White -- gotta have it

I’ve developed an obsession with white. Some time ago, I ran across Sherry’s comment on YHL, “around 75% of the stuff we bring into our house is white.” My first reaction was incredulousness — how boring! Followed very shortly by an ahhh moment of understanding. Kind of like a lightbulb moment, only on a dimmer switch.

You see, I used to avoid white at all costs. It was so blah. So unoriginal. A missed opportunity to express oneself.

My personal theory is that your tastes change as your scope changes. When you’re a kid living under your parents’ roof, you don’t have much scope — much control over what you see every day. The house looks the way they want it to, the colors are their choices, often you’re not even allowed to pick the paint color for your own room (or you’re stuck with what you picked when you were 6), or hang up posters since they might damage the walls.

So to express yourself, you focus on exercising as much control as possible in the limited areas where your control is allowed. Your school notebook cover, coffee mug, and wardrobe all pack a lot of color and personality. They’re your favorite things. Because they look like you. Makes sense.

However, as your scope changes, your approach needs to change a bit. For a long time, when shopping, I’d compare all the versions of item x I could find and pick the one that looked the most like me — my absolute favorite among them — focusing my attention on that item alone. This is the approach that had always worked for me before, and had produced a lot of my favorite things. I never questioned it.

It’s slowly dawning on me that, oxymoronically, when you’re the master of your own space, you must collect fewer of your all-time favorite things. Weird, right? Fact is, if everything is your favorite thing, then everything is screaming for attention and creating the over-all look of chaos. White comes in and smoothes things out, creating a canvas for your personality to really shine.

Take these, for instance. I like both the below ottoman and rug.

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But I can’t have them both — I’d have to pick one or the other to avoid having a seizure when walking into the room. Note how West Elm has carefully paired each of these bold pieces with white (or near white) surroundings.

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Anyway, I digress. A lot. The original intent of this post was to gush over the white duct tape I found at Home Depot. How did I not know this existed before??

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…but I couldn’t explain why it’s so great without first explaining that I have a steadily increasing collection of white stuff in my house. So I can only imagine the zillions of uses I might find for white duct tape. And it’s REAL duct tape, you know, with all the usual amazing duct-tapey properties like super strength yet ablity to be torn by hand — it can even be finger-torn into tiny strips. Love. It. I’ve already used some on a little project I’ll have to write about soon.

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Please ignore the rest of my house. We’re in the process of getting a new couch (a white one!!). More on that later.

Ten years together

So Lih and I don’t quantify as much as some couples. We sort of ease into things. For years, neither of us had any idea what date our anniversary might be. We figured counting and measuring matters of the heart is kind of silly. And we still do.

Celebration, however, is not silly. It’s good practice to stop for a moment and recognize the precious parts of life. I suppose that’s what the upcoming time of thanks is all about. In that vein, I’d like to celebrate our union over the last 10 years. Roughly, of course. We met in the summer of 2002 and became inseparable sometime shortly thereafter.

Here’s hoping we have many more happy years together!

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Cherish Him

“Cherish him” she said to me
“For you know not what tomorrow brings”

I consider the ring on my left hand
And think of her joined wedding bands
Two times the joy, two times the strife
My mother, widowed, is again a wife

But the doctors say he’s not much time
Again she must face the death knell’s chime
It seems an impossible twist of fate
All we can do is pray and wait

I look at my love lying there
His youthful face uncreased by cares
It’s easy to lose sight of the day-to-day
When the years seem to stretch far and away
But the future holds no guarantee
How long, my love, will you walk with me?

Rent is the veil of routine, monotony
As I start awake from my daily reverie
Minor tensions, grudges melt away
As a fierce love rises, here to stay
I grasp his sleeping hand in mine
And cherish him, while there’s still time

Jenny E. Dickinson
© September 28, 2011

Learning by doing

The journey toward a beautiful living space isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes it’s downright dirty.

Worse, sometimes you have to pour your blood, sweat, and tears into repairing some dilapidated part of your space just to bring it back to “normal”. And no one even notices the fruits of your labor!

But you’ll know. And this is your space. The space you live in every day. So it’s totally worth it.

And you could always start a blog in order to show the world the whole story… ha! :)

Remember this picture of my shower?

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See that innocuous-looking area above the window? Betcha had no idea it used to look like this.

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Actually, it used to look worse than this. This is an older project from before I started the blog (with crappy image quality, more on that here) and I didn’t take a proper before picture. Imagine this scene speckled generously with black mold to get an idea of what I started with.

“But isn’t this a rental?” you ask. Why yes, it is. Allow me to explain.

A couple of years ago, I bought a house in Albuquerque. (1500 square feet for $112k!! Yeah, I know. Unbelievable.) I purposefully chose a place that could use a bit of work. You know, some ugly linoleum floors here and there, a countertop that had seen better days, etc. I figured it would give me a good excuse to learn some home improvement skills.

I settled in with all the best intentions, and even took an afternoon tiling class at the Home Depot. But when it came down to it, I could never bring myself to rip up that ugly yet perfectly intact linoleum in order to put down something better. I worried I’d ruin what I had and then would encounter some obstacle while tiling and end up with no bathroom floor at all and have to spend a zillion dollars calling in a professional who’d probably mock my efforts. Or something.

I ended up living there for three years and took on very few of the projects I’d imagined myself doing.

So back to my bathroom window… someday, I’d like to own a house again. And when that time comes, I’ll be just as overwhelmed by all the home improvement tasks I don’t know how to do as I was the first time around. Unless I do some hands-on learning in the meantime. So while I could call the landlords for every little thing that goes wrong, I prefer to think of them as learning opportunities. With the landlords as backup. You know, kind of like calling in the professionals except it’s free. :)

As I said, the picture above is a couple of steps into the cleanup process. The first step was to google what to do with mold. Followed by spraying down the area with white vinegar, waiting 15 minutes, wiping it down with a damp cloth, and then repeating the process. This did make the paint peeling problem worse, but I had to do something about that anyway. If you’re doing something similar, you may want to try a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar instead and hope it doesn’t hurt the paint. Let it thoroughly dry.

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Next step: google what to do with all that peeling paint (update: looks like that article no longer exists), followed by a few practice scrapes with my putty knife.

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Yep, seems easy enough. Continue until all the loose paint has been removed.

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And you’ve made a giant mess.

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One nice thing about badly peeling paint: it’s easy to get a sample to have color-matched to new paint!

Wipe it all down well with a damp cloth and allow to thoroughly dry.

From here, the article said to sand and re-paint, but the area was so crumbled and uneven I knew that wasn’t going to work. I turned to YHL for advice on smoothing out wall imperfections before painting and got out the same spackling I used to patch up those screw holes in my bedroom wall.

It’s hard to tell in the photos, but the edges of this area were actually on a different plane than the center. That is, it was concave. A mini arch, if you will, though not an intentional one. After applying most of my pint of spackling with a 6” plastic putty knife, I finally had everything on the same plane and the crumbling spots were filled in. Things were looking a little better. Though in this picture, the spackling is blotchy because it’s still drying.

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Next up: tape off the area with painter’s tape.

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And paint with your color-matched paint.

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Wait an hour, apply a second coat, and immediately remove the painter’s tape while it’s still wet for a crisp line.

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If all goes well, in the morning it should look like nothing exciting has gone on and things have always been this way.

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Ha! But you’ll know better. Queue the happy dancing.

Tea and tools

So I bought a cute tea infuser on Etsy. The description indicated it was 2.5” in diameter and for a 4 cup teapot. Just to be sure, I measured the opening of my 4 cup teapot. Exactly 2.5”. Assuming they must have standards for this sort of thing (you know, the way 24” blinds are actually more like 23.5”), I went ahead and placed my order.

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Nope. They were both precisely 2.5” and the infuser would not fit in my teapot.

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I liked the infuser, though, and it seemed like a pain to try to return it, especially since it perfectly matched its description. Time to think outside the box.

I can’t be the only one that finds this photo amusing.

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It kind of reminds me of that “found art” with the tampon in the teacup… but way better. You know, a commentary on the modern woman. We still like our tea and our pretty things, but we’re not afraid to break out the power tools to get them just right. ;) Or something like that.

Anyway, I went to town with my Aluminum Oxide Grinding Stone and then broke out the finishing buffs to smooth everything out and make it purdy again.

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Victory is mine.

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Eyes to see

Did I ever stipulate that this was a home-improvement-only blog? I hope not. Because there’s more out there.

Earlier today I was squinting at my computer screen while trying to escape the direct glare from the setting sun by cocking my head at strange angles. I couldn’t bring myself to close the blinds as I was craving sunlight, but it was cold and windy out there and I had work to do.

My dad always loved sunsets. He would stop whatever he was doing and make a beeline for the deck at the first hint of that golden sheen. He’d try to get us all to go out there and enjoy it, no matter what we happened to be doing at the time.

I was thinking of my dad while squinting past the golden rays and decided to step away from the computer and go out just for a second.

Sure enough, it was pretty frigid in our wind-tunnel of a wooden stairway, but I toughed it out for a time and let the rays fall across my face. My dad wouldn’t have let the wind keep him from enjoying the setting sun. I crossed my arms across my chest and jumped up and down a few times to coax my body into staying out just a bit longer… when an idea struck me.

Long story short, I recently stopped going to the gym with Lih because it’s a huge time-sink, I don’t enjoy it, and I’ve been wanting to try exercising outside instead. It’s hard in Daly City — I go for a run when the sun comes out, but that definitely doesn’t happen every day. On the foggy days, sometimes I jump rope in my living room, but more often than not, I skip my workout.

See where this is going? It just so happens that today was a skipped-workout day. And I was shivering in the stairwell, jumping up and down to keep warm in order to watch the sunset a bit longer. Huh.

Moments later, jump rope in hand, I was happily working out, plenty warm, and able to fully enjoy the sunset for the first time in a long time.

Did I mention my dad was also fanatic about getting his exercise? I don’t have words to describe how amazing it felt to connect with him in these two ways at once… but suffice it to say I was grinning ear-to-ear with tears rolling down my cheeks. I think this will become a regular part of my day.

One more thing I’ve noticed before but not been able to fully enjoy because of the cold… just as the sun slips beneath the horizon, Daly City looks a whole lot like Mykonos at the same time of day.

My cousin posted this on FB earlier today.

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I was thinking of that quote and seeing in my mind’s eye our pictures of Greece as I really SAW the view from our own wooden stairwell.

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No, I didn’t get any of the actual setting sun — I was too busy enjoying the moment.

Sometimes a tiny change can make a world of difference.

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