Monday, November 29, 2010

Cheapie Shades

Window treatments are a problem for me.  I know what I don't like, but finding something that I do like and can live with isn't always easy.  Part of it is that I have too many choices.  I go to the stores and stand there, slack-jawed, staring at all the fabrics and colors and getting increasingly confused.  Part of it is that my idea of what I do want is usually something like "I'll know it when I see it". 

After almost two years of having nothing on the dining room windows but sheers, I ended up with this:

(In real life the drapes don't look quite so much like wrapping paper.)
I really need to take the steamer to those wrinky curtains...Anyhow, what's there now is pretty much the antithesis of what was there before, a gigantic cornice about two feet high that stuck way out from the wall and was upholstered in light blue and moss green velvet with gold and green gimp braid, above balloon valances also of velvet, yards and yards of velvet drapes with giant gold plastic sunflower tiebacks, light green sheers, and roller shades in apple green.  Ick.  Much too much. 

Until last week, I just had sheers and drapes up there, but that let in too much light and too much of the view of my neighbor's side porch.  While I was looking for old-fashioned fabric roller shades with scalloped edges, I somehow came across this:

That's General Grant's house in Galena, Illinois.  I fell in love with those roller shades (and everything else in the room, too) but couldn't find any like them.  So I made a cheaped-out version of them myself.  See?

Those are El Cheapo plastic roller shades from Wal-Mart, retailing at $5 per shade.  (I think the actual brand name is Magic Fit, and it's a subsidiary of Levolor.)  They come in plain white.   That design on the shade I did myself.  I traced an element of the wallpaper onto a piece of plain stencil plastic, tediously cut it out with a utility knife, taped it onto the shade with painter's tape, and then colored in the stencil with a Sharpie paint marker in Metallic Gold.  Although the shades are white, once they're covered by the pale gold sheers they don't look so stark. 
General Grant's house it ain't, but I think it works.  For now.

Since then, my faithful reader Karen Anne has told me about the Ann Wallace website, which sells fabric roller shades--exactly what I was looking for.  They also carry a variety of Arts & Crafts stencils, too.  Beautiful stuff on that website, and I will probably upgrade to the nicer fabric shades with the scalloped edges.  I won't feel bad doing so since I have less than 30 bucks (including shades, hardware, stencil blank and paint marker) in the cheapie shades I DIY'd.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Natural Forces

I had planned to show y'all the roller shades I DIY'd for the dining room, but I cannot seem to find my camera in the wreckage and chaos of my house. So instead, I'll share one of the songs that kept me sane (at least partially) during the long nightmare of papering the dining room.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crazier Than Average

I strongly suspect that my household is crazier than average.  Not just because I live here (and I do believe my insanity has been well-documented over the past four years) but because I share my house with four cats and a dog who are also crazy. 

Take, for example, my decision to remove the hideous chandelier from the dining room and replace it with a new one.  Most people could accomplish this, I reckon, in about an hour.  Not me.  Three hours, two Woodchucks, animal-herding that should've been filmed so I could later appear on Letterman, numerous bad swears, a trip to WTB's garage, and I was done. 

First of all, everyone knows that before you begin any electrical work, you have to shut off the power to that part of the house.  For me, that involves corralling four cats and a dog who don't particularly tolerate each other well into one room so that I can access the breaker box in the scary basement via a heavy trap door in the back porch floor.  An intelligent person might first check to see that she was not locking the animals in a room containing items she might later need, such as a screwdriver and a cell phone.  I am not that person.  It was only after all five of them were in the bedroom, snarling and wailing, that I remembered the screwdriver.  So I opened the door, retrieved the screwdriver, snatched up one of the escaping cats (Louis), tossed him back in the bedroom, and slammed the door.  Mean Little Marie regarded me balefully from atop the kitchen table.  I grabbed her, opened the bedroom door, dropped her on the bed, and almost shut the door on Libbi as she ran out.  Picked up Libbi, opened the door again, spied my cellphone on the floor, shoved Libbi into the room, blocked Marie's escape attempt as I snatched up the phone, and slammed the door again. 

I called my momma to let her know that I'd be descending into the scary basement and later climbing a ladder, located the appropriate breaker, flipped it off (hee hee...flipped it off...hee hee) and took down the old chandelier without too much trouble.  But when I tried to hang the new chandelier, I discovered that the bolt that goes into the outlet box was too short.  So I did what I always do when I run into trouble with the house and I called White Trash Bob.  He said I should come over because he has a whole drawer of lamp parts and surely he had something that would work.  Now I ask, you, who has a whole drawer of spare lamp parts, including a bolt that's just the right length?  No one but WTB, that's who.  And of course, because he just happened to be doing nothing at all on a perfectly nice Sunday afternoon, he walked back to my house with me to help me hang the new chandelier.  Which didn't work after we put a couple of bulbs in it and I ran downstairs to turn the breaker back on.  We took the whole thing back down again and quickly discovered that when I tightened the electrical cap, I left a little piece of the wire poking out the top.  I took the cap off, re-twisted the wires, put the cap back on, ran downstairs to flip the breaker again and this time we had a working light.  Wahoo.

Then WTB and I went for a walk during which he somehow tripped over the curb, fell down and dramatically rolled along the sidewalk.  You'd think that since I've been answering 911 calls about all sorts of mayhem for a little over ten years that I could maybe remain calm in a situation like this.  Not so much.  I shrieked, "Oh my God!!  Oh my God!!"  He said, "How in the hell did that happen?" as he uprighted himself.  I felt a little bit like the Pope's bodyguards must have felt when the Popemobile was fired upon some years ago.  Not to worry, WTB is unscathed but for his pride. 

And the dining room's starting to look kinda nice, don'tcha think?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Wallpaper Is Done

As I type this, it is 2:46 in the morning and I am listening to Ray Charles croon "Georgia On My Mind".  I have a big smear of wallpaper paste across my chest and my back is killing me, but the dining room wallpaper is done.  There's a big trash bag full of wallpaper scraps next to the table, the scissors and tape measure and utility knife are scattered on the floor, but the dining room wallpaper is done.  I still have to stick down a couple of seams that keep popping up, and I see now that I forgot to piece in a strip of paper between the bottom of two windows and the baseboard.  I still have to move my great-grandma's china cabinet back against the wall and put all the pretties back in it, the floor needs to be swept, and all the junk on the dining room table needs to find a home or be thrown away.  I need to take some "after" pics when all that gets finished up.  But the wallpaper is done. 

I am done with the wallpaper. Done using my bathtub as a wallpaper tray.  Done hauling 11-foot-long strips of wet paper through the bathroom, my bedroom, a parlor and into the dining room.  Done climbing up and down a ladder.  Done having flashbacks of falling off the ladder every time I reach up to trim the paper.  Done.

That is...done for now.  I just ordered the perfect wallpaper for the entryway...

Monday, November 15, 2010

All Hail White Trash Bob

So this morning I got up extra-super-early like normal people do (8 a.m.) in order to make some serious progress on staining the fence.  With my sharp math skills, I calculated that if it took me almost three hours to stain both sides of a 3-foot section of fence, I still had about a bazillion hours to go.  There I was slaving away, paintbrush in hand and paint roller in the tray on the grass beside me, slowly staining the fence and cursing whichever furry occupant of my house gnawed one of the earpieces completely off the earbuds for my mp3 player.  (The remaining one doesn't work now.)  Staining a fence is so much more tedious without Bruce Springsteen.

And who should walk down the alley at that moment but White Trash Bob.  "You know, that would go a lot faster if you had a paint sprayer," he keenly observed.

"I know it would.  I sure wish I had one," I replied.  He gave me a look as if I were not quite bright.  Then it occurred to me:  some weeks ago, WTB had told me he'd loan me his sprayer.  Oh.  I really am not quite bright.  Especially at 8 in the morning.

So we walked across the street to fetch the sprayer, which is a really nice Wagner airless sprayer that, as it turns out, makes short work of staining a fence.  Forty-five minutes later I was better than halfway done with the fence, and out of stain.  This necessitated a trip to the Blue Box Store.  There are two stores 40 minutes away from me, one to the west and one to the south, so I thought I'd better thoroughly clean the sprayer so it wouldn't gunk up while I was gone.  You just can't mummify a sprayer in plastic wrap like you can a paintbrush to keep it wet til you come back later.  So I thoroughly cleaned it. 

Now here is the part where I prove beyond any doubt that I am not quite bright.  It wasn't until my return from the Blue Box Store almost two hours later that I remembered WTB's admonition to spray water through the thing to get all the little nooks and crannies clean.  (That's not bright, but it's not the stupidest thing I did today.  Just you wait.)  Still assembling the sprayer, I walked outside to my back yard.  My back yard that is covered in thousands and thousands and thousands of wet leaves.  I filled the hopper thingy with water, turned the sprayer on high, pulled the trigger, and blasted the yard in a big sweeping arc.  The sprayer didn't spray quite right.  Hmm, what could be the problem?  Perhaps it is clogged with stain.  I upended the sprayer to look at the nozzle.  (Here comes the stupidest thing I did today--prepare yourselves.)  Hold on.  This is so not-bright that it requires visual aids to fully demonstrate the depth and breadth of my stupidity.
Wagner paint sprayer.  Note guide-thingy at far left.

It was then that I recalled sticking the spray-pattern-guide-thingy in my jacket pocket.  Without the spray-pattern-guide-thingy, there's nothing to hold the plunger-nozzle-thingy in place. 

Piston (at left); 2 itty-bitty-plunger-thingys (at right)
The plunger thingy is about half an inch long and about a quarter-inch in diameter.  I had just ejected it from the sprayer into the ocean of leaves in my back yard.  Oh schidt.  I called the Mom & Pop Hardware Store in my teeny hometown to see if they sell replacement parts for Wagner sprayers.  As I was tapping in the phone number, the futility of this occurred to me.  They never have anything I need.  Ever.  They lived up to those expectations again today.  So I called the hardware store/lumberyard across the river, which always has everything I need.  Always.  They disappointed me today.  "Lowe's or Home Depot probably has one, hun," the lady there said.  They probably do...but I just left there...and if I drive all the way back down there again today there won't be enough daylight by the time I get back to finish the fence...but if I don't, I can't finish the fence today anyway....

About this point in my train of thought, WTB came walking up the alley.

"How's it going?" he asked brightly.

I thought I'd better just confess straight away.  "Well, um, I sorta lost the little plunger thingy..." I replied, not brightly.

"Oh, did you wash it down the sink?  Happens all the time," WTB said.

I studied my paint-spattered shoes.  "No, I, um," I sighed.  "It's  like this, Bob, I sprayed it out into the yard."

This startled him.  He looked at the sprayer, then at the yard, then back at me.  Then the enormity of my stupidity dawned on him.  And he laughed.  He guffawed.  He threw back his head and fairly brayed.  When he was finished saying "Ooooh....wheee....ooohhh" and wiping away the tears he said, "Well, that's no problem, you can just get another one for me at Mom & Pop's."

"They don't have one, " I said.  "And before you ask, neither does the place across the river."

"You need some more stain anyway, just pick one up when you go down there," he said. 

I pointed to the shiny new can of stain.  "Just came from there," I said.  "Before I lost the thingy."

"Oh," he said.

 "Well then," he said. 

"Hmm," he said. 

And then instead of hollering at me about what an idiot I am (which is what would happen, I think, if WTB were more like 97% of the men in the world) he went home and MacGuyvered a thingy from another sprayer to make it work so that I could finish staining my fence today.  All hail White Trash Bob.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One At A Time

I have decided to take an entirely new approach to the inside-the-Kelly-House projects.  Something novel.  Something unheard of.  Get this:  I am going to focus on one room at a time.  What?  That's what everyone does, you say?  Well, okay, maybe so.  But it's not what I do.  At least not so far.  What I do is work on one thing in one room until I get bored with it, which sometimes is an hour and sometimes is a week or so, and then I move on to something else in a totally different room.  Nothing gets truly finished and the whole house looks like a disaster zone. 

So, because I started wallpapering the dining room (again, after an 8-month hiatus) last week and got on a roll, I'm sticking with it.  Only four more big strips of wallpaper to go and then some piecing-in around the windows and the dratted wallpaper will be done.  Which is not to say the room will be done.  I still need to paint the trim around one window and half the baseboards.  The ugly chandelier in there has got to go.  Tuesday night I decided the room would be prettier if the china cabinet and the buffet swapped places.  The rest of the drapes and sheers are waiting to be hung, and the windows could really use some roller shades.  We'll pretend for now that the floor does not need to be refinished until I decide whether to give Joey my life savings or do it myself.  Then I can do some fun stuff like buying artwork and maybe making a plate wall.  And then, the dining room will be done. 

And then, and only then, after all of that is really and truly done, can I move on to the next room.  Like maybe one of the three rooms that need painted-over wallpaper removed and picture rail put up.  Sigh. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Was The Grasshopper

I had four days off and the weather was bee-yoo-tee-ful.  Warm, not a cloud in the sky, more like May than November.  And I played.  I went out Saturday night and stayed out way past the time change, had plenty of girl talk with Heather and Janice, went ridin' on White Trash Bob's new Harley, ate supper with my bestie Sharon, saw a movie with Reed (yes, that Reed), made myself sesame noodles for supper three times, and ran around my neighborhood with Libbi-Dog.

In between all of that I did manage to set out eight bags of mulched leaves for the town's dump truck to pick up, and I stained an entire section of my picket fence.  Well, okay, that section's only three feet long, but still, it was one whole section.  And, as I type this, I have just five more strips of wallpaper to hang in the dining room.  Not the most productive four days I've ever had, but it sure was the most fun four days I've had in a while.

My pal Kevin thought it was foolish to fritter away four days like that.  "You'll be sorry when winter comes and all that stuff you have to do isn't done," he warned grumpily.

"I guess that makes you the ant and me the grasshopper," I replied with a wide grin. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Airing Dirty Laundry

Louis, the favorite of my cats (don't tell the others, okay?) went missing earlier this week.  I was carrying in groceries and he slipped out the door and ran under Gwen and Floyd's front porch.  At the time I was tired from working all night the night before and cranky and my throat hurt, so I didn't reach under there and drag him out by one leg like I usually do.  He always comes right back, I told myself.  So I went in the house, put away the groceries, and did a few little chores...but Louis didn't come back.  I went outside with a measuring cup of food and called "Louuuuuuis, here Louuuuuuissss!" while shaking the cup of food, a never-fail trick.  It failed.  I walked up and down the alley and around the block and didn't spot him anywhere.  He wasn't crouched under the steps of my side porch or slinking among Gwen's raspberries and tomatoes or climbing Martha's dogwood tree.  So, reluctantly, I went to bed.  Two hours later I woke up when I thought I heard him meowing and ran to the back door.  No Louis.  He still wasn't home when I left for work that night, so I texted my son and daughter-in-law and asked them to come by and look for him later.  He didn't show himself to them, either.  The next morning I raced home quick as I could, sure Louis would be standing by the back door indignantly.  He wasn't.  Twenty-four hours missing.  He'd never been gone this long.  I began to worry. 

I put a "Missing Cat" notice as my status on Facebook, which generated a lot of sympathy from my friends and family but no sightings of little Louis.  I appealed to my friend Laura, the Cat Whisperer, for advice.  She was at work and couldn't check Facebook, but our friend Christy posted this:  "When my cat was missing, Laura told me to put out a basket of dirty laundry.  I did and my cat came right back."  Willing to try anything, and always having a basket of dirty laundry available, I morosely set it out by the back door and went in the kitchen to have a medicinal Woodchuck.  Thirty-two hours missing.

Half a Woodchuck later, I heard a very tiny, hoarse little "meow".  I ran to the back door, flung it open, and there was Louis, laying on the patio next to the laundry basket.  I scooped him up and he snuggled his head under my chin and squeaked "meow".  He was filthy dirty, hoarse, starving and thirsty, but overall none the worse for wear and tear. 

I joyfully called my sister to let her know that the prodigal cat had returned.  "Way to air your dirty laundry, sissa," she laughed.  So, I am passing the Cat Whisperer's advice on to y'all:  if the cat goes missing, air out the dirty laundry.  I don't know how or why it works, but it does.  And I am certainly happy for that.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Facing My Fears

I did it.  I faced my fear of the indoor ladder.  Or, more precisely, I faced my fear of falling from the indoor ladder.  Ever since February, when I plunged off the top of my old aluminum ladder onto my hiney and my left wrist while hanging wallpaper in the dining room and ended up in the local ER, I've been afraid to get back up there again.  I bought a new ladder.  I climbed it to do some cutting-in when I (briefly) started painting the parlor again.  I dragged the ladder into the dining room.  But every time I tried to scale it to start on the wallpaper again, my hands got sweaty and my heart raced.  Returning to the scene of the accident, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago at Taco Night I confessed this to my friend Cookie, expecting sympathy.  "Oh, for Pete's sake!" he said, "Just get up there and do it!"

"But, but--" I began.

"But my ass!" he said.  (Which was actually pretty funny and had both of us laughing for a good two minutes.)  "No buts.  Just do it.  What's your other option, cheapskate?  Paying somebody to finish the wallpaper?"

Well, no.  Of course not.  Me, pay someone else to do something?  Heavens no.

So Monday night I climbed up there.  The new ladder is taller and sturdier than the old one.  That's a good thing, because I have 11-foot ceilings in my house.  I'm pretty sure the reason I fell earlier this year is because a 7-foot stepladder isn't tall enough to safely stand on while trimming paper at the junction of wall and ceiling 11 feet from the floor.  I was standing one rung above the warning label that reads "Do Not Stand Above This Rung" and stretching up into the corner of the room, utility knife in hand, when the crappy ladder gave way.  I'm lucky I didn't cut my own throat with that utility knife on the way down.  (Instead, I put a deep gouge in the dining room floor.)

Anyway, I climbed up there for the first time since February...and nothing terrible happened.  I put up one strip, and then another, and then another.  Then I took everything out of my great-grandma's china cabinet (which took almost an hour because my grandma's glass shoe collection--about 60 little glass shoes--is in there along with about a thousand other things) and moved the china cabinet out of the way and hung up some more paper.  And then more paper.  And then I went to bed.

And then Tuesday I woke up sort of early (about 1 p.m.) and started in again.  This damnable paper is really hard to match.  Get it even and nicely matched at the top, and halfway down it starts to go wonky.  Straighten that out, and it's crooked at the top again.  Repeat twenty times per strip. 

The good news is, after all of that, the dining room wallpaper is almost finished!  Only three-fourths of one wall is unpapered.  The bad news is, I was on a roll and I had to interrupt it by going to my paying job for three nights.  I'll be back at it Saturday afternoon.  And then, there will be pictures.