Sunday, November 5, 2017

Walking the Talk: My First Brush With Chalk Paint

For the past few years, I've been advising my clients who own outdated, but good-conditioned furniture (pretty much all of us) to leap into the chalk painting craze sweeping home improvement blogs and hardware stores everywhere.

When I first mention the idea, most raise their eyebrows thinking I just suggested they paint their nightstand green like an 80s classroom chalkboard, but those in the know, or the ones who are too scared to kick me out of their houses, become intrigued. 

I show them countless pictures I've been collecting on Pinterest and then give them my most encouraging Mr. Miyagi pep talk: inspiring them to apply a little Karate Kid focus and take on an easy DIY. There really is a "wax on/wax off step" if you follow the directions which I didn't (on purpose).

I'm so proud of my clients who've tackled chalk painting -- all of whom have done so with great results -- giving a stay of execution to a previously despised kitchen table, antiquated media console or chipping desk chair. 

I talk (a big game) about how easy it is and how anyone can do it if you just watch a few YouTube videos and google some chalk paint blogs. But here's the rub: I had never done any chalk painting myself.

Until last week.

Here's how it went. The good, the bad and the ugly.

This is the "before" pic. It's not in perfect shape but you can't really tell. Figured it would be a good test in case I completely screwed it up.

Step 1: One of the appeals about chalk painting is that the prep requires no sanding; just wipe the piece free of any dust and debris with a damp cloth. This was my best step.

Not a very messy project. I set up a drop cloth in my foyer
and it worked out fine.

All scratched up and outdated hardware.

Step 2: The supplies. I went with the Amy Howard paint they sell at Ace Hardware around the corner. Her line isn't as popular as Annie Sloan's, but it was more conveniently located. I purchased a dark grey for the top and a light blue for the body. I also decided to go with a polyurethane sealant instead of the recommended wax (more labor intensive) because my good friend Melissa, who's a pro at this, said to and because I'm always in favor of an easier way, I agreed immediately. 

I should also tell you that I didn't buy any of the recommended brushes because my husband Eddie has an extensive workshop and I figured he had something close. 

The colors have the strangest names. 

Step 3: I taped off the top because I'm no expert painter and thought this was the responsible move. It was a good move until I pealed away the tape to see I'd hadn't taped in a straight line and what remained was an uneven gap. So I'm not a great taper, but it didn't really matter. I just retaped and filled in the gap. Took 3 coats of the gray to get the look I wanted. 

Step 4: Take off all the hardware to paint the doors and drawer. Oh -- don't lose the hardware and label it if necessary. Then I painted the entire thing blue. This took a few days for me to complete because I wanted to make sure each coat dried properly. I don't think that's necessary, but sadly sitting on the hard floor is not as easy as it used to be and I was happy to spread the job over a week or so. I also put 2-3 coats on of the blue being careful to watch the drips and brushstrokes.

Found a sofa in the cabinet!
Somewhere out there is a Polly Pocket looking to stretch out and relax.

Step 5: Once completely dry, paint the whole thing with the poly. I thought this part was a little tricky. The poly would go on bubbly and I was afraid I'd see the bubbles when it dried so I kept brushing over it until they were gone. Turns out the bubbles weren't my biggest concern. Once the whole thing had dried I could see my coverage was uneven. There were spots I completely missed, but luckily they are on door edges that are mostly hidden by hinges. I probably should've applied another coat to even it out, but I didn't. I put the doors back on (the hardest part for me) and I added cute new hardware. Voila! 

Sadly after I reassembled the cabinet, I had this pile remaining. I'm so not handy!
And you can also see where I sliced my hand trying to prepare school lunches.
I should probably stay away from food prep as well.

The finished product in its new home. 

All in all, it wasn't that hard, but definitely not for the impatient. I will keep encouraging my friends and clients to find creative ways to repurpose their existing pieces. 

And as Mr. Miyagi said, "Man who catch fly with chopstick, accomplish anything." Happy chopsticking!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Amazon is Amazing until....

If we had a conversation in the past month that wasn't about my new workout regimen or the election, I can pretty much guarantee I was waxing poetic on Amazon Prime. I probably berated myself for being late to the party and joining only about 11 months ago. However, I think I've done my part in ordering everything from cereal to orthotics to clear mascara (if you're not taming your eyebrows this way, you don't know what you're missing). I've watched show's on Amazon (Red Oaks anyone? Fast Times at Ridgemont High meets Caddyshack meets The Goldbergs) and of course my ongoing and undying devotion to the Amazon Kindle store.

However, it wasn't til last month that I discovered the Amazon Dash Button. And as with most well-intentioned moves in my life, this one went sideways too. Here's how it all went down.

October 23: I placed my order for 5 of the infamous Dash Buttons. These little gems make remembering to re-order your most common items idiot-proof. You place the little button in the area where you store the product and when you are nearly out of that item, you press the button and voila -- in two days, your item arrives at your doorstep.

October 25: They arrive! I'm so excited I photograph the buttons and actually text this picture to 8 friends who are not nearly as enthused as I'd expect.

October 26: I synch each one up to my wifi, and on I select the exact item to be associated with my account. For example, I always want the Charmin button to order 24 rolls of Mega Ultra Soft. The buttons are self-sticking so I put the Tide one in a laundry room cabinet; the Cascade under the kitchen sink and so forth.

October 27: Unexpectedly I get an email from Amazon telling me that my order of 24 rolls of Charmin are on the way. Well, that's weird. I didn't place an order. Was it possible I accidentally hit the order button while installing it above my toilet paper stash in the garage? I think that's a reasonable explanation and don't think of it again. (Until tomorrow)

October 28: I get an email from Amazon telling me my 12 giant rolls of Bounty Select-a-Size paper towels are on the way. Huh? I definitely didn't order these. Luckily I jump online and cancel the order no problem.

October 29: The aforementioned 24 rolls of Charmin arrive.

October 30: I get another email from Amazon telling me that my order of 24 (more) rolls of Charmin are on the way. What in the name of urinary tract infections is going on here??!! I jump online to cancel the order, but am told it's too late and they've already left the warehouse. I immediately disconnect my Charmin and Bounty Dash service. I also decide to host an exorcism. When I can't find our Ouija Board, I order a new one on Prime.

November 1: The second shipment of 24 rolls of Charmin arrives.

November 2: I ask myself WWRSD (What would Remington Steele Do)? Are my kids effing with me? Is the ghost of Mr. Whipple pissed off because I briefly used Costco brand TP for a few months back in 2014?  Then I find these on the garage floor.

So the culprit is not a mustachioed, bespectacled, lab coat-wearing pitchman from beyond the grave, but in fact a 4-legged goofball puppy with questionable intelligence and an apparent love of online shopping. Yes, Luna Virden, has been taking it upon herself to order an abundance of paper products. With each crunch and munch.

I still think the Dash buttons are awesome for the brand loyal, but beware -- the sticker on the back is not very durable as mine were off the shelf and on the ground in one day. But how can you stay mad this face? It's just too bad I wasn't a quicker picker upper!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bobby Hoffman: The Legacy of Reluctant Legend

In January 2016, Bobby and I had a conversation that led me to writing him an unpublished blog. This is an updated (and now-published) version of that and what I read at his memorial service, May 2016.

Everything I love about tennis has to do with Bobby.

But not everything I love about Bobby has to do with tennis.

For years, I took his clinic every Thursday morning, but it wasn't until he got sick that we became close.

One of our first conversations after his diagnosis went something like this:
Me: You have quite the Howard County female fan club.
Him: You think I'd have gotten a date out of it at some point.
Me: You're straight?
Him: You thought I was gay?
Me: Well how else could you possibly understand women so well?

We laughed about that a million other things. But it was through many hours at chemo, dozens of lunches and countless chats that we covered some serious and real topics.

He told me that when he realized he wasn't going to be able to come back to work, he was crushed. He said making that phone call to finalize his retirement was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. It meant the end of a nearly 20-year career.

Bobby was proud of the extraordinarily faithful clientele he'd built, but he turned to me with a perplexed look on his face and asked -- what's my legacy? I hope it's not that I fought cancer for a year and that's it. I told him of course not and then made some stupid joke about him being SO private that some people weren't even sure he was actually sick.

But it got me thinking about Bobby's legacy.

I've been fortunate enough that he shared with me some of the handwritten cards and letters his kids had given him for Father's Day, his birthday and Christmas. Not only are they gifted writers, but clearly as kind, sensitive, charming, tuned-in, funny and empathetic as their dad. His legacy to his kids is evident even to an onlooker like me.

But his legacy to the men and women --overwhelmingly women-- of CA tennis is something remarkable too.

Bobby's harem of housewives, myself included, is a fellowship of short-skirted groupies who drank the Kool-Aid of loosen your grip and go down the middle. We keep on our toes, split step if we can, knowing full well if we send a ball into the net, we were still likely to hear "I don't care, I love it!" A ball that lands in a neighboring court could get a "I like what you're trying to do". And if you caught him on a particularly feisty day and got him to exclaim "Ole", you knew you were going to get your money's worth and more.

We've all been on the receiving end of these one-liners, but to me, Bobby's best quality was to put his clients at ease. I always felt better about myself on the way out of clinic than on the way in. How many people in your life have you met that you can say this about? He believed so much in us that we ended up believing more in ourselves. Even if we couldn't hit a winner all day.

He told me that on at least 100 occasions, clients have come to a lesson and ended up hitting no balls. A tennis lesson with zero hitting! They just wanted to talk. Could be about work. Or their families or a hideous match they played last night. And Bobby being Bobby, listened attentively, patted a shoulder, offered a tissue or laughed in all the right places. He said the things we all want to hear from our best friends, husbands, shrinks and tennis pros.

Like many others, I texted Bobby for advice before nearly every match. The wording changed from week to week, but the message always had one constant element -- I'm right there on your shoulder. I'm with you.

When it was clear Bobby was getting sicker, I asked him what he thought about giving me one of his old racquets as a memento. Just anything laying around was fine. The next time I saw him he handed me a ratty old, beat up, burgundy racquet with busted strings. As he handed it to me, he said, "This is the racquet I played with in college.”

I told him I can’t take that.

He said, “I want you to have it because well, you give a shit. I was worried that you might stop playing, but I'm so glad you are going to continue." He was referring to me giving up tennis altogether when it was clear he'd not be able to come back. And of all the things we'd talked about, this was a topic I'd avoided, feeling it was just too raw and painful to discuss.  But Bobby being Bobby -- so intuitive, so tuned in -- knew just where my head was. So of course I accepted that racquet because he chose it for me and well, I guess I do give a shit.

And that's his legacy. He is all the best things about tennis and being a friend. No, not everything I love about Bobby is tennis, but some of it sure is.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Bailey's, Bubble Yum and Beyonce

If we know each other in real life, chances are you've seen me out and about in pigtails. Yes, I'm a (very) grown woman and yes I see the "isn't it sad that she's clinging to her youth in such a desperate way" glances. But the truth is I'm just superstitious.

About 5 years ago when I started playing competitive tennis, my hair was too short for the conventional ponytail so I wrangled it into two pigtails and teamed them up with a visor. I guess I won a few matches that season because then it became "a thing". And now, years later, I always wear pigtails with a visor to my matches. Truth be told, I'm kind of over it and realize the absurdity, but I'm also trying to accept the concept that "that thing" is "my thing" and just go with it. 

This little ritual of mine got me thinking: maybe other tennis players have quirky habits too.

And guess what! They do. I reached out to dozens of players and a handful of pros in my local community and asked if they had any tennis rituals or superstitions. Here's what they shared. (First the regular folks followed by the pros at the end.)

Some think it's all about the ball:

But it might be about what goes in your mouth:

Others swear it's all about what they put on:

Or what about what they let out:

Sometimes it's about Karma:

Sometimes it's more complicated:

Sometimes it's all about the jams:

And now a word from the pros! Here's what they do or did back in their heydays. 

In reading through the pros' submissions, one thing became abundantly clear: the only thing standing between me and a higher rating is incorporating more superstitions and rituals! I'll be perusing this list like a menu and prepping for spring season. If only...

This blog was such fun to write and about as much research as I can handle. Thank you to everyone who took the time to reveal their personal tennis quirks and habits. And a special thank you to the person who submitted the reply below. She gave me a good chuckle and a smidge of self disappointment that I hadn't considered her implied angle myself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Step Up: Going from Blah to Beautiful

For years, I've been wanting to do one particular project around my house. It was big and daunting and there was no coming back so we kept putting it off. But this spring we finally took the plunge and I can honestly say, I think the results are pretty spectacular. I have had several clients over the years who I've thought might want to do this same project, but I couldn't recommend it in good faith until I'd tried it myself.

When we moved in nearly 12 years ago, we decided to forgo the traditional carpet runner on the front steps to have a clean, classic look. This staircase would hardly ever get used so I didn't feel that we needed a carpet to protect the steps or provide traction for shoeless kids. But mostly I just thought I'd tire of whatever we chose. (We have another set of steps that leads to the kitchen and knew that those would be used almost exclusively.)

But over time, as with most home decor -- our taste changed. I no longer loved the heavy oak look. I've been slowly adding black to nearly every room in the house and thought black stair treads paired with the existing white risers would be perfect for us.

My husband is super handy and has done many difficult projects around the house including installing a coffered ceiling and a mack daddy treehouse, but this time we needed to bring in the professionals. I'll let the pictures do the talking. Let me know what you think.


Pretty traditional curved oak staircase.We added the chair rail 10 years ago, but thought that looked really plain too.

Another before view

My contractors came and couldn't have been more diligent or responsible. This is a pretty messy job because all the steps and handrails need to be sanded down to raw wood. They hung plastic sheeting all around the house to block off any blowing dust. The tools are noisy, but I'm hardly home during the day so that wasn't too disruptive. I loved that they vacuumed and packed up all the tools at the end of each day and the job was done in less than a week.

Choosing what finish to put on the steps proved to be one of the bigger decisions. My contractor brought in the regional rep from a nearby paint store and we talked at length about stain versus paint and which product to use. I felt strongly that I wanted the finish to be black and be durable. I wanted some sheen, but didn't really need it to be super shiny. We chose a product called Interlok by McCormick Paints. It's a premium acrylic urethane DTM coating that dries to a super-hard finish. Plus it cleans up with soap and water. We had it tinted black. The contractor tried out samples for us -- we only needed to decide semi-gloss or high-gloss. 

We chose the black high gloss which is on the lower step. It's perfect.

And here's what the finished product looks like as modeled by Scout, the Wonderdog.

I think the final result is super chic and clean. We added the window box moldings and are so happy with the result. Coordinating dog at no extra charge.

I love how the teal accents pop off the black and white contrast.

It's really fun to see a long-term vision finally come to life.