suited to suitcases.

I was searching for something on my blog the other day and as I searched thru old posts I noticed a few themes when it came to my smaller, non-furniture, projects.  I was going to write just one post sharing all of those themes, but it started getting really long.  So I decided to make it a series starting today with the first one …

vintage suitcases.

First of all, I want to note here that I only paint the damaged and/or ‘ugly’ suitcases.  None of the suitcases in the photo above have been painted.  And of course, ugly is in the eye of the beholder.  But for me that means the 1950’s Samsonite style luggage like this one.

After painting them, I like to dress them up in a few different ways.

Back in the early years of the blog I was known to hand paint lettering on them.

I have to say, that was definitely one of my favorite suitcases.  It’s painted in Fusion paint in Seaside and Bedford.  You can get more details on the technique I used to add that lettering here.  Hand painting is very time consuming though, and I was never totally satisfied with the results.  We’re always most critical of on our own work, aren’t we?

I also tried adding a ‘chalk board’ to a couple of suitcases, which made the lettering a little bit easier using a chalk pen.

It was a little easier, but still too time consuming for me so I moved on to stenciling.

I have a few stencils that fit perfectly on an average sized suitcase, and stenciling is so much quicker than hand painting.

I even did a Christmas suitcase one year.

This past Christmas I found the perfect stencil for a suitcase, but didn’t actually find any suitcases.  Fingers crossed that I can stock up on some this summer at garage sales and then put that one to use.

Stenciling isn’t always the best choice for all suitcases though.  I purchased a cast off stenciled suitcase at the thrift store that was a good example of what not to do.

Getting a crisp edge to your stencil on a pebbled surface like that one would be pretty much impossible.  I gave this one a makeover using a transfer instead.

Many of the with prima transfers are perfectly suited to suitcases, like this one …

and this one …

If you’re wondering what one does with these suitcases, they are really just intended as decor items.  I shared Nancy’s house here on the blog last summer, and she is the one who purchased the suitcase in the photo above.  She had it out on her covered porch.

And adding a suitcase to my display of dress forms looks pretty good too.

As an added bonus, they can provide storage for items not used all the time.  I keep Christmas ornaments in some of my vintage suitcases,

and craft supplies in others.

By the way, if you’re ever trying to find posts on my blog about a specific subject matter, such as vintage suitcases,  there are a few ways to look.  You can use the search box over on the right hand side by typing in some key words where it says search for stuff here, or you can look at specific categories like “garden”, “house tours” or “travel” under sorted., and if you know approximately the month and year you can look in visit the archives for that time frame (also on the right).  If you’re looking specifically for a furniture makeover, check out the fab furniture (before & after) tab at the top of the page (just under my header photos).  You can find some specific how-to posts by clicking on the how to. tab up there as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at some of my suitcase makeovers.  I spent the entire weekend working in the garden rather than painting anything, so I don’t have much in the way of a new project to share this week.  You may have to bear with me until I get the gardens in order this year.

In the meantime, which suitcase look is your favorite?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

woodpeckers are picky eaters.

The other day my neighbor nnK called to say that she had picked up some trash on the side of the road for me.  Wasn’t that thoughtful?  I bet not everyone has a neighbor who brings them road kill now and then!

LOL, but seriously, she did pick this up off the curb somewhere, and she knew it was right up my alley.

cupboard before

I just recently mentioned here that my preference is working on old, primitive pieces and this one certainly fits that description.

It was definitely in need of some TLC.  The outside was bad enough, but the inside was positively gross.


I thought that upper shelf was just kittywampus on accident, but no, it was purposely installed on an angle like that.  I have absolutely no idea what it was used for.

I wonder if the wild bird food guide that was stuck to the front of the cupboard is a clue?


I just have to say, it looks like pheasants and woodpeckers are picky eaters, while mourning doves and redwing blackbirds will eat just about anything.  Perhaps this cupboard hung on the wall in a nature preserve and there were bird identification guides of some kind on that angled shelf.

Well, regardless of its original use, I knew that angled shelf had to go.  I called my handyman Ken over for a consultation and he advised removing the existing two shelves and replacing them with one simple shelf, and I seconded that motion.  We worked together to remove the existing shelves, and then Ken took the cupboard back to his workshop to add a new shelf.

Next up was cleaning.  As I mentioned, this thing was disgustingly filthy.  Luckily we’d had a patch of warm weather and I was able to hose it down out in the yard.  The first time around I cleaned it with some Dawn dishwashing soap.  That worked fairly well for the dirt, but there was some sort of oily residue on the inside bottom of this cupboard.  In fact, there was originally a piece of cardboard lining that bottom and it was totally saturated with oil (you can see it in the ‘before’ photo above), and that had seeped through and soaked into the wood as well.  Anyway, the Dawn barely touched the oil.  So I brought out my TSP substitute and cleaned those oily spots again.  The cupboard was drying out in the warm sunshine, and I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  Even though initially those oily spots looked clean, the warmth of the sun drew more oil to the surface as it heated up.  I basically repeated this process of cleaning with TSP substitute, letting the sun draw out more oil, and then cleaning again about 4 times.  By the 4th pass I had made pretty good progress, but the oil was definitely not entirely eliminated.  But I had a plan in mind for this.  I turned the cupboard upside down.

Now what was once the bottom is the top.  Next I decided to put Dixie Belle’s B.O.S.S. to the test.  I added two coats to all of the oily areas of the cupboard and then let them dry overnight.  After painting the interior in Dixie Belle’s Gravel Road and the exterior with their Drop Cloth, you can’t see a speck of oil seeping through either.  Here is the top (which again, was once the bottom) …

See any oily spots seeping through?  Nope, I didn’t think so.  Also, FYI, I took these photos about a week after painting so some time has elapsed.

I have to say, I am super impressed by this.  Even so, I am glad I flipped the cupboard so the once oil saturated interior bottom is now the inside top and you can’t even see it unless you stick your head inside the cupboard, or take photos of it from a low angle.

I wanted to retain some of the original patina on the outside of the cupboard, while also cleaning it up.  This is one of my favorite things to do with these old primitive sort of pieces.  To do that I simply added one quick coat of the Drop Cloth.  I wasn’t aiming for full coverage, just a sort of touch up (and some parts of the cupboard were not painted originally, like the back and the inside of the door, so those got a little more paint).  Then I sanded the fresh paint back again, especially in areas that would naturally be more worn like around the latch.

Now it looks deliciously worn, but not gross.

I simply had to keep Frank’s Wild Bird Food Guide as part of the finished cupboard, so I attached it inside the door.

It’s just stapled in place, so the future owner of this cupboard could easily remove it if they don’t want it.

By the way, those clay pots?

Yep, I found the size I needed for my wrought iron plant stand at my local plant nursery, Bachmans.  And I found it a bit ironic that they literally say ‘perfect size’ on the tag.

And conveniently enough, they were already white washed.  All I had to do was add the transfers.  I paid $2.99 each for the pots, and was able to buy just the four I needed.

The bucket I used for staging is a bit of foreshadowing.

I added that same section of the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the front of the cupboard.

I recently stocked up on that transfer after learning that it was retired.  So yes, you’re going to continue to see a lot of that one added to random pieces this year.

The inside was finished with Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat and the outside has a clear wax topcoat.

Here is a side view because I realized that you can’t really get a good feel for the depth of the cupboard from the photos I’ve already shared.

You have a few options with this cupboard.  You could hang it on a wall using a french cleat to support the weight.  Or you could put it on top of a dresser to treat it like a hutch.  You could also add some casters, legs, or feet of some kind to the bottom and have it be a stand alone piece.  I decided not to do any of those things myself so that a potential buyer would have options.

It’s really a good size to use as a bed side table.

But I love the idea of mounting it to the wall in a potting shed and using it to store gardening supplies.

It’s really just a fun ‘container’ of sorts for pretty much anything you’d like to store inside of it.  If nothing else, I feel really good about taking something that was cast off on the side of the road and turning it into a functional item that hopefully someone can get some use out of.

If any of you local readers need a unique storage solution, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page to see the details on this piece.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for providing the all of their products used for restoring this cupboard.

garden inspiration.

I’ve got a few painting projects underway at the moment, but nothing is ready to share here yet so I thought I might just provide you guys with a little garden inspiration this morning.

These days I’m getting the majority of my garden inspiration from a fabulous British gardening show called Gardeners’ World.

gardeners world

I only discovered this show last year when I found it on BritBox, which is a paid channel on Amazon Prime (the show has has been around since 1968, we just haven’t been able to get it here in the U.S.).  Personally I think it’s worth every penny of the $6.99 per month subscription just for this one show (although we do watch a few other shows on BritBox too).  If you really don’t want to subscribe to BritBox, American viewers can potentially find older episodes on YouTube.

I was originally drawn to Gardener’s World because it’s filmed (at least partially) in fairly current time.  In other words, on the show they were dealing with COVID shut downs last summer just like we were.  It felt so relatable, and it really helped me feel like we really were all in this together.  And of course, gardening was one of the few things we could safely do last summer.

And then there is Monty.  He’s just so mesmerizing.  Even Mr. Q is drawn in by his soothing voice and calm demeanor.

And those dogs of his!  How did he get them to be so well behaved?  Are all British dogs so well-mannered?

I’m also fascinated by both the similarities and the differences between our two climates.  Did you know that the U.K. is actually further north than Minnesota?  London is at 51.5074° N, and Minneapolis is at 44.9778° N.  Monty’s garden, Longmeadow, is in Herefordshire at 52.0765° N.  So how is it that they have early spring bulbs blooming in February and we are lucky if ours are blooming by April?

Longmeadow in spring

  It all has to do with moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, I know, but it still boggles my mind when Monty says stuff like “today I’m planting winter cabbage.”  Huh?  Stuff grows over the winter there?  That’s crazy.

Anyway, if I’ve accomplished nothing more than introducing a few of my American readers to this gardening show, I feel like my work here is done.  But what I really want to do in this post is re-visit some of the garden tours I’ve posted here over the years starting with my friend Sue’s garden.

sue's arbor

Sue’s garden features a monochromatic theme of mainly white.  It’s very soothing and peaceful.

sues garden 1

Sue gardens mostly in shade, and I am a big fan of shade gardens.  They tend to be more subtle than gardens in full sun.  Not only that, but it’s also much more pleasant to work in a shady garden rather than a hot, sunny one.  You can see more of Sue’s garden in this post and this post.

Then there is Jackie’s scented garden.


Jackie’s garden is filled with color, and it’s also filled with scent.

She definitely embraces a bit of whimsy in her garden as well.

You can check out more of Jackie’s garden here and here.

Way back in 2014 I shared my neighbor nnK’s water garden.

A water garden is not for the faint of heart.  nnK puts in a fair amount of work maintaining this garden including having to remove all of the fish for the winter and keep them safe in tanks inside the house (I wonder if Monty has to do that? or if fish can survive winter in a very small pond in the U.K.?)

nnks garden 1

You can see my post about nnK’s garden here.

Not only have I shared a few local gardens here on my blog, but I’ve also had the good fortune to visit a few fantastic gardens in my travels.

Venice isn’t usually thought of as the place to find amazing gardens (they don’t actually have a lot of … like … um, ground?), but on our last trip there we asked our tour guide if there were any pretty gardens to be toured and she took us to Fortuny.

Isn’t that thing amazing?  I can’t decide if it’s scary, or beautiful.  I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter it after dark.

Le jardin exotique d’Eze is probably not everyone’s cup of tea with all of the cacti, but you can’t beat the location in Eze, France.

garden 3

The gardens at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland were definitely impressive, in a formal sort of way.

blog dunrobin 3

But if you prefer a more manageable garden, the garden at Pockerly Old Hall at the Beamish in County Durham, England is equally as formal but on a slightly more practical scale.

If I had a magic wand I would wave it and make my backyard look exactly like that.

The Jardin de Saint-Martin in Monaco was a lovely spot.

When money is no object, you can have public gardens that look like that!

I’ll wrap up this post with my own garden, which you can ‘tour’ here.

I like to keep my garden fairly low maintenance, after all I hardly have time for gardening because I’m too busy painting furniture.  I have mostly perennials that require minimal care.  I mulch in the spring, do a little pruning here and there, and that’s about it.  If a plant is high maintenance it doesn’t make the cut.

If you’re really into small scale gardening, give a fairy garden a try.

You don’t need much space, and it’s super easy to move plants around.

My fairy garden is in an old cracked bird bath that no longer held water which allowed it to drain properly for plants (see it in the photo below).  I bury it in a pile of leaves next to the house over the winter to protect the miniature hostas and I’m super bummed to report that we just dug it out last weekend and it had completely cracked in half.  Drat!  I’m still contemplating what to do about that little problem.  Maybe I can repair it well enough to continue using it.

Quite a few of my plants are from garage sales, although recently Jackie told me that there is concern locally about spreading jumping worms by exchanging plants (read more about that here on the U of M extension site).  Be sure to look into that if you are a local gardener.

Funny enough, I think what I most look forward to in gardening season is having a nice backdrop for my outdoor furniture photos.

So thank goodness spring is here.  I think COVID made winter even more isolating than normal this year in Minnesota.  I hope I’ve inspired some of my fellow gardeners with this post.  I can’t wait to get out in the garden, how about you?

the perfect sized pot.

Late last summer I picked up a vintage metal plant stand at a garage sale.  In my opinion, it already had the perfect rusty, chippy finish although I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would think this needs a fresh paint job.  But I work really hard to replicate a layered finish like this, so there was no way I was painting over it.

I didn’t do anything with this last year, I just put it away in the carriage house to be stored for the winter.  I pulled it out recently to get it ready for gardening season.  I cleaned it well with some soapy water and then once it was dry again I gave it a coat of clear sealer to add a little protection.  I used the Rustoleum matte clear spray, but there are several brands out there that make a similar product.

What I needed next were some pots to fit in the holders it had.  I pulled out some of my clay pots to see what size worked best, and it ended up being my Queen Bee Laundry Co pot, which has a 5.5″ diameter.

I love that pot!  It’s perfectly aged, and quite beat up, but that’s what appeals to me.  I added the graphic using the transfer gel method and you can read more about that here.

But I only had one spare pot this size, so I put the pot in a bag to take with me for size comparison and headed to my local Hobby Lobby.  I thought I’d easily find a selection of clay pots to choose from.  As it turned out, Hobby Lobby had a bigger pot, and a smaller pot, but nothing in this exact size.  So then I went to Michaels.  Same story.  Then I went to Home Depot, and that’s when I started to realize that 5.5″ wasn’t a readily available standard size because they didn’t have it either.  Jeesh!  Who would have thought finding the right sized pot was going to be an issue here?

I finally ended up at my local Menards store and they didn’t have the right size either.  But that was when I decided to make do with the next size up, and at only $1.49 each even if they totally didn’t work I was only going to be out around $6.

So I brought them home and gave them a quick makeover.  I whitewashed them with a very watered down Dixie Belle Drop Cloth paint, added a Classic Vintage Label transfer to each one and then protected them with a coat of clear wax.

Now, at this point you are probably wondering how well the transfers (and the paint for that matter) hold up on the clay pots.  As we all know clay pots are porous on purpose.  That’s so that excess moisture can escape through the clay. So, good for your plants, but not so good for something trying to stick to the outside of the pot (like paint, or a transfer).

Luckily I started a little experiment with similar pots last year just so that I could ultimately answer this question.  I planted a house plant in one, and some geraniums in a couple of others to see how well each held up.

Here is the indoor house plant version …

When I water this plant I put it in the sink, add water, wait for it to drain and then put it back on its saucer.  So, it doesn’t typically get wet on the outside of the pot, but the plant is planted directly into the pot and thus water is seeping through the clay behind the transfer.  If you look closely, you can see that there is some bubbling of the transfer as a result.  The paint is holding up quite well.  Frankly, I didn’t expect results this good.  I thought for sure the transfer would be toast after a year of this, but I think it still looks pretty darn good.

I definitely expected worse results with the two outside pots.  I planted the geraniums in them and left them outside all of last summer.  I watered them with the hose, and they weren’t protected from rain either, so they got plenty wet.  Last fall I brought them in to my office to try over-wintering the geraniums (which, I might add, worked quite well in a bright southern facing window).

I was astonished at how well these pots held up even outside.  Obviously they aren’t fresh as the day they were created, but I rather like the look of them with a little age.

Unfortunately, the paint and transfers do little to protect the pot from breaking when you knock it off the table on the very day you plan to take some photos of it for your blog post.

Drat!  But as you can see from what’s left of it, the transfer on the 2nd outside pot also held up well right up until the pot broke.

Anyway, this brings me back to the pots that aren’t quite the right size for my plant stand.  Here’s how the new pots look in the stand.

I really thought I could live with this look, but the closet perfectionist in me is rebelling.

Here is how the proper sized pot fits in the stand.

Darn it anyway!  I was going to ask all of you to weigh in and let me know if you think I can get away with the larger pots, but I am betting you’ll all agree that they are wrong and I need to keep searching for the 5.5″ diameter pots.

I fear it is back to the drawing board on this one.  I think I’m going to tuck this plant stand back away for now and maybe I’ll get lucky and find the correct sized pots at garage sales this summer (I tend to see a lot of clay pots at garage sales).  Wish me luck on that!

it always sneaks up on me.

Somehow gardening season always seems to sneak up on me.  And when I say gardening season, I don’t exactly mean that it’s time to get out in the garden, more that it’s time to get some garden themed merchandise ready to bring into the shop where I sell on consignment, and that happens a tad earlier than actual gardening season.

This year it really feels like it has snuck up on me with temps in the 70’s over the weekend.  That’s not exactly typical for the first weekend of April in Minnesota.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is only early April, there is still plenty of spring left.  We really don’t even plant out our annuals here for six more weeks (unless you’re one of those risk takers who plants early and hopes there isn’t a frost).

Anyway, I took full advantage of the warm weather and I painted outside on Saturday!  It’s amazing how much more I can accomplish in a day when I can spread out multiple projects to work on.  I just don’t have the space for that inside the house.

Some of you may remember that I purchased this pair of old chairs last year …

pair of planter chairs

This was one of those cases where I totally overpaid for something.  I paid $10 each, and these chairs should have been on someone’s burn pile (ie. free).  There are several missing pieces, including the cane seats on both.  Plus by the time I got them home, one of the legs had even broken off!  But I wanted to turn them into planter chairs, so they don’t have to be sturdy enough to sit in, just sturdy enough to hold a plant.  And I loved that empty canvas of space on the chair backs.  So I splurged (OK, it’s maybe a little silly to consider $10 a splurge) on them.

By the way, if you are new to my blog and don’t know what I mean by ‘planter chair’, here is one I painted up last year.

Chairs without seats can usually be found dirt cheap, and they are perfect for holding a large hanging basket of flowering annuals.  Although usually I choose chairs that are in better shape than this pair!

Step one was finding just the right stencil to use on those nice, big backs.  I went through my stash and was once again reminded that a good garden themed stencil is hard to find.  I had nothing.  So I went on Etsy and did some searching.  I ended up ordering two stencils from The Stencil Market on Etsy.  I paid just under $22 total for both of them (including shipping), and the seller shipped them super fast which was awesome because I had them by the weekend and was able to finish up my chairs.

The prep was a little bit more work than usual on these chairs.  First of all, they went over to my handyman Ken’s workshop for some regluing and repair of that broken leg.  Then I sanded them quite a bit more than usual because they had a very dried out, flaking finish on them.  Then I cleaned them using Dixie Belle’s White Lightning Cleaner.  This cleaner is a trisodium phosphate (TSP) product.  TSP is toxic and should be handled with care.  If you want to get some legit info on TSP, you can see what Bob Vila has to say about the pros and cons of using TSP here.  This is why I usually use a TSP substitute cleaner rather than the real thing.  But these chairs were so gross that I thought they warranted breaking out the White Lightning.  If you ever use it, be sure to follow all of the safety precautions on the label.

I went with two different sorts of looks on these chairs.  Let’s start with the neutral, farmhouse-y look.  I painted this one in Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky and then added the Fresh Flowers stencil using Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

I couldn’t fit the entire stencil on the back, but I felt like it didn’t need the words “fresh cut” for this purpose anyway.

I like to use Dixie Belle’s Gator Hide as a finish on my planter chairs to give them a little more protection from the elements.  It definitely has a shinier finish than my usual top coats.

I’ve seen quite a few comments from people that have had some difficulty with it looking streaky over black, so here’s today’s q-tip.  The solution to that is to mix a little bit of your paint color in with the Gator Hide. I did that here and it worked perfectly.  I wasn’t sure if that mix would look streaky over the white lettering though, so I did that area first with clear Gator Hide.

For the second chair I once again decided to go with a brilliant pop of color.

First, a little background.  Remember the dresser I recently painted in Flamingo?  I didn’t mention in that post that I made an attempt to do some color mixing for that piece.  I wanted the color to be a deeper coral.  The Dixie Belle website suggests mixing Flamingo and Peony to create ‘coral’, so I just jumped in with both feet (I should have tested it in a small quantity first) and mixed up about a cup of this color.  The resulting color was quite a bit more pink than I wanted (I suggest adding their Barn Red to Flamingo to make a deeper coral color).  Here’s a quick comparison of the Flamingo straight up (on left) and the Flamingo mixed with Peony (on right).

color comparison

Yep, that’s a lot more pink I think.

Anyway, I ended up just using Flamingo on its own for that dresser, but rather than toss that cup of mixed paint I used it on chair number two.

Yep, that’s definitely a pop of color!

Wouldn’t it be gorgeous with a huge basket of brightly color annuals though?  Or, you could add a basket of white geraniums for a slightly more subtle look.

I used Dixie Belle’s Fluff for the stenciling on this one because I wanted more of a true white as opposed to the creamy white of Drop Cloth.

Isn’t that stencil sweet?  It was perfect for a planter chair.

This chair also got a top coat of clear Gator Hide.

Let’s just chat a minute about durability.  Although I gave these chairs their best shot with that Gator Hide, they were originally manufactured for indoor use.  They will hold up for a couple of seasons, more if you store them inside over the winter and add a fresh coat of clear sealer each spring (you could even just use a spray poly for that) and also more if you use them on a semi-protected porch.  But that being said, they won’t last forever outside.  The glued joints won’t hold up.  But who cares?  They were ready for the scrap heap anyway, so just use them for a couple of years and then toss them when they start falling apart.  That’s what I do anyway 😉

It’s a bit early for baskets of annuals here in Minnesota, so you’re just going to have to use your imagination to envision these chairs with big pots of flowers in them.  But can’t you just see it?

pair of planter chairs

So which one is your favorite?  Are you loving that pop of color?  Or would you prefer the more dignified classic black and white?  My neighbor nnK thinks the pink one will sell more quickly than the black one, but I think it will be the other way around.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

These are both available for sale locally, so if any of you locals could use a planter chair this year check out the details on my available for local sale page.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing their products used for this project.

simple scrapbooking.

Before I move on with today’s post, I want to say congrats to Libby.  I drew her name as the random winner of the pair of Dixie Belle brushes I’m giving away and Mr. Q is heading to the post office today to get that shipped out along with the desert themed giveaway that Debbie Dee won two weeks ago (I’m so sorry Debbie, I’m terrible about getting things in the mail promptly!)

Last Friday I wrote about losing my mojo with furniture painting, and today I thought I’d post about another creative outlet that I lost my mojo for.  I used to be an avid scrapbooker.  I feel like I must have inherited the gene for it from my grandmother, based on the scrapbook she made of their 1953 road trip.

I have almost completely given up scrapbooking, although I do still occasionally create scrapbook alternatives like the recipe box scrapbook of our Adriatic cruise.


I still haven’t finished that project.  I meant to get to it over the winter, but somehow the winter has slipped away from me and here it is spring already!

While I was out visiting my mom last month, she sent another scrapbook home with me (my mom is at that age where she wants to get rid of things).  This is a small scrapbook that I made for her as a memento from a Viking river cruise that we (Mr. Q, my sister, my mom and me) took on the Danube back in 2014.


As I looked through it I was reminded that I kept it fairly simple and uncluttered, so overall it came together pretty quickly.  Plus the 8″ x 8″ size of the pages in this book are easier to fill than those in a larger book.

So I thought that I’d share some tips today on creating a simple scrapbook just in case any of you might be inspired to get out your old scrapbooking supplies this weekend.

My first tip has to do with the photos themselves.  I print my own photos on a relatively inexpensive color printer and I use matte photo paper.  You know me, I’m not a fan of shine, even in my photos.  Printing the photos myself as I go allows me to size them to fit the layout on my page.

By the way, that guy in the photo at the top of the page is making something called kürtöskalács or chimney cake and it was delicious!

I also edit my photos using the same program I use for my blog photos, PicMonkey.  You can make all kinds of adjustments to your photo for color, exposure, etc and you can play around with fun effects (check out what I did with their “miniature” effect in this post), but my favorite thing to do is to add titles right to the photo.


There are lots of fonts to choose from, and you can adjust the color and transparency of the title as well.

Personally I find PicMonkey fairly easy to work with compared to some of the more complicated photo editing software packages like Photo Shop.

I tried to keep the focus on the photos in this book and I chose plain but colorful background paper to bring out the various details.

I didn’t add too much embellishment to most of the pages, but when I did I just layered a few elements.


I know you all are probably noticing that I didn’t do any journaling other than those titles on the photos.  Here’s my thoughts on journaling; it’s more important for scrapbooks that might be handed down to future generations than it is for your own keepsake.  When I look back at these pages I am transported back to the places we visited on this trip.  I remember quite well how rainy it was in Vienna, and the pretty pastel colors on the buildings in Regensburg.

And I definitely don’t need any more journaling to remember how freezing cold it was sailing through the Wachau Valley, even for a hardy Minnesotan like me.  I had on about five layers of clothing, plus two blankets and I was still freezing!

We spent a couple of days in Budapest before our cruise sailed and we hired a private guide for a walking tour which turned out to be amazing.


I have to admit that quote sticker I chose to place beside the photo is a bit tongue in cheek.  We walked, and walked, and walked for a full five hours (it was supposed to be 4, but we just kept on going) on that tour and definitely did not sit down a lot of the time.  My poor mom was totally wiped out.  At one point we offered to send her back to the hotel in a taxi, but she was a real trooper and she hung in until the end.

By the way, if you are ever going to be in Budapest I can’t recommend Orsolya enough.  Our tour was amazing.  You can check out her website here.  At $150 for the entire group for a 4 hour walking tour, I’d say she is still a bargain!

This scrapbook definitely serves it purpose as a memento of a wonderful trip.

Here’s hoping that we’ll all be able to travel like this again soon.  I’d love to take another river cruise in Europe one of these days!  I have to admit, I’m starting to despair that Europe will never open back up for U.S. travelers, but I’m trying to embrace optimism.  Therefore, I predict that one year from now I’ll be writing a blog post all about the trip to Europe that we are planning for Fall of 2022.  Fingers crossed!

If you’d like to see more of my scrapbooking efforts, I did post about the full size book I made about this trip for myself here, and if you’d like more details on our walking tour with Orsolya, you can find a post about that here.

in a sea of white.

Last Friday I posted about my struggles finding pieces to work on these days and based on the comments I received, many of you are feeling the same.  As I mentioned though, I was ultimately able to find this dresser on Facebook Marketplace …

This one was listed at $100, which seemed high to me based on the condition of the mirror frame.  But, it was close to home (and I always take those mirrors off anyway) plus I haven’t been finding much else, so I decided to bite the bullet and set up a time to take a look.

The seller had mentioned in her ad that this piece belonged to her grandmother and she was reluctant to part with it, but it had to go.  So many of us fall victim to ‘family heirloom syndrome‘.  We think we have to keep something, even though it’s not at all our style and we have nowhere to put it.  And I often find that sellers base the price of these items on the sentimental value it has for them rather than the actual condition and/or value of the piece.

After taking a look at the dresser and testing out all of the drawers, I realized that I really couldn’t justify paying $100 for it.  The drawers are a bit on the flimsy side and the bottoms of them had been replaced with old paneling.  The top of the dresser is warped (which you’ll see in a side shot soon) and the original wooden casters were totally worn down …

Those won’t be going back on.

I was fully prepared to just walk away from this purchase, so I said “I’m sorry but I just can’t pay $100 for this dresser.”  The seller then asked “Well, what would you pay?”  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to charge top dollar for it no matter how pretty it might look in the end, the quality just wasn’t there.  So I came in low at $60.  But the seller accepted that, so the dresser came home with me after all.

I really had been thinking I’d play it safe and paint it either white (and add a transfer) or black (and add a stencil).  But for some crazy reason, I ended up deciding that it needed a pop of color to brighten it up so I pulled out Dixie Belle’s Flamingo.


I know, right?  It’s not for the faint of heart.

When I read the comment from Sherry on last Friday’s post, “I get so unnerved bringing a piece into the store and being the only teal or red piece in a sea of white furniture (with a loud “what were you thinking?!resounding in my head)!” I had to laugh because that was exactly how I was feeling about this color choice.

Seriously, what was I thinking?  This piece is definitely going to stand out in a sea of white.

Well, let’s review the nuts and bolts of this makeover.

Of course I removed the damaged mirror harp and tossed it.  I’ll save the mirror and refurbish it separately in some fashion or other.  I also had to remove those worn out wooden casters.  Then I also removed the wood knobs and added them to my stash (as you know, I like using the wooden knobs on signs).  I felt like this color required some pretty glass knobs, sort of like adding jewelry to a party outfit.


Those are the 1 1/2″ antique clear glass knobs from D. Lawless Hardware, in case any of you are wondering.

After prepping the piece with some light sanding and cleaning, I started painting with the Flamingo.  After coat number one I was wondering if I had lost my mind choosing this color.  After coat number two I was reminding myself that this particular color does not cover well at all, I knew that from using it before.  By coat number three I was seriously considering getting out the white paint and starting over.

I decided to sleep on it instead.  The next morning I got up and realized that it was just the sides of the dresser that really needed a 4th coat.  So I added that, and then started sanding the drawer fronts to distress the edges a bit.

I know there are many furniture painters out there that don’t distress their pieces, and probably just as many who don’t like the look of distressing, but I feel like it adds tons of character to an older piece of furniture.

Finally, I added a coat of clear wax and decided that maybe Flamingo wasn’t such a bad choice after all.

full coral dresser

I still had to deal with those drawers with paneling bottoms.  I was hoping I’d have some sort of decorative paper on hand to cover that up.  It feels as though fate much have stepped in because I went through my paper stash and found this …

It was perfect!  I’d forgotten I even had this paper, and luckily I had enough of it for all three drawers.

Not only did I happen to have just the right paper, I also happened to have enough old wooden casters to replace those worn out versions.

Here is that side view showing the warp to the top of the dresser.

side view

It’s not massively warped, but there is a bit of a gap in the middle where the top doesn’t meet the side.  It wasn’t bad enough that it warranted taking the whole top off and trying to flatten it out and reattach it though.

I’ve staged this piece as a buffet.


But this sort of dresser can be so versatile.  You could use it in a nursery as a changing table, you could use it in your home office to hold your office supplies with a printer on top of it, you could use it in a bedroom to holding clothing … or, you could use it as a buffet in your dining room!

Now, about that color.  I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  But I’m hoping that someone out there is searching for just that perfect pop of coral to brighten up their home.  In the end, it’s just paint after all.  I can always re-paint it down the road if it doesn’t sell.  That will just remain to be seen.


It certainly has a totally new look, don’t you think?

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing the paint used on this dresser.  If any of you locals need to add a pop of coral to your home be sure to check out my available for local sale page for more details.


losing my mojo.

Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to say that I really wish I could give some wax brushes to each one of you who left a comment on Monday’s post!  I never suspected that so many of you don’t even have one wax brush, let alone a bunch of them.  I have to say, once you’ve used a brush to apply wax you’ll never go back to using old t-shirts.  It’s just so much easier with a brush (although I do still buff it afterwards with those old t-shirts).  If you haven’t yet left a comment on that post, you have until midnight (U.S. central time) tonight to leave a comment and be in the running to win the pair of Dixie Belle brushes that I am giving away.

OK, moving on.  I have a confession to make.  Lately I feel as though I have really lost my mojo when it comes to painting furniture.

I just haven’t been having any luck at finding pieces to work on.  First of all, it seems like the prices people are asking for their cast off furniture have gone up (have any of you noticed that?) and it doesn’t seem as though the prices I can charge for my pieces have gone up commensurately.  I haven’t been able to find much of anything for less than $100, and that is typically the most I will spend.

Secondly, I’ve been striking out with the online purchases I do set up.  I’d arranged to meet someone at their storage facility to buy a dresser a couple of weeks back and the person never showed.  We waited in the parking lot for 45 minutes, I messaged repeatedly, and nothing.  I finally heard from her three hours later when she messaged to say that she got held up at work.  Really?  And she couldn’t bother sending me a message to let me know?  As you can tell, I’m still bitter about that one.

I found another piece on Craigslist recently and arranged to go pick it up on a Thursday evening, and once again I was ‘ghosted’ by the seller.  Although we’d agreed on Thursday evening, and I’d set that time aside, the seller never got back to me with her address.  I finally heard back from her on Sunday evening, ooops, she’d forgotten about me.

Not quite as annoying, but still somewhat frustrating, in many cases I send an inquiry about a piece of furniture and just never get a reply of any kind.  I assume the items are sold, but I still see the ads listed.

Really though, all of those things just feel like excuses.  The truth of the matter is that I don’t know what direction to take these days.  I know I could paint up some mid-mod pieces and they would likely sell quite quickly.

But the competition for snatching up these pieces has gotten quite fierce, and now the sellers seem to know that they can get more than $50 for them too.  Plus, I’m just not feeling inspired by the mid-mod pieces of late.

I sometimes wonder if I should just play it safe with some more traditional sort of pieces painted in neutral colors, like the sofa table I painted a while back.  It sold quite quickly, so I think this style is a safe bet.

But I’ve never really been drawn to this style, and it doesn’t satisfy my need to feel creative to paint these pieces.

I really love pieces that have that sort of shabby chic vibe.

I’d certainly work on more of these if I could find them.

bed full

What I really love most of all though are the primitive, farmhouse, rustic sort of pieces.

This is the style that I have in my own home, and the look that really speaks to me personally.

But, these pieces generally require more repair work and it’s difficult for my handyman Ken to work on larger pieces in the winter.  It gets so much easier when he can just pop over to my carriage house workshop and let himself in to work on something.  Then I just come home from the day job to find pieces magically repaired.

Hopefully I’ll find more of these primitive sort of pieces this summer.

For those of you who also paint furniture, I’m curious to know, what kind of pieces are you working on these days?  What styles are selling best for you?  Are you still finding good bargains on Craiglist?  Do you choose pieces that inspire you creatively, or do you stick with pieces that you know will sell easily (or maybe you are lucky enough that those two things are one and the same)?  Inquiring minds want to know, leave me a comment!

In the meantime, I did manage to bring home a dresser that I found on Facebook Marketplace last week.

dresser before

I’ll be finishing this one up over the weekend and sharing its makeover with you next week (and I think you might be surprised by my choices on this one!), so be sure to stay tuned.

an embarrassment of riches.

Recently Dixie Belle sent me a few of the new brushes they have come out with. In fact, they sent me three sets of two of them. The first set were prototypes of a sort and they just wanted some feedback on the quality. Then they sent a 2nd set of them … honestly, I’m not quite sure why … maybe they just mistakenly sent them? The third set was the final version of the product, and they have the name of the brush engraved on the side of the handle which is a nice touch.


I’ve worked with both of these brushes now and I found that the Best Dang Brush works beautifully for stenciling.

It’s nice and big, so you can make quick work of it.

I also think the Best Dang Brush would work well for waxing, although I haven’t tried it.  I did try the La Petite brush for waxing, and it worked quite well.

That pointy end is perfect for working the wax into corners.

Both of these new brushes are now available on the Dixie Belle website in case you are in need of a fantastic stenciling or waxing brush.

Receiving these new brushes made me realize that my brush storage system was already at full capacity and I needed a new solution. So I headed off to Hobby Lobby and I came home with these galvanized containers.

They are divided into three sections each (although you can’t see that in the ‘before’ photo) which will help keep my brushes standing upright.

They aren’t terribly exciting to look at, but I liked the size of them and the price was right. They were originally $12.99, but 50% off the day I found them, so I got them for around $6.50 each.

Of course I had to dress them up a bit first, so I added some sections of the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the front of each one.

Someone recently mentioned in a comment that this transfer has been retired.  Such a bummer!  It was so perfect for using on small projects like this.  I guess you should stock up while they last (but leave some for me please)!

I decided to put all of my paint brushes into one container, and my wax brushes in another.

I know some of you must be looking at all of those brushes and thinking ‘jeesh, that’s an embarrassing quantity of brushes!’ and I don’t disagree.

When it comes to paint brushes, I really can use lots of them though.  In the summer when I’m able to paint out in my carriage house workshop I often have multiple projects in different colors going at one time.  I’ll often have half a dozen or more brushes in use simultaneously.  I also like having different brushes for different things.  Sometimes I want an angled brush (to get a clean edge), sometimes a brush with a short handle (to paint the insides of cupboard), sometimes a smaller brush, sometimes an inexpensive chip brush because I know I’m going to wreck it (using it for applying mod podge, I can never get that brush perfectly clean again) and so on.


So yes, I really can use this many paint brushes.

On the other hand, I definitely have too many wax brushes.

Don’t get me wrong, I always apply my wax with a brush and it’s very convenient to have enough wax brushes that I can use each one exclusively for a particular color of wax.  At a minimum it’s good to have one brush for dark wax, one for white wax, and one for clear.

But as you can see, I have far more than that.

Quite honestly, having this many extra wax brushes has led to total laziness on my part.  Rather than wash my wax brushes, I just pull out a new one when I’m ready to wax.  How wasteful is that?  So as soon as I’m done writing this post, I’m going to wash all of my wax brushes so that they are ready to go for my next painting project.  I find the Fusion Brush Soap is perfect for cleaning wax brushes (check out this post for more on keeping your brushes clean).

I always end up feeling a bit guilty when I have ‘too much’ of something.  Excess makes me uncomfortable.

So I’ve decided to give away the extra set of these brushes that I received from Dixie Belle.  I suspect that some of you don’t have a bunch of wax brushes, or possibly don’t have any at all.  For the first couple of years that I was painting furniture I applied my wax with an old t-shirt because I didn’t want to splurge on a good quality wax brush (and FYI, it’s much easier to apply wax with a brush).  I’m hoping this pair of brushes can go to someone who will put them to good use.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on today’s blog post to have your name thrown in the hat 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 a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, March 26, 2021 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 $50, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, April 2, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the items I am giving away.  Good luck!

the great american road trip.

First up, congrats to Debbie Dee!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway from last Friday and I’ll be getting her prize shipped out just as soon as I get it boxed up and send Mr. Q to the post office 😉

In the meantime, in my post about my mom’s patio makeover, I mentioned that she downsized her home at the end of 2020.  As a result, she was clearing out and getting rid of things.

She phoned me one day while she was in the midst of that process and happened to mention that she had thrown away the scrapbook that her mother made of a family road trip they took out west in 1953.  I believe my response was “You did what?!!”

Of all the things she could have thrown out, she chose that scrapbook because ‘it was falling apart.’

Seriously, does my mother not know me at all?  Have I ever been know to shy away from something simply because it was falling apart?  Do I not have a huge stash of the old black and white family photos that no one else wanted, even though we aren’t even sure who the people are in them?

Fortunately, she had literally just thrown it out, so I asked her to please go back out to the garage, dig it back out of the trash can, and save it for me.

In my mind, this scrapbook chronicles not only an amazing piece of family history but also a classic story of the great American road trip.

My mom was a surprise baby that came along a bit late in life for my grandparents.  My grandmother was 42 and my grandpa was 48 when my mom was born.  She had two older siblings but by 1953 they were married and out of the house and she was effectively an only child.

That summer my grandparents loaded up the car and the three of them headed to South Dakota to pick up my grandmother’s brother and his wife, Uncle Knute and Aunt Alma, and then the five of them headed off for adventure at 5 a.m. the next day.

My grandmother documented the entire trip in this scrapbook starting with a map of their route.

There wasn’t an explanation for the two different routes shown, but it was noted that they followed the one shown in purple crayon.  The red crayon route must have been rejected for some reason, or perhaps it was plan B.

It seems that their goal was to not only see America, but also dip into both Canada and Mexico.  It must have been the trip of a lifetime for the adults (I can’t say the same for my mom, she went on to travel the world!).  They drove 7,000 miles and it took 22 days.  They saw snow deeper than their car in the Beartooth Mountains and temperatures of 105 degrees in the Mojave Desert.

But my mom still says that one of the things she remembers the most about this trip was having to sit in the back seat of the car in between Knute and Alma for all of those 7,000 miles.

I was surprised to learn that that between them my grandparents and my great aunt & uncle had relatives spread across the country all the way to California.  Out of 22 nights on the road, they spent 10 of them at the homes of various family members including a night at Aunt Nettie’s house in Long Beach, CA.

I once posted here about Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner.  I’d found a photo of her and her daughter in another old scrapbook and the photo was labeled “Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner and her daughter Flossie”.  It took me a second, but then I realized that made the daughter’s full name Flossie Fleaner.  You can’t help but laugh out loud at that one.

I also had to chuckle over my grandma’s caption for this next rather blurry photo.

Apparently several of her relatives lived in ‘modern homes’.  I suppose in 1953 that house was the height of modernity!

They seem to have hit all of the classic stops for a road trip out west including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Mount Hood, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Redwoods, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and even Las Vegas …

I believe I may have inherited my feelings about Vegas from my grandmother with her comment that it was ‘mostly gambling places & motels’.  She doesn’t sound impressed, does she?

My mom said that Aunt Alma put $3 in a slot machine and my grandma was absolutely scandalized and called it sinful.  Hmmm.  In this case, the apple fell very far from the tree indeed.  I wonder what grandma would think of the fact that her daughter now lives near Vegas and I suspect she puts a little more than $3 into those machines.

For some reason I find it fascinating to think about how different Vegas must have looked in 1953.  Here’s a photo that I found online.

While searching around for that photo, I also learned that the U.S. government was testing atomic bombs in Nevada in 1953.  In some cases the mushrooms clouds could be seen from the strip.  And apparently it became a tourist attraction (check out this quick YouTube video if you don’t believe me).  Can you imagine?

I asked my mom about that and she didn’t remember seeing any mushroom clouds on their trip.

My grandmother kept track of the entire cost of the trip, which added up to a whopping $278.63, which I imagine was a fair amount of money in 1953.

I also thought it was interesting to note that my grandpa had to take an extra week of vacation without pay.  I assume he only got two weeks of vacation per year, and they were gone for three weeks.  I wish they’d noted how much a week’s pay was for him.  My grandpa worked in a bakery, so I don’t think that they were wealthy by any means.  According to the US Census Bureau the average family income in 1953 was around $80 per week.  So if you consider that, this trip, including the lost week of wages, cost about the equivalent of a month’s pay.

I wish I knew more about what inspired my grandparents to make this road trip.  I did a little online research and discovered that the popularity of road trips really took off in the 1950’s due to the rapid growth of ownership of automobiles by American families.  That made me wonder if the car they drove was their first family car, so I asked my mom about that.  Unfortunately she wasn’t really sure, but she does remember her dad taking the bus to work when she was younger so it is possible that they didn’t have a car prior to this time.

I also wonder if this trip is what inspired my mom’s love of travel.  She took us kids on roads trips nearly ever summer when we were young.  We drove to Florida once, and to California multiple times.  Of course, that is what inspired my own love of travel as well.  Speaking of, we just learned that the European cruise we had booked for September has been officially canceled.  This is cancellation number two, we were originally supposed to go in September 2020.  We’ve rebooked once again, now for September 2022.  Let’s hope that the third time will be the charm.  By the time it rolls around it will have been 4 years since our last trip to Europe and that just seems plain old crazy.

So tell me, do any of you have good stories to share about taking the great American road trip?  Or maybe you’ve taken road trips in other parts of the world?  I’d love to hear about your favorite places to visit, or trips taken, in the comments!