Tuesday, October 20, 2009

House Warming Party!

After working INSANE hours for weeks (evidenced by the time of this post) and never seeing Jon except in the photographs on my blog, we decided to add a fun element to our lives by hosting a house warming party.

Now...we may seem crazy. The house is currently half covered in plastic sheeting (I mean the inside) to protect everything from the dust of our renovations. And we are NOWHERE close to being finished. I mean...it will be years. But, we're going to keep it low key and fun. At least, I'm trying to despite the ugly perfectionist in me that's fighting to come out and take over.

So, first came the invitations:
Lately, I've been loving the mail. We had our 3 year anniversary last week and I got a bunch of cards (and all my magazines arrived too) and it reminded me how much I love the U.S. Postal Service. Receiving a letter feels like Christmas. I just love them. So...I decided to send real invitations using the actual postal service for our party. I couldn't afford anything fancy, but I wanted to get creative.

Several weeks ago, I stumbled on this cute antique shop in Hallowell (4 miles from my house) which had an amazing selection of old postcards. I bought up the whole stack of Maine themed postcards (20 for $1 to $2 a piece = total of $30.00) and sent them as invitations. I could have gotten much more creative with the envelope, but my insane job limits my time/creativity way more than I'd prefer. I tried to match the card to each recipient's interests or personality. Here is a sampling of the invitiations:

Upper left: "Greetings from Maine" Upper right: "Deer in Maine" Lower left: "A River Road in Maine" Lower right: "A Maine Potato Farm""Nut cracker in Maine""Surf Scene on Maine Coast""The Gardiner-Randolph Bridge" (I wish it still looked like this!)

"Lunch time in Maine" (sent to two of my favorite Maine parents)

(I forgot to add the time of our party to this invitation...luckily...I only did that once!)

So now that the invites are out, the RSVPs are rolling in. I think we'll have about 30 people. The next thing I need to worry about is food. Anyone have good hors d'ouevres ideas/recipes? Please comment and help me out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Susanna's Strategies for a Successful Paint Job

Sure...there are tips all over the web for a good paint job, but I have some others that I've learned the hard way...and are absolutely NECESSARY for success. I hope they help you the next time you have to paint.

1. Never ever underestimate the power of primer (I suggest High Hiding Primer- Valspar is the brand I used on this job, and I was impressed).

2. If you are painting drywall for the first time, ABSOLUTELY 100% make sure you have all the drywall dust off the walls. I learned this the hard way. If you paint on top of the dust - even just a little - painters tape will take off all your hard work...because the dust prevents the primer from sticking to the dry wall. I guess I thought I could cheat...

3. Listen to music and specifically songs that tell stories (I think these are ballads?). Such as anything Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Ray LaMontagne, Band of Horses, Neil Simon, Emmie Lou Harris, Loretta Lynn, and throw in some Dixie Chicks to pick up the pace. I sincerely think Maine and its plethora of country radio is getting to me. Really, just listen to whatever you can zone out to and enjoy. I found myself lost in the stories that I was listening to while painting. When do we ever get 4-8 hours to do something mindless and listen to music? It definitely made the process more enjoyable!

4. Always paint with a wet edge. What does this mean? Instead of painting the whole room, and then painting the edges, break up your room into different sections- mainly wall by wall. Paint the center part of the wall with a roller and then while it's still wet, do the edges. When you move to the next wall, wrap the edge paint brush in a wet paper towel to keep it from drying out too much before you need it again. This will make sure you don't see ridges between the rolled center and the brushed edge.

5. A good roller and a good paint brush are definitely worth the money. I ALWAYS choose the Purdy brand.

Okay, so those are my tips. I really debated whether or not to put these photos up. We choose a blue color for the walls in our bedroom. It's a FreshAire Choice brand of paint- ecofriendly and no VOCs. I figure I'll be sleeping *hopefully* 8 hours per night in this room so I certainly don't want to be breathing paint offgas for years to come! The color we choose is called Summer Dragonfly. You can see it in the Waterscape Palette on the FreshAire Choice website.

On the website, you'll probably say: wow, how soothing. Perfect for a bedroom. And that's what I think. However...the color as it appears in these photographs is totally different from the color as it appears in reality. You'll just have to trust me! We also finished the ceiling since I took these photos. Holy hell was that long and neck-breaking. 2 coats of primer...but only one 1 coat of high gloss Glacial Tint! We still have to prime and paint the wood work. See the cool design on the woodwork- we matched it to the rest of the woodwork in our house.

Oh yes, those prison windows have been replaced since the photo was taken too. Thank goodness.

Here you can see a bit of the hell that was the floor. It looks so much better now...pictures soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Floors = pain

When we tore up that gross red carpet in the back bedroom we found old wide plank floors underneath. They appeared to be in great condition except for one small problem: they were covered in layers and layers of paint. The paint was likely very old (i.e. lead?) and two tone. The middle of the floor was gold in color and the outside was dark brown. I was VERY concerned about sanding: if the paint contained lead, sanding would make the lead airborne...which is the worst way to be exposed. I figured we already exposed ourselves to some pretty terrible toxins during demolition...no matter how careful we were. So we got some paint stripper...a biodegradable variety...and tried that. The layer of brown paint wiped off with a paper towel, but the stripper didn't even disturb the gold or approximately 30 layers underneath the gold.

So what to do?

When we lived in our Carriage House in Providence, the previous owners had painted the exposed beams. We had to scrape the beams to uncover the gorgeous wood underneath and Jon still had the scraper we used, so he tried it on the floors. Success.

However...exposing a few beams is one thing. Scraping an entire floor is a whole other nightmare. Jon actually sweat through his shorts. I've never seen that before. I understand sweating through a shirt...but shorts? And the whole time he was doing this he had to wear a respirator...which made it a doubly awful task. Try breathing heavily into a respirator...

So then we rented a commercial grade, EPA approved sander. Awesome, right? Well...remember that our house is over 100 years old. The floorboards aren't necessarily level. In fact most of them are bowed one way or the other. So putting a big belt sander on top, will only really work on part of the board. Ugh. But at least it helped a little.

All in all we estimate that the whole process took Jon about F-O-R-T-Y hours. I felt so bad. Sincerely awful.

In the process, we found a layer of old newspaper under the paint in one corner. Weird right? Why would they have put paint down and then painted on top? Who knows...but we did get to scrap up a few pieces that are even readable. Take a look: