Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This post is not about the city of Saigon, which doesn't really even exist anymore, at least not in name. Actually neither does the Saigon Supermarket I'm about to write about. It's now called Total Oriental Foods, but I always refer to it as Saigon much the same way people eschew Ho Chi Minh City.  Total Oriental Foods (TOF) is one of the undiscovered gems of Raleigh. Unlike the other Asian markets in the area, it is Thai owned and has a large concentration of Thai goods with a touch of stuff from other Asian countries thrown in. It is also much smaller than the other Asian markets in town, but is packed floor to ceiling. I like going and just exploring every aisle and usually end up discovering something new each time.

The reason I love TOF is that I can find a lot of Thai items here that I can't anywhere else, including the other Asian markets in Raleigh. Some of the things I regularly buy include sticky rice (of course), holy basil, yard long beans, fish balls, fish sauce, Shark brand sriracha sauce, pad thai sauce, rice noodles, guava, solar dried finger bananas, thai sweet & spicy sauce, coconut milk, preserved radishes, green papayas, and coconut water. They even have some hard to find kitchen accessories like sticky rice baskets & steamers, julienne peelers good for making som tum, and ceramic/wood mortar and pestles.

TOF is located right near the Wal-mart on Falls of the Neuse and New Hope Church Rd. The address is 1629 Ronald Dr. Raleigh 27609. Check it our if you are in Raleigh!

View from the parking lot. Look for the Saigon sign!

Plenty of instant noodles to choose from.


Shrimp Snacks if that's your thing.
  More picture on their own blog page:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Painting an old House

When we set out to paint our 77 year old house last year, we figured we'd probably finish over the memorial day weekend. Here we are over a year later and still at it. Our original intent was to just slap up a new coat of paint over the old. As soon as we started, we weren't really happy with how it looked, but we kept on until we had finished the back and east side. The problem was that there was at least 4 previous coats of paint, and likely even more than that. The oldest layers had the alligator skin look to them and it gave the house an ugly texture. Below you can see the original yellow and what our new blue looked like after a fresh topcoat.
Old Alligator skin Paint.

New blue painted over the old layers.

As you see, that looks like crap. When we started the west side of the house we decided to do things right and remove the previous layers of paint. Certainly not a task for the faint of heart. We began with the steel scrapers that we had been using to remove loose paint. These things are useless, and I recommend you avoid them for serious paint removal. You'll spend more time sharpening the blades then you will removing paint. We switched to carbide bladed scrapers which were much better at holding an edge and removing paint. It was still extremely slow going and it would have taken years to finish at this rate. We did some reading online debated between an infrared paint remover, chemical strippers, and the Paint Shaver Pro. It was probably my affinity for power tools which led us to choose the Paint Shaver. It also seemed to be sort of a wonder tool for flat wood siding, which is what we were dealing with. It is basically an angle grinder modified into a hand planer that also shaves the underside of a siding board. The tool hooks up to a shop-vac to suck up all the paint shavings. I also ran it through an Oneida Dust Deputy to keep the shop-vac filter from clogging. You can see a picture of the setup below.
Paint Shaving setup.

The Paint Shaver isn't cheap (around $600 and hard to find used) but it is worth every penny. Here's what it can do to multiple layers of paint:

It will leave behind a little bit paint and will leave some circular cut marks in the wood depending on the cutting depth (which can be adjusted) and how thick the paint is in a given area. The shaver has a couple other drawbacks as well. First it may not remove everything on boards that are cupped or not flat; this is not a huge problem though. The other is that you will still have a lot of cutting-in to do with your hand scraper. Due to the design of the tool, you can not get tight into the corners or around windows. The pictures below show the side and the front of the house shaved, but not scraped or sanded; you can see the areas that still need to be cut in.

We found that using a heat gun useful for getting the ends of the boards and around widows and doors. All that being said though, removing the bulk of the old paint is quick work with the shaver. The front of the house probably only took me 4-5 hours to shave including having to move a ladder. Shaving and scraping was followed by sanding. All boards were sanded with an orbital sander & 40 grit sandpaper to remove any leftover paint, remove the circular cut marks seen above, and to prep the wood for primer. Here is the front ready for primer:
Primer is followed by caulking. Then we would apply two coats of paint on the trim and finish off with the main color. Everything is painted by hand, and the main color is cut into the trim. Here is a picture of the final painted wood. Notice that unlike the picture above that didn't get scraped, it actually looks like wood under the paint and you can even see the grain.

The front of the house is still only primed, so I have no final picture yet, sorry. Here's a final one showing the finished west side and the partially shaved front.