Monday, October 28, 2013

DIY Virginia Silhouette Wood Table

We are very excited to share this project! It had been on my mental list of future projects for quite some time and it was so fun to finally get it done a couple weeks ago. 
Added bonus: you don't need power tools or a large workspace to make it happen. Just make sure you have some adequate ventilation (open windows, fan, face mask) and you're good to go!

First, lets take a look at the Before:
*Disclaimer: Please, oh please, ignore the lighting in our apartment. I always hate it when people make this apology, but it truly is the worst.*
Joey and I found this metal and glass coffee table last month on clearance. Only problem: I can't stand glass table tops. Smudges are a constant plague (especially with two pets that insist on rubbing their noses on the underside) and the glass is always sliding around. And, I think it just looks plain ugly. But for such a small price tag, we figured we could get the table for the metal frame and just refinish the top. So home with us it went!

We had already collected some pallets a few weeks prior so I figured I could use those for the table top in an effort to make it as cheap a project as possible. Upon researching how to properly prep pallet wood for projects, however, I learned that pallets are potentially one of the worst materials you could use in the home. And being the rational yet germ/chemical-ophobe that I am, I decided I'd be much more confident in the safety of this table if I just bought new, clean wood. 

So if you're skeezed out by potential dangers of using pallets, here's what you do! Go to Lowes or Home Depot or whatever, head over to the lumber section, and pick up these super cheap 1x4x8's (or whatever size will work for your project). They have plenty of knots and distinct grain, giving the same feel as repurposed pallet wood. Plus, they're reasonably priced---I mean, at least I think they are; I'm no lumber expert, so.... Either way, for the four pieces I needed, plus a military discount, I got the wood for less than twelve bucks. Not too bad I'd say! Plus, we were able to have the store cut the wood for us, meaning tool-wise, the rest of the project simply required a hammer and hand saw.
First, Joey set to work measuring and cutting our support boards we used to assemble the table top. And yes, we did the sawing inside---nothing a little (long overdue) vacuuming can't fix!
Next we spaced out the three perpendicular boards, placed just right so the table top "locked" in to the table frame and won't slide around on top, and then took turns hammering all those nails. You'll notice the edges of the wood pieces are not perfectly aligned. Our pieces weren't quite even but hey! That worked for us. It added to the rustic, repurposed feel of the table so we kept it that way.
After sanding, sanding, sanding (which goes mighty fast with two people), my main task was up next: drawing the Virginia silhouette onto the table. And with some carbon tracing paper, it was a cinch! 
I just printed out a giant map of the state and, with the carbon paper placed between the table and the map, traced the outline with a pencil. Easy-peasy.
I spent the rest of the night painting the silhouette with three coats of white paint. And hey! If you got the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens, there's a Lowes coupon for a free sample of the Valspar paint I have here. But even without the coupon (I hadn't gotten it yet), it was only $2.98 for the 8oz jar. And the three coats took next to no paint at all, so I've still got plenty for other projects!

Once the white paint dried and I gave the table a quick wipe down, I set to staining the entire piece with Minwax Provincial stain---$4.77 for 8oz. I forgot to take a photo of this step soooo.......just pretend there's one right here.
After I had completed the painting and staining, the table waited for the weekend so Joey could apply the glossy polyurethane. Meanwhile, Marley napped...and napped some more.
We prepped the table with another wipe down with a clean cloth, and Joey applied two coats of the polyurethane while I watched from the other side of the glass door. What a guy! After that cured, a little super fine sand paper smoothed any tiny bumps from the coating. Then a final wipe down, and it was ready to make its living room debut.
Remy was curious about what I was doing and I just wouldn't get out of the shot. When I firmly told her "Remy, move!", this is what she did----
 Lets take a closer look at that mug, shall we?
 Yup, that's my dog.
 But back to the finished product! 
A repurposed, pallet wood vibe, without the dangers of pallet wood.
We love it and it turned out perfectly! Its so fun to have an idea and watch it come together just how you imagined it. And it doesn't hurt that it was a fairly cheap project and that we pulled it off with no power tools in our yard-less, garage-less state of apartment living. We love having a special piece that reminds us of where we started our life together and built so many special memories. And even though the second person that saw it exclaimed "Its Kentucky!" (Really. Really?) when they looked at it, it has already been a great conversation piece and we're very excited to share it with future guests.

And if you're feeling inspired, here's a list of the materials we used to create our new coffee table:

  • 1x4x8 Appearance grade plus pressure treated lumber (we used four, each cut in half)
  • 3 Thin boards (to run perpendicular to table top)---uhh, sorry, can't remember (or find online) what we used
  • Nails---sorry, not an expert on nails either; we just used about 40 from what we had at home
  • 100 Grit sand paper for smoothing wood
  • 220 Grit sand paper for finishing
  • Valspar 8oz paint sample, White
  • Minwax 8oz interior stain, Provincial
  • Minwax quart fast-drying gloss polyurethane
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Hand saw
  • Drop cloth
  • Fabric cloth for staining
  • Rubber gloves for staining
  • Brushes for painting silhouette
  • Brush for polyurethane---and the polyurethane only!

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oh Hey There + This One Date from Months Ago.

So its been a couple weeks.

How ya doin'?

Ya know, my first instinct is to go on about how busy and crazy life has been lately, hence the lack of writing, but that's just plain not true. I mean there have been some hectic moments recently, but I'm not gonna pretend my life is more action packed right now than it is. Honestly? I just haven't been feelin' like bloggin' lately. But hey! That's ok! Because I'm here now!

So life is different now that we're back to the usual grind. Summer is over and Joey's back to 12-14 hour days in his final school. So that's a bummer, but at least its not a total shock after having done it for six months with Power School. At the end of the month he'll start shift work, so the odd hours (which will still be 12ish every day) that'll change every seven days will be an adjustment, but we've got this. 

In a week and a half we're heading home to Lexington and Buena vista for a four day weekend, and we couldn't be more excited. We've been dying to get back there for more than just an hour or two while passing through, and we just had to go during the fall. Luckily its not as hot this year as it was last year around this time, but still. The south really has some work to do when it comes to a beautiful fall. So even though we might be catching the tail end of things in Virginia, those four days are going to be a welcome change from this place. We can't wait to be bundled up in scarves and watching the Friday VMI parade and taking a walk around SVU on Sunday afternoon, just like we used to when we were dating. Its going to be so great!

The past few days we've been reminiscing about our time up north over the summer, and how much we absolutely loved it. We still can't believe all of that was our life for two months. 

We usually try to make goals of things to see and do everywhere we go, and one of mine while in Connecticut was to see lighthouses. Somehow that one got lost in the shuffle for most of the summer, but on our last Sunday there we managed to carve out some time after dinner and between random rain showers to take a drive down to Avery Point and see three light houses in the area. Of course this dum-dum forgot her telephoto lens for the two lighthouses that are out in the ocean and only accessible by boat, so we don't have much evidence of those. But rest assured, they were beautiful. 

This little date to Avery Point was kind of the event that sealed the deal. We were walking along the coast, watching the storm clouds come and go, the waves gently rocking the dozens of sail boats, and we both just realized: we love this. I've never really had an inkling one way or another of where I'd want to settle down, but at that moment we both realized that this was what we wanted. 

That might be a long ways away, what with the whole the-military-chooses-where-they-want-you-to-live thing for the next several years, but for now we've got our two months in New England to think back to and love.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Italy 2013: ROME II

Does anyone remember the episode where Michael Scott talks about the one time he went hunting and killed an animal and you learn from this story that he is painfully good at drawing things out? Well that's kind of how I feel about finishing our Italy photos. I mean its been almost 1.5 months since we were there, and today I'm just now posting the final batch of photos. But ya know what? Sometimes things just take a while. 
So here we are, our final day in Italy! 
 Our main trip for the day was the Vatican and St. Peters.
 One of Joey's highlights was The School of Athens. He couldn't believe it was bam! Just right there.
And the Sistine Chapel was again, so gorgeous. Luckily it was less crowded so we had more time and space to really take it in.
 We sent postcards from the Vatican to our parents, plus one to our own home so we have a postcard from the Vatican to go with our other keepsakes.
 Next, a short walk to St. Peters.
And I'm happy to say that tourists there that day were much more well behaved that the last time I was there.
Since we had a full day of traveling the next day, we decided to have a low key afternoon so we could pack and rest up for our trip back home.
We stopped by this cute place the day before after stumbling upon the macaron boutique, and we knew this was where our last official meal in Rome had to be. And it did not disappoint! Unfortunately up until this time, the food in Rome had been quite underwhelming, so it felt good to finally find a great meal.
 We also got to try zucchini blossoms and pink peppercorns with our dishes--always fun to try new things!
 We loved our lunch so much, we got two of their sandwiches to go to have for dinner in our hotel later that night.
After lunch we took some time to walk around and explore, which included going by the Spanish Steps again, grabbing some tiramisu gelato (not as great as the one in Florence, but still yummy), and unsuccessfully looking for a few more gifts for friends and family. Oh, and being harassed by one of those creepy flower selling guys who persistently shoved roses (only my most hated flower) in front of me and followed us around despite being told we weren't interested, and then swearing at me when, fed up with him following me, I told him to go away. So that was fun. He must've felt really good about himself.
After returning to our cute hotel room for the night we got to packing---which is definitely very nerve racking when you have oh, almost $100 worth of outstanding olive oil in glass bottles that you'd rather not have break in your luggage. But I'm happy to say every single olive oil bottle and candy bar was intact when we arrived in South Carolina! 
After packing we snuggled up in bed with episodes of 30 Rock on my iPhone, our sandwiches from Ginger, and a few more macarons before we made our best attempt at getting some rest for our trip home.
Oh dear, our trip home. Things started out ok enough. We allowed plenty of time to get to the metro, then metro to the train station, and train station to the airport. And while checkin was a little haphazard at the airport, we made it through security and whatnot with little issue. We had some spare time before our flight boarded so we decided to hit up the duty free store with our last few euros and grab more olive oil and candy for our friends that watched Marley and Remy. And then things got ugly. As we start boarding, I get pulled to the side to have my bag searched. And that's cool, except for when the woman started throwing things out of my well organized bag only to shove them back in--nevermind that several of the items were fragile. Then I go to grab my bag, and all of a sudden she's running her hands down my body and pushing my arms up in the air to search me. Umm, I have no problem complying with searches, but you have to ask first before you just cop a feel. So I was pretty salty about that. Then, our plane gets delayed because they didn't plan for enough fuel. So we wait over an hour, which I wouldn't normally have a problem with, except the window for our connection in Chicago was short and I already knew customs would take forever. 

Fast forward nine hours, and an hour or so before we're supposed to land, some jerk of a flight attendant loudly swears at passengers, so of course everyone gets grumpy about that, understandably. When we finally land, we were somewhat relieved to see that they gave those passengers with short connections a little orange pass to bypass the lines for customs, which is great, except for when TSA agents don't do their job and actually enforce them. One agent told us that we could only get ahead if other passengers were willing to let us go in front of them. So what's the point of the orange bypass-the-lines ticket?! Here's the thing, dummy agent: even if their flight isn't for another three hours, no one is going to let someone else go in front of them. So we just sat in line, while our plane got ready to leave the terminal in 30 minutes. Oh and did I mention we were at O'Hare? Not like that's a big airport or anything. Miraculously, and despite even more hiccups and unreasonable policies, we somehow managed to make it to our flight, and even got a chance to use the bathroom which, given the circumstances, was asking a lot. Hmmm....perhaps I'm still a little bitter about that whole experience....

We eventually made it to Charlotte NC and our first goal was to find a Five Guys and eat a big, fat, juicy, American burger. And somehow, that made things a little bit better. 

After a restless night at a hotel, we set out for Charleston and getting back to the life we had essentially been gone from for three months. We picked up our Remy and Marley and did some grocery shopping so that mustard and soy sauce were no longer the only items in our fridge. 

Despite my little rant about our flight home, our trip really was amazing. It was so fun to explore Italy with Joey and share that experience together. We learned new things about other cultures, and actually found more that we appreciate about our own. I've always been adamant about the need for Americans to get out of their bubble and see other cultures and ways of life beyond our own, but I gotta hand it to America, its really got some good things going---as hard as that may be to believe during this whole shutdown nonsense...but I digress. 

We're happy to be back home. We're happy to have gone to Italy. We're happy to have travelled all summer. We're happy to be together. And despite all of the junk life brings, we're just happy. 

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