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This time of year brings out my inner OCD/ADHD beast.  Like a real shrew, it’s small, hyperactive and has a voracious appetite.  Like the aptly named figure in Shakespeare’s story, it is difficult to tame.  My shrew(d) monster yearns to lay waste to messy closets and gut the cluttered cabinets …at least until something else captures its attention.  It was briefly awakened last fall when I ogled IKEA’s closet organizers; I came home and  announced to Mr. Official that all I really wanted for my birthday was a weekend trip to Atlanta and return with everything to re-do the closets. I then made myself wait until after the holidays to start tracking down the specific gadgets and gizmos that promise to bring peace, harmony, tranquility and organizational nirvana to my world.

Now that the holidays are over, and my birthday is looming large, I began the hunt.  After a few hours okay, days (if we’re being honest) of ferocious internet hunting, I found myself with a wish-list of to-do’s as long as my arm, and arguably more expensive than said limb.  Organization doesn’t come cheap.  At least not the pretty kind.

Then reality and frugality set in.  For starters, once I had the measurements sketched it out on paper, I had to accept a bitter pill:  the IKEA pieces that had danced like sugarplums in my head were too big – and just too expensive – for the space. After scaling back my dreams, I found a modest system with a natural cherry finish I really wanted.  And then I discovered it was on clearance.  A few months ago.  Not only can I not get that style for a song, I can’t scrounge up the pieces I would need at any price, period.  Sigh.

Back to square one.  To further complicate things, all those online expeditions had me dreaming up myriads of other home improvement schemes…painting, curtains, bedroom redux, stairwell photo gallery, framing the mirrors in the bathroom…the list goes on.  Eventually the mist cleared and sanity took back its rightful place in my head.

  • First of all I can’t do everything all at once.
  • Second, I’m quick to want but slow to spend $$$ on semi-permanent fixtures (like closet systems or paint jobs.)
  • Third, I know myself well enough to know that no matter how feverishly I organize, if I don’t maintain it, all is for naught.

That said, we have lived here for almost two years and beyond painting the bedrooms when we moved in, I’ve held off from any drastic changes or expenditures. So here’s my 2013 wish list, in order of intended purchase and installation:

1. Master bedroom closets.  Our closets are not huge by modern standards (each is 72″ x 68″ x 47″ x 44″ with an angled door), but they are palatial compared to past closets, especially the one in our last home.

The builder installed wire shelving in these closets.  (Yes, I know it’s the cheapest option.  I also know what this house sold for originally and in that price range, you should not find wire shelving in the closets.)  I’d like to say I’m not a shelving snob, but I confess, I am.  If you can have built-in closet storage without taking food from your children’s mouths, it’s worth it.

The builder also committed the heinous crime of painting the closet walls white.  In a house that does not have a white wall anywhere else (save the garage), they painted the closets and pantry white. Gah.  Before I can install the new closet fittings, I’ll have to remove all the contents and the wire shelves, patch the holes and paint the closets (and the bathroom, while I’m at it, because it doesn’t match the bedroom.)  I predict several days of dealing with clothes everywhere.  Ugh.

The plan is to install stacks of white corner shelves, rubbed oil bronze clothing rods with white shelves and side pieces, lots of shoe shelves (for me) and storage towers with drawers and cubbies for my jumbled jewelry and scarves, and a hamper in Mr. Official’s closet for his dry cleaning.

And maybe even some snazzy new lighting to make it easier to see our stuff.

After much measuring, fretting, re-measuring and comparing various systems, I’ve settled on pieces that will – I hope – optimize the space and storage, and give the look of custom built-ins without the hefty pricetag of custom built-ins. Something that looks like this:

My original IKEA dream closets would have cost $1400 per closet.  The bill for my smaller and more modest-priced pieces will come at about 25% of that.  I’m taming the shrew(d) beast.

And if all goes well, for my second act…

2. Kitchen cabinet makeover.  I love my kitchen’s size and openness.  I love the massive granite island and having a second sink across from the stove, and a coffee bar.  But I don’t love that the base cabinets are bereft of pull-out drawers.  Our last home had a kitchen that clocked in at 90 square feet. When we bought cabinets for it, I ordered double pull-outs in every base cabinet and it was worth every extra penny.

However, I’ve found a source for aftermarket two-tiered pullouts and pull-out racks for baking sheets.  No more squatting on creaking knees to fish out a pan from the bottom of the stack in the furthest, darkest depths of my cabinets. The total bill comes to $400 plus shipping.  Another frugal victory; both closets and all the cabinet hardware is still less than the cost of one IKEA closet.

And that’s going to be the end of my organizational quest for now.  Because no matter how much I save, it’s still a pretty good chunk of money, time and effort. There are changes and improvements in our future (Mr. Official keeps muttering about putting in a putting green), but I’m happy to train the beast to focus on these two jobs for now. I’ll snap some before, in-progress and voila! shots along the way, along with sources for my frugal finds.  Stay tuned!

Happy Monday,
Terry

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The front door of our new home sported this brick red, which I-M-(not-so-)-Humble-O was vaguely reminiscent of Texas Aggie orange.  That *might* have been okay, but it also suffered from the fate which plagues most metal-and-glass doors:  the caulk and adhesive under the oval molding had slipped and oozed a bit, leaving a cracked and dingy gray ring around the oval leaded glass.  And the paint was scratched and nicked in a few places.

Here it is, with a fall wreath, which managed to work its way off-center as though it were wishing it could quietly slip away and disassociate itself from the situation.

The door was beginning to show its age.

This painting project has been on my hit list of to-do’s for a while; in fact, my paintbrush-holding hand has been itchy to pull the trigger since I first approached the door back in late November of last year.   It just cried out for a fresh coat of paint.

But first I had to wait until the house was ours.  (For whatever reason, society and our legal system frown upon attempts to improve property that doesn’t belong to you.)

Then I had to find a day when it wasn’t blistering hot, because painting the front door involves leaving the door open for a while and the thermostat is in the foyer.  That would have meant sweating out everyone to turn off the air conditioning for a couple hours, or be a wanton spendthrift and leave the door open and a/c units running non-stop. Neither of those sounded like attractive options.

Plus, I wanted to make sure Luci-the-cat wasn’t in “escape mode.”  (She goes through spells, which probably correlate to the moon phases, where she will persist in attempting to flit through any open door.  Once she’s out, she either freezes like a deer in headlights, or goes a little spazzy – either way, we can usually catch her and bring her back inside. But that won’t necessarily stop her from making another break the next day, and the next…until her mood changes back to being content with the life of a fat and lazy housecat.)

Finally I had a few weekend hours to spare after fall break, when the weather was mellow and so was Luci. (Random thought:  can a door project have a “WINDOW of opportunity?” Hmmmm.)  Anyway, I had a guy in the paint area of Home Depot brew up a quart of French Roast.  Really – that’s what the color is called.    With a little prepping and cleaning, the door went from that to this in about two hours on a mild Sunday afternoon:

Do you see a door hanger?  Nope, me either.

I also managed to ditch the door hanger, trading it in for a super-simple combination of a small angle bracket and some fishing line. 

Basically this plus this:

Looks like this on the inside:

and this to the rest of the world:

I’m using 20-pound test line, but I will probably ramp it up a bit when I hang the next wreath, especially if the next wreath is heavier than this one.

Happy painting!

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Swimmer girl and I dropped off her friend and arrived home safe and sound from fall break early Friday evening.  We barely had time to catch our breath on Saturday before we hopped in an eastbound car and headed for Knoxville for a 6 pm game.  (I have almost no voice after my failed efforts to cheer on the Vols and I was practically speechless watching the Titans lose on Sunday.)

But before we headed to the game, my mental wheels were turning:  what was my gameplan for food and “fun” on Sunday?

I determined that food was in place, but I didn’t have anything in mind (except maybe a nap to catch up on some lost sleep.)  I’ve been wanting to paint our front door since the first day I laid eyes on it. and I decided Sunday would be as good a day as any to transform it, so I ran to The Home Depot for door paint and patted myself on the back for ensuring my Sunday was lined out.

After grabbing a quick bite for Sunday lunch and mixing and measuring for a pot of chii in the crockpot, I set to work transforming the door from UT (that’d be Texas) burnt-orange/red to “French Roast,” which is blackish brown just like the coffee beans.  A couple hours later, the door and my fingers were well-coated in paint.

See, I did my part to help us avoid the stores and eateries.

However, my mental safety net didn’t extend quite far enough and Mr. Official and Swimmer Girl had other plans:  they headed to town to look for a new sectional sofa for the bonus room while I was tied up painting.  One of the furniture stores is threatening to go out of business soon (and will continue to threaten to “close their doors forever” for the forseeable future), so dad and daughter did their part and took a sofa off their hands. Then they hit Sonic for happy hour, and brought me a diet cherry limemade as proof.  I drank it with a small twinge of guilt. 

Now let’s just hope the sofa fits in its new spot when it arrives.  (They traipsed off without a tape measure or room measurements.  God love ’em both.) Next week I’m determined to keep us ALL out of the retail establishments.  Wish me luck!

Happy Monday,


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Try saying THAT three times fast.  (And I don’t mean “that, that, that.”)

Last weekend was a long one, so we used it to stain our new picket fence. Whew.  Before we began this project, I estimated it would take a five-gallon bucket of clear sealer and two gallons of stain (I always cut the stain with clear sealer because I think it’s too opaque otherwise) to do the deck AND the fence.

This is why I should not go into the painting business, or become an estimator.  

Sing with me: “16 gallons of stain and sealer on the fence, 16 gallons of stain and sealer…”

All-told, it took twice what I originally bought, plus two more gallons of sealer.   That’s my tower of empties to prove it and I could really use another quart for touch-ups.

R.I.P, old sprayer!

This project also took two paint sprayers.  The trusty old sprayer (on top) was purchased when we painted the outside of our first house way back in 1987.

In the 24 years since, it has painted a lot of walls and siding and ceilings and trim in several homes, so we weren’t too surprised when it conked out halfway through this job.

The new replacement sprayer (in the box on the bottom) looks and sounds almost identical to the old one, but Mr. Official said it worked better.  He would know, since he was the man holding it all weekend.  Hopefully, normal sensation will return to his right hand and fingers in the next few days. 

The final casualty of our  weekend project was this 3-inch brush brandished by yours truly.  This brush was in pretty good shape until I used it to stain between the deck planks.  It went downhill from there.  By the time I had slathered on the last bit of stain, I felt like this poor brush looked: frayed, frazzled and permanently stained redwood color, although I’m sure the spots on my toes and hands will come off sooner or later.  

And now we can put this to-do in the ta-done category, at least for another year or two – hooray!  (Note to self:  when it comes time to stain again, we should definitely aim to tackle it in April or May, or September or October. Definitely not in June, July or August.) Here are the results:  front and side yard views.  I already showed off the deck a couple of weeks ago.

At least the other loose ends are indoor or shady spot projects.

Happy lasso-ing your loose ends!

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Okay, it’s hanging by more than a thread; picture hooks and picture wire are holding everything up.

This week was jam-packed full of activities and precious few loose ends got tied off.  But one memorable ending is now hanging in our bedroom.

Last winter, I was scheduled for a painting night at Faithful Strokes when a heavy snow canceled our class.  So I waited and watched their calendar for the right class to come along.  Call me fickle, but it wasn’t until last Thursday that my schedule and their class schedule were in sync. I finally got to paint “Brown Eyed Girl” and “she” is now hung in our bedroom.

I also framed a trio of photos: one from each of our trips to South Carolina and one of the St. Aloysius church ruins at Morley,  near where I grew up.  (Note to my mom.  Yes, that is the 1986 print you gave me how-many-years ago, finally framed and hung.  Yes, I found it while moving.  Amazing what one finds when one moves one’s uhhh, “assets” from one abode to another.)  Note the blank spot beneath the photos. Wouldn’t a dresser fit perfectly in that spot?  I’m determined to make that happen in the next 30 days.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I moved more (yes, more) plants this week. I can now say this is truly “my” garden. In addition to the irises and Shasta daisies and peonies and gladioli that were here, this area now has clumps of my favorite daylilies and coneflowers, bellflowers I grew from seed, a tickseed Coreopsis that has survived years of neglect, my Verbena bonariensis, which is supposedly not hardy to this zone (ha!), a lone Dahlia survivor (harsh winters and a weed-warrior neighbor did the rest in over the past few years), the one-and-only lily I have ever bought (a red ‘Garp’), some blue Echinops, a Kniphofia and my precious ornamental Alliums. They join some new plants I set out a month ago: Guaras, Amsonias, some ornamental grass, and the Dahlias and Acidanthera bulbs I planted a few days ago. It’s the best of all worlds – old, new and inherited. Hopefully next spring will show a melding of colors and textures (and not a shouting match.)

I brought some ‘Herrenhausen’ oregano and my rosemary over to start a kitchen herb garden next to the house. (My car now smells of rosemary – mmmmmmmm.)  And I brought other plants, too – variegated ‘Illumination’ vinca and native Pachysandra are going in the ground today.

One new loose end got tied off promptly this week: thank-you notes for the wonderful (and completely unexpected) gifts we received during our first housewarming party go out in today’s mail. Friends have a way of knowing EXACTLY what to surprise us with, and I am humbled beyond words.  Y’all rock. 

The final loose end for the week: summer swim practice and meets are officially over for swimmer girl. For the past eight years, this occasion has been accompanied by a thundering rendition of the Hallelujah! chorus.  (There are 23 stoplights between our house and the pool.  Ask me how I know.  Ask me how many times I stop at each of them while taking swimmer girl to practice 4 nights a week.  Go on…ask, I dare ya.)

But the celebration is muted this year; there’s only one more summer swim season left on our mother/daughter dance card, and she’ll be driving herself next year. Sniff. Can someone please, please make time slow down for the next two years? Because I don’t want to miss one. single. minute. She’s our baby bird, and she’s swiftly growing a beautiful pair of strong and capable wings that will send her sailing into her future.

This week should prove interesting: a long holiday weekend launches it (and we ARE taking some time off from projects), and another gathering of friends is slated to cap it off next Saturday. Wonder what I can tie off between now and then?

Happy tying,

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We moved into the new house a month ago this week. Moving in took some pre-work and some hard work on moving day, but it went fairly smooth and stayed on schedule. Moving OUT of the old house? Not so much – it’s been neither smooth nor on-schedule.

Almost every day since we moved, I have visited the old house, picking up a few things here and there, sorting things, shuffling them around. But still there was a LOT of stuff to contend with. Some of it we need, some of it we don’t, and some of it I’m not sure if we need or not.

But it’s time to quit dithering and decide what moves and what gets sold or donated or just plain tossed. This past weekend, I hauled a carload of books to the Friends of the Library (they sell them and use the proceeds to help support our Linebaugh Libraries), and a couple carloads of other stuff back to the new house.  The boys helped Mr. Official clear the attics on Monday. It was blazing hot outside and even hotter in that attic. But they hauled it all down and we sorted and stockpiled. Every family member has a pile, and there’s a massive and growing pile for a garage sale (coming soon!)

After we finished that exhausting exercise, I continued tidying and cleaning, picking and choosing. The big curbside trashcans were empty and are now full again. The garage sale pile is steadily growing.

I’m giving everyone a week to cull through their own stuff and decide what they are keeping and what they aren’t. Oldest son has the biggest pile (and ironically, an attic of his own to haul it to.) Hopefully by next week at this time, the garage will be empty except for the garage sale pile, and by the week after that, THAT stuff will be gone too. In the meantime, the painters are lined up and ready to start painting. I hope. Because I’m ready for them to start and the paint is waiting in the den for them to begin.

We are meeting with our Realtor to discuss the market analysis she’s prepared, and we hope there will soon be a “For Sale” sign in the yard of this newly painted and spiffed up house.

Happy moving, for reals.

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My house of many colors

I am not a white girl.

Well, I am, but I am not a white-wall girl – I don’t think I’ve ever bought a gallon of white wall paint.

Ever.

Okay, maybe once when we were renting and I was covering some hideous shade of apricot in the bathroom and white was a safe choice the landlord wouldn’t mind me using. 

And a garage or two.

But beyond that? Nope, never, no way, no how.

I love color.  That can’t be a surprise, right?  I am a confessed Fiesta fiend, remember?

I’ve used every color of the rainbow except dark blue and purple to paint walls in one house or another. A range of pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, greens, light blues, and several “safe” neutral shades of taupe and gray have graced our walls over the years.

In our current house, we have 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 living areas, 2 eating areas, a bonus room and a utility room. At last count, our walls sport 3 shades of green, 2 shades of yellow, 1 shade of orange, 1 shade of pink and 1 shade of taupe.

Twelve rooms, nine colors.  And some of them don’t play well with others.

The house that nearly captured my heart was painted a toasty taupey color all the way through. Its soothing neutrality was bee-yoo-tee-ful and ultimately, was a huge selling point for me:  it was move-in ready without anyone lifting a paintbrush.

The ultimate “THE” house has twelve rooms – pretty much the same as what we have now (they’re just bigger and better arranged) but just six wall colors. And three of them flow and blend to transition nicely from entry to den/kitchen/eating area and into the sunroom. I’m leaving well enough alone in those rooms, and re-coloring only the bedrooms, dining room and bonus room (a bathroom will get a subtle do-over in a different shade of green soon after we move in.)

When I’m done, the house will have picked up a seventh color, but several of the rooms will use the same color: the bonus room and two bedrooms will share the master bathroom’s taupe color; the dining room and swimmer girl’s bedroom will share a rich mocha brown color.  Her room will get a pop of frosty pink to up the score to seven colors.

I think as I get older, I’m starting to find a better balance between my love of color and my attraction to flow and congruity in a house; instead of using various shades of the same color for these rooms, I picked one taupe and one brown, and I’m making them do double or triple duty. There might be four *perfect* shades of taupe out there, one for each room, but I’m not going to agonize over the colors or mess with repeatedly cleaning out brushes and rollers to move from room to room. And long-term it’s a nightmare to sort and store touchup paint when you’ve got several variations on the same theme sitting around in half-filled gallon paint cans.

And after we move out of our current house, it’s getting the taupe treatment – every place except the kitchen and master bathroom, which are staying their same current shades of green. I hope it’ll make some buyer’s heart go pitter pat to have all that lovely flow of soothing congruence throughout.

Happy painting,

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