an ounce of prevention.

Today’s piece is another one that I got from my friend Annie.  When she and her husband moved back to Minnesota recently, they had some excess furniture including this linen press dresser.

As you may be able to tell from that photo, this piece was subjected to a poor paint job.  It was drippy in spots, and lumpy in others, but worst of all it was a bleeder.  Over time either the previous dark stain or tannins in the wood have bled through the white paint causing all of that yellowing that you see.

So this piece required a bit of extra work in the prep phase.  I started out by stripping the two front legs using CitriStrip.  The paint job on them was particularly bad, peeling in spots, really thick in some spots, and barely covering in others.  I felt like the best option was to strip it off entirely.  Plus, they are such pretty turned legs I thought it would be fun to go with the bare leg look.

After stripping the paint, I sanded them well and then finished them with Dixie Belle’s brown wax.

Next up, I did the same with the inner drawers.

Stripped, cleaned, sanded, waxed in brown.

I cleaned up the insides of the drawers while I was at it.  I sanded them lightly, then gave them a coat of Dixie Belle’s Big Mama’s Butta in the Orange Grove scent.  Now they look great, plus they smell nice and citrusy.

For the outer shell, I prepped by sanding vigorously first with 120 grit sandpaper and my orbital sander, and then following that up with 220 grit.  My goal wasn’t to remove all of the paint, but to smooth it out.  I didn’t get it perfect, but I was going for ‘good enough’.  After cleaning away all of the dust, I gave the piece a coat of Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S.

As it says right there in the name, it stops bleed thru.  I prefer using the clear version (it also comes in white), especially when using a dark paint color.  You may think that you don’t need a stain blocker if you’re using a dark paint, but that’s not really true.  Dark paint may help disguise the look of bleed thru, but it will still be there.  It can show up as a slight variation in the color, or sometimes the sheen, that you only see at certain angles.  Still, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Which brings me the paint color I chose for this one, Dixie Belle’s Collard Greens.

I love this dark gray green.  It looks different depending on the light, sometimes looking more green, other times looking more gray.  It was just what I wanted as a background for the I.O.D. Midnight Garden transfer.  I’d ordered this transfer on a whim a while back and it ended up being the perfect width for this linen press.

I opted not to put the existing hardware back on this dresser.  I didn’t love it, and I didn’t love the placement of the knobs with those on the top drawer not aligned with those on the bottom drawer.  I had filled all of the holes with Dixie Belle’s Mud before I painted, so once the paint was dry and the transfer was applied to that lower drawer, I measured and drilled new holes for some simple wooden knobs that I had in my stash.

I definitely prefer this more aligned arrangement over the original placement of the knobs, how about you?

I used Dixie Belle’s Easy Peasy spray wax to topcoat the Collard Greens and transfer.

I staged this one simply with some of my favorites; an old family photo, my brass bird cage, an ironstone pitcher and a Bakelite clock.

I like to think I improved this one a tad, what do you think?

This linen press dresser is for sale.  Be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page if interested in more details.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the B.O.S.S., paint, Big Mama’s Butta, brown wax and Easy Peasy spray wax used on this piece.

fall bulb planting.

It seems as though my Sunday morning garden posts aren’t terribly popular so far, so I’ve decided to re-evaluate.  I’m guessing that many of you spend time with family and friends on Sunday’s, rather than reading blogs.  In addition, I’m finding it a little challenging to pull together four blog posts every week.  It’s really cutting into my actual gardening and/or painting time!

I’m not ready to give up garden posts entirely though, even though gardening season is going to be wrapping up here soon.  So I may throw in a few here and there on a weekday rather than waiting until Sunday.

If any of you want to provide feedback on that, feel free to leave me a comment.

That bring me to today’s post, where I want to share a huge q tip on fall bulb planting!

Over the past five years or so, we’ve developed a bit of a deer problem in our garden.  They like to come and munch on my tulips as they come up in the spring.  Add to that how stressed and busy I was during my last several years of working a day job, and you might understand why I’d pretty much given up on bulb planting.

But this past spring a bunch of tulips came up in my garden that I hadn’t seen in years.

I’d forgotten how fabulous it is to see these early flowers in the garden after a long winter.

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I decided to do some more significant fall bulb planting.  Back in July I placed an online order with Longfield Gardens for tulips, daffodils and three varieties of allium, and my order arrived this week!

It was perfect timing because we had some gloriously sunny days, and some much cooler temps at night.

You’ll know it’s a good time to plant tulips when you’ve already had your first light frost (ours was on Tuesday) and your nighttime temperatures are between 40 to 50 degrees. In my zone 4 garden, that’s usually late September to early November.  I have to admit, I may have jumped the gun slightly here.  I probably should have waited another couple of weeks to plant my bulbs.  But it’s so much more pleasant to plant bulbs when it’s 60 degrees and sunny rather than 40 degrees and blustery, right?

I had a lot to plant, so I thought it best to strike while the iron was hot.

At this point you might be wondering, what is the huge q tip?

Today’s q tip; fall bulb planting is SO much easier with a garden auger!

OK, so I don’t actually own a garden auger, but my neighbor nnK got one for Christmas and was generous enough to share it with me.

This post isn’t sponsored, and I am far from being any kind of an expert on power tools.  So I can’t really help you figure out what brand to buy or any of that stuff.

However, I will say that you might be tempted to think you want a smaller auger for planting bulbs.  And sure, if you are someone who puts each bulb in its own hole, each spaced precisely 4″ apart like the directions say, then you might be happy with the smaller auger.

But I used that big honkin’ 6″ one shown above.  I like to plant tulips and daffodils in clumps.  They look so much more natural that way.

Depending on the bulb size (those above are daffodil bulbs that were quite large), I can get 4 to 6 bulbs in each 6″ wide hole made with the bigger auger.

The process is super simple.  Dig the hole to the appropriate depth with the auger (one thing to note, the one I used is quite heavy, so bear that in mind).  Add some bulb tone to the hole …

Plop in your bulbs, pointy side up, then cover them back up.  Water them in well, and you’re done.  Easy peasy.

And hopefully next spring I’ll have lots of lovely tulips and daffodils.

And I won’t have to buy so many to stage my photos!

How about you?  Are you going to be planting any bulbs this fall?  Or have you ever used a garden auger?  Leave a comment and let us know!

the raw wood experiment.

I’ve been admiring the raw wood trend in furniture refinishing for a while now.  I know it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the Scandinavian vibe of raw wood pieces.

However, I haven’t really understood why so many people are resorting to using oven cleaner to strip pieces when they want to achieve this look.  But if you can’t sand (thin veneer, have to work indoors and can’t afford a fancy sanding system, whatever the reason may be) why not just use furniture stripper?

It seems to me that oven cleaner must be harder on the environment, and your own health, than a stripper like CitriStrip.  I did a little google research and according to an article from Martha Stewart, oven cleaners can contain lye, ethylene glycol, and methanol, which can be very toxic.  Yikes!  That does not sound good to me.

Nonetheless, I thought there must be a reason why so many people are turning to oven cleaner instead of a safer stripper like CitriStrip so I decided to put it to the comparison test myself.

I’m starting out with this dresser.

I picked this up at the thrift store last winter.  It ended up being a really poor purchasing decision.  It was way overpriced for its condition, and I neglected to check it out thoroughly enough before pulling the trigger (always open ALL of the drawers).  In the end, my handyman Ken had to re-build the two lower drawers because they didn’t even have bottoms in them!  How did I not notice that??  And if that weren’t enough, he then had to completely take apart and re-glue the back of the piece as well.

Once all of that was done, I stripped one drawer front using CitriStrip and one using oven cleaner.  Here are the results after one pass with each.

I definitely got a better result with CitriStrip.  Clearly it did a much better job of removing the dark stain than the oven cleaner.  What I’ve heard from other furniture refinishers is that it often takes several passes with the oven cleaner to achieve the desired results.  While it’s true that it can sometimes also take two passes with the CitriStrip, that’s often not the case (this piece required just one application).

The method I used with the oven cleaner was to spray it on heavily, wait 30 minutes, scrub the finish with a brush, hose off to rinse.

I’m having trouble figuring out how this is easier than using stripper, especially if you have to do it three times to get the desired result.

Both processes are quite messy.  However, the oven cleaner method pretty much requires you to be outside on a surface that you don’t mind drenching in dirty, stain filled oven cleaner.  Your driveway?  Your lawn?  Your cement patio?  I’m not sure I want to add oven cleaner to any of those areas.

With the Citristrip, I prefer to use it outside as well, but I’m not washing it off with the hose.  I’m scraping it off with a plastic scraper and then wiping it off into a disposable cup.  I have stripped the tops of pieces indoors in winter too (winter is coming!).  I’m just more careful not to fling the stripper around as I’m scraping it off.  CitriStrip in particular does not have any toxic fumes and can be used indoors with adequate ventilation.

Finally, drenching your piece of furniture in water from the rinsing process can create all kinds of problems such as loosened joints, loosened veneer, swelling, and raised grain.

After my experiment with the two drawer fronts, and considering all of the above factors, I decided that stripping furniture with oven cleaner just isn’t for me.  I’ll stick with the CitriStrip.  I gave my extra can of oven cleaner to my neighbor so she can clean her oven.

However, even though it only took one pass with the CitriStrip for this dresser, and I preferred it over the oven cleaner, ultimately this project reminded me how much I dislike stripping entire pieces of furniture regardless of the method.  I don’t mind stripping a nice flat top here or there.  Or maybe even just the drawer fronts (you’ll see that coming up on my next piece of furniture).  But stripping an entire piece is messy and time consuming whether you use stripper or oven cleaner.

So, as much as I like the raw wood look that is so trendy right now, I doubt you’ll be seeing a lot of it from me.

And that brings me back to today’s makeover.  After all of the work it took to repair this dresser, and then to strip it, I was ready to just chuck it on the firepit when I realized that after all of my hard work the wood itself wasn’t the nice, light color I was hoping for.  But I already had so much into this piece, I knew I had to keep going.  I decided that white wax might be a great way to lighten up the color of the wood.  So I ordered up some of Dixie Belle’s white wax and then tested it out on a single drawer front.

Yikes!  Nope.  It was way too white, and it really enhanced the grain, which wasn’t a feature I particularly wanted to enhance on this dresser.  I have used white wax on other stripped wood and really loved the look, but those pieces had much more subtle grain patterns.  It definitely wasn’t the look I was going for.

That brings me to your q tip for today; you can remove furniture wax using mineral spirits. 

In my case I dampened a scrubby pad with mineral spirits and scrubbed off the wax, then followed that up with a soft cloth with more mineral spirits to wipe away any last remaining bits of white wax.  See?  White wax is gone …

And then I went back to the drawing board.  I still didn’t love the look of this raw wood, I wanted it to be lighter.  This would be the perfect opportunity to test out one of the two-part wood bleaching kits that are on the market.

Sure it would.  If I could find one.

I went to Home Depot, Menards & Fleet Farm, they were all sold out.  Of course.  The bleached wood look is so trendy that stores can’t even keep those kits in stock.  I did find one available on Amazon where it was over $50 when you added in shipping (despite having Amazon prime).  There was no way I was spending $50.

So that left the DIY version of lightening the wood using regular old household bleach and the power of the sun.

Mr. Q and I hauled the piece out into the sunniest spot in the yard and I used a brush to coat it in straight up bleach.

Then I left it outside to sunbathe all day.

The dresser certainly seemed lighter after its sunbathing.  I have to say it wasn’t a night and day sort of difference.  I’ve also read that you often have to repeat the bleaching 2 or 3 times to get the desired result as well.

People who do these things clearly have way more patience than I do!  Good gracious.  Three passes with oven cleaner, followed by three sunny days of bleaching??  Not for me.

I decided to move on to the next step, which is neutralizing the bleach by wiping the dresser down with vinegar water (I used about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water).  Once the piece was dry again, I sanded it first with 120 grit, and then again with 220 grit.

The work was still not done!  After vacuuming away the dust and deciding the raw dresser looked pretty good, I still had to seal it.  I did a lot of research on the world-wide web and saw that many people noted that adding a clear coat can darken the wood right back up again (or bring red/orange tones back out).  I also noted some people that thought wax did the same.

However, I’ve found that although the wax darkens the finish as it goes on, it does dry lighter.  So once again I pulled out a drawer to experiment.

As you can see, the side of the drawer on the left with the freshly applied wax is darker than the unwaxed right side.

However, here is the same drawer after about 20 minutes of dry time.

I couldn’t really see a color difference between the waxed and unwaxed halves of the drawer at that point.  Just a side note here, both of those photos are a bit over exposed and lit with my very bright workshop lighting.  I don’t want to mislead you into thinking the wood got that light from one afternoon of bleaching.  It didn’t.

I went ahead and clear waxed the entire dresser.  That left me with the question of the drawer pulls.  I really didn’t want to put the existing pulls back on.  I doubt they were original to the dresser, they are totally the wrong style.  They are also way too dainty for the look I wanted to achieve.

Normally with a dresser like this I would have filled the double holes, painted over the filled holes and drilled new holes for knobs rather than pulls.  Knobs are much more affordable than pulls.  But since that wasn’t an option here (since I didn’t paint this piece), I had to come up with a 3″ pull that wasn’t too terribly expensive because I needed 10 of them.  Once again, the search was on.  I looked all over the place for an affordable option, but in the end I just wanted to get this dresser finished so I splurged on a $4.49 cup pull.  Yep, ouch, adding $45 to my expenses for this piece.

That being said though, I really felt like the hardware was pretty important to the overall final raw wood look of this dresser.  So it was worth the extra $45.  Or at least I hope so.

In the end, I do rather love how it turned out.

However, I will say that this is not a piece for a perfectionist.  It has plenty of dings and gouges, some discoloring in spots that wouldn’t come out, and some funky repairs to the drawers.  But it is fairly solid after Ken basically rebuilt it.  And I would say that it has tons of character and a certain rustic charm.

So tell me, what do you think of the raw wood look?  Are you dying to have your own piece?  Or do you think it would look good in someone else’s home, but just not yours?

I have to admit, it was a bit tongue in cheek to use a photo of my grandmother while staging this piece.  I’m quite sure she would consider this dresser unfinished looking.

But then, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

This raw wood look dresser is for sale, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details on this piece and any others that I currently have listed.

the silky whites.

A long while back I shared a post comparing the various shades of Dixie Belle chalk style white paint, and at the time I promised to do the same with their Silk line of paint (be sure to read to the end, there is a giveaway!).

So, better late than never, here it is!

As a reminder, the Silk All-in-One Mineral paint has a built in primer and top coat.  It’s a one step product, just clean your piece first, then paint and you’re done.  Once caveat, if you’re painting a piece with serious bleed-thru using one of the white Silk paints, I would still prime with B.O.S.S.  The stain blocking abilities of this paint may not be enough for that situation.

There are 4 shades of white in the Silk paint line.  I was surprised by that since the entire line started with only 20 colors total (it now has 30 with the addition of the Desert Collection).  But now that I’ve done a little comparing, I get it.  And really, as a person who is fairly picky about shades of white, I really shouldn’t have been surprised at all that 20% of their first collection of colors were shades of white.

The shades of white in the Silk line are Endless Shore, Oyster, Saltwater and Whitecap.  At first glance it may appear as though there isn’t much difference between these colors.

But side by side, you can certainly see the differences between them.  The Oyster has the tiniest hint of grey in the background.  The Whitecap is the brightest white.  Dixie Belle calls Saltwater an off-white, it is a bit less bright white than the Whitecap, and definitely brighter than Endless Shore.  The Endless Shore is the color that comes closest to my favorite white ever, Drop Cloth, and is a very warm off-white.

I have to confess, I haven’t used much of the Silk whites.  That’s because I really LOVE my Dixie Belle Drop Cloth, so every time I go to paint something white I automatically grab that paint first.  However, there are certain applications where I prefer using a paint with a built in primer and top coat such as painting the insides of a bookshelf or cupboard (or toolbox), or painting pieces that I don’t want to distress.

The only example of an item painted in one of the Silk whites on my blog is this crate that I painted for the swanky swigs earlier this year.  It’s painted in Endless Shore.

Another reason I haven’t really used much of the Silk whites is that I usually like to use this paint with its built in primer and top coat on the insides of things, and that’s where I tend to add a bold color.  Such as the Fiery Sky inside this toolbox …

Or the Mojave inside this washstand.

But I ordered up a couple jars of the Saltwater a while back and I plan to start using it to refresh the paint on various trim throughout our house.  I think this paint is going to be perfect for window trim and baseboards, and the Saltwater is a great match for the white on the trim in our house.  Painting trim feels like it should be a winter project to me.

The Silk paint would also be a great choice for bathroom or kitchen cabinets.  Another winter project I’m considering is painting the insides of our kitchen cabinets.  Although if I do that I may opt for a pretty pop of color.  Or it might even be fun to go dark … hmmm, I’ll have to give that some thought.

But in the meantime, today I’m going to give one of you the chance to try all four of the Dixie Belle Silk All-in-One Mineral paint whites for yourself.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on this blog post to be eligible to win.

Your comment must be left on this blog post, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of one winner for all four paint colors from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, September 30, 2022 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $100, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, October 7, 2022 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

Best of luck to you!

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing their paint that I’m giving away today.

how to minimize weeding.

Welcome back for another Sunday morning in the garden.  Today I thought I’d share one of my secrets for minimizing the amount of weeding necessary in my gardens.  Groundcovers!

Well … groundcover plants I mean.  And it’s probably not really a secret.

I love using groundcover plants along the edges of my perennial borders.  As they mature, they fill in all around the taller plants, and they spill over the edges softening the line between lawn/patio/walkway and garden.  Once they fill in, they don’t leave any room for weeds to grow.  Sure, you’ll get the occasional clover popping up, but it’s super easy to pull those out.

The one shown above is a lamium (or dead-nettles).  I used to have the Pink Pewter variety of this plant and to be honest, I didn’t care for it.  I thought it was rather unattractive with the silvery color of its leaves.  I pulled all of that out one year, and now I just have the Lemon Frost variety.

The clump that gets a little more sun is much more yellow (above) than the clump in the shade (first photo).  I love the pop of brightness this lends to the garden.  And this stuff seems to be super hardy.  In warmer zones than ours it is considered evergreen, but oftentimes as the snow melts away in the spring I’ll find this stuff still looking somewhat green.  However, it is considered deciduous here in zone 4.

I originally purchased just one of these plants, and since then I have divided it multiple times and moved it to about five different spots in my garden.  I’ve also given chunks of it away to friends.  It definitely likes to spread.

It wasn’t until I started putting this post together that I realized just how many groundcover plants I have in my garden, so let’s take a look at some more of them.

First of all, that one above is a sedum or stonecrop.  I’ve had that one forever, so I’m not precisely sure which variety it is, but it’s likely Golden Creeping Sedum.  It has a yellow flower in early summer, but for most of the growing season it is just green.

Stonecrop prefers a full sun location, but it will tolerate some shade.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have very few full sun locations in my garden so my stonecrop is in partial shade and it seems to do fine.

Next up is sweet woodruff.

Sweet woodruff is a shade loving ground cover that spreads by runners.  So yes, it can get invasive.  Mine is planted with hostas which do a good job of holding their own against a ground cover.

This plant also flowers in early summer, and it has a pretty little white flower.

I planted some ajuga (or bugleweed) just two years about and it’s already filling in the area where I put it.

I’m not sure which variety I have, but it gets a spiky blue-ish flower on it in late spring.  You can also get ajuga with pink or white flowers.  This is another one that can be invasive, so it’s a good idea to plant it in an area where you can easily control the spread.  Mine is separated from the lawn by a brick border and so far it doesn’t seem to want to jump over that.

Another ground cover in my garden is English Ivy.

I hadn’t realized that one could grow English Ivy outdoors in our climate until I saw it growing in someone’s garden who was having a garage sale.  I asked her about it, and she kindly offered to dig up a chunk of it for me.  I’ve had it ever since, and that must have been nearly 20 years ago or more.

I love the look of ivy growing over stone walls, it feels so very … well … English.

There are lots of articles out there on the web about how to kill English Ivy, or how to remove it from a brick wall.  In other words, it can be very invasive and it can do damage to masonry.  But here in my zone 4 Minnesota garden, it seems to just barely hang on from year to year.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had it for at least two decades or more and it hasn’t really even filled in the small bed where it’s planted.  I also have to admit that it doesn’t do a great job of weed suppression because it doesn’t fill in enough to cover all of the ground.  So more weeds pop up under this one than the others that I’m mentioning in this post.

I’m going to try a little experiment this winter with some English Ivy growing in a pot.

I don’t think it will survive the winter in a pot, but I’m going to leave it in there and see what happens.

Probably the most invasive of the ground covers in my garden is this variegated vinca.

This is one that I have to beat back on a regular basis.  So if you’re looking for a ground cover that will fill in quickly, cover a large area and not need much care, this one is a good choice for that.

How about you?  Do you have any groundcovers in your garden?  Do you have a favorite that I haven’t mentioned here?  Leave a comment and let us know, and then get out in your garden!

hydrangea wreaths.

A few weeks ago I shared a post about harvesting and drying my Annabelle hydrangeas, but it was still a little early then to cut the paniculatas.  I wanted to wait for them to color up a bit more.

One of the many things I love about this species of hydrangea is that they change color as the season progresses from late summer to early fall.  The Vanilla Strawberry get deeper and deeper pink, and the Little Lime gets a pretty coppery pink mixed with a deeper green color.

The Limelights go from lime green to creamy white to a blush pink.

They were all at a point where I loved the coloring, so I decided to cut a bunch and dry them in preparation for winter arrangements in my window boxes.

I’ll put both of those crates in a dark corner of the carriage house and let them dry until I’m ready to fill my window boxes for the winter.

Even after cutting all of those, I hadn’t really even made a dent in the quantity of flowers on my bushes so I decided to also makes some wreaths with them.  I’ve always wanted to try this, but never had the time when I was a 9 to 5’er.

All I needed was a few wire wreath forms …

and some floral wire.

To prepare the hydrangeas, I first removed all of the leaves (the leaves don’t look quite so pretty when dried).

Then I trimmed up the stems fairly short, leaving just enough to wire onto the frame, but not so much that the stems will stick out.

By the way, that one is a Little Lime.  Aren’t the colors just gorgeous?!  I love that combo of pink and green.  I think it takes me back to all of those preppy Izod shirts I wore back in the early 80’s.

Next it’s simply a matter of wiring the blooms onto the frames.

I hung this round wreath on the potting shed door.

Once I had that one finished I remembered that I had an old dried up square boxwood wreath tucked away in the carriage house lean-to.

I actually rather liked the look of the dried out boxwood for fall.  But I went ahead and removed all of that to get at the square wreath frame.

I decided to try the Limelights on this one.

I have to say, it was a bit more challenging to get the flowers into a square shape.

I ended up trimming off some bulgy bits here and there to get more of a square.

Ultimately I think it worked out.

Although whether or not it still looks square is up for debate.

I plan to let these dry right in place and I’m not entirely sure how well that will work out.  I’ll give you an update in a couple of weeks and let you know.

In the meantime, what do you think?  Have you made your own dried hydrangea wreaths?  Or do you have other plants in your gardens that make a great wreath?  Leave a comment and let us know!

pins and patches.

As I mentioned earlier this summer, both my sister and my niece purchased annual state park passes this year.  I’m not sure how these work in other states, but here in Minnesota an annual state park pass costs $35 and allows you unlimited free entrance into any of the 75 Minnesota state parks for one full year.

So this summer we’ve been trying to visit as many as we can, and my sister and niece are on a quest to collect a pin and a patch from each one.  We’ve pretty much made it to all of the parks that are within an hour or so from the Twin Cities, so last weekend we took a road trip to get to some that are a little further out with our main destination being Itasca State Park.

On the way up north we stopped off at the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.

There isn’t a whole lot to this one, but you can see the boyhood home of the famous aviator who was the first to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic.  The park itself, however, is actually named for his father who was a congressman for Minnesota from 1907 to 1917.

Unfortunately, none of the buildings were open while we were there so Debbie and Kris were super bummed that they couldn’t get their pins and patches.

We made it up to our lovely airbnb cabin on Potato Lake in Park Rapids by dinner time.

  It was a bit rainy, so we grilled some steaks and played some board games inside for the evening.  The next morning we woke up to a beautiful misty sunrise over the lake.

We decided to head to Lake Bemidji State Park on our first full day.

We admired the lake …

And then took a hike on the Bog Trail.

The trail brought us to Big Bog Lake.

We were hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore, like maybe a black bear or a moose, but no such luck.  Debbie & Kris did get their pins and patches at the park office though, so they were happy about that.

After lunch, we headed in to the town of Bemidji.  Stopping off to say hello to Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe, is pretty much a requirement when visiting this area.

We then dropped Mr. Q off at the nearby disc golf course so he could play a round, and while he was doing that we hit the shops.  I’m not gonna lie, the town of Bemidji was a huge disappointment to me.   The shops were mainly full of tacky, cheap souvenirs and the entire area felt a bit sketchy to me.  We quickly decided to get out of there and head back to our cabin for the evening.

On day 2 we headed to Itasca State Park.

For those of you who may not be familiar, Itasca is famous for being the location of the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

It’s pretty much a rite of passage for Minnesota kids to walk across the Mississippi.

These days it feels rather like an Instagram set up.  Those stepping stones are just a little too perfectly spaced to be authentic.  But maybe it was always that way and I just didn’t notice that when I was a kid.

For those who may not quite have the balance required for the stepping stones, there is also a log bridge you can take across.

Although this is the quintessential photo op in Itasca State Park, the park has lots more to offer including the very nicely appointed Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.

I especially enjoyed the historical exhibits including this one with all of its vintage camping gear.

And this exhibit of the original Lady Slipper restaurant ware from the Douglas Lodge.

I got a kick out of the original menu showing such tasty treats as peach and cottage cheese salad, and chicken giblets on toast for only 70 cents.

A dinner that included several courses and half a chicken cost a mere $1.25.  I’m not at all sure I would enjoy cantaloupe a la mode for dessert though, and Maple Pecan ice cream served with Ritz crackers?  Was that a thing?

The lodge was built in 1905, but I’m not sure what year that menu was from.

We didn’t do a ton of hiking in Itasca State Park, but we did hike up to the fire tower.

Once we got there, Mr. Q and I totally chickened out of taking the stairs to the top for the view.  My sister made it up to one platform, but my niece went all the way up.

We also checked out a short trail to see the largest white pine in Minnesota.

Just look at the size of that thing!

I think we timed our visit just right for avoiding the crowds in Itasca State Park.  Kids are back in school, but we aren’t quite at peak fall color just yet.  I bet there is a line up of people to climb up that tower to get a birds eye view of the fall colors when they are at their peak.

There was so much more to see in the park, but by mid-afternoon we decided to head back to spend a little time enjoying the amenities at our cabin such as the canoe and the fire pit.  We went for a lovely paddle on the lake, then made bbq chicken fry pies over the fire for dinner.

All in all we had a lovely time up north.  I totally recommend visiting Itasca State Park, so far it is my favorite of the Minnesota state parks we’ve visited.  How about you?  Do you have a favorite state park where you are?  Leave a comment and let us know.

the linen press.

Whenever I’m considering how to paint a piece of furniture, my go-to for inspiration is usually Pinterest.  If I’ve purchased a empire style antique dresser, I’ll go on Pinterest and search “painted antique empire dresser” and see what comes up.

But it was pretty comical when I started researching “painted linen press” recently because the majority of photos that came up first were all my own pieces staring with this one.

This was one of my early postings here on the blog back in June 2014.  It’s painted in Annie Sloan’s Duck Egg and I applied vintage wallpaper to the insets.

Let me note here that in my own personal lexicon, a ‘linen press’ is any piece of furniture where you open up doors on the outside to reveal inner drawers like the ones shown above.  I believe that pieces like this were initially intended to store linens.

I suspect that not very many people call them by this name and that’s why, when I searched Pinterest for examples of linen presses, photos of my own pieces dominated the screen.

In addition to that wallpapered piece, there were also a few shots of this piece

I painted that one back in 2017.  It’s painted in Homestead House milk paint in a color called Bedford on the outside and has an early prima marketing transfer on the front.

The inside on this one was a little more unique in that it was half shelves and half drawers.

I painted the interior in a custom mix of Fusion’s Liberty Blue and Coal Black.

Pictures of this one from October 2018 came up several times as well.  This one is absolutely one of my all time favorites.

It’s painted in Dixie Belle’s In the Navy on the outside, and Fusion’s Limestone on the drawer fronts followed by the French Ceramics transfer from with prima.

It had a gorgeous wood top that I stripped and then just waxed with Dixie Belle’s brown wax.

Another piece that showed up in the search was this one from April 2018.

This one was a bit of a challenge.  I initially painted it with milk paint that pretty much entirely chipped back off.  So I sanded it down and started over with Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth on the outside, and their Mint Julep on the inside.  I also added my old favorite Seeds transfer from Prima to the front.

This piece from March of 2016 came up as well.

It’s painted in Rachel Ashwell’s short-lived line of chalk paint in a color she called Caribbean Sea.  I added some vintage wallpaper to it as well.

I have to say, all I can think of when looking at the photos of that one is how much I struggled to try and make my shed work as a photo cottage.  It took a lot of photo editing to get those pictures to look even semi-decent.

This piece from September 2014 came up as well.

You know what stands out to me in that photo?  Look how small my Limelight hydrangea was in 2014!  It’s the one on the right side.  It’s about twice that size now.

Anyway, it’s painted in American Paint Company’s mineral/chalk paint in Navajo White.

The inner drawers are painted in Annie Sloan’s Louis Blue.

I guess you could say that I’ve painted a good number of linen presses over the years.  And I’ve used quite a few different brands of paint.  I was really hoping to get inspired by someone else’s linen press makeover on Pinterest though!  There were a handful of other painted versions, but nothing that really jumped out at me.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I am about to start working on another linen press dresser.

But so far I haven’t entirely decided what my plan is.  For now I’m going to get started on the prep work.  I will sand it down and give it a coat of Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S. because if you look closely in that photo above you can see that this piece is a bleeder.  The stain and/or tannins in the wood have bled through the white paint.  I also may (or may not) attempt to strip the paint from the top and the front legs.  I don’t know, we’ll see.  So be sure to stay tuned, I want to get this one finished up before the temps drop too low to paint outside.

In the meantime, tell me, do you call these linen presses?  And which one of my linen press makeovers is your favorite?  Leave a comment and let me know.

the gardens of east isles.

Once again this week I’m bringing you my ‘sunday mornings in the garden’ post from somewhere other than my own gardens.  As I mentioned on Monday, last weekend my sister and I went to the neighborhood garage sales in the East Isles and Lowry Hill neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

This is one of my favorite neighborhood sales simply because the homes are so gorgeous.

These aren’t newer homes, most of them were built between 1885 and 1930.

And they aren’t cookie cutter houses where they all look vaguely the same.

Each one is unique, and there are a number of different styles of architecture represented.

I enjoy looking at the gardens just as much as the houses (well, or possibly more).

I’m betting that many of them are professionally designed (and possibly also professionally maintained).  So it’s a great opportunity to get some fabulous ideas that I can possibly translate into my own garden.

One thing that always jumps out at me in these small gardens is their use of small trees and shrubs.  Right in the middle of that photo above is a gorgeous Japanese maple.  As much as I admire them, I’ve never been brave enough to add a Japanese maple to my garden.  Most of them are hearty in zones 5 to 9, but they have been developing varieties that are more cold tolerant and are rated for our zone 4.  But they are pricey (usually $200 or more), and I am reluctant to spend that much on a tree that needs to be babied to survive here.

I added a Pagoda Dogwood to our shade garden about a month ago in an effort to add more small trees to our space.  We’ll see how that goes first.

I’m also trying to absorb some ideas for upping my game when it comes to small evergreens.

I definitely saw some fabulous specimens, but haven’t had a chance to research what they are yet.

If any of you recognize these varieties, be sure to shout it out in a comment.

There were some great examples of planting you can do in the boulevard (a.k.a. verge, tree-belt, the section between the sidewalk and the street, what do you call it?).  These areas can be especially difficult here in Minnesota because this is where the big banks of snow end up when they plow the streets.

I love the example above with its low-growing ground covers combined with poufy tufts of ornamental grass.

This next one features slightly taller plants.

Isn’t that an interesting combination with shade loving hostas mixed in with sun loving phlox and sedum.  And they all seem to be doing well.

Some of these gardens can definitely give the gardens that I admired in Charleston a run for their money with their wrought iron fences and formal hedging.

I would say that this is the style that most appeals to me, but I don’t have anything formal in my own gardens.  I think a formal garden would be out of place next to our 1904 farmhouse.  But I do love them.

This sort of secret garden look is probably more suited to our house.

This next one is a good example of getting creative with the space you have.

That house sits on a triangular shaped lot that tapers to a point and has a street both in front and behind the house.  They’ve adding hedging to the point and a trio of hydrangea standards that will be stunning when they get a bit bigger (that’s a flag pole in the foreground, fyi).  Since there isn’t really a backyard, they have an area to the side of the house that is enclosed in a privacy fence and looks to have a patio set with an umbrella for outdoor dining.

By the way, it’s not all single family homes in the neighborhood.  Just check out the Claridge.

I so love seeing old apartment buildings like this one that have retained their charm, at least on the outside.

I tried to find some photos of the interiors, and the ones I found online looked totally modern which is a bit of a bummer.

I always feel like a neighborhood sale is an open invitation to wander around these beautiful historic neighborhoods without looking suspicious.  But really, these are public sidewalks and anyone can walk around here and admire the houses and front gardens.  I totally recommend doing something similar where you are if you want to gather some garden inspiration yourself.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this visit to East Isles and Lowry Hill as much as I did.

updating a parlor table.

I shared the parlor table that I picked up at the East Isles sale last weekend on Monday.

I’d painted another six-legged table a few years ago and it turned out quite nice …

so I thought I’d try my hand at giving another one an updated look.

With that table, I stripped and then refinished the top with Homestead House Stain & Finishing Oil in Driftwood.  I don’t often use that product though, simply because it’s oil based.  It takes forever to dry, and it’s pretty smelly.  However, if you’re working outside and you have some time, it does create a lovely finish.

But this time I decided to go for a similar look using a different technique.  Once again, I stripped off the original finish from the top of the table using CitriStrip.  I used Klean Strip After Wash after the stripper to make sure I’d gotten all of the stripper residue off.  Once that was dry, I sanded the top with 220 grit paper to smooth it out.  Then I added just one coat of Varathane’s Sunbleached fast drying stain.

I let that dry for a full 24 hours, and then added a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat over the stain for protection.

First, here’s how the table top looked when I brought it home.

And here is how it looks now.

Um, yeah.  Night and day, right?  I am constantly amazed by how much you can change the look of something with a little stripping, sanding and staining.

I had used Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint to paint the base of that first six-legged table to make it easier to get those six legs covered with paint.

I debated going that direction with today’s table, but have you priced that spray paint lately?!  The last time I looked it was up to $11.48/can at Menards.  I did see it for $9.99/can at Target, but there weren’t many colors available there.  It would likely take most of a can to cover the base of this table.  And you know me, I’m nothing if not cheap.

So instead, I decided to go ahead and paint the base with a brush and paint that I already had on hand.  I just wasn’t sure which color, so I tested out a few ideas.  I painted a swatch of three different Dixie Belle colors onto sections of the base; French Linen, Dried Sage and Gravel Road.  In the end, I decided the Gravel Road looked best with the stained top.

That kind of surprised me a bit.  I really thought I was going to like a lighter color with that light top, but nope.  In the end, the Gravel Road won out.

Once the paint was dry, I sanded lightly to distress and then added a coat of clear wax.

In the 1800’s, a parlor table like this one was meant to be the focal point in the center of one’s parlor.  It would have been surrounded by seating, perhaps a small sofa and several chairs.  It would likely have held the oil lamp, and in the evening the family would have gathered around to read or sew.  Since they didn’t have electric lamps, the lamp didn’t need to be on a table near an outlet on the wall, so it could be in the center of the room.

These days having a parlor table in the middle of your room would feel a bit odd I think.  However, this table would make an awesome alternative nightstand.  It would also work really well in a large foyer or hallway.

And hey, notice anything different about the carriage house in the background of that photo?

Well, I’m sure no one would notice but us, but we have a new roof!

While I was working on refinishing the parlor table, there was massive chaos all around me as a team of brave souls clambered around on our roofs.  They worked two 12 hour days to get it all done.  I feel a bit lame that all I accomplished was one small table makeover in the same timeframe.

It feels great to have a nice, new roof to take us into the fall and winter.

Anyway, back to the table.

What do you think?  Did I meet my goal of updating an antique parlor table?

This table is for sale so be sure to check my ‘available for local sale‘ page if interested.

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the Gravel Road paint used on this project.