Posted on 1/05/2017 08:53:00 PM
Hey, here's my cat, surveying the Christmas aftermath and saying, "Don't look at me, I didn't do it."

I adore this picture.

On to other things.

There was some, shall we say, "overlap" between purchasing the house we are living in now and selling the old house.  It was the source of much stress and anxiety for me during an otherwise difficult year of stress and anxiety.  We moved out and then did projects on the old house to improve the sale-ability of the house and it was a good idea and all worked out in the end, but oh lordy how I never want to go through that again.  By the time we sold it, it was better looking than it ever had been and I learned two things:
  1. The idea of doing all the improvements to the house after you move out and not getting to enjoy any of your investment of money, discomfort and hard work is pretty stupid.
  2. After painting literally every surface of every room in that house, neither of us wanted to pick up another paintbrush for the rest of our natural lives.
So we declared a year-long moratorium on painting in the new house.

That moratorium extended organically to twenty-two months out of a combination of business and laziness... mostly laziness. 

We didn't love the Apartment Off-White this entire house had been painted top to bottom, nor the eggshell finish that stains and marks if you so much as look at it cross-eyed, but it sure beat washing out another paintbrush.

But finally in November, I gave it to a deep desire for color and gingerly bought a gallon of turquoise blue paint.  I know you're going to say this is nowhere near "turquoise" and I'll probably agree, but I pulled the color from Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin palette and that's what he called it so I'm not gonna mess with the Master. 

It actually came out more in between Turquoise and Midnight, but I pretty much love it and I'm not gonna complain.

This was a great way to ease my way back into painting projects because I only had to paint half a wall and it required no taping, no plastic on the floor, no standing on ladders, no cutting in at the ceiling joint, and no painting anything with my arms raised above my head. In fact, the whole thing took me a couple of hours one afternoon and a little less the next. My life was hardly disrupted by it. Woo hoo!

Then I got cocky.

The KoH has recently changed jobs and due to reasons! and use or lose leave, he ended up with a little over week off in between Christmas and New Year.  It's actually one of the reasons we had such a nice holiday.  In our whole marriage, we've never both had this time off together before.

My favorite color in all the world in Frank Lloyd Wright's Cherokee Red and I've always wanted to do a room in Venetian Plaster that is that color.  So, inspired by the vast improvement a little splash of color gave the kitchen, and the vast emptiness of a week without work and work projects and getting up for work and going to work, we made plans to burn a couple of our holiday days with a plaster project in the living room.

And so it begins.

Owing to my little obsession, I've been to a lot of Wright buildings in my time and let me tell you, Cherokee Red is a tricky color.  What Frank calls Cherokee Red in one building is vastly different than what he calls Cherokee Red in another building. The FLW signature tiles are supposed to be Cherokee Red, but in person, these always look way too bright red to me to be anything close to Cherokee.  The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust uses Pantone 173 for Cherokee Red. The floor at Taliesin West is also supposed to be Cherokee Red but that's not nearly as orange as Pantone 173.  The Cherokee Red at Fallingwater is more brown to than all those things and ultimately I don't think Frank Lloyd Wright even know what he meant when he called something Cherokee Red. But I went to a couple of [insert name of big box hardware stores here], armed with my precious Pantone color swatch book (man, those things have come down in price since I last had to buy one) and a dream.

Eventually, I found a couple of suitable options and settled on one.  Then finding tint-able Venetian Plaster was a trick because employees of both large big box hardware store chains tend to look at you like you have grown a third ear in the middle of your forehead when you start talking about anything but satin and semi-gloss.  

Paint desk guy: "Venutian what?  I do not think that is a Thing." 

Me: "I know it's a Thing.  And it's Venetian, not Venutian."

"Well, we don't have that Thing."

"Actually, look here on my phone. This is your store's app.  It says you have this Thing on aisle 9."

"Hmm.  Guess we do.  But we can't tint it."

"See here where it says in the description of the Thing You Don't Have in your store's app?  It says it's is tintable.  That means that Thing You Say You Don't Do To The Thing You Say You Don't Have is possible."

"Well, we can only tint it these three colors."

"The company's website says you can color match it."

"Yes, but we don't have that color in our computer."

"We if you can color match it, can't you just use this swatch from your paint colors rack as the thing to color match it to?"

"I dunnoo......"

"Just give me my Thing."

Eventually, I got my Thing and even after I watched like fifteen videos on how to put it up, I still needed The KoH to help me understand it because when I saw the technique years ago on Trading Spaces, they did it differently and I couldn't wrap my brain around it.  It's good to have a partner in crime.

This is not really paint.  It's not applied with a paintbrush, but with a trowel or a drywall knife.  Which is interesting.  Now that I've done it once, I kind of get it, but if I'd known then what I know now, it would go a lot smoother.

Step one:


Once that is done, on to step two:

I know it looks like we could have just covered the entire wall in the first place, but it actually does matter that you do this step a day later than the first step.  I would have been just as happy to leave it like this because I think it looks like suede, but the texture of the wall was displeasing.

Step three, not pictured, but it looks a lot like step two because we should have just done step two a lot thicker.  Step one also actually.

Step four: sand it all lightly with fine grit sandpaper and then spend two weeks removing red grit and dust form your bookshelves, books, underneath your fingernails, your hair, the corners of your eyes, etc., etc.  This step also not pictured because my camera lens seems to have a film of red covering it.

Step five: burnishing.

This involves taking a metal drywall knife and using all your strength to rub a section of the wall until it doesn't feel like old sandpaper and it becomes polished and shiny in spots.  From me to you: this part suuuuuucks.  You really have to want this if you're going to get through it.

It's also good if you have some indentured servants to help.

The bigger indentured servant was the most helpful of them all, because as it turns out even at my best, I don't really have the strength or weight to put my back into it and do this properly.  Also, I was nursing a really awful head cold at this point in time so I would work for about a minute and a half and start to get dizzy and have to sit down with my head between my knees. 

Eventually, he took a big, metal cement trowel and rubbed the wall vigorously with it until it responded with gorgeous veins, lines and splotches.  I know that sounds a bit sexual and it is.  That's right, baby.

He's my hero.

I could not be more pleased with how it turned out.

And now it's probably going to be another six months before I can think of painting anything again.  

Totally worth it.

My thoughts: 

Mrs. Peacock's Piano

Posted on 1/04/2017 05:52:00 PM

Hello, 2017.  May you be a damn sight better than the old year.  You kind of have to be.

When we first saw this house at the open house weekend, there was an old painted red upright piano in the basement.  It was there for inspection and every time we were able to take a look at the house, though other things, like an old church pew in the carport that I desperately hoped they would leave, disappeared.  During our settlement, the previous owners, who grew up in the house, said that they would remove the piano if we wanted them to but that they'd prefer to leave it all other things being equal because they had no place for it.  They explained that a woman named Mrs. Peacock had given it to their mother and it had been there since they were very young children.  I don't know if they painted it or it was always like that but I do know that they'd always just called it, "Mrs. Peacock's Piano."  

Between the two of us, The KingofHearts and I have fixed our fair share of things over the years.  We dragged home one unplayable piano from some woman's garage/construction site The KoH worked on and for the cost of a $30 bag of plastic piano joints, a bit of wood cleaner and some elbow grease, we turned that thing into a real piano that we used for almost a decade. It was the piano the girls first learned to play on until a few years ago a friend gifted us her father's beautiful spinnet piano when he was moving into a smaller space and didn't play anymore.

So, to say the least, we were pretty confident in our piano-restoring abilities and told the owners we'd be happy for them to leave it for us and we'd try to make it playable again.  

However... once we moved in and took a closer look at Mrs. Peacock's piano, it turned out to be in much worse shape than we had originally anticipated.  Restoring it would entail way more money and time then we really wanted to put into it and my suspicion was that even then, we would not really end up with a decent sounding instrument anyway.  So we decided to get rid of it eventually to free up some space in what was now The KoH's wood shop.

Then it sat there for a long time - over a year.

We talked about putting it outside and making into a planter... or a fountain

We talked about cutting the legs off of it and using them to prop up a cabinet where the KoH stores his handmade swords and knives.

We talked about letting the kids take a sledge hammer to it and bringing out the pieces one by one for the garbage collectors to take.  That one felt unnecessarily mean.

We talked about mailing the pieces one by one to my mother... like Radar did with a Jeep in M*A*S*H.  I'm sure she would have appreciated that.

Ultimately, I felt badly about destroying the piano that had been in the house since the 1960s and I decided that Mrs. Peacock's piano - or at least a part of it - belonged with the house. So I pulled off the front panel - which was really quite beautiful - one day last summer and refinished it with antiquing glaze.  

Then I hung it on the wall in the stairwell, alongside some antique windows a friend had given us, which we were using for decoration.

(There are several more of these windows decorating our basement.)

I loved it.   

Eventually, I secured an antique copy of a song that means a lot to me, one of my all-time favorites: "Without a Song,"  That music now sits on the desk to the side of the filigree.

That got me thinking.  What more could we do with Mrs. Peacock's piano so it can live harmoniously among us?

I didn't like the idea of putting it outdoors, because it'd be only a matter of time before the whole thing was destroyed in the weather.  Then one day, The KoH and I hit upon the idea of making it into a desk.  One afternoon he and The Caterpillar removed the keys and hammers and most of the other inner workings from the cabinet, cleaned everything up, and replaced the keyboard desk with a plexiglass cover because, as it turned out, you could see the unique serial number and maker stamp inside, which was pretty cool.

Then they added lights for better homework doing-ability.

I think it is beautiful.

In the meantime, I took some of the hammers and dipped them in resin for unique jewelry opportunities. 

The latest project was completed over the Christmas vacation when I caught a cold and with it, the inability to sleep past three am.  Putting together these piano key sets was actually really fun and done mostly done with leftover materials in The KoH's shop for $0, at least until his router broke in the middle of carving out the edges of the plaques I'd cut and I had to go buy the wood plaques that I glued them to. So like $24.  Still not a bad deal.

Funny story. I came up with this idea out of my very own head and thought I was the most unique-thinking individual in the world for it. Originally, I wanted to do this, but too many of the keys were broken and damaged beyond repair or display quality.  I had all kinds of ideas about adding some of the hammers and other bits of the piano along with music, all modern art-y style, but in the end, I settled on just putting together a few sets of in-tact keys, cleaning up the old ebony and ivory (Did you know that the best way to clean ivory piano keys from the 1800s is with toothpaste? Let that sink in for a second.), staining the wood, adding a bit of hardware and then mounting them on three separate wood plaques. About halfway through the project, I took a look on the interweb and found that not only am I not the only person who's thought of using piano keys as artwork, but see the first hit in this google search? I'm not even the first person to come up with this particular design and place it in a stairwell.  I hate it when other people have my ideas before me.

At any rate, they now live with the face board on the stairwell wall.

I'm still working on a way the ebony from the black keys will become jewelry and The KoH is making the pin board into a jewelry hanger for The Dormouse and there might be a flower bouquet or two to make from the rest of the hammers.  We have more ideas than time and effort, it turns out.

And that's how you cannibalize a piano, my friends.  And how Mrs. Peacock's piano came to be a permanent fixture in this house. Where it belongs.

I think Mrs. Peacock, where ever she is, would be pleased.

My thoughts: 

Me in 3 Seconds

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Washington, D.C. Metro, United States
Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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