Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And on and on and on

Still busy!  Surprised?  I think this is just the state of my life.  I'm teaching an on-line course, traveling three weeks in a row (MD, WI, & CA), still trying desperately to put the finishing touches on my novel, and doing yet another home improvement project.  

When we bought this current house, we knew we would have to deal with all the honey oak woodwork in the house because it clashed with the newer cherry floors that the previous owner had installed in a number of rooms.  We've been slowly painting a lot of the trim white, but we hadn't tackled the stair rails yet because we knew we had to wait for good weather so we could keep the windows open for ventilation.  We didn't think we should just pant them all white, so we settled on staining the rails and posts, then painting the spindles white, like is shown on this stock photo on top.

We weren't sure how the oak would look with cherry stain, but plowed ahead anyway.  Thus began the extensive taping job to make sure stain didn't get on everything.  This picture above shows the first coat of cherry stain on the top three treads, while the bottom three are the original oak.

In this picture above, you can see the problem in this house.  We have oak against cherry and it looks bad, unfinished.  Whereas we were able to overlook this in the purchase of this house, we can't guarantee the next buyer will.  We need to get a good price for this house when we sell it, so we need to make sure everything is repaired and updated.

In this picture above, the riser for that step used to be oak, along with the banister.  You can see what I mean in the previous picture.  This is with two coats of stain on it.  Because the cherry floor is a combination of light and dark boards, two coats of stain brings the oak in line with the lighter boards.  I'm going to do a third coat, to darken it just a bit more, before beginning painting all the spindles white.

So here's the semi-finished project.  I did everything up to the first landing.  I still have to tackle the second flight of stairs and the upstairs railings.

I'm pleased with how it looks from a distance, but not up close.  I used a product that has stain and polyurethane all in one, thinking it would be quicker and easier.  It wasn't.  It dripped despite my best efforts.  Any error in the brushing, I had to sand everything off and start over, because touch ups were very obvious.  As it turns out, there's much better quality control with regular stain.  Also, I used painter's tape around the spindles, but when I went to remove the tape, even though I razored the edges, it still pulled up some of the stain, as you can see in the next photo.

I have to keep using the same product since half the rails and stairs are already done in this color and finish, but if I ever have to stain again, I won't use an all-in-one product again.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


I had read that young people were responsible for a good portion of the British upset vote, then I saw this and had to laugh.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

On nature

I was reminded again today, via a story on NPR about the health benefits of being in nature, about how much I live outdoors.  I have a large dog, who doesn't believe in using his own yard for a toilet, so that necessitates a minimum of three walks per day.  Frequently he gets four walks, and he gets lectured about how spoiled he is when he gets five walks in a day. The walks are a minimum of thirty minutes, and at least one walk per day is an hour, and sometimes an hour and a half.  

We are very fortunate to live on an island outside a major city where two state parks are located, and a few local parks.  We also live on the back side of a golf course, so there are a number of places we can go to walk or hike.  Just last week I began jogging again.  We'll see how long that lasts.

My friends on FB say they look forward to my daily posts because I post pictures of where I am, and the beautiful things I witness in nature.  Even now, I am sitting outside with my iPad while writing this, and I can hear the wind, the birds, and the deep hum of my baritone windchimes.  The sun is dappling down on me through the branches of the trees.  The scents in the air range from fresh cut grass to wet soil, to scents of flowers on nearby trees.  Oops, there's the scent of creosote, yuck!  Someone must be getting their driveway coated.

My dog is my excuse to get outside, but really, he makes it possible for me to safely wander and explore any place I want.  I've explored well-worn trails.  I've blazed new trails.  I've gotten to see things in various shades of light depending on the time of day and weather, and in various seasons, that  I've now come to realize too many people will never get to experience.  They either don't have, or don't make the time to get outside, or they're unable to climb and hike to all the quiet spots I find.  

I don't know how long this phase of my life will last where I have the time, the means to travel, and the physical ability to still hike and climb around like a kid with her dog, but I am going to use every moment I have to get out in nature, because it makes me happy.  It makes me feel connected to the world around me, and I know from tromping around with others, that it is keeping me fit and healthy.  I am very lucky.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

General Antiope

So we saw the new Wonder Woman last Sunday.  It did not disappoint.  I got totally lost in the movie, lost all sense of time and didn't even think about being in a movie theatre.  That's a good movie for me when I can forget about my surroundings and everything.

I don't want to take away from the movie, but I have to say, the biggest scene stealer had to be Robin Wright as General Antiope.  The instant she came on the screen, she commanded absolute attention.  I couldn't stop looking at her magnificence!  She was perfect in the role of an Amazonian General.  

She was physically the perfect female and so ripped in a feminine way, not bulky like guys, that you could believe she was a warrior.  She exuded power, confidence, and wisdom, all the attributes women wish they possessed in equal measure.

It didn't appear that she held anything back in her battle scenes, so fierce and aggressive were her moves, that they seemed natural and believable.  For all the great moments in this movie, the few minutes General Antiope was on the screen, were my favorite.  I wanted to see more of her.  I wanted to learn her story, her history.  She was magnificent!  A friend noted that she was glad the princesses of her youth (Princess Leia and Princess Buttercup) became Generals in the end.

Friday, June 2, 2017

My first carpentry project

I'm still busy with school (summer) and home projects.  The laundry room took me longer than expected because I could only work on it in my free time.  I had to empty the room, remove a cabinet and shelving, remove a popcorn ceiling, then skim coat and sand.  Next came painting, then the building of a mudroom bench in the closet.

So the laundry room is right as you come in the back door from the garage.  This is the main door we use.  So this room would tend to get cluttered with coats, shoes, bags, etc.  I wanted one of those mudroom benches with cubby boxes that I'd been seeing in magazines for years, but I didn't have a thousand dollars to pay someone to build it.  

So as I was studying pictures of benches on-line, I thought,  "how hard could it be to build one?"  Keep in mind that I've never built any carpentry project in my life.  I'd repaired furniture, stairs, and things other people had built, but I'd never built anything myself. So as I was looking at pictures, I began to deconstuct the photos in my mind, to figure out all the parts.  I also looked at plans other people posted on-line.

I fiugred out that basically you had horizontal shelves that had to be supported.  That was the first thing to figure out.  Then you had to make it look good and trim it out with molding.  So I began piece by piece.

I knew I wanted plenty of hooks to hang things, shelves to store things, and I only had a mitre saw to work with.  I measured the width of my closet and figured out what size boards I would need, and had the hardware store cut the big pieces for me.  I cut the side shelves and trim.  I bought the decorative supports ready-made.  

I also ended up painting the closet twice because the pale green paint I originally had in there just looked dingy, so I changed it to a darker yellow.  I then had the fun of decorating.  The room is so narrow that I couldn't get a good shot from directly in front, so these shots will have to do.

All in all, I'm happy with the result.  There are errors on it, but I think it turned out well for my first attempt at building something.