Thursday, November 13, 2014

Don’t Ditch It, Re-do It

A quick tidbit about me: I hate white walls. I mean I seriously hate white walls, particularly when they are done in a matte paint you cannot clean. More especially when those matte white un-cleanable walls are in a kitchen.

Whenever I move, which has been often, I paint to make it my own. (With the exception of military housing and its white matte un-cleanable un-changeable walls, which I hated.) We’ve been here for seven years now and most every room in the house has been painted, most right after we moved. The kitchen, though, has been a bit of a thorn in my side because despite the hated white matte walls, I was unsure what I wanted to do with it. It came with a pretty white-based herb border around the top and much of it is white tiles with scattered herb images. White tiles I don’t mind so much. They clean easily. The countertops are a green-blue-gray swirl I like okay even if it wouldn’t have been my choice. The cabinets are oak. They need some revamping and my wood experts husband and son will get to that in time, but they are beautiful, and all of the oak in the house was a big sell point for me, so I wanted to play on that.

Along with the white walls, there is a double door that goes out onto the kitchendoor-originaldeck, very nice, except the door was painted glossy white and the window frames… well… you can see it here. Plastic frame. Old yellowed plastic frame. As bad as matte white walls. At least it had a wood texture imprinted in it.

I always try, when redecorating, to bring the outdoors in, to blend them so the view from the windows are part of the decorating scheme with as much flow as possible. I’m very earthy. I love the natural greens and blues and browns of the earth. So that’s what I use, along with accents of floral yellows, corals, dusty rose. I’ve insisted that this view to the trees outside my kitchen stay unblocked as possible, no big table umbrella, the grill and smoker are to the side out of the way. And the café rods there when we moved have been sitting there waiting. At one point, I had fresh herbs from my garden hanging from them.

When I found a pair of beautiful barely-there sunflower kitchendoor-newwithcurtainyellow and tree leaf green floral valances on a transparent cream fabric recently, I knew what I wanted to do. There was the color scheme I needed to liven up my kitchen and take away that glaring white.

Taking the valance with me to the hardware store, I grabbed a butternut squash yellow in kitchen satin for the walls and a pale leaf green for those doors. (Don’t let them fool you. One coat? Not that I’ve ever found so far. And painting kitchen satin on top of matte white was interesting. It sucked up the paint and made it not an easy paint job, but the second coat covered it beautifully.)

Anyway, that yellow window frame had to change, too. Hubby said he could replace it. I’m sure he could (we’re big do-it-yourselfers), but I did it faster and far cheaper with paint.

I wanted them to match my cabinets and so I started by painting them a light golden brown:
The left side shows what it looked like after two coats of brown paint. (I grabbed a paint sample instead of a can since it was cheaper and still more than I needed.) Of course that didn’t look like wood yet, so I grabbed my bottle of antiquing gel (you can find it in any decent craft supply store), brushed it on, and wiped it off with a paper towel so it only filled the cracks and barely coated the paint. (Work in sections so it doesn’t dry too much before you wipe it.)  Voilá! I made wood from plastic. After cleaning the residue off the windows and standing back, I couldn’t tell the difference between this painted plastic and real wood. (Even hubby approved.)

Note: You do want to seal it with a brush-on varnish of some kind so the antiquing gel doesn’t wash off when you clean it. I used clear acrylic medium by itself, which gave it a nice sheen. You could find a matte finish if you’d rather not have the sheen, or a gloss finish if you like ultra-shiny.

Here’s my finished project:

It makes the whole kitchen look far more elegant and refined and took barely any time with not much expense. (I also found those valances on a good sale.)

For those finishing touches that make a big difference: I pulled down all of the switch plate covers, as well as the shiny gold café rod ends, and spray-painted them antique gold using Rustoleum hammered spray to match my cabinet hardware. I used the same spray to make the silver track light we just bought match my décor (be sure to cover every part of it that should not be sprayed!).

Next on my project list: I picked up samples in complementing colors to paint small clay pots. I plan to put those below an under-the-counter plant light on a wood rack formerly used for spices to start herbs for my herb shelf (you can barely see the top of that in the photo – also made by hubby – yeah he’s pretty handy).

Why “formerly used for spices”? Well, I have a new spice rack courtesy of hubby that also matches my cabinets. But that’s a post for another blog.

Do-it-yourself takes some learning and some patience, but it’s ultra satisfying to turn out something that makes your home nicer and reminds you of the results of your own work whenever you look at it.

That money you saved not replacing something you reworked yourself? Buy a few good books and kick your feet up for a well-earned break.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

If you don’t have it, make it: Re. Nanowrimo

VanGogh-WeepingWomanThis is a counter-post to my author friend Linda Acaster’s post today:
#Nanowrimo is Live – But is it for you?

I love Linda’s fiction and I respect her accomplishments, so this is all in good sport. 

No worries. I’ve heard every negative thing there is to hear about writing 50,000 words of a new novel in 30 days: everything from “writing should be spontaneous and not forced” to “whatever you write during Nano will be garbage (or other, strong expletive synonyms).” So from the point of view of someone who is in her 11th straight year of the challenge, plus a couple of Camp Nano sessions and off-site sessions….

Yes, I’m doing Nanowrimo again. Yes, I still have time to write a blog post. Yes, I still read a few other blogs. I even read other novels during November. I’m about to finish Jane Eyre and start on Marilynne Robinson’s newest.

No, I don’t neglect my family. There is still food in the house and on the stove. The dishes get done each day. The carpets get vacuumed. Heck, I even dust now and then during November because I like the shine of my oak furniture I finally have after years of self-assemble cheap stuff that’s better fit for kids and military moves. This year, I have the additional benefit/writing distraction of a beautiful new little soul crawling around the house and reaching her arms up to Grandma to pick her up just because. (Grandma always does, despite word count or lack thereof.) Heck, they usually don’t even remember it’s Nanowrimo month until I regale them with my wonderful (more or less) word count.

My pre-planning these days consists of deciding on a setting, and an art, then picking a couple of characters last minute to throw into the story. They kind of develop themselves as I write.

I will say this method of writing only developed during Nanowrimo one year because I wanted to do the challenge and hadn’t the vaguest idea what I was going to write for it. Turned out that first “just grab characters and write them” story needed very little rewriting and it’s one of my most loved books, according to my fans.  [Protect The Heart] Normally, I do plan my books for some time before writing them. I’m good with either method.

These days I use the fast novel month to write my Ella M. Kaye books since they are all short and non-rambling romances better given to this sort of thing. But, four of my lengthy LK books began during Nano. In 2008, I added 97,000 words to Rehearsal: Of Chaotic Currents (which turned into about 260,000 words eventually). None of it was more garbage than any other first draft.

In fact, the more often I do these fast writes, the better they get. Like every art, practice increases a writer’s dexterity and creativity. It certainly does not lesson either.

As far as trying it when you “have time,” that is exactly the point of the challenge. If you don’t “have” time to do what you love, learn to make it. For instance, I’ve written this post while entertaining a squirmy 7 month old, first in her high chair beside me then on my lap dropping her toys. with an intermission to watch the birdies and to explore Grandma’s herb shelf. She likes to feel the chives.

I don’t “have time” for Nanowrimo. I make time for it because it’s helpful to me, it advances my career, and because I can and will. I also love to challenge myself.

No gate-keeping from the family, by the way. Writing is my love and my career, and it’s my job to make time for it.

The only real reason I can see for not doing it is simply because you don’t want to.

I have to sigh whenever someone comes up to me at a book signing and says, “I’d write a book if I had time.”   *eye roll inserted here*  You make time for what matters. Until you give it a good try, you just don’t know what you can accomplish.

By the way, I can write 2,000 words in an hour when I’m on a roll, so it’s not much time out of my busy day.

Whatever it is you love, make time for it! It’s worth it.


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