation to every 10 minutes of shopping, and we were shopping for 2 hours), we'll be using those to get things that we missed or some more supplies for our next project: shelving.

Our new Home has one great disadvantage compared to the Warren: closet space. We have one closet, a "mud room" addition that is in bad condition due to poor construction, an attic, and a very dank basement. That leaves us with boxes of books, trinkets, and things that used to just go in boxes in the 4 closets we used to have at the Warren. I have one requirement now that we've got everything moved and lots of big stuff where it needs to be in the house layout, and that is to "get it off the damn floor and somewhere I don't have to walk around it. That's it. If you move perfectly, and everything is set up by the first week in, and you don't have boxes for a few weeks littering the place as you try and get things in order, you are a moving God/Goddess and I bow down to you. You probably also have movers, lots of money to spend on moving, and already mapped out the place and had extra storage space built before you got there. Probably. Otherwise, you are just efficient and I need to talk to you. Now. Because I sure as hell don't move like that and I need some moving therapy to get me straight.

On this rainy holiday weekend, we decided to build some shelves from free plywood we scored at the dump bins from our local furniture factory. They like to put out these bins and fill them with "scrap" that ranges in size from teeny-tiny real wood pieces to large veneered plywood pieces they just can't use, but know the community can use. It is very nice of them, and depending on their scrap levels that day and if people check, it's just like shopping at Home Goods. Either really bad or really good. Luckily, we got a good day in and brought home some walnut, red oak, and maple plywood. More on this after we finish today and I take some pictures to go with it. I really am horrible with picture-taking.

You haven't missed much here. Things have moved between rooms. It's like a very large, domestic version of Jenga...or Tetris. It's still crowded. We are totally working on that. And I suspect that today will be awesome because we'll get some physical work done that will clear up the floor and allow us to move even more stuff around until it finally ends up where its supposed to, or at least where I think it should. So, enjoy the holiday and I'll be back this week with our adventure in woodworking!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Relaxtion is Not Just for the Dead

Bear and I recently took a week's vacation with his family. When you pile a whole bunch of people into a house that are related, with a few that are related by marriage or dating or friendship (trust me, flocks of a feather stick together), I was  expecting that the house would eventually implode under the weight of familial adversity. Actually, it was fantastic. It truly was the turning point of my summer, even more than the move, about how I view the world and how I handle things. The thing is, even though we moved, we still work in Big Town, and we still live in the same valley. While we "got away" from the depressing student-occupied Warrens, but not from the general feel of it all, I needed a bit of shock therapy to go with it to really pound the idea home. So, less than 48 hours after we moved in completely--the house still in shambles--we drove 7 hours away to leave it all behind.

The view from under my brim. Warm ocean, warm sand, and not too invasive seagulls. Beachside success!

It started just 4 hours after getting to the house. Following all the hello's and hugs and moving crap into our room...wait, didn't we just end this? I thought we had finished moving! Damnit!...I went out on the porch to view the scenery with Bear. There was a tree full of fig-gorging birds across the street and a blue roof where a solitary black-headed seagull laughed like some sort of sea-side chicken, with that funny way of ending by throwing back his head twice like he was enjoying a good joke. I kept chuckling, watching a herd of ducks come and--even though they were sorting through the dropped remains of figs--chase off all the swarming birds at the top of the tree, because let's face it, ducks are jerks and even the other birds know it and don't want to risk it. It was aviary comedy hour across our little tiny street. And suddenly I thought, "I have absolutely no anxiety whatsoever," which I stated to Bear and then promptly started to worry about not having any anxiety whatsoever. We both laughed at that.

That was how my week went. Even Bear, who was ecstatic just at the mere thought of our new Home back up in Little Town, smiled a ton that week, relaxed more than I've ever seen his Zen-self let go, and showed a lot more affection without getting all uppity about PDA's in front of the family. Small things made us happy: ocean water, fresh seafood, a single yarn shop hidden in a family home (okay, that was just me, Wombat, and Goose, not Bear), the early morning tint of the sky, and a humongous praying mantis. We planned to go clamming, but lost out to the price of equipment and without much worry or disappointment agreed that next year, with better planning, would be better. Life was easy. It was enjoyable, and being with the family was a fantastic time of bonding that we continuously touched upon while still being autonomous. Holy hell, we were...relaxing.

Awesome praying mantis that ended up attacking me. These little guys sure have big cahones for being much smaller than people.

Awww, he's grooming! Then I tried to move him with a piece of paper and he promptly flew right into my face in a furious flurry. I squealed like a baby being hit with a cat.
The beginning of the spread. Bear and I cooked for 11 people on the grill: yellow squash, acorn squash, corn on the cob, shrimp, and fresh clams and oysters. We also had sides of bread and salad.

These are straight from the cove nearby. Very fresh. They cooked up in about 10 minutes on the grill and tasted AWESOME all by themselves. 50 clams and 12 oysters.

Relax is not an easy word for me. Vacation isn't either. Long story short: my family has a large history of working-class ancestors. I'm also starting to think it's mixed with generations of Catholic guilt, a bit of genetic obsessiveness, and a large dose of Irish stubbornness. Relaxing is for the dead. Vacation is the permanence of heaven. Therefore, living is for working. Even as a kit, I was extremely busy all the time. Rise at 6am, walk to school at 7am, school to 3 or 4pm, then rush home for dinner, and back out the door for whatever ensemble I had (I was in 8 or 9 fall/winter/spring was filled with 3-4 total; the summer was reserved for working weekdays in my teenage years and drum corps on weekends) until 9pm, when I would get home, do my homework, and pass out in a pile of books around midnight. Mum and I just didn't take vacations with our schedules . So relaxing is confusing. I have to be doing something, calculating my next project, figuring out what I have to do next. There's just no time to take time off!! Bear doesn't have this problem. He can even meditate without obsessing on a thought for too long, which baffles me. Meditating makes me anxious. Everything does.

I have to thank my boss, Drathaar, and our Boss, for reinforcing the ideas of relaxation through behavior and advice previous to this trip. When I confirmed this vacation back in March, Big Boss advised to "not check the internet, not check email, and generally stay away from all outside communication devices." Initially I turned my nose up at this idea. Eventually it was what saved me. Drathaar, on the other hand, reinforced this through telling me not to worry about the work key, which accidentally wormed its way into my backpack after a busy Thursday (my last day before the trip, and the day before the last moving haul and clean-up of the Warren apartment), and then not bothering me all week with any emails or such. They were adamant about me leaving work behind for a week.

I also like to think I'm more essential in the grand scheme of my job than I actually am. Honestly, work isn't going to fall apart with me gone for a week. It didn't when Drathaar went to the mountains for a fishing trip; it doesn't when Big Boss goes on work trips or small vacations. Things will work themselves out, and unless you are running a country or some such, it's not going to be an utter catastrophe if you take a leave for a few days to a week and don't spend all your time checking emails. Occasionally is fine. I did once a day. That's about all you need to do if you're "essential personnel" to the working of a business/job. If you're not, well...don't even go near a phone or computer. EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE.

Relaxing shouldn't be for the dead, and vacation shouldn't be for winged angels playing harps in the clouds. We should all get at least a day off from this busy, crazy society we've developed. It is important to reset, to get outside ourselves and see how small we are, as well as enjoy ourselves at least occasionally. Really enjoy ourselves, I mean. I thought I was taking this past year off after grad school, and in actuality I know now it was fraught with constant anxiety over getting a "big job," working, making big plans for life...stuff that should just come over you as it happens while you're taking the next right steps. Yes, plan out your finances, apply to jobs, and start coming up with your next big project. But don't let them take over your every waking moment. If you can't take a moment out every day to take a step back and just enjoy where you are, try one weekend a month, or a week a year. Get away from constant social technology and enjoy who you are, at that very moment, and the beauty of the world around you. It doesn't have to be fancy. A walk in the park is fine. Hell, find anyplace that has some green, some sort of nature, and just do it. Good lord, how we are surrounded by plastic, metal, beeping things, and invisibility!

The real test, though, is the follow-through (Bear wrote, or rather said, this). It's true. I've now learned how great it is to relax. Will I continue? I don't know. I know I can try. Really hard. Because I like the way I feel right now. House is a mess? Psssh, I'll get some done tonight and tomorrow, and the days after that. I'm cool with it right now. I'm currently sitting on a couch occupied by hats, blankets, a bottle of Head Lube (for the bald Bear), and plastic bags. Last week I would have been silently freaking out, overwhelmed to the point of being unable to move or do anything, by the mess' presence. I don't know how I'll handle those types of things in a week. I know, though, that I can try with all my heart to continue what I've learned on this vacation.

Keep on chillin' when you can,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gone Fishing

Sorry for the lack of posting this week, but Bear and I are taking a very important lesson in life about relaxation. True relaxation with no internet and very little outside communication. In light of this, I'll be back on Sunday with my realization about why this trip has been such a huge turning point in my life right now. Until then, friends...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Apocalypse Now

The horror. The horror.

I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to have a yard sale this past weekend. It was, to put it lightly, one of the worst choices I have made in terms of planning, expectations, and execution. Combined with the unforeseen circumstances that arose... it was just a plain bad idea.

It might have to do with the fact that I've never done a yard sale before. I don't really go to yard sales. I'm more of a flea-market and farmer's market type, because most of the yard sales I see have tons of baby stuff and at this point in life, and hopefully for quite a few more years, I don't need any baby supplies. So, my prices were probably higher than what people were expecting or wanting to pay. Added onto this is the fact that students who economically power Big Town move out in a whirlwind frenzy of furniture throw-outs, resulting in a lot of free furniture by the side of the road. Why buy what you can get for free? And the students desperately searching for anything less than new prices I hoped to draw in were obviously a week or two too away.

So, at 9AM, Bear and I rolled over to his parent's place and began setting up. After helping me cart the tables out, Bear left to do the last of the large furniture moving (with the help of some family friends) and painting out at the new Home. I was all alone. I sat outside for 6 hours, seeing a grand total of about 12 people, 4 of whom actually bought things. I made a grand total of $32 and got rid of very little. My craft table sold two dishcloths, thanks to my Boss-Boss dropping by to support me in my efforts (I have to admit, I do have awesome admin and co-workers)! What really irked me though was a car full of primly dressed women who stepped out and walked around my little set-up. One woman told me she just "didn't feel like paying $8 for this tablecloth," even after I explained to her that it was brand new, never used, and very large. It was also embroidered beautifully with fall leaves, and I was peeved after the fact that I let it go...especially to someone so uppity. She eventually bid me down to $5, because at that point I was just desperate to get rid of something. Anything. Another one of the Prim-ers ooh'ed and ahh'ed over my craft work, then stated to a friend--as I was sitting in front of her--that my green alpaca clutch purse was "so beautiful, but soooo expensive" (it was $15 if you were wondering).

I have some choice words for people like that. First, don't passively-aggressively try to bid down the artist through sideways methods. I'm right here, talk to me. I may be offended if you want to barter over my craft work (because I know about people like you, so I automatically lower my prices anyway from what I most likely deserve for supplies, effort, and time), but I will be kind in my denial and appreciative of your chutzpah. I like honesty. Second, if you think that's expensive, sweetheart...go bedazzle yourself at Walmart. Go buy the cheap crap you're used to, and leave the nice stuff to people who understand the value of hand-made crafts.

Now I have some choice words for people like me. Yard sales are probably not the place for selling your crafts. People are looking for deals, and not just good deals, but bottom-of-the-barrel deals. Flea markets are better for the prices I was asking, and are probably better for selling some craft-work if there's no craft shows around. It was a poor choice for my first public sell, and it didn't really help my esteem much.

So, onto the unforeseen circumstances. It rained. Okay, it didn't just rain, it was a maelstrom. I managed to get my delicate stuff inside, but all the furniture, lamps, and my entire craft table got to sit out in rain and wind so bad that I couldn't see anything. I lost all my books, the bookcases fell apart as we picked them up later, and three of my antique kimono-fabric pillowcases I made were soaked and ruined. My other craft stuff survived, but I was sorely put-out by the whole ordeal. This could have been fixed by having more than one person running the yard sale. Even with a storm that rolled in that quickly, we could have gotten the crafts inside and I could have saved myself that particular heartbreak by having an extra pair of helping hands. Having another person would have also allowed me to get up and go pee, take a break from the sun, and actually get some food. From 10AM to 4PM, I sat outside, sweltering in the humidity, without food, without sunscreen, and without relief. The next unforeseen circumstance was heat exhaustion.

It turns out I got an awful sunburn. By the time we got home, I stuffed my face way too early with Chinese food and then proceeded to get very, very ill. Bear was so worried that he began coating me in wet papertowels and turning the fan on to face me directly. He said that I was delirious, not sweating, bright red, and in a bad way. All I remember from that night is thinking that Bear was angry at me for being such a baby. This was not anger, but rather extreme worry over my condition. That Bear got to that point of distress is a decent indicator of my situation, because Bear doesn't worry about much. He's got a very laid-back attitude and is a reasonable man. I ended up being okay by the next day after Bear forced cups on water on me every time I lost the previous cup to illness, yet he said it was still a scary night.

This, my friends, was an apocalyptic decision. It marked the end of an era for me. I took it as a sign from the universe or whatever runs this show that I should stop obsessing over hocking my used stuff and just give it away. This whole thing was about downsizing, wasn't it? Everything I saved from the rain or that's still in the old place that I can't use won't be going up on Craigslist anymore, it won't be going to a yard will be donated someplace or other where other people who are in need can get to it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I'm blessed in this life. Some people aren't so fortunate.

In closing, sorry for not having any pictures with this post, and for not updating in a bit. Things have been, if you can't tell, pretty crazy around the Warren and new Home. I'll post at the end of this week about the finality of moving in, finishing painting, and other topics as we complete the moving cycle. Then I'll be moving on to specific projects we're taking on in the house, and the real fun and DIY will begin!

Stay hydrated (not thirsty),

Friday, August 3, 2012

Men Plan, God Laughs

Or rather, we plan poorly, and God says, "What the hell, guys? That's not the way you do it. Oh, whatever. It's your life...I'm not gonna tell you what to do with it."

Bear was a total sweetheart and pretty much painted the two walls in the livingroom himself, on top of doing the first coat of the stairwell edging, putting together the bed, and moving the drawers for the desk and bureau upstairs in the morning. I was exhausted from my Sunday morning job of playing with and watching over a very rambunctious 3.5 y/o (normally there are more of my "little monsters" at the nursery, but it's been a slow summer), and when I finally got out to the house and took his mom for a tour, I realized how tired I was. Being the champ and sweetest man he is, he told me to turn on the portable air conditioner and take a test-run of the new Queen bed. I slept like a log for 2 hours.

When I finally woke up, he was already on the second wall edging. Good lord, man. Impatience to finish is his forte, and right now it's the perfect fuel to drive the paint-train all the way to Endsville.

We had some pretty tough hurdles this time around, though. Namely, a very bad drywall job from way before our current homeowners. Whoever did this either didn't really care, didn't even know what the heck they were doing, or a bit of both. I'm not sure what's worse. It is compounded by the fact that the current paint is semi-gloss, which is an absolute b!tch to paint over, and the fact that the stairwells are so tall.

Bad drywall. Bad.

Our goal right now, being a bit on the empty-wallet side and not planning through enough, is to just live with it until next summer. Next summer we'll rent some scaffolding and clean up our job with a new gallon of white eggshell paint. I was all for doing it with the ladder and some wooden boards, but Bear must have been recently spoken to by OSHA after our employment of chairs as height-adjusters, because he said that idea was "extremely unsafe and likely to cause injury." Anyway, Bear is shorter than I am, but I still had to paint this with...a paintbrush on a stick. Literally, we taped a paintbrush to a paint-roller extender and I got to it. Can you believe it?!

Yes, you can. Because I did an awful job, regardless of the lumpy drywall base I had to deal with.

Impatience and apathy do not mix well.

At this point, even with the fan downstairs running, it was murder-my-child hot. I was soaked in sweat, dribbled in paint, doused in frustration. And I. Did. Not. Care. I was at the end of the rope with patience for such an awful drywall job that a frothy-mouthed Lewis Black was made to look like a calm, reasonable saint. I was dizzy, hungry, tired from my job in the morning, and fed up. By the end I was cursing loudly and wildly waving the paintbrush stick around with enough chutzpah to send Bear up to check on me. We did two coats and said, "Hell with it. It's done for now. There's always next summer. The color is up within reason, and that is good enough."

Onto the livingroom. God just shrugs his shoulders at this point. And laughs. I'm pretty sure a higher power has a great sense of humor after watching humanity for hundreds of thousands of years.

The ceilings in the livingroom are 10 feet tall, and the walls are coated with some odd, textured crud. We were certain after Bear painted one wall that this would take two coats minimum. We were certain that "We have made a huge mistake" in buying only one gallon. Luckily, now that we've sold off some more furniture we can afford to get another one when we finish this upcoming weekend. Again, paint is expensive. Who knew trying to get a little color in our Home would cost us the piggy bank and the dresser it sat on. But it's working out, because we got rid of furniture we don't need, sold it to people who do need it, and got paint in return. Things usually work out in the end.

You can't see it, but the wood has old paint on it. Bear has plans to go back and fix up the wood, because it's original and just too darn pretty for him to leave it like it is right now.

The biggest wall down. One more coat of paint to go.

What you don't see yet are the two windows and doors that we'll have to paint around. And based on Bear's current job with careful edging, it looks like that'll be my job.

Bad Bear. Bad.

He is not, as I said, a patient man. Who can blame him? At this point, he had done so much in the day that he just wanted it over with. We're going to have some thinking and testing to do to see if we can get those mistakes off, or if it'll have to wait until next summer when we buy the white paint and repaint the ceiling in the stairwell. For now, we're okay with it, because most of our mistakes will be hidden by furniture or less-perfectionistically-searching eyes than ours. That's our other problem. Perfection. We want it, it's not possible, and we can't stand it. Even Martha Stewart, in all her glorious neatness, is not perfect.

But Bear and I have a story we like to remember when we start getting overtly fussy about perfection:

A foreign man was traveling across the world looking for the best Persian rugs. Each one, he was told by his friends back in England, was absolutely perfect and took hundreds of hours to create. Being a collector of the finest wares of the world, he put his mind to buying the most beautiful and faultless Persian rug he could find. He searched for weeks across Turkey, finding rugs that were elegant, but too dull, or colorful, but with ugly designs or bad weave. None were to his standards. Then, he came to a shop the locals said housed a devout Muslim man, an artist who Allah had blessed with the gift of absolute human perfection in creating the most perfect rugs in all of the Middle East. So he went to the man's shop and perused as the creator looked on and explained to him the meaning of the designs and the effort it took to make a single rug. He seemed very pleased with his work, but not arrogant. Finally, the English man said, "They are all splendid. Indeed, they are the most intricate, colorful, and plush rugs I have ever seen in my travels, in all my life, and most possibly in all the world. But, my good man, each of these rugs has a mis-stitch in them! Look here!" The artist smiled and bowed to him, saying, "Yes, sir. They each have a single flaw. I put one in each rug so that I may be humble." Feeling ill-used by being mislead into believing the rugs were faultless, the English man threw up his hands and angrily said, "You have tried to trick me and I must begin my search for the perfect rug all over again!" Still smiling, the artist said, "Then you must search a long time, for only in the home of Allah are the rugs without flaw. I am only human."

See you at the yard sale,

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Home Update: Painting the Bedroom

I have serious problems with doing things the correct way. I like to jump into things headlong, with no consideration for technique and too much pride to watch many tutorials. It'd be easier to simply watch a video about painting a room if you've never done it before and then paint, but noooo....not Rabbit. There's some sort of switch in my head that gets turned on when I take on a new project that says, "You can figure this out on your own. Only weak people try to plan things out carefully! Just go for it." Bear, as I learned, is much like this, too. We're a match.

I am learning otherwise via my first home update: painting the walls. As Bear and I painted the bedroom on Saturday (how could it take 6 hours? I don't know. I know that that's actually pretty quick for two people to paint a rather large room all on their own, but Jeebus, somehow I thought it was so much quicker than that), we learned some very important lessons. First, though, our finished color:

Thanks to our wonderful homeowners, who are on vacation, we were allowed to borrow their air conditioner for when we finally got sick of the heat and it was too humid for our liking.

Our first lesson was that paint is expensive. Thankfully Bear signed up for a mover's package from transferring the electric over into his name and came up with a 10% off coupon at Home Depot. I got a $10 off $50+ purchase coupon from Sherwin Williams, but after seeing their prices for paint ($35 a gallon even for the "lowest" grade!), we decided we'd have to go for Home Depot because we just don't have that sort of money right now. We wanted good (Behr), but not crazy good.  We ended up getting 3 gallons: one for the bedroom, one for the livingroom (which may be a mistake...we may not have enough), and one for the stairwell/accent wall in the livingroom. He wanted semi-gloss, but I was sure that the shininess of the paint would drive me up the walls and it was $1 more, which , by god, is enough to set off the alerts in my head that we are trying to save money here, folks. This isn't a time for splurging!!

So, we finally got around to painting later than we wanted (1pm). We didn't really care about the molding or the baseboard, because we're planning that in a few weeks we're going to repaint that a slate blue and completely replace the molding on the ceiling edges anyway. For the sake of I Have to Do This Right Even Though I Have No Idea What I'm Doing, I basically used up a good deal of the painter's tape for nothing. We used Frog Tape (green instead of blue) based off a recommendation by a professional painter's forum. I really don't know if it's any better or not than blue tape, but it did the job and the only problem I had was peeling the tape off one section that I let dry too much. Don't do that. It's frustrating having to go back and touch up edge sections.

Frog Tape. A bit more on the expensive side as far as paint tapes go, but worth it.
We also should have thought about the type of walls we had. I did recognize that they were smooth, so we needed a lower nap on our rollers. However, I did not recognize that these walls are old paneling...which means those long gutters that go from floor to ceiling are very hard to get at with a roller. It wasn't until we got into the third wall of the first coat that we sat back and said, "Hey, just like we're painting the borders with a brush first, maybe we should go up and down the gutters, too, to make sure we don't waste paint, make it an even paint job after we go over it with the roller, and get into the nooks and crannies."

Bear starts a little test section at the beginning before we moved our headboard out.
They see me rollin'...they hatin'. Tryin' to catch me paintin' dirty. (please notice, after the horrible joke I just made, Bear rolling over the gutters we painted down earlier)
Rabbit paints the top edges while standing on a chair. Not OSHA approved.

Bear also flaunts OSHA-disapproved painting techniques right in front of a window for them to see.
 Again, keeping energy levels up when working in a place with no air conditioning during a very hot summer means eating right. We didn't have breakfast and by 3 we were starving. I saw a downtown place in Small Town that advertised that it had the "best Reuben around" with fries for $8.50. First of all- yum, Reubens. Second of all, that is definitely a challenge. I've had Reubens in all the big cities I've visited, even one at a family owned, long-time run Jewish deli (and those guys could definitely make a Reuben right). I've had a few in Big Town and enjoyed them, but...well...

It was mind-blowing at the Pub. The fries were fresh cut and sprinkled with thyme. It was a HUGE plate and the corned beef was thick-cut. Look at that delicious marbled rye bread. I think they just beat out the Jewish deli. Both Bear and I dug in after a hard 1/3 a day's work and then shambled back up our incredibly steep hill to paint some more after sweating out all that deliciousness. On our way up the hill, we were happy to notice that the music in the park carries up to us like a natural amphitheater, so we'll get nice serenades every so often even up at our home! Bear promised, as we panted in the heat, to take me to the Cafe in the park twice a month. That's very romantic for Bear, and if I didn't know better I would think it was the heat making me swoon.

After we got home, we started up on the second coat and finishing the closet wall, which thankfully didn't have any paneling.

First coat down, one more to go.

And there you have it. We put down one more coat and that was that. I have found out after this, that Bear and I are not exactly the most patient of people. Patience is probably something that is very important with updating a Home. Okay, we need to work on that one. But we learned a lot of important lessons about painting rooms, and that's what this whole thing is about. Our homeowners are nice enough to let up make updates and try our hand at improvements, so it's basically a test-run for if we ever want to own our own home. Even our "disasters" (like getting paint on the baseboards) are pretty small in the whole scheme of it all. One room down, one room and a hallway to go!

See you soon,

Friday, July 27, 2012

Family History, or How I Learned to Stop Ignoring It and Worry About Everything

Family history, like its counterpart--family reunions--is a pretty delicate subject. At age 13 or so, I watched my mother gathering, leafing through, and storing away original family history documents one evening and boldly asked her, "Why  are you doing that? They're all dead anyway!" After a moment of shock, she explained to me through gritted teeth the importance of preserving our past so other people would have a chance to look at it one day. Many like to know where they come from, they like to have a traceable history and see how the threads of the world gradually tangle headphone wire in a pocket.

10 years later, at the revelation that I would be a historian and archivist, she asked me, "Why are you studying that? They're all dead anyway!" We have pretty lively jokes that my entire career and academic interest is now dead people despite my outcry against her doing the same a decade previous. I do not, apparently, fall far from the apple tree.

So when my Nana offered me the most precious item in her collection, and my mother finally passed on the two beloved items that were passed down to her, I was a bit shocked, but completely excited and recognized the opportunity to take the skills I learned in college and apply them in my own home. In addition to those three things, I also received my own history: papers, award plaques, Pokemon cards, and all my artwork. I have to say, I was most excited to see my Pokemon cards out of all that list because I thought they would be the first thing to go to trash, and all I wanted was to tease Bear by sorting and decking my childish Pokemon cards next to his impressive 10 boxes of Magic that I give him all sorts of hell for keeping despite playing rarely.

Bear, on the other hand, has his Grandfather's wallet, pipe stand, and (I've been corrected here...) GREAT grandfather's straight razors for now, and hopes to collect more as time goes on. He really likes family history, too. Having an archivist in the Home who knows a few things about preservation, he says, is pretty handy.

Preservation of documents is pretty straight forward, while preservation of items is a bit trickier. Especially the big ones. So I'm going to impart a few tips to you that I learned in my classes so that you can protect your family history for the future. This is not a complete list, and if you have any tips or corrections, please let me know. After all, I still consider myself a student even if I'm not in class anymore!

  • Unless you've got a professional archive to store your papers/photos in, home will have to be the next best thing. Given the right tools, space, and care, the only thing you have more a chance of than a professional archive is theft, fire, water damage, and other acts of God, as they say. You could store them in a bank, if you're concerned the household isn't safe enough, but you should still follow some key rules:
  • Handle photos with care. Wash your hands in non-scented soap, and put on a pair of nitrile gloves. The "white glove treatment" is actually used far less often today thanks to improvements in glove technology. White cotton gloves reduce tactile sensation and encourage rips and tears because you handle things with a rough touch to make up for the fact that you can't really feel anything. Fingers are very sensitive and require a lot of input to be delicate. Go with nitrile if in doubt. 
  • Scan, scan, scan. If you can, try to get your history into a digital format and make a DVD or CD back-up for good measure. Key of Three is safe (digital, current media, original). So, keep around a hard-drive with a high-quality (300+ dpi) JPEG copy, a gold CD or DVD copy, and then store away the original somewhere safe. 
  • Purchase acid-free containers, folders, boxes, and anything else. People are really getting into scrapbooking, and luckily that means the crafting industry is paying attention and dispersing more products that keep your precious moments safe and healthy. If you want to put photos or documents in a book, that's fine...but get a book that uses acid-free paper and binding, and choose acid-free photo corners over glue or tape. Ripped documents can be repaired with archival-grade tape if needed. 
  • Try not to write on documents, especially photos, even on the back. Write underneath on a page or on the tabs of folders in pencil. If you have to write on the original document, it in pencil. Pen should NEVER be used. Pens are evil. This goes for the CD/DVD's as well. Writing on the media will eventually ruin it, even if you write on the "safe" side. Opt to put the CD/DVD in an acid-free sleeve with the necessary information written in pencil on the sleeve's front. 
  • Separate or mist! You may be using acid-free paper, but mass produced things do not. If you can, get acid-free spray (like Tums, but for books!) at your local crafting store and mist each page and side. It will help. Do not spray photos. Let them dry and then put them into acid-free folders. For extremely delicate paper (like old newspaper or onion-skin), I wouldn't even mist...I would just separate them from other stacks of paper with other folders or acid-free pages in between.
  • Attics and basements are not a safe choice of location to store your documents. Attics get blisteringly hot and cold and have poor humidity control. Basements are usually cold, damp, and have lots of bugs that would just love to eat your stuff. Under beds, as I found out, is also a bad place. Anywhere that is constantly dark is usually bad, because there be dragons (aka bugs). This is the tricky part, because old photos (silver nitrate, I'm lookin' at you) deteriorate no matter what you do. And they SMELL bad when they do. Newer photos don't smell as bad when this happens. Paper is usually fine. So find a desk or a drawer or a plastic box you can keep this in that would protect the documents and their acid-free container from water/bug damage. Not a lot withstands fire. Sorry, folks.


  • These are tricker, because they have wide-ranging materials and have depth and dimension. Use caution, but do have some (safe) fun.
  • Document! It's a good idea to document the items and keep them with your other documents so you don't lose track or the history of the item.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight and try to find a display place that is not in line with a heating/cooling duct. If you can, try to keep the room it's in at a "just right" temperature without too much or too little humidity. In the case of wood, this is very important, because swelling and shrinking will eventually wear it down and could cause cracking.
  • Velvet is as velvet does, what velvet does is off-gas. This is bad, especially for metal, but mostly for everything. Sure, velvet looks soooo pretty...that deep, nearly inescapable softness and the way light just gets sucked into it and makes the display item glow. But it WILL destroy your stuff and you won't get it back. Metal will tarnish if wrapped in velvet and it's hard to get off, if at all. Everything else will just break down. Avoid velvet as a display rest and opt for something else. 
  • Let there be light, but not too much, please, and make sure it isn't too hot. Small LED lights positioned high enough that it doesn't bake the item, but close enough to illuminate it, are great. Even a stand with LEDs along the edge are okay. Just make sure it isn't too hot and to turn it off at night so the item gets some rest from all the commotion. 
  • Clean and dust often and make sure not to use any strong chemicals. Windex is not good for wood. Actually, neither is Pledge! Look for the expensive, small bottles of cleaner at your store. Murphy's Oil Soap is fantastic for wood (protection and shine!) and for silver, Hagerty's is what I used for my silver instruments. It won't take much to clean, so a small bottle or jar will last you a long time. Don't be too abrasive. Use a very soft cloth, and follow the directions.
  • Use common sense at all times. Is your Nana's china vase really safe on top of that wobbly bookcase? Is Great Grandpop's globe a good decoration for a child's room? Only you can prevent losing your items to bad decisions. As the Ghosthunters used to say, "When in doubt. Get the hell out." This is good advice all around. So when you have doubts, trust your gut and get your item the hell out into a safer, cleaner place.
This was a long posting, but in the face of having to take care of some very special family history, I decided it might be a neat precursor to my soon-to-be framing and display project I'll be putting on here. Don't worry, you'll get to see what I received. I can't wait to show you!

Happy preservations!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Let's Take a Walk (Through)

I promised more pictures, so I'm whipping up a quick post walking you through what will be our new Home. Come, get acquainted with our space! We're going to be spending a lot of time walking through it together, making it look better. I would've liked to get pics before we moved stuff in, but c'est la vie, or in the immortal words of brainiac Bill O'Reilly, "F*$@ it, we'll do it live."

Before we even start, I have yet another story to tell that doesn't, unfortunately, include a picture, partially from being so floored and partially because it happened so quickly. We're selling some of the furniture pictured in the photos below, and had a time set up with a local neighbor to come make a purchase. Craigslist is a savior in many ways. Anyway, I stood outside on the porch...and suddenly I see a very quick motion out of the corner of my eye. In the flower bed. We have pretty purple flowers out there planted by our homeowner, and flying around was a....hummingbird? No, that thing is too small and funny-shaped to be a hummingbird. What?! It has antennae! It's a hummingbird moth!  Very neat! When the guy eventually showed up, Bear and I were standing rapt staring at the flowers and the moth, and soon the guy was also staring rapt at the moth as it buzzed our heads and took lengthy sips of nectar. It really looked like a very rotund and very small hummingbird, even down to the colors! Nature is pretty awesome!

Anyway. Onto our tour.

First, welcome to our living room. We have many plans. Curtains, painting, decor. Living room, I'm gonna fashionable you up.

Excuse our mess. This is what you see (mostly) when you walk in. Hardwood floors and a gas stove. Airy, roomy, and bright. We'll be painting the walls and the stove in the next week or so.

What sold me on the place. I know, I'm shallow. Look at that staircase. Beautiful old wood. Just imagine it adrift in pine boughs, Christmas lights, and stockings for the holiday.

Original ceiling! I love the paneling!

Please, follow me to the second floor for a moment. I think you'll enjoy it.
Bear surveying the craft room. Rabbit sneaking in a pic of him from the bottom of the stairs.

Here, on your left at the top of the stairs, we have the bedroom.
The bedroom is larger than it appears in the picture. There's more room to the right and bottom of this picture. Fits a queen size bed, a dresser, and a faux vanity (aka: Bear's desk) easily.

 Let's go the craft room. You turn right out of the bedroom, or go straight at the top of the stairs.
Now you can see how low the ceilings are in just this one room. It is an addition, and as such has slope-y floors and very little head-room (for me). That's a queen size bed to give you perspective. Oh, and you'll see more of that table. It's a 1920's-era Craigslist find for $50. I love it dearly.

Straight back from the craft room, there is the bathroom. It's much bigger than the one we have currently, which makes me happy.

First off, I do appreciate the lamps in the bathroom...they are very attractive up-close.

However, there's the most interesting shower in the world. I don't always take a shower, but when I do...I like it to be as awkward as possible.  Seating for two?

The devil is in the details. This is a cool detail on the second floor of our new Home.

Instantly thought of Alice in Wonderland with this doorknob/lock.

Very cool, original locks (alas, no awesome iron keys). I just love the look of them! C'est chic, farmhouse style!

Shall we proceed back downstairs to the kitchen? Go down the steps, into the living room, and straight back to the second star on the left.

Much roomier than our current Warren. I like all the cabinets, but wish there was slightly more room out of picture on the right because the washer will also be going in here (next to the stove).

How about this? Original kitchen pantry from 1890's. Floor to ceiling. That bass, though...I have plans for it. Stay tuned.
Oo, you ugly pantry bottoms. We will fix you up soon.

Color advice? We're not keen on red walls for the kitchen, but perhaps gold?

 To the left of the bass in the kitchen, we have a door to...a back porch...thingy. Good for storage and the dryer. We also have...

...a problem. One we might not get to with our current income. For now, duct tape and thick plastic sheeting will have to fix the hole to the outside that is at the bottom.

It is basically covered storage and a dryer area. I'm cool with that. No more paint or varnish in the closet. And thank god the grill won't be sitting in the living room during the winter anymore!

Some of the best things, however, aren't always in the House. Sometimes, the really great part of having a Home is what is around it. We'd like to think we're pretty lucky.
We get a stunning commute to work.

See you in a few days!