Saturday, July 30, 2011

Movies 33, 34, & 35

Winnie the Pooh was surprisingly cute.  I am not a fan of animated movies, but this was done in the classic Pooh style, and it was funny so I enjoyed it as much as possible.

Cedar Rapids is a movie I had hoped to catch in the theater, but now that I've seen it I'm glad we merely rented it.  I liked it.  It just wasn't special.

Judy Moody and the not-so Bummer Summer was fun to watch.  I enjoy movies that celebrate adventure and imagination in childhood.  This one certainly does.  It's no Ramona, but it's a reasonable facsimile and, hey, it's not animated!

Now it's a bedroom SET

A few weeks ago, I showed off the headboard and platform bed I built from plans on Ana White's site, Knockoff Wood.  Now I'm going to boast about the rest of the set (for now).
From my own sketches, I built this shelving unit for use as a dresser and TV stand.  We have a small room, so I needed a narrow piece, and I wanted it to have some height so that the TV would be up nice and high.  The space directly in front of the bed is also pretty narrow and right in the flow of traffic toward the closet and bathroom, which are hidden behind the curtain.  Due to the height, and the valuable electronic atop it, I bolted the unit to the wall.  My husband recently bumped into it when cutting the corner into the room and it didn't budge.  He has a bruise to show for it!
I also needed to update our nightstands cheaply.  There are plans available for building a very cute, woodsy set, but they'd block the storage beneath.  To solve that, I stained a couple of crates we had for storage in the basement and bolted them to the wall. 
What I haven't figured out is how to hide the cords--I never see those in home decorating magazines!  For the fan, I simply used a twist tie to fasten the cord to one of the rungs of the stool. 

All together, the bed and "dresser" have helped to free some closet space, and to better organize our clothing.  The curtain panels for the French doors and the closet are nearly hemmed now, and most of the art has been hung.  I wish I could afford all original artwork.  Alas, I settled for this canvas print from Bed, Bath, Beyond.  It's just our style, and uses nearly the same colors as the leaf pattern in our Ikea drapes and our Tetris-style dresser baskets.  

Throughout the building process, I deliberated over whether to paint the furniture white or to stain it.  There are moments when I step back and wonder if I made the right call, but I am very happy with my bedroom these days.  After years of closing the door in shame for worn and stained carpet (hair dye), the mismatched furniture, and lack of order, I am now quite satisfied with the room.

I do need one more piece of art and a nice bed spread, though...

Book 55

These Things Hidden

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Book 53

I'd Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman.


Book # 51: What Now, by Ann Patchett is a small book that expands upon a commencement speech she gave at her alma mater.  The speech itself is very good.  The rest meanders a bit, but it takes about five minutes to read, so it's no waste of time.  :)

Book #52: The Inverted Forest, by John Dalton is many things at once:  a crime story, a case-study of the grotesque, a reportorial account what could be true.  At first, I was uncertain about which details would matter.  As it turns out, many seemingly innocuous descriptions, conversations, and events contribute to the overall plot and theme.
While reading this story, my sense of dread built to a woeful pitch before I figured out what inevitability was going to occur.  This well-written book and its characters leave a lasting impression.

Movie #32: The Lincoln Lawyer, based on the book by Michael Connelly, is a great movie.  Check it out.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I Made My Bed

I'm a thrifty person with furniture tastes that run toward Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn mixed with a bit of Ikea.  The solution?  Ana White's Knockoff Wood.  Ana White and her community create building plans for exactly the kinds of furnishings I prefer.

I ended up mixing two different Pottery Barn pieces and combining them into one bed-- the Mason headboard (aka Reclaimed Wood Headboard) and the Stratton platform storage bed (Ana's plans are here).  The plans make building just as easy and satisfying as sewing.  With the exception of carrying the bed into the house and joining the base pieces for final assembly, I did everything solo. 

It took me three days just to measure and cut the pieces, and the platform "benches" took a while to construct, but the miraculous Kreg Jig made everything join up beautifully. 

The headboard planks had a lot of flex and bow to them, so I added four vertical strips of scrap wood to the back and screwed them to each horizontal board.  This is just one way I probably overdid it on sturdiness. 

The toughest aspect of the project was keeping everything level and square as I worked.  All told, I spent approximately 35-40 hours working in my garage and made many trips to the orange and blue warehouses for supplies. 

One of the fun parts was beating the furniture with the claw end of my hammer, the star of a Phillips screwdriver, a rasp, and a chisel in order to distress the lumber with scars.

After that workout, I sanded it all again, vacuumed the dust, conditioned the wood, and began the staining process. I feared I'd gotten carried away and made too many marks on the wood, but now that it's finished it almost seems like I could have beaten it up even more.  The way the stain soaked into the scars really appeals to me. 

I thought the Minwax Dark Walnut stain was what I wanted, but when I tested it, it looked ridiculously dark to us, so I went with a gallon of Provincial and stirred in 1/3 cup of Golden Oak to lighten it a bit.  Since I like the woodgrain to show, I did not prime or condition the wood.  For a topcoat I chose a water based poly satin.  The can recommended three coats, but I think one would have been fine.

Buying these pieces from PB would have cost around $2000 + baskets.  The cost of building them (lumber, screws, nails, new saw blades, wood glue, wood filler, stain, polyurethane, sandpaper, brushes, a Kreg Jig, new drill bits, etc.) added up to roughly $700.  

I couldn't stand to move my new furniture into a drab room, so additional work and shopping were both necessary.  I picked out carpet and we moved everything out of the bedroom so I could paint and rip out the carpet, padding, and staples. 

I've drawn up plans for a dresser/media stand in the same style as our bed (and future nightstands), and will be starting on it this week.  I also need to choose baskets for under the bed and new art for the bedroom walls. 

Anyone can do this!  All it takes is patience, perseverance, and the ability to read and follow directions.

Blue Valentine

The 31st movie I've watched this year is Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. 

It's been five days since I watched it, and I still catch myself thinking over the plot and characterization.  What I find most interesting is:
1.  The film handles divorce with a new, real, and welcome perspective. 
2.  The man is the more sympathetic character.
3.  The couple was never a strong match.  Though he loves her it's not clear why, and the relief of being loved is not enough to sustain her long-term.

This was a tough movie to watch, yet it was very good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book #50

A Stranger Like You, by Elizabeth Brundage.  Click for further info.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie # 30 for 2011

Hereafter is a Clint Eastwood film.  I generally like his pacing and artful camera work, though the dialogue in his films can sound unnatural.  Hereafter was not reviewed well, but I ended up liking it.  Three stars out of five, for originality, integrated storylines, characters I could empathize with, and great scenery and acting.  The French actress was riveting. 

Book # 48 of 2011

Here, Home, Hope by

Why do books about life crises always seem to feature upper class characters with simple, tidy solutions to problems? People of all social backgrounds experience identity issues. I don't recommend this book, though there are worse options for an afternoon.

* I am now linking the books I read to my Goodreads account.  This will provide my rating, blurb, and other (more professional) details about the books.  If you're on Goodreads, let's connect!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stories Lingering in Mind

Book # 47 is You Know When the Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon.  Ordinarily, I veer away from short story collections because it's easy to abandon them after one or two stories are resolved.  After hearing Fallon's interview on Fresh Air, however, I knew this would be a must-read.  If I have any criticism, it's that the wives as a whole are elevated in terms of educational background.  For that matter, though, so are many of their husbands.  Each story crafts a unique heartbreak for the reader.  Each story presents a previously unexamined perspective on military life.  Each story is well-written and literary.  Along with The Goon Squad, this will be one of my frequently recommended books of 2011.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Mystery/Thriller

Blue Heaven, by C. J. Box, was Book #46 for me this year.  It was a Nook deal, or I wouldn't have read it, but I did enjoy this one.  The plot simmered for a couple hundred pages, then reached a good boil.  Bad cops, old cowboys, and plucky kids made this interesting.  Plus, I was familiar with the (Northern Idaho) setting, which always adds to the fun of reading.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie #29


Until I watched this movie, I wasn't aware of the absence of female comedy flicks.  The only other one I can think of is Mean Girls. 
This is a movie I'll watch again!  Sure, there are completely un-realistic portions, but if the boys can get away with it, so can the girls.  Loved it.  Lots of fun.