Okay, this is getting a little crazy. It was seriously warm at our house on Saturday, followed by a huge dive down about 30* on Sunday. And now we’re back up again. But we’ve got NOTHING compared to the rest of you all. I mean really! What on earth is going on out there? And do any of you want to come hang out in the 70* weather we’re having?
I hope everybody had a fantastic Thanksgiving!! We are doing *awesome* over here!
It looks like it’s going to take longer than expected to get the updates and fixes done to the website, so I might as well keep on writing. Sorry about the things that don’t work — like the comments and the archives and the searches. Justin will get them fixed as soon as he can figure out why the heck they aren’t working in the first place…
Really. It makes no sense. It’s super frustrating.
Anyway! Today! We had a great day!
FIRST, we finished a project in the back closet. (If you want to skip this and hear about our dinner, feel free to jump ahead to the bolded SECOND. I’m about to babble a lot. Just so you’re warned.)
Some of you know that a couple weeks ago we lost power to the front bedroom of the house (was the master bedroom, is now the office). It was really strange because it was everything in that entire room — lights, outlets, everything. But nothing was wrong with the fuses and when we opened up the outlets, we couldn’t find anything that looked weird. We finally called our land lady who called in an electrician who came in and figured out that the fire alarms upstairs are all wired into the same circuit as the office. And one of the fire alarms had a wire that had come loose. Just, you know, randomly. For no good reason. And all the fire alarms have battery back-ups, so we wouldn’t have ever checked that. Anyway, he fixed it and we have power back in the office (HURRAY!).
But we had to take out half of the stuff from the back closet in order to really be able to access the fuse box. I mean, we could get to it before. Well, Justin could get to it with his long arms reaching through the shelving unit to the far wall. But it wasn’t super accessible and if the electrician had needed to, for example, remove the box to chase the wires, it wouldn’t have worked. So we took half of the shelving out. And then we decided, you know, let’s just explore another option here. Let’s make it so it’s really actually safer and accessible and all.
I’ve been trying to find a good “Before” picture to show you. We forgot to take one before we started, so the best I can give you is a shot over Justin’s shoulder from when we had to replace the lock on that door.
Not a great photo, but you can see that shelving unit is stuffed. It went up to the ceiling and was filled with stuff. The lawn mower just *barely* fit in between it and the door.
This is it now:
That mower fits in there with room to spare!! Oh, and this is the BEST PART: It only cost us $12. We had to go buy three 2x4s and a box of nails. Everything else we already had! Those beautiful boxes that are taking up the back wall in this photo? Had them since the apartment in Savannah and they’ve just be sitting in there on a shelf.
I know that this might not be terribly exciting (thus the option to just skip ahead at any point, really), but we are SO EXCITED about this project!
Reason 1: Super easy access to the circuit panel.
All we need to move to get to that panel is that grill. And because we can actually step inside of the door of this closet instead of reaching from the door, I can actually access it. This makes me feel so much better about being able to get to this in case of an emergency.
Reason 1 for Justin might actually be the ability to fit the mower in so easily, but we’re sticking this super important one instead.
Reason 2: Access to the water heater
That first picture of the closet is actually the best one for this — you can see how easy it is to get to all the panels on the front of the water heater. And the little box up on the wall near where the extension cord is hanging is the timer for the unit — which opens upward and yes, does have easy clearance to open under that shelf. This hasn’t been a problem for a while and hopefully won’t be a problem before we move out again, but if anything happened with that heater, we had to take absolutely everything out of the closet. It was annoying and problematic.
Reason 3: Easy access to absolutely everything. You can’t see it from the photos and none of them really show it well, but I can get to absolutely everything in this closet without too much trouble. Before, if I wanted the grill, I had to move the mower and shuffle it off a shelf in two parts. Now, it’s just sitting on top of a shelving unit. Second shelf of that unit? All my pots and gloves and things I use for potting. Ant-hill poison? Used to be on the bottom shelf behind the mower and the random bottle of antifreeze. Now those are both on the shelf at the top of the back wall, out of reach of small children and pets and all lined up so I can see exactly what I need. Okay, I need a step stool or Justin in order to reach it, but how often do I use that stuff? Rarely.
How about paint? Our land lady left us a little bit of paint for most of the rooms in the house — if only we knew which can went with each room. Anyway, paint used to take up an entire shelf on that old unit. Now we have this:
It goes all the way down to the floor like this. It’s out of the way and yet easy to get to if we can ever figure out which one goes where.
We are so super excited about how well this turned out! Things are easy to get to, tidy, organized, and it took us about 4 hours of work and $12 in supplies. We had to purge a few things out — some beach chairs went to Jessi (she’ll actually use them), we’re going to Craigslist a handful of glass bowls and a tennis racket, the falling apart boogie boards got trashed, the life vest and an old lantern went to Julie. The old shelving unit got dragged up and stacked in the attic. The whole thing looks SO MUCH better and it’s so much easier to get to things! Yea!
SECOND, we made dinner! We invited our usual bunch of friends to come over, but no one took us up on it except for Jessi and a couple of her friends. All our other friends either have families that they traveled to see or are starting their own traditions. Our friend Julie drove up to spend the day with her aunt in Charleston because Julie’s uncle got called to active duty, leaving her aunt all alone. So we did our dinner, but it was just me and Justin with Jessi and her two friends.
We still made all the same food as always:
- mashed potatoes
- sweet potatoes
- stuffing and gravy
- green bean casserole
- cranberry dressing
- dinner rolls
- ambrosia fruit salad
This year I also did a pitcher of sangria, just for fun.
We actually did a handful of things differently. I made the potatoes and the cranberry dressing on Wednesday. I pulled out the potatoes today when the turkey went into the oven so they’d warm up to room temperature before I put them into the oven for 30 minutes with butter dotted over them, which then got stirred in after they came out of the oven to make them super moist. And I cut up the celery and onions for the stuffing (we do stuffing from a bag) on Wednesday because we’re always doing the stuffing right at the end when everything is going crazy and it was just so easy to do it while I was cutting up potatoes the day ahead. Julie was actually over and helping me on Wednesday, so she peeled the sweet potatoes, too, while she was peeling the other potatoes, so I just cut them up and put them in a bowl to sit until I was ready for them today — completely taking away any need for me to peel or cut any vegetables today.
So, really, the most time-involved things to deal with today was the turkey and the dinner rolls, and the dinner rolls are only on that because they take time to rise.
We did our turkey a little differently this year, too. I was reading about different ideas on baking a turkey and ran into the idea of spatchcocking it. Sounds weird, right? It is. Basically, you cut out the backbone of the turkey and flatten it out so the whole thing is laying mostly flat.
Mine is not quite as flat as it should have been, but for a first try, I think that’s pretty good. The idea is that you get all the skin on the top of the turkey, let the breast sit low enough so the legs and the breast cook at the same rate, letting the dark meat warm up to the temperature that it should get to without letting the breast get overdone and dry. It also cooks a whole lot faster because it’s not just a ball of meat. We cooked a 10 pound turkey in about 2 hours. Normally that would have taken 3 1/2 to 4 hours. And it maybe could have come out a little earlier if we hadn’t gotten distracted putting up the valance in the bedroom (since we already had all the tools out and accessible).
I forgot to take a picture before starting to carve it, but you can see that it looks like it turned out really well! The skin is nice and golden. Sadly, it got a little soggy because we put it under tinfoil for about an hour and a half finishing up the rest of the dishes and waiting for Jessi to arrive. Before that, though? That turkey was crispy! And the white meat was deliciously moist instead of being dried out. It tastes AMAZING!!
And, as ever, we’ll be eating leftovers for several days. But that’s part of what we love about cooking on Thanksgiving!
So it was a great day! We got the closet looking beautiful (plus hung the valance in the bedroom and put a knob on a closet door that we’d replaced but never bothered drilling another hole into for the knob) and made delicious food! We spend a delightful dinner with Jessi and her two friends. They brought pumpkin cupcakes to share for dessert. And then they left and we cleaned up and sat and relaxed. And I wrote this CRAZY long post!
I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I love and am thankful for all of you! I hope anybody shopping tomorrow has lots of luck on sales! I’ll be staying home with my aching feet up and resting. Doing laundry, really, because my life is so exciting!
Lots of love to you all!
Several years ago (13 March 2010, to be exact) Justin and I rescued a trunk from a little knickknack shop that was going out of business. It was painted this hideous color beige, but it was solid wood, unfinished on the interior of the trunk, and the hardware marked it as unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
We brought it home intending to remove that hideous paint, restore it to its former beauty, and stain it a darker color to match our décor. We love natural wood grain, but we prefer mid- to dark tones instead of the more blonde colors.
We did some research into what we’d need to do, went out and picked up the things we thought we’d need, and then mostly just sat there looking at it. Justin spent some time on it, fighting with it and getting really frustrated. I sat and watched his frustration, wondering if there was a way I could help without stepping on his toes and taking over his project.
This is the before shot from when Justin started working on it. It’s dated 9 November 2010.
And then the trunk sat there in the living room for a long time, half stripped, half not, mostly looking ugly. But with potential.
Until Sunday when I said that it was a beautiful day and I’d like to give it a shot trying to get that thing cleaned up.
And I did a little research, but not very thorough, because I failed to read about what you’re supposed to do after you’ve applied the paint remover and scraped it off. So I tried that, got frustrated, didn’t know what I was doing wrong, got wrapped up in our vines project (almost literally), and let it sit overnight while I went and did more research on the internet.
Turns out, I was on step 1 and 2 of a 32 step project or something like that. It’s not just put on the paint stripper and take it off with a scraper. OH NO. It’s much more involved than that.
Now, I did have the first bit right, at least:
- Apply paint stripper to the painted surface and let it sit there until the paint starts to bubble and is easy to remove with a scraper.
- Remove all the loose paint using a scraper.
Here, let’s include some photo evidence. First off, this is the paint stripper that we’re using:
I put it into a throw-away container to dip my brush — an old one because apparently this stuff eats brushes.
This is what the paint on the trunk used to look like:
And this is after the paint stripper was applied and removed too soon, or the paint was too thick, I’m not sure.
This is the tool I used as a scraper:
And yes, I know those are not the right gloves for this job because they have cloth on the back, but the rubber ones I was using either got a leak or started collecting chemicals another way because my fingers got drenched in more than just sweat and I got chemical burns on the back of my knuckles.
Anyway, I applied a second coat of the paint stripper, waited again, and went at it again with that scraper. This is how that one went:
Better, right? But still not good enough. There’s a lot of paint left.
So here are the next steps that I was missing (and I would number them 3 and 4, but WordPress doesn’t let me change numbering, apparently).
- Take some steel wool or a scratchy sponge, dip it in mineral spirits (or paint thinner, I guess; we’re using mineral spirits because that’s what Justin bought – I think it depends on what stripper you’re using) and take that to the surface to scratch away the remaining paint.
- Once the paint is gone, go over it again with mineral spirits on a clean cloth. And then dry it with another clean cloth.
Doing that takes it from the picture above, to this picture here:
So much better!!! The first time I did that and saw how great it turned out, I was just amazed at how much better it looked!
These is the mineral spirits I was using for this part:
I poured that into a container, too, and then used a scratchy sponge exoskeleton (I pulled out the actual sponge and just used the scratchy outside) for most of the flat surfaces, an old tooth brush for around the detail bits like the hinges and the moulding at the bottom, and a wooden skewer stick to really get into tight spots.
And, of course, nothing works better for good thick rags than cloth diapers.
We ran out of mineral spirits before I could finish the last two feet of the trunk and go over it one last time to make sure it was good and cleared. We picked up more mineral spirits when we got the truck on Monday, but with all the other projects that day, I never got back to the trunk. But sometime soon, I’ll be able to go back and finish removing the paint.
One of my problems is that I can’t remove the hardware so I’ve got to figure out how to get the paint from around and on top of those things. The hardware is all connected to the wood by long nails that go through to the other side and then got bent over and pounded down into the wood.
There’s no way I’m getting those things off. Eventually I’ll have to figure out how to make those surfaces look better. But I’m not even sure what kind of metal they’re made of. This is the latch faceplate on the front.
Here’s a hinge.
So it’s not a swift process, by any means, and I’m still a LONG way from being done with this. I’m not even sure what all the steps are going to be yet.
I do know that the next step after all the paint is removed is to sand the whole thing. We did some research on Monday and figured out that we want a random orbit sander (the round-headed one) with three different sandpaper grits. There’s no way we have the patience to sand this whole thing by hand three times over. So we did some research into the one we want to buy and have that sitting in our Amazon cart while we think about the expense a little bit and shuffle around our budget a little bit.
But I’m excited! This looks SO MUCH BETTER than it did just a couple days ago! I can finally really see how beautiful it’s going to be in the end.
Sunday afternoon, I turned to Justin and said “It’s a beautiful afternoon. I’m thinking of dragging the trunk from the living room outside to finish stripping the paint off.” To which he said, “I was thinking of mowing the lawn” and we both went and changed into work clothes for the afternoon.
Now, since I had to wait for the paint stripper to take effect for several minutes, I figured I’d trim up the bushes between our house and the neighbors, since they were getting long and unruly. Justin decided to rake up the leaves before he could mow (we have a reel mower, not anything with a motor on it). As he was raking under one of the trees in the back yard, he asked, “Do you think we could trim up this tree? This branch seems really low.”
“Sure!” I said. Of course, after removing that one, the ones above it were still handing rather low, so I trimmed up the downward growing branches from the lateral ones and shortened up the lateral length a little.
And then Justin said something along the lines of: “I bet it’d be better if we took off those vines that are pulling down those branches.”
And right there, our entire afternoon changed. Because pulling off those vines lead to pulling down the vines that were crowding over the bushes over toward the other neighbor’s house. And from there, we tracked down the source root of the system. And then dragged vine after vine down from the bushes and the trees and into the backyard. And then I’d take the larger bits that would work as kindling for our fire pit and cut them into manageable pieces and piled them up next to the house.
And Justin cut and dragged and pulled and wrangled until we were both exhausted and the yard was COVERED in vines.
The living room trunk got neglected, for the most part. Partially because I determined that I really didn’t know what I was doing. But mostly because the vine-pulling project superseded all other plans. We opened up the umbrella to protect it from the rain that seemed to be coming and left it to sit while we worked our butts off trying to free the trees and bushes from the strangling vines.
The problem being that by the time we were done, the yard looked like this:
And that was going to drive me nuts, leaving it like that. To say nothing of what the POA would say if they caught sight of it. (For reference, they threatened us with a fine when they could see our bicycles from the street. And when one of the slats in the blinds upstairs was broken.)
So I took a rare day off from work for personal business.
Monday morning, since I needed to get up early enough to be able to go to bed at a decent hour, I got up and got back to work on that trunk, having done a good deal of research Sunday evening to figure out what I’d been missing. Turns out, I understood the paint stripper well enough. I just didn’t know about the paint thinner part that comes next. I’m going to write another post all about that, because it’s too much to include here and I want to talk about the vines thing.
Oh, but here’s a teaser photo.
So I worked on that until Justin got up and moving – the poor guy was so stiff and sore and scratched up from the day before that it took him a while to get going. But after a while, he was able to loosen those muscles up enough to get the laundry started while I cleaned up the kitchen and he got started on the work that needed to get done to Jessi’s computer (mid-terms this week and her hard drive on her Mac died) and then we were able to get back to the vines project in the backyard.
The primary problem was that there were too many vines to pile into the trash bin or the car. I mean, the pile of leaves was as big as my car! Justin did some final work getting bits and pieces pulled out to the yard and I dragged everything onto the tarp. We bagged up the leaves, strung clothesline through the grommets on the tarp to cinch it together a little, and dragged it all up to the front near the driveway.
And then we went to Home Depot, because they have truck rentals by the hour. (Disclaimer: this post is in NO WAY sponsored by Home Depot – they’re just the only place in town that has this service, so far as we can tell.)
The first hour of rental for the truck is actually 75 minutes, so we had to get back home, load it up, drive to the dump, and then get back to Home Depot within that time or get charged another $10 for the next hour. Reasonable pricing, yes, but we were pretty sure we’d be able to do it within that time. We piled into that boat on wheels and headed back to the house. Once there, Justin backed into the driveway (BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!) and we lifted up that enormous viney tarp egg into the back. We tossed up the bags of leaves, grabbed the broom from the house (return the truck clean or get charged a fine) and set off for the dump.
Bluffton has really great solid waste disposal centers. There’s recycling stations for different types of materials. And there are huge dumpsters for different types of waste, from yard trimmings to household trash. There’s a spot off to the side for larger items. And they’ll even take hazardous materials like paint cans and batteries.
So we pulled up to the yard waste bin, backed up to it (BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!), untied the tarp, and tipped the vines into the bin. We dumped out the leaves after that, threw the empty bags, tarp and clothes line together into the cab, swept the bed clean, and set back to the store. We had to stop to top off the tank ($4 of gas) and still got back with 15 minutes to spare. Just in time for another guy to walk up to the desk and ask “Could I rent a truck?”
From the time we got started on the vines again until the time we dropped off the truck, it took us about 4 hours. Add on top of that about 3 hours Sunday afternoon, and it was a long, hard struggle with those things. Unfortunately, we’re not entirely finished. Several of those vines were too well snagged onto those trees that we weren’t able to pull them. So Justin snipped them at the root and we’ll go back in a couple weeks, once they’ve dried up a little, and give them another tug. Hopefully they’ll have given up their grip and we’ll be able to pull them down. The trees that they’ve covering are being smothered and stunted. We very much want these gone.
Plus, I’ve still got all this wood to chop down to size for the fire pit.
So between working on refinishing the trunk, cleaning up the house, getting the vines dumped, working on laundry, and doing some prep work for a meeting I had today at 7:00, it was a long, exhausting day. Being at work today was more restful than the day I took off!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, the lawn did not get mowed. Justin has blisters on the insides of about half of his fingers and the back of his left calf was a bloody mess because of deep scratches from thorns. I’m giving him at least a couple days to heal back up.