Marsha Knits

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Name: Marsha Brofka-Berends
Location: US

Marsha knits . . . and reads and cooks and edits and gardens and hikes and thinks and eats and photographs and sings and writes and travels and plans and hopes and . . .

26 April 2007

A very, very large FO

The living room is finished. The living room is finished. Whew! As promised, here is a photo of it. We got our paint from Sherwin-Williams. For other painting projects, we'd used Behr, but this time we decided to throw down for some really good stuff (this is, technically, the "showpiece" room of the house) and get some much-needed advice from People Who Do Know Squat About Paint. Yes, it cost a bit more than Behr, but wow, it was really worth it. This stuff went on the walls so easily and smoothly. Even our friend Gina, who has loads of experience with painting projects and helped us with this one, was impressed with it. On the walls is Restrained Gold (probably the only color in the universe that goes with our furnishings, which are all from different color groups), in the Cashmere paint line, in a flat finish. It's not completely flat--when you look at it from an angle, it has a slight sheen--but it's nowhere near an eggshell finish. Unlike most flat finish paints out there, this stuff can be touched. That feature was pretty essential to us, since we don't want to spend the next several years telling our child "Don't touch the walls." 'Cause you know what? The walls will be touched. For the trim we used Alabaster (a white with a slightly reddish-gold tint, if you can imagine that), and the ceiling has plain old ceiling white on it. The room isn't 100% finished: we haven't hung anything on the walls yet. We have a giant mirror (a five-dollar buy at a yard sale last spring) that will probably go above the piano after we sand and restain the wooded frame. We're going to wait a little while before hanging any art, though, to give ourselves time to live in the room a bit and see how it feels. So here's a curtain question for you: what should we do with the windows? In the past, we had dark red floor-length drapes that we hated. (But they were left by the previous owners, and free is a very good price to pay for drapes--especially in a room that you're planning to redo soon anyway.) We never closed them, though, preferring the natural light and airiness of open windows. Let me say this up front: venetian blinds (vertical or horizontal, metal or cloth) are not options. I think wooden blinds or shutters would be too "heavy" for this room. I'm sort of inclined to go with a short curtain, something like a little longer than the windows themselves. But isn't there some "rule" about how "formal" rooms are supposed to have floor-length curtains? I don't have anything against floor-length curtains per se, but I think they'd end up getting stuck behind the table-chair arrangement on one side of the window. And I have two cats, so the bottom three feet of long curtains would be covered in cat hair in no time at all. So...any suggestions, anyone? Finally, I want to point out one of the things in this room that gives me the most joy. This desk (a new IKEA purchase, as are the two glass-fronted bookcases flanking the piano) is what we've nicknamed "the dumping ground." You know how you come in the door and your stuff just ends up in places--cell phones (and chargers) all over the kitchen counters, briefcases and purses and diaper bags all over the hallway? We decided to have a space dedicated to corralling this stuff. We don't have a proper foyer, so we put this space just inside the living room, right around a short wall from the front door. The large compartment of the secretary desk is where we put briefcases, diaper bags, and purses. The shelves above it give us extra storage for stuff we don't need out all the time but still want accessible: camera bag, camcorder, external hard drive (back up your data regularly, people!). The bottom shelf is my favorite part: courtesy of an eight-slot surge protector, it's the charging station for cellphones, camera batteries, wireless computer mice (yes, we are geeks), and other such gadgets. Everything has a place to go now, and when the doors are closed it's all hidden. I love it.

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17 April 2007

I know these things are true

1. There is special circle of hell reserved for the people who put this god-awful sun-moon-stars wallpaper border in my house. Not only did they exhibit terrible taste in wallpaper, but they put this stuff directly under crown molding in the most formal room in the house. What in the world were they thinking? Fortunately, it all came off--though not without some elbow grease. 2. Home fix-it projects never take as little time or money as you think they will. A few months ago, Jan and I were talking about all the things we want to do with our house, and we realized that we were experiencing the sort of option paralysis that stops us dead in our tracks when we're standing at the counter in an ice-cream shop: with so many choices, it's hard to know where to begin. So we decided to choose something "simple" and do it, just to feel a sense of accomplishment. "The living room!" we declared. "The supplies won't cost much--just paint!--and painting doesn't take that long to do, so we'll be done in no time! And really, it's about time we got rid of that wallpaper border before its ugliness causes permanent blindness." It took about two whole months to settle on a paint color (tip: paint your sample paint on a big piece of foam board, so you can move it around the room and test it against your furnishings and in different lighting conditions), then nearly a full week of every-free-minute work to get the supplies we needed and to clear out, prep, and paint the room. Oh, and of course this cost about twice what we anticipated. 3. Shoving nearly two rooms of stuff into one heavily used room is no fun at all. We moved all of our living room crap, er, I mean possessions into our not-terrible-spacious dining room, which made for very crowded mealtimes and decreased enthusiasm for cooking. (In addition to being the Week of Living Room Painting, this was the Week of Take-Out Food.) Sylvia handled it pretty well. As an almost-two-year-old, she could have gone the way of "something has interrupted my routine, and I don't like it" or "hey, cool--I have a different view from my high chair now." Fortunately, for all of us, she took the latter path. Those people who live through kitchen remodels? Gah, I don't know how they do it... 4. Good friends are worth their weight in gold. In addition to serving as color consultants who surely saved us from some horrible mistakes, our friends Katie and Gina helped us out tremendously. Katie lent me her wallpaper steamer (which worked well enough that I didn't have to resort to any chemical goo--hooray!), and Sylvia spent Saturday morning at her place (with her husband and daughter), which gave us a few hours to paint the ceiling and get the stinky oil-based primer on the walls (tip: use this type of primer over places where you've removed wallpaper, or else the adhesive--which you can never fully remove--will bleed through your paint and cause you much sorrow) without subjecting a small child to the fumes. Gina, who has painted more rooms that she can probably remember and is a painter extraordinaire, spent pretty much her entire weekend with us. Jan and I, being the cowardly novice painters that we are, gave her all the tough jobs, like cutting in around the edges. (Going near white surfaces with brush full of colorful paint is, like using steeks, on the list of Things That Scare the Crap Out of Me.) And she was amazing--all the paint she applied went where it was supposed to go. Me...well, I had a few little spots to tidy up. On Saturday, Gina's husband, Todd, came with her and fulfilled the critical role of Baby Wrangler. He and Sylvia spent the entire afternoon in the den, reading books, drawing pictures, and building tunnels with pillows and blankets. ("Paint: $120. Brushes: $30. Having someone make sure your child doesn't try to eat Sherwin-Williams products: Priceless.) On Sunday, Gina returned to help paint the trim, which took about as much time as the rest of the room combined, thanks to the three, large, multipaned windows in this room. BUT IT'S ALL DONE! (Well, almost. Tonight we pick up a final pieces of furniture and finish putting everything away.) Pictures of the finished room will follow soon...when it's fully finished!

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12 April 2007

Not-stupid investments

Many many years ago, I started reusing my Ziploc bags. It's easy--just turn 'em inside out, wash them, then let them dry on the dish rack. The freezer bags are particularly durable; some of mine are three years old. The problem is that Ziploc bags aren't renowned for their ability to stand up on their own, so they usually fall over and take a long, long time to dry properly. When I first heard about a thingy (yes, that is the technical term for it) that holds your bags open while they dry, I thought, "That's stupid. No way am I spending twenty bucks on that thing." Well, I finally succumbed and threw down the bucks for it a couple of weeks ago. And let me just say this: wow, I should have bought one of these things sooner. Same goes for this compost bucket. I am a big believer in composting when you can. All through grad school, I lived in apartments with no yards or gardens. I yearned to have a compost pile of my own--and did, briefly, when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, for a summer while doing some predoctoral research. (I'll write more about that experience another time.) I remember one time my housemate and I had a potluck dinner that was attended by about a dozen people. As people were helping with the post-meal cleanup, they asked, "Where is your compost pile?" (It was in the middle of the huge garden, in the side yard.) Not "Do you have a compost pile?" but "I'm assuming you have one--'cause, you know, this is the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene-so just let me know where it is." I loved that. When I moved to the Mid-Atlantic, I was delighted to have a garden--and a small compost pile. And when Jan and I bought our house three and a half years ago, one of the first home-improvement things we did was built a compost bin (a "3-bin yard waste composter"--the free plans are available here). During my entire composting life, though, I've been putting my kitchen scraps into an old yogurt container on the kitchen counter, then taking it outside when it filled up. (This is a practice I developed in Eugene. After all, grad students don't have extra money to throw around on fancy-schmancy compost buckets! Well, maybe the engineers and computer scientists, but not the impoverished cultural anthropologists!) This system has the great benefit of not costing anything. It has the great disadvantage of stinkiness--particularly in the winter months, when trips to the compost bin are less frequent (brrrrr!). So when I decided to get the plastic-bag-holding doodad, I figured, "Why not? I'm already going to hell anyway for buying this incredibly yuppified and overpriced thing--might as well add on a fifteen-dollar compost bucket." After using this green bin (which fits nicely under the sink) for a few weeks now, I have to admit that I really love this thing.

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