Monday, March 26, 2012

If you never try then you'll never know...

(Post title, in case you didn't recognize it, is from "Fix You" by Coldplay. Love them.) Anyway, the reason for the blog title is that I decided to get ambitious with my time off. Perhaps a little too ambitious. I mention yesterday that I wanted to remove the wallpaper in our half bath. First, I will go through some steps. Keep in mind, these should work if the wallpaper was put up correctly. Unfortunately, the builders of our house were idiots took some shortcuts. I think we already knew this from the fine electrical job they did, but this was added reinforcement.

Here's what the half bath looked like Sunday morning.

First, I removed everything from the walls.

And plugged in the steamer. It took about 20 minutes to start steaming.

In the meantime, I scored the wallpaper with my knife.

Once the steamer was ready, I held the steamer to the wall. And waited and waited. Ideally, the steamer  loosens the wallpaper glue.

And then you would scrape it off.

However, I ran into a large snag. The wallpaper was affixed directly to the drywall with absolutely nothing in between. No primer, no layer of anything. Nothing. And the glue was strong stuff. Which meant that the paper layers of the drywall would come right off with the wallpaper. It was a disaster. I wasn't sure what to do.


So, I spent some time talking to my parents today. And we all came to the conclusion that the walls must come down. I ended up calling a general contractor who came out to look at our bathroom mess. I think we are going to actually overhaul the whole bathroom at this point. Replace the vanity with something nicer, get a new toilet, new walls. I think it will be great, and am pretty excited about sprucing up the bathroom. And it will be nice to see how the contractor does on a small project in order to determine whether we use him for a big project in the future. I also discovered that the previous owners had painted over the existing wallpaper in another bathroom (not telling which one). Not sure what to do about that. I was kinda fuming when I figured it out (I was noticing that the corners of the room were curved).

But my day was not completely unproductive. I had a plumber come in to put in a new main water valve (finally). This had been a problem on the home inspection. It was one of those old gate valves (with the pin) and the inspector had been too nervous about it to switch it off. It was also tucked behind the washer so it was unreachable. I don't have a before picture, but I had the plumber move the valve up to the height of the washer and install a lever valve. Neither of us were comfortable doing this type of work ourselves, so it was nice to get that checked off the list.

Also, my new vacuum came in! It is a Miele Salsa. I really liked using it for the first time. It did a great job, and the house already feels cleaner.

I also went to the nearby garden center and picked up a few things for the Spring. I plan on planting tomorrow, but I also picked up some silk flowers for a vase I had lying around (empty). The house definitely feels more Springlike.

And I saw 2 of these little birds for $1.60 a piece, and thought they would look nice on the dining room table.

I'm also working on some Spring cleaning and organizing. I'm hoping to feel like the house is put together by the time I go back to work. We'll see... :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Wrap Up

This Friday was my last day of work. It was very bittersweet and a nice send off. In the meantime, I have 2 weeks off, in which I am hoping to be productive. After work, I went to see The Hunger Games with 2 of my friends. As you remember, I enjoyed the book, and I was quite looking forward to going to see the movie. A word of warning... you may want to skip down a bit if you haven't see the movie (I'm also going to be mentioning my current project).

For starters, the camera is really shaky for the first 15 minutes of the movie (and only slightly improves for the remainder of the film). I found it pretty hard to watch. While I thought that actress who played Katniss did a good job, I wasn't sure she really fit the image in my head very well. In the book, she is described as starving, and Jennifer Lawrence just looked too well-fed, tall, and muscular to me. (Just to clarify, I am not advocating for someone to starve themselves to play a part. But I would have picked someone naturally of a different build to play the part.) Peeta was also supposed to be a tall, well-built guy, and he is played by an actor who is quite short and not that muscular. I think that Woody Harrelson did a great job as Haymitch, and fit the image in my head pretty well. The Capitol was well put together, and the movie did a good job of showing the huge disparity between the Capitol and the Districts. Unfortunately, I felt like much of the movie was taken up in scenes of Katniss staring out into space, instead of real character development. I felt like the movie took a long time to lead up to the start of the games, and then skimped on the character relational developments that happen during the game. The development between Rue and Katniss is shortened far too much. In the book, they exchange stories, and have a real connection. Katniss thinks of Rue like Primrose. But I definitely did not get that from the movie. So, instead, you feel very little when Rue dies, and yet you watch Katniss mourn quite extensively on screen, which doesn't seem to make much sense (unless you read the book). I also felt like the tension between Katniss and Peeta was underplayed. You know that Katniss is clueless, but Peeta's emotions are not well-understood. Overall, I wanted more from the movie. I wanted the book experience on film. There are always modifications when you go to film from a book (i.e. Harry Potter), but it didn't feel like they were making the most of the screen time available. I didn't need to watch Katniss starting into space looking confused and scared quite so much. I was happy they shortened the Cato scene at the end. That was nice. However, it felt like there was something missing from the end when Katniss and Peeta almost eat the berries. That part seemed bland to me and I don't know why. Maybe because I knew that moment has significant meaning in the book, but it felt rushed and almost unfeeling in the movie. Overall, I had quite a bit of criticism for the movie, more so than I have had for other book series turned movie. Perhaps there was a bit too much hype surrounding the movie. It was fun to go see it, and I would like to watch it again (on DVD). I'm sure other people loved it, so this is just my own 2 cents. And I am not trying to be overly negative. I did like the film, but I liked the film because I liked the book.

Back to projects. I am currently in the middle of sprucing up our half bath on the main floor. And by sprucing up, I mean stripping the wallpaper. So, our bathroom was looking like a disaster this afternoon.

I'm going to have way more details in another post (when I finish). Let's just say this was a large task and I am super grateful that my former co-worker sold me his steamer before I left. I hope this will be worth it in the end...

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A New Wreath

Who else is excited for the Hunger Games coming out this weekend?!? I'm so excited to see it with 2 of my best friends on Friday! Every time the commercial comes on, I get really giddy. Friday is also my last day of work (so double win?).

Anyway, this post was not intended to be about the Hunger Games, so moving on... Tonight, I tackled a project that had been sitting on my to-do list ever since Christmas. I made a new Spring wreath! I started with a form from Michaels and some spare fabric I had bought at a while ago.

I then cut the fabric into strips and wrapped the strips around the form, hot-gluing along the way.

And here is the completed form.

I hot glued a loop to fasten it to the front door...

... and a bow I made from smaller strips and some Pottery Barn potpourri to dress it up. And here she is! It was late, so I didn't take a picture from the front. Maybe when I get some flowers planted... I like the simplicity of the new wreath and I think it will fancy up the front a bit.

And as promised, here are a couple pictures of the completed fireplace with decor added.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Spring has definitely sprung here, and the trees and flowers all seem to be in bloom. My life has been mimicking the renewal of spring, as I have just this week accepted a new job. Since this has been my first job transition, it has been pretty hard to make the decision and to actually leave my first job. Some people are so fed up with their job when they leave that it is a completely happy experience to put in that 2 weeks notice. I confess this has not been the case for me. I really enjoyed my time at this job (although I obviously have many reasons for leaving too) and I am stepping into the unknown. I am both scared and sentimental. However, deep down, I still know it is the right decision. I'm looking forward to being challenged and for a change of pace. J also continuously reminds me that I have a bad case of graduation goggles, as described in HIMYM's the Exploding Meatball Sub episode. (I considered embedding the scene into the blog, but I couldn't find it online, and didn't want to go through the effort of ripping the episode from the DVD, parsing the out the part I was interested in, violating copyright, and posting it here - I hope you understand). It basically describes that as you are leaving a place, even if you hated it while you were there, you suddenly get really sentimental once it becomes real. I'm going to say that graduation goggles explain my spontaneous weeping over the past week. I think after this next week (aka my final week), my emotions will change back to the incredible excitement I felt when I got the job offer. Anyway, we shall see how it all turns out... 

These are some pictures of the trees in back of the house. Aren't they looking beautiful? This is our first bloom with us in the house.

After we went on a run today, J and I cleaned up the front a little. Here are some before pictures. Notice the weeds and the leaves.

And here it is after. We do need to get some flowers planted and put down some mulch, but we will get there eventually.

In the midst of this crazy week I have been having, I did get the change to tackle an art project. I found this idea here, and I thought it would be a good addition to our master bedroom. Basically, I wanted to make silhouette artwork. I started with this picture from our wedding. 

I then enlarged both of our profiles, and printed them out. 

And used modge podge to glue them onto some canvases.

And making sure they dried flat.

I then cut thin strips of construction paper and glued them to the edge of the canvas. Please ignore the horribly chipping paint on my nails.

Here is the finished product, drying on the table. I didn't mean to have us facing away from each other in this photo.

I then attached ribbons to the back of the canvas and hung them up using the ribbons. 

I think they look pretty cute, but we will see if I change my mind down the road on these. 

And before I forget, Happy St. Patty's Day! J and I spent most of the day doing some car shopping. :) More on that one later... 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First Carpentry Project: It's Hammer Time!

You have by now thought that I have forgotten about my blog and my lovely readers. But, even though it has been a while, I assure you that I have remembered. And have been working quite diligently on my latest project. It isn't quite finished, but it is close enough to share some results.

This was our mantle.

It was basically an unfinished slab of wood over our fireplace. It was ugly and I wanted to fix it. So, this past weekend, J and I went to Home Depot to see what we might be able to do about it. We came home with a large board and some trim pieces that I thought would look good. But the trim wasn't quite wide enough to cover the wood plank, which I had no intention of removing. So, off I went back to Home Depot. I ended up finding another trim piece that could be attached to the trim pieces I had already bought to make the trim the size I needed. Oh, except I had to make another trip back to Home Depot with J the next day because the saws in the store were so bad I couldn't cut through the piece I needed. Actually, at one point, this guy who was watching me struggling unsuccessfully asked if he could help by holding the end of the wood piece. I told him that the stability of the piece was really not causing me difficulty. And he replied, "Sorry, I'm not mechanically inclined." Who says that? And why offer to help if you aren't actually going to help? And why are you in Home Depot if you aren't "mechanically inclined"? Anyway.... back to the project.

First, I took care of my big plank of wood. It was a few inches longer than I needed, so I used my (new!) square edge to make a line.

And went outside to make my cut. Now, I don't have any sort of fancy electric saw, so all of my cuts were using hand saws. Needless to say, I ended up being really sore by Monday.

After I made my cut, I sanded the board down, first with a medium sand sponge and followed with 220 grit fine sanding paper to make the wood nice and smooth.

I then primed my board. This primer was recommended by one of my favorite blogs, and I rather liked using it too.

While that was drying, I started making my cuts for the trim. I picked up this box (miter box) from Home Depot. It isn't as awesome as a miter saw, but it was affordable. I used a Japanese pull saw to make the miter cuts. And it really did work decently well despite being a lot of work.

After making all of my trim cuts and making sure everything would align, I used liquid nails to glue the two pieces of trim together.

After applying the liquid nails, I taped the pieces together until they were cured (24 hours).

Back to my board. After everything was dry, I drilled holes into the board and existing mantle and screwed the board to the mantle. I used wood screws and made sure to recess them into the board.

I covered my screws with a little wood putty.

Meanwhile, my trim pieces had cured and were ready to be assembled. I don't have pictures, but I basically nailed the long piece in first and the two smaller pieces in after. And I used a nail set to recess the nails.

The trim pieces were not perfectly aligned so I did some adjusting with wood putty to make the seams meet up.

In some places, a lot of wood putty.

Once the wood putty was dried and sanded and smooth, I painted. I used Sherwin Williams cabinet and trim paint in Snowbound. Here she is after one coat. I plan on finishing it up with a few more coats of paint. I will then have to let it set for a week or so before I put anything up there. I am thinking of painting the bricks white to match as well. I think that would look better. But the mantle is looking sooo much better.

In other news, I also scooped up these kitchen rugs from Joss and Main (Vera Bradley rugs at a crazy discount). I love them for the kitchen and they match our existing blue accents!

I'll keep sharing more photos as I wrap up this project!