Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sage winter advice, random

So I'm painfully aware that I dropped the blogging ball on you. I didn't mean to, it just kind of happened.

It was for mostly happy reasons, though. I've been in a most unusual creative frenzy for most of December and I have gotten quite a few things done around the house (must be the nice weather we've been having). One glorious victory then fueled another project and so on. I promise I will show you when I get my act together.

And then the last week of school my oldest got sick which ate up an unexpected amount of time and then Christmas kind of overtook me. Now I have no more excuses so here I am :)

Actually, one more excuse. My dear husband forgot our camera at the in-laws' over Christmas so there were a few pics on there that I won't be able to show you until we get it back. So this will be a pretty random winter post with advice that you may or may not be interested in. Be forewarned :)

You guys know we live in an older house. Old houses have lousy insulation and such, especially here in the South where we're supposed to just ignore winter because it's so short. I find the cold very hard to ignore even if it's only around for a few months.

During the day I can walk around with layers and layers of clothing and blankets and stay comfortable. At night the comforter keeps me warm. But the transition between clothes and bed can be a nightmare. If I hop into bed already cold it can take me a long time to get the body heat back up. For years my solution has been a hot water bottle to cuddle in bed. It's an old fashioned solution to an age old problem :) And it works! I've even converted my husband to liking it :)

This year as the weather was turning colder I decided to give every family member their own bottle, and to make them cute.

After purchasing the bottles at Walmart (they're hidden in the medicine part of the store packaged in a box. The reason for this is that people apparently use these for unimaginable nasty things which I won't go into here, I'm sure these procedures bring some relief for those who need it but I can assure you we use these for nothing but to heat us up in winter time) I also purchased four 1/4 yards of flannel in cute patterns to match the recipient. The flannel pieces were the perfect size for the bottles.

As you can see in the above picture I folded the strip in half right sides together and then folded the top down as well. Then I traced the shape of the bottle and marked the drawstring channel at the bottle neck. I have no pictures of the rest of the process but it involves sowing along all the marked lines, cutting off excess fabric and turning the pouch right side out and using scraps to make a drawstring closure.

And the result.

From left to right; daddy, mommy, daughter, son. Now they're cute and a lot cozier to cuddle up with at night. And easy to remove and wash if need be.

They're also wonderful to put under your feet as you waste time in front of the computer, to use on your belly during that time of the month or whenever you need some extra warmth in your life.

We heat the water on the stove (not quite to boiling, when the bubbles start rising to the surface it's about right) and then fill the bottles to about 2/3 of the way up. Gently squeeze the air out of the bottle and put the stopper in, tighten securely because you don't want half-boiling water all over you. Place in bed and add cold feet = wonderful!

Another thing I have a problem with during winter is keeping my skin hydrated. I know all the commercials make it out to be such a treat to step out of the shower and meticulously slather lotion all over yourself. I find it a complete hassle and a huge mess. It takes forever to put on and by the end of it I'm chilled to the bones. Then the lotion takes forever to be absorbed by the skin so you find yourself feeling oily for a long time afterwards. Needless to say it rarely got done which caused major itch.

When we had kids I discovered the wonders of baby oil and it wasn't long before I decided that what works for baby works perfectly for adults as well (I just use the non-scented variety). If you take baths this will be as easy as adding some baby oil to your water and you're done. I take showers and at the end of my shower I just sprinkle a liberal amount on a shower puff and rub all over. That's it! Since the water is still going I stay warm and by the time I'm toweled off and ready to dress my skin is silky smooth and itch free and stays that way until my next shower. An extra minute in the shower is nothing compared to the hassle free and mess free hydrated skin you get in return.

I know this is a great idea because my husband likes this one too :) Many men find it unmanly to put body lotion on. Adding baby oil to your bath may not qualify as manly either but at least it's quick and painless :) Add a rubber ducky and bubbles for hours of fun! :)

I will do my best to put together a proper post and get back to you with some of my fun projects of the past month. Happy New Year's in the mean time!

Ps. Linking up with
Someday Crafts

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fancy-pants trays

I've been making some trays. Stylish, glossy black trays of the modern school.

 And why would I be making trays when it's so much easier to just go out and buy one or a couple?

Because of this.

 Our tiny kitchen has - like many older homes - the washer and dryer in there, hogging space. If you -  like us - have the cheapo top loading variety you're pretty much out of luck for putting a countertop on there to make the space more functional (and to make the machines just go away. More on the going way part in a later post but the start of a shelf above the machines is part of this plan).

Unless you're handy and have a Lowe's or a Home Depot close by so you can make custom trays :)

This handy girl got a Lowe's employee to cut up a 1/4 plywood sheet (cost me just under $20) into chunks corresponding to the measurement of the washer and dryer tops minus about 1/2 inch on each side for wiggle room (the rest of the sheet was cut up into pieces that I'll be using for other projects). While I was there I also grabbed a few 1x2s for about $2 a piece.

Since I'm not a master woodworker and also kind of short on patience I decided to make the construction as easy (fast) as possible.

 Cut the long sides first and then the short sides to fit in between the long ones.

 No mitered corners here, figured it wouldn't really matter and this way it's faster and easier.

The markings on the bottom are made about 1/2 inch in from the edge to correspond to the middle of the 1x2s. Pre-drilled all my holes and assembled it all with screws and some wood glue here and there. Here and there only because I forgot to apply it everywhere :)

If you have more patience than I do here's where you should fill all the little imperfections with either wood filler or caulk. I did minimal prep by only sanding off the rough spots and then jumping right into painting. Two coats of a black house paint I had on hand. Since I didn't prime it almost looked like a black stain when it was dry because the wood soaked it all up. Pretty cool look. However, I needed these to be wipeable when done so I coated them in polycrylic. And added the cabinet pulls found at Walmart for about $3 a pair. Oh, and the felt furniture paws underneath so as to not scratch the machines.

And voili-daddily-da! 

Sure, you see the imperfections when the light shines on them just right. Where they're situated not much light will hit at this angle, though :) It's all about faking perfection. What people don't see and don't know about won't hurt them (this goes only for decorating, pretty much everywhere else in life this philosophy will mess you up, ok? Just making that clear :)).

 These turned out quite sturdy, I'm happy to report. Since they're big I just have to be careful not to overload them or I might not be able to carry it all. I'm positive the trays would hold up but I'm not sure I would :)

Now I have a light duty "countertop" with an elegant look. This formerly useless space has turned into usable space, either for decorative or practical purposes. They clean up easily. In fact, I can just pick them up and empty any debris into the trash or outside. Not to mention I can use them as trays in other places of our home, if needed.

And the best part? When I need to do laundry they stack easily one ontop of the other to give me easy access to the top loading washer, and whatever I might have sitting in the tray easily travels with it!

Now I'll just keep working on making the machines "go away". I have a plan but I'm not telling yet :) I'll keep you posted as I make progress as usual so stay tuned!

Ps. Linking up with
Someday Crafts
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Faux moss skeleton key

Don't you just love skeleton keys and the old fashioned times they represent? How about moss and the lush courtyard gardens where it might grow? I do and so why not combine the two, right? :) Cheaply and cool-ly, of course.

And this is the story of how I got myself into a very time consuming project yet again. 

I found a pic of a skeleton key design that I liked and blew it up using PosteRazor (how is described a little more detailed in this post). Then I copied it over to foam core board twice, cut out with a sharp knife (this step is a pain, takes forever so be forewarned) and sandwiched the two foam core copies ontop of each other with the help of hot glue. For dimension.

Looked like this on the wall.

Although I loved the white against the brown wall the foam board in itself isn't all that attractive. I wanted a moss look with lots of texture without the hassle of dealing with the real thing.

So, using felt instead of paper I followed the same technique as I used in this post. I actually don't like the look of felt, it looks cheap to me. But when I can only see the textural edges of the fabric I actually like it fine. I couldn't find the exact moss color I was looking for and had to settle for kelly green. Still looks mossy, just a little darker than I had imagined it.

I made hundreds of little "flowers" and attached them to the foam board with hot glue. I wanted this to look like one uniform surface so the flowers got scrunched really close together, thus causing myself lots more work. Days later I was finally done. All in all I ended up using about 1 and 1/8 of a yard of fabric so not bad on the cost.

I added an oversize vintage-looking tag made out of a cereal box and twine, the key looked a little "empty" without anything at all.

The after parade.

And where it currently lives in the darkest corner of our dining room (next to the granny lanterns :)). I feel the need to come up with some white or at least light colored backdrop for the key so it can contrast better with the background. I have an idea I want to try so I'll show you when I can get to it. When the lanterns are up and running it should also be a lot brighter in this corner.

I think this could look absolutely adorable as a wreath substitute on a door or layered over a mirror, especially hung with a colorful ribbon. Just be warned that it will take you forever to make one :) I went the neutral route with my key since there will be a lot going on in this room when I'm finished. But if I feel like it's still too dark and drab in this corner I might try the ribbon idea down the road

I'm really happy with the result and I just love all the yummy texture it brings. Now if I could only get the lighting situation in this room figured out I'd be even happier.

Ps. Linking up with
Someday Crafts
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Moroccan/Granny lanterns

Our dining room is a luscious brown, but not well lit enough. So in a dark corner I had made up my mind to have a few lanterns shining a light on things. I wanted them to have a Moroccan twist of some sort. You know how I am :)

This is what I started out with.

* Two (only one pictured) large recycled glass jars
* Two (only one pictured) wooden craft finials from Lowe's
* One decorative perforated scrapbook paper from Joann's (bought last year. They didn't have this specific kind when I checked the other day, but they had a few other perforated designs).
* White spray paint
* White lace trim (not pictured)
* Wire and wire hangers for hanging (not pictured)

I had everything but the finials on hand and I bought them at Lowe's for about $3 for the pair.

The first thing I did was figure out how much paper I wanted on each lantern. I only had one 12x12 inch decorative paper and there wasn't enough to fully cover both jars. With a little trial and error I came up with a design that worked for me. The paper wasn't long enough to wrap around the jar in one piece so I had to piece things together a bit. Above is one of those places where I had to join two pieces.

Next I glued the paper to the jar with Mod Podge and covered the paper with a generous coat of podge as well. The glass will be coated with podge too and will give a frosted effect when dry. You can certainly use a spray adhesive instead if you don't want the frosted look but I wanted my paper to be as protected as possible. As you can see above the join in the paper isn't that visible.

I have no idea what the official name is for this device but I call it a candle elevator. I made it from a piece of wire hanger and looped the bottom around a baby jar lid. You stick your tea light on here, light it, and then you can safely lower your light into your lantern. Make sure the lid fits through your jar opening before going through the trouble of making one :) I only have one of these because I made it last year when I started this project and I only had one jar at the time.

If you like this version well enough you can stop here and save yourself some time and money. This could probably work really well for a budget wedding center piece. Or just another wintry lantern.

Since I had planned on having my lanterns hang from the ceiling I wanted to add finials on the bottom to hopefully look more exotic. The finials were spray painted white and glued to the bottom of each jar with E6000.

I messed things up a bit by putting them in what I thought was a safe place to dry. On a shelf above the stove where the kids can't get to them and my husband would be unlikely to knock them over. But the husband was cooking himself a pizza in the oven and when I came to check on the lanterns after a while I noticed to my horror that the finials had developed warts all over from the heat of the oven. I guess some chemical thing from the sap or moisture in the wood and not yet dry paint? I don't know but I flattened the warts as best I could. If you look closely in the after pics you can see them. They're not that noticeable in person so I think I'll leave them as is.

This is what they looked like after drying overnight.  One has less "clothes" on than the other as you can see. I also made some hangers from wire wrapped around the neck of the jar and hung them on wire hanger s-hooks from a chain from the ceiling.

I kept staring at them and could not bring myself to liking what I saw. They didn't look Moroccan and it was clearly visible that they were jars with a finial glued to them. I remembered that I had some lace trim in my stash that might work.

Some snipping and E6000 glue later.

Aaah, much better! So they may still not look Moroccan, more like something Granny would have. In a pinch maybe the granny would be a Moroccan granny :) But they strike me as kind of vintage looking and certainly unusual enough. And at first glance you may not notice that they're made out of jars.

The idea is for these to be wired (when I can get to it) and cast swirly patterns on the wall and lots of light up towards the ceiling. For now they're powered by one lonely tea candle.

A variation on these lanterns could be using lace fabric instead of paper and I personally think several rows of lace trim or eyelet trim would be adorable and yield a more froufrou and feminine end result. I'm happy with my only slightly feminine granny style, though :) (Pretty please, make it a Moroccan granny :)).

Details of the two lanterns.

See the warts above? Mmm, not pretty. But a lot less visible in person, thankfully.

And some afters.

Now I just have to wire them and cover said wire with lush cream colored cord covers. Why do I have a feeling it's going to be a while before I can get to it?

That's the one major drawback to decorating on a shoestring - it takes Grr. In the mean time I'll be over here perfecting my patience :) As granny-like as I can be. Minus the knitting. I don't knit.

Happy weekend everyone!

Ps. Linking up with
Blue Cricket Design 
Domestically Speaking 
Someday Crafts

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Morocco meets beach

Living in an older house we had this nostalgic little nook in our tiny little hallway that the people in previous times used to keep the family phone in. I guess it was supposed to be centrally placed and all.

It didn't make sense to us to have any of our phones here, though, so we haven't really used it for anything. That little shelf underneath has held our phone books but that's about it. I liked this little nook but being white on white it was just kind of blah and a pass through. And the arch was too low to really house anything larger here. Being in the center of the house with no direct light no plants would survive here. Actually, lucky bamboo might have worked now that I think about it. But I went another route.

I found this little silver colored shell at the thrift store and had an idea.

What if I reshaped the nook's arch into a classic Moroccan silhouette, painted the nook jet black, spray painted the shell white, hand painted black stripes on it and gave it a home in said nook?

The edges look sloppy, I know. I could afford to cheat because these walls will be re-painted eventually.

The nook is now a real destination with lots of presence. An art installation of sorts. Classic and exotic in one. The shell and the arch marries our kids' room with it's beachy/underwater theme (the kid's room is just to the left of this nook) with the rest of the the house that leans Moroccan/Indian in style.

This little hallway (also seen here) is slowly being turned into a floor to ceiling ancestry gallery (my husband is into genealogy) and will eventually be painted with horizontal stripes in off white and a light beige. The impact of this black nook combined with future plans to paint the light fixture in here black will create a nice pop against the mellow background.

It looks great in my head and I can't wait to see it fully materialized :) Anybody want to come by and help me paint all these rooms I haven't gotten to yet? :)

Ps. Linking up with
Someday Crafts
Domestically Speaking 

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Foiled and shoepolished secretary

One of my bigger projects of late got done during my blogging hiatus. It was a pain to do but I like the results (even though our bedroom is looking more and more like a 17 year old girl's hangout with all the pinks. It should be temporary since lots of bright oranges and reds will be going in here as well as some blacks and whites to tone things down a bit. It's all a work in progress and hopefully we'll all like it a lot when it's done).

Blurry before


 This is what the secretary has looked like for quite a while, I've been using it as a bedside table. It's not a true before because when I got it it had no feet and the knob was transparent red with beans in it (?). The secretary was a gift from my parents-in-law (intended for the kids but stolen by me since I had a better plan for the kids' room - remember the desk from a few weeks back?). My husband carved his name into the desk surface as a kid, that's how far back it goes.

The feet are post finials from the fence section of Home Depot, they were just a few dollars each. I believe the pull is from Hobby Lobby but don't take my word for it.

I've wanted to redo this piece of furniture forever. I wanted some silver in here to be reminiscent of Indian silver furniture but of course it had to be done on the cheap. I had toyed with the idea of using tin foil even before I saw Vintage Revival's night stand last year but with her amazing results I knew I had to do it. It just takes me an insane amount of time to get around to doing something this time consuming :)

 The main supplies were cheapity-cheapo tin foil from the Dollar tree (can you believe one roll was enough to cover the whole thing?), a black shoe polish which I've had forever but I think it came from the Dollar tree as well. Oh, and that frame came from the Dollar tree too :) I guess the secret of where I shop is out... But the Mod Podge is from the craft store at least.

I got a couple of those frames sometime last year solely because of the plastic scrolly ornaments on it. I popped them off the frame and filled them with wood filler to make them a little sturdier. They were pretty sturdy already but furniture get knocked around quite a bit and I didn't want them to crack somewhere down the road.

 You can see that the inside of the secretary was painted green. Green is my favorite color but this shade didn't sit well with me for some reason. Instead the insides got painted a hot pink, more on this further down.

 The first part of the refinishing process was gluing the ornaments on with E6000. (Actually, I painted the inside a hot pink first but you'll see pics of that further down). Then came the foiling.

As mentioned before it was a pain to put on. Mostly because I'm impatient and can't wait for the podge to dry. But I also tried to use as big pieces of foil as possible to speed up the application and it took some careful eyeing to place it all even with edges and corners and whatnot. It's a very forgiving material to work with though, especially since I wanted this secretary to look old and worn and therefore not especially worried about perfection. I wanted the look of something you'd have inherited from some great-great-grandfather but that had also spent some time in your father's workshop with all the abuse that entails.

Mandi at Vintage Revival scrunched her foil up before applying but I tried to keep mine as flat as possible. Since I was working with the thinnest cheapest kind of foil it naturally crinkled here and there, lending the surface a weathered imperfect look. For curved parts, like the legs and the ornaments, I used smaller torn-off pieces of foil and molded them around the shapes as best I could.

The general process I used started with slathering Mod podge over the area I was working on, then applying the foil and smoothing it out with hands and a plastic card. If any excess podge was oozing out I wiped it up with baby wipes right away. And when it was dry I burnished the surface with some hard plastic to make it smoother and less reminiscent of tin foil.

The peeling foil in the above pic is due to my impatience. I originally had planned to sand the foil to further age the look but since I started sanding before it was all dry it didn't work so well. I abandoned the sanding idea for the hope of finishing faster instead. I left the peeling foil thinking it would still look OK once I was done. (With two coats of polycrylic on top it's not going anywhere).

 Plenty of imperfections here.

Welcome to the future where everything is chrome :) This is after the foil is on and it's admittedly pretty bright at this point. This is where the black shoe polish enters the stage.

This is the polish I use to age most of my projects. It was only $1 and I've had it forever as I mentioned before. Very easy to work with.

Douse a section, let dry for a few seconds and wipe and/or dab it off to your liking with a rag or paper towel. If you took too much off you just add some more and if the polish is on too thick it comes off easily with a baby wipe or a moist paper towel.

Your hands will look like you've been moonlighting as a car mechanic :) Luckily this washes off with only soap and water.

And when you're done it leaves a nicely aged finish. The feet haven't been polished yet in the above pic but I did them too. Not too bad, huh?

I should mention that I sealed the whole thing with a few coats of polycrylic. The shoe polish will rub off if it's not sealed and I wanted maximum durability for all that work I put into it. 

I neglected to get any pics of the painting of the inside of the secretary but it was just a quick sand-down followed by a few coats of hot pink craft paint and finished off with a couple of coats of polycrylic. And voila!

 Magazine collection halved, but still not pretty to look at. The walls will be a light grayish purple and the bed will be black.

A tension curtain rod and a curtain panel hides the storage. Since I'm not sure if this particular curtain panel stays I decided not to chop it off but just tuck the excess under the secretary for now.

The painted inside. Very hot pink. Remember the oranges and reds that are going to balance things out in this room. And hopefully turn the whole thing into a colorful exotic space :)

And the ornamented front with the semi-old pull.

So much work but I'm very happy with it. It looks kind of old stainless steel in person. My plan was to refinish the husband's bedside table the same way to unify the space. But I'm dragging my feet about it now that I know firsthand just how much work it's going to be.

Do you like the look and should I do the husband's table as well? I value your crafty input. Disclaimer wise I have to mention that I can't promise to follow your advice, though :)

I hope you'll have a wonderful weekend!

Ps. Linking up with
Someday Crafts

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