Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cayman Bay Reveal

UPDATE: My living room paint job won a silver medal in the Bloggy Olympics Paint Challenge!  Thanks, Primitive & Proper!

Y'all know I love drama.  Well, certain kinds of drama.  Like bright pink doors in a white house, not Real Housewives cat fighting drama.  Okay, I do actually love reality television, but lack of cable has meant I can only watch decorating shows online and fat people fight over a one-pound advantage on network know, the classy stuff.

A few weeks ago, when the Bloggy Olympics began, I saw that painting was one of the challenges.  I didn't want to show off the cheap furniture I paint (you know, the stuff people are throwing away it's in such bad shape), and as we've been talking about recently here at the Kiefer Cottage, we had some bland rooms to tackle.  So instead, I decided to paint the living room and add some drama.

First, the trim.  It looks so much better, but I hate painting this little stuff.  It reminds me of this gross salad served to me when I was four--my parents had to go out of town for the day and put me in drop-in care at a local center, and I cried because the food was bad, including this bowl full of brown lettuce smothered in thousand-island dressing.  Luckily, I got over that. And I also got over the trim painting because it looks so damn good (if I do say so myself, the picture of humility).

Next, the walls.  We tested both bright yellow and navyish blue, and decided the Cayman Bay Paint + Primer by Behr looked beautiful and would be quite dramatic.  I am in love. 

So without further ado, here's our lovely new living room.

Here is what we started with.

We still have plenty of staging to do because this is a bare minimum.

Also, something has to be done about the wood armoire because it disappears in this dark room. Accents should be lighter in here to make everything pop better.  Plus, the kids' chalk art on the piece, while truly unique, lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

And of course, there's the ceiling. When we get to it.  Ahem.

But let's admire the art I've got on the walls so far. My friend Carol Scott's painting looks lovely above the piano.  I also love the photos of the kids by the couch.  We will have to remove the glass in the frames because the glare is overwhelming, but otherwise, they are stunning.  I'm also proud of myself for getting them level and balanced using a piece of chalk and measuring tape (does that make me awesome?  No, Starr, that makes you NORMAL.  Only lazy people hang stuff willy nilly like you usually do. But I saw Sarah Richardson do it on Sarah's Cottage!  Sarah is a goddess with whom you cannot compete.  Stop trying.  Please pass me the whiskey. You're depressing me).

Anyway, the ladies and dog are gorgeous with the new color.  The white balance is a tad off in the photo, but still looks nice.

And the kids did their duty by staying out of the way while we took photos.  That green phantom is Drew baby.  I decided that mattresses on the floor in the girls' room certainly were more pleasant than crying kiddos weeping underneath the piano.

We have a green ghost!
I'm very pleased with how the color turned out.  It was a risk because the lighting in this room is pathetic.  We have no overhead lighting, not even any wiring for it, and the window is obscured by the awning outside, making it fairly cave-like at all hours of the day.  However, I've owned that quality in the room and turned it into something cozy and striking at the same time.  Now if I could only finish it all and get myself featured in House Beautiful.  Will it happen? (No)  Can I dream about it?  (I guess so)

Linking up to the Bloggy Olympics Paint Challenge (week 3), hosted by Primitive & Proper, Craptastic, and The Bold Abode.

Also linked up to Serenity Now, Sweet Little Gals, Domestically Speaking, Nutmeg Place, and Savvy Southern Style.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Planning your fall garden

Before you get your panties in a wad since I'm talking about fall when it's 100 degrees outside, let me say that a little work now will save you time later.  Promise.

If you've been growing any cool weather crops this year--many types of lettuce, broccoli, spinach, etc--then it's likely they're about finished if not already?  I know my neighbor down the street who has a garden the size of my entire yard just tilled up half his bed because we've had very high temperatures around here, making the tender greens bolt and go bitter.  At the Kiefer Cottage, we only successfully got lettuce this spring (the damn cat ruined everything else), so I can't wait to plant some cool weather plants again for harvest this fall.

So what have I been doing?  And what will I do later?  First let me say, I'm not a tilling fan. Tilling is not necessary, it merely seems the most logical thing to do, stirring up the soil to get it all pliant and cooperative.  Some argue, however, that it's actually quite hard on soil to disturb it too much and suggest planting the seed but otherwise leaving the dirt alone.  For me, I'm just lazy and broke, not having the energy to hand-till and not having the money to rent equipment.  So instead, I've been preparing the soil in other ways.

And if you're thinking that my garden isn't doing that great because I didn't rip the soil to shreds before planting...well, I didn't do any prep whatsoever in this bed, just dug little holes in the soil for the seeds and fertilized with fish emulsion (poop) a few weeks later.  My only challenge was whatever pest dug up some of the seeds, leaving my rows a tad uneven.

Kansas Corn.

Grand sunflower plant.
Anyway, in my failed broccoli bed, I planted an annual grass, which would be considered "Green Manure" in this case since it acts to restore nutrients to the soil without actually using real poop. 

My green manure.  It's a little sad because of the drought, but it's done its duty already.

Very soon, I'll put heavy layers of newspaper over it in a few weeks to kill the grass, and then layer compost, real manure, and whatever else I feel like on top of it all.  That will help build up the soil.  If you've got a weedy bed you'd like to use, put cardboard down because it's heavier and will keep the weeds from breaking through, wet it down with the hose, and then put all the other ingredients (compost, manure, etc).  Do it NOW if you can.  It all needs a few weeks to settle down.  

Note: It is okay if the compost isn't fully done doing its magic and is still has scraps in it.  Just make sure there's a good mix of the food scraps and brown stuff (newspaper, dried leaves) so it all rots in a balanced fashion.  I've even planted herbs straight into half-finished compost and they've thrived.

You should also be thinking about seeds.  You don't want to be scrambling when it comes time to plant, which could be as early as mid-July in the Kansas City area (just google it for yours).  So make your orders or stop by the nursery to pick up whatever seeds you'd like--if you have time, do it this weekend and mark your calendar for when they should go in the ground.

Another consideration, and this goes for any gardening, regardless of time of year, is your tree cover in the yard. If you want to be a serious vegetable gardener, you'll have much more success if you have lots of sun. We had to remove lots of trees because some were dying and others were in the way of the new electrical line we had put in last year.  Now we get plenty of sunshine in the yard, hours and hours of it per day with just enough shade to keep us cooler to play but not enough to dwarf the plants.  I read in one book that vegetables are something like 90% sunshine, so keep that in mind if you have dreams of a record crop and barely a lick of light popping through the green canopy.  You'll either have to cut down some trees or adapt your plans to include more shade friendly plants rather than sun-loving veggies.

Overall, I'm not a gardening expert. I still don't know much about companion planting or how to keep pests away without spraying them (that's why my plants have been eaten up some...I mean, a lot).

But I turned this:

Into this:

And I'm not going to say it was all luck since I've had gardens for years but never one this successful!

If you aren't planning on a fall vegetable crop (because you don't feel like it or because your zone just isn't conducive to it), then let your gardening dreams rest in the back of your mind until the end of summer. The best time to prepare your spring garden will be at that time. Don't worry, I'll remind you again.  I'll remind you so many times that you'd like to reach through the interwebs and strangle me.

P.S. Remember the orphaned pumpkin seedlings from earlier this year?  While the one in the front yard died because it didn't get enough water or sun, one of the vines is happy enough to have started some fruit:

I can't wait to see if this plant produces a mutant gourd!

I've linked up to Savvy Southern Style.

Monday, June 25, 2012

All the credit goes to Winslow

Y'all know I tend to avoid most parenting topics because honestly, there are plenty of folks out there who have lots to say about what we should and should not be doing (most of whom are usually *way off* in my experience).  But I thought I'd share what's happened in our family that could help you if you've got little kids in the house.

Winslow has potty-trained herself.  The past week has gone beautifully, beginning with her throwing a fit over wearing a diaper.  So except for our road trip Saturday, she has been diaper-free, even at night.

The lesson?  That kids do things in their own time.  Remember how Katie was 3.99999 years of age before finally getting on board?  Well, Winslow is only 2.5, and we hadn't really begun to think about potty training. She initiated everything and made what could've been a very time-consuming (for me) and frustrating (for both of us) experience very easy.

Mind of her own, that child.
Now I know why some people are so smug about their kids not using diapers anymore.  Many are taking credit for something that probably would've happened anyway.  I learned long ago that my children are influenced by me, but certainly aren't under my control 100%, and they are their own people.  I don't parent the kids differently and yet they are miles apart in personality and temperament.  But I've been mocked and laughed at and told I'm a lazy mother for not forcing the toilet on the kids. Even well-meaning folks' brags about how easy it was felt like stabs to the heart since with Katie, our earlier attempts had been miserable and had resulted in total failure.  Thank goodness I'm over that now and can move on to turning my kids into musical prodigies and wiffle ball experts.

For Drew-baby, I'm sure we'll take the same laissez-faire approach, and I'm also sure we'll still be told we're late to the party and that he'll be calling me to wipe his bottom from his dorm room in college.  I will just smile and change the subject to things like third-world dictators since that's much more interesting and relevant.

As for dangerous thinking, I am allowing myself to fantasize about not buying diapers again until my children have their own children.  It might happen in the next year since Winslow is so close in age to Drew. And then I'll be rich with all the extra money I'm not spending on diapers!  And there'll be nothing more to worry about ever again since all that matters is perfect toilet training!  Oh, the possibilities.

P.S. Don't worry, I won't talk about potty-training again anytime soon, although I might talk about my new toilet, which is the most awesome throne ever to be shat in.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Daddy's Gone, Momma Goes Nuts

I know I'm already cuh-razy, but this weekend has put me over the line into absolutely insane.  Ryan's been in California galavanting with his childhood friend Brandon, ogling hot women, eating good food (currywurst?), and sleeping in.  So what have I been doing?  Painting?  Cleaning? Being otherwise productive?

Nope, not this gal.  I've been trying to just hold it together.

While I was on the phone with Ryan, my youngest two decided to make toilet paper art.  And then when I snapped a photo, they both hid their faces like common criminals (or celebrities).

Yesterday, we got our chickens from Padgett Pasture. I brought my camera along, but decided that posting photos of chickens being slaughtered might offend even the most sarcastic of my readers (the snarkier the person, the more sensitive she is, I've learned). The girls made notable observations about the process, saying "I don't think the chickens like being killed" and "Mom, it stinks out here!" and "That chicken will taste good once Mommy cooks it."  Drew played in the mud.

My friend and neighbor invited us over for dinner, and when we got home, everyone collapsed.

The cake of pain.
Out of sheer loneliness, I then made a cake.  Because I was suffering a great depression from missing my husband, and I'd been dreaming of a good tiramisu for weeks, I decided to make a melancholy (read: easy) version that even the saddest (laziest) of bakers could tackle, and even made up the recipe myself, adding in a few tweaks to make it chocolatey (only for its medicinal properties of course).

After finally getting a slice a couple of hours later, I fell asleep, making up for the lost hours from the night before.  I missed having Ryan around to get up in the middle of the night when I hear suspicious noises, and I even missed the whiffs of dragon breath that linger as he rolls over.

Thankfully, Ryan returns this afternoon.  And the children have been well-behaved.  And I've got loads of leftover cake to make me feel better.

Tiramisu for Dummies*
1 Box of Yellow Cake Mix (plus whatever the box calls for)
1/4 c. brandy

A cup of strong coffee or espresso 
Sugar to taste

Mini chocolate chips

8 oz Mascarpone
2 c. whipping cream
Powdered sugar to taste (at least 1/2 c.)

1. Make cake according to box instructions, putting in a tad less oil and adding the brandy.  Bake in a 9x13 pan that's been greased.  (My box said 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, which was perfect)

2.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Make your coffee--I used Ryan's Moka, but made regular coffee--and add in enough sugar to make it sweet.  

3. Poke holes in the cake with a fork, every half inch or so.  Brush the coffee onto the cake. I wasn't very generous with it and the cake could've used more.  Next time I might just pour the coffee onto the cake.

4. Dump a lot of mini chocolate chips onto the cake.  Enough to cover the whole cake.  Wait a few minutes while the chips melt. Use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate across the top of the cake (a spoon might work too).  Let cool an hour or so.

5. Let the Mascarpone (or cream cheese if you don't have the Italian cheese) soften up.  Take it out of the carton and stir it up a little.  Use your mixer to whip up the cream and powdered sugar until it hold medium soft peaks.  Add in a little bit of it to the cheese to get it all incorporated. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Top the cake with the mixture.  Refrigerate.

My "icing" was lumpy because I didn't work too hard to mix everything up well.  But honestly, it's still tasty and allowed me to drown my sorrows a bit.

Send cool thoughts to us here in Kansas. The forecast predicts temps over 100 today.  Thank goodness Ryan got me that box of white wine before he left!

*This is tiramisu in the vaguest fashion ever.  If you get on my case about it not being authentic, I'm going to send you photos of chickens being "processed". 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Get the chicken, silly!

I'm supposed to take the kids with me to buy chicken today at a farm in St. Joseph, and if I don't put it out there on the interwebs, I'll forget.

Thanks for helping me remember.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm a celebrity: Part Deux

Have you ever heard of the blog People I Want to Punch in the Throat?

Jen, the blogger, is hilarious and speaks big truth about life in the midst of great wealth and homogeneity.  And she is also local to me, living down in Overland Park, which is a swankier suburb of Johnson County, KS.  For the record, I live in the "affordable" (AKA run-down) northern territory of the county where young couples move to get underwater on their cute two bedroom houses and old people go to die.  We are Joco wannabes, but she's enmeshed in the real-deal suburban Kansas culture.

Tonight, she hosted a get-together for her readers, and I went.  I learned a few things tonight:

1) I might have a hearing problem.  I felt like I could barely hear myself speak this evening. Those who know me well understand how weird that is considering I am a loud mouth with an unpleasantly piercing voice. (I think I spotted Ryan wearing ear plugs the other day. Hon, at least have the courtesy of getting flesh colored ones. Pink just isn't your color)

2) I have learned to censor myself a lot in the past few years.  Or at least I keep my thoughts to myself until I can write it down in a completely *private* venue like a blog or on Facebook.  I miss speaking my mind and should do it more often.

3) I love Tiramisu, but have only had it good once.  Tonight was not that night.  Why do I bother ordering it when I know it's gonna suck big time?

I had a good time, although if you can believe it, I felt like I barely spoke at all.  So few got to experience my winning personality and better-than-average sense of humor.  Maybe next time I'll speak up and walk out with a new BFF.  This evening, I ran out around 9pm because my Spanx were killing me.

Anyway, here's me and Jen!  We sat next to each other, and she actually touched my arm a few times. I won't be washing my left shoulder for a few days to savor the experience a bit longer.

An actual blue haired woman!
Seriously, she was seated right next to me, but she guards her privacy pretty darn closely (I would too if I said anything of importance), so I let my little blue-haired friend stand in for Jen.  Good thing I was wearing one of my suitable for public consumption shirts (of which I only have two) or else I would've looked like a major fashion victim.  Don't laugh.  Forget I talked about myself and used the word "fashion" in the same sentence!

This is the second Kansas City celebrity I've met in the past year.  It's because I'm so incredibly awesome.  Jen might not be preparing a lemon souffle with sweetbreads and parsnip puree, but she is saying what we're all thinking. Thank goodness somebody is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wild tomatoes

Just a couple of months ago...
A few tomato seedlings and the slime mold.
And today:

There were two zucchini plants on the front right, but one got dug up by a cat. The other is thriving. You see the one in the middle has gone crazy!

I'm thinking lasagna gardening, AKA sheet composting, really works.
The tomato vines have taken over the west side of the garden.

Baby squashes are ready to harvest.

The same variety of patty pan squash grew to two very different sizes.  Makes me wonder, has Ryan been peeing on one and not the other (fess up, hubband)?  Or perhaps it was that damn cat again.

See those leaves that don't look like squash?

While I was weeding I noticed a plant hidden in one of the squash giants.  It's toward the bottom of the photo.

It's a tomato vine. How did that happen? I didn't plant one there.  It's either wild (yeah, right) or some phantom pulled up a seedling and placed it here, at least 6 feet away from the others. I can't wait to find out what variety it is.  I know it's heirloom because the hybrids I bought are all intact.  

Drew says, "Mom, I moved the tomato vine. Or maybe I just pooped my pants!"

"Not me," says Katie.  "I'm too busy dressing myself for a night on the town."

"Yes, I did it!  I'm a Misfit today (a la Jem)!" Winslow admits.  "And yes, Drew does have a poop."

Perhaps it *was* one of the kids.  They look like they're up to no good, don't they?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Blogging Anniversary--my first million bucks...or do I mean million nunchucks?

Many of my blogging friends have just celebrated a year, too.  Some have created little Top Ten Lists outlining what they've learned.  Well, I've learned a few things, too.

1) Content is irrelevant if you give awesome stuff away.  I've been to some awful blogs written in glorified text-speak (LULZ galore!) with zillions of devoted fans because they give away embroidered pillows.  No one wanted my breast pump (and I'm still really surprised by that--who wouldn't want a device meant to milk me like a cow??), and I'm at a loss as to what my readers really want.  Y'all are just so mysterious.  I'm considering a cash giveaway, maybe one in which readers guess how much change I can find in the couch cushions and whoever is closest without going over gets it all.

Remember our first project at the house?

2) There are it-girls and wannabes in Bloglandia (thankfully, there aren't that many of them--most people are pretty sincere).  I'm neither, but is that surprising?  I don't enjoy making vignettes, I don't have inspirational quotes on the wall, and light gray is my least favorite color on the spectrum, even after sage green, which is one of the worst shades of boring ever.  And that Ektorp sofa, which is fine for others and even looks nice in many houses, will never have a place in my home.  I have paintings of strangers on my walls, which apparently is kind of odd in the land of design blogs.  I like to think I'm just emulating old money from the British Empire (haven't you seen all those portraits in Downton Abbey?), but maybe I'm just a weirdo. Okay, it's confirmed that I'm a weirdo.  Thankfully, I revel in that.

One of the few completed rooms in the house.

3) You have to spend money to make money.  The most successful bloggers have lots of resources. Sometimes, money. Sometimes, time. Often, both.  I have neither.  I don't even have grandparents around to help with the kids every now and then.

For now, this blog is just for fun, and I've loved building my teeny tiny fandom and getting all the private messages from readers telling me how much they enjoy reading about my family.  When I first started, I'd spend hours burning the midnight oil, posting to zillions of linky parties and coming up with awesome (and expensive) projects for us to complete, but I've slowed down a lot.  I piddle around on Twitter, but after a few days of posting, I forget about it for awhile.  Perhaps I should start up a Facebook fan page since all the cool kids have done it--we'll see about that.  These days, since I'm often blogging with two kids in my lap and another wailing, I figure getting a few posts a week out is enough and sharing at the parties every now and then will have to suffice.  The creation of an empire will just have to wait.

Funnest Halloween Ever.

4) There are some very nice people out there in the ether.  I knew that before this year, but I've loved getting to know some fellow bloggers.  This next year, I'm committed to spending a little more time networking with them.

A gay wedding in NYC!

5) I hate crafting.  It's just not my thing. Making wreaths from old sheet music?  Not for me.  Someone else can tackle that project. Luckily, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people out there who will fill those shoes, tell me all about it, and try to sell it to me.  While they're doing that, I'll be at the flea market buying more paintings of people I don't know.

The lime green freezer everyone's talking about.

6) Home design Bloglandia is mainly populated by white women.  I'd like to see some more women of color out there.  Diversity keeps conformity at bay and usually leads to more innovation--in design, in theory, in practice.

7) I can't make it through a top ten list without smirking, laughing at myself for taking it too seriously, and eventually drawing a blank.  I think I'm done for now.

Protoplasm in the backyard!

Anyway, we plan to keep on truckin' this year here at The Kiefer Cottage. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The old carpet that wasn't

The stairwell to the master bedroom is steep, creaky, and most certainly not up to code.

It's also nigh unto ugly.  Of course, it could've been worse... the previous owners' carpet from the first listing of the house. The carpeting extended into the family room, the small downstairs hallway and the stairwell.  The home was on the market for 6 months in this state.  The family then ripped it out, revealing hardwood in a couple of rooms.

4739 Delmar St, Roeland Park, KS 66205

Really special.

For the past year, I've cursed the carpeting on the stairs because I thought it was old and dusty and I knew that it didn't allow me to shut the door in the dining room.  Since I've been getting enough Vitamin D lately (thank you, summer), making my energy levels soar, I decided that it was time to deal with that shaggy mess once and for all.  I called in the calvary.


Thankfully, Ryan was up to the task.  All I did was ask him to start pulling it up.

Once he got it all up, I asked him when it was made.

In 2011.  That awful stuff is practically brand new.  Infuriating!  I even kind of knew it was relatively new and still felt a little mad.  What made it worse is that the staples and tack strips required about two hours of labor for a space that is quite small.  There's also leftover rubber stuff that had been glued to the stairs. Who knows how old that is, although the lack of finish on the tops of the steps makes me think the rubber is original to the house.

Rubbery stuff, holes in the wall on the left.

After.  I mean, Progress.

For the rest of the house,the upside to the new carpet is that at least we're not living with animal smells or other owners' spills and such.  The downside is that the carpet will not last very long in the other spaces.  It's matted down and looks so aged, despite its relative youth.  Unfortunately, pulling it all up won't quite work because it's not hardwood underneath (it's an addition and probably has just subfloor).  So we shall have to wait for a windfall (please, if you're rich and about to die, put me in your will for posterity's sake.  Let's say you're named Amelia.  We'll name the family room floor the Amelia Memorial Hardwood Floor in your memory and a few hundred blog readers will see it and think kindly of you).

Anyway, now we have to make the stairs pretty.  We're happy that the door closes now, and I actually love that it's a bit noisier heading upstairs because it has been too easy for the kids to sneak up on us in the mornings.

We'll repair the holes and try to deal with the leftover rubbery stuff.  I'm thinking we'll paint them a light color. For now, though, I really like the rustic, needs-work look. I prefer it to the cheap carpet band-aid style that it had going before.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dinosaur computer done in by huge asteroid

Ryan used his birthday money last year to buy himself a little netbook, and then passed his Gateway laptop down to me.  My own netbook had been acting very foolish, so his ancient (4 year old) computer felt like an upgrade.

Not for long.

For the past couple of months, it's been turning itself off, taking a long time to load even the simplest thing, giving me the dreaded blue screen. And yesterday, it threatened to take its last breath.  Everything's backed up, but it's time to get a new computer.  

The Laptop in hospice. We're keeping it comfortable for now.

Mudderpucker, I didn't want to spend money on this.  We'll hopefully make about $100 selling the two old computers to offset the cost of the new one, but I'm still bummed.  

Some people would be able to use their iPads or ultra-smart phones in the meantime, but we have no such things.  We've kept our house free of expensive devices in order to meet our other financial goals (including vacation next year).  Anything we do have has been a gift or acquired through odd jobs.  The van is our only car, I dress like I rolled out of the rag bag, and whatever we do purchase is used and usually quite inexpensive.  So that makes buying something new even harder for me to stomach.

Good side?  Large monitors are inexpensive, so that'll be nice.  And this will be a desktop computer, meaning we'll get more for our money.  Plus, this one won't overheat like the oversized laptops often do.  So at least spending the money will have benefits.  

Over the next few months, if I'm not around as much, assume I'm on the corner selling lemonade and peddling homemade sweaters I make from our carpet lint to help our budget out.

P.S. While I know there are people who go without computers in their homes, that's something I just won't do.  I'm at home without the car half the week and enjoy using the internet to connect with others. And one day, I will figure out how to use the webs to make millions (selling lawn chairs, for instance).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Punishing Work: Trim Painting

I've decided there's a special place in hell where really bad people have to paint trim for eternity. Window trim, to be specific. When I say "really bad people" I'm thinking of folks who confuse they're/there/their all the time. Get it right, folks, and you'll be spared such torture.

What trim am I talking about? The living room windows and baseboards, of course.


Without the "period" window treatments.
Three coats of stain blocking primer and two coats of thick paint later (Glidden Duo in Crisp Linen White), and we're just about done.  I think we still have a little touching up to do, and then there's the painter's tape removal, which will require a knife so I don't peel off a layer of paint.

Notice how the walls look so much more attractive with the white trim.

Almost finished.

That dark picture is with our new moody Cayman Bay paint!  

Just kidding. We had a power outage last night, and this is the living room with no lights on in the morning.  Cave, even with light paint on the walls.

We also painted in the dining room, including the door to the master bedroom.  

Door to the upstairs. BEFORE.

I had been railing on the doors recently, demanding we find new ones.  But with a fresh white, I can live with what we've got...for now (P.S. looks yellow in the photo--it's bright white in real life).

And here I shall address the naysayers who are screaming at their screens, "How DARE you paint over that beautiful dark trim!"

I hate to break it to you this way, over the internets and all instead of face-to-face, but the trim was in sad shape.  It had been refinished at some point by a well-meaning amateur.  You know how you're supposed to apply stain and then wipe it off?  There was no wipeage to be seen.  You can see the brush strokes from the stain on every last window and door in the house.  Then Cousin Larry applied shiny varnish to enhance the lovely (strange) strokes of brown.  Beautiful from afar and ugly as you approach.

Anyway, the dark stain was bringing our house down.  The white trim has lightened the feel of the two rooms so much that I could almost live with the color on the walls except that now I have spackle and paint samples all over them.  So there shall be new paint.

To conclude I will give you a few tips on painting trim:

1) Do it first before painting the walls, that way you'll use less tape.
2) For the windows, if you have those little panes, start with a totally fresh brush. If it's a used brush, cut off any crazy bristles.
3) Use as little paint as possible for those tiny pieces.  Drips will be a problem when you're putting coat after coat, so the less paint the better.  At the same time, use enough that you get decent coverage.  
4) Start with the little crevices first and end with the long strokes on the larger trim.  It's so satisfying to put in those long strokes after needling into those corners and nooks and crannies.  Consider it a stretch after doing 100 leg lifts.  
5) If the wood is very dark, buy the thickest and nicest stain blocking primer you can afford.  Last year, I tried out the "green" Kilz and honestly, it sucked.  We used the Kilz Premium this time, and it's a much better product.
6) If you have more money than I, outsource this work to a professional. Or buy new windows that don't have the intricate detail!

Still left in the living room: Wall paint, ceiling installation, crown molding, and finding a large piece of art.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Testing Paint Colors

When you pick paint colors, how do you do it?

What I used to do: Go to the paint store, preferably right before closing since I decide at 9:30pm that I have to paint a wall TONIGHT.  Go through a few tiny paint chips.  Buy a gallon of one color.  Try it out on the wall when I get home and since I've already spent $25 on a gallon, I use it whether I like the color or not.

These days, the paint stores have made it easier on us.  First of all, the paint chips are often quite large to give consumers a better idea of what the color looks like.  Better yet, though, they have made small paint samples inexpensive and easy to acquire.  A 7-8 oz jar (around $3) is enough to put several large squares all over the wall so you can test the color. You want to make sure it doesn't clash with the Picasso, right?  So instead of jumping in both feet first, you can buy a few jars and try on that apple green or sky blue.

Near the front door.

I recommend trying the colors out in multiple locations.

Next to the lamp.  And also on the back wall near dark furniture.
 You'll want to see how it looks with natural light as well as with lamps and overhead fixtures on.

On a wall in the dining room.
Why bother?  Well, I'm so glad we tested out the Warm Gold in both rooms because in the living room, it is lemony and almost florescent.  In the dining room, photographed in the last picture, it is much warmer, almost like mustard.  

I also held up some art pieces I own to make sure the colors go together well.  One painting didn't look so good with the gold, so it will have to be in the living room instead.  

The Warm Gold will definitely go in the dining room now, and the Cayman Bay was a hit for the living room.  While the blue is moodier than I had expected, I wanted something dramatic, and this shade fits the bill.  So now we're in the process of covering up holes and taping the windows for primer.

P.S. If you'd like to see the paint chips and examples, see this post.

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