Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crushing on Valentine's

This is Imani's last year in elementary school, so it will likely be the last time her class has a Valentine's party.  We have always made homemade Valentine's and this year I was looking for something extra special, since it might be the last year she actually hands out Valentine's cards to her friends.

I am obsessed with Pinterest and found the cutest idea on there the other day for Valentine's.  Do you follow my pins yet? If not, click the button on the top right of my blog!  I've been pinning for each room in my home, every holiday, and every craft I hope to do in my lifetime.

 Isn't it super cute?  The only problem is that Imani's school would never allow glass bottles in school and I'd feel terrible if a kid accidentally broke it and cut himself so we had to settle for cans. 

Admittedly, cans are not as visually appealing- but the idea is still cute nonetheless.

So we bought two twelve-packs of Cherry Crush in cans.

Then I edited Imani's photo using Picnik. 

And then we printed them off on regular paper.  I didn't have any cute polka dotted paper like the one on Pinterest but I did have an abundance of red card stock from homemade Valentines in the past, so we decided to use that instead of spending more money.

We glued the pictures to the red background.

Next, we hole-punched the photos and tied them onto the can tabs using a ribbon.

And Imani carried a big box to school today.  I'm sure her teacher will be thrilled with kids drinking soda along with all of the candy they receive!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dresser Gets a Face Lift

After spending my entire birthday on airplanes and in airports, I arrived home a week and a half ago with only ten minutes left before the clock would strike midnight and my special day would be over.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and a bit depressed.

However, walking in to see my dining room not only decorated with streamers, presents, flowers and a cake . . . but also completely transformed was a total surprise.  Imani and Jason made the last ten minutes of my day so special and I realized that the best gift was returning home to my family. 

I was completely overwhelmed  when Jason handed me eleven hand-written pages that would become his first blog post (He didn't know the ins and outs of how to actually go on and post it himself . . . but I will teach him so that he can post again).

And he got my birthday wish, so all of you Giants fans can thank me.

His post was an inspiration for me to set aside time this weekend to blog about a project we finished a while ago, but I just hadn't had the time to write about.

Sometime shortly after New Year's, Jason and I finally got around to giving our bedroom furniture a little face lift.

You might remember we've altered one piece before.  Remember last year when Jason cut up a dresser (literally) to make room for a bassinet in our bedroom?!  It's definitely one of the crazier projects we've attempted so if you haven't read it, be sure to check it out here.

I've been wanting to get rid of the dark brown furniture for a long time, but we've been on a mission to save money and attempt to be debt-free (remember last year's resolution?)  We've done an AMAZING job so far, especially given that Jason is now a stay-at-home dad.

I haven't been happy with the color of the dressers and I hate that it all looks so manufactured.  I wanted something that was lighter in color and  looked more antique, more worn . . . but purchasing new (or antique) dressers was out of the question.   By the way, if you like the look of dark furniture that looks new, you should stop reading NOW because I'm about to share how to make this baby look older and worn.

I've already had some people come over to our house and see our finished product and think we've lost our minds.









"matchy, matchy"


Here is the original dresser, complete with antiqued brass handles.

Many of my followers of this blog suggested Annie Sloan Chalk paint to me and to be honest, I'd never heard of it before. 

After a little research, I discovered that Annie Sloan chalk paint is NOT chalkboard paint -- it's TOTALLY different.

Annie Sloan Chalk paint is like magic.

It requires NO primer.

And it can be used on just about any surface.

It's really magical.

So I found a dealer in Upstate New York -- the Purple Painted Lady, located in Palmyra, NY.  Tricia was super helpful in teaching me how to apply the paint and how to distress the furniture if that was the look we wanted.  If you need to get some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, check out the Purple Painted Lady online or if you live in Upstate New York, make the drive to the store - it's totally worth it!

I walked out spending roughly $62 with one jar of Paris Grey and one jar of wax.

At first, Jason was skeptical about using a can of paint on manufactured furniture without stripping it, priming it or prepping it in any other way.  He also didn't think the small can that Tricia sold to me would be enough to cover a large dresser and nightstand.

But he'd heard me talk about all I'd read about Annie Sloan Chalk paint online and he decided it was worth a try.

So Jason set off to work on the bedroom furniture (sorry for using the flash -- we were working at night and had a very hard time getting the photos right without the flash . . . a year later and I'm still figuring out my DSL camera)

He applied one coat directly to the nightstand.

It looked almost white when it was first applied, but it darkened up after it dried.  He didn't even need to add a second coat. 

We were amazed that this paint had virtually no smell either (and no, I'm not getting paid for this and I did not receive free paint.  We were just amazed by this paint).  Jason was painting it in our house at night and I was about to open every window in the house for fear of killing my kids from paint fumes, when I realized it didn't really smell (don't worry, Mom; I did open a window for ventilation so your grand kids were fine).

The Annie Sloan website says this paint gives off extremely low VOC's so it's good for the environment too. 

In fact, here are the reason's the paint is so special, according to the Annie Sloan website:

"1. It's the BEST paint for painting furniture by a long way

2. No need to prime or prepare

3.Extremely low VOCs so it is good for the environment

4. You can use it on any surface, indoors and out ( the outside of our shop was painted in it- perfect!)

5. You can use the paint by diluting it with water to make a wash to show the wood grain

6. The colours are mixed intelligently and the web site shows how you can adapt your colours for your use

7. It's a girls' paint, but boys can use it too.

8. It's flexible so you can be creative and change your mind

9. It allows your walls to breathe so it is perfect for cottage walls

10. You can use it as an impasto ( thickly) - leave the lid off to thicken

11. We've been making it since 1990 so it's tried and tested"

After waiting for 24 hours, Jason distressed the dresser using 100 grit sandpaper and then applied a coat of Annie Sloan wax.

After applying the wax, he let it dry for 48 hours and buffed it using an old white t-shirt.
Then, he applied the new hardware I'd purchased at Hobby Lobby (on sale for 50% off).

I'm totally in love with the new look.  

And Jason is now obsessed with Annie Sloan Chalk paint.   He'll never use primer for furniture again.

Maybe I'll buy him a can for Valentine's Day.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dining Room Remodel, aka Jason's First Blog

I have had a hard time falling asleep the last few months.  What has been keeping me awake, you ask?  Trying to come up with something really special for Stephenie's birthday -- that and Mayan doomsday prophecies (sometimes I wish the calendar had never been invented) -- Oh and the mysterious powers of the Magic Eraser.

An idea for this year's birthday gift has proven to be so difficult ironically because of my own birthday.  Back in September, Stephenie caught me completely off guard with a huge surprise party.  Fifty of my closest friends and family members packed my house to help me celebrate #34.  I was about three weeks out from the start of my new career as a stay-at-home dad of two (which, by the way, is the best job ever!).

Stephenie planned the whole thing as a way for me to re-connect with all of my friends I might not see on a regular basis given my new path in life.  It was amazing and incredibly thoughtful.  How do you top that?

I thought about throwing Steph her own surprise party but that seemed like the easy way out and totally unoriginal, and store-bought gifts pale in comparison to the gift of the people you treasure most in life filling up your house.  There was only one avenue that I could think of that would come close - I must create something for her.

I thought about all the things she loves.  

Our kids.  I could put my college education  to good use and paint her a portrait of our children.  Not a bad idea and a definite possibility.

Shoes.  I could get advice from a local cobbler and hand craft a pair of size 7 1/2 stilettos.
Not gonna happen.

Then it hit me . . . I could do a blog post for her. 

Stephenie loves to blog and recently hasn't had the time to post all that often.  She constantly asks me to write a post -- pretty much weekly for the last two years.  I usually come up with a lame excuse or tell her I will one day, but never do.

I do help a lot with the projects you see on this blog, but honestly, I guess I see  myself as the man behind the scenes hammering nails and cutting things up with saws.  Stephenie is the creative genius and the brains behind this operation we call home improvement.  I am content with bringing her vision to life but I guess she thinks I have something to say as well.  She won't leave me alone about it, so here goes . . . Happy Birthday Honey.

So I need a project to blog about and the first thing I think of is our dining room.  Recently, we sold all of our dining room furniture and purchased an old farm table and chairs from antique shops.  Our Raymour and Flabby dining set was the first big purchase we made as a couple. 

We were super excited at the time as we jammed it into our small two bedroom apartment.  Then we bought a house and started to fix it up and really started to get a sense about what we like and appreciate and the kinds of things we feel good about filling up our house with.  The more we worked on our home, the more we grew to dislike our dining set with its factory finish and mass-produced construction. 

I love everything about our new table -- its weight, its age -- everything. 

Let's celebrate with a dining room makeover!

As you can see, our dining room has a piece of chair rail dividing two different colors.

Steph left last Monday for a business trip to Las Vegas.  She comes home on her birthday, Friday, February 3.  I am a little nervous about having enough time to finish the project before she returns.  It's hard to say how much time I will really have when you factor in the needs of a 10 month old and an 11 year old.  Hopefully, Noah will take two good naps during the day and I will be able to get Imani in bed by nine.  What I plan to do is install a board and batten trim on the walls of our dining room and hit it up with a fresh coat of paint.  I love trim work.  LOVE IT.  Steph has had to stop me in the past as OCD got its hands on me.

She was finally able to stop me as I finished up the bedroom above.  I think what I love the most about trimwork is how it can transform the look of a room for such a small amount of money.  The project I am about to embark upon costs less than 200 bucks including paint and a few tools.  The two big tools for this job are a mitre saw and a nail gun or a hammer and nail punch.  I will need to pick up a new coping saw and a file as well.  Those two things combined are like 10 bucks. 

I did a little research on board and batten online and found a few photos for inspiration:

The first thing I determined was how high I would like the trim and thought 2/3 of the wall would look nice in a dining room. I also decided on a shelf to cap off the trim.  From the photos I looked at online, the shelf provided a nice area for decorating and just gave the trimwork that little something extra. 

Next, I measured all of my walls to determine how many vertical boards I would need.  I really liked the images that had boards spaced around 12 inches apart.  To get the correct even spacing between boards you will need to take into account the width of the vertical boards you will use.  I will be using boards that are 2 1/2 inches wide.  As an example, the first wall I measured was 113 inches.  If I use seven vertical boards I will essentially create 8 uniform panels between the boards.  Seven 2 1/2 inch boards = 17.5.  If I subtract 17.5 from 113, I get 95.5 inches.  95.5 divided between 8 panels is 11.9375 per panel or 11 15/16.  Starting from the right, I mark the wall 11 15/16 from the door railing, then 2 1/2 inches for the width of my board, another 11 15/16 and so on until I reach the end of the wall.  Not super complicated and way better than "eyeing" it.

So I packed the kids in the car and headed to Home Depot.  I somehow managed to get everything I needed into a Jeep Liberty.  This was the first time I really missed my truck since selling it in August. 

When we got home, I made dinner, put Noah to sleep and watched a little DVRed American Idol with Imani before reading with her and getting her to bed.

Nine O-Clock and I am ready to roll! I began by removing the chair rail we installed a few years back.  I used liquid nails and finishing nails to install it an the liquid nails ripped part of the wall off.  Nothing a little spackle can't fix.  I still love you liquid nails!!

Liquid nails is one of the most useful products on the planet.  I have fixed high heels, created school projects, secured eight miles of trim and used it to stop an air leak once.  I firmly believe if the dinosaurs had liquid nails, they would have beaten extinction. 

Okay, back to the project.  After removing the old trim, I leveled and installed the plate rail and began installing the vertical boards with finishing nails and . . . you guessed it -- Liquid Nails!  The liquid nails will give the boards more sticking power as it is unlikely that your finishing nails will always hit a stud.



The first wall went up in about an hour.


My shelf was installed next and is the same 2 1/2 inch board I used for the vertical panels.


Crown molding was then installed under the shelf.

The mitered return is a relatively easy way to give the shelf a finished look.

The next day, I used wood filler on all of my nail holes and hit it up with 100 grit sandpaper as soon as it dried.

After that, I used paintable caulk to hide all cracks and give a seamless finish.

Finally, I used a little spackle to fix any blemishes.


The only tricky part of this entire installation will be the corners for the crown molding, but with the right tools it is not all that bad.  I had two inside corners to deal with during my installation.  One piece of molding is cut flush and runs directly into the corner. The other piece of molding is cut using the following steps.  Place the crown upside down and against the fence and set the angle to the correct 45 degree angle. 

Use a coping saw to cut along the profile of crown.

Use a small file to get as close as possible and to clean up your cut.

This piece will now fit over the installed piece to perfection.


So that is pretty much it for install.  I just repeated the same process on the other walls.

Time to paint! I love painting.  It is right up there with trim for me as an inexpensive way to renew a room.  I choose to return the primer you saw in one of the earlier photos and used one gallon of enamel semi-gloss paint/primer by Behr instead.  It was a good paint but I still needed three coats in some difficult areas.

The painting was the most time-consuming part of this project. I found my OCD rearing its ugly head as I began painting trim leading out of the room that looked grubby next to the brilliant new white. 

I highly recommend picking up some Magic Erasers when using this much white paint.  The equation for the number of boxes you will go through in a month goes something like this:

Gallons of white paint times number of infants to the tenth power times age of adolescent in the house divided by showers per week = total.

Using this formula I will be buying about 16 boxes of Magic Erasers in the near future.  For any of you that have never used a Magic Eraser, they are amazing and can take any mark off a wall with one swipe.  Where it goes, I have no idea.  Mr Clean claims it is magic but I think something else is going on here as well.  Everyone knows Unicorns are pure magic so in my opinion a sponge could only be like 75% magic, tops.  My theory is the other 25% is alien technology found in the Roswell crash.

The final touches for my project are 20 red tulips, Steph's favorite flower, a birthday cake that I did not make, a few antique dishes I picked up at a local store and birthday prizes!!!

 I can't wait to see Steph's face. My hope is that she is so overjoyed I will will be able to convince her to use her birthday wish to help my Giants win the Superbowl.

I truly hope you like this gift. I love you Steph.

Happy Birthday.

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