Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn Afternoon

Today, after the rainstorms blew through, the sun shone for a few hours. Bits of pale blue sky appeared here and there, and the late afternoon rays set afire the first red leaves of the season.

And it was remarkably nice.

Oh, autumn. Sometimes you are cute.

What About Polka Dots?

I have a well-documented, slightly obsessive fascination with polka dots.

A quick tour around my home this afternoon turned up ample evidence. 

Polka dot dishes.
Polka dot paintings.
Polka dot bedding.
Polka dot accessories.

Good heavens, I even have a polka dot cat.

Wait. No. He's got stripes, and that's an infatuation for another day.

But about those polka dots. I've been thinking. Why not some polka dotted walls in my newly painted home office?

^ Mmm. I am not immediately draw to the color gold, but I am a huge fan of these dots' random placement. And those two stools bring to mind my turquoise inspiration pieces. Hmm. Might be kismet.

^ My fresh, clean walls are now this tan color, more or less. Against that background, the white dots look so crisp and clean. I like.


^ But then again, I kinda like this offbeat blue-ish grey color. And the slightly off-kilter placement of the dots. And, let's be honest, that little cloud-shaped shadow box distracts me completely. Wanna make it right now.


^ Anal-retentive grid. I love its perfect order. 

No, I hate it! Too compulsive and fussy. 

Wait. Who am I kidding. There are plenty of days when I crave compulsive and fussy.

But this might be more structure than I want in my creative nest.

At the other end of the spectrum, whoopee! This scene is a handful of confetti at midnight, a burst of fireworks in the night sky, a fiery flurry of glitter that slid off a child's art project as it was lifted out of the car.

It's not quite the right look for my workspace. But I LOVE it.


^ And this sweet little scene was my original inspiration for polka dot walls. 

I am drawn to its simplicity, imperfect charm, and no-nonsense approach. And if I may be so bold as to play favorites, I think I love it best.

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Well. I'm duly inspired. And I'm definitely for polka dot walls. Now only this question remains: what am I going to do about it?

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Room makeover in progress! To catch up on the project, read:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fresh Paint

Room makeover in progress! To catch up on the project, read:

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^ Fresh stain on newly sanded wood, and nostalgic scratch marks from a beloved dog.

v Biodegradable drop cloths, mini rollers, and goodbye to you, old tired ceiling!

These, my friends, are not pretty pictures.

They are working pictures.

Because today was a major work day in my home office. I tackled one messy, labor-intensive job after the next, for ten hours on end, and got a lot done.

This remodeling project is far from finished, but the worst has definitely passed. 

Because tonight, I'm basking in the glorious smell of fresh paint.

Friday, September 27, 2013


My darling little art students are growing up.

Because our out-of-the-box school-for-homeschoolers is crazy and cool, teachers can work with the same group of kids for years on end. With this group, we've been making art for about six years now, and that is a long and lovely time to be together.

And while they still adore many of our old tried-and-true projects - like bubble painting, splatter art, and string painting - my students are also maturing as artists. Today, we used pencils to created value scales - which are basically black and white rainbows. Then we put those techniques to work in our drawings of white cubes, which were illuminated with bright light to create strong shadows.

Typically assigned to students at the high school level, these technical projects did not frighten my young padawans. While most are just 9 to 12 years old, they all successfully tackled the assignment with good spirits and created beautiful work. Even my little kindergartner sat right down and gave it her best shot. My students are motivated, positive-thinking, eager learners and it's a joy to work with them.

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Just a few months ago, I wasn't sure I was going to continue this class. Finally, all of my own daughters have graduated from this program and I wondered if maybe it was time for me to move on, too. But even in this dark classroom, the light of my students' passion for art has called me back home, and I'm very glad of that.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Baby Blues

Room makeover in progress! To catch up on the project, read:

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Oh sure, to the untrained eye, this post seems to be filled with weird photos of scrappy-looking piles of lumber in some random garage.

To me, these skinny strips of wood are my babies, my offspring, midwifed in a three-day session of dramatic twists and turns. Like any new mother, I feel compelled to give you the details on my delivery.

Don't worry. I promise it won't get weird.

On Sunday afternoon, I went out to the garage to begin my labor. I found an unruly heap of woodwork - baseboards, chair rails, and crown molding. Stripped off the walls for some much needed maintenance as part of my home office remodel, the pieces were riddled with dings and bumps and dog scratches galore. There were globs and blobs and smears of wall paint from projects in the past.

{I used to be a sloppy painter. I'm better now.}

But the point here is that I realized that this wood and I were due for a long and protracted session with my electric sander. So I set up my saw horses and went to work.

Sanding operations proceeded smoothly. I had plowed my way through about two-thirds of the pile, not only smoothing away the imperfections but wiping each piece down with a damp cloth, when my sander died.

Yep. First, it roared dangerously. Then, it wobbled wildly, practically gyrating out of my hand. I turned it off and called for my mechanic, who found ball bearings rolling around in the motor where they weren't supposed to be.

You know that can't be good.

So I performed last rites, delivered a eulogy, and buried the dead body in the trash. Then I tucked my lumber into bed for the night by covering up the finished pieces with a drop cloth, in the hopes it would stay sweet and clean and perfectly dust-free.

You know how sometimes you get a really great idea and feel so smart for thinking ahead...and then things go all wonky and suddenly that brilliant plan blows up in your face?

Yeah. The next day, after I bought the new sander and finished up the remaining pieces, I pulled the drop cloth off the already-done pieces to find...mildew.

The drop cloth, which was supposed to save me time and trouble by keeping my lumber safe through the night, had apparently trapped in the moisture introduced by my wipe-down procedure, and set up petri-dish-perfect conditions for mildew spores.

Doggone it. Ok, so possible solutions? Clearly, I could sand the spots off. But honestly, at this point, I was not looking for more quality time with my sander. As a Plan B, there are some spray cleaners formulated for removing mildew that have worked wonders in my bathroom, and I decided to give that idea a try. Oh wait. Suddenly, I remembered that I had recently used up the last of my mildew spray, so this option was going to require a trip to the store.

On Monday evening around 11:30 pm.

But you know what, gosh darn it, I am not about to be outsmarted by a dumb drop cloth and damp wood. So I went to not one but two stores to find mildew spray. I went home, hosed down a test piece with this magical solution, and left matters alone till morning.

A quick inspection the next day revealed that the mildew stains were indeed gone...but the spray had discolored the wood severely enough to guessed it, more sanding.

Well, my path was clear. The Universe had clearly won this round, so I got out my sander and resanded the six or eight pieces afflicted with mildew, removing those nasty spots. It wasn't that bad.

Finally ready to move on to the next stage of the process, I reached for my handy-dandy oft-used can of oak stain...and found it was empty.


Yet, as any new mother will attest, the worst pain happens just before the end, and so it was for my woodwork.

By Wednesday afternoon, I was holding a full quart of stain and a new paintbrush in my hands, and within a couple hours, every last piece of trim was looking fresh and pretty. Hallelujah.

Of course, I still have to apply two coats of clear finish to protect my newly rejuvenated wood, but that should be easy.

Seriously, what could go wrong?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wild And Reckless

Room makeover in progress! To catch up on the project, read:

Choosing paint colors, for me, is a lot like deciding on a flavor of ice cream at Baskin-Robbins.
Step One: Embrace all the options. Consider the delicious possibilities of each and every one, and revel in their amazingness.
Step Two: Winnow. Yes, there is a lot to love, but a room/stomach can only handle so much, so it's important to let go of the choices that are anything less than ideal.
Step Three: Make a leap of faith. Let's face it, with paint as well as ice cream, there is no one perfect answer. Once the choices have been narrowed down to an irresistible handful, even the most analytical, logic-driven negotiator must yield to pure instinct. Go with your gut, be bold, and once you decide, don't look back.
In picking out the wall color for my office remodel, I'm almost ready to leap. Today, I went to IKEA to pay a visit to the sofa of my dreams, so that I could compare my short list of paint chips to the available couch colors.

^ Here she is, little Miss Karlstad. Clean lines, modern vibe, and available in about eight different fabrics. While the showroom model was sporting the classic white, which always works for me, I have taken a particular shine to an earthy little textured number called Lindö beige.

^ A quick sort through my fistful of neutral paint samples brought me to a conclusion: Mushroom Bisque and Baja both look fine with this fabric.

Hmm. Interesting. I've been drawn to that Mushroom Bisque since the day I stood in front of the paint chip rack at Home Depot and pulled out thirty or forty different cards. Dear gut, please take note of this fact for future reference.

Thus satisfied that my paint selection process is steadily steaming toward a satisfying conclusion, I proceeded to window shop for other items on my office makeover wish list.

 ^ I found some out-of-the-box options for a low, desk-side home for my printer, router and other unsightly devices. The first two are TV tables which fit the bill for being low, long and fairly narrow. The two-drawer chest is meant to be a bedside table, but if I set two of them side by side, I would solve my digital problems and score four nice drawers to boot. 

^ According to my current plan, one corner of my remodeled room will be open and available for a new storage piece. I'm imagining something with big, bold color. I've seen that black unit in the top photo many a time on Pinterest, spray painted in flamboyant glory. The yellow and red options are gorgeous too, though I'm tempted to go with the rather simple glass case in the photo below. Several of my Malaysian friends have these in their homes, filled with prize possessions, and I would love to have one of these for my treasures, too.

^ These chairs have haunted me for years. That grid of nine circular holes kills me, and I love the bright red just as much as the natural wood. One thing is settled for sure, though...I definitely want the swivel base.

^ Cute industrial-chic work lamp, I want you. But seriously, you are a little drab. How do you feel about some spray paint to spice up our relationship?

^ I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how I controlled myself during this bout of window shopping. I looked, but I came home empty-handed. No new purchases until I finish the hard work - that's my redecorating rule and I'm sticking to it.

Also, I disciplined myself to only drool over items that are actually on my official wish list. Determined to work my plan and stay on task, I don't want to be distracted by all the other lovelies that the world has to offer.

But then there's this darling turquoise metal cart. How ridiculously adorable is that?! It would be such a fun partner to my little turquoise inspiration tables; obviously, I have a weakness for aqua metal. Not sure how I would use it or what would fit inside, but still, every decorating instinct in my body is screaming that I should have this, so I'm listening and considering how to respond.

And just for fun, I did a little research to find out if Baskin-Robbins makes a turquoise ice cream. Maybe that would somehow help me make my decision.

Turns out that they do. It's called, "Wild and Reckless."

I'm pretty sure that cart is going to be mine.