Friday, December 16, 2011

Fast Food Friday: Poinsettia Sipper

This is a drink that my husband's family has long made at this time of year, and it is now a favorite with my family as well. I'm generally a fan of hot mulled beverages, and this makes a tasty alternative to egg nog or hot chocolate. Since it's appropriate for fasting, it's nice to serve for the Feast of St. Nicholas. We like to drink it as we decorate our Christmas tree, and it would be great in a thermos for looking at Christmas lights.

Apparently the recipe was originally published in Cooking Light, but this is our own slight variation, which James and I feel we have perfected over the past several years. We frequently double or triple the quantities, but this amount is works for just a few people. We often mix up a batch on Sunday afternoons this time of year, and it makes the house smell wonderful.
Poinsettia Sipper
2 cups water
2 cups apple juice
2 cups cranberry juice blend (I prefer 100% juice blends, not cranberry cocktail. Cranberry Pomegranate blends are my favorite.)
2 Tbs. sugar (optional)
2 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
The juice of one clementine (2 Tbs. orange juice can be substituted, but freshly squeezed is preferred)

Stir together all the ingredients in a pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves (if using) Simmer for 20-30 minutes, and serve when it smells lovely. Note that if you double the recipe there is no need to add more cinnamon sticks.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hanging Around

The headboard did get hung up. We've been enjoying it for about a month now. You can see we also hung up some pictures. These are some wedding pictures, and they were hanging on a different wall before. We ended up abandoning the flush mounts to hang the headboard, as the ones we bought were not intended for something this big. Instead, James bought some other brackets with eye holes. He attached two of them to the top board on the back of the headboard. Then he screwed two wood screws into the studs in our wall, and hung the headboard from the wall by hanging the brackets from the screws. I wasn't around for this, so I don't have pictures. I'm not sure what kind of brackets they were or the exact steps of the installation. I'm sure it involved measuring and a level, and if anyone is on the edge of their seat waiting for details I can probably get James to answer questions in the comments.
I did a little tweaking of the headboard by tucking some squares of the fabric into the spots at the corners of the panels. Because of the rounded edges, the corners didn't quite meet, and the boards behind the panels showed through at some angles, as you can see above. I probably should have attached fabric to the boards before we attached the panels since it was a little tricky tucking the fabric into these small gaps. It's a small thing, but it makes the headboard look more finished. Below is the new and improved close-up. I've got some other bedroom decorating projects in the works, but things have slowed down in there a bit while I focus on preparing for Christmas. I do have some projects I've completed that I haven't shared here yet, so I hope to talk about those in the next week or so.
And I'm excited to share this picture sent to me by Laura, who made her own paneled headboard with canvases. I love how the same concept has a totally different look with a different fabric and canvas configuration. I really like the square canvases she used, and how they fit perfectly under her window. I think her headboard turned out great, and it was really fun seeing a project inspired by mine. Thanks so much for sharing, Laura!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Open to Interpretation

Remember way back in August when I did the 21 Day Challenge and I managed something unheard of for me and posted every day for 21 days in a row? And I posted awkward photos of what I wore? I had a lot of fun and thought about clothes in a different way. I'm not gonna lie to you, I still frequently go with my standard method of wearing anything that doesn't need ironed (and one thing I love about fall and winter is that my sweaters usually don't require ironing). But at least some of the time I'm trying to apply what I learned and accessorize, layer my clothes, and wear scarves and belts. I feel really fancy when I bother with that. :)

Well, today Kayla, who organized the 21 Day Challenge, is hosting another fashion challenge, along with bloggers Amy and Erica. They do this fun thing called Open to Interpretation where they choose an image with a look they like and then they create an outfit inspired by that one. And they've invited everyone to play along this time, so I thought I'd join in.

Here's the inspiration outfit:

Unfortunately the original source is unknown.

And here is my outfit:

Sweater:Ann Taylor Loft c/o my mom, t-shirt: Gap via Goodwill, pants: Goodwill (no idea what brand), Shoes: Kohls, Necklace: made by me.

Textured oatmeal sweater? Check. Layered with a striped tee? Check. Big furry earflap hat? Ummm, no. Red skinny jeans? Sorry. Brown booties? Nope.  I actually tried a bunch of possibilities for the bottom half of this outfit before I went with this. I have some red tights, and I was really hoping to make those work, but I didn't like any of the skirts or shorts I tried with it. Oh, well. Camel colored cords it is. I tried my brown boots with this, too, but it was a no go. So this is what we've got. And I took a bunch of pictures and even experimented with the timer, and, sadly, this really was the best I could do. But check out my new specs!

And go check out all the other interpretations:

Freckles in April OTI

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feast of St. Nicholas

Blessed feast to you. Most people can't help but love St. Nicholas, and he is special to James and me because he was the patron of the church where we began inquiring about the Orthodox faith. We try to go there to celebrate the feast each year. Since James is working 50-60 hours a week right now, rather than going there for liturgy today, we went on Sunday when they had a meal in honor of their Patron. It turned out to be a good thing, because today would not have been a good day for me to be in the car.
I thought it would be fun to share a bit of the tradition of St. Nicholas with my co-workers this year. I made up these little bags of  "gold" to take them. Each one contains chocolate coins, a clementine and some mini candy canes. The bags are actually just squares cut from a T-shirt tied with ribbon. I like to re-purpose things for wrapping, and the simple bags are meant to evoke the bags of gold St. Nicholas is said to have given for dowries. According to tradition, St. Nicholas anonymously tossed a bag of gold into the window of an impoverished family on three different occasions, for each of three daughters. This saved the girls from being sold into slavery or prostitution. The bags of gold are said to have landed in the shoes of the girls set out by the fire to dry, and that's the basis of the tradition of setting out shoes or stockings to be filled with gifts on this feast and at Christmas time.
To personalize them for my co-workers, I made these salt dough gift tags/Christmas tree ornaments. I got the idea for them on Pinterest, where I kept seeing lovely ones like this:

It seemed simple enough, but isn't that always the way with crafts? I made some, and I think they're pretty cute, but they are a lot more rustic and homemade looking than what I was envisioning. It's true that they are simple enough to make. You just mix 2 parts flour to 1 part water and 1 part salt to make the dough. For little tags like these 1/2 tablespoon for each part times however many tags you want should about do it, with a little extra for mistakes. I definitely made mistakes!  Stamping letters backwards, not allowing enough room for the whole name...I started over several times. Once you've mixed as much dough as you need, knead it a little, roll it out about a quarter inch thick, cut your shapes, then stamp away. I stamped them on one side with my co-workers' names and the other side with a decorative stamp. The Christmasy stamps were part of the bounty from my mom's basement when she and my dad downsized their house, and the letter stamps I've had since I was a kid. The ribbon for the hangers is from my wedding. Spur of the moment crafters benefit from a slight tendency to hoard things. :)
So after I stamped them, I poked holes in them with the insert to a ball point pen and then I baked them at 325 for about a half hour. I've now seen other recipes say to bake at 250, and maybe they wouldn't have browned quite so much if I'd gone that route. I also recommend that you line your baking sheet with foil if it is not pristine, as the salt dough can pick up oil baked onto the sheet (Not that I would know, from experience, ahem.) Once they were cool, I gave them a few coats of Modge Podge for preservation, and I threaded some ribbon through them as hangers. I tied them to my little bags, and they're ready to go.
Naturally, I planned to give them to my co-workers today, but I'll keep it real by disclosing that I completely forgot to give them out! I spent the morning in a meeting with librarians from other libraries, and then had to leave work with a migraine. I'll have to pass them out tomorrow. I've only had a few migraines in my life, thankfully. I came home and slept, and I feel fine now.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Drumroll Please...

...And the winner is:
Rebekah of Verdant Bents

The winning number 4 was generated at

I'll be in touch with you about the prize, Rebekah.

Thanks so much everyone for your kind words about my blog. I wasn't fishing for compliments. :) I thought maybe feedback would help me find some focus for my random ramblings. I guess writing about whatever's on my mind at the moment will lead me to hit publish the most frequently, and that definitely means more talk about the house will be forthcoming.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fast Food Friday: Peanut Butter Pasta

We often eat this meal on fasting weeknights because it is quite quick and easy. This recipe is loosely based on one from When You Fast...Recipes for Lenten Seasons by Catherine Mandell. It contains essentially the same ingredients, but she doesn't recommend natural peanut butter for her sauce, whereas I prefer it. And, over the years, my version has diverged quite a bit from the original. I've changed the type of pasta, the ratio of ingredients in the sauce, and the preparation method to suit my own taste and cooking style. I'm finding the blog is handy way to keep a record of my recipe variations. So many things I ostensibly make from a cookbook, but in reality prepare very differently than the recipe as printed.

Peanut Butter Pasta

3/4 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
3-4 carrots, julienned (sometimes I go with ribbons instead of matchsticks)
1 head of broccoli, chopped or 1 16 oz bag frozen broccoli
5 Tbs. natural peanut butter
7 Tbs. low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs. lime or lemon juice
1-2 Tbs brown sugar (try the sauce with 1, and if you'd like it to be sweeter, add another)
2 cloves minced garlic
Hot Sauce, to taste (I often skip this, as James doesn't care for spicy foods, but it's good with it, too)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, chop your carrots and broccoli. When water comes to a boil, add your pasta and boil for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and broccoli and boil 5 minutes more.  Drain and return to pot. While the pasta and vegetables are cooking, whisk together the ingredients for your sauce. Stir the sauce into the pasta and vegetables. I use a silicone spatula to scrape all the sauce out of the bowl.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

100th Post Giveaway

This is my 100th blog post! My very first post was on February 8, 2009, so I'm going on three years of blogging. This year I have blogged twice as much as in 2009 and 2010 put together. Since my blogging has been so sporadic, I haven't done anything for my ”blogiversaries,” but I thought it would be fun to mark the 100 post milestone with a little giveaway. Thank you  for stopping by here to see what I have to say, and thanks especially for taking the time to comment. I have really enjoyed getting to know people via their blogs, and have found blogging to be a great learning experience and creative outlet.

I'm giving away one knitted to order (meaning you can choose the color and texture) wash/dishcloth and a bar of Monastery soap. I have a few kinds on hand, so I'll let you choose your scent (or lack thereof). The monks aren't paying me or bribing me to promote their soap. :) I just like it.

To enter, just  leave a comment here by Monday, December 5 at 8:00 am Eastern Time. I'll randomly generate a winner and announce the results Monday evening. Since the prize is small and lightweight, I'll ship anywhere. Because I tend to write about a variety of topics, I'd welcome comments about the type of content on my blog that most interests you (but that's not required to enter). Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fast Food Friday: Pease Porridge Hot!

It hasn't been all decorating, all the time here lately. We've had all kinds of stuff to keep us busy so far this month. The first weekend of the month we took a quick jaunt to Ohio for my dad's birthday. I made this cake which was very well received. I strongly recommend it for all your festal chocolate cake needs. And that's high praise from me, because despite my abiding love of chocolate, I generally don't really care for chocolate cake. I made it by request of the birthday boy. The second weekend of November was jam-packed. On Saturday, I attended Holy Liturgy for the feast of St. Varnava of Indiana, as well as a very edifying lecture on the book of Revelation by Dr. Jeannie Constantinou, a Presvytera and professor who does an excellent podcast called Search the Scripture on Ancient Faith Radio. Then we went to a wedding on Sunday evening, which was lovely. We're having friends over for dinner tomorrow, and I need to do my shopping for Thanksgiving. Lots going on around here this month, and that's just the weekends!
It seems like the Nativity Fast snuck up on us, but here we are. We now turn our hearts to preparing for the joyous celebration of the Incarnation of our God and Lord, and attempt to humbly remember Him who humbled Himself to be born of a Virgin. During fasting seasons, I like to share recipes on Fridays, so here is one of my very favorites. (Do I always say that? I really do love fasting foods.) When it comes to split pea soup, I like it hot or even cold. I sincerely doubt it's ever lasted 9 days at my house, but I would probably like it nine days old, as well. Sadly, it's one of the least photogenic foods in the world. I felt obliged to include the picture of the view from our bedroom window the last week in October to make up for the image of pease porridge. The riot of red leaves has fallen, and the view is now almost as drab looking as the soup, so I'm thankful I have the picture to remember the brief glory we're treated to each year. 

Split Pea Soup

1 tsp oil (optional)
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
1 lb dry split peas (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
Salt and pepper

Lightly brown your vegetables over medium high heat in a good sized pot. You can do this in oil or a splash of vegetable broth, as you like. Add in the broth, water, split peas, marjoram and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Simmer for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, until the the split peas fall apart.  After 45 minutes check and stir occasionally. Add more water if needed or desired. I like my split pea soup good and thick in true pease porridge style. If you like it thinner, feel free to add more water. Add salt and pepper, to taste. It depends on how salty your broth is, and how salty your taste is.  My soup didn't need any more salt, and I like to give it a few good grinds of pepper.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Paneled Upholstered Headboard

I was really excited last week when Sherry of Young House Love and Katie of Bower Power are hosting another Pinterest Challenge, along with Ana White and Erin of House of Earnest. The idea is that you stop pinning, step away from your computer and actually make something you've pinned. Then you share what you've made, check out all the fun projects everyone else made, and start the pinning cycle all over. Last time, I had a lot of fun making a painting based on a TV quotation for my brother. The timing of this challenge was the perfect incentive to build a headboard for our bedroom. (Big surprise that I made something for the bedroom, right?)

My Pinspiration was this paneled headboard:

I pinned it from Brooke at All Things Thrifty.  I combed the web looking at dozens of upholstered headboards before deciding I wanted to make a paneled one. There are instructions on how the inspiration headboard was made here, but mine was actually constructed pretty differently. For the base of my panels, I used canvases. I bought two packs of seven 11 x 14 canvases at Michaels. They are regularly $20, but I bought them with 50 percent off coupons (of course) so I got the two packs for $20 total. I only used 12 for the headboard, so I have 2 more for another project. I loved the giant headboard that Brooke made, but I wasn't going for something that dramatic, since I didn't want it to compete with my stencil wall. Also, although we have no plans to move, I've never lived anywhere longer than 5 years, so I guess it's in my nature to want my furniture to be portable. Canvases made our headboard much more lightweight than making the panels out of any type of boards. I can easily pick up the headboard and move it myself.

I bought the fabric ages ago at JoAnn Fabric. I don't remember how much it cost or how much I purchased, but I do know I bought it when decorator fabric was half off. It is the same fabric I used for the rocking chair. In addition to the canvases and the fabric, I used a queen sized foam mattress pad for the padding. I cut out 12 rectangles from the mattress pad, 15x18 inches each. Then I wrapped each canvas with the foam (bumpy side in). I used my staple gun to attach the foam to the inside of the canvas frame, and then I stapled down the corners. I found it was easiset to staple the short sides of the rectangle and then the long sides. Perhaps you could make it easier on youself and staple the foam right into the back of the canvas frame, but I thought it made things smoother to wrap it around, and I also l liked that I had fewer staples to avoid when I stapled my fabric.
After I covered all the canvases with foam, I moved on to the fabric. I cut out the 16x20 rectangles for the fabric. Then I ironed them all, and finally I got to round two of stapling. I centered each foam covered canvas on the fabric, stapled the short ends, stapled the long ends, and then I stapled the corners. I tried several ways of stapling the corners before I settled on the method I used. I liked the smooth, rounded corners, but in retrospect, I would have chosen a method that gave me corners closer to right angles, since the rounded corners don't meet up. Apparently I got really focused on the project during the fabric stage and stopped taking picturss. The only one I took was to demonstrate the corner folding method:
Once I finished covering all the canvases with fabric. I went to bed. It was a tiring project! I turned it over to my husband at that point. He bought four 6 foot 1x3s, and cut them to length (around 54 in.)  They are not quite as wide as the headboard, which is 58 in. It is just about exactly as wide as our queen size bed. Then he laid out the panels and used the 1x3s to attach them together. He screwed them into the frames of the canvases. Obviously, you want to make sure your screws won't protrude through your panels, so he used 1 5/8 inch screws.

And here is the final headboard!
How did we mount it, you might wonder? Confession: It's just leaning up against the wall for this picture. We've got some flush mount brackets to use, but it turns out the screws that came with them aren't long enough to go into the studs. So currently the headboard is leaning up against the bookcases in our bedroom, and we'll have to install it later this week. I'll post an update with daytime pictures once we get it hung. I'm so excited to be finished with the construction, though! This is the first headboard we've had in eight years of marriage. Yay for the Pinterest Challenge to inspire us to get the headboard constructed. And I still have quite a bit more up my sleeve as part of the bedroom overhaul, so I should have some more Pinterest inspired projects to share in the next few weeks.

Edited to add: Click here for a headboard update.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What a corker

After three years of waiting, we finally replaced the floors in the bedrooms. It would have been relatively cheap and easy to just buy new carpeting, but we knew that wasn't what we wanted. One of the reasons it took us so long is that we didn't want to put in more carpeting. We wanted hard surface flooring, since it's more durable, easier to keep clean, and much easier on the respiratory system. We save up for our home improvements so that we can pay cash. (OK, actually we use credit cards because we rack up major rewards points with the big ticket purchases, but we pay the monthly balance in full, so we have to have the cash before we spend.) Floors got pushed back on the priority list for a while, but this summer was finally the time.
Some of the downsides to hard floors (besides that they are usually pricier than carpeting) are that they can be cold and not very acoustically friendly, which aren't great qualities for the bedroom. Our solution to this was to install cork flooring. Thanks to its natural insulating properties, it's warmer, quieter and easier on the legs than most kinds of hard flooring. The flooring we chose was an Apollo Brown floating floor made by APC Cork. We bought it at Menards, which is a Midwestern chain similar to Home Depot or Lowes. (We have those around here, too, but we have Green in addition to Orange and Blue)
This project was pretty much all James, though I did help a bit with the underlayment. He tells me the floating floor was fairly easy to install. It seemed to go quickly and smoothly. First he took out the carpeting, by cutting it into strips with a box knife and rolling them up. Luckily there is a carpet recycler just a couple of miles from our house, so James just loaded up the carpeting and hauled it there. We had to pay $20 bucks per load, but that was well worth it to keep it out of the landfill. James took out the tack strips with a crowbar. Then we had to clean up the floors, scrape away bit of glue and drywall mud and whatnot so we'd have a smooth surface to install over.

The process after that is to put down a strip of underlayment, install the floors over it, and then move to the next strip. James used some special tools to snap the pieces together. There's no glue or anything. He used spacers along the walls to leave a small gap so there's room for the floor to expand and contract. Once the floor was all in, he covered the gap with quarter round, which we bought pre-finished. That's pretty much what I know about it. If you have questions, ask away, and if I don't know, I'll try to get James to come field them.
We love the results. We think they look great, and they are so nice and warm underfoot. We can definitely feel how they have more give than the bamboo in the main rooms. It was a pretty big project, since he installed the new floors in all three bedrooms, and it's fantastic to be done. We've been shuffling the contents of our house around for a few months now! The floors are completely in, and things are mostly back in their places finally. We've been trying to purge and organize as we go. I've taken bags of stuff to Goodwill, and my closets are starting to look pretty good.

A quick comparison--before:
I've got quite a few more projects planned, but it feels great to be done with the big stuff. Now it's time to start adding the fun details.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blue on Blue

Since we decided to use two different colors of paint in the bedroom, we had to figure out how to incorporate them both. For a while we considered doing a chair rail and putting the lighter color above and the darker color below. I was thinking about going with a faux board and batten look, but then I decided two colors might make the room look too choppy, since the ceilings in the bedroom aren't very high. And I started seeing all these great wall stencils, so I suggested stenciling an accent wall. James was down with the idea. He gave some input, but he pretty much left the decision of what stencil to choose up to me. Now, my friends and family will tell you that selecting among an array of options is not my strong suit. I dither. One of the great things about being a vegetarian is it makes it much easier for me to order from an menu.

So it took me a few weeks to decide. There are so many gorgeous choices, like this from Cutting Edge Stencils and this from Olive Leaf Stencils. Eventually, after much agonizing, I settled on this damask from Royal Design Studio. Criteria I used to help narrow it down included: not too girly (read floral), not too geometric (I have an upholstered headboard planned that will be very geometric and I wanted contrast), not to much negative space in the design, so as to incorporate a good amount of our darker color into the room, and something more classic than trendy so that we won't quickly tire of something that took hours to do. The 10% off coupon code for this seller from Young House Love (YHL10) didn't hurt, either.

Compared to deciding which stencil to use, actually stenciling was a breeze, despite the fact that it took about eight hours to finish. I did a fair amount of googling about stenciling before I started. I wanted it to be as easy as possible. The most important tip I found was to use repositionable spray adhesive. I bought the adhesive seen above at Michaels. You spray the back of the stencil, and it keeps the paint from bleeding under the stencil. It worked like a charm. The edges came out really crisp. I took the stencil out to the back yard, laid in the grass, and gave the back a couple of thin and even coats with the adhesive.

The stencil I chose was 21 x 24.5 inches, which helped move the process along, so I shudder to think of how long it would have taken with a smaller stencil. I started in the center of the wall at the ceiling, which is recommended if you are doing one wall to make sure it comes out evenly on either side. The process was to position the stencil on the wall using the guide marks and the level. The stencil has extra little floating cut outs outside the main design that you use to match it up. You can see them in the pictures above. I used a level each time I repositioned the stencil just to make sure it didn't get wonky. Then I would roll the paint on in a couple of thin coats using a small roller, like this. I just used regular, full strength latex wall paint. I didn't worry about getting absolutely perfect coverage, since you with a pattern like this you really notice the big whole effect more than the tiny details. We bought a quart of Smoke Screen, which was more than enough for this project. Over time, it did gum up the stencil, so halfway through I washed it off with warm water, and then reapplied the spray adhesive. You could probably avoid the washing step if you thinned the paint, or used craft paint instead of latex. You'd still need to reapply the spray adhesive, because it wore off after a while.

I was able to do the bottom of the wall and the corners by taping the baseboard (or opposite wall, for the corners) and bending the stencil. You can see that above the previous paragraph. That didn't work for the top of the wall, though because gravity worked against me. Even with tape, the stencil wouldn't stay stuck to the ceiling, so after I had finished nearly everything but the top, I cut the stencil. Above you can see the parts I needed to cut the stencil to do. The bottom corners didn't really work that way either, because two folds was too tricky.

And here you can see the stencil after I cut it. I wish I would have taken a picture of how I marked the stencil to cut it, because it worked well but is hard to describe. I stuck the stencil on the wall, matching it up to one of the designs I had already stenciled.  Then I took my level and lined it up to the tops of the designs on either side and marked the line straight across the stencil with a Sharpie. I peeled the stencil off the wall and cut it with a regular pair of scissors. I had no plans to use the stencil again, so I didn't mind cutting it. It made it far easier to finish the stenciling.

I absolutely love the results. It really adds a lot of interest and gives a whole different feel to the room. I'm pleased with the colors and the pattern. It was well worth the effort.  I was surprised that even though it was fairly time consuming to do, it actually went really smoothly. I didn't really have any trouble. I just turned on some music and cranked it out. Next time I'll talk about installing the new floors, which you can see a bit of here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New Coat of Paint

You can see the test spots of paint colors on the walls in the last couple of posts. I wanted to go with something completely different from the yellow, something cool, restful, light and airy. James wanted something a little darker and moodier. We decided to incorporate two different shades of blue-grey. Like all the rest of the paint in our house, we used Olympic No-VOC paint from Lowes. The colors are April Sky and Smoke Screen.

In addition to painting the walls, we also painted the ceiling. I say we, but in this case, James actually painted the ceiling. He works four 10 hour days, so he did this on one of the days he has off that I had to work. This is not a fun job, so I seriously appreciate his effort. I know it's not a fun job because I did the ceilings of the other two bedrooms and the hall bath. We have textured ceilings. We weren't too keen on these when we bought the house, but they've kind of grown on us. Obviously it isn't a style that's currently popular or trendy, but it's one of the few features of our typical 1980s suburban home that shows some craftmanship, so I kind of appreciate it for that reason.

The previous owners of our home had had the ceilings of the great room and kitchen painted with a semi-gloss paint not too long before we bought the house. We kind of liked how that played up the texture and made it seem clean and bright, rather than dusty, which can be one of the downsides of textured ceilings. So we've painted the rest of the ceilings in semi-gloss as well. It might not be the choice others would make, but we're pleased with it, and it's our house. :) Above is a night time picture to display the texture. In real life it's more subtle and doesn't look this shiny/harsh. We just used off-the-shelf white semi-gloss, in the Olympic no-VOC. We bought a big 5 gallon bucket, since we knew over time we were doing all three bedrooms and two baths, and the texture soaks up a lot of paint. It actually ended up being a couple of years between the first set of rooms and the second, and we took the paint back to Lowes to have them spin it for us so it would be well mixed after settling all that time.

It's exciting to be pretty much done with the ceilings now, since they're such a pain to do. The only room we haven't painted yet is the laundry room. To paint the ceilings, we just used a deep (3/4 or 1 inch) napped roller. We used a broom handle attachment to the paint roller, and we did the cutting in with a brush and ladder. We taped off and/or removed light fixtures. If you do this, safety glasses are good idea, because paint splatters everywhere! You will get it in your eyes. Also, definitely do ceilings first, then walls. It's helpful if you can just clear everything out of the room, which we had to do in this case anyway since we were also installing floors. If not, be sure to cover everything very well. You will have a very tired neck and shoulders when you are finished. If you are doing a whole house at once, it might be worth renting a sprayer rather than doing it the hard way, like us! Thank goodness we didn't have to do the rooms with the cathedral ceilings ourselves.

Once James got the ceilings done, we tackled the walls. James and I are a pretty good painting team. Chiefly, I'm the roller and James does the cutting in. The rolling is straight forward. I don't have any special tips. I just use the W technique that you'll see in a million how-to tutorials, and try to roll it on in a few thin, even coats. For cutting in, James likes to use an edging tool, like this. It kind of takes some practice, but once you get the knack of it (like James) it means we don't tape off many things. His technique is to apply paint with the edger and then roll over it with a small roller to blend the paint to the rest of the walls. Without doing that, the edger leaves a brushed on look. Then we use a brush to get the corners and any other tight spaces the edger won't reach. Here is our lovely April Sky colored room. We're really pleased with the color. I like how it looks different in different lights. It's kind of fascinating to see it go from blue to grey to white to purple depending on the time of day and part of the room. I'll be back tomorrow to talk about what we did with Smoke Screen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bye Bye Borders

I have never liked the wallpaper border in our bedroom, which you can see here. Since the previous owners used the room as an office, the pattern of books and a teapot didn't really feel appropriate to a bedroom. The repeat was very frequent, which I found a little annoying. I thought the dark colors made the ceiling feel lower, and that it was too much of a contrast with the pale yellow paint. Yet it took me almost three years of living here before I finished taking it down earlier this summer in preparation for painting.

I removed the border from the window wall about two and a half years ago when we installed the curtains. We didn't want to install the hardware over the border. Somehow I never made the time to finish the project. I was really lucky that there was no other wallpaper in the house, considering how (clearly not very) motivated I was to take down this small amount. When we were house hunting we looked at another house in this neighborhood that had wallpaper in nearly every room. I'm so glad we got this house, or I'd probably still be living with lots of '80s era wallpaper. Thankfully, borders are not too difficult to remove, and this one was paper, not vinyl, which made it even easier.

Full wallpaper is much more of a hassle. If you need to take that down, a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part fabric softener works well, and one of these scoring tools can be helpful. But to take down the border, I just used a (re-purposed) spray bottle filled with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, a scraper, and an old hand towel. And a good step stool, of course. It was a fairly simple process. I sprayed a section, peeled off the top layer, as seen above, sprayed the layer underneath, and then scraped off the paper with the scraper. I used the towel to keep the vinegar mixture from running down the walls, and to rub off tiny bits of paper that remained.

I stripped the bed and threw the sheets in the wash while I worked. Then I just stood on the bed to work on the wall above it. I made a huge mess as I worked, but after I finished I gathered up the pieces and threw them away. Then James vacuumed the floor. We ended up with clean bedding, a freshly vacuumed bedroom, and no more borders. Not a bad Saturday's work.

Below is pictured our bedroom with no borders (or furniture). I took the border down back in May, but I guess I didn't take any after shots at that point. This was the only picture I could find before we painted the walls. I was amazed at how much of a difference that one small change made in the room, and it really made me excited to get rolling on the all the bigger projects we had planned.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Our Bedroom, in the Beginning

I said I would share our DIY adventures in our bedroom, and I thought I'd start by sharing what our bedroom looked like when we started. First of all, above you can see what it looked like just over three years ago when my husband did the walk-through before we bought it. The previous owners used the master bedroom as an office. That explains the bookshelf wallpaper border. There's really no explanation for the amount of stuff in there. It looked marginally better when we came to see it while house hunting, but I'm afraid at least one of the ladies we bought it from had issues with compulsive hoarding. I think you could say at this point the bedroom was dark and without form.

Below is a picture taken from the same angle in April of this year. This is taken from the door of the bedroom.  We had made a few changes, but besides new windows, they're pretty minor. The valance didn't stay with the house. We took down the existing mini-blinds and hung the curtains when we added these. At that point I took down the border on the wall with the windows. Other than that we had put up some pictures, and I purchased a bunch of fabric, some of which I used to make covers for the rocking chair. We also installed the light fixture on the fan. It's not beautiful, but it's functional. You can see we had also tested our new paint colors on the wall.

The house was built in 1989, and this was the original carpeting. When we bought the house we had bamboo floors installed in kitchen, great room, and hallway. James steam cleaned the carpeting in the bedrooms before we moved in, and we planned to put in new floors in the bedrooms the next year. But James's job situation was in flux that year, so we waited. Then the next summer we decided it would be better to take advantage of the tax rebates and install new windows. So now here we are three years later, and we are so excited to be getting rid of the grungy 20+ year old carpeting in the bedrooms. It may look unobjectionable in that picture, but trust me, it was in bad shape.  We had decided to wait to paint this room until we put in the new flooring, not realizing it would be such a long wait. Our bedroom has looked pretty much like this most of the time we've lived here.

Here are a few more angles. In the picture below, the doorway is just outside the frame on the right.


Around the corner below you can see the edge of door to the closet. Behind the wall with the bookcases is the bathroom.  I'll share pictures of the closet and bathroom and the projects going on in those areas another day.

Our bedroom was reasonably tidy in these pictures, but these before pictures also keep it pretty real with the clutter on top of the bookcases and laundry baskets. We've got plans to address those things after we put everything back together. The bedroom is a good size, which is one of the reasons we chose this house. We thought it had a lot of potential. We've made a lot of progress toward realizing that potential now. Next time, I'll talk about the first project I completed, which was taking down the rest of the border.