July 2, 2013

The 90 percent rule

I often accuse my husband of completing projects up to the 90 percent mark and then he loses interest, momentum or something.  Well, the truth is I am just as vulnerable to the 90 percent rule as he is!  A case in point is my kitchen island.
Isn't this pretty?  It is probably about 70 percent done but hey, who's calculating!  The top two drawers and that side of the island is completely painted.  I still have to wax on the finish I want to create but have decided to wait until all of the painting is done before I start waxing.  I made my own chalk paint using gesso and paint.  It works really well but is a little rougher than I wanted.  Maybe less gesso next time.  Anywho, I keep telling myself if I do one door/drawer a day I will be done in a week.  I did work on it two weeks ago but I started the project about 2 1/2 months ago (maybe longer :).  I take my time with these things...ha!  I lose interest because it does not go as quickly as I want it to.  With this project, however, I must carry on and keep painting because it is in the center of my open kitchen :)  More updates to come...

Lost in space!

My intent when I started to blog was to give an inside look into the mind of a "creative" person.  I have learned something about myself that is keeping me from blogging.  I don't think the things I do require creativity or that anyone would find me particularly interesting.  You see, for me it isn't being creative;  It's just being me.

So, here is what I have been doing, besides cleaning!

I just finished an artist's rendering of a street sign for a nominee for Honorary Mayor of Fair Oaks, Steven Danford.  I hope he can pull this off because it would be a beautiful gateway into the old Fair Oaks Village.

I have framed and hung some retouched thrift store art I purchased many years ago (I left them unframed for about 15 years...not to quick in deciding what frames would enhance the pictures).  The floral picture had to have some of my color magic added because the flowers were a hideous pink color---very sad looking.  Now I have them hanging in my kitchen on each side of the pantry door with a couple of other items.  Really creates some balance and symmetry.  The pictures were the same size so the matching frames really helps to harmonize them.
This is one of the first thrift art paintings I purchased for $1.20.  The fruit bowl has paint check from too much paint but I love it!  This one would be hard for me to part with...but I might if I found something that appeals to me more for that spot.

This is such a perky little picture now with vibrant flowers.  It was dull and boring before--too bad I don't have before pictures but, it too was purchased many years ago for $.50.  I hope the artist doesn't mind the redo and I love the weight of the full blossoms in the undersized vessel.  I like to think it was intended to look like it is overflowing with heavy flowers.

Here is one of my recently reworked art pieces.  I don't remember how much I paid for it but it was from a thrift store.  It was done in 1977 by Mary Murphy, but alas, I had to cover her signature.  I wish I had thought to take a before picture!  Darn it!  Well, what I did was sand off some of the finish to knock the gloss down and enhance the blooms with more contrasting colors.  When it was nearly dry I removed some of the color.  This left areas where you can see layers of paint remaining.  Then I took some antique gel and slathered it on.  Waited about 5 minutes because it was about 105 degrees outside, then removed as much of the antique gel as I could.  Now, you would never know it was done in 1977!  Should I frame it?  I don't know...

We will be painting the master bedroom soon, now that I have decided on a color!  I have been living with patch marks all over the walls for more than a year so I am ready to git-r-dun!!  
This is the bedroom before...
Mid-project with all of the curtains down.  I don't think I am putting them back up.  Too hard to keep them clean enough for my allergies!  Not sure what to do about all of the windows in this room...hmmm.  
The color will be a little lighter but same tone in order to keep the shades.  Stay tuned!

March 29, 2013

Bright, tight, white grout!

I have had many friends come over to my house and look at the size of my kitchen counters with envy.  They have marveled at how white the grout is on the counter-tops and want to know my secret.  I have no secret---just good old fashioned elbow grease and a desire to keep them from looking icky!  I learned from my mother the importance of taking care of what you have to increase its longevity.  I have just finished cleaning all of the white grout on my counter-tops   From the picture below you can see that is a LOT of grout.  So much so, I have to break it up into three stages!  If it didn't break it up I wouldn't be able to use my hands for anything for a week.  When we had this house built 11 years ago, I never thought about how much time I would spend cleaning this stuff...And I should have because I grew up in a home that had just as much tight white grout as this one (maybe a little more).

My Kitchen...standard tile, white appliances and oak cabinets, 

in all of their glory!  Eleven + years old

So, what is my point here?  Well...I have a couple of points to make.  First, the finishes on porcelain tile today are not the same as they were in 1970.  They are not as durable as they used to be due to a variety of factors (most of which are due to environment regulatory changes).  I will admit we had the standard garden variety Dal-Tile tile installed because I did not want to pay the builder one dime more than necessary since, I knew I would be changing it out for something chic right away.  Ha!  Famous last words.  That is also why I have oak cabinets (which I was going to paint immediately).

Second, over the years I have bleached, scrubbed and worn down the grout and tile to a point where it needs to be replaced.  Yes, I am a maniac regarding having clean counter-tops.  I have discovered that I can no longer clean with bleach due to allergies and scrubbing alone will not keep the grout white and free from stains.  Now, I have discovered LA Totally Awesome Grout Cleaner.  I have no idea what is in this stuff but it does not make me wheeze and my counters look totally awesome :)  It even gets the chips and cracks in the tile clean which makes them slightly more tolerable.  I do keep the dogs outside while I perform my surgical procedure on the grout.  All I have to do is spray it on...wait 15 minutes (the bottle says 5 minutes but 15 is better)...go over each grout line with an old spin brush tooth brush (larger brushes cause too much spatter and I don't like to have to clean furniture and floors after I am done)...then wipe it clean and dry.  Voila!  I do this about once every six weeks to keep everything looking fresh.

Third and final point is, whenever I think to myself I am going to change out something that is semi-permanent in my home I need to think again.  The truth is I will do my best to work with whatever I have until the last dog is hung, so to speak.  I simply can not rip out something that is in pristine condition no matter how much I dislike it.  My choice is to work around it and make it work until it's useful life has reached the end.  Unfortunately for me, my economic standing forces me to wait a while longer before replacing my counter-tops.  Such is life... Did I mention I get this cleaner for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree?

February 26, 2013

Airing Dirty Laundry

Ok, we all have laundry...dirty laundry.  I am here to air my dirty laundry.  I have a single story home so I definitely have an advantage over you two story home folks!  But, I will disclose how I do laundry and still manage to watch soap operas while eating bon bons.
This is the one I use

The first thing I do is start with a rolling three bin laundry sorter.  Whites, jeans, towels is usually how it goes.  I roll in to the two other rooms that have hampers in them and sort the clothes in each room.  Off to the laundry room I go.  Weeeeee!

Once I am in the laundry room I load the washer and take a few minutes to clean the floor and countertop.  There is nothing worse than dropping something on a dirty floor after you have cleaned it and let's face it the laundry room generates a lot of dust and stuff.
No this isn't my laundry room but I couldn't get a good picture of mine (too small)

Now, my strategy is simple:  Only go into a room with something to drop off or something to pick up.  So, I wait until I have my first load of laundry out of the dryer before I do anything else.  I watch the clock but, if I am really engrossed in doing something else, I use the alarm on the dryer to alert me when it's time to go at it again.  I rarely and I mean rarely let a load of clothes sit in the dryer.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I don't like to iron and second, it merely prolongs the agony of the laundry plight.  When the dryer is done I fold everything and then I put it away, in drawers or on hangers.  When I go into a room to deliver the clothes I strip the bed and put on clean sheets.  I make the bed too because if I need to set anything down I don't want to have to make room with my hands full. I only have three beds to make so I spread it out over each load so that I don't work up a sweat!  The last loads I do are the sheets.  It is really not too bad using this method because I am able to get a lot done at once and yet still have plenty of time to get on Facebook or write another Blog. I am not going through piles of wrinkled laundry or stuffing mountains of clothes into drawers at one time...you all know what I am talking about!


Then, before the day is through, the cycle starts again!  It is perpetual.  This the exciting life I lead but, at least I have it down to a science!

Now that I have posted this, I have decided it is time for my laundry room to get a makeover.  When we put in the stacking w/d a couple of years ago we took away some folding space I had on the dryer.  I did not think it would be important since I have a small slice of counter to fold clothes on...well, I was wrong.  This afternoon my husband was cleaning out a storage unit we are getting rid of and hidden behind some of my old business stuff was a wonderful piece of formica counter top that will fit perfectly over the washer and dryer, if we unstack them.  It is exactly the 33.5" width we need with lots of length to fit snugly in the space.  The reason it has to be 33 1/2 inches is because the dryer vent is the new style that is required to prevent lint fires.  I did not realize that either when we had these units installed.  Lessons learned.  So, the counter will go down and the cabinets back up over the w/d and I am gonna get nuts and paint it too.  Hmmm, what color??  More decisions to be made.  I'll post a picture when we are done!

Time to Clean Up Your Act! It's Allergy Time

Allergy season has already begun due to our unseasonably dry weather this year!  So, what can you do to rid your home of allergies that are common to most of us?  Many of us live in newer homes that have a very tight seal to keep everything inside and energy efficient but, there is a down side to that.  If you have toxins in your home that bother you, they hang around a lot longer and you have to really work to eradicate them.  I have found a few simple things can make a positive change in our indoor environment.  These are the things I do around our house.  I farm out some of the other chores to my son and husband.  I choose this strategy because I know I do a better job and am the one that suffers the most if it is not done well.

Vacuum everything you can!  It does not scatter dust into the air and it keeps all of the creepy things from getting into your system.  If you have carpet, vacuum 2 or 3 times a week if you need to.  If you can see debris on the surface just remember there is much, much more that you can't see.  Change your bag often.  If you have filters in your vacuum, change or clean them too.  If you can smell a musty odor when you vacuum it is time to do both of those things! Vacuum furniture, drapes, blinds, baseboards...anything and everything.

Dust!  When you dust, use a non-scented, non-toxic spray to prep the surface that needs dusting to keep stuff from going airborne.  When my allergies are really bad I just use a spray bottle with water in it.  Most of our furniture is black so I never have to wonder what needs dusting because it is very easy to see.  If you keep your windows open to get fresh air or you still have those single pane windows, you will need to dust more frequently.  Don't get lazy on this one and move everything to dust every surface.

Keep mold to a minimum!  If you have dampness in your home you need to investigate it until you know where it is coming from.  I try to stay on top of it in the shower so it does not cause a problem that requires me to bring in the big gun (bleach).  I am no so sensitive to bleach I have to leave the house with fans on to ventilate so, it is my last resort.  I do use a lot of white vinegar, to clean with (it is super cheap) and baking soda (it is super super cheap).  My son says our house smells like a salad sometimes!

Last, change your HVAC filter more often that required and get the best you can afford...it will help a lot.

These are things we do all of the time to keep our living environment clean, but during allergy season we have to do it a little bit more frequently and with a bit more vigor.  If you have pets, well, it is always an uphill battle.  Pets and kids are much more sensitive to chemical agents than adults so be careful with what you expose them to.  A side note to this:  A friend of mine has a little store in Fair Oaks, CA called Home2Roost and she sells the best lavender based cleaning concentrate.  Obviously, it is scented but lavender is a natural anti-bacterial and can be used most every surface for cleaning.  It won't hurt your kids or animals plus, a little bit goes a long, long way.

I spend about thirty to forty five minutes everyday cleaning something and it really does not hurt at all!  Don't tell my husband but it really is less than an hour a day on cleaning.  Of course, that is excluding laundry for which I dedicate the better part of a day each week.  Needless to say, I don't like laundry day very much.  I will post more on my strategies for this later.

February 6, 2013

The Windows! A Glaring Challenge

In my first blog, I talked about the process of transforming a fireplace in this family room.  Well, there is so much more to that story!  These are some before and after pictures of additional views to the same room.  The nemesis here is the east facing windows which get really bright, hot, afternoon Sacramento Valley sunlight. The task of covering them and having them function for all of the uses required in this area of the home was challenging.  The beam that separates the kitchen/nook from the family room created a small amount of space between the windows and the beam; The windows have arched transoms in the family room plus a door and window in the nook that look unbalanced, in comparison; Light control is out-of-control for decent media viewing...glare is a glaring issue.
The Windows!  Before

As with most kitchen nooks, space is limited.  With an exterior door in the space of this little nook, as well as a built-in desk and a large window, the furniture and window covering options are limited.  Open shelves above the desk and a pot rack above the kitchen island made the area look cluttered.  So, I had three working areas (family room, nook and kitchen) that all had lots of busyness going on.  As I stated in my first blog, I take my cues for coloring from the bones of the rooms which are the African Slate flooring, kitchen granite and the kitchen cabinets.  Walls, ceilings and trim would have to be contiguous throughout for an immediate integration of these areas.  I also wanted to have as few additional lines circling the room, as possible.  My idea was to create custom draperies hidden behind a wooden valance capped with the same crown molding as the rest of the rooms.  A simple flat roman shade would be a perfect fit for the door.  The drapes were fitted with a simple track system and wand like they use in hotels.  They were interlined and lined with blackout fabric for complete darkness in the brightest of conditions. I also removed the pot rack so that your line of sight is not interrupted at the entry of these rooms.  I know peeps love those racks but they are a complete distraction, most of the time!
The Windows!  Before
The result was stunning.  The nook window had the drapery stack back toward the desk, which now had a wine fridge underneath and functioned as a mini bar.  As you can see, the colors are harmonious and the new furniture and lighting really highlighted the homeowners style. In the summer, it was possible to sit in that room past 10 a.m. without getting heat stroke!
The windows...Ahhh, After

Having the valance and crown molding integrated brings your eye up and makes the room feel larger.  Because space was tight, this is a way of getting functioning hardware in with a minimum of space.  The draperies stacked from the center as if it was one large window instead of two and it covered the transoms without a big expense.  When the drapes are open you can see the beauty of the windows and landscape outside, but when it's time to watch a football game, on a Sunday, afternoon it is completely glare-free.  The competing and distracting parts of these three areas were removed and all that remains is an elegant, warm, highly functioning suite.
The windows...Ahhh, After

Finding your Fireplace

The family room can be so warm and cozy with a fireplace in it.  Many homes have a traditional red brick fireplace, like this one.  When you combine that with big screen tv's and media centers the results can be a bit on the scary side.  Wires, screens, speakers, ventilation, speakers, modems, more speakers and remote control devices can kink any great plan to make your room comfortable and inviting.
The room above lacked balance and visual appeal, to say the least.  There were a couple of attempts before me to make the room function for this family and look great too.  The first thing I looked at was the color combinations that were already present to help bring features come forward or recede.  I used the beautiful African Slate floors for my color cues (greens, golds, and browns).  Next on my agenda was to create balance.  I added a mantel and columns to the fireplace and additional doors and shelving to the large opening for the massive tv niche.  The largest hurdle I encountered here was convincing the homeowner to paint the red brick fireplace. It needed to be done because there were too many competing distractions in the room and the patterning on the fireplace was a major one.
Needless to say I sold the idea and the room was transformed.  I decided to have all of the niche areas painted black which helped to reduce the magnitude of the large screen tv.  The walls, ceiling and fireplace were painted in a buttery golden color.  The mantel, columns, crown and base molding were all painted a milky chocolate color (which was similar to the color of the furniture in the room).  As you can see, it is a much different room from where we began.  The fireplace is still center stage but without all of the clutter, chaos and distractions.  

February 5, 2013

Built-in bread boards

(I don't know who's kitchen this is but they have a built-in bread board)
I was thinking about something that is not commonly found in newer homes now.  A good, old fashioned  pull out bread board in the kitchen that used to be in every home.  They were not always positioned in the best locations in the kitchen (like the one I had that bordered the carpeted area in the dining room, across the kitchen from the stove and sink...must have been a non-cooker that placed that one) but one was always in there somewhere.

I guess because wood can harbor bacteria or the cost of these nifty gadgets was just too high to include in a new home, they went away.  Did people complain?  I didn't.  Did anyone think they would miss it someday? I didn't. When did kitchen designers decide it was acceptable to discard that handy little pull out piece of wood from the plans? I never noticed.  I was even glad in 2001 when my new kitchen did not include one of those pesky things.  It would have just been in the wrong place for whatever I was doing.  And, did anyone else break a nail when trying to pull the board out if it was a little tight or stuck?

To replace the missing built-in variety, I found Pampered Chef and purchased every size cutting board they sold.  I never thought about having to clear off space while I am cooking to put the board on the counter-top or the fact that I would have to store my massive collection of cutting boards somewhere for retrieval when needed. I probably put someone's child through college with my maniacal purchases of cutting boards.  It's funny, when I go into kitchen stores like William-Sonoma I still check out the cutting boards.

Should I post a sign to campaign for the return of the kitchen bread board on Facebook...you know the kind, I need 1 squillion likes and shares to assure the resurrection of the pull out bread board?  Let me know what you think.