Tuesday, December 30, 2014


     As they say, the family that paints together, stays together. In the end, it took five adults just under four days to paint downstairs plus two-story foyer in my parents' house. Because half the house was on West Coast time, and because my father is a night owl, we never started before noon. But we didn't stop until at least midnight, so there were some long painting days. We finished on Christmas Eve night, which was just enough time to re-install curtains and outlet covers.
     But then we had Christmas:
 Cute creatures. 
Winner of the Best Wrapped Present of 2015. I watched my brother wrap this and it took about 30 minutes of diligent work. My mother certainly couldn't guess what was in it - an electric toothbrush and mittens.
     We had Mexican for dinner: homemade tortillas, pulled chicken and refried beans, and tres leches cake. And many margaritas, of course. I'll definitely make homemade tortillas again. They're no more work than donuts or bagels, and they really made the meal exceptional.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


     I'm back in Ohio for the holidays. The trip here was unpleasant - it lasted hours longer than usual, and involved a sick dog and cat. My car now smells of dog poo, and that's more than you want to know already. I was extremely glad to arrive.
     I am a product of my family: we are a project-doers. My sister-in-law, the architect of many great home painting enterprises in the past, convinced my parents to repaint their living and dining room. They've been meaning to do this since they moved in eight years ago, but never got around to it. Now that we've started, I can see why they have been putting it off. The two-story foyer feeds into the living room, which feeds into the dining room and kitchen, which connects to the hallway. Essentially, we need to paint several thousand square feet of walls in one go.
     My father built a tremendous scaffold and has been repairing walls. My brother is taping, while my sister-in-law and mother are buying paint. I've been steaming off wallpaper. We put the kids to work removing electrical outlet covers. What a productive holiday this will be!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


     I love dressing up, so for the past decade or so I've been throwing fancy dress parties during the holiday season and inviting as many people as I can. I didn't have the heart for it last year, but this year I managed a pretty good shindig.
     When planning parties, my background in cooking and event planning serves me well. In November, I drafted a twenty item to-do list and began my preparations. This included menu planning, making tags to denote gluten free choices, and decorating. I was even lucky enough to score a silk party dress at the thrift store. 
 My friend C came over on the morning of the party. I had already made four batches of cookies, but we needed to make 5 dozen pretzels, soup, 3 dozen mini quiches, soup, and homemade flatbreads. I have vowed that next year I will scale back the menu a bit.
     I can't decide whether I like the picture of the snazzily attired guests or the tired dog more. Ada desperately wanted to go to sleep, but she also couldn't bear to miss the party, which was full of people petting her and dropping tasty morsels. Every quarter hour she would tour the house, wearily nose her bed hopefully, then head back out to hang out with the guests. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Another project

     My friends N and S often ask me how I have enough time to do so many projects, and I always answer the same way - I don't have a television and I don't have kids. (They have two little ones, so they have to be more careful with their time.) So, here's yet another project I've managed to complete before my big Christmas party: refinishing my end table.
     We didn't have room in our previous 350-square-foot apartment for frivolous furniture like coffee tables. So when I moved into my current, large apartment I was looking forward to having a place to set my glass of wine in the evenings. I had trouble finding a nice end table, so I eventually just picked one that looked like it would take a coat of paint and brought it home from the thrift store. Behold it in its former state, dusty and scratched:
     While I was giving it a rough sanding (so that the paint would stick better), I realized that the table was real wood and I started to get bigger ideas of refinishing the piece. Then I sanded some more and realized that parts were particleboard with veneer, and when you sand through that you get a big mess. Eventually, I settled on a mix of refinishing and painting.
     I'm quite pleased with this, especially considering the total outlay was $7: $5 for a busted table and $2 for a new drawer knob, because I had all the other materials and tools from other projects. And for such a small price I had hours of fun sanding and varnishing. I'm not even being snarky - I was pretty happy when I got to spend four hours of a Sunday afternoon sanding. Paying only $5 for the table meant I was willing to see it as an opportunity to learn; at most, I was only wasting my time. 
     The rest of you can just skip this part, but I'm recording the what I learned so I'm ready for the next time. (1) Particle board will take stain, but the clear polyurethane coat just pools on it. (2) Stain smells really bad; if you stain furniture in your bedroom you will have a headache the next morning. (3)The books tell you to sand polyurethane between coats, but they don't mean for you to do that on paint! I had to repaint. (4) The key to a good clear coat is to have a bunch of lamps aimed at your project, so you can see all the little mistakes you made in time to fix them.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Prettying things up

Earlier this year, my friends R&B stopped by for a quick visit. They were on their way to France, and they had arranged a 10-hour layover in DC. Because of they had taken an early flight to DC, B was pretty tired and I offered my bedroom for a nap. At that point I looked around my bedroom and saw it through someone else's eyes. I wasn't too impressed. I use my bedroom for storage, and it looked a little bit like a warehouse. Evidence: 
The bed is lofted a bit for extra storage. The "accent wall" was painted yellow by a previous tenant. The cat's food cabinet is stacked on top of the dog's crate.
The corner shelf, more fitting for a garage, stores all the power tools. The curtains are beige and ripped: I bought them to wrap around furniture when moving to DC, and then temporarily-for-a-year hung them in my bedroom.
     With all my other projects, it took me a few months to get to this, but my bedroom is finally presentable. Evidence:
 I bought pillows, a duvet cover, and fabric from the thrift store, made a bed skirt, and painted the bed frame gold. (Ignore the crazy blue lights - those are Christmas lights.) The landlord had the yellow wall repainted the same white as the rest of the house.
 The cat is more or less permanently installed on the bed. Now that it looks like a bit of a princess bed, I think she finally feels she has found surroundings befitting her.

The tool shelf is clad in curtains. Building the frame for the curtains was the first wood-working project I've done all by myself. I'm quite pleased with it, even if I can't shake the vague feeling that it will all come tumbling down due to poor construction techniques.