July 2010


My mom left The Help at my house accidentally, so I picked it up. Four days later, I looked up from the book.

That is an exaggeration, but I really was riveted and I absolutely loved the book. The subject matter (black housekeepers in Jackson, MI in the 1960s) is heavy, but the writing is definitely not. It is entertaining, easy reading. It might make you cry a little bit though, and generally be astonished at the human race. However, you will probably laugh quite a bit too. I’m not a book reviewer, so I’ll just say this: go read it.

As part of my new goal to not watch Hulu on my laptop in bed anymore, I hope to start reading a lot more. I’m currently reading Twenties Girl.

I don’t have one of those. I do have a cleaning stairwell though.

Before:

After:

It may not seem like much, but drilling holes into those old plaster walls is a beyotch (thanks Stan!).

The whole ensemble consists of a shelf I got at a garage sale ages ago, a skinny bucket, some of those garage hangy things for shovels and whatnot (bonus: about 5 more strips came in the set so I can still use them later), some $1 crates, and a cleaning caddy. And the brooms and stuff.

I made these super crafty “clean” and “dirty” tags for rags (ie. I magic markered the words “clean” and “dirty” on some pieces of paper).

Now I don’t have to pile up old dishrags on the floor, where they can be tripped over. Let’s be honest- I never walk them all the way down the stairs to the laundry.

Previously all this crap was scattered throughout the house, so hopefully this helps me want to clean my house more. Hardy har har.

Apparently I’m not meant to look rosy today.

We used to argue over whether he said “… the greatest fan of your life” or “… the greatest event of your life”. I thought the latter sounded pretty egotistical. I guess nowadays all I have to do is go here and find something like this to know the answer.

Anyway.

I want this.

I have one kind of like it, but it’s ugly gray plastic. Maybe I should just spray paint it chrome/stainless steel/silver.

Anyone ever spray paint something with so many moving parts before?

My house is H-O-T. I have no cooling system. My swamp cooler is out of commission right now.

Shocking I know, based on the picture.

No, I do not walk underneath this.

Honestly, I’ll probably never actually put spray painting my already-gray fan a shinier gray at the top of my to-do list (unless a bunch of you comment and tell me that I wouldn’t have to take it apart to do so), but I’m just really hot sitting here so I’m fantasizing about stylish and somewhat cheap ways to evaporate my sweat.

And while we’re on the topic, what are your thoughts on swamp coolers vs A/C? Swamp coolers cost less and are cheaper to run, but they require more maintenance and are more finicky. A/C seems to be a big selling point for people, due to our need to never be the slightest bit uncomfortable even for one second. I’m not judging- I’m the same way.

Thoughts?

Periodically I check Google maps to see what my house looks like to birds. What- don’t you?

For a long time I kept seeing this image, which is from before I bought the house (way before, I believe):

Mine is the red-roofed one in the middle.

The other day Stan informed me that Google has finally snapped some new pics of the ‘hood- here is my house now:

I thought all the changes were kind of interesting (too bad Google doesn’t snap pictures of the insides of houses… although they may not be far off :-))

  1. I replaced the leaky old red roof with a sleek black one- my biggest single expense so far (the old one had to be completely torn off).
  2. True, the first photo was probably taken closer to fall, but the sad fact is that my beloved tree is sick and its leaves fall prematurely. Since the trees in the parking strips belong to the City, I called them and they are looking into what may be wrong with it.
  3. You can faintly make out my little Square Foot Gardens!
  4. We’ve done a lot of pruning (you can see that the roof of the garage is no longer completely covered by looming weed trees). It would probably be best to cut down a lot of the weed trees, but I would rather look at them than my neighbors’ trashy yards. Which brings me to #5…
  5. My neighbors have adopted the practice of parking their cars on their lawn. I have a clear view of this from my back yard because for some reason, that is the one place they didn’t finish putting up the privacy fence. Well, at least it’s not the front lawn, I guess.
  6. My lawn looks smoother! (And I don’t have to admit that it’s probably due to thriving weeds… except I just did.)

It’s kind of fun to look back and compare. As always, a whole overlook makes me realize how much more there is to do, but I really am thrilled with the progress of the house so far, inside and out. And for the most part I do like the neighbors on my street- it’s a fun mix of old people who have lived there 40+ years, young people like me who are fixing up the old charmers, and, well… the rest of the street. Haha.

If any other nerds are interested in doing a little comparison, they can look at historical images in Google Earth (the one that you have to install on your computer- not just Google maps online).

Name that band!

Not to be melodramatic or anything, but I recently experienced the life-changing event that is installing blinds. I did cheapo bamboo shades in my bedroom a while back, and while I love them I knew I wanted the ones you can turn to let varying levels of light in (surely there’s a name for this?). Here’s what I was looking for:

Need:

  • adjustable light (again… is there a name for this?)
  • 2-inch slats
  • white
  • close to the right size

Don’t care about:

  • real wood
  • customizable (the blinds don’t have to fit inside the window frame)
  • uh… that’s it

My dad, who does a LOT of renovating, said as a rule Lowe’s has cheaper blinds and window treatments than Home Depot. As I was kind of on a time crunch, I believed him. Once I got there, I found basically two brands that carried what I was looking for- Blindz (with a Z) and Levolor. Both were faux wood. I spent about 15 minutes in the store looking back and forth, back and forth, between the two, trying to figure out why there was a HUGE price difference. After buzzing an associate (I hate doing that, but what do you do if you’re in the aisle for 15 minutes and you can’t find anyone?) I realized that Levolor can be cut- Blindz cannot. Ohhhh. The Blindz weren’t exactly the right size- they were about 1.5″ too small for the big window, and about an inch too big for the small windows on each side. Soooo basically I took that as a “perfect fit”. The only other con to the Blindz brand was that the fake wood texture was slightly cheesier than the Levolor brand. But I knew that once they were up, no one was going to be inspecting them for wood-grain cheesiness.

Here is where we started with the dining room. I always loved this big picture window (even though my view is the neighbor’s house)…

One of the very first things I did when I moved in was put up curtains, mainly for (extremely limited) privacy. They were cheaper and easier than blinds. Hey, times were tough.

The curtains were okay, but I definitely couldn’t frolic around in my favorite pair of these with any degree of privacy:

Here’s the part where I wish I were a better photographer.

It’s hard to convey with (crappy) pictures- but when you walk in the house now, for some reason it just feels so much more homey and cozy and safe- maybe because people can’t see my every more anymore.

I keep saying that it feels like someone lives here now.

For all four windows, I spent $140.

Anyone have any input about Blindz vs Levolor, Home Depot vs Lowes, real wood vs faux, white vs wood, or anything else related to blinds?

K guys. I’ll admit it. Many of you have done refinishing projects- many of you. And I have a shameful confession to make.

When you post about your adventures in refinishing, I don’t read them. I scroll quickly, watching the pictures fly by up my screen, then compare “before” to “after”. I promise that I really do actually read most of your other posts- refinishing just seemed like such a boring topic.

I have learned the error of my ways.

J & S, why didn’t I read your step-by-step tips for refinishing?

Kasey, why didn’t it sink in that it was a total pain in the b-u-t-t?

Of course I didn’t think of that until I was standing there frustrated, dripping in sweat, cursing the sander and anything else that came in my path. (It might not have helped that my dear grandpa’s belt sander hadn’t been used in 15 years and wasn’t working so well.)

Okay, on to the freakin post.

A while back I was given this old (old!) patio set by my Aunt Soozie and my Grandpa Workman. It’s a little wobbly and not in the best shape, but it holds a special place in my heart. I remember it being on my grandpa’s back patio when I was a kid.

I actually really liked the turquoise paint job that Soozie had done on it about 15 years earlier

Unfortunately it had been left out in the weather for quite some time, and presented a few challenges in the aesthetic department.

I invested in a scraper to get the big flakes off. At this point I should have just sanded it smooth and painted the whole thing. But I thought “Wouldn’t it look cool to be partly painted and partly stained?” I may as well have asked myself “Wouldn’t it be cool to spend all day on this project, versus a couple of hours?” Luckily I had my awesome mom here, and some more awesome friends to help me along the way.

They seem to have commandeered my camera.

Working hard, girls??

Both of these girls actually recently bought properties too, and they also have blogs! You can find them in my “Friends in real life” blogroll- Kristin and Schmandice (Candice). It’s too bad that neither of them is as addicted to blogging as I am, because they are hilarious!

Anyway, I decided it would look cool if the top of the table was stained wood, along with the backs of the chairs/bench and armrests, and everything else was painted. So we sanded the crap out of these slats…

then it became obvious that I was going to have to take them off to get to the paint in the cracks. Boo.

Meanwhile we scraped and sanded the worst of the flaking paint off the chairs and bench:

and had to remove the backs too, so they could be sanded down to bare wood.

By the end of the evening, the set looked like this:

Yes, I am aware that my "lawn" is disgusting, as is the view into the neighbors' driveway.

If you’re interested in the color I can get back to you- my mom actually picked it out while she was at the store. I liked the existing color, and the one she picked was a brighter version of it, so pat on the back for mom! (She almost wouldn’t do it because she was nervous she’d pick a bad color.)

I was reeeeeeeally getting frustrated with the belt sander by now. You can probably see in the pic above what the problem was- the belt kept sliding off, resulting in not only uneven sanding, but ugly gouges in the wood that made me want to cry a little (no I didn’t take pics- what am I, some kind of masochist?). So by those around me who were probably starting to use my face as a barometer for their own level of safety, I was convinced to just paint the armrests instead of trying to fit the crazy-eye-inducing sander where it needed to go. Good choice, guys, for all of us. Although I think it would have looked really cool, it just was not worth it to me.

Are you ready for the finished* product?

Ta-dah!

*Fooled ya! The slats are actually just sitting on top- I bought the wrong kind of screws to screw them back on, but I was too impatient to not blog about it. The other *last thing* I need to do is sand and put a couple more coats of poly on top, so we can spill spinach dip and orange Crush to our hearts’ content, and wipe it right up.

As you can see, some of the wood is a little “rustic” looking. Where the paint had peeled, weather had been allowed to seep deep into the grain, and I would have had to sand half the slat off to make it look “right”. So I left it.

As if this post wasn’t long enough, let me explain the post title. You know that saying that has to do with shooting for the moon, and even if you don’t make it you’ll at least end up among the stars? (Which totally doesn’t make sense astronomically, but I think we can all get the symbolism.) Well since I pictured a beautifully smooth refinished table, my real efforts at least resulted in “rustic charm”. Now if my goal had been “rustic charm”, I probably would have ended up with “getthispieceofcrapoffmybackpatioimmediatelywhatthehellwereyoutryingtodo?”.

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