Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Embracing the Ugly

So the other day one of my kiddos asked me how long I was trying to grow my chin hair.  I gave that one the most chores that day.  I'd like to lie and say that the chin hair has only recently shown up just to further drive home how much closer I'm getting to middle agedness. (is that even a word?)  The cold hard truth, however, is that baby started rearing its ugly head when I was 22, and pregnant with my second kiddo.  I deluded myself into thinking it was a pregnancy thing, and would miraculously go away when I had the baby.  Just like all that weight I gained.  Yet here I am, 13 years later, and the hair has persisted.  I find it to be super uncool.

So one thing I do (sometimes) when I get a new piece is let it chill in the room I want it to go in.  So I can firm up my mind on exactly how I want to refinish it.  That was the case with these two sweet chairs I got several years ago on Craigslist.   

(Cue interesting backstory...)

So we had just finished our remodel of the interior of our home in East Texas, and were in need of furnishing a family room.  Well I have a love for french provincial pieces.  Which were evidenced by the french provincial end tables that were proudly sitting in our formal living area.

This is an old picture (i.e. our old house), but the only one I could find of the tables in question.  Sure they are just sitting in the other room, but I'm feeling lazy.

  I loved them so very much that when I saw tables similar to them on craigslist I jumped on them.  I emailed, and negotiated a lower price.  Then I showed them to Señor Hotness...he was not in love.  He didn't want to get them because they were so similar to the tables we already had.  So with a heavy heart I had to message the lady back, and let her know that now wasn't going to be the best time to get them.  That was when she told me that if I would come down I could just have them...say WHAT?!? How? Why?  It all came down to my email signature, it says, "Sarah...mommy to 5 ladies".  You see she was a mom of 5 too, and was just paying it forward.  So I head on down with a friend, incase this lady was actually an axe wielding lunatic at least I would get to spend my last moments with a friend.  However, when we got there the lady was, in fact, just an empty nester, and not an axe wielding crazy person.  She was just getting ready to embark on a new personal adventure, and she really was just purging her home.  So I walk in for my tables when she says, "If you want any of this other stuff its yours for the taking".  Ladies and gents this is the stuff of legends.  I have dreams that people will say this to me again (it did happen again recently but that is a tale for another day).  Just giving free stuff to a cheapskate DIYer?  Yes, Please!  So when I regained consciousness (kidding) I saw sitting there next to the tables were two of the most elegantly boned chairs that were upholstered in this golden vinyl.  The vinyl was in tip top shape, however, the golden was in fact harvest gold.  The love affair of every 1970s decorator known to man.  So I brought them on home thinking Señor Hotness was going to flip, but that they would be good chairs to cut my teeth on trying to reupholster.  To my surprise he instantly saw their potential, and let me put them in our formal living room.  There they stayed always having their rehab put off in lieu of something deemed more pressing at the time.  Until that moment when I realized that they worked just as they were.  Not in a "They work because I said so" kind of way, but more in a "Wow, I never would have thought that would work, but it does" kind of way.

So I took a gamble on a couple of supposed duds, and have been reaping the rewards ever since.  All because I learned to embrace the ugly...just like my chin hair.  (Just kidding I still super hate that.)

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Friday, June 2, 2017

We Are Here...A Cautionary Tale

Fun Fact, surprisingly enough "here" isn't Cincinnati.  It's actually in the Dayton area.  When we were looking, we kept expanding our search further and further north, looking for just the right bit of suburbia, and before we knew it we weren't in Cincinnati at all.  Also Dayton ROCKS!  I'm in love, but I will freely admit that I may or may not change my mind come wintertime. 

Our move here was crazy.  We packed up the truck with the help of our church family on a freakishly humid day.  Needless to say we were all super sweaty and super gross, and me, being the queen of preparedness, had clean clothes out for everyone for our two day trek north to Ohio.  The one thing I didn't remember to leave out, however, was a clean bra.  So after we got to the hotel the first night I showered, and then only had the same smelly bra to put girls back in.  It was a tortuous two days of marinating in my own stench.  So, after dealing with that like a boss for two days the first thing I did upon unlocking the door to our new house was remove that smelly bit of nasty, and fling it across the family room floor while singing the chorus to "Think" (by Aretha Franklin).  It felt almost as good as being in our new house.  Then we set about exploring the house, and having roly-poly races across the family room floor before we tried to tackle the moving truck.  I was upstairs in the master bedroom when the unthinkable happens.  I hear the door bell (yup, we live in one of those wonderful neighborhoods where the neighbors are all incredibly nice and come to meet the new family), and it occurs to me, my nasty bra is laying very prominently displayed in the  barren family room floor.  Which is, coincidentally, fully visible from the front entryway.  So, I sheepishly and carefully came down to meet the new neighbors.  All the while they were visiting I valiantly pretended like it wasn't in full view there, and that I was totally wearing a bra, and they graciously pretended not to notice.  Meanwhile, I felt like imploding in on myself like a dying star because embarrassment can do that to a person.

However, after a first impression like that there really is no where to go but up.  
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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Things I Like About Cincinnati, Ohio...

 So, Ohio is cool right?  I mean how can you not love these barns...We hung out there some this summer, and it was pretty rad.  So get ready for a list of randomness...

Things I Like About Cincinnati:

1. Skyline Chili.  Okay folks I had heard stories about this for forever, but I had my doubts as to its tastiness.  That being was totally legit.

Pro: They are all over the greater Cincinnati area (as far as I can tell)
Con:  The gassy aftermath could possibly be weaponized into a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

2. IKEA.  Does this really need to be elaborated on?  I mean Ikea's are few and far between as it is, and they got lucky enough to have one in their own back yard.

Pro:  You can have all the swedish meatballs, and discount furniture you want.
Con:  I'll get back to you when I think of one.

3. Great Wolf Lodge.  They have one there.  A few years back we, along with some good friends, went with our kids (to the one in Grapevine TX), and it was surprisingly fun for the whole family.  Memories were made then, and they are all still talking about how cool it was.

Pro:  Its the perfect destination for a stay-cation.
Con: It requires that I wear a bathing suit.

4.  The Reds & The Bengals.  I'm not necessarily an insane fan of The Reds or the Bengals, but there isn't anything as cool as attending live sporting events.  I'm not sure what other pro sports teams they have, but these are the only ones that I would enjoy watching anyway.  Random fun fact.  I did check to see if they have an NBA team in Cincinnati, and they did have one, the Cincinnati Royals, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.  The franchise briefly moved to Kansas City, as the Kansas City Kings, before eventually moving to Sacramento.  Long story short the Sacramento Kings use to be in Cincinnati back in the day.

Pro: Professional games are super fun to attend...particularly baseball. In my opinion.
Con: While I do enjoy a good sporting event I also HATE crowds.  So, this one may not happen terribly often.

5. The Shellys.  As of the end of May the greater Cincinnati/Dayton area will have, at least, 7 more awesome residents.  I know, I know.  You've heard this song and dance before right, but this time its legit.  Right around Christmas time I decided to test the waters, and listed our home on Zillow, and that was it.  I didn't put a sign in the yard.  I didn't share it on Facebook, or ask my friends to spread the word.  In fact, we didn't tell anyone.  We didn't know if it was even going to garner interest.  We had had some realtors contact us wanting us to relist our home with them.  We even had one that approached us with a couple that wanted to see it.  Long story short, in 41 days our house was under contract, and the best part was they didn't want to close until after school ended because they are wanting to let their own children finish out their school year.  Which was perfect because we were hoping the same.

Pros: A new adventure for our family, we have a few months to say goodbye to our friends here, and I get to initiate another purge of things accumulated.  The purge is truly one my favorite things about moving.   That and being able to tell my girls that that garbage they were attached to "must have gotten lost in the move".
Cons: Actually having to pack my things into boxes.  Being patient over the next few months while my kiddos enjoy their extended time with friends.  I'm more of a "lets rip the bandaid off" sort of girl.  I like to get the inevitable over with quickly, and not having to prolong it out.  I can suck it up for my ladies though.

Our move to Ohio will signify the first time our family has lived in a state that is not on the southern most border of the United States.  Our girls are super hyped about the prospect of snow.  I give that all of a week to get old.  But...right now they are excited about the unknown, and sorrowful to be leaving behind so many friends.  Thank heavens for modern technology, and their ability to communicate with them from far away.

So here's to enjoying our last few months with friends, and preparing for our exciting move further north.

UPDATE: The house we ended up buying is actually in Dayton.  So I hope to wax poetic about Dayton in the future.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Saved From the Flood: DIY Concrete Tabletop

So I recently used frozen custard to bribe my six year old to eat a few lima beans.  Which she tried, then decided that they "tasted like death", and then proceeded to gag and cry like I was forcing her to suck down a bottle of poison.   This was the same kid, however, that handed me a tube of icy hot, and said, "Mom, we need to get rid of this new toothpaste."  Now I'm not saying that that near death experience (because the big sisters told her she was going to die from it) affected her ability to properly taste, but all I'm saying is it could have played a role in the goings on that day.  Either way Mommy and Daddy deserved the frozen custard after the end of what will heretofore be called "The Ordeal".

So just to catch up we bought a table from a flood house, and put a plywood top on it.  In a nutshell.  I like to think that my design sense is traditional with a twist.  Sometimes its shabby chic, sometimes its industrial farmhouse, but its almost always a traditional piece with a very nontraditional finish applied to it.  

So I looked at this table with its very classic and traditional lines, and thought what would be super durable for my family but give this thing a cool twist?  Then I had an epiphany...concrete.  There are several blogs on Pinterest that have shared using a skim coat method to transform their dated kitchen laminate counters to give them a new contemporary look.  To me concrete gives a very modern finish, and it got me thinking how cool could something as contemporary as concrete look on such a classic piece.

So again if you check out my last post on this.  You will know that the table top was complete trash, and we needed to start with a clean slate.  I loved the overall shape of the old top so after tracing that onto a thick piece of plywood we cut it out using our jig saw.

So as many of you are aware Southern Louisiana was devastated by extensive flooding recently.  Señor Hotness had gone down with the Mormon Helping Hands initiative to help with the recovery effort happening down there.  I was home with the kids while he was helping gut homes of wet flood damage.  Señor Hotness tries to protect me from biting off more than I can chew so he had gotten me a 24"x 24" piece of plywood for me to practice on before doing to whole tabletop, but I'm more of a sink or swim type of girl so of course I waited until the moment he left and started on the real deal.  To be honest it had been raining off and on for several weeks, and we were projected to have a few days of dry weather.  I didn't want to waste time on a practice piece, and miss the break in the weather. 

So my Saturday started at 7:00, and began with intense sanding to smooth out all the rough edges created by the saw.  I sanded it like this until the sharp edges were gone, and then I flipped it and did the underside.  The underside wasn't getting the concrete treatment, but I didn't want any curious fingers that might want to feel the edges to come away with splinters.

I'm good with an electric sander, but occasionally I would slip and catch the finish part of the table.

Which I fixed with my stain that I had matched when working on the bottom.

Sanding, of course, creates and insane amount of wood dust so I used a hand brush to clean the surface of any particles.  A shop vac would work best, but I don't have one.

While I was working so diligently on our new dining table my chocolate stash was being thoroughly compromised.  This little brown eyed girl was so darn cute with her chocolate mouth it was hard to be to terribly upset about it.

Most people either used Henry Featherlite, or Ardex brands, but I didn't have access to either product and didn't want to order anything.  So after discussing our options we chose to go with the TEC product from Lowes.  It is a skimcoat and patch system used to even out floors when getting ready to tile.  Best yet was it wasn't expensive.  I only had to use two bags, and probably wouldn't have had to use two if it wasn't for the waste I had from trial and error.

So in all my research much emphasis was put on the consistency of your mixture.  They almost all said a pancake batter would be the best texture comparison.  Well I make a mean pancake so I was familiar with what the consistency should be.  I didn't, however, take all of the variables into account.  All of those awesome tutorials were done indoors, in what I imagine are fairly climate controlled areas.  I was doing mine outside, and it was HOT.  So my pancake batter mixture started to set up almost immediately instead of the 10-15 minutes that was talked about.  In the end this first swipe was mostly trashed, and I had to start again.

That's right it was a heat advisory day.  I'm sure some of you are thinking 94 degrees isn't all that awful, but heat index made it seem like it was 106.  Then we also had 50% humidity.  Which was a lower humidity than we had had in weeks, but all the same it made for a hot, muggy, miserable time.

It looked so much better after a second coat.  I learned that because of the heat that I needed to make my mixture much wetter to account of the super quick dry time that the weather was giving me.

WARNING: when working with concrete materials make sure to wear goggles, a respirator mask, and gloves.  It is very caustic and irritating for the skin.  So wash it off as soon as possible.  I would also suggest you cover your hair.

When I was spreading it out on the top I didn't even attempt to keep it from falling over the edges.  All the excess that I had from the roll-off I used my gloved hand to spread around the edges.  Don't worry about getting it perfect smooth.  Any roughness will easily knock down with some minor sanding.

You have to move fast, and get it smoothed as it dries so super fast.  This is what my feet would look like pretty much after every new layer of the concrete.  I rinsed it off quickly, and always followed with copious amounts of lotion.  This stuff dries your skin out quick!  I also promptly got a new pedicure after I finished this table top.  So no need to worry that I'm going out in public sporting toes like this.

This was the final layer of concrete.

Now that its completely dried its ready for its final sanding.  For this layer I used my orbital electric sander with a 220 grit sand paper, and kept the sander speed on a low so it wouldn't just blast through all of my layers.  You are just looking to knock down the rough areas, and make a general overall smooth area.

This was taken right after I had put on the last layer.  I thought the bubbles were going to be a problem, but...

I actually really love how they looked after being sanded down.  All those fine bubbles add interest to it.  I'm sort of in love with fine bubbles.  Bubbles are my life.  I will say you don't want to have too many of these, or larger ones but these are just cool.

This is what my arm looked like after sanding.  As you can sort of tell from the picture I was wearing plastic gloves, but the dust was super fine and clung to everything.  I will tell you after this I hopped in the shower, and had a minor freakout when I started to soap my hair.  It felt like I had wire bristles for hair.  It was completely fine after some intensive conditioning, but I would recommend anyone else wanting to do this to wear something to cover their hair too.

The sanding process gave me a concrete dust sleeve.

Here we have our sealer going on.  I used a Quikcrete sealer in a high gloss with a wet like finish. Make sure you are getting a sealer that is for use indoors, and is safe for use on eating surfaces.  For example mine is resistant to a myriad of different stains including food.  Which, I'm sure you will understand, excited me since this was going to be my dining table.

I had a little help with the sealing so I could get some pictures taken.  We applied two coats, waiting the two hours between coats per the manufacturers instructions.  The surface just drank up the first layer of sealer, but the next layer left a smooth protective finish.  It recommended a high density foam roller, but in my experience foam just causes more bubbles when applying a sealer.  We used a 6 inch roller graded for use on fine/smooth surfaces such a cabinets.  We applied all the sealer in one uniform direction, and then without adding more sealer to the roller we rolled over it again in the opposite direction.  That eliminated roller streaks, and helped knock out any bubbling we had in the sealer.  Bubbly sealer isn't good as the dried bubbles will burst if scrubbed vigorously, and that will lead to staining on your surface.  Which you don't want for your dining surface.

Every last one of those imperfections are still very visible on the surface, but I think that is what makes it kind of cool.  Its this very formal table, with very formal lines.  I think beyond having a very informal material like concrete on the top, and additionally all of those areas of imperfection highlighted makes this a perfect piece.

Isn't he cute being all handy, and fastening the table top on?

Here it is all sealed.  I was somewhat worried that my beloved bubbles would attract food, but the sealer did its job well and these stay completely and utterly clean.

BAM!  Isn't it gorgeous! I love the wood finish on the bottom paired with the concrete top.  I additionally love that concrete doesn't discolor with hot dishes, and is impervious to water and food stains so long as it has been properly sealed.  Just what I need with my dirty children.

This thing is massive and completely fills our dining area, but it is just right for our larger family.  

Did I mention how sturdy this thing is?  The concrete didn't add a ton to the over all weight, thankfully, but it should give us the durability of a slab of concrete.

It also looks spectacular in the room.  Don't all those imperfections make for a really interesting look for the top.  I'm sort of in love with it.

We've already put this thing through the ringer.  The day this was finished, and ready for the house we had some of our good friends come visit from Texas with their own 5 daughters.  So this became the kids table for the weekend.  It held up to 10 lively friends who are never not excited to be in one anothers company.  Its is still beyond beautiful.

Lets run down the full cost of this portion of the project.

TEC Skimcoat and Underlayment--2 Bags @ $9.98 each:  $19.96
Previous Table Costs: $188
Grand Total So Far: $207.96

So for less than $20 we have this spectacular concrete table top that will take a beating from my active family. (and apparently my friend's family too :)  This table has had just about everything spilled on it, and a few dried on food stains.  They have all washed right off with no damage to the top.  I really couldn't be more pleased.  If I haven't said so enough I'm IN LOVE with this table.  I love how the formal and informal come together to give a spectacular piece of furniture, and it completely supports my own personal sense of style.  So don't be afraid to take something completely traditional, and then give it a completely non-traditional finish.  It could just turn out to be the best thing ever.

Stay tuned to see how I rework the chairs, and complete this awesome table set.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tricking Out the Trash: Thrift Store Chic

Have you ever gone clothes shopping looking for an outstanding outfit that highlights your complete and utter awesomeness.  One that conveys your personal brand of quirk all while reducing the appearance of your muffin top and double chin.  Only when you get in the dressing room you realize that the shirt that looked so gorgeous on the hanger/mannequin is actually too short, and has a pretty intense pair of shoulder pads.  So instead of the cool look you were going for you look like you have the shoulders any linebacker would be envious of, and a food baby that you are so proud of that you want to show it off.  Hopefully that's not where you choose to throw in the towel because with some searching you will find that outfit that makes you look theory.  I've had to take a knee, and come back to the search again on a different day. (Clearly I need to listen to a little less NFL radio with Señor Hotness because I'm just chalk full of football references today.)  

This was the design equivalent to that.  This all started with garbage (the title to my biography someday I'm sure).  A year ago I found this really cool kind size bed frame that someone had left on the side of the road, and due to it being taken apart like an animal it wasn't useable as a bed frame anymore.  This one find has been the garbage that keeps on giving.  I have already used a piece to make something really cool for my formal living room.

The sweetest trash pile EVER!  I was having a morning walk when I came across this.  The bulk trash truck was in the neighborhood when I spotted this.  I've never finished up a mile so fast in my life!

The bulk trash truck and I went head to head, and I won because I'm awesome, and apparently swift when good garbage is involved.

So after lightly sanding down what I assume was once part of the headboard I gave it a coat of kilz spray primer.  Then I lightly sanded the primer layer, and followed that up with krylon white spray paint in a gloss.  I don't have any pictures of the process because the weather was sketchy at best, and I was playing chicken with the rain clouds.  So I sped through the process (as much as I was able), and didn't get any pictures.

Here it is after I'd distressed it. I used glaze tinted to a dark brown color called barista that I've been rocking for over 6 years now.  Then I got it hung in the breakfast nook.   It was better than the weird bare wall that was there, but still missing, something.

This is what I'm going to refer to its hipster phase (get it? because of the chunky black frames).  I thought that frames with pretty scrapbooking paper in it was a good idea.  Clearly I was mistaken.  This look only lasted about a week when I realized I didn't have an inner hipster to embrace. 

Then I remembered my garden burlap that I bought a while back at Lowes.  I still have a huge ton of this left.  It was the purchase that keeps on giving.

I used furniture mod podge in gloss to adhere the burlap to the surface.  I rolled it on with a small roller.

Then I used a pair of sharp scissors to trim around the edges.

I loved the texture that the burlap added, but it was still missing something.  It wasn't as boring, but it wasn't what I wanted.

Then there was this unfortunate little turn.  This also didn't last long.  I thought doing something fun with utensils would work great since it was in the breakfast nook, but alas no.  It just looked stupid and boring.  It wasn't awful looking, but didn't work with what I already had.

Then I had an epiphany.  The breakfast nook tends to be kind of dark.  So something mirrored would be a great way to reflect light, but it needed to seem random.  I didn't want it to be to matchy because that had tanked so very thoroughly in my past attempts at something awesome.

Then one day I was strolling through the local thrift shop, and came across these silver style platters.  These are usually easy to find in a variety of shapes, and sizes and are usually cheap.  I wasn't looking for a fine antique.  Just the look of one.  I was looking for something that had a formal look, but also something that was obviously aged and used.  It gives it instant character.  The little round plates are actually silver plated, but everything else I'm pretty sure started out its life as a dollar store platter.  I was okay with that.  I bought all of these for less than $4.50, and the effect was magical.

I love how it turned out.  The platters give it just the right amount of character, and the silver gives a very pleasing reflective surface for extra light.

Other than giving these a quick wash down for any serious grime I left all the awesome imperfections to contribute to the aged patina.  I just hot glued these directly onto the burlap surface.

Not everyone is a fan of the aged patina.  This is my two youngest "helpers" pointing out all the flaws on the platters.

In the end the randomness of the different shapes, and shiny platters on the textured burlap surface was a home run.  This is now one of my favorite pieces in my house.

So lets do a quick rundown of the cost of this project.

Architectural Feature Piece: free (garbage baby)
Burlap: free (left over from numerous projects, but if bought brand new it was $9.98)
Furniture Mod Podge: free (leftover from a previous project, but if purchased new it would be $10.63)
Silver Platters: $3.55 at a local thrift shop
GRAND TOTAL: $3.55 out of pocket

So after months of trial and error it only took me about 10 minutes, some thrift store finds, and hot glue to get the look I wanted.  That and a willingness to dig is someone's garbage pile.