Thursday, December 31, 2009

New year, old fogies

We are having a night in with some friends of ours in lieu of a night out on the town.   Because we are old and tired.  We worked up a storm on the house today, when we should've been relaxing and thinking about all that we've accomplished this year.  I will have lots of pictures and posts for you next week on all the projects happening around Russet street.  Hope everyone has a wonderful night and happy 2010! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My sincerest apologies

To Maximus, for leaving him out of my "animal extravaganza" photo post yesterday.  He was very upset about the omission, I know this because he farted under my nose at least three times tonight.  To save my nostrils from further assault, I had to take his portrait and put it out here for you all to see.  Anyway, how could I resist these eyes?

I even gave his photo the extra fancy 'sepia' treatment.  Just don't tell him that my coat was strewn across a dining chair in the background, as I'm sure he wanted a spotless background for his professional debut. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Photography is hard

I need all the practice I can get.  Since pets are an easy target, and Shaun's parents have three furry friends to snap, I couldn't resist doing a little photo shoot.  Miss Bailey was hamming it up all day, which is why I have at least 20 pictures of her cute little mug:

The above shot was quite dark, (it was one of my first with the camera) so it is a bit grainy from adding fill light.  But I love the way she looks here, so I'm using it anyway.

Getting better....

Hoodie-hoo!  Black and white?  When do I get my own 'coffee table' book deal? 

Here is Abby looking at me incredulously for snapping the 5th picture in a row without her moving a centimeter, thanks to the 'continuous shooting' function.  I couldn't get any of her pics to come out just right using the editing software.  Poo.

Daisy is very pretty, but don't try to pet her or you may lose a limb. She's just like Naomi Campbell. Except she can't throw cell phones. And she's shorter. And she's covered in fur, whereas I'm quite certain Naomi has a team of people that wax her 11 ft body on a regular basis.  Anycrazysupermodel.... 

This is my favorite Lucius, the adorable cat-nugget.  Enhance!   

Holy dark circles, batman!  And just because, here are my favorite non-animal shots:

Shaun's mom and sister

Brother and sister

Picking a winner. 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone is having a happy holiday! I know I am :)
I'm a happy girl and so thankful to Shaun and my family for the wonderful gift!
From now on, don't expect to see me without this thing in front of my face...I am having a BALL figuring out all the bells and whistles on my new Canon Rebel XSI.  Merry Christmas to all my blog friends out there!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For your 'holiday boozing' consideration

Along with the eggnog, microbrews, Baileys and wine sure to be consumed this season, please don't forget about our old friend margarita.  Even though you may think of margaritas as summer-only fare, this is a cocktail for all weekdays seasons.  This sweet-and-sour beauty got me through the 'gray paint' debacle last week....thanks, Jose Cuervo!

  ps - Go Pack!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In fact, it does exist

The perfect gray paint, I mean.  I'd like to give a big sloppy kiss to the folks at Benjamin Moore for coming up with HC-169, Coventry Gray.

This color rocks my world.  As you can see, it is one shade darker than the famed 'Stonington Gray' which you can read about on the best design blogs, like Colour Me Happy, Apartment Therapy, and Young House Love.  Stonington is very close to Behr's Dolphin Fin.  I loved the color, but it just wasn't 'gray' enough for my taste.  It was a little too beige.  So I tried out a bunch of BM colors, including Cement Gray, Stonington Gray, Iced Cube Silver, and Coventry Gray.  Here's a sneak peek at the winner:

And, I actually did prime the doors.  Not that you can tell.  I love how this shade jives with my $5.00 fabric.  My wallet is happy this fabric is working out, let me tell ya.

The color is not too light, too dark, too blue, or too purple, it is just lovely.  Even Shaun loves it, and the only colors he cares about are green and gold (not to bring up the Pack's crushing loss on Sunday).  Look how bad it makes that old color-matched swatch look!

I still have some touch-ups to do.  I wanted the walls to have a velvety finish, so they recommended the BM Regal 'Matte' finish.  It has a bit more sheen than a flat, and I do like it.  However, the paint itself is kind of runny and didn't cover like I expected a $34 gallon of paint to cover after one coat.  I also have to touch up all my baseboards because it splattered like crazy.  I think Behr is much easier to work with because it is thicker, it hardly ever splatters the trim, and covers more in one coat.  I think doing two coats of paint for lighter shades is lame.  I guess in the end I'm happy because the color is perfect, and I know it wouldn't be if I'd had Home Desperate color-match it. 

Seriously, dig this color with my white trim.  I die.  So, I'm not going to prattle on about this room anymore until after the new year when I can hopefully reveal the 'after.'  I'm waiting (very impatiently, #*%^$"!) for a rug to arrive, and Shaun is making the ultimate 'dude sacrifice' by taking me to Ikea the day after Christmas for some storage items.  I know, he's crazy!  Don't tell him, though. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to OWN your ugly wood floors

Some of you had asked for a tutorial on how we refinished our floors.  I'm happy to oblige you, so pull up a comfy chair (and a weeks worth of snacks) because this will take awhile!  To refresh your memory, this is what we were dealing with in our living room when we first took ownership of the house:
These people has some nasty little dogs that apparently HATED wood.  Yeah, our floors were ugly.  But we knew underneath the mess, there was an oak beauty that just needed a little microdermabrasion to look fabulous at age 72!

Supply list
orbital or drum sander
100 times more sandpaper than you think you'll need for the sander, in a selection of grits: 20, 36, 60, 80, 120
palm sander (ditto on the sandpaper)
pole sander
shop vac
dust masks, safety goggles
rags or foam brushes for stain
lamb's wool applicator and natural bristle brush for poly
tack cloths
plastic dropcloths
stain of choice
poly of choice

The first thing we did was make sure that we couldn't see a lot of staples or nails in the floor, if we had, it would indicate that the floor had already been sanded too many times and couldn't handle another sanding.  We didn't have any large spaces between the boards, if there had been spaces, we would've filled them before the sanding process. 
  • We removed everything that wasn't nailed down and swept the floor thoroughly. 
  • We didn't have any carpet in this room, but if you do, use pliers to pull out any leftover carpet staples and use a hammer and nailset to sink any exposed nails that may damage the sander. 
  • We left the baseboards, but if you plan to replace them, use a shim behind the pry bar to avoid damaging the walls while removing them. 
  • To avoid spreading dust throughout the house, we hung plastic over the room's doorways, fireplace, and vents.  We DID NOT do this right away and were quite annoyed with our stupidity.  Take the time to seal up everything or you will be sorry later!  Please see our dining room as proof - talk about a 'before!'
First Sand
We chose to rent an orbital sander because it is more forgiving than a drum sander.  A drum sander works faster, but carries a greater chance of gouging your floors.  Sanding floors is a horrible, nasty, dusty, noisy job. You'll want to wear a gas mask dust mask and eye protection.  You'll also need lots of beer.  Ask for instructions/demonstration on how to operate rented equipment because all sanders have their little quirks.  Make sure to choose a sander with a bag to capture the dust, they actually come without them!  WTH?  
  • Start out with a course paper (20 to 36 grit).  Begin in a low visibility area like under a sofa, just in case!  Start the sander with the drum off the floor and slowly lower it onto the wood.  Here's the really bad area after the first pass with the sander:  

  • Don't be scared of the sander!  It takes some getting used to, but with a little practice, you can do it as long as you're careful.  You can be a wee less careful with the orbital, because it isn't as powerful as a drum. 
  • Walk the sander forward, with the grain of the wood.  Sand from wall to wall, making both a forward and a backward pass of each row. CAUTION: Never let the sander sit in one spot. It can make a gouge or swirl mark in just seconds.
  • Where the sander can't reach, at wall edges and corners, use an edge or palm sander. Edge sanders are like mini orbitals, and can be rented.  We used two regular palm sanders with fine results, but an edge sander would've worked faster. 
Check out the vintage hallway shot!  Complete with baby-poop paint and gross carpet!
Finish Sand
  • After the rough sanding, change to a medium (50-60) grit. Go over the entire floor the same way.  After this pass check again for cracks/holes and use matching wood putty to fill them in.  Also look for nailheads.  Countersink them and fill them in.

  • For the final sanding, use a fine (100-120) grit and finish with a palm sander around the edges.  Make sure you have ALL the finish off or your stain will be blotchy.
  • Vacuum the room thoroughly, including the walls, window trim, ceiling, any places where dust can hide.  Use tack cloths attached to Swiffer mops to really get all that dust up.  Don't use a damp rag because moisture will raise the grain of the wood. 
We chose an oil-based stain (Old Masters 'Cedar') because it goes on easy and looks gorgeous on the wood.  Water-based are becoming more popular, but oil-based is the standard for professionals because it gives a richer color.  
  • We used t-shirt rags to apply the stain, cutting in from the corners and working with the wood grain.  Wipe off any excess and change rags often.  It's not always a great idea to put on two coats of stain, but we weren't really happy with the depth of the color after the first coat, so we did another coat.  It's better to make sure your stain is as dark as you want it from the start because more coats could mean blotchy results - especially true with dark stains like the espresso shade on our stairs.  We have a slight footprint mark in the floor that is hilarious and annoying because we walked on the first coat of stain with our socks a bit too soon to put on the second coat.  Here's my fabulous mom on the first (too light) coat:
And here is the final shade the next morning:
  • Let the stain dry out overnight and avoid walking on the floor so you don't have footprints like we do!
We chose oil-based satin polyurethane for our coating.  There are good water-based polys out there, but we are traditionalists, so we went with oil knowing that it will eventually develop a nice amber glow.  Water-based will not amber over time, and will dry faster - this is a bad thing for beginners that need more time to work with the wet poly!  Oil-based is also thicker, more durable when dry, and takes less coats than water-based.  It's just personal preference.  We originally decided to do 3 coats (pretty standard) but then had to do 4 due to user error.  Make sure you have good light coming in while working, or you will not be able to see where you poly'd and where you didn't. 
  • Use a high quality natural bristle brush or foam applicator to cut in along the edges and corners.  Avoid drips and thick overlaps of finish.  We used bristle brushes and tried to be careful to avoid overlap marks.  If you brush into the wet area and lift up your brush, you won't have a line.  If you put your brush down in the wet and move it towards you, you will have a line.  Move into the wet portions, not away from them.  This feel awkward, but it's the best way.  I'm not going to lie, our first three poly coats looked like drunken monkeys had applied them, because we had tried to apply all the poly with brushes, instead of using an applicator.  Hey, you learn!
  • Start at the farthest point from the doorway (don't poly yourself into a corner, mkay?) and apply an even coat of poly with a lambswool applicator.  Before you use the applicator, make sure to use tape to remove any fuzzies and also use a bit of mineral spirits on a rag to wipe it down.  DO NOT skimp on the applicator, buy real lambswool applicators that screw onto a broom handle, the cheap ones will leave you with a hairy floor. While the finish is still wet, blend in any brush marks from your edging with the big applicator. 
  • Between each coat, scuff-sand the floor lightly with a pole sander fitted with 150 or 220 grit sandpaper.  This is very important, because once the poly hits the wood the grain will lift and cause roughness.  Sanding also improves adhesion and makes sure you get a glassy finish.  Vacuum, use tack cloths (and a slightly damp rag if needed) to make the surface dust free before the next coat.  Don't sand the final coat, though :)
  • Let the finish dry for 24 hours between coats, unless using the quicker drying water-based urethane. 
  • Don't put down any furniture or rugs for at least a week after your last coat.  We didn't put anything in this room for an entire month because I was worried the 4 coats wouldn't be completely dry.   I'm glad I overcompensated, because we did not have any dings or dents in our finish.  We are so happy with our floor!  Too bad we will be doing this many more times before we're finished with all our floors... 
The end.  For now. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Less hard, still stinky

I know that you all don't really care can't wait to hear my update on the most expensive mattress known to man.  Well, after almost two weeks of....
1.  Sleeping on it
2.  Pointing a space heater directly at it
3.  Putting all kinds of heated blankets on it
4.  Encouraging my overweight cats to jump onto and off of it all day....

I can happily say that it's starting to soften up and be very comfy.  Like, don't-wake-up-all-stiff-and-crochety comfy.  Almost excited-to-go-to-bed comfy.  Definitely don't-want-to-get-out-of-bed comfy.  Well, I've never wanted to get out of bed, so I guess that one doesn't matter.  Also, it still smells like it's dipped in hot rubber.  What I really need is a bunch of hooligans from the neighborhood to come over and jump around on it for a day to squeeze all the tempur-farts out of it.  I can see the craigslist ad now.... 

"Local couple seeking kids to jump on bed. 
Will supply caffeinated drinks and candy. 
Results may be sent to America's Funniest Home Videos. 
Call Sara." 

Bottom line is that it's getting better.  Hopefully come springtime, our Tempur will be the heavenly cloud of rainbows and butterflies that we laid on in the store.  Until then, as long as I'm under my electric blanket, everything is delightful. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Because winter sucks

To give you all a break from my brain-numbing 'gray paint' discussion, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of my favorite things about winter.  Because winters in Wisconsin really suck, and I need to make myself feel better. 

Making lattes with my espresso machine.  Ok, I use it all year, but it really gets a workout in the cold months.  This little machine makes me very happy.  I'm also happy that Amazon has killer deals on ground espresso in cans, from Illy and Lavazza. 

Adding Baileys into afore mentioned lattes.  Not before work, though.  Baileys is highly regarded by most of my family, because it is delicious and can be used so many different ways (in cookie frosting, one the rocks, blended, in hot drinks, etc). Unfortunately, is has 100 calories per OUNCE and can make you fat just by thinking about it.  So, we reserve it for Christmas time only.  
Drinking wine.  Yes, another daily year-round occurrence, but nothing says Christmas like throwing back several bottles of red.  At least, not to me.  This is only a small portion of the collection, we have obscene amounts of wine stashed around our house.  Merry Christmas to me!

Firing up the Slatkin and Co. 'Fresh Balsam' candle from Bath and Body Works.  I also have this scent in the hand soap and air freshener, and I am thisclose to slathering the Home Fragrance oil all over my body.  SMELL IT!  You will thank me.

Frequent use of Bath and Body Works 'look ma, new hands' lotion.  I don't really use lotion in the warm months, but this stuff is a life saver in Wisconsin winters.  Plus I love the clever name.  And it smells good.  And the tube is pretty.  What?  These things matter!
Getting into bed with our electric blanket....see 'Wisconsin winters' comment above.  This is not me or our blanket, but feel free to pretend it's me if you like.  This is pretty much what I look like while that baby is on.  Except I sleep on my back.  And I always sleep on the other side of the bed.  Gotta be closest to the door, ya know?  If there's a fire, I'm OUT!

Wearing wool coats, trousers, skirts, etc.  This is also not me, but PLEASE PLEASE think that it is!  I do actually have this Victoria's Secret coat, in red.  I don't look like this while wearing it, though.  Dang.

Slipping into some cute boots, oh how I love them!  With boots, you can wear mismatched ugly socks, and no one will know!  They keep your feet warm and dry!  Tall boots are sexy and can make summery skirts more appropriate for cold dreary months!  In winter, I wear either brown or black boots, and no other footwear until April.  Unlike my brother's girlfriend, who wears her flip flops all winter as long as there isn't a lot of snow - you crazy, Stacey!  These are not my boots, just a funny picture I found on flickr by googling 'ugly boots' by accident.

So, I hope this has been a fun diversion for you.  Don't worry, I am still hard at work cracking the case of the 'perfect gray paint'.  Like that exists.  I will have new pictures for you on Monday.  Hopefully.  Don't quote me, though.  In fact, don't count on it at all.  Whew, I almost had to paint all weekend.   

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The circus has left town

This room is primed for a makeover!  I used a bit of gray primer along with the white, not on purpose, but because I had a 'primer shortage' and had to add in some of the primer we used in our dining room.  It looks better already, no?

I also put a nice fresh coat of white paint on all the baseboards that already looked fine because I'm a crazy perfectionist.  Now I have a nice clean slate to do more paint experiments.  Isn't it funny how the same primer looks so different from different angles?  Funny, or annoying.  One of those two.   More annoying, I think.  Yeah. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcome to crazytown

So, like a home decor masochist I decided to take a trip to the local Benjamin Moore paint retailer on my lunchbreak.  And now I'm sitting here comparing all these instead of priming my pink room:

Oh, and I found this fabric on

Gah!  I am officially nuts.  Just wanted to keep you in the loop.  That is all.