Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Actual Functional Adult Helps Me Make a Curtain

You are all probably SO DAZZLED by my recent EXTREME, UNEQUIVOCAL SUCCESS in improving my previously uninspired home decor that you said aloud, to your computer screen, "Dear, delightful Liz, why do you not complete MORE divine projects that I may read of and revel in them?"  Oh, dear reader, I weep to tell you: if you speak aloud to your computer screen, I can't really hear you.  Also, Dad, the football team can't hear you through the TV.  Your neighbors asked me to let you know.

But while I can't really hear you, dear reader, I am so close to psychic I can divine that you must have asked your monitor for more projects!  And so I leapt, headfirst, into further DIY adventures.  By which I mean I went to visit my mom and she convinced me we should make a valance (this is a kind of curtain, minions) for my bedroom.  I was completely on board - not because I'm feeling so great about DIY but because my mom is awesome at sewing (and I knew she would do most of the sewing).

Seriously, when I was a kid, my mom could sew me anything.  Are you a female born in the 1980s or did you parent one?  Then you know about American Girl Dolls.  These were of HUGE importance.  If you are uninitiated, they are dolls and the dolls also had a backstory set somewhere in American history.  And their clothes matched the era.  Aaaaaaand the more that I think about this the less I understand why my 8-year-old self was so intensely interested in them.  Maybe reading about the Victorian Era is really fascinating when no one has given you any sci-fi books yet?

But for whatever reason, these dolls were severely important and their import was rivaled only by the cost of the doll dresses and matching 8-year-old girl-sized dresses they sold.  Most moms would have looked at the cost and either 1) sighed and ponied up; or 2) told their little girl that she can do historical reenactment on her on dime when she's older.  BUT NOT MY MOM.  She busted out her sewing machine and made the Victorian Birthday Dress for me and my spoiled doll.  And later, when I saw other girls who had the purchased version of that dress, I pitied them because mine was genuinely better.

This is why I assented to this curtain project, despite my spackle and tape related DIYPTSD.

I got even more excited when we found this frankly badass fabric:

I almost wanted to just buy a couple yards and turn it into a cape.  But instead, we bought enough for a curtain and got down to sewing.  By which I mean my mom got down to sewing.

Unfortunately, the badass textured fabric turned out to be a pain to sew on the sewing machine.  Mom did only one seam and decided we needed to hand-hem three sides of it.  Which meant I needed to get involved, as this curtain was pretty big.

As some background, I will tell you that I know how to sew on a few levels: 1) theoretical (there is fabric, thread, needles, etc.; I have watched Mom do this thing); 2) very limited practical.  On the latter, the things I have sewn are almost entirely limited to holes in jeans.  And fashion was on my team for quite a long time with the whole distressed-jeans thing, so my patch-up jobs could look pretty shoddy and only make the jeans look COOLER.  Also one time I sewed up a giant hole in Husband's backpack because he refuses to get a new one.

Anyway, with all of this jeans-patching skill at my disposal, I sat down on the couch to watch Property Brothers and Hem! This! Curtain!  I did a few inches, very slowly, before Mom looked at my progress.

Mom:  What are you doing?
Liz:  I'm sewing it!  Like you said!  Straight stitch!
Mom:  No, I said hem stitch!
Liz: Well I don't think I know what a hem stitch is!
Mom:  Did I not teach you how to hem stitch ever?  I could hem stitch when I was seven!

My mom showed me how to do it but I was terrible at it and it took me five times as long to do a section as it took her.  And my stitches looked like they had been executed by a drunk pirate chef sewing up the leg of a roaring captain during a battle.  A battle during a squall.  So it's probably good I didn't finish more than I did.

Then my mom let me try using the sewing machine on the white liner fabric for the back of the curtain.  This was the plainest fabric in the world.  It was white plain cotton.  Not that it being white makes it any easier to sew than if it had a million Mick Jaggers printed on it, but it sort of felt psychologically more straightforward. Except even on the sewing machine with the plainest fabric doing the most boring stitch, I somehow wasn't doing it right.

Mom:  You have to keep pulling the fabric along as you go.
Liz:  I am pulling it along!  But how do I do that and not have it go all crooked?  See if I... uhoh... whoops...
Mom:  Why don't I just do it?

Ultimately, my mom ended up doing waaaaay more than I did because she isn't terrible at sewing like I am.  But I did repay all my mom's effort a little bit by helping her put a vinyl wall decal in her room, which took the two of us way longer than it took the man in the YouTube video, and he was all by himself.

Another highlight from my visit with my mom:  I saw this Darth Vader ornament at Hallmark, and when you walked in front of it, it would say things like "The desire to peek is strong in this one" and other dire warnings relating to not opening presents early.

It was amazing and I stood in front of it the whole time my mom was paying for her greeting cards so I could hear all of the things he said.  The clerk was giving me dirty looks, but they were so easy to ignore?  Who is scarier, a lady who works at Hallmark (wearing the standard-issue inexplicable apron; is Hallmark worried its employees are going to spill tired birthday jokes on their civilian clothes?) or DARTH VADER IN A SANTA HAT?

(There is a right answer here.)

So obviously I kept standing there while taking pictures of Darth Vader to Husband, who was supposedly "at work" and apparently bemused by my choice of things to text him.  But the joke was on HIM, because once I got home I made him go with me to Home Depot to buy a curtain rod.

Liz:  I want one with crystal finials.
Husband:  What is a finial?  And... crystal?
Liz:  Finial is the ball-thingy at the end of a curtain rod.  And yes, crystal!  That one!
Husband:  That one is crystal only on one end.  The other end is that squiggly thing.
Liz:  I think that's just for display purposes.
Husband:  Oh.  But... crystal?  Really?

But guess who won?

And guess who made her husband hang the curtain rod for her?

The color looks weird in this photo because the photo came out all red and then I tried to fix it on my computer and now everything looks like our bedroom is brightened by some hideous alien sun.
I am in love with the curtain and still a little bit want to wear it.

If you think about it, wearing a curtain isn't really any more ridiculous than an 8-year-old determined to be a Victorian-era re-enactress.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

At Long Last: Bathroom Repaint Days 4 Through Whatever

The bathroom is finally finished.

Perhaps, dear reader, you thought I had died in my quest to improve the paint color of my beleaguered guest bathroom, succumbing to severe DIYtis induced by too much HGTV and insufficient sun exposure.  Indeed, it was close.  But I have emerged, phoenix-like, not from the ashes but from the pulmonary-disease causing spackle dust.  And when I arose, it was in a nicely painted bathroom.

When last I left you, dear reader, I hadn't even begun actually to paint.  But rather than describe in exhaustive narrative the rest of the process, I shall provide it to you in a series of snappy statistics and summaries.

Day 4:  Actually Painting

Time spent painting first coat, using, alternately, a large roller, a small roller, and a paintbrush:  3 hours

Time spent painting second coat:  1.5 hours

Time spent, before painting anything, realizing that I had removed all the lighting from the bathroom and wrangling Husband's intense work lights from the garage into the bathroom so I could see:  30 minutes

Number of elevation devices needed:  2 (a stepstool and a ladder)
Number of soccer sandals remaining intact and unripped after painting:  1

Number of insane blurry pictures taken in attempt to document painting task without getting paint on iPhone:  3

Quantity of mess created:  Above average

At this point, I thought I was done painting.  

*Cue Jaws two-note musical motif*

Day 5:  Thinking about removing the tape

Amount of painter's tape removed:  2-6 inches, before wigging out, realizing the paint was coming with the tape, and deciding the paint must not be dry enough yet 

Additional amount of time allocated to let paint dry before removing tape:  24 hours

Day 6:  Removing the tape

Amount of painters tape removed easily:  3 inches
Amount of painters tape that would not be removed at all and remained stuck under the paint:  about 10 feet
Amount of painters tape that started tearing the paint when pulled away:  all the rest
Amount of painters tape removed using indignation and Exacto knives:  all of it minus 3 inches

Amount of residual damage from tape tearing up recently applied paint:  substantial

This was only one small part.
Time spent Googling painter's tape before realizing you are supposed to remove it while the paint is still wet:  20-40 minutes

Number of fixtures rehung:  4 (mirror, lights, towel hook, towel rack)

Day 7:  Sulking

Number of small paintbrushes (for retouching) ordered on  1
Number of shower caddies evidently stolen by gardeners whilst said shower caddy awaited rinsing from death-dust in the yard:  1

Day 8:  Not painting because I was going to dinner with my friend and didn't want to get paint in my hair

Day 9:  Retouching

Number of good feelings about dragging all the ladders in the bathroom again:  0

Average amount of time I left painters tape on the wall: 30 seconds

Total amount of time spent touching up edges and scraping off excess paint on tile: 4 hours

Colors of sandals worn over socks (yes, fellas, I'm taken):  2

Quantity of nap left in dried paint by stupid cheap small roller:  nonzero (so frustrating)

Number of photos taken of the retouching process:  0 (due to total sulkiness)

Day 10 through 22:  Avoiding Thinking About It

Because:  It was so annoying with the tape!  Ugh!
Including:  Not writing a blog post concluding the series

But... drumroll please....

The Final Results!

New art!  That I made!  Surprise!
By the way, the paint TOTALLY covered the staples I put through the rubber baseboard thing into the wall.  So I remain unpersuaded that it is inappropriate to staple your home when necessary.  Frankly, that stapled bit is probably the best construction in this house.

Here's a before-and-after comparison of the room (befores on the left, afters on the right):

I am using the trick of having the bathroom be cleaner in the "after" shot


All in all, I think it looks better, though the difference doesn't show up as starkly in these photos as it does in real life.  The paint is a lot nicer.  I am glad I did it, though I underestimated the difficulty involved in painting crappy drywall.  A bathroom is hard enough to paint when you have to avoid cabinets and tiles, but when the wall itself is bumpy and rotting and otherwise problematic, it makes the task so much harder.  This job was so much harder than it was to paint my old bedroom in my parents' house, for example.  

Also, this whole shebang would have been a lot easier if I'd known you need to remove painter's tape while the paint is still wet.  That added an extra day of work with touch-ups that I might not have needed to do otherwise.  

The bathroom looks nicer now.  But I don't intend to do any more intensive improvements solely for my landlord's benefit.  This would feel a lot more worth it if I owned this house.  And frankly, if I owned this house, I'd hire someone so I didn't have to do it myself.  Though I'm not convinced even a paid painter could have dealt with this crappy drywall all that much better than I did.


Discussion Questions:

Why do you think Liz's gardeners stole her shower caddy out of her backyard? Should she go to the trouble of trying to ascertain their identity from her landlord to confront them with the theft, considering the landlord will probably use the instance somehow to raise Liz's rent?

Friday, October 19, 2012

"You Don't Want to Know Why I Need the Staple Gun": Part 3 of Bathroom Repainting

Today, I tried to put all thoughts of spackle behind me and get a-painting!  The only problem was that I did not get the absolute earliest start I could have because... I slept in until 11 a.m.  And then I had to eat a bowl of cereal and post on the ol' blog, since I have to entertain all you beautiful people with my spackle-related travails.  And then I remembered my paint pants were still in the washing machine after I had washed them last night to get the EVIL DUST out.

My paint pants.  About what you'd expect.
So by the time I started taping the edges of the ceiling and the door and the cabinets, it was about 1 p.m.  I got out the blue tape and started taping.  I actually kind of liked how all the edges looked all blue; it made our boring bathroom look sort of interesting!

Taping itself is pretty boring, though.  First, I called Husband to say hi.  Our phone conversations when he is at work generally go the way they would if I were a puppy who had learned how to talk and use an iPhone:

Liz:  Hi!  Hi!  Hi!  How are you?
Husband:  I'm at work.
Liz:  I know!  What are you doing?  Did you eat lunch yet?  When are you coming home?
Husband:  I have to go to a meeting now.  I'll talk to you later, okay?
Liz:  Okay!  You should come home soon!

It was approximately 1:30 p.m.  

I taped a little more and then realized taping would be so much better with music.  I tried to plug in my iPhone to the stereo and could not figure out how to make it turn on.  I've done it before, but the screen on the stereo is broken so it's hard to tell: 1) whether it is on or off; 2) what input it is currently set on; 3) if it is on mute or not; 4) really anything that might help you play music on it.  

[Aside:  Ironically, Husband's car has the same problem: the display on the stereo is broken so you can't see what radio station you are on or anything.  You just have to keep searching around until you find something decent.  This is ironic because Husband is an engineer who can fix pretty much anything: he's fixed my car in about 9 different ways, he is rebuilding an old car, and it is family lore that even as a child, he used to take apart various home electronics and put them back together to the bafflement of his non-technically-inclined parents.  Apparently stereo displays are his kryptonite?]

I couldn't get the stereo to do anything or in any way indicate that it was involved in the making of sounds.  So I called Husband again, who said he didn't really know how to do it either and I would just have to fiddle with it.  That didn't work, so I got out the tiny little portable speakers and brought them into the bathroom with me.  And then I listened to some Carly Rae and T.Swift for awhile and kept taping.

And then I noticed that the rubber toekick molding (on the wall by the floor) was coming loose from the wall at one place in a way that paint would not effectively cover.  I have been trying to ignore a lot of the problems I have noticed during this project - the problem with looking for flaws to fix is apparently that you find way more than are fixable - but this one was ticking me off.  So I decided to try to glue it back to the wall using the only glue I could find: Mod Podge and a tiny piece of sponge.

If you are looking at that picture and saying, "Girl, that is NOT HAPPENING," well, I am compelled to agree.  It did not work at all.  So I started thinking and the thought came to me:  staple gun.  Staple guns can affix anything to anything.  So I tried to think where the staple gun was but couldn't find it on the work bench.

I called Husband again, and as the phone was ringing I was mentally planning out the conversation: 

Husband:  Why do you need the staple gun?
Liz:  Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to.

... but Husband had developed the good sense to stop answering my phone calls and didn't pick up.  So I hunted around some more using the light app on my iPhone and voila!  I found the staple gun, along with a bunch of types of glue that would have worked way better than Mod Podge.  But by this point I was in staple mode.

I went in, positioned the staple gun perfectly, and ka-chunk.  I moved the gun and looked and there was no staple.  Confused, I wondered if it was out of staples and tried stapling at nothing, but a staple fell out so that wasn't it.  I positioned it again and ka-chunk... and no staple.

My inner voice started screaming "What witchcraft is this?" and that was the moment.  The moment when I became crazy desperate redecorating lady who is a total wreck and will most likely end up destroying her house rather than improving it.  This photo that I accidentally took effectively expresses my feelings at the moment:

And then I realized.  I had been positioning the staple gun upside down so I had actually just stapled into the wall twice.

I was, to use a fine expression, wigging out.  All my wigs were just everywhere.  I ran to the garage and grabbed a tiny pair of pliers and desperately yanked on the staples in the wall, which wouldn't come out because the pliers kept slipping off.  I kept at it and finally, finally, managed to remove both staples and staple the stupid stupid rubber thingy properly.  And that paint had better cover those staples but if I doesn't I don't even care.

You can see them just above the blue tape in the middle.
To calm down, I listened to Good Time three or four more times.  And then put on my C.Rae.Jep Pandora station for awhile.  Until my stupid little speakers ran out of battery, leaving me stupidly confused as to why the music had gone away.

After all of this, I was cranky and hungry so took a break to make trail mix out of chocolate chips and almonds and craisins and pink Himalayan sea salt (because I'm fancy, huh) and then ended up watching several episodes of Property Virgins on HGTV because I was so over taping.

I eventually got back to it.  Taping over the areas around the toilet was challenging because it's right between the vanity and the bathtub, so I was doing a series of moves that, if you replaced the papered-over toilet with a chair, might serve as choreography for Don't Tell Mama from the Broadway musical Cabaret.  I was also having fun covering lovely fixtures like this:

Because heaven forbid THAT get paint on it.  It might look ugly!

Once I had all the edges of things taped up carefully and nicely (because those lines are the lines you get!), I started covering the horizontal surfaces to protect against drips.  This involved emptying out my recycle bin and using old magazines because drop cloths are for sissies. By which I mean professionals.  Professional painters, I am sorry I just called you sissies.  

Those photos are also like a Where's Waldo of the millions of magazine subscriptions I described a little while ago as well as some catalogs.  Try to spot the National Geographic poster of Mauna Kea!  In any case, I may have gone a little overboard with covering stuff, but I'm paranoid about drips.  After all this crap I've been doing, I don't want drips.

By this point, it was getting rather dark in the bathroom because, as you may recall, there is no active light fixture at the moment.  And Husband has this big light thing he uses in the garage, but guess who isn't answering his phone?  So I decided to wait to put on that first coat until he could hook me up with the light and the sun came back in force to that side of the house.  So, tomorrow.  

The ultimate big news is that after three days, I still haven't started painting yet.  I probably could have done one coat if I hadn't started so late and taken that HGTV break, but c'est la vie.  Honestly, the easiest part is yet to come.  All I have to do now on this painting project is paint.  And that's always a good time.  Right?  

The supplies await patiently.
Tomorrow:  the finish line.  (I sincerely hope.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taylor Swift Wrote Me a Song About Spackle: Bathroom Repaint Day 2

This entire post in three words:  I HATE SPACKLE.

On day one, it was all fun and games and throwing up pink frosting on the walls.  Yee-haw.  Then I woke up day two and, after exercising for the pitifully short time that is the most I can handle, was ready ready ready, ready to sand.  Ready to sand that spackle!  This is what the bathroom looked like with the spackle dried:

Unfortunately, looking at it, I realized I needed a little more in a few places.  So I put up a little more here and there, and it went on more smoothly than yesterday.  I smugly decided I was getting the hang of it.

I decided to sand down the areas where I hadn't added any spackle while I waited for the new stuff to dry.  I was about to get my sand on using the sanding block that Husband obviously just had, because he has every tool ever invented, when I glanced at the can of spackle.

HOO BOY was that a lot of warnings about how I was going to die in various painful pulminary ways (okay, maybe it wasn't that graphic) if I breathed in any of the spackle!  I was duly alarmed, as anyone who has studied the asbestos crisis would be (thanks, torts class, for making me afraid of EVERYTHING).  Fortunately, if there's one person I know who would have a NIOSH-approved dust mask lying around the house, it's the one person I'm married to.

So I strapped on THAT sexiness and got to sanding.  And immediately understood why the can was covered in infinite warnings about lung disease because there was fine, ominous white powder EVERYWHERE as soon as I started sanding.  It piled up on every remotely horizontal surface: the windowsill, the tiny edge of the tile, the light switch.  I couldn't take a picture of it because I, too, was COVERED IN DEMON DUST.  It looked like I was throwing an extremely wasteful cocaine party in my bathroom.*

*(I assume?  My knowledge of cocaine parties is limited to an episode of CSI I saw once, and I don't like CSI that much, so I wasn't really paying attention.)

And I realized it was tiring wearing a big old intense mask on an 80 degree day while sanding high up on a wall.  Despite the quantity of dust given off with every motion of the sanding block, it wasn't quick work and I was deeply regretting having put up quite so much spackle yesterday.  After sanding as much as I could without getting at the new spackle I had so happily and carelessly slapped around just a little earlier, I was exhausted and realized I was going to have to do this again once the new spackle dried.  And my heart sank like a nuclear submarine when I remembered I had gone spackle-happy in the other bathroom too, which I'm not even painting - what madness had possessed me?

So I decided to call in the big guns.  But the big guns were still at work for several hours yet.  So I decided to do everything else in the interim.  I started with a dust-removing shower because I don't have a hazmat suit.  I cleaned out everything from the other bathroom so that nothing in there would be contaminated by the dust.  I washed dishes and put away a bunch of clothes (my glamorous life, ladeez and germs) and went to get groceries.  On my way to the grocery store, I went to Home Depot and bought the actual paint, which made me feel a little better that maybe someday this painting project might involve real paint.

I got Behr Premium Plus Ultra because how fancy does that sound?  Also, it's a primer and paint in one so I can just keep throwing up coats of the same thing until it looks good.  I got it in semi-gloss, which lasts longer in the bathroom.  I did not get oil based paint because that stuff is IMPOSSIBLE to clean.  I don't care if the Internet says it lasts even longer in the bathroom.  This house is probably not going to last that long.  I don't need to set some kind of paint-lasting record here.  And it's the guest bathroom anyway.  That's right, I remain defiant.

I also bought a little roller, not just because it was cute, and a thingy to open the paint can because it was 46 cents.  

Then I made dinner for Husband and we watched some HGTV for inspiration and at last, I had an ally in my sanding.  Fortunately, Husband has two intense respirator-type (is this description accurate?) masks.  So we masked up and started sanding.

Since I wasn't sure if Husband had two sanding blocks, I had purchased the blue thing (a sanding sponge with holder) at Home Depot as well.  I used that while he used the block.  It went a lot more quickly with his help, though I was not entirely pleased with this exchange:

Husband:  Why do we have to sand it so much?  Why didn't you just put it up smooth in the first place?

It looked better once sanded.

Once we were done sanding both bathrooms...

Husband:  Are you painting in this bathroom too?
Liz:  No.
Husband:  Why did you spackle everywhere?
Liz:  You told me to!
Husband:  No I didn't.
Liz:  Well, then, um, I thought of it!
Husband:  I thought you were just going to spackle the hole.

Ahem.  Once we were done sanding both bathrooms, both of them were covered in the white dust.  You haven't seen this much dust outside of a vacuum cleaner commercial.

If there wasn't so much white in that bathroom, you could really see how bad it was.  So I got out the vacuum and started using the hose to vacuum off the window sill, the top of the shower wall, the edges of the tile, the tops of the bathtub fixtures... everything.  Everything was covered in it and had to be vacuumed, and it took forever.  And once I had vacuumed everything, then I had to wipe it down with a wet wipe to get the remnants.  And then I was about to die of hating dust, so Husband took over wet-Swiffering the floors because he is the best.  

It seemed that most of the dust was gone, at last.  After necessary de-dusting showers (I was on my second of the day), we then got down to removing the hardware from the bathroom.  Down came the mirror, towel bar, towel ring, and lighting fixture.  So the bathroom looked like this at the end of the day:

And I looked like this:

To sum up:  I HATE SPACKLE.  It takes forever to sand and forever + two hours to clean up and if you don't wear a big ol' mask you might get a lung problem.  As I informed Husband, I am never spackling again.  Me and that can of spackle are never, ever, ever, getting back together.  Ever.