Cherry Cabinet Refinishing

Yesterday I did a final strip on the cabinet doors for my SR project using the Klean-Strip KS3 Premium Stripper  To say that it did a phenomenal job is an understatement.
Premium Paint & Epoxy Remover

It went on smoothly, stayed put, bubbled up the finish and scraped off in one beautiful ribbon.  I could not be happier.  I say that this was my final strip because I did a product comparison using another similar stripper:   JASCO's Premium Paint and Epoxy Removerss.  For THIS project (and other projects might be different) which involved removing a finish from 1968 cherry cabinets, I noted the following important differences:
  1. KS had a more consistent consistency.  The JASCO had a consistency of sticky snot (I'm sorry, but that really is the best descriptor)--making it glop out of the can, and NOT spread easily on the surface.  The KS-3 poured easily, brushed on easily and it stayed put. 
  2. After 15 minutes, the KS 3 had dissolved through the finish, and ribboned off cleanly with the scraper.  The JASCO after 15 minutes (all under the same conditions), came off unevenly leaving some of the finish clinging tenaciously to the substrate.
Both burned like hell if in contact with your skin, and required maximum ventilation.  Best to heed the safety precautions.

Yesterday, then, I spent my time ensuring that each cabinet face had no residue left.  I paid particular attention to the crevices.  One of my colleagues gave me some tools that looked light torture implements.  They had very sharp edges, and I was able to clean out gunk in the corners.  I also had a brass brush that I used to dislodge particles.

After I had cleaned scraped all surfaces, I wiped excess stripper off with a black Scotch Brite pads and mineral spirits.  This pad got clogged, but rather than change the pad, I continued to use it and used a second pad to follow.  I then used a Handi Wipe (these are wonderful!) in mineral spirits to remove all debris.  I will inpsect each cabinet to ensure that there is no residue. 

I still have the standing cabinets to complete.  That will be no easy job.  FUrther, the stains have to be removed from the old hardware.  I'll report on that project after Sandy visits VA.

A Glorious Sadness

My sister did an incredibly difficult but generous thing.  She donated her two horses, Pepper and Cody, to the Cowboy Church's O.A.T.S Program (Overcoming Adversity Through Silence)--an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) program.

These two horses are part of her family, and to give them up was something that was difficult but made with the thoughtful consideration of how to balance the best interests of the horses against the very real fact that they are both getting older and have no nearby family in the event that something should happen to one or both of them.

 Both my sister and I had horses as kids.  Our cousins had horses, and we systematically wore our parents down until we could finally become horse owners as well.

Our first horse was Misty--a dapple gray quarter horse with a red roan colt in tow.  Apparently a Morgan stallion had cleared the fence and mated with Misty with "Whistle" being the product of that union.

In addition to this mother/son combo, we had Max, Zeke, Julie, Candy, (and another horse whose name escapes me, but was one of my sister's favorites). We had many, many hours of enjoyment, and a few times of abject terror!, with our steeds.  They provided us with acceptance and stability that we sorely needed at the time in our lives.

As an adult, I could never see my way clear to add another responsibility to my overflowing plate of family and work.  Therefore, I never added horses to my adult life though my husband would thoughtfully ask from time to time.  I felt that I was just hanging on by my fingernails--and to add the responsibility of another animal to care for--a large and expensive one--just did not have an appeal to me.  Nevertheless, each time I see one, I gravitate to them. I love their smell, the exquisite softness of their whiskered muzzles, and the systematic way they inhale you into their olfactories to check you out.

 One of the single greatest horse memories I have as an adult is riding Pepper (left in photo) at my sister's some years ago. Pepper is a 'get-up-and-go-girl', much like my Mustang/Quarterhourse Max.  She is about the same size, and once she realized that she was going to have to go my way v. her way, we had the grandest time.  We galloped in the nearby field, and I loved her the combination of the wind and her mane in my face.  It had been more than 20 years since I had been on a horse, but as with riding a bike, all of one's muscles kicked in.  As I dismounted, my children (3 and 6 or so at the time) started sniggering.  Apparently my post-childbirth bladder did not perform too well on ride--just enough to make me look ridiculous, but not enough to cause any true cascade of shame.

Well, all of the muscles that USED to be there but were now dormant kicked in.  Over the next 3-4 days, raising and lowering myself into the car was excruciating, and walking just a couple of notches less so.  It was a glorious soreness though--uplifting but physically painful.

I imagine that on Friday, my sister felt a glorious sadness--the uplifting and glorious part of knowing that her two equine family members will be easing the disquietude of adults and children with emotional and physical trauma coupled with the sadness of the raw and biting pain of being separated from her beloved equine companions.


We have Sandy bearing down on the coast. My husband was afoot yesterday battening down the hatches which includes tying off anything that will take to the wind. For my own part, I've had such a busy week with various deliverables, that my own pitching in for the preparedness was simply not getting in the way. I came home. Sat down. And I fell asleep. It's been a long week, and my stamina is still not in place since being ill.

I had the gutter replaced on my SR project---it had been damaged from some limb in a past storm.  The contractor advised me  to keep my distance from him.  He had the same crud.  His accountant also had it...and ended up hospitalized.  I used to work through such illnesses--I would never take a sick day no matter how bad I felt.  The simple fact of the matter is that (1) I likely exposed all manner of people to the same illness and (2) I likely was not very productive for the week.  I would have gotten FAR more accomplished had I allowed my body to rest a few days. 

I did try to work some last week while sick, but my brain was like scrambled eggs.  Better to wait and have high quality work.  We had a good friend who was sick with a temperature.  His wife pleaded with him to stay home.  He had a house to frame.  Sadly, he lost his footing on the rafters, hit the cement floor pad on the garage and never awoke.  We just are not on our game when we are sick.  And where my 'slippages' are with numbers, a tradesperson's is with their feet, hands, body...very dangerous.

Tomorrow will require some foraging in front of the storm. 


My New Favorite Tool

I picked up this BOSCH Pocket driver (PS21-2A ) on sale in a big box store.  Mark and I were finding that we had competing needs for the existing larger Bosch battery drill.  In looking for another drill, I stumbled upon this one.  It has dual qualities of being small and powerful.  A full size drills can be cumbersome as well as heavy for those unused to using them on a day to day basis (me). With the holiday gift season coming up, this would be a nice tool to put under the tree.  The tool is not just for lightweights like me:  its size gives it the advantage of doing heavy lifting in small places for the manly men on your list.

This drill was a godsend in removing the cabinet doors on my SR project. It has good low end torque which easily released the screws (this is cabinet hardware that was lacquered on to include the screws!) Some of the screws were so weak/corroded that the heads wrung off.  Further, a couple of them stripped out despite my best efforts to avoid that.  I was able to use the bull nose pliers to get a good grip and turn the screw out rather than resorting to other means of dispatching from the cabinets.

Bull nose pliers/nippers are also (in my view) the single best tool for removing luan staples from flooring.  This pair of tools saved me lots of heart ache on my cabinet door removal project.

The bricklayers showed up yesterday.  I have been waiting for them since August. They have been working at the place at which my husband is employed--so I've been getting progress reports on when they would be able to do the work--the schedule slipping every week. However, the bricklayer is a friend, and he does excellent work, so I was happy to wait. They will be fixing the front steps which were deteriorated and installing a brick patio at the back. 

I've had my share of angst on putting in a patio.  Here's a picture of the back of the house from when it was first purchased.
There is NO outdoor space.  I'm putting a semi-circular ~ 400 sqf brick patio centered between the garage door and the door to the den.  Why the angst?

Well, this house lends itself to an addition that would come out toward the back.  It could be one or two levels.  The benefit of a second level would be to create a much larger master bath.  Even though I put in a beautiful master bath in the existing, small space, those desiring more space would have to expand in the back.

While it is impossible to anticipate what new owners want, I work hard to stick to a simple goal of providing a turnkey home that affords the new owners the feeling of  "I love this home" v. "I hate this home and have to do x, y, z to make it inhabitable" and reducing obvious objections. 

Obvious objections are sometimes not so obvious!  The aphorism of "There is no accounting for taste" is alive and well and applies to my taste and sensibilities as well as any other.  Accordingly, to keep myself on the straight and narrow path, I opt for maximizing the current floor plan by upgrading/renewing the existing finishes with handsome materials that are beautiful, useful and durable, and soft colors that invoke an inviting sense of warmth and calmness. 

Blowing out walls and putting on additions is not in my scope of work; however, for the most part, the homes that are purchased already have a good floor plan in nice neighborhoods--but the finishes are worn and tired (if not gross in some cases) and there are some large-ticket repairs needed.  I'm not appealing to the high-end luxury buyer who wants all manner of expensive bells and whistles in a luxury, renovated home (meaning bringing it full up to contemporary standards for finishes and floor plan). Rather, I'm appealing to practical buyers who will appreciate the location, the existing layout and updated, quality finishes coupled with a reasonable price tag.  "Yes" to updated, high functioning appliances and granite countertops, new flooring, refinished hardwoods, and "No" to additions, blown out walls and expanded living area.

In this house, lack of outdoor entertaining space was an obvious objection. The selling realtor and my realtor also cited the 'landscaping' as problematic.  It wasn't so much to my eye, but then we get to the "taste" thing--and I had to relegate mine to the back seat.  (However, that relegation phase took a little while).

I elected to budget $10k for landscaping and a brick patio. So this week, that objection (and my angst about not providing it) will be overcome.  While outdoor spaces can quickly become very expensive projects, I'm trying to provide 'adequate' outdoor space befitting the home. Brick is truly a higher end choice, but I just could not find a satisfactory, less expensive alternative. Stamped concrete was one consideration, but the counsel I received was "it is not a question of if, but when, it was going to crack."  So footers, foundation and brick pavers will provide a lovely spot for outdoor gathering.

Will provide pictures when done.

Message from the Universe

I have received the second message from the Universe.  I presume it is from the Universe as the first message that I received, as I remember it, said in a man's voice "The Universe loves you."  A surprisingly uplifting message.

On Sunday, I had a missed call to voice mail.  Two simple words from a female voice--said so strongly and quickly that I had to listen to it a couple of times to be sure of it:  "Be now".

That, too, was a comforting thought as I was stripping away 48 years of varnish from the cherry cabinets at my SR project. Rather than curse under my breath about having to undertake this hateful task, I elected to "Be Now" (rather than "be bitchey") and marvel at the beauty of the wood after scraping off the ribbon of varnish pudding with my plastic scraper.

This task is a dreaded but necessary one that I thought I could avoid by simply cleaning the cabinets and the door hardware.  Here is a picture of a demounted cabinet face.  I chose this one because it represents the dilemma of having crustaceous hardware and a recalcitrant finish that resisted cleaning.

I had the big idea of removing the handles.  Let's take a close up. . .

This was NOT cleaning up very well.As you can see, 44 years of kitchen grime has chemically bonded with the finish.   The hardware is the ubiquitous "Colonial" style in solid copper.  Unlike contemporary hardware, this hardware was not coated individually.  Rather, the hardware was afixed to the cabinets and then the entire unit was finished--a simple, but depressing fact that I discovered after I thought I could remove the hardware and clean it.

So cleaning morphed into stripping the cabinets.  Though I was reluctant to tackle this project, hoping that I really could just clean these cabinets, after pulling off the icky finish and seeing the beautiful wood underneath, , I know that this is the right thing to do.

I've gone through a first strip of most of the cabinets.  The drawer faces were easy.  The doors had some unevenness relative to the quality of the first strip. I'm using Kleen Strip (K-3), but I also tested the JASCO.  I found the JASCO consistency very 'lumpy' to the point of "rubber cement" rubbery/sticky.  The Kleen Strip did not have this issue.  So far, I like the performance of the Kleen Strip far an above over the JASCO.

I will perform another strip this weekend, and ensure that all of the residue is off the cabinets.  I plan to remove the hardware stains, and I'm hoping that oxalic acid will do this for me without th need for my sanding.  The stripper has NOT raised the grain in these cabinets.  I'm planning to finish these with Waterlox.

It has been been many years since I've undertaken a stripping project--and certainly not one on this scale.  I hope that my confidence is not misplaced--and that I will end up with a cabinets that are both useful and durable to the next owner.  I will also have a chance to upgrade the hardware, and that will change the tone of this kitchen.

Here is a before picture (but after the installation of granite and the backsplash and the installation of the floor):

A kitchen island, which is not in my scope of work, would offer some additional flexibility and storage.  I could see an addition in the home's future that would offer a more spacious kitchen.  However, in the current confines of the existing floor plan (and it is quite a nice floor plan), this kitchen will be very serviceable to the new owners.

Wedding Post Mortem

Well, my daughter is now married.  The days up to the wedding were filled with last minute preparations.  We were grateful for the beneficence of the weather--a glorious day for an outdoor wedding.

The wedding was just perfect in every way; however, there was MUCH preparation to do.  My BIL/SIL were generous in offering their beautiful home for the wedding the venue.  The large mums that you see in the back were supposed to be our centerpieces.  However, we had to redirect and deconstruct one to make centerpieces nestled in mason jars.  Floating candles in mason jars made for lovely table light once the sun set.  The temperatures got cool fast!  Fortunately, we had a burn barrel and comfortable seating for folks to get warm.

My brother in law's band, Highway 249 played.  We had the "Solid Gold" dancers--

an assortment of 4-6 year olds being watched by a toddler as the band warmed up.  Oh, they had so much fun.

I did not snap one picture.  My daughter had a professional photographers, and I greeted guests--most of whom I did not know.  Neither Mark nor I invited any of our friends because of the constraints of the guest list.  With a limit of 100, reserved first for immediate family and immediate friends of bride groom, that limit was quickly filled.  So my only regret (if one can call it that) for the evening was that some of my close friends were not there.  So if each of us had invited just 5 people, that would have been 20 more folks and there was no room.  Rather than 'choose' we opted to just leave it at our immediate family.

Today, I'm nursing the crud that my son had..  I don't see him enough to get infected.  My throat is on fire and there is a prodigous amount of fodder for the Mucinex to act on.   Better now than earlier!  I would have hated to have felt like this on Saturday.  My son got over it in a couple of days.  I hope that I'm that lucky.

Weekend Immersion

Both Mark and Reade headed up to Hatfield and McCoy for a dirt bike trip. That left me at home to my own devices. It was a productive weekend so far, and it is just 9:07 a.m. in the morning. Yesterday I got up at 4:30 a.m. There is every corner of this house that needs some attention: cleaning, decluttering, etc. One device I used to use is to concentrate on just one area/room and get that to satisfaction. With these remodeling projects elsewhere, my area of focus seems to get smaller and smaller.

My FR project is nearing completion. I still have to paint the front door, install the microwave, and tidy things up. I elected NOT to visit any jobsites, even though I had a painter working at one of them. She doesn't need me to hover meddle, and I had plenty to do here. One project was to recover the green velvet seats in the cherry dining set that I purchased from the CHKD thrift store.   I found a nice modern graphic pattern that you can see pictured to the left.  It is going to look very clean and crisp in the dining room of my project which has Benjamin Moore's Muslin on the walls.

I bought the fabric very inexpensively (less than $4 per yard) at Artee fabrics.  I spent a good bit of timing determining the layout (as I could do a diamond, or a square.  I'm happy with the layout--though it took me a good bit of time to decide on that.    Looking at the cushion on the picture, I can see that I should have shifted it right a wee bit.  But, no one is really going to notice that but me!  But they are all covered, and ready to be re-fastened,  and put into place.

My fingers hurt, though from pulling the fabric tight. I would not wish to be pinched by someone who worked as an upholsterer...there hands must be very, very strong. The pneumatic upholstery gun made short work out of the stapling part.  I see folks demonstrating how to make upholstery stuff using a hand staple.  Those are hard work--having used one on another project.  Undertaken project:  Success!

I had an air mattress that I had loaned to someone. However, they could not get it to hold air. I decided that this needed my attention with the wedding coming up and the need for a comfortable guest bed. (And this one is very comfortable). I found the problem....the air valve was cracked. I spent far too long trying to find a repair for it. No replaceable air valve to be found. I will need to do a valve-ectomy on something else. I'm confident that with a new valve and vinyl/rubber replacement I can have it working. Just not in the near future!  Undertaken project: Failure.

My Metrokane Rabbit was not working properly.  I tried to realign it.  I'm not sure if it works because I didn't use it last night--not because I had twist off wine, but no alcohol at all.  I had a simple dinner of a baked potato and white asparagus.  I watched Memento which is one of my favorite movies. Undertaken project:  unknown outcome.

While in the garage finding a small screwdriver to fix the Rabbit, I looked at the blue tape that my husband had affixed to his too is Craftsman Tool chest drawers and wooden work bench.  I grabbed my Brother labeler and headed to the garage.  I pulled off the offensive blue tape and made very neat labels for everything.  At the very least, preparing the labels helped me understand the method of the tool organization. Undertaken project:  Success!

My daughter came by and brought her dog, Blaze.  He had a wonderful time with his three 'sisters'.  I took wine inventory, we came up with our beer tally, and came away with comfort that we would not run out of alcoholic beverages.  While I don't want to run short, I'm not interested in having too much!

ON the computer front, by monitor cable seemed to bite the dust, unless it was the monitor port (I have two).  I fixed that.  I have had a series of Windows Updates that have failed.  A few days ago I added them one at a time (with a reboot each time).  I finally had all of them install.  That was the good news.  The bad news is that my sound stopped working again.  After a serendipitous series of events, I restored it.  But I would never be able to duplicate it.  I think it was that the sound driver had to be updated after the Windows updates installed. When that completed and I fiddled in the sound device area for the Sound Blaster set up, I then had sound.  Undertaken project:  Success!

The weekend had more successes than failures. And there is still a full day ahead...getting beer and some food (for household) will be the project that needs to completed today.  We also need to decide on some fingerfood for the wedding.  We'll shop that today to at Sam's. Now it is off to find a corner to conquer--and disassociate myself with things that have clung to me for dear life that add no value but take up space.  I'm not looking at my dogs, but sometimes I'm tempted to lump them in this category.


Not to a new political or religious persuasion, but rather I converted my blog over to the theme that I know and love from the Perplexed Investor, my original blog.

I'm sure that I have some goofiness embedded in this blog from that one in that I used the template.  I did change the header easily enough.  I just did not enjoy the template I was in after the original Leisa Land template ceased to work with modifications from Blogger.  You want to read in a comfortable chair, and you want to write in a beautiful space.

Not that I mind the modifications from Blogger.  Blogger, like the early computer software, has become more click and edit rather than the CSS hardcoding that one had to learn to make modifications.   I learned it just well enough to fumble about.

My anniversary dinner was just lovely.  Unfortunately, eating shellfish at night makes for uneasy rest.  We had oyster cocktail, shrimp, crab and scallops.  My spicy avocado sauce for the crab was a bit too ambitiously spiced from the Serrano chiles from the garden.  It was good nonetheless!

I'm in beverage provision mode for my daughter's wedding, that is quickly coming upon us.  I was at Sam's and fetched a variety of wine.  I hate to admit it, but I did by some 1.5 ltr bottles of Pinot Grigio (Barefoot) and (gasp!) Arbor Mist Strawberry Mango.  I want to offer 'wine' for people who drink 'wine' but don't really drink wine (with no qualification).  Both of these are very accessible and enjoyable, and I want to have an offering for folks who enjoy this genre of wine.

I also bought some regular Moscato (as my step mom likes sweet wine), Sauvignon Blanc and 14 hands and Apothic labels of red wine.  Those will appeal to folks who like dry selections in both the white and red wines. I think I'll also pick up some 1.5 ltrs of Chardonay and Shiraz from the good folks at Yellow Tail.  Ubiquitous wine to be sure--but there is a reason for mass appeal and I plan to honor that. Good wines, without being too pricey.  Beer will be the next provisioning.  I want to have enough, but not too much. Naturally I have developed a spreadsheet  that will 'anticipate' the beverage needs of each of our guest; compute a per hour consumption rate applied to the duration of the event.


I have two anniversaries today.  The first, and most important, is my 30th wedding anniversary.  With my daughter's wedding just around the corner and an important Hatfield and McCoy trip planned for this week, our 'night' will be celebrated simply with a trip to B&B Seafood for fresh scallops (which I'll saute in butter, garlic and wine), fresh oysters (which I'll have on homemade tartar sauce), steamed shrimp (which I do myself in beer), and crab cakes.  I also bought a cake, white asparagus, and some gelato. 

Why not go out? is a 30 minute drive to a restaurant, and I don't feel like being a designated driver.  I'd much rather cook this 'stuff' up simply and deliciously, and enjoy it with ample wine (or perhaps I'll make a martini of some description).

My husband said this morning:  I don't even have a card for you nor a gift.  I have no needs or wants, and we are up to our gills in 'stuff'.  He helps me with my house projects, and I let him go zoom, zoom on his bike with the guys.  A reminder that marriage is a life partnership.

It occurred to me that the greatest gift that we could give each other is forgiveness for all past real and imagined sins.  That seems to be the most generous gift that one can give another. We will see if we end up being renegers on that gift!

The moon was full yesterday.  I remember our Spartan honeymoon 30 years ago.  The moon was full over the ocean and we could see dolphins purposing through the shimmering ocean waters at Nags Head. 

My second anniversary is that of 'blogging'--now in my 6th year with my very first post being on October 1, 2006.  Oh, I'm much less pithy and frequent, even having moved to this more relaxed blogging venue.  And I don't really participate in other blogs as I used to enjoy doing.  Nevertheless, I'm still glad to have a space to blog and share the occasional idea or two if for no other reason than to be able to search it for something that I could not remember otherwise.

 Now to go make crab cakes!

Celebrate something good in your life today.