Sunday, January 27, 2013

We're Painting the Kitchen Black!

During December, the insomniac  was lucky enough to be squeezed in last minute to the Hands-On Class at Lauren Lane Decor. Always game to attempt any sort of impractical project right before Christmas, she decided this was the perfect opportunity to paint the kitchen chairs and tables. Completely overestimating the amount that could be accomplished in a one-day class, she also decided to bring in not one chair but the entire kitchen suite; admittedly not really a suite, but merely four chairs purchased many years ago at a flea market and two tables that don't match. Those chairs need never fear being replaced with new ones - because they have gryphons.

Mismatched kitchen table and chairs before Christmas ...

Although satisfied with the projects attempted thus far with Annie Sloan Graphite chalk paint, it just wasn't black  enough for the insomniac's  tastes. So she was pleased that the new line of Van Gogh chalk paint Avery at Lauren Lane now carries includes Winston Black. *

At the end of the class, only a single chair was finished - spindles and rungs are a lot more work than you'd think. The second chair was painted at home the next day along with the table legs, to make it look more like a proper matching kitchen set. Once the legs had been painted, the pine table top looked shabby and had to be sanded; the burn mark where the youngest set down the hot frying pan and the spot where the eldest carved his name into the table were kept for strictly sentimental reasons, although one did get rather caught up in the moment and sanded it down slightly more than planned. Son, the next time you're over for dinner, please bring your knife so you can touch that up for your Mother.

With a bit of Google research, the insomniac  found a food-safe recipe to protect the top after sanding - a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of beeswax and 5 Tablespoons of mineral oil. After finishing off the cottage cheese while standing at the kitchen sink, the empty plastic container was washed out and used to heat the ingredients in the microwave. It took roughly four minutes to melt the mixture, which was applied with an old rag and was just enough for two coats. It was then left to sit for an hour, not because that was the recommended time but simply because that was how long it took to have a cup of coffee and check out the new taxidermy listings on eBay. Then it was buffed to a lovely shine with a clean rag.

The refinished kitchen table top makes it painfully obvious 
the cutting board table in the background now needs sanding, too ...

After painting the chair black, a bit of the paint was wiped off
to reveal the gold stain underneath, which now matches the table top ...

Once the chairs and tables were done,
the spice rack HAD to be painted ...

The wax finish on the chairs has now cured for the requisite thirty days, and the remaining two can be painted next week. The cutting board table top will be refinished at the same time, but as none of those knife marks have any sentimental value, one plans on using a belt sander. And as this entire project was really just a test run to see how the mineral oil and beeswax finish worked out, the rust marks from the dog's metal treat tin can now be safely removed from the pine counter top in the pantry, because it's likely those marks won't hold the same nostalgic memories for the next occupants.

Although the original plan was to paint all the kitchen cupboards in the Gothic Mansion, the spouse has pointed out that perhaps it's best to leave the cupboards alone at this point. The insomniac  fully intends to listen to the advice of her more practical spouse, and has temporarily abandoned the idea. For the time being.

Before closing, a few helpful words of advice - a complete kitchen makeover two weeks before Christmas is never a good idea and, more importantly, dust is a lot more noticeable on a black kitchen suite. Just so you know.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.


* Subsequent to the publishing of this post, Van Gogh chalk paint can now be purchased at The House of Van Gogh and Winston Black has been renamed to Revenge. That new name makes the insomniac  very happy ...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It Might Be Time for a Rather Large Garage Sale ...

Although it has always been inevitable that at some point the Gothic Mansion would eventually be sold, it seems that fateful day is finally upon us. Over the Christmas holidays, the insomniac  and her spouse made the difficult decision to put the family home up for sale this coming spring.

Having spent the last 25 years in a house we consider ourselves very fortunate to have called home, it was impossible to imagine living anywhere else in Calgary and decided now is the time to leave the city, as well. Tentative plans are being made to move to a small town to the north, but as there are a limited number of old houses and it's looking like the brick Victorian with the Widow's Walk will not be available any time soon, it is still unknown where exactly we're going. Although one is fairly certain it's not likely to have a real third-floor attic nor a dormer window.

The next few months will be spent attempting to reduce the size of one's many Collections. It was thought this would prove to be far easier said than done, but was pleasantly surprised to find it much less stressful than imagined - the William Morris Golden Rule of Useful/Beautiful being the guideline used for the weeding out process. Twenty-five years in the same house might have been a bit too long for someone who has a proclivity towards hoarding - but a hoarder with Good Taste, one likes to think.

The only real obstacle encountered thus far has been with the Book Collection; there are currently eight bookcases in the Gothic Mansion, which the insomniac  has every intention of narrowing down to three ... possibly four. Five at the very most. But each and every bookcase is filled with art, antique and needlework books, making it an onerous task trying to choose which should be kept and which should be relinquished, as every single book seems to fall into the category of either Useful or Beautiful or, worse still, both. Later today, the 33 books selected for elimination this week will be trundled off to the second-hand bookstore. The spouse suggested once the books have been sold, it might be wise to beat a hasty retreat from the store before finding another 33 to replace them.

Acquisition of new stock for the Attic will be temporarily put on hold until future plans have become more definite. The insomniac  will do her very best to stick to the weekly blog post schedule, but anticipates there will be the occasional week when she collapses into a sniveling heap onto the Wilton carpets while sorting through twenty-five years' worth of memories. During such moments of high drama there will likely be no post, as no one needs to share in that melodramatic nonsense.

As each room has been gone through and properly “staged” for the sale, one plans to take pictures for posterity and is even considering hiring a PROFESSIONAL photographer to ensure a decent photo before it's too late. The realtor has already indicated it will not be necessary to banish the Taxidermy Collection to the basement, as he feels it adds to the ambiance of the house (obviously, we have chosen the perfect realtor). One has taken his advice to heart and is expecting the arrival of the latest addition to the collection sometime next week - one more ebony bird won't be that hard to pack.

For those who have expressed an interest in seeing more of the Gothic Mansion's interior, there will be numerous Before and After shots of the renovation during the coming months, hopefully serving as a deterrent should one become tempted to purchase yet another “project”. Probably not the brightest move for a couple who are most definitely on the downward slide towards sixty.

The insomniac  is already eagerly looking forward to future projects in the new home, and in substantially smaller living quarters she can already foresee how much easier it will be to achieve that cluttered decorating style. The only truly unbearable part of this sale is the probability she'll be expected to dust more frequently than every six months. That, and having to live with plain white walls in the new home until the budget allows for the purchase of the next batch of Wm. Morris wallpaper, which should last right up until the time of one's final relocation - hopefully feet first out the front door ...

... unless  someone would care to pass this post along to The Lady of the Manners and her Stunt Husband, in which case the insomniac  would like to suggest this might be the perfect location for the Haunted Mansion ElderGoth Rest Home they've been planning. And she would be delighted to offer her services should they require assistance in locating some pink Morris wallpaper.

Capacity for at least 20 black rocking chairs on the veranda,
with plenty of elbowroom for waving one's
wolf's-head cane at the other residents ...

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Remembering Romania ...

Having spent the past three months posting about home decor, crafts and food, the insomniac  felt it time for a slight change of pace and decided this week on yet another travel post. Why was Romania chosen, you might be asking? The reply being (whether you asked or not) that a Romanian medal necklace was just sold in the Attic this week - thank you for your purchase, Razvan! - and is currently making its way back to Bucharest, which brought about the sudden desire to peruse Ye Olde Photo Albums (or rather, Ye Olde Pictures Folder on the Computer). However, after having flipped (or rather, clicked) through all the albums, it should surprise absolutely no one that they consist primarily of snapshots of home decor, crafts and food. 

The following photos are twenty-four favourites from the family's Romanian trip in 2008. You can thank your lucky stars it was narrowed down from the 500+ originally taken; the decision to reduce that number made purely for financial reasons. In eleven short months of blogging one has already managed to exceed the allotted storage for photos on Blogger and is now required to pay $2.49 per month for additional storage.

Herein you will find scenes not commonly shared by other travellers. There are no pictures of Bran Castle (commonly called Dracula's Castle for the tourists' sake but which really isn't) or the Merry Cemetery (as one prefers one's cemeteries to be more Dreary than Merry). Instead you will find a hodgepodge of images that sum up the insomniac's  fascination with all things Romanian.

Sadly, she forgot to preserve an image of her most favourite Romanian attraction - a fried cheese dumpling served with cream and jam called papanași, which despite numerous attempts has proven impossible to replicate in the Gothic Mansion's tiny scullery. After lengthy discussions with the Romanian baker at the local coffee shop, it is apparently a difficult dish to recreate in Canada because we don't have the proper cheese. Fortunately, it makes for a perfect excuse to warrant another trip to this delightful country; that and the fact that even in the middle of August, prime tourist season in any other part of Europe, there were very few other sightseers around. And for someone who really enjoys travelling but really dislikes crowds, that in itself is reason enough. Plus, it was very, VERY cheap. 

Without further ado, impressions of Romania ...

Peleș Castle

Hunting Lodge at Peleș Castle 

Random mossy-roofed house on the way to Bran Castle.

One was so absorbed in photographing this little cottage she completely
forgot to take pictures of the castle (the real reason they weren't included today) ...

Skyline of a town whose name now escapes the insomniac.

Probably should have made a written note of it.
As opposed to a mental note. 

One of the many wooden churches impossible to
capture properly in a photo, as they are extremely tall ...

Awesome antique store sign in Sighişoara ...

Small but delightful Romanian town. The name, you might be asking?

Hmmmmm ...

Taking in the harvest - made ever so much better by
the cigarette dangling from the woman's lips ...

Romanian haystacks have a very unique shape,
as do their crosses ...

An evening of folk entertainment at the B&B ...

an evening in which far too much palincă was consumed,
necessitating frequent stops by our guide the following morning
so the insomniac  could exit the van in a timely fashion, bolt into the woods,
and revisit her breakfast of meatballs. Over. And over. And over.

The Origins of the Palincă

Seems harmless enough, doesn't it?

It is considered good luck if storks nest in your chimney ...

Giving serious consideration to pink and green
for the next house ...

You'll have to peer closely to detect the reason for this particular photo;
an attempt to preserve an image of the little bats on top of the grave fencing ...

One day the insomniac  WILL own such a fence.
** drops quarter into The Insomniac  Graveyard Memorial Savings Fund **

Every household had a fantastic gate made either
of wood or wrought iron ...

First rat ever. Because there are no rats in Alberta.

Crouching over a dead rat in the town square to get a
picture raised more than a few Romanian eyebrows ...

Smoke holes in the roof, although this photo
was taken primarily for the black cat weather vane ...

A Painted Monastery

Despite the complete lack of tourists,
a few managed to sneak their way into the picture ...

Note the red tassels covering the horse's eyes;
protection against the Evil Eye ...

You can't see the tassels? Oh, right. The cart was moving. Completely missed it.

The Home of The Woodcarver

Obviously not the only woodcarver in Romania.
He just happened to be the one we visited.
He wanted to marry the 14-year old.

Closeup of The Woodcarver's Home

He was very good at carving.
Maybe we should have married her off.
Just kidding, cherished offspring.

And lastly, as a reward for having successfully managed to sit through yet another series of bad vacation photos, positive proof that Vampyres do still exist in Transylvania ...

The Real Dracula's Castle

The Real Dracula

No Caption Necessary

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams. Goodnight, my pretties.