Paint

There are a lot of people painting things on buildings in London, particularly in Eastern London. Of course everyone used to hate it but now it’s become really celebrated and coveted. Some of the graffiti looks nicer than others.

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Caught red-handed! Although it was fascinating to watch. How does someone get a spray can to paint with such precision? Also, I like bees.

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Y is for York!

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Some of the graffiti art is teensy tiny. This artist, Ben Wilson, paints on smashed pieces of gum.

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Graffiti isn’t the only thing on the walls of London that’s interesting. There are historical plaques all over the place. I liked this one in particular; nothing like a 400 year old pesthouse. Of course the pesthouse is long gone. It’s now a car park. I wonder if once we’re dead we can look back in history and watch things unfold. Because I bet life in the 1600′s was pretty interesting.

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I don’t know why I find the idea of a milkmaid so charming, but I do. Sadly the milkmaids were nowhere to be found.

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And while this isn’t technically a wall, it’s still a vertical surface. I totally dig this door knocker.

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There was just no end of cool stuff to see in London.

Back in the early 80′s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.

I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.

I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses.  I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.

I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.

It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.

My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me.  I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.

Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)



So I’ve got six kids. That means six backpacks, ten or twelve jackets, a jillion pairs of shoes, and all sorts of miscellaneous junk that accompanies them. In my house all of this kid gear gets hung on a little coat rack or stuck in some cheap plastic cubbies. The coat rack and cubbies share space with the laundry room (“room” is a generous term. “Tunnel” is more accurate.) Would someone please explain to me why the laundry room, which is used for a few hours each day, is combined with the space where eight people are supposed to put all their stuff? And yet I have a nice-sized dining room that has a chandelier and fancy crown moulding and is used approximately . . . never. (Not to mention it’s carpeted. Hey, builders, in case you hadn’t heard, carpet + food = disgusting! Duh.) Basically we have spent years with a disaster of a room where coats and shoes are always mixed up with spare socks and clean undies. It makes me want to scream. Actually, I think I have screamed about it from time to time.

For years I have been plotting the conversion of my dining room into a mudroom. The dining room occupies the perfect spot between the front door and the garage. Mister and I haven’t exactly seen eye to eye on this matter (he’s all, “resale, people like dining rooms, resale, it’s too weird”, etc. I’m all, “I’m not living this way just because the next people who buy this house may already have dining room furniture.” I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t rather have storage than a big, seldom-used waste of space.

Mister’s parents were here a few months ago and they chimed in on how nice it sounded to convert the dining room to a mudroom and, voilá, he was suddenly on board with the idea. Imagine that. So we got busy ripping out the grody beige carpet and figuring out which color to paint over the ho-hum walls.

Here is the room just after we took out the chair rail, baseboards and carpet.
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I spent hours and hours researching lockers. I knew I wanted something that had plenty of room with hooks inside and a couple of drawers. And most importantly doors. I hate all these storage systems that have eveything just sitting in cubbies out in the open (I’m talking to you Pottery Barn!) I do not want to see all my kids’ junk! I want to close everything and have it look neat and attractive. The cheapest option turned out to be the Pax Komplement closet system from Ikea. Especially after I went there and saw that all their birch and oak doors/drawer fronts were on clearance. But the Ikea systems are really plain and contemporary-looking. Not me at all. But the price! The price was so right. So I got my thinking cap on and ended up buying a stencil to jazz up the cupboards. A stencil of geese. (No, not really. But that’s what I think of when I imagine stencils.) Instead I got this odd-looking beauty from Whitewall & Co. (uh, what is that, Jennie? Just stay tuned, friends.)

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I decided on a blue and white color scheme, but I wanted a softer, slightly greener blue than I have in my family room. So after trying a few colors from Benjamin Moore (none of them right) I mixed up a batch of paint that was a combination of my family room paint and my light green bedroom paint. Perfect! I took it to Home Depot to have it color matched and they were way off (right color but four shades too pale.) So I threw in some more green and blue until it was just right–it’s a kind of spa blue. Sadly, that means that when this gallon runs out, I’m out of luck. But I still have a bit left so I think I’ll be OK.

I painted the walls the spa blue color and stencilled the lockers/cabinets spa blue and white. Here is one finished cabinet door and the “wall of experimentation”.

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Mister installed my new cherry wood floor (actually fake wood laminate from Costco. I’ve had it in my family room for a year and it’s great stuff) and built my cabinets. I laid out all the cabinet doors and drawer fronts on the floor and stecilled the whole thing at once to keep a sense of continuity.

I just love the way the lockers and the whole room turned out!

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I didn’t want to label the lockers for each child which would distract from the design. Luckily I found these snappy little knobs in every letter of the alphabet at Hobby Lobby (and they were 50% off that week. $1.50 each! Bargain!) Yet another reason not to give your children all the same initials.

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Here are the three drawers at the bottom of each locker:
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I wanted to close off the open section of wall next to the front door but Mister simply wouldn’t hear of it. While I was in Utah he built this wall of cubby things instead and I really like it.

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I painted a bunch of Ikea plastic boxes that fit inside the cubbies. Ikea never makes things in colors I like, so I used a primer made for plastic things and then painted them with the wall paint.

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This project wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it. Every time I walk into a clean laundry room with nothing on the floor, I rejoice. The kids are being so wonderful about keeping everything put away so I am one happy mother.

Remember this heinous old thing?

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I bought it at Wimberley Market Days which is a really cute flea market held once a month in the darling town of Wimberly, Texas.  I went with Lorie from Be Different, Act Normal.  It’s not the kind of flea market that sells Sham-Wows and huge bags of no-name tube socks. No, this is the cute kind that sells vintage goods and crafts and lots of Texas-themed things (it happens to be the second biggest flea market in Texas after Canton Trade Days, outside of Dallas).  

We went early (well, early for shopping.  We got there at 8 am).  Luckily I scored this dresser early on.  It was in great condition (except for the chippy silvery green spray paint) and the price was $150 which is super for a nice big dresser.  I, of course, had to bargain my way down to $125 and was pretty pleased with my find since Ada needs a dresser in the worst way (She’s still using her changing table!)  I paid for it and told the guy I’d be back to pick it up when I was ready to leave.  By the time we got back the guy was a little ticked off. “I could have sold this thing ten time over!” he announced.  Ah well, now you know not to price a cute dresser so cheap! You can’t tell, but I’m sitting on the back of a teensy, tiny truck in this picture and my job was to keep the dresser from falling off (!!!).  It seemed more like a golf cart, but it got the huge dresser out to my car and Lorie and I didn’t have to lift a finger (except to rearrange everything in my car since I wasn’t exactly planning on such a huge purchase).

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I considered my finishing options but because the paint was pretty chippy I decided to strip it and refinish it. Gah, what a ginormous pain!  Note to self: just patch up the chipped spots and paint over the whole thing.  A lot of bloggers recommend spray paint when redoing furniture.  I guess because it’s easier and gives a smooth finish.  I opted to go the oil-based enamel route since this thing is going to take a beating, being in a kids’ bedroom. I did use a light coating of spray-on primer, though. (If you’re going to distress something, you don’t want to use a primer; when you sand off the paint you won’t see wood you’ll see primer.  But the distressed look isn’t my fave, so I used primer and sanded it afterwards with 320 grit sandpaper so the paint would go on super smoothly.)

The nice thing about oil-based enamel is that it takes a long time to dry, so the paint brush marks smooth out and fade away, especially if you do it in your garage on a rainy day like I did.  If you are wanting to paint something in the morning and have it in use by dinner-time, then this wouldn’t be a great option for you.  But I knew I wanted something durable, and enamel (not paint, enamel. Even though paint is often times labelled as enamel.  You want the stuff that’s meant for trim) is the hardest stuff there is.   Enamel can also be custom-colored unlike spray-paint.

I got mine at Sherwin Williams and followed Sarah’s tutorial here (just a note, though.  The enamel she used is for dark colors only.  If you want a paler color you’ll need to get the ProClassic Alkyd Enamel (Alkyd means oil-based).  I like satin the best; it’s just lovely.

Also, you can’t use a paintbrush for oil paint that you’ve used for latex. You’ll have to get a new one (and you’d better get a nice one! It makes a huge difference!). Oil paint has to be rinsed out in mineral spirits. Just pour some in a cup and swizzle the paintbrush, then dump it out (I dumped mine out in a bunch of weeds in the corner of my yard. Toxic material disposal plus weed killer all at once!) You’ll have to repeat it a couple of times, then rinse the brush under warm water. It sounds like a pain but it’s actually easier than rinsing your brush out for fifteen minutes like you have to do with latex.

Here’s my finished dresser, which took me a lightning quick two-weeks from the time of purchase to the time of finishing (it seriously is my record.  Remember I’m the person who has been trying to get around to wallpapering for two years.)  It took me another two weeks to get it up to Ada’s room and I have yet to put any accessories on it or put clothes inside, but it’s where it belongs and that’s pretty darn good for me.

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Good news: I was ahead of schedule getting the four big kids out the door to school today so I had time to cut some roses in my backyard (the first of the season!)

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Bad news: I was so busy arranging roses that I got the babies to school kind of late.

Good news: Mister found a charger this morning for my old, old cell phone so I can use that instead of having to buy a new one. I’m holding out for an iphone til the new ones come out in June (I murdered my current cell phone last week and have been using India’s. She is not too pleased.)

Bad news: The phone is locked and all attempts to unlock it myself have failed.

Good news: I found a guy down the street who will unlock it for cheap.

Bad news: I went to drop the phone off and the guy wasn’t in yet. Even though he said he would be. So I went home. And ran out of gas on the way.

Good news: I ran out of gas near our orthodontist’s office. Miss Sandra, the sweet-as-sugar receptionist, was there. She told me I could wait there for somebody to come and get me.

Bad news: My cell phone is non-functional, remember, and I haven’t memorized anybody’s phone numbers.

Good news: Miss Sandra offered to take me home to fetch a gas can.

Bad news: I couldn’t find the gas can. But I dug around in the shed until I found a different one. Meanwhile my mother (who is visiting and needed more eggs right that second) lectured me about needing to carry a cell phone. No duh, lady! I only wish I could get one to work.

Good news: After I got my car filled up with gas I went home to strip the paint off an old dresser I bought at a flea market for Adelaide.  I’ve been very excited to start this project.

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Bad news: There are about five layers of paint on this sucker and it’s going to take me a long, long, long time to get it ready to be repainted. I should have just patched up the chips on it and skipped the refinishing.

Good news: It’s going to be super cute.  It would even be cuter if I could paint the other furniture in the girls’ room to match.

Bad news: It’s Mister’s old furniture from when he was growing up.  He nearly fainted when I suggested that I paint it.  (“They’re antiques!” he said, giving me this look like I’m a total dummy.  Uh, they’re from the 60′s.  That’s barely even vintage.)

Good news: He always says no first and then usually changes his mind.

 

I realized after I finished my exercises in the Slipcover book (see this post earlier today) that the things I like best are lots and lots of pattern all mixed together, as well as bright pastel colors.  If something is plain and simple I usually don’t like it. After I did my last post about decorating my family room, it’s weird that I didn’t include photos (thanks for the complaining emails everyone!) Here they are:

Here is the sofa I knew in the Pre-existence. I was instantly smitten with it. It is such a nice change from all the gender-neutral furniture we’ve had our entire married life.  And as I like to remind Mister, a happy wife is a happy life.  After being married for (almost) 17 years he knows to pick his battles.

The accessories are all things that I really, really love.

(Notice the beehive box and the bird’s nest picture?  I’ve got a theme here, can’t you tell?)

The candlesticks are clear since there is a lot already happening in the room.  But they’re still busy in their own way.  And I like busy.

I found this brilliant mosaic on etsy.

The blue in this room was really hard to create.  I wanted a warm blue (if it can be called that), that didn’t look like a little boy’s room.  So if you’re in the market for a lovely blue color (it’s actually greyer than it looks in most of these pictures), here’s the recipe.

As I have mentioned before, I have a keen talent for losing things.  This week I have lost:

Isn’t this a cute earring?  I agree. Too bad I only have one now. (I just got them in December! Frustrating!)

How do you lose a big cake pan like this?  I can’t tell you how, only that it is indeed possible. The big bowl of egg whites in my fridge will end up down the drain, not in an angel food cake as originally planned. Hey wait!  Maybe I’ll make a Pavlova instead. That just occurred to me as I was typing. Those are great and are made with tons of egg whites. Ok, I don’t care so much about the lost tube pan anymore.  If I happened to have loaned it to you, though, will you please return it?

Missing: two of the finest paint colors that I have invented (don’t you like the way I say I have invented colors?  It makes me seem both artistic and all-powerful. You can read about the pain-staking, highly scientific process of paint-color-creation here) and the only recipe for them was printed on the lids of the paint cans themselves. These aren’t so much lost as disposed of by my husband. The ultimate irony is that Mister is a horrible packrat.  Not an OCD newspapers-stacked-to-the-ceiling kind of packrat.  Just an ordinary I-don’t-know-if-I-might-ever-need-this-again-and-I-can’t-make-that-sort-of-decision-right-now packrat.  Our garage is a testament to his love for every item he’s ever purchased.  So the one thing (OK, two things) that were really important to me, he threw out.  How will I touch up the family room walls now?  How will I paint over the patch next my shower where I replaced the towel rack? I gave Mister a good scolding about this, but I could tell, even though it was over the phone, that he was rolling his eyes.

P.S. I’m posting at Segullah today.  I’m not angling for a dinner invite, by the way.  Just getting something off my chest.

P.P.S. It also not entirely true because the Clowards invited us over for dessert a couple of weeks ago.  And we had Easter with the Callahans.  Although I was the one who set the whole thing up.

I did a massive deep-cleaning of the refrigerator last night. Every surface was scrubbed with hot water and copious amounts of elbow grease. Consequently the temperature alarm started to beep, letting me know that I was letting out quite a bit of cold.

Unfortunately the beeping never stopped. Not after I placed a huge bag of ice in the fridge to help cool things down quickly. Two hours later the beeping was still going and the little computer thermostat was unresponsive. I’ve already had to replace that electronic part once (the fridge is only 14 months old! Stupid Maytag! Where’s Gordon Jump when I need him?)

I found a handy website with online repairmen at about 11:30 last night. The guy told me I needed to unplug the two computer boards from each other. He included a diagram of how to do just that.

So now I’m waiting the five minutes until I can plug the pieces back together. I’m hopeful. Yet also doubtful because I already had to replace that same computer thingy once already.


Let me go put the fridge back together. Please wait . . . .

It worked!!! The mad beeping has stopped!

OK, so if you have any appliance repair problems I highly recommend http://www.justanswer.com. It’s not free, but they let you pay what you feel the service is worth (the minimum is $9). A lot better than having a sullen repairman who stinks of cigarettes come to your house and charge you $80 to do the exact same thing. And you can get help 24/7.

Another reason why I looove the internet.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, here’s India hanging up pictures in her newly painted room.  She picked it all out herself.  She may not be girly, but she did inherit my love of pattern; hence the polka dots. (Which I painted free-hand, thankyouverymuch.)

Yesterday I finished painting India’s bedroom. It’s cute, but still too messy to take an “after” picture. The bathroom next to India’s room is the main floor bath, and I couldn’t help but notice how boring and ugly it is. The color on the walls is the same beige that is in a lot of our house. It is the color I am trying my best to eradicate. Beige is not really an appropriate name, though. The color should be called “Dingy” or perhaps “New York City Puddle”. Drab and unappealing.

I thought about breaking out the pale green paint that I used in my bedroom and throwing on a few coats in the bathroom, but India reminded me that we have green paint in nearly every room that I’ve painted (most of the rooms have two colors so don’t think my house is head-to-toe monochromatic. Plus they’re all different shades of green.)  I have no yellow in my house yet, so that’s what I decided to go with. Yellow matches with the light blue and green that I have throughout the first floor.  

I’m sure you’ve done enough paining to know that choosing a color is more than just glancing at a few swatches at the hardware store and then handing one to the lady at the paint counter. This is my normal process:

–Go to Home Depot (I like their paint the best.  I really love the little sample sizes that you can get at Lowe’s, though.  I hate having to buy a whole quart just to try out a color!*  But Lowe’s paint-matching qualities are a little substandard, if you ask me). Get a whole ton of swatch cards. Stare at the swatches for several days and get it narrowed down to a couple that look promising.

–Back to Home Depot to get two quarts of the chosen colors ($11 each. Rip off!). Return home to paint large test patches on the wall.  Marvel at how completely different the actual paint looks from the swatch cards.  Are they even the same colors?  Decide paint swatches are completely pointless.

–Back to Home Depot to try just one more color. This one will be it.  The Holy Grail of Yellows. 

–It’s not.  Too bright.  The first color was too dark,  The second color too pasty.  Hey, maybe too dark + too light + a touch of too pasty would be just right!

–Get out a few plastic cups to make a some custom paint concoctions.  Try them on the wall. That’s more like it!  Now the wall is resembling a really hideous quilt.  Ask any family member who passes by which color they like.  Dismiss their opinion because what do they know?

–Settle on one color.  Paint a white index card with a couple of coats of it.

–Take the card to Home Depot (try not to look murderous when the same paint guy says, “did you miss me?”) and have it color matched.  Now you have the recipe for your perfect color.  

Here is my Wall o’ Yellow (It only took me five tries to get a nice yellow.  I’m getting so good at this.  It took me 13 tries to find the perfect green for my bedroom. The letter next to each swatch is for the name of the color.  Otherwise it gets too confusing.) The winner is M2 on the bottom.

It’s a delicious buttery yellow that is not too pale, not too bright; warm and sunny, not lemony.

Here is the recipe if you’re in the market for a lovely yellow. Or you can go through all this nonsense yourself.  Be my guest!

And the best part of my painting frenzy?  The green and yellow paint in my hair from leaning against a wet wall not once, but twice.  TWICE!  And it’s church today.  

P.S. I don’t know if painting burns any calories, but I was so exhausted last night I barely made it into my bed before crashing.  My body feels like an arthritic old woman’s this morning.  

*The lady at Home Depot told me that they’ll be getting the equipment to make small sample sizes sometime in the next few months. Hooray!