Saturday, November 8, 2008

Please Rescue Me From My Craftiness!

A few weeks ago I almost wrote a blog post, but then in the never ending circle of life which mostly consists of me never actually blogging about the cool things I do (like going to the zoo this week, and then again to Culver's. Man, I love that place. Plus I went to Costco, and had about twenty samples. Don't try and convince me there's a better activity than free samples) it lost its timeliness. Now, I need to comment on the unwritten post, so first I shall, like the daring archaeologist, recreate the original post out of the tiny ostraca of my mind (hey, I'm reading Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, which is another absolutely amazing book that I've missed my whole life, and so like the author I like to make ludicrous metaphors because it's fun). Hopefully I'll do a better job at it than Howard Carson of Motel of Mysteries (another amazing book, written by David Macaulay, and one which you should have read...yesterday, right after you finished Wives and Daughters.) Okay, okay, enough obscure literary references. For one thing, at what point does a literary allusion transition from an educated shared reference to a obtuse in-joke that detracts from my writing instead of subtly enriching the text with varied levels of meaning?

Original Post, Potentially Called in My Mind, "My Middle Name is Martha Stewart."
I'm really Martha Stewart. Come along with me throughout my day, and I'll show you.

First we went to Goodwill, where I bought among other frames three incredibly tarnished silver plated frames. I knew with a trick my brother in law Samuel showed me, I could brighten them right up in a jiffy (Does Martha Stewart use words like "jiffy?" I wouldn't know because the most I know about her is her homeline at Kmart or Shopko, I can't remember which, and the fact that she went to white collar prison for fraud or something. I've never actually seen her in action.) Then we went to Walmart (Mmm, maybe I should have named this post something different. I don't think Martha would go to Walmart either. Kmart or Shopko, definitely. After all, she would shop where her own line was produced, right? Right?) and I bought turquoise paint to finish a home project which I'll explain more about shortly, and then I realized we didn't have time to make it home in time for cooking the original plans for dinner, so we decided to buy the ingredients to invent our own blond chili to prepare for a chili cook-off for our Ward Halloween Party. Neither of us had ever made a blond chili, and I had never even eaten one, but had always wanted to, which practically qualifies me to invent one. That and my middle name is Martha Stewart.

We ended up making a Cannellini Chipotle Chicken Chili, with a cilantro and creme fraiche infusion and fresh jalepeno infusion. (okay, it was really sour cream dumped in at the end, but I'm being fancy here. While we're at it, the canellini beans were canned, and they were really great northern's). We even reconstituted the chipotle ourselves from its dried state. And it was a very good chili.

Then I spent the evening making a paste of baking soda and water (don't tell Martha it was my spit, because I was too lazy to go into the kitchen) and rubbing all the tarnish off my silver picture frames. Once finished I placed professional pictures (on postcards at one Euro apiece) of three statues in the Louvre from my visit there this past March, and hung them on my wall (which about killed me and I broke one of the glass fronts of the picture with Psyche and Eros and Avram kept on asking me why I was putting myself through this and I kept yelling that I was being creative, like Elder Uchdorf had told me to (this was shortly after the Relief Society Session), and that was a pretty good trump card if I do say so myself. So I kept on keeping on until they all stayed on the wall [being made for only standing upright on a table or something they had no hanging apparatus on the back.]) I also hung another picture by inserting it in front of another professionally matted and hung picture frame, since I couldn't get the original picture out.

Yes, I'm practically this close to Martha Stewart, and will become even closer when I paint the six wooden chairs I bought from Ikea and painfully assembled with Avram and Lydia - I'm going to primer and then paint them with the turquoise paint I bought, and I will be amazing.

Okay, back to regular post.
Over a month later, I still have yet to finish this accursed painted chairs project. I hate painted chairs, and I'm fairly sure they hate me. And I'm officially rescinding my "Martha Stewart" middle name and going back to good old Florence. For one thing, I thought that if I bought the absolutely cheapest chairs at Ikea and then painted them, this would be a good project and they would look personalized and great and everyone would love me.

The reality; when you spend only $20 a chair for an un-assembled chair, you get what you pay for. Avram's dad ended up buying us wood glue because the chairs were so potentially rickety and the wood glue will at least keep them together longer than the few screws alone. And they're made of pine. I have nothing against pine as a furniture wood, although Avram always prefers a hardwood, but these are the softest, softest pine, and practically look like balsawood.

Regardless, since I bought the chairs in a different state than I opened the boxes in (although I should have known that the put together and finished chair with the cute little tied on cushion I saw in the showroom in Ikea would not be truly indicative of what a couple stacks of soft unfinished shaped pine boards on my lonesome kitchen table would be) and since I never like to give up when I make a stupid decision and instead prefer to plough ahead until truly all hope has run home to its mother, I insisted that once we assembled and painted the chairs all would be right with the world. So put them together we did, and although several of the chairs wobble a little straight off, compliments of the high paid efforts of the assemblers (Avram, Thora and Lydia Shannon) we had accomplished on large goal; something to sit on.

Accomplishing the painting has not come together so easily. I found out you need to primer the chairs, so I bought primer and did so to a couple of the chairs. Then I painted one coat of turquoise paint to three of the chairs over a few day period. Then I read the paint can, where it told me that the paint would dry in 24 hours, but that you could not clean it for one to two weeks. Anyone who has a two year old daughter knows that her kitchen chair needs to be cleaned three times a day, and within a two week period should have been cleaned a total of 42 times. I let them sit apart for a few days, but soon laziness and the fact that we only have six chairs for our kitchen, and these are the same six chairs that I'm painting took over and Lydia began sitting on one of the turquoise chairs. Fast forward a week, when I notice that the chair is irredeemably dirty, and when I try and wipe it off the paint comes too. So....we apply a second coat of paint, after first cleaning them off, and then the next day primer and paint a fourth chair with two coats of paint.

Then we only have two kitchen chairs (plus a desk chair) to sit on for the next two weeks as I alternately move the unsittable-on and useless chairs to different areas around the kitchen, where they have equal opportunity to be in everyone's way. During this time we have guests over, and get to eat in the living room, since our chairs are still out of commission.

I also meanwhile check out books on painting projects, and get the idea into my head that I need to stencil the chairs as well as varnish them to protect the paint job. We go to walmart and buy the varnish, only to find out at the checkout that it's $14.00 for two cups worth. A few days later we return the varnish, and the paint woman assures me that since I used semi-gloss paint I shouldn't need to protect the paint, because varnish is included in the paint.

We also go to Jo-anne's, where Avram waits in the car with our sleeping girls while I quickly run in to buy a stencil and paintbrush. Forty five minutes later he meets me at the checkout of Jo-anne's with both girls, who have been awake for ages. (Hey, it was the after Halloween sale, and I realized I have the soul of kitsch as I wandered the isles looking at pre-made felt cut banners and plastic decor. It took me a good half hour to tear myself away without buying the store out; so help me Martha I love kitsch!).

I stencil the first chair, and then leave the stenciling equipment (stencils and paintbrushes) on a dish towel on the stove to stay out of the way. Three days later when Avram cleans the kitchen he picks the stencils up and realize the heat of the stove has melted them together. I decide to try and use it anyway, and stencil one chair that looks like a drunk monkey was the artistic talent behind it. I also forget to rinse out the brushes after I'm done, and so the paint dries on them (I have no mineral spirits).

Meanwhile I have allowed us to sit on the chairs, since the requisite two weeks have passed. On the (only) stenciled chair I notice that the base of it has about a two inch swath of paint rubbed off, and you can see the white underneath. Protective varnish included my mother's maiden aunt!

At this point, I decide to chuck my chairs out of my kitchen window and have a good cry. Okay, not really, but I am decidedly less excited about any future crafty project in the future. The next morning at breakfast Avram notices that Lydia's thumbnail is blue - from all the scraped off paint lodged in it.

I realize that a two-year-old's destructive powers on a poor defenseless chair are mightier than any protective action I can give. Avram helps me by saying that Lydia was just trying to help our chairs look popular today by giving it the ageing "pre-stressed" look.

On Friday we go back to Jo-anne's and Avram runs in this time and re-buys the same stencil.

As of today there are still two completely unpainted chairs, one chair that needs another two coats (at least where Lydia de-stressed it), and only one and a half chairs have been stenciled. And I still have no way of protecting the chairs from the paint all coming off when I'm done.

I tell you, I thought that I could be crafty, but this project is killing me. The hardest part is thinking that it's all for naught anyway since my children will destroy them two weeks after they're done. So do yourself a favor. Don't ever try and be like Martha Stewart. Buy everything pre-made. Except for felt kitsch, that is.


  1. Like my cute cute jumper that I was going to finish in time for the Primary program....for my talk today.... We'll see. Maybe for Christmas!

    Good luck, though! They'll be heirlooms, no?!

  2. So, perhaps your literary references are both obtuse in-jokes and brilliant allusions, SIMULTANEOUSLY, until someone reads them and either understands them or not, nein?

  3. Oh, BTW, I use marine spar varnish to finish anything that will be used in the kitchen that is not a food utensil. It does take three days for each coat to dry, and you need at least three coats, BUT, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING sticks to it, and it's made for surfacing boat decks, so it's not slippery and is hard to damage. Costs a fortune, of course. Wish you were here; I still have a gallon left over from our living room floor on Emery St.

  4. i would have used spray paint to paint the chairs. it works well and is a whole lot faster to do. you'd probably still have to varnish it, though.

    hey, at least you're trying!

  5. School of hard knocks. Your too funny.

    this makes a much hbetter story than perfect chairs would make.

  6. Thora, I have taken an entirely too-long hiatus from reading your life. I laughed so hard I nearly peed my pants (which is not actually too very hard when you're pregnant, but the sentiment still stands).
    You know, sometimes it takes sacrifice to follow the council fo the prophets. I'm sure President Uchtdorf would be proud of you.
    I love reading your writing.

  7. YAY on your pictures.

    Thats TOTALY something Martha would do. Only, she would only show the beginig part when she was assembling them, and then have her assistants do the hanging part and the the camera's cut back and TADA!

    Also, she would have gone a head and re-matted and framed the other one. Sorry. I know. She's sick like that. SICK!

    Also, she does say "jiffy" and I don't think she uses spit instead of water. But I bet her "assistants" who actualy DO the stuff, do. I would. I would totaly rub her silver frames with my own saliva.

    (I'd do it as pay back for a gravy she tricked me into making that required more ingredients than the dinner it was to accompany).

    and Dude! You have kids! "Shaby Chic" was made for you. Take those chairs, give L some sand paper and let her go to town. Then take them outside and spray them with spray varnish and you'r good. Ta da!

  8. I'm always wanting to take on projects like that, but I can imagine all those things happening to me so I don't.

    At least you tried?

  9. i totaly can see me doing all of that...craftiness just did not come my way. except for once when i made this awesome quilt for a guy i liked who was coming home from a mission to switzerland. the quilt was a path work type thing of the swiss flag. it was magnificant. then i gave it to gim and he turned out to be a jerk like two days later, moved away and now all i can do is for ever remember my one truly great crafty project. for me craftiness is right there with coordinating and cutsiefying (is that a word?) my house. i am totally handicapped there!

  10. by the way that is soposed to be patch work not path. and him not gim. and its all lower case because i am typing one handed.