Friday, February 29, 2008

Take that, River Rock!

DONE. 24 days after I started this lil' project from hell, it's done. Done, done, done, done, done, done, DONE! And if I do say so myself, it looks really, truly great. *happy dance*

Pictures coming tomorrow, for tonight the children are off visiting their grandparents and since we're childfreeeeeee, we're off to celebrate the end of this infernal project by having a Jucy Lucy at Matt's and then seeing "I am Legend" at the Riverview.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nature in our yard

Wednesday, when it was bitingly, bitterly cold, I was sitting at the kitchen table, ostensibly working on the novel but actually emailing with Miss Valerie, when a coyote sauntered through our backyard. Stunned, I watched it through the window until it was out of sight, and then promptly changed the topic of whatever our conversation had been:

Me: ....Holy [bleep], a coyote just trotted across our back yard! Glad Bailey* wasn't out (although she probably outweighs the coyote and could defend herself just by sitting on it).

Val: A coyote?? Wow. That's what you get for living by the river. What does a coyote do when it's 15 below zero? How does it keep warm???

Good questions, and I don't know the answers. What do coyotes do when it's -15F? And how do they keep warm???

Unfortunately, the camera wasn't within reach -- and honestly, I was stuck on "OMG, that's a coyote!" and too astonished to even think of going for the camera until after the fact. I've seen coyotes around here before (as Val pointed out, we do live by the river, and that part of the river happens to be within a state park and nature preserve, so there's wildlife galore)...but never in my own backyard. I'm not quite sure that I like this development, but at the moment it was kind of cool.

But wait, there's more.

Yesterday (Friday) around twilight while Pete was off whooping it up with the biking crew, I went from the kitchen into the living room to grab something and didn't bother turning on the lights. Now, there's a large shrub just outside the front door and next to the big window, and in the last light of the setting sun I saw...

[insert dramatic pause here]

...the silhouette of a pair of large ears just above the shrub.

My first thought was that it was the coyote paying a return visit and getting entirely too close to the house. (This was wildly implausible, because one, the ears were the wrong shape and too big, and two, that's a good-sized shrub, so if it was a coyote skulking around it, it'd have to be an awfully big coyote for just its ears to be showing, but I didn't think of those things until later.) I didn't like the thought of Mr. Coyote hanging out by our front door at all, so I kept the lights off and crept toward the window as quietly as I could with the notion of sneaking up on the critter and then yelling and banging on the window to scare it so badly that it wouldn't return, ever.

Well, when I got closer I saw that it wasn't a coyote: it was a deer. A young deer, maybe a yearling, and he or she (the light wasn't good enough to tell whether it was a buck or a doe) was eating our shrub. Surprised and a little outraged, I stopped sneaking and said, loudly, "Hey!" The deer startled and skittered back a few feet -- but only a few feet. It stood and stared at me through the window, and I stared back, and the girls came upstairs and went "Oooooh, a deer!" and then it and two other adult deer that I hadn't noticed took off across the front yard and bounded away toward the river.

This morning there are deer tracks in the snow all through both the front and back yards. I'm also noticing that there are an awful lot of doggy-like tracks all over the place...and they're way outside of Bailey's door-to-potty-and-back-to-the-door range (she does not care for cold and snow one bit, and only goes outside when forced by necessity or great mean people who make her go for walks: in other words, those aren't her tracks).


Deer in the yard...Coyote(s?) in the yard...Gosh, could the two possibly be related? o.O

I need to start keeping the camera within reach at all times.

I also think that now might be the time to sign up for that shooting class (guns, not cameras) I've been meaning to take. Venison, yum.

(That is a joke! Of course I would not shoot a gun in the 'burbs.)

*Our small, fat dog.

Friday, February 22, 2008

4 walls down, 2 to go

Still painting. But I'm on the home stretch now. 2 more walls to go (and one of those isn't really even a wall, just a giant window with a little bit of wall above and beneath), and this hellish project will be done.Thank goodness.

River Rock, never again!

Edited to add a picture of the newly finished wall. (Excuse the mess.)

Please, please, tell me that it looks good. I've been working on this so long, I've gone blind to whether it's working or not. I'm fearfully worried that I've really screwed up and it's too much green, and I tell you, if I have to redo this room, I'm gonna cry. So please, tell me it looks good...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


-11°F currently (yeah, I know, it's balmy compared to Bemidji!). What do you feed the kids when it's that cold and they're going to be standing at the bus stop? A nice hot breakfast, that's what.

Whole Grain Blueberry Pancakes

Man, these are filling. I've been experimenting with spelt flour (tricky to work with, but I'm getting the hang of it), so there's some of that in these, as well as oat, bulger wheat, and whole wheat flours. They're yummy, but dense. Em can usually eat her weight and then some in pancakes, but even she can only eat three of these.

The blueberries are from last summer when they were at their peak and dirt cheap. I bought pounds and pounds and froze the lot.

I also took pictures. (What a surprise!)

It's great to have a summer blueberry in February. :-)

I deliberately made a double batch of this morning's pancakes, even though there was no way the girls and I could eat 'em all. They're great frozen and then toasted in the toaster oven for a quick breakfast. (Not that we ever oversleep or have one of those rush-rush-rush mornings, no no, not us!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Funding the orthodontist's lake home, oh yeah

(Still painting. I want to think this round is going better than the last, but I won't know for sure until tomorrow when the 3rd and I hope final coat goes up on the wall I'm currently working on.)

Today was our 14th anniversary. We could have gone to Rome...the Caribbean...taken a cruise....But no. Instead, to celebrate, we threw a bunch of cash into the girls' mouths.

Em gets an expander bar for four months, then braces. Looks like a bunch of purple gum wadded up around her teeth, eh?

If you click the image and look closely at the large version, you can sort of see the actual bar.

She's drooling lots (the orthodontist calls it being "slurpy," and yeah, that about sums it up) and sounding an awful lot like Sid from Ice Age right now. I'm told that will improve in a few days.

Mo has it relatively easy: just braces. And pink and green, how cool is that?!

Unlike her sister, Mo's teeth are relatively straight. But that overbite, yonks. Actually, we learned that that's not even an overbite. It's an "overjet." Eek.

(I took their pictures with the currently-being-painted wall as the background and about two hours difference in time and lighting. I'm still resolved never to use this stuff again, but I have to say that I'm totally digging how the color shifts as the day goes along.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How many days have I been doing this now?

The tinted primer's up on the big wall and itty bitty smidge of a wall next to it. For just being primer, it looks pretty good. Heh. Pete thinks I should just stop now. (Those were his exact words. "Stop! Now!") But no. It's River Rock or nothing, babee!

River Rock, continued

First, a few Before pictures from February 6th, when I started this lil' project from hell. The girls were dying to "help," so I let them. After about 20 minutes they realized that painting is tedious and dull, and decided to go play Risk instead. They had fun while it lasted, though.

That horrible chandelier (you can see a bit of it in the upper right corner) is so on its way out. Carol, do you want it?

Mo was really good at edging! Too bad she lost interest; I could have used a permanent helper for that part.

Em was utterly delighted to be painting!

Next, the Technique. (I didn't take any During pictures, so you'll have to take my word for it when I say that each coat until the very last one was awful, horrible, bad.) This is in the order of things that occurred to me and/or things I tried as it kept getting worse and worse:

1. Prime. Prime, prime, prime. Now, I did not prime when I did our bedroom last summer in RL Suede, and it turned out really good with only 2 coats:

I mean, really, how great is that?!

So I assumed (assuming, always so dangerous) that the same would hold true with RL's River Rock. WRONG. Prime -- and get that primer tinted to match the paint. That's huge. I cannot even tell you how huge it is. People, TINTED PRIMER IS YOUR FRIEND.

2. The instructions and how-to video say to use a 3" brush to cut in, and special 4" and 9" Ralph Lauren roller covers for the, well, rolling. The brush, yes. You need that brush.

The rollers...

Right, don't even bother with the 4" roller. It's more of a hassle than it's worth. Cut in --generously! more on that in step 3 -- with the brush, and then get to work with the 9" roller. However, using the recommended RL roller cover caused a lot of problems. It got gobbed up with the little rocks within seconds of starting, and then left big, uneven smears of rock in some places and just paint in others. It didn't matter how often I changed the cover or whether I did the entire room with it, or if it was the 2nd coat or the 5th: the results were the same. Streaky, nasty walls. In desperation I switched over to a 9" foam roller with a 1/2" nap for what ended up being the final coat (thank God) and oh! I wish I had been working with that from the start. Huge difference. The rocks didn't gob up on the roller cover. The paint went on smooth and, more importantly, dried smooth and streak-free.

I was so happy, I almost cried.

3. Saturate that brush and roller. I am serious. They've got to be practically dripping with paint every time they touch the wall. The more paint, the better. You cannot put too much on. If you think you've got too much, you probably need more.

4. Now, this might be due to humidity issues (like, at the moment in cold, dry Minnesota, we have none, and that can mess with fresh paint), but things started to get a little better when I added some Floetrol to the paint, about 3 pints to a gallon. It went on better, and the streaking, although still happening, wasn't quite as bad. But I was still very unhappy with the results, so in desperation I switched to the 1/2" foam roller I talked about in step 2, and...

5. A mix of RL's River Rock and Behr's Faux Glaze for what ended up being the final coat. I'd come across this suggestion on a few help boards but was strangely reluctant to try it (which was silly; I mean, with all the problems I was having, it's not like it was going to make things worse). Okay, I'm totally sold on it now. It works. Oh, does it work, especially when used with that 1/2" foam roller. Maybe I'm giving the Glaze too much credit and the roller alone would have done the trick, or maybe it was totally the Glaze and the roller didn't do anything to help...but it sure didn't hurt to use a foam roller to apply a mix made up of approximately 1/3 RL River Rock and 2/3s Behr Faux Glaze. Like I said in # 2, it went on smooth and dried smooth and streak-free. Joy!

To sum up, here's what I've learned and what I'll be doing when I start in on part 2 of this project, i.e. the living room:

1. Prime with a tinted primer.
2. Use a 3" brush and 9" foam roller with a 1/2" nap.
3. Add 3 pints Floetrol to 1 gallon River Rock for the base coat (coats? I'm hoping this time it really will be done in 2 coats like the instructions say, but we'll see.).
4. Apply the paint generously.
5. Mix 2/3s Behr's Faux Glaze with 1/3 River Rock for the final coat.

Also, by that final coat I was so paranoid about the damn streaks that after each wall was done and still wet, I went over the entire surface one last time with the roller, very lightly and using continuous strokes. Did that also make a difference? No idea, but it's certainly worth a mention.

I started painting February 6th...and finished yesterday, February 15th. Here are the Final Results.

This is what it looks like up really really close. Cool, no?

And this is what it looks like from a few feet away.

It's beautiful! I'm still a little too raw from this experience to say whether it was worth all the hassle, but it does look very, very nice. And I'm crossing my fingers that, having learned a whole lot while doing part 1, things will go much better with the living room's part 2...which I'm going to start doing right now. Whee.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Never say never...but...never again!

Ralph Lauren's River Rock sucks. Don't believe me? Go google "Ralph Lauren River Rock Problems" and start reading. All the bad things they say? Streaks from hell, uneven finish, brazillions of coats? True. Oh, so true.

How do I know this? Well, I decided to turn a dining alcove that we never use for dining into a reading nook -- and also de-beige another room in the process. See, when the previous owners put this house up for sale, they beiged the entire thing first. Now Pete likes all the shades of beige and white, but me? I need some color. Plus, our last house had been beiged before we bought it, and what with having twins six months after we moved in, we never did get around to de-beiging it. Two beige houses in a row are two too many. But it's a slow process, this de-beiging thing. We negotiate neutrals v. colors, kind of

[him: how about cream?
me: ewwww!
me: how about bright red?
him: ewww!]

and after 7 months or so I get impatient with the negotiation process and just go out and get the paint and start painting. The orange bathroom notwithstanding (as promised, I did repaint it when his dislike of that finished project lasted the obligatory 3 months and then some), he does like and even approve of the results. Like I said, it's a slow process -- in the 3 and 1/2 years since we moved in, we've managed to de-beige 4 rooms -- but gradually, the beige is disappearing.

So I decided that the next project was this area formerly known as the dining alcove, as well as the adjacent living room. I've used Ralph Lauren paints before, both flat and Suede, and have loved the results. We've also got this great stone fireplace in the living room, and a view of the Minnesota River. After studying various paint chips, I decided that RL's River Rock, which claims to capture "the worn look of rocks awash in a turbulent stream with subtle sophistication," would be a perfect fit for those rooms.

Well, it is a perfect fit, but it's hell to get there!

I started small, with that dining alcove...and today, after 7 coats (actually, it might be 8 coats or even 9 coats; I lost count) of streaky walls, lots of frustration, far too many gallons of paint for 2 & 1/3 small walls, and multiple visits to various help sites, I finally figured out a technique that works. But, man! What a pain in the arse this project turned into. And I swear, once the living room is done, I will never, ever use this particular paint again.

I'll post more on this later, specifically (for perhaps I can save some other poor fool some time and frustration), the technique I finally hit on to make this work. But right now I'm going to go swill some gin, stare at my hard-won streak-free walls, and consider taking up smoking again. Kidding about that smoking thing! But the gin...hmm....

I also have a camera full of pictures that need to be processed and posted. It's on my to-do list.