While Gordon Sonderland Was Throwing Trump Under the Bus and Fiona Hill Was Saving Our Democracy, I Did This.

I’m so glad that so may of you Dear Readers liked the watercolor post I did a few weeks back.

This is also a painting post, but not that kind of painting post.

The story is, that with just a few days to go before Thanksgiving, I decided now was a dandy time to re-do our horrible, 100-year old staircase.

Random BEFORE and AFTER photo of someone else’s staircase. I am too embarrassed to show you how bad our stairs looked BEFORE.

Thirty-fiveyears ago, when Top Cat bought the house here on the north shore of Long Island, he ripped up old olive green carpeting that was there and slapped a coat of white paint on the steps. What I’ve come to discover, from wear and tear and exploratory chipping away at the landing, is this:

Historically, there are four coats of paint on this 100-year old staircase. From bottom to top, the archeology of these stairs is: brown paint, yellow paint, white paint, carpet, white paint.

The fine people on YouTube made it look so easy. Just buy “green” (organic) paint remover, go watch an episode of Property Brothers, and voila: your stairs are ready to be televised.

I have 12 stairs in my staircase that I need to strip down to wood. The first 4 stairs took me two days (two full work days) to do.

Then a voice, the mellifluous intonation of the Angel of Duh, spoke to me and yea, it said: Yo, Stupid, Let The Paint Stripper Do The Work.

So here’s how the next four stairs took me two hours to do:

First, squish a lot of Soy Gel, “green” paint remover made from 100% Aerican-grown soy beans so they say, onto the hideous 100-year old tread:

Soy Gel is not cheap but O-boy, is it effective if– you have patience. It’s organic, so you can use it indoors in Winter and you don’t have to rig up ventilation.

Then you take a “chip” brush that you will throw away when this adventure is over, and you spread the Soy Gel evenly over the despicable surface:

This is a trick I learned on the Advanced YouTube tutorial about not being dumb about removing paint:

You lay down a layer of cling wrap on top of the Soy Gel. You do this because you are going to let the Soy Gel do its thing for the next seven hours.

Meanwhile, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can put away the sander and clean up the mess that you made on the first four steps because you won’t need any of it (now that you know the trick with the Saran Wrap).

You can believe your eyes. Lickety took a nap on top of sand paper, sandy-side UP.

And, if it’s OK with the Boss, you can use brown paper to cover the previously stripped stairs so to keep them clean from the crud you will be excavating soon:

It’s 3 o’clock.  Time to have fun!

This is SO COOL!

The Saran Wrap does all the work!

The remaining bits of paint can be scraped up with a minimum of cursing, and still provide you with a fine work-out for your trapezius and latissimus muscles:

Next comes the horrible part. What is left on your stairs now is a thickish layer of persistently clingy goo that has the consistency of  the insides of a marshmallow.

So you need to buy the strongest “de-greaser” you can find. You spray it onto the stair, you let sit for a minute:

And then you get your wire brush and you warn your back and leg muscles that there’s some hurt coming soon. You crouch for leverage, and you put all your might into scouring away at the goo:

At this point, the “goo” becomes a finer texture, more like very sticky “crud”.

The crud wedges good and hard into the teeth of the wire brush every minute or so, so keep a bucket of water handy so you can dip the brush into it and take another instrument to gouge between the rows of wire and pry out the impacted crud. This, too, will require “effort”.

Repeat at least twice; three times if you’re really into punishing yourself for ever having started this stupid project in the first place, and then let dry.

This weekend I will be painting the stairs Espresso, because I read that dark-chocolate-colored treads are the hottest trend in staircases. I’ll be painting the trim and risers white, but I won’t strip them first since I don’t want to.

I did all this work all by myself because I got no help at all from The Rock, who was off gallivanting, as it’s been doing for over a month now, and now has made it all the way to the Great North Great West.

The Rock, from Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, is now in Washington (state).

This for Australian readers who don’t want to have to drag out an atlas.

In olden days, the Oregon Territory took up the whole huge NW corner of the continental United States. Nobody knows why it was called “Oregon”, but when that top northern bit broke away and its residents applied for statehood in the 1880s, they petitioned Congress to give them the name, “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One.”

Then New York Congressman and general busy-body David Dudley Field went around bitching that the country already had a “Washington” (that “Washington, of D. C.”), and that a duplicate “Washington” was going to make life very difficult, especially for the U. S. Post Office. He wanted the new state to have a Native American name, and he suggested “Tacoma”.

David Dudley Field, 1805 – 1894. I wonder if he was disappointed about not living long enough to see 1900?

I’m all for having a state called “Tacoma”. Is it too late?

Well, the residents of “Washington, Not That Washington, The Other One”, argued that the dunces at the U. S. Post Office should be able to deliver mail to the correct Washington by paying attention to context and they took advantage of the fact that nobody else in Congress gave a crap about having two Washington’s so they shortened their state name and their application for statehood as  “Washington” was approved in 1889.

So, now you know where we are today.

We are in that Washington. Specifically, we are with Dear Reader Alexandra, in the fair city of Richland, located at the confluence of the Yakima and the Columbia Rivers. Richland is in the southeastern part of the state where, being on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains, the climate is desert-like. The area gets 7 inches of rain yearly (Seattle gets 39 inches) and there are dust storms in Summer.

Dust storms. In THE DESERT.

So, naturally, that’s where you can find The Rock hanging around the USS Triton Submarine Memorial Park:


All that is left of the historic USS Triton is its con-tower, sticking up out of the ground. Much like the history of the nomenclature of Washington the state, the sub is here in Richland because shut up, we want the damn submarine and Congress doesn’t care either way, so shut up.

They notified the U. S. Post Office  that the sub’s new address is in THE DESERT, in that Washington.

Fun Fact: The USS Triton submarine was the first to circumnavigate around the world underwater, on its maiden voyage Feb 16 – May 11 1960, following  Ferdinand Magellan’s first circumnavigation of 1519 – 1522. The con-tower stands tall at 26 feet high and 67 feet long. The sub has no logical connection to Washington, the state, but that has never stopped Washington, the state, from getting what it wants.

Here we are at the splendid used book store of the beautiful and gleaming Richland Public Library, where The Rock is trying to see if anyone will mistake him for a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  and try to read him, and they can’t because he doesn’t have any pages because he’s a rock, and then he’ll laugh and laugh and make them feel stupid.

The Rock can be a little bit of an asshole sometimes.

Lunch time, and The Rock heads for The Emerald of Siam, Richland’s oldest Thai restaurant, located in the groovy Uptown Shopping Center:

FunFact: The Upland Shopping Center was designed in 1948 and its architecture epitomizes that brief but glorious style known as Atomic Age Aqua Everywhere.

Funner Fact: The shopping center was designed by by the Atomic Energy Commission of the United States.


Because it’s Washington, the state. Shit like that happens here.

And next The Rock went bowling. Because it’s a rolling stone. Get it?

The Rock wrongly thinks this is hilarious.

Most people call this next tourist attraction The Ginnko Petrified Forest State Park in Vantage, Wa. But The Rock calls it “Meeting the American Cousins.”

The rock drawings that are reserved here date from prehistoric (pre-white people, that is, because pre-white people there was  no history) times. Carved by the Wanapum people, who lived along the Columbia River and welcomed Lewis and Clark to the neighborhood. The Wanapum lived here in peace until 1953, when newly-built dams on the river flooded the ancestral home.

Petrified wood was discovered here in the 1930s, which led to the creation of this 7,124-acre park.

The Rock ponders, “Is this petrified cottonwood, or redwood?”

There are over 50 species of trees that are petrified here. One of those species is the ginkgo. The forest dates from the Miocene Period, 5 – 12 million years ago.

You should know that dinosaur fossils have not been found in Washington, the state. The park’s velociraptor, small brontosaurus, and pterodactyl statues came from Arizona, where there are dinosaur fossils. So, in the end, it’s completely legit.

The Rock is at it again, trying to pass itself as something’s not, in this case, a gem:

You know what else moves rocks? Tourists fromLong Island, Aer Lingus, the U. S. Post Office, and the lovely volunteer tour guides who have given The Rock memories of a lifetime.

It’s a fossil, yes, but it’s a mammoth, still not a dinosaur:

Fun Fact: Columbian mammoths (mammuthus columbi) once roamed from Alaska to Mexico and are the most common species of mammoth fossil found in this part of Washington state—so common, in fact, that the Columbian mammoth is the Washington state fossil.

You will be happy to know that The Rock barely moved the needle of this geiger counter:

Why is there a geiger counter at The Ginko Petrified Forest State Park?

Nobody’s telling.

Least of all these guys:

This is Truman and Pippin. Can you tell from his hang-dog look which one is most disappointed that The Rock is not edible?

Thank you for stopping by today and hanging out with me and The Rock.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. And if you check back later, I will have a slew of stuff to make your celebrations of the House Impeachment Hearings’ total indictment of Trump, Giuliani, and the Republicans just a little more fun. I have a lot to show you.

Oh, lordy, it was a good week to be an American, for once.


10 Comments, RSS

  1. Loved seeing what you are doing on your stairs. What a lot of work though!!!
    Yes, it has been a good week to see a turn in events for the White House. I hope it succeeds in ousting him.
    And then, how fun to see the rocks adventures in Washington. Now the rock is about finished in Oregon and will soon be sent on it’s way. I just posted on my blog. Let me know what pictures you would like me to send to you. It was great fun, especially since we have had great sunshiny weather right now.

  2. Thank you so much for letting me host the Rock and show it around our rocky area! That geiger counter is actually inside the Reach Museum in Richland, not at Gingko — same place as the mammoth fossils. I had a good time taking the Rock to see other rocks!

    I’m pretty sure we got the conning tower because it was a nuclear submarine, and Richland is home to nuclear reactors (long defunct). Atomic things are popular here — that bowling alley is called the Atomic Lanes, and there are atomic symbols in prominent places around that shopping center, plus streets named Neutron and Proton. Fun facts, indeed!

    Truman and Pippin both tried to eat the Rock, without success. Whew.

  3. Megan

    Lets see if I have any greater success at posting a comment… Love that Lickety is enjoying life, sandpaper massage sleeping not he brown paper and exhaustively supervising the home renovations. You are indeed energetic Vivian! Love the Rock tour of the US, fabulous photographs and I hope everyone enjoyed their trip and meeting the American cousins. Looking forward to seeing your fabulous handiwork completed… love the Glad Wrap and soybean stripper doing it’s work.

  4. Wow — This is a better tutorial than any I’ve seen on the subject! Bravo to you! I hope you have a massage therapist on retainer.

    And love that Lickety is still loving his life and sleeps. Cherish every day with that sweet one.

    Fun to see the rock in Washington. Darned rock is more traveled than I am, and seeing all the sights!

    Fiona Hill for president! I’d change the constitution for that, although just for her term! Don’t want Vlad making a bid.

  5. This was one of the BEST blogs I have read in a long time.
    I learn stuff I didn’t even know I wanted to know.
    Congrats to you for all your hard work and good sense of what is interesting to read about.
    100 year old house? Wow.
    Keep Lickety and other furries safe and warm during your renovation this winter. I’m sure Top Cat will reward you accordingly, for your efforts for the work .
    Have a neat holiday next week.

  6. Kirra

    What a great trip the rock had! Thank you for providing the map and explanation about the double Washington name (it can be confusing). It’s kind of funny they have the submarine and dinosaurs in the desert, which is not their natural place. But at least it’s interesting!

    I am very impressed with the cling film stair remover trick, definitely advanced YouTube video. All the best for the upcoming painting.
    Who knew sandpaper was that comfortable to sit on!

  7. Casey

    A good week, yes indeed. Too bad that Fiona Hill can’t run for President. She and Marie Yavonovitch are HEROS. Like the first part of your post: they are both gutsier than any of the men who are hiding behind Trump and oh, yes, it’s going to be delicious when they turn on each other.

    Truman and Pippen are gorgeous! But Lickety is the badass who sleeps on sandpaper and eats rocks for breakfast, right?

    Amazing tutorial on removing four layers of paint. the stairs will look beautiful and I hope you’ll show us the finished project. I would have helped, in that I’d be there with a nice cold bottle of pinot grigio during the seven hours it takes for the soy gel to do its magic. Now you make me think I need to “up” my Thanksgiving holiday game for my guests. But I think a good vacuum of the living room will be all that I have the energy for.

  8. That rock is going places! Is it coming back to Scotland at the end of its travels? I’m glad the Geiger Counter didn’t respond more fiercely, LOL!

    This may be a silly question, but why not just paint the steps espresso OVER the existing coats of paint? I love the way that paint remover takes the old paint off in a thick sheet.

  9. Penny Herrington

    Wow you are ambitious to tackle those stairs. I liked the tip about the cling wrap and wish I had known about it the last time I tried paint removal. The colors you chose will be lovely.
    Have you tried making a small square or rectangle from masking tape on your floor for your cats? I read that somewhere and didn’t believe my cat would fall for it. She loved being in that. Cat brains..go figure.
    The rock trip was interesting and I enjoyed all the pictures. Cute dogs.
    I do hope your Thanksgiving is memorable and not too stressful after all your hard work. Are you in charge of appetizers again? My favorite to serve sound like the red neck special but have never failed to please. Saltine cracker spread with cream cheese, a dollop of cocktail sauce and a shrimp that has had a squirt of lemon. Take off the rails.

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