Tag Archives: furniture

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

My middlest child graduates high school this year.  My youngest graduates next year and then goes on to the local community college.  When they graduate from there, my time here in this house is over, for good or for ill.  So in three years, I’ll be starting my next great adventure.

I’ve started doing exercises to try to get into the headspace of what that will be like.  The plan is to move to a farm, or at least a farm-in-the-making.  I’ve been imagining this place since I was a kid.  We had friends who were farmers when I was growing up, and their places were always magical to me.  Especially the hay barns.  Hay barns are cathedrals to me, with the same power of scent and the same transfusion of light.  So I want to move to a place I can live in until they carry me feet first out the window.  I’ve drawn pictures and maps of what my farm is going to look like, created business plans, collected infrastructure ideas.  If visioning is creating, this place already exists in the world, just waiting for me to be ready.

I was in the grocery store the other day, buying 3 gallons of milk that will last 4 days and cost more than gas, and it hit me.  In a couple of years, a half gallon will probably go bad in my fridge, as I won’t have a bunch of teenagers drinking it all.  That was followed by the realization that my food budget will plummet when my kids move out.  That’s kind of overwhelming to think about.  I’ll be spending more to feed my animals than to feed people.  Weird.

The latest thought experiment has been, “What will I take with me when I move?”  The answer is, surprisingly, not much.  Considering the fact that I live in a 3 bedroom, 3 story house, I think I can fit everything I want to take into one large Uhaul.  I’m taking the freezer, the china cabinet, and one arm chair, but that’s pretty much it for the furniture and large appliances.  I’ll take all my small appliances and cooking tools, but none of my dishes.  Some special glassware pieces that I inherited from my parents, but none of my wedding china.  The TV and games, but none of the Ikea shelving or the leather couch.  I salvaged that in the first place, I’m sure I can salvage a replacement.  None of the beds, except my old spindle bed which has been in storage for years.  One dresser I inherited from my father.  Probably not my fiber wardrobe, as the new house will have a whole room dedicated to my crafting.  The camping gear.  Maybe the books?  I’ve purged my collection pretty hard, but most of those books I haven’t touched in years.  My garden tools and bike.  The pie safe that has been stored in the shed for 20 years.

Really, for the course of a life, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place, it’s not much stuff.  But somehow, thinking about letting all that go, starting clean with only what I identify as MINE, is incredibly liberating.

I’m really ready for a new beginning.

The Bench

The Bench


So, this is the bench.  Isn’t it cute?  Simple, but with some nice wood turning.  Well worn but not too beat ups.  The finish is worn, but there aren’t any gouges or chipped off pieces.  Just a nice, sturdy little piece.

Taffy likes it, too.


Actually, all the rabbits like it.  Not sure why.  I guess it’s just the right height for them.

Obviously the seat needed to be recovered, but I wanted to do something about the finish as well.  Not strip it, because I didn’t want to lose the look, but just filling in the pale spots.  I had some red mahogany stain in the basement from when I stained my spinning wheel, so I decided to just give the whole thing a coat of that and then a coat of wax.  I gathered my materials and got to work.


I didn’t take enough pictures of the process, because it got downright funny at times.  The stain went on in about 5 minutes, then I washed up and got to work on the seat.  Loki and Sam were both in, and they wanted to help with that.  I don’t know what was in the old fabric, but they both kept chewing on it like it was the best thing they’d ever eaten.  I got that and the padding off easily (it just came apart as I tugged on it) and then got down to prying out the brads that had held it in place.  That was not so easy, and did end up drawing blood a couple of times, as I had to pry them out with a screwdriver.  It didn’t help that Sam was still going for the fabric which I was using the catch the tacks while Loki was using the board itself as a sliding board.  Talk about being double teamed!

Once that was all cleaned up, I set the foam in place, lined up the fabric and started stapling.  I maybe should have gotten a slightly larger piece of foam or some batting to wrap it in, because even with pulling the fabric tight before I stapled it, there’s still a bit of hollow space around the edges.  But otherwise it looks great.  The paisleys in the fabric centered really nicely.

I wiped off the extra stain and then let it sit overnight.  Then Monday I applied the wax.  Just one coat, enough to seal in the new stain without diminishing the aged quality of the old varnish.  Then it was just a matter of screwing the seat back in place and taking the “after” pictures!


I have just enough of the fabric left that if I was a decent seamstress, I would love to make it into a little box bag with buttoned straps to attach to one arm and keep my spinning notions in.  But other than that, it’s just absolutely perfect.  For $1 (plus $25 in materials.  Oops.) I have a perfect little spinning bench!

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

This was my first weekend out of the boot, and much to my surprise, it ended up being brilliant.

My first stop Saturday morning was physical therapy.  This was my first time ever doing PT, so I really had no idea what to expect.  But it’s a really nice center, and the team there was great.  I’m working with Mike.  He did all my baselines and tested my function, which he said was actually really good.  I credit it to cheating and doing stretches while still in the boot.  He did say both my feet are hypermobile, so we’re working on strengthening both of them.  Well, in the office we’re working on strengthening the broken one, but at home I’m doing the same exercises on the other side as well.  It actually didn’t hurt much, and it’s not as big a set of exercises as I’d expected.  Mike doesn’t think I’ll have to do more than an couple of weeks, which is good because it costs me $20 a pop even with my insurance.  I did find out they do gait analysis there as well, so once I get approved for running (and save up the $250), I’ll do that 6 week program to keep this from happening again.

Hero was sleeping over at a friend’s house, so I stopped off to pick her up.  Since we were out already, I took her with me to Horsham to see about getting my phone fixed.  About 3 weeks ago, the camera quit on me.  I just kept getting “Camera failed” messages.  I’d had that before and had been able to fix it, but this time no go.  Which is part of why I haven’t been blogging much the last few weeks.  Blog posts without pictures are kind of dull!  And then the charger stopped working.  It hadn’t been working well for a while, occasionally not connecting unless I jiggered it just so.  But then it started shifting into car mode, which no one could give me a good explanation of what that was.  Something to do with docking it, but since a) I didn’t have a dock and 2) it was doing this randomly and sometimes constantly in and out, it was making the phone pretty much unusable.  I’d taken it to a guy in town, who hemmed and hawed and wanted $75/hour while sounding very unsure of what the problem was.  Yeah, nope.  This place in Horsham is part of a chain, so I thought I’d at least give them a try.  Totally worth it.  He knew exactly what the problem was (apparently it was pretty common for these phones) and he thought he could fix it without replacing the port.  $55 if he did, $35 if he didn’t.  Sold!  And he said he’d diagnose the camera at the same time.  I couldn’t afford to get it fixed that day, but at least then we could plan.  3 hours later, it was fixed.  Not only did they not need to replace the port, they’d also fixed the camera!  Apparently there was water damage in it, which confused me, as I hadn’t spilled anything on it.  In the end we both think it was sweat from carrying it running.  Which I can believe.  So I’ll have to find a different way to rig that.

On our way back from dropping off the phone, we noticed one of the churches up the street from us was having a rummage sale, and some of their neighbors were taking advantage of it to have a yard sale of their own.  I hadn’t gotten to go yard saling all summer, plus I love poking around in churches (a hold over from my childhood), so we stopped to check it out.

Well.  Did we ever score.


At the rummage sale, Hero found this great floor seat that is on rockers and reclines for $4.  I found gold cut lace valences that match the new dining room paint and a dozen black napkins, all for $2.  And best of all, I found a hand cranked meat grinder with 3 grind plates and the original package insert from the 40’s for $5.  Homemade sausage, here I come!

The yard sale across the street was even better.  They had antiques.  Real, genuine antiques.  Not high end stuff, but still.  Just my favorite kind of stuff, old and sturdy.  One of the pieces was what must have been the seat to a vanity.  Just a simple bench with rolled arms.  It was missing the crossbrace and desperately needed reupholstering, but my mind instantly shouted, “Spinning stool!”  I braced myself as I asked how much they wanted for it.  When she said a dollar, I think I threw the money at her trying to pay her so fast.  And we found a running hydration belt.  It was a really good Nathan belt, still with the tags on it.  I’ve been researching these, so I knew these went for $55-65.  They were selling it for $1.50.  Again with the money throwing.

So I ended Saturday dead chuffed.  I made pancakes for the kids for dinner and ribs for me and started planning how I would recover the bench.

There’s a Joann’s about a mile and a half from our house, so the Sunday morning plan was to go get fabric and foam.  But I wanted to ride my bike.  Mike had told me I could ride as much as I wanted, and I’d taken Galadriel out for a warm up ride around the parking lot across from the house, just to get used to everything, so I figured a bike shop would be perfect.  Hero decided to go with me, as Joann’s is right next to 2nd Avenue, our favorite place for used clothes, so off we went.  The ride was not bad.  I was able to get up the Insurmountable Hill (my initial motivator for getting a lighter bike) with only a little huffing and puffing.  At that point the main road made me nervous, so we decided to risk the sidewalk.  Except the sidewalk through there was TERRIBLE.  I just about jarred my teeth loose.  First cross street we came to, I bailed and went the long way around.  But she rode sweet, and I didn’t have any problems with the gears or shifting.

At Joann’s, I found a great upholstery fabric that echoed the original fabric the stool had had, which ended up being 40% off, and the dense cell foam I got was half off as well.  Woot!  I also got buttons I need to finish up a knitting project (which I should get back to knitting on, actually).  I managed to keep it together in 2nd Ave.  Got another pair of running capris and an awesome pair of Clarks shoes, all for under $20, while Hero got some costume pieces for about the same.  Just for grins we stopped in the dollar store as well, and I scored the best trick or treat handouts ever.  Glow in the dark vampire teeth.  I bought 4 dozen.  No candy at our house this year, but I don’t think the kids will mind!

The best part?  It all strapped to the back of my bike.


The ride home was a little more problematic.  I took the chance of riding in the street on the main road, which meant going up the back side of the Insurmountable Hill, which is even worse than the first side.  I made it to the top on my last gear (barely), and in celebration, I slammed the shifter all the way up…and threw my chain in the middle of traffic.  Lesson learned.

I’ll save the refinishing tale for its own post, but needless to say it was an incredibly satisfying weekend.  The hunter-gatherer in my soul was much pleased!

Fine Dining

Fine Dining

Every other weekend brings a new project, mostly because that’s when I get paid and so can afford the bits and bobs I need for whatever I’m working on.  The last week and a half or so has been the dining room.

dining room

Look at the wallpaper, not the person!

The wallpaper in this room has been there since we moved in sixteen years ago.  Even then, it was already coming up at the edges, and from day one, the plan had always been to take down at least some of it and paint the walls (my mother hates that wallpaper!).  But I’ve lived in old houses my whole life.  I know the perils that lurk beneath a seemingly innocent layer of wallpaper.  One layer becomes two becomes twelve, and god knows what state the plaster will be in when you finally get down to it, if you can.  So we put it off. Endlessly.  Hid it behind large pieces of furniture.  Basically just accepted that it was what it was, and other things were more important.  Even when the rabbit started pulling strips of it off, we did nothing except joke about letting him do the whole thing.

Then I started cleaning.  And things didn’t seem so overwhelming.  To the point where living with it was more depressing than not doing anything about it.  I knew I wanted it painted, so in an act of desperation, I pulled a piece of the wallpaper down.  And then another.  I let Xander try.  Hero had a go.  Morgan came down for a drink, and the next thing we knew…

So far, so good.  It seemed to be peelable vinyl paper, meaning the surface layer came off really easily, leaving just a paper backing.  And it *seemed* to be drywall or something underneath, not an infinite loop of more and more paper that was the only thing holding the house up.  I did research on stripping paper.  I didn’t have any money yet, and was itching to get started, but I did have a spray bottle and a lot of vinegar, so I figured I’d give that a shot.  50/50 mix of vinegar and warm water.  The paper came off like BUTTER.  No problems whatsoever, except in the angles of the bay window that had rough plaster spots.  And the people we’d bought the house from, bless their hearts, had obviously stripped it all before, as there was a tidy coat of latex primer underneath.  No surprises (unless you count that one!)  In fact, I think the primer may have been the wallpaper’s downfall.  I suspect that, since they used a high gloss paint, the wallpaper glue just couldn’t get a good enough grip and started coming up at the edges right away.  But it meant that not only was the stripping easier, I would not have to prime 3 (well, 5 if you’re being pedantic) of the walls!

So the plan was to strip one wall a night, which, as it was Monday, meant that I would have it all down by Thursday and could start on the priming on Friday.  I used a step stool and an old oak dresser as my ladder and got going, and by the end of that first night, about an hour and a half of work, I had a wall and a half done.  Seriously, that fast.  The kids hadn’t even finished pulling the surface paper!  So we started moving out the furniture from the walls, and I chased them around the room.  Xander and I were even peeling paper before school one morning!  (Morgan wins the prize for being able to pull one whole sheet down in one piece. He was very proud!)  By Wednesday, everything was peeled and scraped, and the minimum of required cleaning had been done.  Some of that furniture hadn’t been moved in ten years, and OMG the dust!  We also got rid of some extraneous wiring, which made ongoing cleaning easier as well.


Tux helped.


Then it was time to decide on colors.

I knew the basics.  I wanted to carry on the theme of the old wallpaper, with one dark red accent wall and the rest in a neutral khaki color.  I’d started bringing home samples as soon as we started pulling the paper, and by Wednesday we had found the red we wanted (Behr’s Vintage Merlot, if you’re curious).  The neutral was much more elusive.  We’d settled on three that we kind of liked, so I got samples of all of them and painted big swatches on the wall where they’d get good sunlight.  We hemmed and hawed for three days.  One was too green, but still kind of nice.  One was too dark.  One wasn’t brown enough.  In the meantime, I started taping.  I taped everything (or thought I did).  I even got clever and bought pre-taped dropcloth.  Basically it’s blue tape with a folded piece of plastic attached.  You tape it along the baseboard, and then pull out the plastic.  Voila!  Instant 2-3 foot dropcloth!  And meanwhile, we still debated the wall color. It went on like that until Friday afternoon when I surrendered and went with the medium not green one (Jute).  Now, bear in mind, it’s Halloween.  In the midst of buying candy and snacks and cider, I’m out buying paint and supplies.  I had most of the supplies I needed at home, but since I was getting two gallons of paint and wanted consistent color, I had to get a 5 gallon bucket to mix it in and a couple of extra things.

It was cold that day, and was going to be damp and rainy all weekend.  So, since the house was now all sealed up and I’d changed the furnace filter, I decided at long last to turn the heat on for the year.  Except…it didn’t come on.  I cranked up the thremostat.  Nothing.  Checked all the switches.  Nope.  Swore a little. Why won’t that help?  No heat.  Fine.  A problem I would deal with another day.  But it was going to slow down my painting as I waited for it to dry.  Dammit, Murphy.

Got home with my paint supplies, made dinner, put snacks out for Hero and her friends, put Morgan on the door and then got to work.  First up went the tinted primer for the red wall.  It went on PINK.  I mean really pink.


Everyone who came through commented on how pink it was.  “Don’t worry, it’s just the primer.  The actual paint is red.”  “If you say so, mom.”  That went up pretty fast, and then I started on the neutral.  What a difference.  It was a little more yellow than I would have liked, but compared to what had been there, it looked clean and fresh and took me less than an hour and a half to get the first coat up on the whole thing.


By the time the kids were back from trick or treating, the deed was done.  Which was a good thing.  I was talking to the parents of one of Hero’s friends about it and complained about how since the furnace wasn’t working, it would take forever to dry.  “I’ve done furnace work,” he says, “would you like me to take a look?”  “YES.”  So he does, and can’t find anything wrong with it, although he does comment that he can’t smell any gas in it.  Ugh.  So I figure I’ll call the gas company the next day.  Then I remember that while I was stripping the walls, some of the vinegar water ran down the wall into the thermostat, and the whole display had gone out.  I’d let it dry out and replaced the batteries, which seemed to revive it but maybe…  I resolved to try that first.

But first, I had to work on Saturday.  I still work occasionally as a sub at the Y.  It doesn’t pay much, but it does keep my free membership active, so it’s worth doing a shift or two a month.  In this case, though, I was resenting it because I wanted to be painting, not working a 9-4 shift.  Ah well.  But I did get up early enough to put on second coats.  That was all the neutral walls needed, and went up in about 20 minutes.  The primer on the red wall looked patchy, so rather than start the red, I did a second coat of primer, which in the end I was glad I did.  Finished at 8:50 and raced off to waste the day.  I stopped at Home Depot on the way home and picked up the new thermostat and a new light fixture for the third floor stairwell, so that light would finally have a cover and not clock people in the head every time they went through.  Had to make dinner when I got home, but as soon as that was done, I dove into the red.  Well, first I got smart and taped the ceiling line and the neutral edges.  Have I mentioned that I’m a messy painter?  Yeah, I should have thought from the beginning about taping the ceiling line.  There were already little spots and streaks of color on the ceiling all around the room, but I hated to think what I would do with red on white.  And I certainly didn’t want to get it on the neutral!  So from now on, when I paint, I tape the ceiling.  Only I’ll do it in a 6″ wide strip next time.  3 didn’t quite cut it…


The first touches of red were gorgeous, but a part of my heart clenched that it was a bit…purple.


Never mind, I was committed at that point, so on it went.  Nice and thick and dark.  And patchy.  Oh yeah, this was going to need more coats.  The only question was how many.  Once that was done, I tried to install the new thermostat.  Turned off the power at the fuse box, hammered in the wall anchors, put in the batteries, inserted wire A in slot B, turned it on and…HEAT!! I know it’s not that difficult of a home repair, but I felt so virtuous for having done it myself!  And OMG the heat felt good.  Got that all done and started the clean up for the neutral walls, cutting off tape, doing little touch ups and the like.  I had seriously overestimated how much paint I was going to need, as I have a whole gallon left.  Not sure what I’m going to do with it.  Maybe paint the third floor stairwell with it.  That desperately needs paint of some kind.

I did coat 2 of the red Sunday morning, which looked pretty good.  But not perfect.  Then I had to take Morgan into the city for a school trip to the Academy of Fine Arts, so I met Nikki and we went to Reading Terminal Market.  I love that place when I go in with a goal.  But I’m not as crazy about it for browsing.  Too crowded.  But the smells were amazing.  We stopped for lunch at my favorite Mexican place, and then we stopped at the Farm Fare stand where I scored a 15 lb. Blue Hubbard squash for $9.  (I’ll save the heritage of the Blue Hubbard for another post)  Hadn’t heard from Morgan yet, so we went back to Nikki’s where I got to oogle her gorgeous new kitchen and where Skye actually deigned to say hello to me.  Morgan met us there, and I tried to talk Nikki into coming home with us without success, so by 2 we were on our way home again.  I changed back into my paint clothes (I’d had to designate paint grubbies, as I didn’t have any due to the weightloss) and got on to coat number 3.

Three is a magic number.

It looked perfect.  No white patches, everything even and glossy, just perfect.  Then Eric showed me how to install the light fixture (I let him do most of the work, as it was at the top of a staircase and he didn’t need a ladder.  I’ll do the next one.), found out we needed some longer bolts to attach it to the ceiling, and I went to get Hero from Odyssey of the Mind.  We stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and got the bolts and a new switch plate, plus one to cover the gaping hole in the kitchen wall, and then back home for dinner and clean-up.

I didn’t start putting the furniture back until last night.  If there was one thing I knew that room needed, it was a mopping, especially under where the furniture went.  But the first mopping told me that that wasn’t going to be enough.  So when I got home from work, I got a bucket of hot, soapy water, a scrub brush and a roll of paper towels and got down on my knees.  It was the right decision.  I’d scrub a section, then wipe it dry with the paper towels, and they’d come up black.  Two passes with the brush got it to acceptable levels.  I just did the sections where the furniture was going back, which took me about an hour, but in the end I think it will be worth it.  Pointed out all the milk splashes to Xander (my chief culprit in that area) and told him if I found them again, HE would be the one on his knees.  Next up, I vacuumed all the dust off the back of the computer cabinet and then purged the inside.  Filled another constructor trash bag with stuff and reclaimed two more power strips.  Nicely organized now!  Morgan and I got that back in its corner, and I vacuumed the other three bookshelves, cleaned the tops and got them back in place, including purging the last one that I hadn’t done already (another trash bag full.)  Last dust of the china cabinet and all was back in place.  Morgan was astonished at how much room there was, although to be fair, the dining room table still isn’t in.  I need to get it cleared off first.  I also still have to mount the folding table and the “mantle” shelf on the red wall between the bookcases, but I hope to get that done tonight.  Plus I scored 4 antique Windsor chairs that have been living in my car since Friday.  I can’t wait to get them in as well.

Here it is, all but done.


Next up: NO BIG PROJECTS.  I need to spend the next few weeks getting back on track with the cleaning routines and getting ready to host Thanksgiving (although all this is making me feel much better about that.)  I am purging and cleaning the fridge this week, and this weekend will be purging and organizing the pantry.  I WILL NOT LAY NEW TILE although I may have enough left from the kitchen floor to…NO!  Then Gabe wants to help me with a project while he’s here, so I think we’ll be replacing the front walk to make shovelling easier this winter.  We’ll see what the weather holds for that weekend, though.  First I have to get the living room clean.  Again.

Oh, and another bonus of doing this?  My chore list is almost all done!




I’ve decided I think I want a picnic table.

It would go perfectly in the back of the yard, and be a great place for the kids to do projects or play games outside, for us to eat occasionally, maybe use for ritual work sometimes or just be a place to hang out.  Now that we have the yard in better shape, it might be worth it.

My first choice for something like this would be to find someone getting rid of one and take it off their hands cheap.  But surprisingly, no one in the area seems to be doing that.  I would love to get a square/octagonal one, as it would be more flexible, but buying one of those new runs $300+.

Lowe’s has a 6 foot, build it yourself traditional picnic table for $89, though.  We could get that, paint or stain or varnish it however we liked, maybe drill a hole in the middle of it for an umbrella, and make it truly our own.  A couple of bags of mulch underneath it to keep down the weeds and I think it could be really nice.

Until the walnuts start dropping on it.

Hrm.  I may need to think about this some more.