Archives for posts with tag: projects

I really can’t explain or predict how, why, or when I will make progress toward any of my goals. This spring, you heard about my Big Plans for our kitchen (which surfaced as I avoided my Big Plan to re-upholster (at least partially) Dr. T’s favorite chair.)

Most of the upper cabinets and doors in the kitchen got painted early last summer. (I can now confess that two doors were inadvertently stacked in the pile of laundry room cabinet doors, and therefore missed being primed and painted.)

Our upper kitchen cabinets are hung under soffits (which have always bugged me.)

My theory was that if I painted the soffits with vertical stripes, I’d have the effect of higher ceilings. It was a great theory, but it took me months to get the nerve to try it. I have since verified my theory, but learned that I  am not as adept with painter’s tape as I might like. Let’s call it a noble experiment gone wrong.

More time passed, and the almostbutnotquiteright stripes irked me every day. I realized that the effort required for perfection exceeded the effort I was willing to expend in achieving it.

After some consideration, I decided to try chalkboard paint (surely you remember that I have used the same paint on the side of one cabinet and the panels of several cabinet doors)  on the soffit over the sink, and  the same soft gray paint that I used on the walls under the cabinets on the remaining soffits.

For no particular reason, I executed this plan yesterday and today.

I like it- I really like it!  Now that the soffits are painted, the cabinets really “pop” (as they say on HGTV.) Inspired, I finished  painting  the crown molding with the same color as the cabinets (Celery Ice by Behr, for those of you who are keeping score at home.)

This is not to say that this room is done, but it is to say that progress is being made, and that personality is creeping into a space that used to have none.

The lower cabinets even look better, though still in their original loathsome oak finish. I am optimistic now, but I know impatience will strike again before I am through.

And a good thing that is, too. I love my husband’s brother and his wife for their own dear selves, but I especially love them right now because we are compelled to get our third bedroom in order to properly receive them.

After spending the last year leaning casually against the walls, the bed frame will be assembled and get a new mattress. The extra desk, a tall secretary, will make its way out to the kitchen or family room (decisions, decisions) and in its place, we will hang a shelf for our emergency back-up TV. (after I finally paint that wall!) While I am at it, I’ll paint the inside of the closet, which has been left mostly empty so that I could do that very thing.

I’ve already been consolidating and storing the various craft materials and boxes of photos and other memorabilia, which I will finally be able to put into the closet or stash under the bed, once it is put together.

None of these little projects is too difficult; the hardest part is determining the order of operations: for example, the reason that the wall behind the desk is not already painted is that the desk came back with Dr. T in 2008, and we didn’t decide on a room color until one of my visits in 2009. The desk was already in place, and since no one was staying in the room, we just left painting that wall for another time. (Just as well, really, since it turns out that the color, in a room with south and east facing windows, is a little more “vibrant” than I anticipated. I now have a chance to paint the west wall and closet in a calmer cousin of the original color.)

But before the wall gets painted or the bed gets assembled, the remaining few kitchen cabinet doors need to be finished. I have been using this room to prime and paint them because I can shut myself in and away from Waldo, both while I paint and while the paint dries. (And yes, I knew that bringing a puppy home in the middle of a painting project was not the best idea, but I can’t say I’m sorry.) The doors should be finished and hung by Wednesday night, leaving the floor clear for bed making. After I shove everything  carefully stow things under the bed, there will be room to paint the closet, and the wall  next to it.

On the planet where I am marvelously efficient and energetic, I’d get some other things done too, but I won’t jinx myself right now by mentioning them. Believe me, if I get to any of them, you will hear about it.

In a shining example of the universe rising to meet my needs, I have an extremely light work week, and I will take every advantage of that. Back to work I go. I’ll be posting while my paint dries from now on…

I aspire to a beautiful home, but have come to realize that I do not have the temperament, attention span, or financial resources to attain one by conventional means. Whatever progress I make in the direction of my goal seems to be the result of disturbingly long periods of time where I stare at the offending areas in and outside of the house, look at magazines and online resources (talking to you, Pinterest!) and  finally make a plan, followed by spurts of activity wherein something gets done. Or more often, partly done. Then eventually, finished.

Because of the large number of ongoing projects which follow this pattern, I am initiating a category of this blog, called, you guessed it- “The Haphazard Homemaker.” Because that is what I am.

Nothing snaps a girl out of an existential funk like a household emergency, in this case, a stealthily leaking water heater. Rather than tackling one of my existing projects, I have spent the morning scraping paint from the utility room floor.

When we bought the house, the floor was painted a poopy brown color. I didn’t like it, but doing something about it was low on the list. While we were gone, someone painted the floor a soft gray, which might have looked better if it hadn’t been slopped onto the baseboards as well.

This gray paint is what we found bubbling up around the room. (You’d use water-based latex paint in a room with a washing machine and a water heater, right? Yeah, me neither.)

So, the bubbling floor jumps ahead in the growing line of unfinished projects, but just for a day or so. While the room is mostly empty, I will remove the floor paint, wash the walls, and prime them. The rest of the room will have to wait its turn. I’ve got cabinets to finish!

If the kitchen is, as many say, the heart of the home, our house truly is on life support. Our kitchen is barren and ugly, and has been since I’ve known it. When we first moved in, TMIM was in graduate school, and The Kid was in elementary school, with weekends full of sports. Due to a combined lack of disposable income and time, the kitchen remained as we found it, a pass through to the other rooms, where Dr. T. labored alone to provide us delicious food.

Hamburger Helper reigned supreme when our house was built in 1972.  Although it was originally occupied by one of the neighborhood’s developers, and features many upgrades throughout, the  kitchen is bare-bones basic. I don’t think there was a lot of cooking going on then. But now there is, and TMIM deserves better.  I have painted almost every other room in the house at least once, and we’ve made some other improvements, but we have been as guilty of kitchen neglect as  previous owners, except for installing a restaurant style pot rack when we first lived here. A series of increasingly undesirable tenants hasn’t helped. That pot rack is long gone, replaced by lumpy patches of what I assume is spackle (which for some reason does not cover the nearby holes.) The only good thing that happened in our absence was someone priming the walls, covering the 80’s style country print wallpaper.

I’ve been stewing over  the issue of the kitchen since we reclaimed our turf in 2008, intensely since I came back for good last June.  In the abstract, I know what I want: a friendly, useful space that accommodates more than one cook, and maybe a guest or two.  Specifically, I want to replace almost everything- the dilapidated cabinets, the ancient faux brick vinyl floor (with a seam right in the middle of it-what’s up with that?!) and our ancient stove. I want to add a bar/workspace big enough for two stools, and improve our storage. I would also dearly love to open the kitchen to the family and dining rooms. Is that too much to ask? (Fortunately, our refrigerator and dishwasher are new, energy-efficient, and fairly attractive. Just don’t fall for the term “stainless” steel- it’s not- at least in my house.)

True to my status as a graduate of the Rube Goldberg School of  Project Management, I actually started my kitchen rehab the same day I started the cushion cover for the recliner in my living room  (Let’s not talk about that right now) by finally buying the paint I needed for a little project I found on Pinterest. I painted the side of one of our cabinets with blackboard paint, and trimmed the edges with the paint I bought to perk up the window sill and frame.  The best thing about our kitchen is the pair of south-facing windows over the sink, looking to our front yard and deep wooded lots across the street. The worst thing is the cabinetry- it’s dark oak and seems impossible to really clean, and it’s the first thing you notice. The doors are solid wood, but the frames are not. In a perfect world, we could tear them out and start over. Maybe someday we will. For now,inspired by the immediate improvement  my other painting offered, I am extending the same coat of glossy light color to the uppers, starting with the pair flanking the window. Pre-paint, my view seemed to stop at those oppressive cabinets; now, I walk in and see the trees, almost fully leafed out now, and the white blooms of the dogwood across the street.

Suddenly, I am full ideas for the rest of the room. I won’t start anything else until I finish those upper cabinets, which may take a week or two. I’ve decided to attack them in sections, in order to be able to contain the mess and leave Dr. T room to operate. The “before” is so bad I am reluctant to post pictures. If all goes according to plan, I will proudly post “afters.”

If the job search is progressing, it is at a pace indiscernible to the human eye. No word from anyone I’ve contacted recently, and I subscribe to the theory that most people do not care to be bothered on Mondays. That said, I am turning my attention this rainy Monday to something where I might see some progress.

We’ve got this chair. It’s a big, manly recliner we bought when TMIM embraced his codger status shortly after his 50th birthday. The chair was originally purchased in Durham, and came back here when he did. It’s been well loved and well worn, and it shows. In a demonstration of flattering but misguided faith in my ability, Dr. T asked me to re-cover it. Sure, I’ve made some simple curtains and pillows, and I’ve even re-covered a storage ottoman (talk about your learning by doing.) But a recliner? That’s complicated. My good friend Google said don’t even try.

I took time to consider. A lot of time. The chair had been in the family room, but we’d replaced it with a pair of smaller club chairs and ottomans, so back to the living room it went. And it sat there in its shabby glory, at complete odds with the rest of the room. Couldn’t we just kick it to the curb? Dr. T was clearly not emotionally ready to let go of his old buddy. I considered further. I will undertake any project if the “after” can’t end up worse than the “before.” The recliner qualified.

My favorite part of designing a room is the “if this, then what?” aspect. My this: a hulking mass of navy blue leather in a room otherwise populated by smaller, lighter furniture, including wicker and rattan. The dominant colors in the room are smoky aqua, turquoise, taupe, and a sort of olive-brown. Mr. Chair was not invited, but now that he was here, I’d have to help him fit in; he was going to have to lighten up and lose some of his macho.

I decided I could manage his transformation if I left the back and sides alone. The real wear was on the footrest, seat and arms. The footrest seemed straightforward enough, the seat cushion was really just a glorified pillow, and the arms…well, I’d get to that when I got to it. I knew I was not ready to deal with leather, so the trick was to find a fabric sturdy enough to withstand the wear, and to make sense with the leather. Rather than trying to match the solid blue, I  wanted to use a pattern that related to the other colors in the room. Fortunately, mismatched upholstery is kind of a “thing” right now, and it suits my style, which I call, “I dunno, but like it (or can’t afford to replace it.)”

We found and ordered the fabric. I’d carefully calculated and measured  before I ordered, but now I was afraid to commit by cutting. I am not a math person, and I worried that there wouldn’t be enough material for the job. Finally, I decided to at least attack the footrest. It turned out fine. Emboldened, I ripped off the seat cover. And promptly lost my nerve again. I will not tell you how long I have been staring at that naked cushion. Today though, I am prepared to go forward. Sometimes you have to really not want to do one thing before you can make yourself do that other thing you have been avoiding.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (

Greggory Miller

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