Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring? Are you sure?

Spring is trying to ... sprung?  Temperature-wise, Mother Nature is still messing with me.  I get one decent day per week, then cold and more rain.  But there is new growth desperately trying to grow all over the place, and last week I got this:

Just one!  But it's a sure sign of spring, right?

Kathy, Abby and Evan were here on Friday.  After the kids found a bunch of nails (and one giant metal spike) in the backyard with Evan's metal detector, we took on a destructive project.

I forgot to take a "before" picture but that's a little shed the previous owners used to house a generator. Their grandson built it when he was 16; they were enormously proud of it.  I tore it down.  As was the tradition around here, the grandson used whatever he could find to build this "structure."  I removed the door, then Abby and Evan took down the back and the two sides.  They found a marker (and some toy trucks) between the wall and the floor, and made good use of it.  Then the three of us went behind the remains and pushed it down.

Here is Abby, working like a boss.

And here is Evan, doing what Evan does best:

We found that plastic snowboard being used as part of the back wall of the "shed" so Evan promptly tested it and got himself stuck in the bindings.  Heh heh.

Roxie was helping until her ball rolled down into the brook.

I think Ruby was looking at Evan stuck in the snowboard and saying, "What the...?"

Kathy was on a mission in one of the other outbuildings.  The one I want to tear down when it gets warmer outside.  The previous owners were supposed to clean out all of these buildings before they moved.


These people are so on my shit list.  I don't care if they are 80 years old - they were terrible stewards of the land.  They were so damn proud of their yard and their flowers and their outbuildings.  But the property is riddled with junk.  I think they actually threw their garbage out in the woods, and when the pile got to be an eyesore they just built a wall in front of it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  So now I have an ethical responsibility to reclaim this one acre from the trash heap.  The problem with tearing down the buildings is that it exposes all the shit piles that were behind them, but Kathy kept saying, "Isn't it going to feel so good to throw all this stuff away?"  Oh yes, it is.  My mom got me an early birthday present this year.  It arrives on May 27th.  It's a huge dumpster that will live in my driveway for two weeks.  I can't wait.

Roxie really was helping.  See how tired she is from all the hard work?

My copy of THE BOOK arrived on Friday!  Totally awesome - poodle is now officially famous.  I tried to get a picture of her holding the book open to her page, but no can do.  Order your copy here - it is a cool book and I am honored to have been included.

So this just happened.  Here is how my couch looks right now:

And here is where Roxie chose to take a nap:

What a dorkasaurus.

Today we close with gratuitous poodle pictures because Derek says I don't post enough.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Buck Butt

Yeah, if that title doesn't draw you in I don't know what will.

This comes from the "I crack myself up" files.  When my contractor dudes were here switching the fridges, Jeff saw all my painting stuff and asked if I've ever painted a white-tailed buck.  I said no.  And then couldn't stop thinking about it.  I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like if, for instance, I decided to paint a white-tailed buck.  I searched online for a reference photo and ...


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One Man's Treasure...

The weather has been crazy around here.  It got cleverly warm and snow was melting by the boatload.  Which means we have been finding lots of ... oddities in the yard.

Aw, how cute.  But what the hell is it?

Aw, how NOT cute.  This pile of "treasure" was all over the yard, under the snow.  And actually, it's only a small part of the original pile - back in January we had a few warm days; some snow melted, and we hauled out everything that wasn't frozen to the ground.  But on Monday, it was over 70 degrees out.  At one point I was wearing running shorts and tall rubber garden boots.  I was the height of spring fashion.  Mom and I took down the basketball hoop that for some reason was hanging in a tree out by the road, in the woods, where there is absolutely zero room to bounce a basketball.  I also made this...

...while ripping down a wall:

I'm guessing the previous owner put it up to get some privacy between their side of the property and the apartment where they had tenants.  The "wall" was made from two layers of vinyl siding screwed to rotting posts.  It was butt ugly.  Now it's gone.

So it was in the '70s, and last night it snowed.  Crazy weather, yeah?  I've got an icicle tree growing by the garage.


Backtracking to sometime last week, this was my side yard:

I took the picture from my bedroom window.  During the winter that never ended, the snow was up to the top of that red fence.  Last week a lot had melted, but see my foot prints?  That snow was still up to my knees.  Just past the patch of green grass the property drops down to a stream (which is more like a roaring brook right now), and to the left of the bare grass is the pile of slate I mentioned in a previous post.  I hoofed out there to take a look and brought a piece inside.  The idea I wanted to try turned into this:

Cool.  I wanted to use this piece for a horizontal painting, but it had those two little holes at one end so this is how it ended up.  Ann thinks the slate might be roofing shingles but they are all different sizes.  When my yard drains and is no longer a swamp I will bring the whole pile over to the house so I can see what is there.

On the renovation front, I have one very important thing to say:  it's all about the little things.

Like power tools.  Especially cute power tools.  Now I can add extra shelves to my cabinets.  The uppers are 36" high rather than 30", but they only came with one shelf so I took the shelf out of all the base cabinets and added them to the uppers.  But I really despise the clips that came with these buggers, and the holes in the cabinets are not 1/4" like all of the clips at the hardware store.  Hence, power tools.  I drilled the holes bigger so the clips fit, and voila.  Done deal.

Yes, I still have to paint the doors and drawers.  It's driving my mother crazy.  I will get there.  The painter's tape is still up because I haven't painted the undersides of the uppers.  And I've got a ton of touch up to do, but that didn't stop me from a little decorating.

Remember, it's the little things.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Week in Review

It was 54 degrees on Monday morning.


Oh yes it was.  I was half awake, thinking about how cold it felt while also "dreaming" about a huge remodel project that was in a room that looked like a giant version of the 4-5-6 room at Sherburne Elementary School.  A guy had just walking into all the chaos carrying a leather frame and the acrylic I had ordered to fit it, and he wanted to charge me $1,700.00 for the acrylic rather than the $50.00 he had originally quoted.  I was pissed.  And I was yelling at him.  Then my mom, who was visiting for the weekend (for real, not in the dream) said, "Christine.  It's 54 degrees in here."  Sure enough the furnace had given itself the night off.  What do I know from furnaces, but I found a blinking green light and a label about a "lock-out" something-or-other and a red button to push.  So I pushed it.  Furnace came back on.  Heat started to trickle out.  We were happy.  Cold, but happy.

So that was Monday.

Tuesday I was up to my eyeballs in polyurethane.  Jeff called to see when I would be ready for countertop installation, and we agreed on Friday.  The clock was officially ticking.  To follow-up on where we left off last time, my mom and I picked up the big piece of countertop at Morrisville Lumber on Saturday.  It was not nearly as heavy as they led me to believe, so I was able to carry it myself, I just needed a bigger vehicle.  I did fix my stain issue - turns out if you put some paint thinner on a cloth and wipe the crap out of the overly-stained item, the excess comes right off.  That was good.  Over the weekend I put the one coat of stain on the underside of the rest of the counters, then stained the tops with two coats.  I did a better job with the stain this time.  Practice makes perfect.  Or, in my case, practice makes ... better than the first time.

Anyway, Tuesday was poly day.  I read about all of the choices on the Minwax website, and chose Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane.  **side note**  I really really wanted to use a green product that is made here in Vermont by a company called Vermont Natural Coatings.  It's called PolyWhey and it's made from -- yep -- whey.  Check out their website here.  I liked the idea of using a green product, especially one made here in Vermont, but mostly I liked the humor in using a cheese byproduct.  I went with the Spar Urethane instead because it was much less expensive, and it seemed like it would be way more durable (no pun intended).

The underside of the counters all got one coat of poly on Monday, but the tops were getting three coats.  Since sandpaper is my friend, I followed the directions and used 220 grit to sand down the dust bumps after that first coat, but it looked like I was scratching the finish.  I threw caution to the wind and applied the second coat, hoping for the best.  Then I went to the hardware store and got some 320 grit sandpaper, just in case.  (I spend more time at that hardware store than some of the people who work there.)  Second coat dried, I lightly sanded it with the 320, then on went the third coat.  Maybe that part happened on Wednesday - now I can't remember.  The days all blended in to each other this week.

Except Wednesday.  What a perfectly beautiful day.  I had Thin Mints for breakfast.  I got a lot of stuff done next door.  Roxie and I went for a 2.5 mile walk in 50+ degree weather under beautiful blue skies.  And I finished another painting.  Here is a poodle, resting in the sun after our walk.

And here is my attempt to recreate my wabi sabi winter painting.  This one is called "Snow Melts Into Spring."

But back to the poly story.  When the third coat had dried I wasn't sure what to do about the not-smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom finish.  It felt more like a baby's bottom with diaper rash.  So back we went to the Minwax website and I found a little video showing the Minwax genius guy talking about finishing wood.  He said dust is going to settle on the wet surface - nothing you can do about it - but to sand with 220 between coats (he even mentioned that it will look like you are scratching the finish) and then wet sand with 600 grit paper and lemon oil after the final coat.  This knocks down the dust bumps without removing any of the finish.  So guess where I went?  Back to the hardware store for 600 grit paper and lemon oil.  And let me tell you, those countertops are SMOOOOOOOOOOTH.  They are not perfect, but they are wicked SMOOOOOOOOOTH.  And they look awesome.  My contractor dudes are next door right this very minute installing them (time at the tone is 10:32am).

What else.  Over the course of the week I also filled the nail holes in the door and window casings in the kitchen, sanded it all down, spot primed the knots with BIN (which is shellac based and stinks like hell, but is supposed to be the best primer for covering knots), primed all the pine with BIN once the first bits were dry, painted one coat of semi-gloss white on the trim, finished priming and put three coats of blue on the two base cabinets that were naked, primed and put two coats of blue on the cabinet bits above the sink, fridge and around the microwave and the sides of the cabinets next to the pantry door and the sides of the cabinets that will be hidden by the fridge.  While I had the white latex paint out I also, finally, painted those last two parts of the beadboard in the bathroom.  I'm going to be painting over there forever.  I still need to paint the toe kicks and all the doors and drawers.  Plus the baseboards.  I should have done those while I had the white paint out, but I didn't.  I only painted the white trim because I realized the piece of countertop next to the pantry will be flush up against the door trim, so I needed to paint that trim before this morning.


(this denotes the passing of time)


My contractor dudes swapped the two fridges and are done; here is how the kitchen looks now (time at the tone is 1:37pm):

How awesomely cool is that?  I'm never going to use this kitchen because I don't want to wreck it, although you can see all the spots where I need to finish painting, touch up paint, scrape off excess paint... and I still need some crown moulding on the wall above the door.  And remember that logistical error I mentioned?  It is here.

This sticky-out wall (that's a technical term) used to have a cabinet in front of it, on the kitchen side, with a (broken) tiled top.  We ripped that sucker out the day we unloaded the moving truck.  I was going to take this little wall down entirely, but Ann suggested I use it to get more counter space.  Awesome.  It overhangs the kitchen side of the wall by about an inch, and that one inch is my problem.

I will never be able to remove that drawer.  It opens and closes fine, but to remove it entirely you need to tilt it way up to get the little wheels to clear the tracks.  If I had thought of this when the cabinets were being installed, they could have compensated by putting some filler at this end of the cabinet run.  But no.  I wasn't that smart.


At least I thought about it before they installed the peninsula top -that baby is screwed down through the top and the screws are covered by plugs.  Which is why I have yet to stain and finish the top and sides.  I was going to stain it and just leave the plugs a natural color - that would have looked cool - but I wasn't sure how the installation was going to go so I decided to wait.  Good thing I did - I need to sand down a couple of the plugs, and throw some wood putty around a third one.  Stain, poly and lemon oil are on the agenda for this weekend.  Woo hoo!  I'm also going to paint the rest of the drawers.  Three coats of primer, three coats of blue....  Sand, sand, sand.