Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Checklist

(Don't Laugh! My family prefers this over homemade)
Plenty of Dishes for the Feast?Check!
Canned Cheese for the Celery?
(Considered a delicacy in our home)Check!
Homemade Pies Ready to Bake?Check!
Cute Festive Dessert Plates?Check!

I'm almost ready for the big day.
But there's one important thing left to do. . .
I want to wish you all
a wonderful Thanksgiving!

for being
a very important part of my life.

I'll see you again next week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words of Advice

My son needs a chair for the desk I'll be painting.
I found this one.
I like it because it's very sturdy and
will hold up to the things that boys do to chairs.
(My boys like to do a balancing act
on only the back legs.)

I spray painted it black, of course,
but I couldn't stop there.
One of the great things about blogging
is that it challenges me to add
one more step to my projects.
I pulled out my silver paint pen
and outlined the chairs details.
I sanded it to give it a head start on the distressing
that it will naturally occur in my son's room.
It still didn't look finished.
That little flat bracing challenged me to do a little more.
Keeping in mind that my son is now twelve
and whatever I do, it will have to last from "tween" years
through, possibly, young adulthood.
I chose to write some words of advice.
Then I softened the writing by sanding it
with a fine grit paper.
I'm pretty pleased with the final look.
I hope my son will like it too!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Took My Breath Away

There's damage here.And a little here.It's missing one of these.But even with it's flaws,
how could I resist it's charming character?When I saw it, it took my breath away.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Time for Recess!

Am I the only adult who loooongs for a recess break?!? I can tell it's time for my recess when, what is usually fun becomes tedious. I love to design and create and paint, but when that seems to feel more like a "have to" than a "want to", I know it's time to change the routine. And that only means one thing to me---thrift and dollar store shopping time. Oh Yeah!!!

I found these tall metal houses at the thrift store
for a dollar a piece.
These sparkly cone trees are from the dollar store.Put them all together and what do you have?A simple little Christmas village
and a happy, rested little me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Painting Novel

Cleaned, Sanded, Wiped Down, & Starting to Prime

Ahhh yes, another piece of furniture for my son's room. This was originally a tv stand, but it will be used for storing bins of toys. It's sturdy and made from oak.

Lately I've had several questions about spray painting furniture. I did a little tutorial a while back, but I thought I'd go more in depth here.

**If you're a painting pro,
you can skip all of this and scroll down
to the photo of the finished project**

The prep work is VERY important to a good paint job. If the piece already has a paint or stain finish you will need to give it a good cleaning. A solution with a degreaser works best, but you can use a good dish soap too. This will take off any build up of stuff like food, hand prints, everyday grime, etc. Be careful not to soak the wood! If the piece needs to have any repairs like gluing or filling in holes or cracks, this is the time to do it.
Next you need to sand the piece. I prefer using a medium grit. You don't need to sand the project until it's bare. You only need to make the existing surface a little rough so that the paint will adhere. Sanding the original finish makes the new paint able to bond to the old. You can use a liquid sander if there's a lot of detail to your pieces. When I use the liquid, I will often go over the piece again with a light sanding in the areas where it will get the most wear.Be sure to wipe everything down with a tack cloth or a dry, clean rag to get off ALL of the dust. If your project has areas that don't need to be painted (like the insides of drawers) you should mask off those areas with newspaper and painter's tape.
If I'm sure that the original finish was a latex or spray paint, I don't use a primer. However, if I've sanded off the finish, or if the finish was a factory finish, then it's important to prime your project. Primer helps the paint adhere well. It also helps avoid any strange reactions that can occur when different paint chemicals mix. Use a quality high adhesive primer, unless you want to distress your piece after it's painted---sanding it to make it look worn. If you prime then sand, you'll uncover the primer instead of the wood and it may not be the look you're after. But if you choose not to prime, then the paint may continue get distressed/chipped with use.

Use light colored primer for light paint colors
and dark primer for dark paint colors.

Now it's time to paint. Shake the can well. Hold the can about ten inches from your project and spray in a steady back and forth motion, slightly overlapping each stroke. I like to think of my hand as an automated arm, holding the spray the same distance across the piece. I also start spraying about an inch to the side of the piece and stop an inch after it. I DO NOT push on the spray continually. You get a much more even spray if you start and stop with each stroke, keeping the can in motion as you spray. Shake the can occasionally between spray strokes.
It's important to spray a LIGHT coat of paint! Don't try to saturate the piece with paint on the first coat because the paint will run. If this occurs, wait for the paint to dry and then lightly sand the run marks. Give the piece a light sanding between each coat to remove imperfections, then wipe off the dust. I give each piece at least two coats of paint, and usually several coats on the areas that will receive the most wear.

I like to use these name brand paints.
They cover well, are durable and they come in a satin finish.

HERE'S MY TIP: Do Not be tempted to use every ounce left in the can on your final coat. I have found that the very bottom of the paint can does not go on as smoothly. It may spritz out or look a little powdery. When dry, the finish can appear blotchy, shiny in some spots and dull in others. You can always finish off the can by using it as a first coat on another project. The last coat should be the smoothest. Sometimes I will use a new can for the final coat---which explains why I buy so many cans of paint. And if you're wondering, I usually use at least two cans on a project but, I've used as many as five cans depending on the original finish and the size of the project. Using several cans is costly, but spray paint is convenient, quick, and it cures faster and to a harder finish than brushing on paint.
Spray paint doesn't add a lot of thickness or moisture to the wood the way brush on paint does, so you don't have to worry about swelling joints or sticking drawers. It's also easy to touch up. If chips occur, just give it a quick, even stroke of spray paint to cover the damage.
I prefer a satin finish on all of my projects. I like the warmth of the sheen better than a flat finish and satin is a little more forgiving than a gloss finish. If you want extra protection for your project, you can spray on a polyurethane or use a wax made for painted surfaces. Both products can be found in the paint aisle.
Finished and waiting for the bedroom to be painted

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I painted another piece to go into my youngest son's room. Of course I found this chest of drawers at the thrift store. I was attracted to it because of those over-sized drawer knobs. But, looks aren't everything! I thought I'd give you a quick 101 on how to buy used furniture.

When I find a piece that looks good I make sure it passes a few other tests.

First, I place one hand on each side of the piece of furniture. I add a little pressure by leaning into it and then I give it a good WIGGLE. This little test tells me how sturdy the piece is. If it wiggles, it's an indication that the areas where the wood is joined together are loose and it will need gluing and possibly nailing---usually more work than I care to do.
Next, I try all of the parts that move. I open and close doors checking to see if they line up straight and if the hinges are in good shape. I slide out drawers, checking to see if they slide easily. I also check the construction of the drawer. A well built drawer has dove tail construction. The edges are cut in a tail shape and fit together like a puzzle.
Vertical dove tail construction is the next best. That's where the drawer side is cut vertically into the tail shape and it is slid into the drawer front.
This is also a good time to see if the piece is made from solid wood, veneer or particle wood covered to look like wood.
I also check the weight of the piece. I like furniture that is heavy, not wimpy and light weight. If the furniture passes these tests, I know that it's worth investing my money.
I LOVE buying used furniture because I can afford quality pieces and with a little work and paint they can be customized to fit my home and family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An After After

Okay, I'm warning you now, in the last little while I have managed to purchase TWO cases of black spray paint, so I will likely be posting a weeks worth of "I spray painted this black" projects. I'm giving you the opportunity now to abandon reading my blog for a week. However, if you choose to stick around, I will try to make things a bit interesting.
Today we're going to start out small.
I love botanical prints. I felt pretty lucky when I found these two at the thrift store. Technically, you are looking at an "after" picture of them. Originally the frames were gold. I like them much better in black. But, the frames are thin and I really like nice wide frames.I found some frames for two dollars a piece. They must have come from a historical building because they all had old photos with the dates. I took the frames apart and painted the frames and the mat boards. When everything was dry, I placed the prints inside the newly painted frames. I like the look of the "after-after" much better.I thought you might enjoy a close up of one of the original photos. It's a picture of a grocery store in 1910 during Thanksgiving. Seeing this, made me very thankful that when I purchase my Thanksgiving turkey this year, it will be wrapped in a protective plastic, not hanging upside-down from a wooden beam.
Yes, one more convenience in life to be grateful for!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A ReRun

I'm trying to get some big projects started since we should have a few days of "spray paint weather." I didn't want to leave you without a post so I thought I'd share a tip that I posted back when my blog wasn't even a month old. I use this tip every time I put together a vignette.

You've heard the decorating tip that when you group objects together you should group in odd numbers because it's more pleasing to the eye. But, do you know the importance of the triangle in design? I read this tip years ago and it has proved to be very helpful. When I put together a vignette and stand back to admire my work, if something looks just a little off, I use the triangle rule. Does my design form a triangle? Does it have the proper height and balance? Usually if I rearrange things, keeping this rule in mind, it makes the difference between "just okay" and "just right!"

So next time your display doesn't quite have the WOW factor that you're looking for, remember the power of the triangle. If you recall those days from high school algebra, you know that all triangles are not created equal. The beauty of this rule is that your design can form an equilateral, isosceles, right(or left) triangle and it works. You can even layer your triangles for more flare. It's all about height and balance.
AAAHHH! Triangle Power!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Simple Setting

I thought I'd make up a simple Thanksgiving table setting with things you may already have in your home. Of course, it's always good to start with a pretty white plate. I love white plates! They are so versatile. Next comes a clear glass plate. These are very inexpensive and look great paired with the white. For a seasonal flair, cut leaf shapes out of cardstock. You can use ready made die cuts, copy one off your computer, or do what I did, and just trace around a leaf. I painted the cardstock leaves with metallic rich caramel spray paint. Once dry, I used a silver permanent marker to write a name on one leaf, and placed it on the napkin. The napkin ring is made from a vine from my yard. I sprayed adhesive on the other leaf shape and stuck it on the bottom of the glass plate. The possibilities for this plate decoration are endless. Cake die cuts could be used for a birthday, hearts for Valentine's, pumpkins for Halloween. Now do you see why clear glass plates are great?I used burlap as a runner/place mat, and slipped a votive into a hollowed out little pumpkin, and the centerpiece is a handmade gratitude tree.

If you want something a little more fancy for your centerpiece, place double-sided tape on candles and then roll them in split peas. I got the idea here.
My tip: use clear tape, or do what I did and roll the candles in glitter to cover the tape and fill in the spaces where the peas didn't stick.
It's just that easy to make
an elegantly simple place setting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Light Touch

I love the look of double lamps. However, one lamp can cost as much as I spend on a week's worth of groceries. To buy a twin lamp would mean my family would be without food for half the month, which isn't a pretty sight when you have growing young men in your house.
The only answer is to hunt for twin lamps at thrift stores. And while I'm hunting for lamps, I keep my eye out for twin lampshades too. If you're a seasoned thrift shopper, you know that when you're looking for something so specific, it takes time and patience. But it can be done! Here's the proof.
Remember to look past the obvious and look at the potential. You know by now that a little spray paint can work wonders, so notice the shape, not the color. Also when buying lamps, it's good to look at the wiring. Lamps can be re-wired if they're old, but it adds to the cost. Fortunately, the blues ones were brand new, with the tags still attached, and the pine ones were next to new.
With a little spray paint they look like this.Add the shades, one set purchased at the thrift store and the other set on clearance, and I have two sets of lamps for about twenty-five dollars.Where did I put them?
One set went in the dining room,
because I moved those lamps to the family room.
After building the new sofa table,
I had enough room for two lamps.
I moved the old sofa table to the stair landing.The other set of lamps will be finding a home soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tip Top Topiary

Welcome to another edition of, "Would you buy it?!?!"

This little topiary stands three feet tall. It only cost two dollars. Isn't it lovely?
Notice the "life-like" flowering vines.
Would you take it home and quickly remove those flowering vines, leaving the pretty little berry vines? Would you give the pot a beautiful new coat and color of spray paint, replace the sad looking moss, then add a seasonal bow?
Would you giggle with glee because,
with a little love,
someone's trash is now your treasure?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sign of the Season

I thought it might be fun to make a little sign of the season, a visual reminder of what we need to be thinking. I started with little manilla tags and then added strips of fall colored scrapbook paper to the bottom. I wanted an aged look, so I took out my craft stain and rubbed it around the edges. (You professional scrapbookers would have probably used a different product.) When I was finished, I didn't really like the look. Luckily, the stain is water based so I gently rubbed a wet towel over the entire tag to even out the stain. Now I had the aged look I was after. You could probably achieve this same look by staining the tags with tea or coffee, if you have those products in your home.
(The left side is the "after" look)
I added some self adhesive scrapbook letters. I couldn't find any in black, so I bought some blue ones and spray painted them before taking them off the page. At this point, I could have used ribbon to string all the tags together to make a cute banner, but I had other plans.
I cut a piece of 6" wide wood and a piece of trim molding to the length I needed.
I painted the wood black and the trim red. Once dry, I did a second coat of the opposite colors. Then I sanded both pieces to reveal the original paint. I glued the trim molding onto the wood and then used painters tape to make a straight edge for placing the tags. I adhered the tags using spray adhesive. For the final touch I nailed furniture tacks into the tag holes.
The finished sign looks like this:
I strung some fall colored ribbon through the remaining tags and hung them onto a metal tree that I bought at the thrift store a few years ago. This will be our Gratitude tree. My family is going to write things that they are thankful for onto the tags hanging on the tree. I plan on adding more tags because I know that we have a lot to be grateful for.If you like the idea of a gratitude tree, but you don't have a metal tree, just cut a pretty twig from your yard and plant it in a pretty pot with some Plaster of Paris or styrofoam. It's a wonderful tradition and a great way to record your family's blessings. And it's fun to tuck this years tags away with the Thanksgiving decorations and bring them out next year to read and add more.
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