How To: Faux Brick Walls

The Giant and I bought a house.  Which is exciting and weird to think about at the same time.  Since the lease on our apartment doesn’t end until the end of May, we are taking the time to get the interior painted before we move in.  Plus, as we discovered yesterday, it’ll be handy to have access to the apartment laundry until we can buy new appliances during Memorial Day.

Because The Giant and I are… geeks… we’ve decided to really play up our geekdom in our home.  In particular we wanted a Steampunk basement.  The basement walls were painted cinder block and we took a while to decide how we wanted to finish them.  At first we thought about using paneling from Lowes and following the lead from Epbot.  Since we had a lot of area to cover the price tag seemed daunting at $26 per sheet.  The Giant suggested we paint the blocks to look like bricks and at first I was totally not on board.

Then I was looking through Pinterest at Steampunk rooms and had a flashback to the Historic Preservation class I took in college in which I learned SO MUCH about architecture and retained very little.  But what I did retain was a basic understanding of how masonry was used way back when.  So I started taping out historic brick patterns:

From top left to right: English Bond, Running Board, Herringbone, Common Bond, Flemish Bond

From top left to right: English Bond, Running Board, Herringbone, Common Bond, Flemish Bond

The Giant wanted Running Board, I wanted English Bond in order to avoid having the lines created by the original cinder blocks to appear in the middle of a brick.  We compromised and went with Common Bond.  Lines do appear in the middle of bricks, but I’ve made peace with it.

From there we spent four hours taping:

So. Much. Taping

This is a gazillion times easier with lines already on the walls.  I’d imagine if you were trying to do this on a flat wall there would be a lot more measuring and probably a lot more swearing.  We started with all the horizontals.  First we taped the outlines of the existing blocks and then we bisected them.  We used tape that was approximately 3/4″.  We ended up using about 5 rolls.

We picked out three colors of paint: A brick red, a slightly darker brick red, and a dark brown.  This is where we took a little direction from Epbot, since Jen suggested using two colors about 2 shades apart followed up with a dark brown or black to dirty it up.

To start, we painted the town  wall red with the lighter shade:



Then we pulled out a random number generator and had it pick a number between 1 and 7.  Starting in the upper left corner we counted out that number of bricks and that was the one we painted with the darker red.  Then we did that a thousand more times.  It weirded The Giant out when two or more bricks adjoined.  I informed him this was the random part of it.  If you are not like me and can actually do chaos without forming some sort of pattern, by all means skip the Random Number Generator.  Here’s what it looked like before we pulled the tape off:

Aaaaand here’s what it looked like after:

Apologies for the changes in color–different camera–it’s not nearly that orange in person.

So, that looks cool, right?  But it also kind of looks like a video game and not exactly like brick.  That’s where the brown comes into play.  The brown really makes the natural texture in the wall stand out.  I’d imagine if you were doing this on a flat wall, you’d want to add some sort of texture to your first coat of paint in order to make it look more “brick like”.

We spent about six hours dry brushing brown paint onto the walls.  In the Epbot tutorial they dry rolled paint on, but I wanted more control over it because I’m a freak.  First layer looked like this:

On the left: No brown. On the right: Teensy bit of brown.

Definitely better, but WAY too subtle.  After a lot more dry brushing we discovered that you really need to paint the center of the brick darker to give it the necessary dimension.  So, we set out to paint every. Single. Brick.  If it sounds like a pain in the ass, it was.  But?  Totally worth it.

What’s the final result?


Is it perfect?  No.  Are we happy with it?  YOU BETCHA!

My parents stopped by while we were putting the shading on.  They hadn’t seen any of the painting we’d done in the house since they were out of town, but they had seen the “before”.  The first thing my dad said was “Whoa!  It’s brick!”  Then he got about two feet from the wall before he could tell it was really just paint.  I’ll call that a win.  Especially for two people who were only pretending to know what they were doing.

And this wall? Pretty much a testament to who we are.  Two crazy people who can actually accomplish quite a bit when we’re egging each other on.  I do not consider if merely coincidence that my costuming game has really been upped since we met.



Swirling in the heavens tonight

I couldn’t possibly tell you my favorite movie.  I can’t tell you my favorite song or even my favorite band.  I can’t tell you my favorite actor, my favorite genre, or even my favorite book.  But I can tell you my favorite author: Terry Pratchett.

To me, this is significant.

I was sent a link today by The Giant, prefaced by “Brace yourself.”  Seeing it was a Google Plus link, I anticipated it being NSFW and proceeded to switch to my phone and not my work computer.  What I was met with was notice of Terry Pratchett’s death.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up at my desk.

The Nerd Community has lost some greats in the last few months, but none have hit me as hard as Terry Pratchett’s death.  No other author has repeatedly made me laugh out loud in an empty (or maybe not so empty) room.  No other author has compelled me to consume his or her entire collection (save Douglas Adams, another literary life taken from us too soon).

Terry Pratchett was an author I think most writers would kill to be.  He was a genius, he was adored, and he was prolific.  It constantly astounds me that one man can create an entire universe–hold that universe inside his head, even after being gripped with aggressive Alzheimers–and continue developing, evolving, and calling back to that universe year after year.

I knew this was coming.  A few years ago I read about Pratchett’s diagnosis, and I sought out a way to communicate to him how his works touched my life.  At the time everything I could say felt silly.  And then life got the better of me and I forgot to try.  Admittedly, everything I say still feels silly.  I truly do not feel like I can adequately do Terry Pratchett or his works justice.

So I will leave with a link to his Twitter account, because I think Pratchett’s family did a beautiful job handling the announcement of his death.

Thank you for all that you gave to me.

On Maturity

I have come out of retirement–and moved to new digs–because my brain has been churning away today.

A lot has changed in the two years since I last posted a blog post.  New living situation (twice so far), new relationship, new positions at work (twice so far).  Rather than go into the nitty gritty, I’d prefer to write on what’s been on my mind.

You see, I’ve struggled for all of my adult life with actually feeling like an adult.  And, frankly, I can’t say I feel like one yet.  But I’m getting there, thanks in no small part to wise words that have been imparted to me in my times of personal panic.  What I have realized, though, is that maturity has absolutely nothing to do with your age and everything to do with how you choose to present yourself.

Maturity doesn’t mean knowing what to do in every situation.  Maturity doesn’t mean liking everyone and everything.  Maturity doesn’t mean not acting goofy or not making terrible, off-color jokes or not dressing up like Thor if Thor were a 50s housewife.

Maturity means treating others with respect.  It means not assuming that anyone at all owes you anything at all.  Maturity means knowing that you don’t know everything and allowing yourself to reach out for answers.  Maturity means knowing when it’s okay to act like a child and when it’s time to put the child in a safe place for the time being.

Most importantly, maturity means realizing that if things aren’t going the way you want them to in your life, it’s very likely not someone else’s fault.  Especially if they never seem to go your way.

A Year of Creativity: May – Rag Quilt

Or as I like to call them: Quilts for People Who Suck at Making Quilts.

I won’t really go into my quilt making history much.  But let’s just say that RocketPuppy has a few failed attempts that I made for her, and from then on I stuck to fleece blankets.

Until I found the world’s greatest bowling fabric.  Fabric I knew I needed to have.  Fabric that went clearance when clearance was half off.  And I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but at that price I knew I needed to BUY ALL THE FABRIC!!!

So then I was left wondering what a girl was to do with 7+ yards of bowling cotton.  Trust me, it was an amazing deal….

At some point I remembered that I had some grey flannel sitting around–thankfully not prewashed–enough to back a duvet cover.  My wheels got turning.  I’d always wanted to make a rag quilt, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Problem was, I didn’t really want a black and grey quilt.  That didn’t seem like fun.  I needed to throw in one more thing to make it “me.”

Luckily shortly after this flannel solids went 60% off.  And it was also shortly before I’d stop having my sweet employee discount, so I needed to strike.  And strike I did.  Aqua.   Because it’s me.

And then I put it off for a really long time because I was skurrd.  There are plenty of things I haven’t made yet because of fear.

Then I got bored.  So I decided to dive in.

First I figured out how big a square I could make while still getting an even amount of squares out of the width.  I settled on 10″ squares.  And I cut a million of them (okay 216).

I started with this:

72 triplets in layer order

Then I stitched giant Xs across all my triplets with aqua thread on top and black in the bobbin, and I ended up with this:

Then I followed a little pattern my buddy The Hooker (she crochets, get your mind out of the gutter) drafted for me, because she convinced me I shouldn’t have all print on one side and all solid on the other.  And I sewed and I sewed, piecing 8 squares into a strip and nine strips into a blanket.  And it was just about the fastest sewing I’ve ever done.

And then I had to snip.  And snip.  And snip some more.  Every seam needed to be snipped, and it took me a couple evenings.  The first evening it was cool, and I welcomed the blanket on my lap.  The second evening it was hot and humid.  I think that made me work faster.

Next up was washing to shrink the fabric and fray the edges.  I can’t remember if I washed in hot water–I doubt it, since I don’t wash anything in hot water unless I have to–so I don’t think it really shrunk that much.  I washed and dried it twice.  The first time there was so much lint that it blew the lint trap on the washer hose clear off and filled the entire lint trap in the dryer with almost an inch of lint.  The second wash there was about a quarter as much.  There’s still little balls of lint/pilling on the flannel, but I’m not going to worry about those.  They may require a sweater shaver, and I just don’t have that kind of patience right now.

But, frankly, I’m sure you guys don’t care about that… You want to see the end result.  And I’m happy to report it’s one of my favorite creations to date.

You can see the lint on the back.  If anyone has suggestions, I’m all ears.  And by suggestions, I mean solutions that require almost no work at all.

The quilt will not stay on the bed, although I have used it myself on a couple of the cooler nights.  It’s really just not big enough for the whole bed with two bodies underneath.  72 10″ squares would be PERFECT for a twin sized bed and doable for a full with only one person.

File This Under Y

For Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

Pretty much ever since Dragon graced our doorstep, the blinds in the living room have been trashed.  He’s a pretty headstrong cat, and if he wants to see the squirrels and birds and bunnies, he’s going to see the squirrels and birds and bunnies.  From the safety of the indoors.  Because he’s kind of afraid of going outside.

As a result, the blinds started looking a little like this:

Something in my head said, “Hey, I wonder if I can make these crappy blinds into roman shades.”  So I went to the Google.  And it turns out, I can.  Little Green Notebook has great easy to follow instructions. I was a little nervous cutting into the blinds, but really, they were so far gone that if I screwed them up more, who cares?  Armed with the knowledge that I could just buy new ones if I botched these, I pulled out the scissors and went to work.

Strings cut and most slats removed.

I used E-6000 instead of fabric glue, because that’s what I could find in my sewing room.  I also serged and hemmed the edges of the panels instead of just gluing them down.  I couldn’t reuse the plugs that kept the strings to the bottom bar, so I just tied the strings around the bar before gluing it down.  The end result:

The blinds themselves never worked well–or I just really suck at operating blinds… this is entirely possible–but the fabric hasn’t affected the operation of the strings in any way.  Well, I take that back… the strings are behind the fabric, which makes it a little inconvenient.  There’s really no other way for that to happen with this, so if you like to raise and lower repeatedly, this may not be the project for you.

For us?  We never move them, and they’re strictly for privacy.  And, more importantly, the cat can’t really screw them up.  He might snag the fabric, but that’s it.  Great way to repurpose, I say.

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I read.  I kind of read a lot.  There’s a lot out there to read.  My nook*?  Makes it even easier to ingest a billion and one books.  I’m not any faster of a reader, but it’s a lot easier to pick up a little reading here and a little reading there if I can just throw 100+ books in my purse all at once.

But there are a gazillion more books out there than I’ll ever be able to read.  So out of all the books in the world, how does one choose what to read?

For me, it’s word of mouth probably more than anything.  If someone tells me they read a really great book, I’ll probably try reading said book.  People tell me about the books they’re reading every so often, because book lovers like to talk about said books, but it’s not like I have recommendations beating down my door.

From there, I typically take those authors and read everything by them I can get my hands on.  I have read all but two books ever published by Tom Robbins (though finding him was a fluke, read on).  I am making a considerable dent in the works of Terry Pratchett, but that man is such a prolific writer, I don’t know that I can read them as fast as he can write them.  You’ll find a lot of Nick Hornby, Douglas Adams, and Bill Bryson in my collection (side note, it is an amazing distinction for Mr. Bryson to grace this list, because he brings as much life to his nonfiction as all the previously listed fiction authors, and I find that’s hard for people to do).

But as much as I love these writers (and others whom I’ve not mentioned), I can’t read the same thing back to back to back.  And eventually (except in the seeming case of Mr. Pratchett) they’re going to run out of books for me to read.  So I need one more tack.

And, yes, it’s judging books by their covers.  Which I’m pretty sure everyone who reads does.  You can’t help it.  The cover is like an advertisement.  You have one second to grab my attention or I’m long gone.  Like anything else we consume, if you don’t already have the clout of coming highly recommended or a proven winner, you really need to sparkle.  But the problem lies in the fact that what catches my eye, may not catch someone else’s.  In fact, it’s pretty much a given that it won’t catch everyone’s.  The trick for publishers is to find that fine line where the cover catches the eye and gives a general vibe as to what the story is about.  And it’s that second part that’s really more important.

For instance, I’ll show you two covers, one that would attract me and one that wouldn’t.  To keep it fair, I’m going to use covers from an author I already know I like, so I’m literally only judging the covers.

In this corner, we have The Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot:



I can tell by the fact that the cover is colorful and cheeky that it’s going to be a lively and funny book.  It’s fluffy, too, so it’s obviously going to be chick lit, but not like a bodice ripper or anything.

In the other corner, we have Every Boy’s Got One:



This corner looks like bubble baths and Lifetime movies.  And while I don’t hate either of those two things, they don’t scream good reading.  To me it looks like a silly little lady story.  If it weren’t Meg Cabot, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.  But it is, so I’ll probably read it eventually.

The spine is even more important, but much harder for me to pin point, so we won’t even go into that, but if a cover is graphic enough for me to pick it up or click on its link, it now has maybe 30 seconds to wow me.  That back cover better have a damn description of the book.  I don’t want to read an excerpt from your last book.  I don’t want to know what so-and-so said about your books (Unless you’re Jenny Lawson; the quotes on the back of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened** are freaking hilarious).  Give me a plot summary and make it juicy.

Now, there is an exception to this.  It was brought to my attention that some books have summaries on the copyright page.  But still, those summaries are usually not terribly flashy and also usually in much smaller print.  Plus you have to open the book and find the page, and ain’t nobody got time for that.  That eats into the 30 seconds I could be using to read the summary.  Just sayin’.

So… Read any good books lately?

*I’m not being paid to endorse nook, I just happen to really like it.

**Linking to Amazon just so you know I’m not playing favorites 😀