Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't do this: a Pinterest fail story

I've made no secret of the fact that I don't like my kitchen. It's a typical midcentury modest kitchen, except with no redeeming features to make it cool or worth saving. The cabinets were ugly and dirty with faded and scratched stain when we moved in, and the countertops weren't too aesthetically offensive except that the previous owners screwed something into them, plus they're chipped and scratched and they stain when you look at them wrong. The avocado sink had no redeeming features even before it chipped. The whole thing was just worn out. A gut remodel is not within a thousand miles of my budget, though, so I'm constantly on the lookout for some sort of miracle DIY that will improve the kitchen even a little bit. I painted the cabinets and the laminate backsplash, which improved things a little bit, but when I saw this on Pinterest my interest was piqued. I've tried to stay away from countertop DIYs because, as someone who's tried a lot of them, they always look like DIYs to me. But I kind of figured it was a win-win: if it worked, it would be cute. If it didn't work, well, I have to replace the countertops anyway, right? And maybe if the project failed but the substrate still looked OK I could get a sheet of laminate and just re-laminate the counters. What I failed to take into account was that I wasn't planning on replacing the countertops, in any form, right this second, nor was there money to do that. But you know how these things go. I was eager to get started. Maybe I could even get it done before B got home from work and surprise him! Ha.

So here we go on a photo journey through my failure. Oh, and a note about the pictures: some of these are from my camera, but once I got going I forgot to take pictures except the few times I took cell phone pictures to send to my mom to keep her up to date on how big of a mistake this was. I am not a good blogger.

First up, the backsplash had to go.

No turning back now! Well, I mean, I could still keep the countertops, but...

Nope, no turning back. Setback number one: this is not particleboard or MDF or whatever the hell the underlayment in the Pinterest project was. It was wood. Stupid 1960s construction. But maybe it's planks! I mean, plywood existed well before 1968 so it's probably not, but it might be, right?


So at this point, I was still confident. I mean, the plywood was very dry and splintery and, not to put too fine a point on it, shitty. But I persevered because what choice did I have?

I had to stop because that counter is in the darkest area of the kitchen and it was getting dark, so I decided to use the evening to do some research. The general consensus on the internet is that you should just rip out laminate countertops rather than try and restrip and replace the laminate, unless you very recently applied the laminate. If that's the case, you can use heat or acetone to get the laminate off. Well, 47 years ago isn't recent, but I decided to give acetone a shot. It worked, kind of. I mean, the laminate did come up easier. But it also came up in smaller pieces, and the front was flaking apart from the back. I kept on, though, until I tore a huge chunk of plywood out. Like, almost entirely through the entire board huge. And you know I forgot to take a picture. I can patch a lot of stuff, especially if I were still planning to paint. But when I saw that hole, I was just done. I know when to hold 'em, and I know when to fold 'em. I gave up and played with Baby Girl and watched Property Brothers for the rest of the day.

And what did I do with the counter I destroyed?

It's the flooring version of duck tape: sticky tiles. I bought a 4' countertop at Menards that actually looks pretty decent, considering it cost $17. But I need to cut 6" off of it, and I'm working up my nerve. My plan is to stage this as a beverage center or something like that; it's different because it's supposed to be, not because I totally screwed up! We've decided to take the plunge and put the house on the market in a few weeks, so it'll have to be better than sticky tiles.

I'm glad this project worked for the original blogger (and her project looks really good, too) but I would say unless you know exactly what's underneath your laminate, or unless you're ready to fork out the money for new counters if this goes bad--something that's a little more expensive for me because I have to custom order since we have a peninsula--either skip this project or try it somewhere that you can pass off as a beverage station if it doesn't end well.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The room of unfinished projects

I realized the other day that the living room is like a microcosm of my house: full of unfinished projects. Pretty much every single piece of furniture needs work done, as does the room itself.

This is the one room in the house that's never been painted. Even the unfinished basement has been painted, but this room was an inoffensive white that I was happy to leave for the time being. Now it's five years later and every other room has been painted, many of them twice, and this room just looks sad. The idea of painting, of course, opens up all the color options, but I'm kind of thinking I'll just paint it the same color as the kitchen or as Baby Girl's room. Keep things simple.

From the doorway. Unfinished projects in this picture: dresser, floors, walls, desk, bookcases, side table, lamps, and benches. So, you know, pretty much everything except the couch.

The partially stripped dresser. I still have no idea how to get right up next to the brass trim, but procrastinating probably won't solve that problem.

You can also see Baby Girl's little play area there. It's not big, but the toy room is like fifteen feet away so I don't think it needs to be. Of course her toys are spread all over the room; that corner doesn't contain them. The space heater (mostly hidden by my laptop) is almost out of season, but I might leave it there because a)I don't know where else to put it, and b) there'll be random cold days or nights for probably at least the next two and a half months, plus the basement is colder than the rest of the house anyway. I just have to remember to unplug it in the summer or the kids will turn it on. Actually I'd like to buy a new infrared heater and get rid of this one, but we'll see.

The aquarium portion of the room. The aquarium is not really that green; I had just started scrubbing it and stirred everything up when I decided to stop and take pictures because that's how I work. We're going to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank, which is what that wood thing is for; it will eventually become the stand. It should be sooner rather than later, because I've finally saved up the money to upgrade but I don't have anywhere to put it until the stand is built.

The trim has been taken off because there is a tiny, like seriously two inch wide, strip of laminate flooring that still needs to be put down. Sigh.

Count the unfinished projects! Chairs, desk, bookcases. Probably window trim--I've painted it in every other room so I might as well paint it in this one. That curtain rod and curtain also need to be changed. The bed was there when this first became a bedroom, so I hung an extra long rod to mask the off-center window. That's also just a single really wide curtain panel, because I didn't see the need to make extra work for myself when that curtain wouldn't really be used.

A better shot of the desk. The cushion foam in the corner was from the pullout loveseat, which has since found a home at the dump. I kept the foam thinking I might make the dogs a bed out of it, but I realize now it should just go in the trash. They're not going to give up their chairs for dog beds.

I'm trying to focus on just this room right now, which is a very difficult concept for me. I think it's hard to stay in one space because I work so slowly and I'm afraid that if I don't jump around then some projects will never get started or maybe get forgotten. I don't know. I just know that my mind is always five years ahead of my hands.

I've already started on the bench redo. It's going slow, which is pretty much exactly what I expected. At this rate I'll be done with the benches in a month and the room in three years. That sounds about right.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I made DIY Japanese fishing floats

As I've been decluttering, I've found it pretty easy to get rid of a lot of stuff. One thing I didn't want to give away, despite not being able to use it as we originally planned and having no other place to use it, was this brass light shade.

At some point in the last week I saw what looked like this exact shade used as a vase with a tall pillar candle in it. I have no idea where I saw it, and Google searches have not been helpful. But it got me thinking about what I could put in that if I used it as a vase. I'm not really a candle person, but I remembered this Mod Podge Japanese fishing float tutorial that I saw forever ago. I bought the ornaments for this probably two years ago, and they've been sitting around ever since. Time to do some crafting.

The first steps--fill the ornaments with matte Mod Podge, swirl it around, pour it into the next one, repeat--went great. I didn't have any toilet paper tubes, so I used some grody old cupcake pans I had around. I lined the cups with foil, or you could use foil cupcake liners. I wouldn't use paper liners.

The original post says to bake them at 180 degrees, but doesn't say anything about the length of the time you have to bake them, just until they're clear. I went in ten minute increments and eventually lost track of time, but after maybe two hours, I noticed that there was condensation on the inside of the ornaments. I didn't know if this would mess up the Mod Podge, so I took them out and let them cool for maybe two minutes so I could touch them. It didn't take long since the temperature was only 180. Anyway, the extra Mod Podge had pooled in the throats of the ornaments, and in most cases had gone up far enough that it was now on the outside and had baked to a skin that attached the ornaments to the foil. It was pretty easy to detach them, but messy. If you have to get help to separate them, be sure to be super clear that this is hot liquid glue so don't jack around when you're pulling the foil off and burn yourself. B didn't really understand what I was doing, if you can't tell.

Eventually they started clearing up, although the clear side was really streaky. Well, nothing to be done about that. They were clearing on one side (the back) so I rotated the pans so the other side would clear. Then when I went back to check, the fronts that were previously clear were cloudy again and the backs were clearing.

I started this project after I put Baby Girl down for a nap, so let's say 2 PM. The ornaments were still cloudy at 7 PM. I finally gave up and took them out of the oven at about 7:30, and they still looked like this.

I eventually figured out that the ornaments I used were bigger than the ones used in the original tutorial--mine are 4" across--so I have no idea how much time this would take normally. I assume that was the cause of all my issues with this step.

The next morning, despite my hopes that they would miraculously clear up overnight, they still looked the same. I decided to throw them back in the oven, but this time at 220 degrees. After 30 minutes, it seemed like a miracle! They were clear! But as soon as they came out of the oven they clouded up again. It wasn't so much that they clouded up--that's part of the point, after all--but they were streaky and spotty. After an hour I decided to just make the best of it. We'll pretend that it was the glassblower's first day.

The original post used two glasses of dye: blue and green plus some yellow. I had kelly green Rit powdered dye and navy blue liquid dye. I followed the same recipe she did--pinch of salt, teaspoon of dye, water--even though I probably should have used less liquid dye. Since my ornaments were larger, I needed three. I didn't realize I'd need three at first and ended up having to dump some bottled water into one, so I suppose it all ended up equal in the end. I was a little worried about how they would balance on the cupcake pans, since I had thrown the plastic packaging away by this point, but they did fine.

I let the dye sit for three-ish minutes. After I mixed the dye for the first time, the ornaments mostly came out blue, so I tried redying a few of them with green. It took the second coat of dye just fine and I got a color I liked much more. This is the final product.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I wanted to show my favorite one. I didn't stir the green dye and it (and probably the salt; I used kosher) made this starburst pattern. It's on two, but it's much more pronounced on this one.

And, of course, there were a few places where the Mod Podge didn't cover right and therefore the dye didn't cover right. Oh well.

Here they are in the vase.

My favorite one on top.

I tried to turn the stems toward the back or just keep them hidden as much as possible. I think it worked out fairly well. Oh, and pro tip: clean your glass container before you carefully arrange your floats in it.

Just to be clear, I don't think the issues I had were the fault of the original tutorial. I didn't realize that the ornaments she used were so much smaller than the ones I had, and I think the key to a smooth finish is having the Mod Podge melt quickly and evenly so it doesn't split or whatever happened with mine. I like to follow directions, so I probably would have used the lower temperature and screwed it up anyway, although I might only have used one package of ornaments to find out if I was right rather than messing up both.

I would also say that you should let these drain really well to make sure there's really no excess Mod Podge in there. Not too long, though, because I assume you don't want the Mod Podge to dry too much before you get them in the oven. Probably no more than ten minutes. Again, this may have been a function of having them at too low a temperature, but the pooling Mod Podge caused condensation and also made a bit of a mess around the openings of the ornaments, so try and avoid that as much as possible.

My vase isn't quite full, so I might give this a shot with another four pack of ornaments, assuming I can find them at this time of year. Maybe I can get them right using a higher temperature from the beginning.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The state of the house

I can feel my winter funk starting to lift. I'm sure I've written on here before that winter is not my season, and my ideal way to spend it would be curled up on the couch with a blanket and my laptop, and not go outside from November to March. Sadly, I can't make that happen, mostly because there's no grocery delivery in my area. But I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel, or a warm temperature at the end of the season, and I'm starting to think about home projects again. First I felt like decluttering (which you probably won't be able to tell from these pictures), so that's what I've been doing for the past few days. So far I've done the dresser in the living room, most of the kitchen, Baby Girl's closet and dresser, Baby Girl's and Yaya's bookshelves, and the bookcases in our room. I also finally decided to get rid of the play kitchen I built forever ago that was not built well and really too big. Here's the Goodwill pile so far, minus the kitchen set. The Little Green Machine is just there to be returned to my mom.

I've never shared pictures of most of the rearranging we've done over the past few months, so I think it's about time for that. I'll also share where we're at with the new room switch we're doing. There is no end to the room switches.

I was going to do more cleaning up for these pictures, but I still haven't been cleared to do as much cleaning as I have been so my back hurts, and the idea of either bending over or crawling on the floor to pick all that stuff up doesn't sound good to me.

So first of all, the living room is now where our bedroom used to be.

Spot the dogs. This is actually the second or third layout I've had in here since we moved it. The room is long and narrow, but it's not big, so most of the advice on furnishing long and narrow rooms is a bit tricky to adapt. I like this so far. My main complaint with the last layout--couch against the wall where the toys are, chairs in the center of the room where the couch is now, desk against the back of the chairs--was that the children would take flying leaps onto the furniture and the desk and chairs would end up pushed against the back wall. Also the back of the desk is ugly. They still take flying leaps onto the couch, but it's heavier so it only gets pushed a foot out of place instead of six feet. Plus now we don't have to see the back of the desk.

Here's the back half of the room.

Only one dog in this picture. The upholstery on those blue chairs was almost perfect when we got them, but of course it's destroyed now. I don't know what to reupholster them in, so they're getting dropcloth slipcovers. They also need new foam in the seats; I need to hit a sale for that. Also, you can see the bench that was in the entryway over there. I want something much more low-profile for the entry--I have a shelf to hang--so that's homeless for now. I might put it next to the couch instead of that table that's there now since the table is too high.

It took a while, but I think I finally hit on a reasonably decent layout for the toy room/sewing room.

It's hard to discern because it's messy. Story of my life. Here's just the toy room side.

We also have the small toy storage chests in the entry of the storage area under the stairs.

My sewing room.

This has also had several arrangements, but this one works for now. This layout actually allows me enough room to get to my chair and sit in it, so that's a plus. I've actually done a fair bit of work in here; the white table was just a pile of junk before, but now there's actual work space. Well, there was actual work space before I put that dollhouse there. It was on top of the play fridge that we got rid of, so it's temporarily homeless. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it; it was $1 at the secondhand store and I couldn't resist.

The dresser is another thing I couldn't resist. My dad called me one day and said "Do you want this dresser in my garage? If you don't take it, it's going on the burn pile." I couldn't let that happen--it's got a few inches of missing veneer but otherwise it's in great shape--so for now it's sewing storage. I might fix it up and sell it at some point in the future, when I get a permanent sewing room and can therefore install permanent storage.

Here's our current bedroom.

Itty bitty living space. That TV stand makes it look messier than it is. It's not too bad, at least on my side. B is a slob.

The walls will eventually be finished, either later this year or next year, after we get the foundation plates (helical plates? I can't remember the technical name) installed. At that point it will really be too small to be a bedroom, so...we'll be moving everything back! Yeah, I know. I really like having the living room downstairs; I love having that extra space. However, like I said, that room will no longer be usable as a bedroom so we'll have to go somewhere else. There may be a small period of time where we switch our room and the sewing/toy room, but ultimately we'll be going back to the living room space. When we sell this house (2016 oh please oh please oh please), we want to market it as a four bedroom. In order to do that, we have to have another room with an attached closet, and while we could probably do that in the sewing/toy room (probably; I haven't really thought about it), it would be much easier to do it in the living room. In fact, we might do a huge walk-in closet the full width of the back basement. I don't have enough clothes to justify that, but it seems like it would be a selling point. I'll ask my real estate agent.

So then, of course, B's game room would go back downstairs instead of being in the original living room space. I don't foresee this as being an issue, because a big part of the reason they moved upstairs was because it was cold in there. If the walls and ceiling are finished, the basement will be much warmer. B doesn't actually know that my intention is to have him go back to the basement yet. Again, I don't think it will be an issue once the basement is finished, and mostly I don't care, except that when we go to sell the house I'm pretty sure we should have the living room staged as the living room. I could see the potential in having it as a different room even if it's set up as a game room, but according to HGTV most people can't see that potential. That'll probably be something we address in early 2016, so no need to worry about it now.

Anyway, I said earlier that we have another room switch going on right now, because I can never leave things alone. Mr. Man, when he gets upset, tries to destroy things, and he doesn't discriminate based on size. He's knocked over dressers before. As a result, his room is pretty much completely empty except for his mattress on the floor. He did have a twin bed, but now he has a queen mattress. My mom had an almost-new queen mattress that she didn't want, so Yaya had that for a while, but then we traded our old unused chest freezer for a loft bed (and two hamsters that promptly had babies), so Yaya no longer needed the queen mattress. I want to get Mr. Man a platform bed, something very low, but that's been hard to find. I don't want to build it, but that's the way it's looking.

Baby Girl's room has always been too small for her from the beginning. Her room is the smallest room in the house, and I don't know how you could fit anything in there with a regular-sized bed. The vent is directly in the center of the room under the window, and will probably be covered up by any size of bed except crib/toddler. When she switches to a twin bed, she won't be able to have that and her dresser in there; there won't be room to walk. So it makes a lot more sense to have the kid with no furniture in the smallest room. Of course, when we go to sell the house we probably won't be able to have a queen mattress in the smallest room, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mr. Man's room gets the best light, and I thought I wanted it to be yellow for Baby Girl. I thought I wanted a very definite yellow, with brown/orange undertones so it wasn't lemony. I painted these samples on the wall, with a sample of her dresser color. From left to right, the colors are Behr Pale Honey, Benjamin Moore Peach Cloud, and Behr Amber Moon.

I have now learned that I do not want a strong yellow. I'm not sure what I do want, but it'll probably be cream. I'm going to dig out the leftover kitchen paint and, if it's still good, put a sample of that up and see how it goes. I'll write more on that later, when I've actually made progress.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy third birthday, Baby Girl!

That time has come again: Baby Girl is three today. I can't believe she's this old; this is the year that the big changes start happening. Next month I can go to pre-K screening for her (to start in August). I knew that was coming this year, but having it actually here is different.

We're still having firsts, of course. She recently had her first dentist appointment, which I know is about two years late, but she's been on a waiting list at the boys' dentist since she was six months old. I believed them for a while when I'd call to check and be told "oh, another six months." But then one of the two dentists retired (he was an orthodontist; he did my braces when I was 17 and he was almost retirement age then) and I was tired of waiting, so off we went. She was not super thrilled.

A first she has yet to have: first haircut. I've been trying to talk B into it, but he wants her hair to grow out. It's more than halfway down her back, but it's so fine that I think shorter would look better. I've tried to explain to him that you can't just let hair grow forever, you have to cut it to get rid of split ends. He is skeptical, so we're still working on that.

And, of course, she is incredibly opinionated and not willing to take any shit from anyone. She hates it when people (or the dogs) walk behind her, she hates it when Noah sings, she hates it when Elijah repeats lines from her shows, etc etc. In short, her brothers annoy her the same way they annoy each other. Sibling love. B and I don't escape the annoyance, either. This is the look I get for most pictures now.

Sometimes she throws me a bone, though.

Happy birthday, Baby Girl.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The very very late Christmas photo post

I thought I had more Christmas photos than this, but...I do not. I mean, I have more, but they're either of Yaya so they will be staying on my hard drive, or they're pretty terrible so they will be staying on my hard drive. Potato, potahto.

I helped a little with decorating the tree, which is probably why there aren't many pictures; this was after my surgery but not by much so I wasn't terribly useful. Mr. Man was very very helpful, as you can see.

As was Baby Girl. She was probably taking this off the tree rather than putting it on, because that's pretty much how the season went. If it wasn't her taking them off, it was the cats.

I bought a cute Target gingerbread house kit, but it did not work out well. We built it too fast (this is what happens when you have kids: do it fast or not at all) and it collapsed. The upside is that the gingerbread still tasted good because it hadn't sat out for a month. As you can see, Baby Girl was right there to act as cleanup crew.

Christmas morning! I don't have many good pictures of this. Oh well, I lived it.

The boys each got a DS. They were used, because you cannot buy a new DS anymore (I don't think you can, anyway) and Mr. Man got pink because that's what the game store had. He could care less.

The kids also each got a tablet for Christmas. It was the year of electronics. The tablets were only $55 each and work well for the kids, although it seems like the screens scratch if you even look at them. Still, for $55, you can't ask for much more. I think it was this tablet (I didn't really pay attention; I let B take care of all that) and this case.

We went up to my parents' house on Christmas day to open gifts. Baby Girl actually held still long enough for me to do her hair. It was little buns on either side of her head, but her hair is so fine it was coming loose by the time we even got to my parents' house. She ended up in pigtails. Still cute.

And one last picture of Mr. Man, getting a Lego kit. Yay Lego. We stopped buying him big kits because he tends to throw things when he's mad, but these little kits are perfect.

I know this is more than a little late, but I hope everyone had a good Christmas! I actually have at least two more posts planned, I just need to focus up and get them written. Maybe it'll be two weeks between posts this time instead of three.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fall 2014 photo dump

Not to be confused with the ostensibly upcoming "Christmas 2014 photo dump."

Time did not stop while I was off my feet with a herniated disk, and even though B made it sound like most days it was a miracle he got everyone to school and they ate way too much fast food, there were some fun activities.

This might have been taken before I hurt myself; we did quite a lot of basement cleaning the week before that. You can't tell we were cleaning from this picture, of course.

A clean toy room. I was wrong; I'm pretty sure this was all B. This was during the very brief time where he switched his game room and the toy/sewing room. Now his game room is up where the living room is supposed to go, the living room is downstairs, and our bedroom is in the semi-finished part of the basement, to the right in this picture.

It snowed!

She was wearing a coat under there, I promise. Knowing B she's probably got four layers of clothing on, too.

You'll have to trust me that this is Yaya.

I had a hard time finding pictures of Mr. Man that weren't blurry. That's a problem I have a lot with him.

He had a pretty chapped face for a while there; so far we haven't had a repeat.

OK, so maybe not much happened for those few months. Or at least, nothing B took pictures of. There are more from Christmas stuff. A few, anyway.