Friday, December 28, 2012

I Love Paint Part II

December 28, 2012

By Sheila

Yesterday I introduced the first steps of my dining room makeover.  Today I will show the finished product and share some of my painting tips.  As I said yesterday, paint is my all-time favorite decorating approach.  I have painted my own home inside and out and love the dramatic change that paint brings with a relatively small investment. 

In my opinion, it is not the painting itself that is the challenge, it is primarily the preparation.  Getting the room cleared, dropcloths in place, holes in the wall spackled, and areas taped off are the tasks that are not fun, but critical to a quality finished paint job. 

One of the handy tips I have used to rearrange my furniture for painting or otherwise are these furniture sliders pictured below.  They allow you to slide larger, heavier objects without damage to carpet or furniture.  I also use them on my travertine, but be careful you don't get "grit" under them, as they can scratch.  This is what my Mom and I used to move my dining room table with the ladder on top (my scaffolding).

The cutting in (painting all edges next to the ceiling, floor trim, etc.) was a challenge, even with my 8 foot ladder on top of my dining room table (scaffolding).  I had a hard time getting close enough in all the corners because of the angle of the ladder.  To solve this, I simply taped my paintbrush to a wooden handle, making my own extension.  This was a simple solution that allowed me to paint a neat line without compromising safety. 

Another item that really made painting these 15 foot walls easier is my Wooster Sherlock extension paint pole.  This has a quick and easily adjustable handle that allowed me to reach within 4 inches of the ceiling - close enough to"cut in" with my paintbrush at the edges. And the final product that my Mom swears by is Frog Tape for a clean line on even heavily textured walls. 

Step 4:  Final Paint.  The really fun part!  The color emerges and changes the look of the room so much!  (6 more hours)

Step 5:  Restore Order.  Put all furniture, glassware, mirrors, etc.  back in place (1.5 hours)

Total time start to finish:  17 hours.  This is a lot of time, but my dining room has 15 ft vaulted ceilings, an arch in the middle, and lots of nooks and crannies to paint around.  It requires placing my 8 ft ladder on top of my dining room table as a scaffolding, and it still is a stretch for me in the highest points.  But worth it, of course!   

Total money spent:  $197.  This included 2 gallons of primer, 2 gallons of paint, 1 gallon of ceiling paint, 3 new roller covers, frog tape (the best), a lightweight roller cage, and a new paint extension pole, which I love.  I already had ladders, screwdrivers, drop cloths, spackle to patch holes, and good paintbrushes (Purdy is worth the extra money).  I don't buy cheap paint or tools.  I think it is worth a little extra to make your project go more smoothly, and remember, I am the frugal one!

So for two days' work and about $200 my dining room got a complete transformation.  Of course, I did have help from my Mom.  She is amazing at "cutting in" and the added bonus of being my project photographer.  She was also my "spotter", since I promised I wouldn't get on top of my rigged scaffolding ladder without someone around to call 911. Thanks Mom!  Merry Christmas to me.  Am I lucky or what?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I Love Paint Part I

December 27, 2012

By Sheila

Red.  Really red.  Time for a Change
My hands down favorite decorating option is paint.  It has huge impact.  It is relatively cheap.  It isn't really difficult to do, although practice does improve technique.  And the way I see it, if you get tired of it, change it.  That's what brings me to my most recent dining room makeover.  I am going to bring you this transformation in two parts; today and tomorrow.

Bye Bye Red
First, a little history.  When we bought our home (about six years ago), our dining room was an outdoor atrium.  It was pretty cool, but we already had enough outdoor space, and no dining room, so we converted it.  Of course this included adding a roof, skylights, raising the floor, and so on.  These are the activities that I find entertaining, and I come by it honestly.  My parents have built three homes, and I don't mean with a contractor.  I mean with their hands.  Beautiful, large homes.  They have passed this genetic disease on to their offspring, and there you have it.  The good news is, they are the first people I call when the going gets tough.  And they are the first to lend a hand even when I send out an SOS.  Or even a not-so-innocent, "what are you up to tomorrow?".  Thanks Mom & Dad!
Mom (Janet) hard at work

Back to the dining room.  This room was first painted what I call "default beige".  This is the color I painted the whole interior of the house after we moved in and refinished the wall texture.  The hallways and living room have remained this color, but everything else has changed over time (some walls more than once).  The dining room then became red.  A deep intense red.  I love this color, but grew tired of it in my dining room over time.  I am tired of dark colors.  I want lighter colors throughout my house.  I love the new greys, and this is what I settled on.  My inspiration came from my granite counter top in my kitchen.  It has grey/silver, golds, and creams in it.  Overall it is light, and I love it.  My floors are a warm travertine (mocha), so I needed a warm grey  50+ paint swatches and three paint samples later, I made my choice. 

For your information, I tracked my expenses and my time.

Step 1:  Clear the room.  This included lots of glassware, switch plate covers, some wine and spirits, and the removal of one cabinet on the wall.  (1.5 hours)

Where was all this stuff?
Step 2:  Primer.  I used Lowe's Valspar High Hiding Primer for drastic color change.  Worked great! (6 hours)

Love that scaffolding - my dining room table!
 Step 3:  Color Selection.  Normally I would have done this first, but I had to cover the red to decide on a new color. (2 hours, but I already had collected lots of swatches!)   I brought the swatches home and looked at the colors in the room.  The light in each room really affects the color.  The color you love in the paint store may look completely different when you get it home in your space. Look at the swatches at different times of the day and select your best options. Back to the store to buy actual paint samples, and paint them on the wall.  I know this seems like going to extremes for a slight shade variation, but when I have not done this, I have often regretted it.  I would rather spend the $3 on several paint samples and get the color that looks best than $25+ for a gallon of paint and a day of labor, only to be disappointed in the end result. 
My quest for the perfect warm shade of grey

#2 was the hands-down winner.  Lowe's Valspar "Filtered Shade"

That was it for day one. My Mom volunteered to return the next day to help me finish the project, since we ran out of steam and daylight at about the same time.  This room has odd architectural features (an arch in the middle), which casts shadows that make it difficult to paint at night.  Lucky for us - we needed a break anyway. 

Here is a sneak preview of the finished product.  Check in tomorrow for the finishing details.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Relaxation on Boxing Day

December 26, 2012

By Sheila

Well, we did it, once again.  Another Christmas come and gone. Anything you didn't get done doesn't matter now, which probably means it never really was that important. If you are so inclined, this is the week to get out there and get next year's gift wrap and cards and decorations and Santa sweaters at steeply discounted prices.  I'm not sure there is much I need, but then again, you never know.  As for those Santa sweaters; Ann's policy is not to wear any clothing that has a face on it, and I have been smart enough to adopt that as well.  So you can take us out of the competition for the cat sweaters with the Santa hats, and even the ever-popular Rudolph sweatshirts.  Pottery Barn holly pillows are a different story, however. 

I worked December 23-25 flying you and yours home for the holidays.  Although I generally don't have to work over Christmas, I missed getting my December bid in on time (really bad move), and so I worked the days no one else requested.  Imagine that.  I decided to make the best of it and do what I could to make it as pleasant as possible for all the people I came into contact with.  After all, I have a great job and am very thankful for that.  From my wonderful crew to the vast majority of the passengers I encountered, it was a great trip. Spending Christmas Eve in a hotel with people you just met the day before can make you feel sorry for yourself if you are not careful, but really, December 25th is not in itself magic.  The important part is celebrating the reason for the season when you can make it happen with your favorite people.  My son was working those same days, so it all works out  Thanks for cooking Christmas dinner after we got home, Mom!

I have to confess that as much as I look forward to Christmas, I am also always glad when it is over.  I'm one of those people, that when it's over, it's over and I am ready to take down the decorations immediately.  But I don't.  Mostly 'cuz I'm tired and just want a day or two to lay around and do nothing except eat leftovers and cookies. Or at least nothing related to the holidays.  Maybe go for a bike ride, see a movie, or hang out in a bookstore with a latte.  All my idea of a good time.  And much more fun than hauling the Christmas boxes down out of the attic..

Today is Boxing Day celebrated by our friends in the UK and other places around the world.  My husband is from Scotland, and his memories of Boxing Day was casual fun with family and friends.  Sounds good to me.  I am all in favor of adopting more holidays that include casual fun.  Today is also Heather and Tom's Anniversary.  Happy Anniversary Friends! 

Tune in tomorrow for part one of my dining room makover.  Yep, I started this last week.  Yeah, that was the week before Christmas and days before I left on my 3 day trip.  I sent photos to Heather and Ann of my work in progress and they agreed that I am certifiably crazy.  Even better, my Mom was my assistant and took lots of photos for me so I could entertain you with my progress, so check it out tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Celebrate the Season!

by Ann

I’m grateful for many things this holiday season including the fact that the Mayan’s prediction that we wouldn’t be around to celebrate Christmas this year was not founded.  Really??  Was anyone buying that??  J It seems like just yesterday that we were more seriously concerned about the Y2K millennium problems that would arise at the stroke of midnight December 31 thirteen years ago.  How could it be that long ago?  These unfounded worries and so many real things that are happening around me make me take a step back to appreciate all that I have – with the focus on family, friends, health, and fun meaningful things to do.
Some of the friends I now value include ladies I have not met who have become faithful readers of our blog, many of which left sweet, encouraging comments after my post last Friday about retiring.  The blogging process is a new adventure to the three of us, and we are committed to figuring it out, one step at a time.  So, Jann, please be patient with us.  I don’t even know the difference between a “follower” (although one person has figured out how to follow our blog), and a “subscriber,” of which we have many.  In January we are going to the New Media Expo in Vegas (should have fun things to blog about from that!), and hopefully will learn ways to improve our blog.

My guess is that our dedicated readers will be catching this a day or two after the post, when the holiday chaos has settled down.  The recipe that I am sharing would be a quick, easy, and delicious contribution at a New Year’s Eve party snack table.  Heather mentioned that she had served a cranberry/nut/cheese dip at her house for our December book club.  Our friendship has spanned so many years that she had forgotten that the recipe had come from me, so I feel justified to share it on my post-day!  ;-)
When I made this recipe for the picture, half of it had nuts, and half without since there are some family members who aren’t nut-eaters. (Huh??? Nuts are the best part!!)  I made it a couple of days before bringing it to my sister’s for Christmas, because it holds well and is one of those recipes that is actually better the second day after the orange zest has infused into the cheese.  If you do not have a microplane - you need one!  My dear friend Teri gave me one a few years ago, and I don't know how I managed without it once I started using it.  You can get the very outer edge of the peel without getting any of the bitter part of the rind.

Holiday Cranberry, Orange, Walnut, & Goat Cheese Dip


4 oz goat cheese, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

¼ c fresh orange juice

½ T finely minced orange zest

1 T honey
1/4 c finely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 c chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 t salt

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream cheeses together until smooth.  Add half of the orange juice and mix again until smooth.
  2. Add the orange zest, honey, and remaining orange juice, and mix until all of the orange juice is well incorporated.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the remaining ingredients until incorporated.
Serve with crackers, celery, or crostini.
This dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I hope that you and your families can stay safe, happy,
and focused on what matters this holiday season!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

by Heather

"How lucky I am to have had something that 
makes saying goodbye so hard." 

 - Winnie the Pooh

Christmas always brings bittersweet feelings as I remember those who are no longer with us.  My heart is broken for the people who have been affected by the tragedy in Connecticut. It's difficult to lose a loved one at any time, but at Christmas, when all is supposed to be "merry," it seems particularly painful.  My hope is that someday they will be comforted with the memories of the wonderful times they spent with their loved one.

I find decorating the house for Christmas is one way of bringing the past into the present, and reliving good times.  Memories come flooding back...

...when Tom hangs an ornament (the only one left) from our first Christmas..

...when I find the perfect places for the small, hand-stitched felt ornaments I created with my mother when I was a teen just several years before her death...

...when I add greenery to Nana's clock that was brought by ship from England when they moved here to be with their daughter, my mother -- the clock that I thought was soooo big when I was little...

...when I put Christmas cookies on the gold-embossed plate from my mother-in-law...

...when we decorate the upstairs tree with ornaments that represent our hobbies over the years...

What becomes really important to me at this time in my life is making new memories for the next generation so that they may recall good times with loved ones when they celebrate Christmases years from now....
We're set up and ready to go, making chocolate-covered marshmallows dipped in red and white sprinkles

Granddaughter Peighton and great-nephew Rowan waiting patiently while I'm microwaving the chocolate...

...tasting the sprinkles to make sure they're edible...

...concentrating to get just the right amount of sprinkles on the chocolate coating...

...admiring their finished product -- ready to be dunked in their cocoa on Christmas Eve

and a little relaxing ride after all their hard work...

And later in the evening, when it is just the two of us again, a cup of tea and a little quiet time...

And then to bed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!