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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Duck Slippers

I just made the cutest pair of little slippers ever!
This is a pattern I got off Whoopdwhoop, that crafty swapping site I've mentioned before.  Peek a Boo patterns created this pattern, and the minute I saw it, I knew it would make the PERFECT baby gift for friends we went to law school with at the University of Oregon, home of the Ducks!  (Get it?  Duck slippers?  Ha!)  They were quick and easy to make, and the instructions were clear and easy to understand.
Peek a Boo patterns has lots of adorable patterns, and if you don't have anything to swap on Whoopdwhoop, you can always check out their Etsy shop.
And I didn't get compensation of any kind for this post, just sharing a good find again!

Friday, May 20, 2011

My new custom font!

Okay, so how COOL is this...I just got a font made out of my handwriting.
For a digital scrapbooker, this is the bee's knees.  One of my favorite digital designers, Stolen Moments, offers this service, and she did a terrific job.  I absolutely LOVE it.
And I didn't receive compensation of any kind for this post, just sharing a good find!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Envelope Pillows Tutorial

I am in love with the idea of envelope pillows.  It's brilliant.  Pillows you can remove the cover from to easily wash, or fold up and stick in the linen closet to make way for next season's pillows.  Plus they are super de duper easy to make.
When JoAnn had their outdoor canvas on sale 50% off a few weeks ago, I went and picked out a couple patterns I liked for this project.  I opted for outdoor canvas for my indoor pillows for two reasons.  1) I want things to look nice, but I believe in function over form.  2) I have kids.  'Nuff said.
For my first couple pillows, I chose 20" square pillow forms (by the way, JoAnn's pillow forms are 40% off this week).  These instructions will go with that, but the concept is easily adapted to another pillow size.

You need:
20" pillow form
2/3 yard fabric (mine was 54" since it is a decorator fabric...if yours is not, you may need more)

1) You may choose to pre-wash your fabric (make sure you check the care instructions for your fabric).  I usually do, but forgot this time around.  Then iron (be careful not to shrink or scorch, especially if you use outdoor canvas or any delicate fabric).
2) Cut out a 21"x21" square (20 inches plus an additional inch to allow a half inch seam all the way around), and two 21"x13" rectangles (again, half inch seam, plus enough fabric for the layers to overlap, forming an envelope).
3) On the 21"x13" rectangles, fold over the longest end 1/2" and iron.
4) Fold the 1/2" you just ironed over and iron it in place again, then pin.  This hides the raw edge.
5) Sew 1/2" fold-over into place, close to the edge.
6) Pin 21"x13" pieces to the 21"x21" square, right sides together.  The finished edges you just sewed should be overlapping to form the envelope.
7) Sew all around, using a half inch seam and reinforcing at corners and over edges of envelope.
8) Clip the corners.
9) Turn inside out, press if desired.  Put on your pillow form!
Voila!  All done! Now you can embellish them however you want!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mixed feelings around these parts

I wasn't nearly as productive as I had hoped last week.  I didn't get started painting the bookshelves, or fix my kids clothes, or get my new raised bed garden built.  It's okay.  While I wish I would have gotten those things done, I'm not going to beat myself up because I didn't.
I did take some time to create a scrapbook page.  My grandma died on Saturday, and as always, creating is a way for me to process and express what I'm feeling.  That's why I create to begin with.
Journaling reads:

Phyllis Salina Jones Burton

Born April 7th 1918
Died May 14th 2011
My Grandma just died, and I have such mixed feelings. She had been frail and often sick for many years, so it is not all that surprising that she passed away. And yet, because she has been through so much and still held on...it has come as a shock to me.
I can’t believe she’s really gone.
Since we moved back to Utah, I haven’t gone to see her nearly as much as I should have. The last time we went, all she wanted to do was hold Susie. I’m glad I took my camera to capture it.
It’s not so much that I am mourning the death of my Grandma as it is I am mourning lost opportunities to know her. I love you, Grandma. I hope I can know you better in the next life.

Template: Connie Prince
Kit: Captured Romance, Scrap Matters Collab
Fonts: LD Shelli Print and French 111 BT

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lilies in Moonlight book review

Lilies in Moonlight, but Allison Pittman
Book cover synopsis:

"He’d lost his zest for life. She was just lost. Will they find the healing and love they long for?
After a roaring night on the town, fun-loving flapper Lilly Margolis, dazed and disoriented, twists her ankle and falls into the backyard of a wealthy family where the effects of the Great War—over for more than half a decade—are still endured. Inside the walls of the Burnside mansion, Cullen Burnside, a disillusioned and disfigured veteran, and his widowed mother, Betty Ruth, who daily slips a little further into dementia, lead a lonely existence … until Lilly. Whimsical, lighthearted, and beautiful, she rejuvenates their sad, disconnected lives and blossoms in the light of their attention.
But Lilly, like Cullen, is hiding from a painful past. And when Cullen insists on returning her to her faraway home, their budding attraction seems destined to die on the vine. The resulting road trip becomes a journey of self-discovery—but what will Cullen and Lilly find at journey’s end?"

I didn't love this book.  It kind of surprised me, actually, because I've liked all the other books I've gotten to review from WaterBrook Multnomah.  But that may just be me, since other reviews I've seen have sung praises.  
I had a hard time liking the heroine.  I finally warmed up to her by the end of the book, but that's mostly because I liked Cullen, our hero, and wanted him to be happy.  Perhaps that should be a lesson to me about seeing the best in people...Cullen obviously saw the best in Lilly, whereas I did not.  I will say Pittman's characters felt real, believable, vivid even.  I think she is a very good writer....I just didn't care for this book.  
I think the book is supposed to be about forgiveness and redemption, which I supposed it was; however it seemed a little lukewarm. 
I did find the author's descriptions of the 1920's very interesting though.  Her research seemed thorough.    
And that's all I have to say about that.  Better luck next time!
I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cole's Cafe

Last night we had belated Mother's Day dinner for my mom.  She loves sweet potatoes, so when I came across this recipe, I HAD to try it.
It was delicious.
Let me tell you a little about this blogger.  Nicole is a friend in my new neighborhood.  She just got this cooking blog started after numerous requests from all kinds of people.  Nicole doesn't cook from box.  No preservatives there, folks.  And she is always making up new, delicious recipes.  She's a creative cook (unlike me!), which is why I LOVE her blog.
This is another reason.
Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Homemade Larabars
Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich
3 Part Pull-Apart Bread
So head on over and find some inspiration.  I promise you will!

Monday, May 9, 2011

And moving on....

Happy Monday to everyone.  And I hope you had a Happy Mother's Day as well!  I had a lovely day myself.

So now that the kitchen is done, and my posts on the process are done, it's time to move on!!!!  HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!  Up next: painting all eight of my very large bookshelves.
These are laminate, so painting them is a bit trickier, but IT CAN BE DONE.  I'll tell you all about it, don't worry.  I'm also ripping off the backs and replacing them with bead board, then painting and glazing the whole she-bang.  Oh, and for the two bookshelves that have cabinets on the lower half, I bought new hardware to replace the hideous knobs they have at present.
And then once those are done, I can start decorating my house!  We have nothing on the walls.  How depressing and dull is that?!

Anyway, also on tap this week: making a job chart for my 3 year old, upcycling a couple of their clothes, and designing a new swim skirt for me (if I get around to sewing it as well, great, but let's not set ourselves up for failure, eh?).
I'll let you know how the progress goes!  Have a fantabulous Monday!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Six: Decorative Molding

Following Step Five: Hardware...

Tricksy.  Learned a lot about using a miter saw, I can tell you that!
I did most of this flying by the seat of my pants (of course), but I have to tell you, after I labored and made mistakes, I discovered someone else in the crafty/DIY blogosphere who has some awesomely awesome tutorials on molding.  Emily at Nest, Nesting, Nested.  I refer you to there.  Partially because I have a head cold and can't begin to fathom explaining all of that myself.  And I'm sure she won't mind me sending traffic her way.
Anyway, just to give you a few tips of my own.
- You can make almost any kind of molding work.  I chose molding that is technically a chair rail molding, but worked wonderfully for my purposes.
- I attached 4 inch pieces of furring strips to my cabinets using brackets.
I then mounted my molding to those.
- The cabinet sides were thinner than the cabinet fronts, so I needed to stick something between the bracket and the cabinet to make sure the furring strip was flush with the front of the cabinet.  I used Popsicle sticks.   Worked like a charm.  Don't worry if they crack and splinter, it doesn't matter.  They just need to fill that gap.
- Measure and remeasure for the molding.
- When you are cutting, try using the sneaking up method "Using Your Saw Blade" in this article.  It worked great for me.
- Buy screws long enough to go through your furring strips and into the molding, but NOT THROUGH IT!  (Plan on putting the screws in at the thickest part of the molding.)
- Put a bit of wood glue on the furring strips before you start screwing.  If any drips down, WIPE IT UP IMMEDIATELY.  It's globby, ugly and won't stain.
- Use clamps, but still don't try to do this yourself, it's a two man job.
- Predrill the screw holes using a drill bit smaller in diameter than your screws.
- If needed, tack the molding in from the front using finish nails.  When it gets almost all the way in, use another nail to tap the hammer on and drive it all the way in.  Then fill it with wood filler.
- Wood filler is your friend.  It will cover a multitude of sins.  Seriously.  You wouldn't believe some of the mistakes I made in my cutting that no one would even notice, thanks to my wood filler.  We're pals.
- Follow the same basic recommendations for staining these as are in Step Three.  Be aware, this wood is different wood than your cabinets, so your stain may not look exactly the same, but it will be close enough.
- I did all but one coat of stain before I put the molding up.  Once they were up, I did another coat of stain (and two or three coats on the wood filler using a Q-tip), then the polyurethane to finish it off.

And that is that.
Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Drill bit
Screwdriver drill bit
Finish nails
Miter saw (rent, borrow or buy)

And just remember, you might (probably will) make mistakes.  (though hopefully fewer since you've been learning from mine!)  But in all likelihood, it will still turn out great, and no one will ever notice those mistakes.  Take courage!  :) If you want to do this, you totally can.  I did, after all!

If you've missed any posts in this series, here are the links for the whole she-bang:
and of course, this post, Step Six: Decorative Molding
Not to mention, the Before and After photos of my kitchen.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Five: Hardware

Following Step Four: Polyurethane...

It could have been easier than it was (that sounds familiar).  But anyway, first things first, choosing that hardware.  I recommend browsing some websites (Pulls Direct is where I ended up buying) to find the hardware you want, then Googling it to find the best price. I went with the Hickory Hardware Craftsman line, their round knobs and cup pulls, in highlighted oil-rubbed bronze.
Maybe you know some other great place around town to go, but don't limit yourself to the selection at Home Depot or Lowe's.  Embrace the wonderful world of online shopping!  Anyway, I first had the brilliant idea that I would just spray paint the old hinges with Krylon in oil-rubbed bronze so I wouldn't have to buy new ones.  Yeah, as soon as I took them off and cleaned them, I realized that wasn't going to work!  So I bought these hinges, also from Pulls Direct.  Can't beat the price on those babies.  Oh, and make sure you count and double count and triple count how many you need of each!  Trust me!  (On the bright side, Pulls Direct has very reasonable shipping...)
Now, installing that hardware.  Here are my hard-won tips:
- Make templates out of cardstock or posterboard, and tape them onto your doors and drawer fronts with painter's tape, so you know where to drill each time.  (Make sure you measure and remeasure when making these.)
- Choose a drill bit just a little bigger than the diameter of your screw.  Not so big that the hole would be bigger than the round part of the pull that attaches to the drawer (not a concern with a lot of cup pulls), but enough so if your measurements are slightly off, it will still work.
-  You know the saying "Measure twice, cut once"....?  Well, I would recommend measuring three times, then drilling!  :)
- I held my cabinet doors down with one arm on my counter top, and making sure it was hanging off the edge, then drilled the hole all the way through with the other hand.
- Put the hinges on the doors next.  The holes on my hinges lined up perfectly to screw them back onto the cabinet bases, but not to screw them into the doors.  So I had to drill new holes.  I put the hinge in place, then used a pen to trace each circle and drilled the holes.  If you have to do this too, use a drill bit that is smaller than your screw, and position it in the drill so it does not stick out further than the length of the screw.
This will help prevent you from drilling all the way through your cabinet door and putting a hole in your laminate counter tops (saving our pennies to replace those with granite, especially now there is a wee little hole in them!).
- Then put the screws through the holes and start twisting on knobs.  I did it most of the way by hand, then used the drill with a screwdriver bit to tighten the rest of the way.
- You'll need two people to get the cabinet doors back on.  One to hold them in place, and one to put in the screws.  We usually got the screws started with the screwdriver and finished off with the drill.  BUT BE CAREFUL.  Go slowly, or it is very possible the force of the drill could break the head of the screw off, leaving the body of the screw embedded in your cabinet base.  Which you will then try to get out by drilling more holes all around it and repeatedly yanking and twisting (and trying not to think in profanities).  If this does happen, take a deep breath, then fill up that gaping hole with wood filler and move on until it is dry the next day.  In all likelihood, the hinge will cover it up anyway, and as long as the other screws are secure, it won't matter that one of them is only anchored in wood filler.  Trust me.  (If you're really worried, do it by hand with a screwdriver.)
- On the drawer fronts, the screws must sink down into the drawer front so that nothing protrudes.  The back of the drawer front must be flush against the drawer to reattach.  This means after you drill the hole for the screw, go back with a larger drill bit, about the same size as the screw head, and drill right over the screw hole (MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS ON THE BACK!!!!!), down about an eighth or a quarter of an inch. (Or you could use a countersink drill bit, but since it was on the back of the drawer front where it wouldn't show, and I didn't want to buy one, I didn't.)
- Getting these on is much trickier than the knobs.  Put the screws through, and try to get both holes in the pull lined up with the screws, then start turning the screws to get them going.  Then use a screwdriver, and tighten with the drill.  If this doesn't work, you may need to drill a little to the left, right, or just an all around bigger hole (this is why I told you to use a drill bit that is larger than the screw..that will hopefully take care of this problem before it even happens).
- Then attach the drawer fronts to the drawers, using the same screws they had before.

And you're done with the hardware!
Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Pulls (make sure you count and recount!)
Knobs (ditto)
Hinges (if your old hinges don't match your new hardware)
Drill (consider renting if you don't own, can't borrow or don't want to buy)
Cardstock (to make template for drilling holes)

Next up, Step Six: Decorative Molding...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Four: Polyurethane

Following Step Three: Staining...

Sticky, sticky, sticky.  Other than that, it's pretty straightforward.  I recommend the following:
- Buy a couple good quality brushes.  The cheapo brushes you used for wood conditioner and stain will leave bristles behind.  If you catch them and pull them off while you're brushing it on, you'll be okay.  But trust me when I say you will not catch all of them.  You typically can peel them off once it's all dry, but they leave a line you'll have to either ignore or lightly sand and hope for the best.
So buy two quality brushes, and after each coat, clean the brush out in mineral spirits.  Then use your back-up for the next coat while the other brush dries.  And then clean out the back-up and use the first, etc.
- MAKE SURE THE SURFACE IS CLEAN!!!  I again used the brush attachment on my vacuum first.  Then wipe them down with a lint free cloth (not wet this time) to catch anything you missed before you stained.  If you don't, you will have a lovely grainy texture like the side of one of my cabinets that I missed wiping down.
I started brushing on the poly only to discover sanding dust still on the cabinet.  I quickly wiped down the rest of the cabinet, but since there was already some grit in the poly I'd already brushed on...it just got swept all over the cabinet.  And I was too lazy to wait for it to dry, sand it off and do it again.
- As mentioned before, I used Minwax in Satin.  I did two coats of poly on the cabinet bases, and the backs of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  Three coats on the fronts of the doors and drawer fronts.
- When they say "thin coats," BELIEVE THEM.  Nice and thin and easy does it.
- So here's a big issue: while the surface is drying, every little thing will stick to it.  Seriously.  Which makes the garage a less than ideal place to do this.  Oh well, where else is there to do it?!  Fortunately, wood grain camouflages dust pretty well, and 95% of anything that sticks to it...not even you (the toughest critic) will see.  But this means DO NOT OPEN THE GARAGE DOORS while the poly is drying.
- Don't forget that mask! Especially since those doors need to stay closed.  Open a screened window (and hope no super obvious dust blows through).
- Close the lid tightly between coats, otherwise the poly could get gummy and form a disgusting layer on the surface.
- The folks at Minwax recommend lightly sanding between coats of poly.  Good for them.  I didn't.  Again, it goes back to what you want (and if you've made so many mistakes that you are going crazy and just want the madness to end).  If you want them PERFECT PERFECT PERFECT (or if you've chosen a higher sheen), you'll want to do that.  And lightly means by HAND, not by machine, capiche?
- If you do sand between coats, MAKE SURE YOU WIPE IT ALL DOWN AGAIN!!!!
- If you don't sand between coats (you rebel you), I suggest the same basic system as I used with staining...put the first coat on the fronts.  Wait two hours, then flip them over and do a coat on the backs.  Two more hours, and flip them again to do the second coat on the fronts.  Two more hours, then flip them again to do the second coat on the backs.  Two more hours, then flip them to do the third coat on the fronts. Let them dry overnight (and perhaps even longer...you don't want the sawdust from drilling hardware holes to stick to your lovely glossy surface).

And that is that!  You've survived the polyurethane!
Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Next up, Step Five: Hardware...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Three: Staining

Following Step Two: Stripping and Sanding...

Messy, messy, messy.  That being said, staining is probably the easiest step, minus the messy factor. Let's get to it.
I have a tragic story for you.  Once upon a time, a certain DIY kinda girl went to Home Depot.  She looked at the sample swatches of Minwax stain, made her choice and bought a gallon of that just perfect stain.  She took it home, and proceeded to stain ALL of her cabinet bases.  And then she cried.
Her kitchen went from 1999 to 1983.  Not a good transformation.
So let us learn from this story.  Here is what I recommend:
- Pick out your stain.  Buy 8 ounces rather than a gallon.  (My first time around, I used Minwax Red Oak.  It was only slightly red and very dark on my wood.  In a word, UGLY.  But maybe it would look nice on yours...)
- Take it home, and get out two of your nicely sanded drawer fronts.  Use the wood conditioner first, then put one coat of stain ON THE BACK of one drawer front, and two coats of stain ON THE BACK of the other drawer front (very simple and straightforward instructions on the back of the can).
- Once dry, take those drawer fronts into your kitchen in the morning, and leave them there all day, with your proposed paint chips.  Take note of how it all looks at different times of the day.  If that stain is a winner, then go buy a gallon!  If it's not, go buy another quart (or take a gamble and buy a gallon of something else).  (This should also help you choose your paint color as well.)

After crying, ranting, raving and throwing a tantrum somewhat reminiscent of my one year old prima donna, my husband took me to dinner (with a much needed dessert, of course) and then to Lowe's.  We bought another gallon of stain, this time Minwax in Gunstock.  And a whole lot of sandpaper.  Even with both of us wielding a hand sander, we were up until 3 o' clock in the morning sanding off the ugly.  It was awful.  And my arms were tingly for days afterwards (my Physical Therapist little sister told me it was just my nerves responding to the constant vibration and nothing was seriously wrong...just in case you were worried).
And then I stained again.  Much better results this time around.
I went with oil-based, basically for one reason: it's cheaper.  There are disadvantages, of course.  The stench, being one.  Tougher clean-up being another.  But $$$ was the name of the game here.  The less I spent, the more I had for other home decor!!!
A few things of note for the staining process:
- Wear grubbies, for heavens' sake!  I ruined 3 pairs of jeans and a pair of jammies because I thought I could just step out real quick to do that next coat and I'd be sooooo careful.  Bah.
- Make sure you have that mask and adequate ventilation!!!  And wear gloves.
- Clean the surface!  I used the brush attachment on my vacuum first.  Then wipe down your nicely sanded surfaces with a damp cloth.  I recommend doing two rounds of this, just to make sure.  Then let it dry (shouldn't be that wet though) before you start staining.
- Now is the time to use el cheapo brushes.  It really doesn't matter with the wood conditioner and stain.  I would wrap my brush in one of the wiping rags between coats, but even if the brush gets crunchy, just push it against the ground (on newspaper or the sheet), etc., to get it loose enough to stain again.  If it's too crunchy, just get out a new one. The beauty of cheap brushes.
- Don't use newspaper as a drop cloth.  It will just stick to everything and ruin your project (and sanity).  I used an old sheet.  Worked like a charm.  Be advised, however, stain WILL seep through, so if that is a problem (I didn't care about my garage floor, frankly), you'll need to put plastic sheeting or something like unto it underneath.  For the cabinet bases, I used painter's tape, newspaper and plastic sheeting.
- Don't forget to use the wood conditioner first.  It helps.
- That being said, I didn't bother with it on the backs of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  Lazy and cheap, I guess.
- STIR your stain with a paint stirring stick thing before every coat.
- Don't skimp on the rags.  I went through a pound easily.  Start with that, but keep a watchful eye and run to the store BEFORE you run out if you need more.
- I personally wanted my stain nice and deep, so I left each coat on for 20 minutes before wiping off the excess.
- Rub the leftover stain off in the direction of the grain.
- I used a similar system with staining as I did with stripping.  In this case, I did the wood conditioner, then the first coat of stain on the fronts.  Waited two hours, then came out and flipped them over and did a coat on the backs.  Two more hours, and flipped them again to do the second coat on the fronts.  Two more hours, then flipped them again to do the second coat on the backs.  Two more hours, then flipped them to do the third coat on the fronts.  (Only did two coats on the backs.)  Let them dry overnight, and they were ready for polyurethane in the morning. Obviously, the number of coats you do depends on your personal preference.
- If you are staining your doors and drawer fronts in the garage, as I did, remember the lighting in there stinketh, and not to judge the color of the stain in there.
- If you get stain on something you shouldn't have, you have a couple options for clean-up.  If you can catch it almost immediately, then get a rag wet and add a few drops of dish soap on it.  Dish soap is designed to cut grease, so it cleans up oil based stain pretty well.  (Which means if you get stain on your hands, wash them with a liberal amount of dish soap.  Works great.) Rub the dish soap right over the wall, tile, or appliance (the things I got stain on accidently), and most of it will likely come off.  If it has had the chance to dry, get out the mineral spirits (and keep your mask on, despite their claims, that stuff ain't odorless).  Put some on a rag, and rub it over the splatter, or whatever.  DON'T LET IT DRY FOR LONGER THAN 24 HOURS BEFORE YOU TRY TO CLEAN IT UP!  It may not come up so well...believe me.  And if it's fabric you got it on, well, you could try these methods and see if it works.  It's already ruined, so it won't hurt, right?  :)

And that's about it!  Easy, right?  Well, comparatively.....
Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Dish soap
Paint stirring stick
Painter's tape
Drop cloth of some kind

Next up, Step Four: Polyurethane...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step Two: Stripping and Sanding

Following Step One: Design decisions and Shopping list...

Okay, onto the next step!  Preparing your cabinets, doors and drawer fronts.
The first thing we did was remove all the cabinet doors and drawers, then remove the hinges from the cabinets and drawer fronts from the drawers.  THEN we could really get started.  I would recommend organizing them somehow so you know where each came from, ESPECIALLY the drawer fronts.  This will be relevant when you are trying to put them back on and matching the exact position of the old screw holes  in the drawer front to that on the drawer.
I used a stripper.  Not sure if I recommend this route, and I'll tell you why.  It was messy, smelly, back breaking and time consuming.  But the clincher was that we spent just as much time sanding the pieces that I didn't strip as those that I did.  You see, the stripper I used was the cheapest one.  Because, well, I'm cheap.  I was willing to work harder to save money.  So I'm (obviously) not sure how other strippers would do.  My gripe is that the stripper removed the polyurethane, but NOT the finish (i.e., the previous ugly golden oak stain).  I then had to sand off the finish.  Given, you need to sand anyway, but if the finish had come off as well, I wouldn't have had to sand so...thoroughly.  More on that later.  Anyway, perhaps I could have done another round of stripper, and that would have worked.  Perhaps I could have bought a better kind of stripper, and that would have worked.  I don't know.  But here's what I do know if you decide to go the stripper route:
- Buy gloves that fit.  Mine were a little big, and as a result I put a big hole in one of the fingertips because it kept getting caught in my scraping tool.  Annoying as all heck.
- I turned my scraping tool sideways and scraped with the side of it.  It just worked better for me.
- Scrape HARD.  Put your weight into it.
- Leave the stripper on less time than you think.  It doesn't work better if it is allowed to "soak."  It just becomes impossible to scrape anything off!  The cheap stripper I used was designed to sit for 30 minutes before you scraped.  After learning the hard way, I let it sit 10 to 15 minutes, then scraped.
- On that note, don't put the stripper on everything all at once.  Trust me.  Work in batches of 2-4.  I usually put the stripper on the front of one door, then walked away for 10 to 15 minutes.  Came back, put the stripper on front of another door, then scraped the first.  Flipped the first over, and applied stripper to the back, then scraped the front of the second door.  Flipped that second door over and applied stripper to the back, then scraped the back of the first door.  One door done.  Then applied stripper to the front of the third door, and scraped the back of the second door.  And on it goes.  Make sense?  Let me know if you have questions on that...or anything!
- Good ventilation will save your brain cells.  And wear a mask.  I bought this one because again, I'm cheap, but if you are particularly sensitive (or worried), then buy one of these babies.  Spring/summer is a great time to tackle a project like this since you can leave the windows/doors/garage doors open without freezing your tush off!
- For the detailed areas, try using a metal brush, but don't get carried away...scratches are not easily sanded out, and they WILL show up when stained.
Okay, onward!

Oh my gosh, I hate sanding.  Seriously.  HATE IT.  This was by far the worst part of the whole project, I kid you not.  If you can survive this part, you can definitely handle ANYthing else.  I promise.
So first things first, you needsander.  Yes, NEED.  Not a heavy duty belt sander..unless you're a kamikaze bent on destroying your cabinets so your husband will buy you new ones.  No, you need a nice little hand sander.  Something light and comfortable that you can use regular ole sandpaper on.  You will not survive this project without one, I swear it to you.  And this would be a good investment, if you are a DIYer like me.  Seriously, $30 well spent.  Have I convinced you?  :)  I don't, however, recommend a detail sander.  I had one, and for one, it broke.  For two, it didn't do what it was supposed to do.  I.e., sand the details so I didn't have to do it by hand.  Maybe it works for some people.  Not for me.
If you used the stripper, then the polyurethane is gone. You need to sand off the old stain finish.  (If you skipped the stripper, you'll be sanding off both polyurethane AND the old stain finish.)  Any finish that is left will not stain to your new color.
So it has to go.  In my case, the old finish was so light, it could be hard to tell if it was gone or not.
I would do the cabinet bases first, followed by the drawer fronts, and the cabinet doors last.  Bases typically consist of solid wood and panels, all flat surfaces.  Drawer fronts are typically solid wood, no paneling or much detail.  Cabinet doors are usually solid wood frames with panels in the center, and some detail.
Now let's talk grit.  I used a coarse grit, between 60 and 80.  I was just trying to rip that finish off as quickly as possible.  And I though they were smooth enough.  Just not silky smooth.  If you want silky smooth, you'll have to follow up with a fine grit, around 180 or 200.  Or you could compromise, and spend a little more time (but still sanding just once) with a medium grit, somewhere between 100 and 150.  Your choice.  I just couldn't handle any more sanding, thanks to a faux pas I'll tell you all about in my next installment.
So based on all of that information, here are my tips for you:
- My rule of thumb for solid wood pieces was that it is impossible to sand too much (unfortunately, this cannot be said of the panels!).  If you're suspicious, keep sanding.
- Panels are another story.  (You'll know which are panels and which are not.)  They too must be sanded down, but you have to be careful.  Otherwise, you'll sand that top layer right down to ugly underneath...or even put a hole all the way through.
(I would just like to say, here and now, that my husband did that part!)  
- Be careful in your sanding of any curves not to get overzealous.  You could greatly diminish the edges of your drawer fronts or cabinets if you do!
- Don't let the sander bounce around at all.  It leaves marks that are nearly impossible to sand out, and most definitely show up when stained. So just make sure you have good control of the sander before you put it down on the wood.
- Use the sanding sponges for those details.  And for the places you still can't get, wrap a piece of sandpaper around one of those nice rigid emery boards and use that.  It worked like magic for me. Well, magic paired with elbow grease.
- Wear your mask for this part as well, and if you don't want to get super grimy or ruin your eyes with sawdust, consider wearing eye gear and a shower cap!
And hang in there.  Sanding is AWFUL, but once it is done, the worst is over.  And even if you make mistakes (which hopefully will be minimal since you'll be learning from mine!), it's unlikely anyone but you will notice them.

Now just a recap of our shopping list for this step:

Stripper (based on what you decide)
Scraping tool (ditto)
Metal brush (ditto)
Rubber gloves
Hand sander (if you don't have one or can't borrow one)
Sandpaper, coarse to medium grit, possibly fine grit
Sanding sponges, coarse to medium grit, possibly fine grit
Emery nail files (trust me on this one)

Next up, Step Three: Staining...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some digital scrapping...

In all the hubub of fixing up our house to our liking, I haven't had much time to work on my other hobbies.  Sigh. How I've missed them.  Anyway, yesterday evening, while my little fam was watching a movie...I was in my craft room just off our family room.  I went to Kenya on a humanitarian mission before we had any kids, and I still haven't scrapped the pictures.  So I'm starting that.  I want it to be simple and a little elegant...I got through 3 pages, 1 of which I'm satisfied with and wanted to share.
Alpha: Stolen Moments'  Basic Black
Zebra: ViVa Artistry's Wanyama
And I did use a template, but I downloaded the freebie last year and it has no identifying info or TOU with it....

One of these days, I'll get to those "Getting Started with Digital Scrapping" posts I promised months ago (sorry, Nat!)....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kitchen Redo, Step One: Design decisions & Shopping List

Once I got the idea in my head to revamp the kitchen in our new house, I knew I had to take the time and figure out exactly what I wanted.  So let's walk through those decisions.
Paint vs. Stain
The first question to as is what are your cabinets made of?  They need to be WOOD.  If they aren't at least solid wood with wood panels in the middle (like mine), then you can't stain them.  Sorry.  Consider painting (I'll be going a tutorial soon about painting laminate surfaces, so if that applies to you, stay tuned).  If your cabinets ARE wood, you're in business.
Color of Stain
What do you want for your kitchen?  Is it dark and cramped?  Consider a lighter stain.  My kitchen/dining/family rooms are one big long area with lots of windows, so I was safe on using a darker stain.  I also wanted the kitchen to look warm.  Plus, I have a thing for darker reddish wood.  :)
Wall Color
I would definitely recommend giving your kitchen a fresh coat of paint to match your fresh new cabinets.  I'd also recommend waiting to choose your paint color until you have your sample drawer front stained (more on that in the Staining portion of this series).  Then lay your chips against the sample IN your kitchen in the morning, and watch how it looks throughout the day, as the light changes.  (And if you have fluorescent lights in your kitchen....my sincerest condolences.)
So here is where you really need to think about the style you like, both in terms of the finish and the form of the hardware.  Something sleek and modern?  Silver, with clean simple lines.  Vintage chic?  Maybe pewter or oil-rubbed bronze with plenty of detailing.  There are LOTS of choices to be had.  My style is probably closest to country (though a sleeker, more edited version of country, I like to think), so I opted for highlighted oil-rubbed bronze hardware.
The same applies to the molding (if you're going to attempt that).  Craftsman style?  Then plain.  Country?  Maybe egg and dart, like I opted for.  Lots of choices.  Go browse the hardware store.
Sheen is what we are concerned with here.  More sheen is generally a more modern look.  And the more the sheen, the higher the need for precision verging on perfection.  I opted for the lowest sheen, Satin.  And it is plenty glossy, if you ask me.

Okay, onto the shopping lists.  If you plan on tackling this project as guided by my words of wisdom...I highly recommend reading every part of this series before you even go shopping.  I'll do a recap of the shopping list with every section.  Oh, and the items linked are just to give you the idea.

Stripping/Sanding shopping list:
Stripper (maybe...more on that later)
Scraping tool (ditto)
Metal brush (ditto)
Rubber gloves
Hand sander (if you don't have one or can't borrow one)
Sandpaper, coarse to medium grit
Sanding sponges, coarse to medium grit
Emery nail files (trust me on this one)

Staining shopping list:
Dish soap (if you go with oil-based...I'll explain later)
Mineral Spirits (ditto)
Paint stirring stick

Painter's tape
Drop cloth of some kind

Polyurethane shopping list:

Pulls (make sure you count and recount!)
Knobs (ditto)
Hinges (if your old hinges don't match your new hardware)
Drill (consider renting if you don't own, can't borrow or don't want to buy)
Cardstock (to make template for drilling holes)


Drill bit
Screwdriver drill bit
Finish nails
Miter saw (rent, borrow or buy)

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