Saturday, June 1, 2013

Birds and Clouds

When we bought this house, we told the boys they would be able to choose the paint colors for their rooms, within reason.  My older son went back and forth with a few different choices, from golden to turquoise to black (vetoed by mom and dad).  When I was looking for stencils for my daughter's room, my older son decided he wanted something stenciled in his room too.  He ultimately decided on having birds on his ceiling, using this stencil set from Cutting Edge Stencils.  Of course he wanted the clouds too.  There's no stencil for that.  But I'm a sucker, so I said I'd try.

Step 1:  Let child choose wall color.  My child wanted green, because if the ceiling was going to be blue for the sky, of course the walls needed to be green for the trees.  He went with Green Energy, by Behr.

Step 2:  Paint walls.  Curse the texture on them again, as it makes it really difficult not to get wall paint on the ceiling.

Step 3:  Stand back and admire, and cross your fingers that your kid will be so happy with the new wall color, that he forgets all about painting the ceiling and doing clouds and birds.

Step 4:  Admire your kid's tenacity and determination.

Step 5:  Choose ceiling color.  We went with something called something like "blue skies" from Sherwin Williams.  It seemed appropriate.  Figure that as one gallon was more than enough for all four walls, one quart will be sufficient for the ceiling.

Step 6:  Realize that assumption made in step 5 was wrong, and run out of paint 2 hours after paint store closes.

Step 7:  Buy more paint, which won't quite match the first quart because you go to Home Depot instead of the local paint store since the local paint store is closed on Sundays and there is no way you are leaving the ceiling 75% done.  

Step 8:  Rationalize that the sky isn't uniform, and any slight variation is fine, or can be covered up with clouds.

Step 9:  Google "how to paint clouds on a ceiling."  Watch a few tutorials, and realize that the existing tutorials fall into two camps.  First, people who are just winging it, and it's turning out just fine.  Second, people who actually know what they are doing, have artistic talent, and whose results I will never be able to duplicate because I lack those two characteristics.

Step 10:  Buy paint sponges, mix up various blue and grey paints, and just start dabbing it randomly on the ceiling, forming rough cloud shapes.

Step 11:  Curse as small pieces of the sponge break off and land in your eyes.

Step 12:  Have child come in to check how things are going, and request a cloud that looks like a creeper from Minecraft.  Attempt to fulfill request, but realize that you don't really know what a creeper looks like.  Explain to child that finding objects in clouds is more of an exercise in imagination than one in precision.

Step 13:  Tape bird stencils to ceiling and try out using the small roller to apply the paint.

Step 14:  Go back to old method of dabbing paint on with a stencil brush, after roller causes paint to be pushed behind the stencil, resulting in birds with no heads.

(See the bird on the far right?  No head.)

Step 15:  Watch child be happy with ceiling.

Step 16:  Pretend you can't hear when child asks when you're going to start the trees on the walls.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I was working from home on Monday.  My husband was home too, because he hurt his knee at a soccer game and couldn't walk (MRI today, discuss options with the orthopedist on Friday).  I wondered vaguely around noon how the Boston Marathon went.  I never really watched much of it in person, despite attending undergrad at Boston College, which is right along the race route, and living there for around four years after law school.  One year we took our son (then an only child) to the Red Sox game the afternoon of the race.  For some reason I know longer remember, we got off the T near Copley, and walked to Fenway.  Part of our walk was along the end of the race route, and my son clapped for all of the runners.  I never went to work on Marathon Monday (a/k/a/ Patriot's Day), preferring to avoid the mess of traffic on the T.  I remember you'd see people all around town that day though, wrapped in the mylar blankets you get at the finish line, finisher's medals around their necks, and pride on their faces. 

In February, we went to Austin to cheer my husband on in his first marathon.  The kids and I made posters the night before, and plotted where we would try to get to see him; we wanted to go to at least 4 places, we made it to 4 1/2.  My husband was worried the kids would be bored; they weren't.  The only real complaints from them were when we were waiting for a Starbucks to open at 6 a.m.  My oldest son was worried we would be late, and miss his dad running by.  We found a parking spot right along the route, around mile 4, and waited, and waited, and waited.  I had downloaded the Marathon's app, which would notify us when my husband reached the 5k marker so we could keep a sharper lookout.  The kids drank their hot cocoa, ate their pastries, and cheered wildly when we saw the first runners.  They held their posters up, and cheered and clapped for everyone running by.  When they saw their dad, they were ecstatic.  After he ran by, we packed the car up, and headed to our next spot.  We repeated this for four stops, always managing to find a parking spot within a block walk of the race, finding other spectators to cheer and yell with, and people to laugh at the zombie poster my older son made to "scare" the runners into going faster. 

The 1/2 stop was the finish line.  I'd read the marathon map incorrectly, and managed to end up on the inside of the race route, when I'd wanted to stay on the outside.  That meant that instead of a relatively quick run down 1-35 to downtown, I had to wind my way by the University of Texas campus, and try to find parking downtown.  I ended up parking about 4 blocks from the finish line, and we all ran as fast as my 4 year old's legs could carry him.  When we were half a block away, we got a "Finished!" text from my husband.  In that instant, I was so incredibly happy for and proud of him, and so disappointed that we missed it.   

There's never a good place for a bomb to explode.  Having one explode at the end of a popular marathon route seems so especially painful to me right now, because of how easily I can see it be my family, or the family or friends of any of the runners I know.  The happiness, pride, and energy that surround a marathon seem so purely good, and someone tried to destroy that.  It makes me want to run a marathon in defiance, but then I don't even know what that even means.  The person who did this doesn't know me, won't know if I run to spite him, so does it matter?  I think I still want to do it.  But I'll also donate money to the relief funds, and keep on donating blood every 8 weeks, and try to remember to not just look for the helpers, but be a helper.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Flowers Everywhere

There has been an explosion of flowers in my daughter's room.

It all started on black Friday.  I hadn't intended on going shopping that day, but we finally decided on two potential colors for the study, and I wanted to get test pots so we could think think about it with the actual colors on the wall.  While I was waiting for the test pots to mix, I noticed a box of free mini Glidden samples, with a sign that said "Free!"  There weren't many left, but I was intrigued by a dark purple one.  There were three bottles, and I took them all. I had been wanting to do a stencil pattern in my daughter's room, and thought that the free sample pots were perfect - I'd just have to decide on a stencil.  Deciding was more difficult than I thought it would be, as my husband decided to have an opinion.  Darn it.  He liked a lot of the same stencils I did, but not, he said, for a little girl's room.  He said I was skewing too old.  Bah.

Because his opinion does count too, I made a concerted effort to think like a two year old, and narrowed it down to two; one with butterflies, another with flowers.  The winner was Daisy Crazy #1 from Cutting Edge Stencils.  I also bought some stencil brushes. 

I had been picking up sample pots from Home Depot's "oops" paint shelf (which has totally disappeared from my local store [/sad]), but realized as I was setting them all out that I didn't really want a dozen different colors in there.  I decided to go with the original free purple test bottles, a blue, and then I mixed up leftover red paint from the front door with leftover white paint from my son's desk.

Yay for getting started!

My older son was really eager to help out.  I was concerned, as his idea of helping paint walls usually involves glopping as much paint as possible onto the brush, and flinging it at the wall.  Not exactly the technique I was hoping to use for the stencils.  I told him he could help though, if he let me put the paint on the brush.  He promised to do "quality work." (Thank you first grade teachers everywhere!)  I did the first one, the smallest stencil, to show him how to carefully do it.

I just used painter's tape to keep the stencil on the wall.  I was a bit worried as our walls are textured, but had forgotten to pick up a bottle of craft adhesive, so thought I'd take a chance with the small stencil to see how it worked.  It worked well for the smaller stencil, and actually for the largest one too, but for the medium one, the points around the middle of the stencil tended to want to curl up.  I also think the spray adhesive would have made doing stencils around corners or on the edges easier.  We made do with tape though, and it worked fine.

Of course my son didn't want to do the small one.  He grabbed the biggest one, with small fussy sections for his first.  He did a great job though; he let me load the brush with paint, and carefully dabbed the brush up and down to get the paint on the wall.

He also got bored after doing two or three.

After putting a bunch of pink and blue flowers up, I turned to the purple.  The beautiful purple that started this whole project.  I noticed when I poured the paint onto the plate I was using that the Glidden was a lot runnier than the Behr paint that I used for the other colors.  I was also worried that the purple was a lot darker than the pink and blue, but thought I'd put one up on the wall just to see how it would look.  I used the small stencil so that if it didn't turn out well, I could cover it with the medium stencil.  Good plan, as it did not turn out well.  No matter how little paint I put on the brush, and how carefully I tried to go around the edges, the paint was so runny it went all over.  The dark color and runny consistency combined to make the paint job look blotchy with just one coat.  But more coats was not what I was looking for when stenciling, as it was just more opportunity for the paint to bleed around the edges.  Purple paint fail.  But of course, I had to try again.  Just in case the first one was a fluke.  It wasn't.

But I really wanted purple!  I looked through the other sample pots I had, and thought I had enough blues and reds to make purple, but I really wanted a lighter purple.  I mixed more of the red, a blue, and a light grey blue and finally got a purple I was happy with.  The light grey blue was also from Glidden, and also fairly runny, but not as runny as the original purple.  The resulting paint was thinner than the Behr, but not so much that it was bleeding everywhere.

I finished the first wall, and decided to do the whole room, rather than just one accent wall.  Because I decided to do the whole room, I had some of the flowers go around corners, or go off the edge of the wall.  The stencil material is pretty flexible, so it just took some bending and smushing to get it in place.  The adhesive might have been helpful here, as the painters tape on the edges didn't really help hold the parts along the wall contours very well, and I ended up holding those sections to the wall with one hand, while painting with the other.

As I worked around the room, I kept coming back to some sections, thinking they needed another blue to balance it out, or a big pink one there, or maybe some more purple in that corner.  Before I knew it, the walls were covered, and there are probably a few more flowers than are strictly necessary.  Lesson learned. Next time I plan random placement of stencils, I'll do a bit more planning of the randomness.  My daughter loves it though!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013 Books #2-6

I'm making progress on my reading challenge for 2013.  I'm ahead of where I need to be to reach 25 new books by the end of the year, but I know from previous years that it is good to have some wiggle room towards the end.

#2 was The Confession, by Olen Steinhauer.  We borrowed this one from my mother-in-law.  It took me a bit to get into the story, but once I had a nice chance to sit and read for an extended period of time, I liked it very much.  I think I like his Milo Weaver series more, but this was a worthwhile read.

#3 was One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I loved it.  This was another from my list of books that every reasonably well read adult should read.  Marquez's language is beautiful.  I take back my previous comments regarding books without defined plots.  Good writing, beautiful language, and interesting people go a long way towards making me not miss a plot.

#4 was Young House Love, by Sherry and John Petersik.  I think this would have been a really fun book in the pre-Pinterest days.  It's a nice collection of fun ideas for your home, but doesn't really go into enough detail on any of them to really call them tutorials or how-tos.  I also think that the 243 ideas advertised on the front of the book is stretching the truth a bit.  I'd call it more like 175 ideas and some corollaries.

#5 was Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson.   I read this for a book club I joined, and was not very excited about it based on the book flap description.  The endorsement from Dennis Lehane intrigued me though (I refuse to read any more of his Patrick Kenzie series, but still think he is an excellent writer).  I was very pleasantly surprised.  I checked the book out of the library on Sunday, and had it finished by Tuesday night.  It is a great thriller, and kept me eager to read the next chapter all the way through to the end.

#6 was The Nearest Exit, by Olen Steinhauer. This is the second book in his Milo Weaver series.  I enjoyed it very much.  I thought it was odd that the wife's ex-boyfriend wasn't even mentioned in this time, when he seemed to play an important role in the previous book, but that is my only quibble with the story.  I've ordered the third book, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shoe Storage Bench

We're a shoes off in the house family, but never had a good place to put the shoes.  Our house has two closets in the entry, which should provide plenty of room, but they don't work well for us.  They're dark, small, and frankly there's just too much stuff in them.  Shoes would get buried under other shoes, and we'd spend far more time than I'd like each morning trying to find matched pairs.  I told my husband I thought a bench with drawers for the entryway would be great, but I wasn't finding much that I liked for a price I was willing to pay.  There were a lot of benches with sort of cubby holes, but I worried that the baskets in the cubbies would just end up all over the floor, and we'd be in the same place we started.  I kept my eye out on Craigslist, and finally found one I liked!  One small problem:  it was missing its top.  I told my husband I had a plan.  He was skeptical.  I told him it could be my Christmas present.  He rolled his eyes, and said ok.

I bargained the seller down $10, and finally had a place to store shoes!  For about a month, it sat, topless, in my entryway.  The kids used it for its intended purpose anyway, and suddenly, our shoes had a place to call home.  When the holidays were over, I finally got around to making a top for it.  I went to the fabric store, and spent far more time than was really necessary choosing fabric.  It was all so pretty though!  The Jo-Ann's was having a sale on upholstery fabric, and I had a 20% off coupon, so the prices that originally had me questioning decision to make my own top turned out to be not so bad after all.  I walked out of the store with three and a half yards of this.

 I also bought three yards of foam.  That the foam was more expensive than the fabric just about blew my mind.  Then I was off to Home Depot to buy a board to fit the top.  There was a nice guy working in the lumbar section, and he cut a the board down to the exact right size for me.  I had my daughter with me, and she was not pleased about the sound as the saw met the wood.

Then it was off to select the paint for the bench itself.  I thought I nice grey would work, but when I got home with it, my husband suggested trying to match the lighter brown in the fabric. Fortunately I'd just purchased a test pot of the grey, so I was only out $3.  I brought a swatch of the fabric with me, and found a pretty close match to the lighter color.  I brought it home, and my husband said "oh, so you decided to stick with the grey?"  Bah.  It matched the lighter color almost perfectly.  Not grey.

To make the top, I put the board on top of the foam, and cut the foam to match. I cut the fabric a bit larger than the board, so I'd have enough to stretch around the foam.

 After I flipped the board over, I used packaging tape to hold the fabric in place while I secured it to the board.  I used upholstery nails to attach the fabric to the board.  I thought about getting a stapler gun, but didn't want to spend the money for a one time project.

Then it was time to paint!  Can I just say I hate the trend of making furniture look older than it is, and dirtier than it is?  I scrubbed the bench down, and quickly realized that the grimy looking spots were that way purposefully.  I don't get it.  The new paint looked good though, and covered it up nicely!

 Two coats worked for most areas, with just touch ups needed for some stubborn parts.  I could not figure out how to get the drawers all the way out though, so ended up just painting the front and edges of the face of the drawers.

To attach the top, I used four small hinges.  We don't lift the top to the bench very often, but I like having the ability to get behind the drawers if necessary.  It also makes the top easy to remove if I ever want to change the fabric.I just screwed straight though the fabric.

 Mission shoe storage is complete.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Too Cold to Hold 5 Mile Race Report

I ran the Too Cold to Hold 5 mile race this morning.  When I ran the Too Hot to Handle 15k in July, I was curious to see what my time would be on the same course, but 40 or so degrees colder.  It didn't work out that way as they changed the Too Cold to Hold to a 5k, 5 mile, and 10 mile course from the 5k and 15k offered in the summer.  I haven't been running much at all lately, so the 5 mile was all I was willing to attempt;  my husband signed up for the 10 mile.

Parking was easier than over the summer, and we got a spot right by the start of the race.  We got to the park about 50 minutes before the race started.  We got some hot chocolate, made sure we knew where bag check was, and then went back to stay warm in the car a bit longer.  My phone said it was 37 degrees at the start, so not terrible, but colder than I wanted while wearing thin running clothes.  We headed back over with about 10 minutes to go, and waited in the starting area. 

I had made a new playlist the night before, and put it on my iPhone.  Or so I thought.  I went to make sure it was ready to go, and couldn't find it.  But there were new songs on the playlist that weren't on my phone earlier, but were today.  So somehow I managed to upload all of the songs I wanted, without the playlist itself transferring.  I was disappointed, as I had organized the list the way I wanted, to be almost exactly as long as I thought the race would take me.  I improvised there, but ended up with more songs than I planned, and I couldn't edit the list to go in a particular order.  I put it on shuffle, and that worked well for the first two miles or so.  But then it played one song three times in a row, and I had to fiddle with it to move to the next song.  My kids convinced my husband to download "I'm sexy and I know it", and I added that to my list, hoping it would be a great running song.  It did not disappoint.  I don't know if it was an iPhone issue or a Runkeeper issue, but Runkeeper was behaving oddly again as well.  For the most part, it gave me the audio cues I asked for, but maybe 3 times during the race it gave me random updates.  

They started all three races at the same time, along the same course.  The 5k split off pretty early, so I wish there had been an announcement that the 5k runners should line up on the left, 5 and 10 mile on the right, because there were a lot of 5k runners having to cut across the road.  The race was really too small for corral starts, but people lined up oddly too, with seemingly no consideration to how fast they were going to start out.  The woman in front of me started the race walking.  I really think if you are planning on walking the course, you should line up at the back of the crowd though, as everyone had to run around her.  There were a bunch of little kids running, which was fun.  Maybe next year I'll see if my older son wants to do the 5k with me.

The course had changed slightly from over the summer, with a loop on the out portion of the race going up a hill, then back down.  The hill wasn't very steep, but it sure was long!  That part of the course did not repeat on the way back, thank goodness!  The organizers had put orange cones along the course, which is an out-and-back, and spray painted arrows to show which direction people should run, but no one really followed that at the beginning.  The course is along a popular running/biking trail, and it isn't closed, so having us marked to run on the opposite side of the path as is customary just wasn't working well.  This turned out to be a problem around the 5 mile turn around point.  Maybe a quarter of a mile past the turn around point, the returning runners had to cross the path of the runners who hadn't gone to the turn around yet.  

Then end was sort of funny too.  I am a pretty slow runner, and finished just shy of an hour.  The leaders of the 10 mile came in right after me.  From the looks on some of their faces, they did not appreciate having to dodge and run around slower runners at the end of their race!  I'm sure they are much more used to having a clear path to the finish!

All it all, it was a good run.  The course is beautiful, and the weather was much more running-friendly than in July! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How the International Space Station ruined my Wednesday morning.

Remember a few weeks ago when the White House issued the "This isn't the petition response you're looking for" response to the request that the US build the Death Star?  I was reading it, and laughing, when my older son asked what was so funny.  He is a Star Wars fan, so I read part of it to him.  He was pretty interested in the International Space Station, so we followed the links in the response to NASA's page, where we learned how to see the Space Station in your own back yard.  It turns out NASA will e-mail or text you when the Space Station should be visible in your zip code.

My son was thrilled.  He received a much-wanted telescope for Christmas, and was just certain he could use it to get an even better look at the space station.  We are learning how to use the telescope, but I doubt our ability to capture a moving object, so I suggested the first time we received notice the Space Station would be flying overhead, we just try to find it with our naked eyes.  We live near an airport, and he insists that every plane he sees flying above us must be the Space Station.

Tuesday night we received our first e-mail that the Space Station would be near us.  The e-mail detailed that the Space Station would be visible for four minutes, appearing in the northwest, and heading towards the southeast.  All starting at 6:25 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Unfortunately, it was raining Tuesday night, and the cloud cover was forecast to last through Wednesday.  I told my son I'd wake him up, and we would just have to see what we could see.

I had dreams of going to watch the Space Station all night.  I dreamed I was back in the house I grew up in, gathering my neighbors to watch.  I dreamed we watched from our back deck in Boston.  It was sort of nuts.  I woke up at 6:15 and checked the cloud cover.  There were a lot of clouds, but you could see some of the sky, and some stars, so I thought it was worth a shot.  I went to my son's room, and told him he had to wake up to try and see the Space Station.  He shot straight up.  This never happens.  He is a terror to wake up in the morning.  His pleasant reaction did not last long though.  He tried to get out of bed, and immediately started crying because his foot was asleep, and he couldn't walk.  He started crying that he was going to miss his only chance to see the Space Station.  I told him I'd carry him down the stairs.

We turned off the house alarm, and headed outside.  He saw that it was cloudy, and started crying again.  He was never going to see the Space Station.  It wasn't worth it!  (Still not sure what he means by that.)  He went back inside, where he said he wasn't going to eat breakfast or do anything else.  I tried to convince him to go back outside with me, explaining that by staying inside, he had a zero percent chance of seeing the Space Station, but if he went outside, his chances could only improve!  He was having nothing to do with logic.  I said fine, we'd try again next time, but he was convinced it would be cloudy again then.  He will never see the Space Station.  I told him if that was going to be his attitude, I'd turn off the notifications, and we wouldn't worry about it.  He proceeded to pout through breakfast.  As he was getting ready to go out the door for school, I asked why he looked so sad, and he almost broke into tears again, and said that I said I was going to take away his telescope.  Goodness gracious child, I said nothing of the sort.  Nothing would convince him that I wasn't going to take away his telescope.

And then I got into a fight with my husband over the shirt my son was wearing because we were all short tempered from dealing with the Space Station spotting debacle, I was pissed off my whole commute in, and ended up packing absolute crap for my breakfast and lunch because I was just throwing food into the bag.

So NASA, my son has a request.  The next time you make the Space Station fly over our house, can you make sure it isn't cloudy, please?

Monday, January 28, 2013

2012 Book 26; 2013 Book 1

I did not meet my goal of reading 30 new books in 2012; I made it only to 26.  I didn't want to read just to get to the goal though, and I finished the year on a book from a series that I really enjoy.  Book 26 was Cold Days, by Jim Butcher.  My father-in-law introduced me to this series several years ago, and I love it.  I also appreciate that the author releases new books in the series on a regular basis, but doesn't seem to rush so much that the quality of the story telling declines.  I did find the pop culture references and Harry's ha-ha, aren't I funny side comments to be a bit too much in this book though.  I think the editor should have reigned that in a bit.  

So, on to 2013.  The goal for this year is 25 new books.  Book 1 is A Memory of Light, by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan.  My husband introduced me to the Wheel of Time series right before our wedding ten years ago.  I think I reread the first 15 pages or so three or four times before finally sitting down to just read it.  I remember confronting him the next morning that he hadn't warned me about the trollocs, when he knew that I was going to just read a chapter or two before going to sleep.  Who can sleep in the middle of a trolloc attack?  I stayed up way too late reading that night.  I read through book 9, Winter's Heart, by that summer.  I then suffered through Crossroads of Twilight, and despaired of the series ever ending if this little plot advancement was going to happen.  But then Knife of Dreams was wonderful.  And then Robert Jordan died.  I always read for the story, and was excited when Brandon Sanderson was named to finish the series, as I though his Elantris was a wonderful work of story telling.  I suppose telling someone else's story takes a slightly different skill.  The characters weren't quite the same, the story wasn't quite the same.   But I'm glad it was finished anyway.  Even though when I finished, I put the book down, looked up at my husband (who hadn't finished reading it yet) and said "Lame."  I know Jordan wrote the epilogue, and Sanderson can't be blamed for it, but I can't help but wonder if the way Jordan would have written the final chapters before the epilogue would have made a difference.