Crazy Dazy

Whew!  Has it been crazy around here or what?!  Let me just tell you that hosting events in our tiny little home is fun but somewhat exhausting.  There are simply more logistics to think through when you don’t have lots of space.  We don’t even own a card table!  For the record, last week we made dinner for some friends on Wednesday night, hosted our small group (which is not so small anymore…) on Thursday night, and then threw a church picnic on Sunday afternoon!  We were counting on the weather to cooperate this weekend so that we could grill and send folks outside with their camp chairs, but unfortunately it rained (boo!), so we were packed inside like sardines.  Thankfully everyone had great attitudes and it ended up being a really enjoyable time of fellowship.

About an hour after everyone left on Sunday, my throat started tickling and things went downhill from there.  You know how your body sometimes shuts down when it knows it finally can rest?  Well, I think that’s what happened to me, because I’ve spent the past two days sleeping off what I think is the flu.  Blah.  But here’s the cherry on top… This morning our carbon monoxide detector went off, so Matt tried to figure out what the problem was.  Before he could get it all squared away, he had to leave for work.  Of course I was just trying to catch a few more winks of sleep since I haven’t been feeling so hot, but as he’s walking out the door he tells me that he’s going to call the fire department—which, as it turns out, can only be reached by calling 9-1-1.  So as I’m rubbing sleep from my eyes, he jets out the door and says he’ll call me when he gets to work.  At this point I’m feeling less than stellar and slightly confused about what’s going on.  Default: call Mom!  As we’re hemming and hawing over whether or not I should stay in the house or go sleep in my car, Matt calls back.  I put my mom on hold and have a very choppy conversation with him as he’s driving through the parking garage (horrible cell connection).  As Matt is trying to explain to me that I need to get out of the house and what to tell the firefighters, I see the fire truck pull up to our house—lights flashing and all—and realize that I’m in my pajamas and am—ahem—not quite decent, if you know what I mean.  So I hang up the phone and pull on a bulky sweatshirt, usher in five firefighters, and try to explain what has happened with our carbon monoxide detectors (there’s a little more to the story, but I’m not going to get into the details here…way too confusing).  At that point my phone rings again because I left my mom on hold for too long, so I awkwardly answer it and then immediately hang up on my mom so I can continue explaining things to the fire men.

*If you’re still reading this, you get a gold star.*  In a nutshell, the fire men tested our house for carbon monoxide and said they were reading zero (which is good!).  They basically told us to replace our batteries.  Then they said they would send out a man from the utility company just to double check and make sure things were okay.  As they were leaving, one of the fire men asked if we fixed up the house ourselves.  I told him we’d been working on it for over a year, and he said it looked great.  Wasn’t that nice of him?

After they took off (I’m sure the neighbors were dying of curiosity), the utilities guy came by and said everything checked out fine.  He also took a look at our gas fireplace (it was converted to gas a long time ago, so we’re talking about an ancient gas fireplace set-up).  We’ve had trouble getting our fireplace to light, but he was able to work some sort of utility guy magic and lit it right  up.  Within a few seconds our house was filled with fumes; apparently the fireplace doesn’t vent properly even with the flue open.  He suggested either converting it back to a log-burning fireplace or installing a new enclosed gas fireplace.  Before leaving he told me we should not use the current set-up under any circumstances.  While I was a little sad that our fireplace is worthless, I was glad to know about the problem and relieved that we didn’t buy any expensive parts to fix it.  We’ll have to decide whether we want to invest in a new set-up or not.

For now, we’re just happy to know that nothing is wrong with our house.  And it’s a good reminder for us—and for you—to check the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, go out and buy one today!  Several years ago on Christmas Day at my parent’s house in Indiana, we had a huge carbon monoxide scare.  My mom woke up at 5 am and instinctively knew that something was wrong (despite the fact that it’s impossible to smell carbon monoxide fumes).  She made us all get out of the house.  A utility guy came to the house and found a crack in their furnace.  As it turned out, the gas levels were really high and could have been deadly had we stayed in the house much longer.  It really is amazing that my mom woke up and felt like something was wrong though, because my parents did have a detector, but the batteries were out… Anyway, lots of lessons to be learned here, including that your friendly neighborhood fire/utility guys will check out your house for free, plus they were super nice (despite my serious bedhead and bleary eyes).  As for me, I’ll be buried under the covers to sleep off more of this bug.  Adios amigos.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

In its black and gold glory, ours was definitely not the fairest of them all…

I’m feeling the need to defend my ugly purchase, so let me back up a bit.  To start, I’d been searching for a piece of art to hang above our fireplace mantle.  I wanted something large—a focal point that would add some color and drama to the room without feeling too busy.  And of course, I wanted it to be as affordable as possible.  And maybe even something that I could tweak over time…you know, just in case my mood changes and I want to play with another color scheme down the road.

And that, my friends, is why I love love love HomeGoods/TJ Maxx.  Not only do they sell quality merchandise at way lower prices than department stores—they have clearance sales on top of their already low-prices!  (I promise that I was not paid for my shameless advertising.)  So as I was browsing the sale aisles one afternoon, I stumbled across this mirror.

At first glance, I almost passed it up, because the paint job was so hideous.  But then I looked at the price tag: $25 bucks!  I think they marked it down mainly due to a crack in the frame…and maybe the color combo.  Still, that’s a tough deal to pass up, especially since it met all of the qualifications on my wish list, plus the added bonus of its octagon shape and raised edges.  I was swooning.  Since I’ve been trying to look at old or odd pieces with an eye for their potential, I realized this was the prime opportunity to get my hands dirty.  Into the cart it went.

When I got home, I stuck the mirror on the mantle, just to make sure that I liked it in that spot.  After gazing at its gilded glory for a few weeks, I finally decided that the mantle provided the perfect home for our mirror.  Now I was ready to give it a makeover.  It was actually very simple.

First, I filled the crack in the frame with wood putty.  Since we have plaster walls and had to do some repair work before we painted, we already had putty mixed in to our stash of tools.  You can see that I didn’t do a perfect job filling and sanding the crack, but unless you’re looking for imperfection, it’s not noticeable.

Next, I taped paper to the actual mirror so that it would stay clean when I started spray painting the frame.  Then, I laid it out in our garage over some plastic (I always use garbage bags if I don’t have any plastic sheets available) and went to work spray painting it RustOleum’s Cinnamon, which I chalk up to a combo of burnt orange with a hint of coral mixed in.

I let it dry for a full 24 hours so it would have plenty of time to cure.  As my finishing touch, I removed the paper from the mirror and scraped away any excess paint with a razor blade; it flaked off easily and left a nice clean edge.

And here she is—a fun pop of color in our living room.

You might be wondering why we haven’t officially hung her up yet.  We actually think that we might just let her sit on the mantle.  It feels a little less formal that way, and then we can switch things up whenever we feel like it.  Oh, and remember how I said I wanted some flexibility?  I’m loving the orangey look right now, but if I ever want to incorporate other tones, all it takes is a can of spray paint—simple as that.  I love that this project was so quick and inexpensive, yet it completely changes the look of the room.

What about you?  We love inspiration, so feel free to link up to a photo of a piece that you’ve overhauled or are even just debating over.

Brick Pick

One of the things that initially drew us to our house was the gas fireplace.  We love the idea of a blazing fire—especially at the flip of a switch (or in our case, a knob at the base of our fireplace).  We’re pretty sure that it used to be a real fireplace, but was later converted to gas.  And despite the controversy over gas vs. real, I, for one, think that we will be more likely to use a gas fireplace, as they are convenient and clean (Matt does enjoy starting a good fire from scratch, though, so we might have slightly different opinions on the issue).  Sadly, it doesn’t really matter, since we cannot get the fireplace to light at the moment.  We’ve done a bit of digging around, and we eventually found the original manufacturer of our gas fireplace parts; however, even after emailing them photos of the whole set-up, they were not able to find replacement parts.  Maybe they’re no longer made?  If you know anything about R.H. Peterson fireplaces, we are looking to replace some parts (the fire safety starter kit which includes the pilot light and thermal coupling).  If that doesn’t work out, we’ll probably end up getting a whole new gas set-up, but we’d like to do it as cheaply as possible—hence, the digging around for parts.

But since we’ve recently been talking paint, we thought we should give you the rundown on painting our fireplace brick.  At first, we debated over whether or not it was worth it, as original brick is a selling point for a lot of people; while we’re not looking to sell our house anytime soon, we’re aware that the choices we make now may have repercussions (although hopefully good ones!) down the road.  Then we swung in the opposite direction, thinking that we should do what we like, since we’re the ones living with it, and who really cares what future buyers might think?  After considering both sides, we landed somewhere in the middle.  Why can’t we have the best of both worlds, after all?  So we grabbed our brushes and went to town painting the brick, knowing that we would love it (score!) and hoping that future buyers who are interested in our house like our style enough that they’ll be happy with painted brick (bonus!).

A few things to keep in mind when painting brick:

1.) Look at pictures of painted brick (there are tons of images online) to figure out what you like.  We love a light and airy feel, but there are lots of ideas to choose from—click here and here to see a few of our favorites.

2.) Make sure you start with a clean surface.  There is nothing worse than gunking up your paint with dirt and soot.

3.) Using a brush or roller, prime the brick first, as it tends to be an absorbent surface.  I prefer a brush, since it nicely fills the grooves in brick.

4.) Layer on the paint thickly—again, so that it doesn’t get absorbed by the brick.  Paint several coats if necessary.

5.) We chose a glossy paint (the same kind that we used for our floor trim), that way the brick is smooth and easy to wipe down, plus it should hold up better if we ever do have a fire in said fireplace.  And there you have it—easy peasy!  Honestly, I was a little freaked out to make such a permanent move, but now I can’t imagine our fireplace any other way.  As the focal point in our living room, it was a cheap and quick project that completely changed the space.  Oh, and just in case you were curious, we removed the old mesh screen (it found a new home at the Restore) with a few quick turns of the screwdriver, and thanks to Craigslist (gotta love it), we replaced it with a simple portable screen that doesn’t feel quite so heavy.