Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

Me and my friends in high school. I'm in the green dress with my arm around one of my best friends, Wendy.
 
Over the weekend I missed a reunion with all the members of my high school choral program because I had to take my own son to his high school band competitions. I am sad to have missed it. Now that I'm a band parent I can see what our chorus parents sacrificed to have us at all the rehearsals and competitions. In fact, some of the parents went to our reunion! Looking at all the photos on Facebook makes me nostalgic. How is it possible these people, not much older than my oldest son when I last saw them, are middle aged? How do the years go so quickly, and how can memories of those times seem as if they occurred only yesterday? I have been thinking a lot about beginnings and endings over the past few days.

It's an appropriate  topic for today's post, since I am writing about the end of one project and the beginning of another. You may remember my dining room makeover posts. We have finished the furniture and the room is just about done. The china cabinet and table were the last pieces to be antiqued, and last night we completed the paste wax finish.

Materials for finishing with paste wax.

We used polyurethane to finish the tops of the sideboard and table, since those will have food and drink spilled on them and will take the most abuse. The rest of the pieces we finished with paste wax. A note about the silver Rub-n-Buff wax: it runs and smears if you apply poly or paste wax over it. Just be aware of this if you use it. Technically, the silver is itself a wax finish, and you already buffed it when you applied it, so you could just avoid those silver areas. I just went over them very gently and lightly.

Apply the wax in the direction of the grain.

To apply paste wax, just rub the wax on with a clean rag. Let it dry for 20 minutes or longer and then buff it vigorously in a circular motion with a different clean rag. On this furniture to help avoid smearing the silver I applied the wax in long strokes, not rubbing back and forth, along the wood grain. (So no Karate Kid wax on, wax off in this case!) I used a clean part of the cloth on the white areas. Any part of the cloth that had silver wax transferred I used on the other silver parts, so I re-deposited any wax that had rubbed away. On the silver parts I buffed the wax in the same long strokes rather than circles.

Buff the wax after it dries.


The furniture looks gorgeous now! Here's the china cabinet all finished. To finish the rest of the room I need to paint over some old patched holes in the walls left by the previous owner. Next I want to sew a new window treatment and I may also paint a new painting to go over the sideboard.


The finished china cabinet

On Saturday we had to go to Dallas for one of our son's band competitions, so we stopped at Mary Jo's cloth store in Gastonia on the way home. This is the store where I got the fab textiles for my bedroom makeover at the beginning of the year. This time I picked up a silhouette toile type print in gray and cream with a big 60s rattan graphic print to accent it and some grayish beige and navy trim to tie the chair seats to the window décor.


Fabrics for the new window treatment

I plan to make the new window valance just like the old one, but in these better-matched fabrics. I got all the fabric for this custom window treatment for less than $40, which is why I love Mary Jo's!

I will use this existing valance as a pattern for the new one.

Once the dining room is all done I will devote a whole post to that and to the DIY window treatment. Jerry couldn't wait for me to finish all the rest of that stuff, though, so he went ahead and started on the kitchen furniture. This might seem like a lot of furniture re-finishing to you, and you'd be correct! Since our house was on the market for two years, we didn't do anything to our furniture because we weren't sure where we would be living and if it would even fit. We rarely buy new furniture. Everything we have now was inherited or bought cheap from the classified ads. Even our family room set were floor samples. Those are 15 years old and covered in chenille and desperately need to be replaced, but Jerry said the other day that he's never spending the money for new furniture, so I guess I'd better start saving up if I want a new couch and chair!

Our kitchen set before refinishing

We bought our kitchen table around 13 years ago from the classified ads. The table and two benches were $175. Then for my birthday Jerry bought four unfinished chairs and I got to paint them. I think those were $50 or $60 each. The table is really nice thick pine, which is a good thing, because when we got it the previous owner had applied really dark, thick stain in a rather unfortunate manner, with all kinds of drips. I don't think he actually wiped the stain off after he applied it! Then he sent the table to college with his son, where it had various words and pictures of marijuana leaves and stuff like that carved into it. It's a shame, because my aunt and uncle have a table just like this from Ethan Allen and they swear this is the same one. Since the top is so thick, Jerry sanded it down to the bare wood with a belt sander and we started over.

After more than a decade, the set is pretty worn.

Since then we've re-finished the table top and bench tops once more. With all our kids the soft pine really takes a beating. The black paint is the same I applied more than a decade ago. As you can see, the paint is just a little distressed! The tops are also showing wear again, and I don't like the wood color in this new house. It matched our kitchen cabinets in our old house, but here it's just too dark and orange.

Back in December I saw a color-washed bench at Homegoods and decided we could re-do our kitchen set like that. We decided to just lightly sand and paint the table base, bench bases, and chairs with chalk paint so we didn't have to go to the trouble of stripping the black paint. Then, we are color-washing the tops to get the look I want. I chose Serendipity (my fave robin's egg blue) by Olympic in semigloss and we made homemade chalk paint out of it according to the recipe in my first dining room post: http://mandalineartfulliving.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-antique-furniture-dining-room.html.

Materials for color washing.

After Jerry painted the base, I color-washed the bench top. I saw color-washing glaze for sale at Ikea. You had to pick one of their pre-mixed colors and a tiny jar cost about $10. You can buy a big bottle of clear glazing medium at the hardware store for around $16 and then you can mix your own paint with it to get a custom and much cheaper color. For walls I don't even buy glazing medium. To get the glazed look on a wall I replace the glazing medium with water and apply the mixture to the walls with balled up plastic shopping bags. For raw wood, though, I thought the water would soak in too much and look chalky.

Brush the glaze over a small area.

For the glaze, I mixed one part semi-gloss latex interior paint to two parts glazing medium. In retrospect, that was a bit too much glazing medium for unfinished wood. The wood really soaked it up and I had to apply two coats as well as a little more here and there for effect. You can apply this glaze to finished wood for a quick color change. In that case I think the two parts glaze to one part paint would be fine.

Wipe the glaze back, like you are staining the wood.

To apply the glaze, work over a small area, like two feet square. Brush the glaze on in the direction of the wood grain. Then wipe it gently away with a clean rag, like you're staining wood. Leave some glaze thicker here and there for variation. Let this dry. If you need another coat go back over it the same way. In my case, I felt the first two coats were too uniform, so I went back and brushed on some glaze randomly here and there. I didn't wipe it back so the glaze color would really show. The result looks a lot like pickled pine. I think it will coordinate much better with our new kitchen. This bench is all finished except for a couple coats of polyurethane on the top.

We put three coats on the dining room sideboard but it gave the top a yellow cast, so now we're only doing two coats. I like to use as thick a coating as possible for the kitchen table. Our kids do their crafts and homework here and make unbelievable messes. My mother-in-law gave our four-year-old some big tubes of glitter and he somehow he got it so stuck to the bench top we had to sand it off! So, in our house, thick plastic coatings are very good things!

When the glaze is as dark as you want, go back and brush on a few highlights here and there.

As you can see, we have been chugging along around here. Besides the furniture restoration and band competitions, I  got half the house deep cleaned again and finished about half the laundry. My book is up to 1900 words. I'm sure I could get more done if I weren't always trying to catch up on sleep. Our teen didn't get home until 1:30 in the morning Sunday. I tried to wait up but only made it to 1. This week I have to drive so I won't have a choice but to stay awake!

The finished color-washing

Unfortunately on Sunday I decided to step on the scale, a decision I immediately regretted. All this travel and concession stand food has taken a toll on my figure. I've been enjoying having photos of myself I can actually stand to post on Facebook, so I need to get it under control. So, I've been having to exercise a bunch as well. I get so frustrated with my metabolism. If I'm not watching every bite I can pack on weight so fast it would make your head spin. I was feeling upset like this exactly a year ago, when my erudite friend made me feel better by reminding me, beauty is something you can only achieve for yourself. It's almost all attitude. If you feel beautiful and confident, that is how others will perceive you. I try to remember that and take that advice to heart. But replacing a few meals with kale smoothies and jogging doesn't hurt either!

The finished bench with chalk-painted base and color-washed top

Another thing I'm working on today is gratitude. Sometimes it's good to remind ourselves how lucky we are. I doubt any of us have everything we want from life. So often, at least for me, I wonder why I'm not as far along with certain things in my life as I'd hoped I'd be by now. Because our house needed so much work, we were able to move into a neighborhood of families more affluent than ours (thus, my year of home-improvement blog posts!), and sometimes it's trying. The other night I was at a party listening to a woman complain on and on about how, since she was laid off from her work-from-home job, she now has to stay home and take care of her only child, a one-year-old, without the help of her nanny or maid. I worked full time outside the home until our oldest was a year and a half old and since then I've been working from home at a variety of jobs while taking care of three children and certainly without a nanny or maid! In fact, I've worked at a mind-boggling variety of jobs, all low-paying, since I was 14.

Today I went out for my walk after I dropped the last child off at school. I was feeling very fortunate to have time to walk down to the lake. On the way there, passing all the neighbors' landscapers and maids and pool technicians hard at work on their homes I was feeling less lucky. I sat down on our dock and looked at the house across the channel, which resembles a modern European castle. Their landscaper was out working on their perfect lawn, and I felt a deep stab of envy. But then as I sat thinking about it, I realized, those people have their palatial home right on the water. They have their own sandy beach, a boat, a canoe, a big yard. But I've never once seen any resident of that house out using any of these things. Their boat and canoe sit covered up. No children swim and play on the sandy beach. No one ever walks on the perfect lawn other than the landscaper. How lucky am I, to have a dock where I can look at the lake, to have a kayak I can take on the water, to have the time to actually enjoy my home? Even though our house and furniture need constant repair, we can afford them without working constantly, and they're so far above our first tiny apartment and discount store press board furniture. Even if I might not be in the future I imagined a year ago or back in high school, that isn't to say I should lose hope of ever getting there. And if we did arrive, finally, in our future, what would we do? Then there would be no more to look forward to or hope for. So, I am feeling grateful today for the many blessings in my life.

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