Quarterly update (part 3) — talking about the table and random other stuff

Okay, so what else has been going on?

  • Happy belated birthday to Amy, Mae, Tim, and Ethan! And happy birthday today to Isaac! We really had intended to send cards or something but my life is apparently insane and I can’t get anything done.
  • Congratulations to Dalton on those first steps! So exciting!
  • I’ve taken two classes now on how to use MS Access. I’m trying to learn a new way to keep track of all the information I manage at work and it’s being troublesome. It’s a whole new way of thinking about what I’m doing. I’m sure it’ll work out in the end, but it’s making me go around in circles while I try to figure it out.
  • I’ve donated platelets several times now. The last time went without a hitch and didn’t have any low-pressure problems. The time prior to that, however, was a failure because the pressure was so low I couldn’t even manage to get blood up to the machine to start.
  • On our way back from an appointment for Kay in Atlanta back in May, we stopped to help a woman and her daughter who were stuck on the side of the road with a shredded tire. We learned that we need to keep a better flashlight in the car, that we need a higher jack if we’re going to be able to help people who’ve lost their jack, and that we’d need a better tire iron to get those lug nuts off if they’ve lost that piece of equipment, too. Fortunately, a Georgia State Patrol trooper stopped and he had all those things and was able to get the women back on the road again. But we were able to help them stay calm and we learned some valuable lessons for ourselves in the process. One of these days, we’ll figure out which jack to pick up — hopefully before we actually need it again.
  • When Mom and Dad were here, the project that we decided to work on was a skinny little table/shelf that goes behind the sofa and has outlets on it, making it easy to access an outlet, even though the sofa is blocking that whole wall. I got the idea from a blog online that I’m too lazy right now to go find. And we kind of adjusted the idea as we went anyway. When they were here, Dad showed Justin how to run the electric by taking an extension cord and splicing in an outlet. And we cut the wood and stained it. After they left, I sanded the wood and Justin polyurethane it a couple times to give it a nice sheen. I don’t have any in-progress photos and the pictures I have of it in place aren’t super, either. But this is what I’ve got.
Behold! Our table shelf thing.
Behold! Our table shelf thing.

It’s just a little wider than the outlets, of which we’ve got two. One of them is a standard outlet. The other has USB charging slots. We had to order that one from Amazon because no where in town carried them in the nickle color we wanted.

USB charging at the outlet!
USB charging at the outlet!

But a gift card from work and an Amazon order later and we’ve got ourselves a really spiffy outlet.

The rope lights are only temporary.
The rope lights are only temporary.

We would like to have installed actual lights into the table, but they were really expensive, so we held off on that idea for now. In the mean time, we’ve got a rope light that we’d put up the stairs at the other house that didn’t have a home yet, and that’s filling in the gap for now. It’s a subtle light, but nice.

Back-lights behind the sofa
Back-lights behind the sofa

The outlet that’s down behind the sofa has one outlet that’s controlled from a switch at the door and one that’s on all the time. So the outlets are plugged into one and the lights are plugged into the other and it works perfectly!

The table isn’t actually put together all the way yet. The long piece was really torqued and we were having trouble figuring out how to actually install the support beams that we cut in order to give it some structural support. We’d really like to do it right with sunken screws and everything, but we don’t have the money right now to buy the kreg jig we’d like in order to do it right. So for now, it’s tucked back behind the sofa, hopefully getting a little more straight the longer it’s there, and when we’ve got the money for the tool, we’ll take it back down and do the supports. And then when we’ve got more money again, we’ll add a lamp or up-wash lights or something.

For now, though, we’re really happy with how it turned out. I’ve actually got my computer plugged into it right now. And it’s actually stained darker than we would normally go, but it almost perfectly matches the sofa, so I’m tickled at how that worked out.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for paying for all the lumber! And for all the help on figuring out how to put it together!

And that pretty much rounds out the news that I’ve got for the moment. More than what I’ve mentioned and I feel like I’m complaining about my life, which is actually pretty good, I’m just irritated at parts of it at the moment (55 days) and that’s putting a huge grumpy gray cloud over everything. So don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a while again. I’m not exactly trying to be reclusive or anything. I’m just trying not to be a whiner at everybody. My life is good. I’m just cranky. But things will get better.

Quarterly update (part 1) – talking about Jessi’s graduation

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. There has been a lot going on and large chunks are things that I’m not especially pleased about. I figured “if you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say nothing at all.” But it’s been long enough that maybe I can chat about things without sounding too whiny.

In mostly random order, but probably mostly from most recent to further back in time:

  • Tomorrow Justin’s grandma flies back to California. She’s been here since the 20th (two weeks) visiting for Jessi’s graduation from her grad program at SCAD. It’s been absolutely wonderful having her in town, even though we didn’t do much that was terribly interesting. I think she appreciated not having any responsibilities and just sitting around and reading and enjoying the moisture in the air compared to the desert. And we appreciated chatting and hanging out.
  • Wendy flies back to Vermont on Wednesday after her two weeks being here, but she’s been staying with Jessi downtown. I haven’t actually seen her much since she’s been spending time helping Jessi pack up and get through all the “You’re done with school! Now face reality!” things. She brought her Bichon, but I’ve hardly seen him at all.
  • Jessi flies out on Thursday to New York City to an internship at MSNBC for three months or so. It’s exciting and terrifying and we’re all very proud of her and hopeful that this excellent opportunity for her is a jumping off to a lot of great adventures.
  • After the three of them are out of town, we’re just left with Kay still here, but we’re counting down the days until she’s leaving and heading off on her own adventure. (57 days.) And then we’ll finally have the house back to ourselves again and I think that’s the way it’s going to stay for a VERY LONG TIME because I’ve learned a lot about myself during this time, most strongly of all that I NEED MY OWN SPACE. And I have very little patience for people who resent responsibilities. And who have very little concern for other people. And make excuses for absolutely everything. And I could rant on this vein for a while. 57 days, people. Fifty. Seven.
  • Jessi’s graduation was on Saturday in downtown Savannah at the Martin Luther King Jr. Arena. I tried to take pictures, but they didn’t turn out very clearly. But let me show you a few so you can get an idea of what this was like.
View from my seat at SCAD commencement 2015
View from my seat at SCAD commencement 2015

This was the view from where we sat at commencement. The people on the floor there? Those are all the graduates. By my count, there are 20 people on each side of the aisle down there and there are 25 rows of seats. That’s 1000 students graduating, give or take. They had two separate ceremonies after lunch for the actual walking across the stage part so that the parents of graduates only had to sit through half of that group. (The person talking on the screen is SCAD president, Paula Wallace.)

Can you identify this man?
Can you identify this man?

This was the commencement speaker. Can you name that face? What about if I give him a prop to help?

Ladies and gentlemen: John Lasseter
Ladies and gentlemen: John Lasseter

That’s right. The speaker at the commencement was none other than John Lasseter, creator of Pixar. Animating genius behind Toy Story, Cars, Wall-E, Big Hero 6 and many others. He almost made me cry.

At the end, just to show how SCAD likes to end things with style, this is how they closed the event and marched out of the arena.

Going out with a bang!
Going out with a bang!

That’s confetti that’s been blown out of cannons at ceiling height. And a drum line at the front of the room. And in the middle of all that, there are AERIALISTS.


Yeah. Seriously. Aerialists. And dozens of white beach balls. Art school, ya’ll. Go figure.

I don’t have any pictures from the other half of the ceremony because my camera just couldn’t handle the level of light and how far away we were sitting to get anything remotely good. But Jessi made it across the stage with excellent poise and as soon as they get around to mailing it to her, she’ll hold her masters degree in Motion Media or something like that.

Now any of you who know me kinda well are looking at those pictures and noticing that there’s a HUGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THAT SPACE. Yeah. Let me tell you, I started freaking out about going into that arena about a week before we got there. It wasn’t fun. We had to rush in with the crowd to try to get a good seat, which meant getting right into the press of things and I do not handle that well. Justin got in front of me to lead the way. When we got up the first set of stairs and into the actual building, we then had to make it through the smaller set of doors into the actual arena. And that was when I really started having trouble because I went from being outside to being in a dark, enclosed space with lots of people all around me, all talking loud, with loud music playing over it, and everybody’s pushing forward. I tried really hard to hold it together, looking up at the ceiling and breathing deeply and trying to visualize a happy place while also visualizing me successfully making it up the steps and to my seat, but I just couldn’t quite do it and the tears did start to fall. I probably got some weird looks from people, this blonde white chick staring at the ceiling and crying, but Justin got me through the crowd and to my seat, which was right next to the rail by a stairway (I love that railing with a love that I’ve never had for railings before) and I was able to sit there with my headphones on for a while, listening to podcasts on my phone until the commencement started.

The second event wasn’t quite as crowded and because I’d already gone through it once, it was easier to go in the second time. It still wasn’t great, but I managed it without completely melting down. When we got home much later in the evening, after going out for celebratory dinner with Jessi, I shut myself into the bedroom and listened to classical piano music and read for TWO HOURS before I could handle being around people again. Any people.

It was a rough day. But exciting.

I’ve hit about 1100 words so I think I’ll break this up into parts. I still haven’t talked about my mammogram or the table behind the sofa we made with Mom and Dad. I’m sure there’s other stuff, too. So I’ll break here and put up another one soon.

We own our car!

I just sent the last payment for our car!! We now own this baby completely!! Well, as soon as they process the payment and send us the title, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Now we’re going to be able to get really serious about those credit cards that we’ve been working on FOREVER. No more car payment!!

And we did learn some very valuable lessons about buying cars. Like, specifically, not to get suckered into buying a brand new car when we don’t have the money to afford that. Six years is a long time for us to let that lesson sink in really nice and deep.

We just passed the 100,000 mile mark on this beauty, by the way, but we should be able to get several more years of driving from this car. We just spent a chunk of change getting the works done at the mechanic’s — new brake shoes and pads, a new rear shock (or two?), all new fluids, new filters. I feel like the only thing we didn’t get on this trip was new tires. But she’s a happier car now.

I’m just SO EXCITED to have finally paid off that loan!! That feels AWESOME.

Refinishing the trunk (post 1 of possibly more)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Cushion covers are done!

I have been working on a sewing project since April.  My friend Becky decided that she’s going to expand her view and travel the country in a 15-foot Casida camper trailer.  So she went out and bought a truck and bought a trailer and she and Julie (her roommate since college) have been living in that all summer in order to save up money.  And, skipping to the end a bit, Julie is moving into her own apartment today and Becky has a camper-friendly job set up in Kansas and she’s heading out of town in the middle of September.

So!  Back in April, we went to Walmart and picked up fabric to use to cover the cushions around the dinette and for curtains.  And I’ve been working since then to get these silly things put together.  I figured it wouldn’t be a problem!  Sew a couple of rectangles together!  How tricky could that be?



I am not familiar with zippers.  And zippers, it turns out, are TRICKY.  Not as bad as their reputation makes them out to be, probably, but this project had surprising twists with the zippers.

The first cover I put together, I put a 23″ zippper on it.  The cushions are 25″ wide, but I figured, they’re squishy, right?  WRONG.  Not squishy.  No matter how much I tried, I could not get that cover to squeeze over the cushion.

And then I put one together without a zipper but the opening all the way open on the spot where the zipper would be one I found a 25″ zipper.  (23″ is the longest Walmart carried.)  And I still couldn’t get the cushion to fit!

So I thought maybe I was making the cover to narrow, so I expanded all the sides by 1/2 inch and tried again.  Still didn’t work.

Finally we figured out that the problem was that the opening for the cushion would have to be not just on the length of the cover, but also spilling around to the sides as well.  So the zipper would go across the long end and then turn the corner and go down the side for a ways, making a much larger opening.  Which meant that I needed a 30″ zipper.


Guess what I couldn’t find anywhere?

Yeah, 30″ zippers are hard to find.

But know what you can find by the dozen on Etsy?  16″ zippers!  I bought a dozen or so zippers in a batch from a seller on Etsy (K & C Supplies).  I then put the zippers so they both started in the middle of the cushion cover and opened outward.  (It was Justin’s idea.)  It worked perfectly!  The problem was figuring out how to sew the zippers on so it actually looked nice.  That was not something I succeeded at doing very well.  But the zippers do work and the cushions do fit and they look fantastic!

I learned a lot of things about sewing while working on this project.

  1. Don’t assume it’s going to fit before you test it
  2. Make sure you have a sharp seam-ripper
  3. If the fabric is woven, make sure to overstitch the seams to keep the whole thing from unraveling
  4. Don’t stitch on top of the zipper or you will break the needle on the sewing machine
  5. Sewing machine needles are easy to replace
  6. Clean out your sewing machine now and then
  7. Thread the needle in the machine with the foot UP — this and cleaning out the bobbin reel fixed all my thread tension issues
  8. The bobbin will always run out earlier than I expect and often at an unfortunate moment
  9. I am much more picky about the project than ANYONE ELSE.  No one else cares if the lines aren’t exactly straight
  10. Most people glaze over when I start to talk about zippers
  11. People who don’t glaze over when I talk about zippers all also agree that zippers are tricky
  12. It does get easier with practice

I feel bad that it took me so long to finish it — I had to un-stitch that first one so many times to try to get it right.  And there are things that I wish I could fix — they don’t fit as nice as I would like and the sewing around the zippers isn’t at neat as I would like.  But I don’t think I could actually do much to change that at this point, so they’re going to stay as they are.  And Becky didn’t notice any of those things (and glazed over a little bit when I started talking about zippers :)) and so I’m going to guess that it’s going to be okay.

So!  Pictures!

There are 4 cushions, two narrow ones that go along the back of the seats and two square-ish ones for the bottom. They didn’t need this one the whole time I was working on this project.
Here are the other three covers. They’re leaving them here until they’ve done a thorough clean of the trailer.
This is what the cushion looks like underneath the covers.
Here you can see what I mean about the zippers. They meet in the middle of the cushion here and move outward from each other.
And then the zippers go around the corners and down the sides for a bit.
All the seams have this zigzag stitch on them because the fabric just completely unravels without it.
And this is just shot of the fabric because I think it’s really pretty. Becky chose well.

And now:  Curtains!  You’d think that’d be easy, right?  NOPE.  Gotta figure out how to hang them first, and then figure how to keep them close to the wall.  The walls are curved and there are windows right above her bed, so if the curtain hangs straight down, people could look in the window and see part of her bed.  And that’s just creepy.  And the windowsills get too hot for sticky-backed velcro,  making that not a good option.  So we’re working on ideas how to make this work.

But at least the cushion covers are done!