transformation

I spent the better part of my days in May and June behind my computer, writing cover letters, sending out my resume, searching for jobs.  In July, it felt like I spent hundreds of hours on the phone answering questions in interviews (my cell phone bill recently confirmed that I did in fact spend this much time on the phone).  My efforts paid off and I now have a job!  While I have lots of logistical details to take care of before I move to Boston, August the month to enjoy what's left in the summer.  I've been taking long bike rides (and have the sunburn to prove it), reading outside, and going on hikes. Last week, I tackled a furniture refurbishing project.  And believe me, it was a project... When I left Seattle a year ago (wow, has it really been a year?), I sold my IKEA dresser that had served me well for 4 years.  It wasn't the sturdiest dresser and had already survived a move from Brooklyn to Seattle, but it didn't seem worth transporting from Seattle to Denver to....  All that said, I needed a new dresser to bring with me to Boston, so I began scouring craigslist for something I could refinish.

And I found this.

The dresser is very heavy and sturdy and made of real wood (pine, I think).  But as you can see, it needed some serious work.  I bought it from a woman in her mid-60s who told me that her recently deceased Mother had owned it her whole life.  So it's pretty old, but I thought it had good potential.

Step 1

I needed to get rid of that crusty, white paint on it.  After washing the piece off (it was dusty and had cobwebs) and removing the knobs from the drawers, I covered it in paint stripper.  I discovered a few things while stripping.  1) There were at least 2 layers of paint over a stain that needed to be removed to get to the original wood.  The paint came off pretty well, but the stain was very hard to remove.  It took a few coats of the stripper, plus some paint thinner, plus lots and lots of sanding. 2) There was a layer of ply board on top of the dresser, nailed to the wood.  It was fairly rotted out by the layers of paint and stain and chipped off in some areas.  I decided to remove it completely and see what the wood underneath was like.  I used a chisel and hammer to remove it.  The wood underneath was much better than the ply board, but did have some uneven parts.

ply board coming off
ply board coming off

Step 2

After most of the paint and stain was removed, I sanded the piece.  I don't have a sander, so this was all done by hand.  I also used wood putty to fill in some gaps in the wood.  There was one area that had a gap between the wood.  I considered using some small nails to close it, but then decided Gorilla Glue would be easier. After filling with wood putty and gluing where needed, I did another round of sanding.  Finally, I washed it all off to get rid of dust and other particles.

Step 3

Some pieces of furniture don't need primer, but since I wasn't able to remove all of the brown stain from the original wood, I decided it was best to prime first.  In fact, I put on 2 layers of primer to make the dresser nice and white.

Step 4

After the primer dried overnight, I started applying the paint.  I put on a very thin first layer and after it dried, applied a second...and third...and fourth coat!  Finally it looked even and the primer was covered.

Step 5

To finish off the piece, I used wood stain.  I read online that you can stain painted furniture with a chestnut colored stain and it provides a nice finished look.  I was a little nervous about applying a dark brown stain to the paint, but really liked the results.  It doesn't soak in completely to the paint like it would to an unfinished wood surface.  After you let it soak for 10-15 minutes, you merely wipe off the excess.  It made the color a deeper and darker teal and gave it a nice finished look.

Step 6

The insides of the drawers needed some attention, too.  I primed inside to cover up the brown stain.  Then, I painted the walls of the drawers a dark brown that was left over from another project.  I lined the bottoms of the drawers with paper.  The paper is normal, scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby.  I cut it to size and then secured it on the bottom with double-sided tape.  Then, I used Mod Podge and a foam brush to cover the paper.  It seals the paper so it won't rip or get water damage.

Step 7

I replaced the original wood knobs with some new ones I found at Hobby Lobby.  I used to think that Anthropologie was the only place to find fun and artsy knobs, but Hobby Lobby has a great selection for half the price.  Even better, there was a 50% knob sale on the day when I was there.  The top drawer is curved and a little different from the others, so I chose different knobs for it. (The knobs and paint sample are sitting on top of my comforter cover for the room where the dresser will be.)

Step 8

The last thing I wanted to do was find a way for the drawers to slide in and out easier.  (There are no metal parts, just wood on wood.)  Sanding helped, but it was still a little rough.  The helpful salesperson at Home Depot suggested that instead of buying one of their products, I should try melting a normal, household candle on the surfaces that rub.  I tried that today and it worked great!  They slide in and out with ease.  I imagine that the wax will need to be replaced from time to time, but it was a simple and easy solution.

I'm excited to put the new dresser in my new apartment in Boston in a few weeks!  Hopefully it gives it just the pop of color that my neutral color scheme needs.

{Many thanks to The Frugal Girl, My Romantic Home, and Design*Sponge for helpful tutorials and tips!}

a new year!

I can't believe I haven't posted since the end of November...especially since December has so many wonderful holiday foods and recipes!  I spent the first few weeks of December trying to use up all the food in my frig before leaving the DR.  That made for some very uninteresting and not so tasty food.  My biggest cooking adventure involved scrambling eggs during a blackout by the light of my headlamp. I traveled home to Colorado for Christmas and New Years and was spoiled by my mom's homemade dinners, cookies, cinnamon rolls, etc.  I managed to get into the kitchen twice: once to decorate cookies and once to bake cranberry lemon scones.  Today we'll talk sugar cookies and stay tuned for the scones later this week.

As for my knitting?  I've been on a knitting spree lately, but have yet to finish any projects.  One of my New Year's goals is to finally finish knitting a pair of socks that will fit me.  I had several failed attempts last year including this one.  One of my Christmas gifts was the book Knitting Circles Around Socks.  It shows you how to knit two socks simultaneously on two circular needles.  I'm hoping with the help of this book, I will finally be able to finish a pair of socks that fit my size 9 feet.

I'm also ambitiously trying to read a lot of books this year.  Keep up with my list / progress on this page .  I love fiction and nonfiction and would love to hear your recommendations!

Penultimately, I recently acquired a new lens for my camera and I'm making it my goal to take lots and lots and lots of pictures.  Can I take at least one every day?  That's what I'm going to try to do...we'll see how far I actually get.  Follow my Flickr feed for the daily shots (you can subscribe to its feed, too).

And finally, I will post more on my blog...and I will not let an entire month go by without posting in 2010.

There you go.  My New Year's goals.  I don't like resolutions...goals seem more measurable and attainable.  And now all of you readers (whoever you are) can keep me on top of my goals.

a cooking slump

I'm in the midst of a terrible cooking slump.  I haven't done any really good cooking or baking since I lived in Seattle.  I drove away from Seattle on September 21st, but I didn't really cook anything during my last two weeks there because I was packing up my kitchen and not buying new food.  So I haven't cooked for over a month!  A month!!  I really want to chop an onion and saute some garlic and buy food and decide what to make for dinner. So what have I been eating?  Good question...  I've been trying a lot of new foods recently since I've been living in a new country for the last month.  The Dominican Republic has some really great foods...and some that are, well...pretty bad. I'll start with the good...

Good: fresh fruit (bananas, plantains, passion fruit, grapefruit, oranges, guavas, etc), fresh fruit juice (my favorite is jugo de chinola or passion fruit juice.  I never knew juice could be so good.  Any day that involves jugo de chinola is a good day. Today was one of those days. Mmmm.  I love love love chinola), avocados with every meal, yucca (mashed, boiled, fried), coffee (even though Dominicans put too much sugar in)

Bad: first of all, everything is fried.  Fried food is good, but fried food for dinner every night?  Definitely overkill.  Last night I had fried salami and plantains for dinner.  Fried salami is not good.  And it's too salty...but I eat it anyway because I'm hungry. My least favorite meal is breakfast, which usually involves bread (not good bread) with bad cheese and mayo. (I went through 2 boxes of Cliff Bars in my first two weeks.)

I've been living with a host family for the month of October, so I've had little choice in meals for breakfast and dinner.  Lunch is the biggest meal here and usually involves rice, beans, avocado, and some type of meat. I like the lunches--they're a little repetitive, but tasty and filling.

The good news is that there is an end in sight to my cooking slump.  Next week is my last week with the host family (hooray!!) and then I'll move to Santo Domingo, where I'll get an apartment with a kitchen where I can cook again!!  I'm excited to cook with some of the new ingredients here.  I am really really excited to make some guacamole with the amazing avocados.  I'm going to need to be creative as I won't have access to any of my kitchen gadgets or to many of the ingredients I'm used to working with.  None of that matters, though.  I just want to cook again!  So stay tuned because I'll be cooking Dominican style for the next few months.  Just don't hold your breath to see a recipe for fried salami up here any time soon.