Painting Kitchen Cabinets

'Almost Ready for Dinner' by Marianne O'hare
‘Almost Ready for Dinner’ original artwork by Marianne O’Hare

Gasp! Yes, I know. Many people cringe at the concept of painting kitchen cabinets but lacking the serious coin to replace our cabinets, I was left with no other option. Being an avid cook, I spend a lot of time here. My heart pined for white but my kitchen was dark. It was almost a deal breaker when we were house hunting but other things overcame my dislike of the depressingly dark kitchen.

So I got ready to paint. I recorded and rewatched various DIY shows where home owners had painted their kitchen cabinets, including ‘Ask This Old House’ and ‘I Hate My Kitchen’. Plus, I read a LOT of articles on the web. The process took me months. (What? Procrastinating? Who, me? No way… I’m researching!)

People reported great success with a kit by Rustoleum called Cabinet Transformations. I did the measurements they describe and was pleased my small kitchen only required one box. Since I only did the uppers so far there’s plenty left for when the next burst of motivation strikes and I’m ready to turn the house upside down for a few days again.

It went easier than I’d thought, although doing this in winter with closed windows wasn’t the best for air quality. I brought our 2 air cleaners into the kitchen and ran them full blast which helped. Plus it was worth doing in cold weather because I knew once the weather warms, I’ll be outside! So this was a great project for a snowy weekend.

I did go beyond the 2 coats they recommend and did 4 coats, and I’m glad I did. The result is still more flat than I’d hoped for, knowing a glossy surface is easier to clean, but that being said I know I could add a clear gloss coat some day. If I really want to. But I like these a lot. The lower cabinets will be done soon. Maybe. Or maybe we’ll live with it like this for a while since I kind of like the uppers being white and the lowers being wood.

It’s all about the prep. If you’re going to paint your cabinets you mustn’t rush the prep work. First, scrub well using TSP (and wearing gloves). Wipe down and allow to dry. Then with a green scrubbie supplied in the kit, apply the kit’s liquid stripper. This essential step removes the glossy finish, replacing the usual sanding step, and allows the paint to adhere. Again, wipe off and allow to dry well. The kit comes with a directional DVD and booklet, so you’ll be shown every step clearly. Just wanted to point out what I learned both in research and doing it myself. Take Your Time. Each step matters.

Relax a bit and just do your best. There ended up being one flaw of a tiny drip I’d missed, near a door handle that I use daily. But rather than stress out on the 1% I’m not happy with, I’ve chosen to focus on the 99% I adore! It’s so much brighter, and I did it! A worthwhile project, all around. I encourage you to take steps to love your home even more. You can do it! If I can, anyone can.


.

A much brighter kitchen!
A much brighter kitchen!

Buried in snow

tiny tough SnowdropsIt is a northern gardener’s life to be unable to garden outdoors for half the year (or more). Just one of gardening’s many great lessons: patience. That and learning about cycles. Cycles of seasons, light and shadow, decay and rebirth. Of noticing migrating birds when they leave, and when they return again. When the massive queen bumblebees emerge and drowsily look for new dens to start this year’s hive, eliciting alarm as they buzz close by ears and again reacquaint us to the sound of buzzing creatures. And of the tenacious determination of green growing things, pushing through the soil and sometimes even, through snow.

This is what makes me so happy to plant flowering bulbs. I adore spring bulbs because I do it every autumn – almost – and they perk up into a spring-thawing but otherwise brown garden just when I need it most. March! Okay… April, but by March I’ve got some forced mini-bulbs growing indoors and am busy planning a tea party luncheon, but I digress.

Even in those years when autumn rushes right past in the blink of an eye, because Mother Nature was in a hurry and flung us from late summer right into winter with a massive September snowfall (like this past fall), I can rely on spring flowering bulbs to keep coming even if I fail to add to their numbers. If we gardeners select a zone-appropriate bulb that is resistant to grazing (ie: tastes unpleasant to animals) and plant it at the correct depth in the right location (read: if they’re ‘happy’) bulbs will continue blooming and even multiplying year after year with no further assistance from us, except maybe a handful or so of good compost and leaving their leaves alone. And of course to be remembered where they are and not get accidentally dug up!

But their greatest gift to me, as a northern gardener enduring far too many months of frozen lifeless ground, seems to happen to me every year around this time when I am feeling weary from the short daylight hours and not enough time spent outdoors, I find comfort in simply knowing they’re out there. Tiny little bundles of hope buried under the snow and soil… just waiting for the perfect time to brighten the world. My world. My yard.

I celebrate spring blooming bulbs! Tulips (which survive in a corner of our back yard with a high fence, not in the popular-for-grazing front), Chionodoxa ‘Glory-of-the-snow’, Narcissus ‘Daffodils’, Muscari ‘Grape Hyacinth’, tall purple Allium… plus their rhizome-cousins Crocus, Lily and Iris… your very presence brightens my heart. Even unseen, just knowing you’re there and that your bright faces will be blooming soon makes me happy on dreary winter days.

Luckily we can all buy them already blooming in containers to grace our kitchen table or bedside (talk to your florist and try to buy organic). And after having read that planting previously ‘forced’ bulbs in our gardens to be a lost cause, I’ve found that to be untrue. I had mini-daffodils and grape hyacinths forced in containers and once they were done blooming I put them in the garage, forgot about them for a couple of YEARS and then threw the pot contents into a wild corner of our backyard. They actually took root and grew! I now have a little patch of Tete-a-tete daffodils and Muscari that come back every spring. How cool is that? So if you have a patch of ground, throw those spent bulbs in and they may or may not come back, but why throw them in the garbage when, sometimes, they come back? Mind you bulbs hate to be ‘naked’ for long and the dormant ones I mentioned were in a dry pot of soil. I’ve tried this with bulbs I’d had left over in the package for a while without the same success.

Of course I adore all my perennials, shrubs and trees – in my own yards and everywhere – but nothing better beckons the coming of spring than the early-blooming bulbs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

New Small Raised Beds

Summer is always such a fast season, isn’t it? What with the abundant sunshine and long days keeping us up late and all the outdoor chores to be done it certainly seems like time flies. I’ve been away from this lovely little blog for far too long and an update of what I’ve been up to is overdue.

Sharing photos of some of my garden areas seems like a great place to begin. A 14′ x 25′  sunny back corner of our property is where our old truck sat for many years. We’ve since learned the hard way that vehicles really don’t like to sit unused. Suspension, frame and brakes sadly rusted up and she’s off to her new home, a family member with a collection of Chevy’s that could really use the good parts such as tires, windshield, tranny, and more. I feel like we signed her ‘donor card’ and she’s now living on in other old trucks! But once the sentimentalizing passed I began planning what could be done in that old parking pad, and voila! Witness the birth of my small raised bed garden.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While I’ve had some resistance to sharing my less-than-perfect shots of my far-from-perfect new garden area, I decided that my love for this reborn area just might show through in this post. Plus, enough procrastinating! Hopefully you’ll enjoy and even feel inspired to grab some 1-foot wide boards at the lumber store. These were 12-foot lengths that they cut three times so I could have four 3-foot lengths for each box. Then the soil was delivered in huge bags and we have some left over, waiting to be wheel-barrowed over to the front perennial beds. I’ll just add that to the ever-lengthening To Do list!

Four tomato plants are likely too many for this bed, especially with four pepper plants lined up along the front, and never mind the swath of marigolds being overcome. Ahh… it’ll be fine. Still need to get out there and do some tying up of these sprawling tomatoes but their enthusiasm and daily growth inspires me.

Once we added landscape fabric and bark mulch it’s been feeling cozy back there. The tough fabric helps thwart the weeds and the bench offers a shady spot to sit between waterings. Oh, right. The waterings! Yes I’ve learned how quickly raised beds dry out in hot weather so be prepared if you make small beds. Twice daily watering for these thirsty tomatoes, peppers, basil, beans and summer squash.

One of my favorite statues in our gardens, Saint Francis, tenderly holds a lamb as they stand in a spot that is slowly being overcome with another rogue raspberry plant. Nothing a few snips with the clippers can’t fix but the bees adore those berry blossoms so much that I know St. Francis would have understood a little waiting. Also is a length of fence with a collection of birdhouses and another fence section with a few uplifting adornments behind some tall stands of Hollyhocks and Giant Yellow Mullein over by one of the rain barrels. That precious water-saving barrel is nearly hidden in this photo but it’s there nonetheless, nicely shaded by these giant staples of any self-respecting unkempt cottage garden.

raspberry abundanceAnd what would summer be without an (over) abundance of raspberries! Luckily they freeze beautifully and are delicious and nutritious in all kinds of muffins, smoothies, shortcakes and jams. Well plus fresh too of course. Yummy! Even Nikki, my old blind dog can still find her way to the low-hanging ripe berries for a self-serve tasty treat. Funny dog.

So I truly hope you have enjoyed this wee tour about my humble backyard patch of heaven. This evolving area has been bringing me tremendous joy. I shall endeavor to return with posts and updates much more frequently, my friends.
I trust you are doing well and enjoying your summer!
Until later (but not too much), cheers. Gina