keep it clean.

A little while back Dixie Belle sent me some of their new silkscreen stencils from their Belles and Whistles line.

I’d never actually tried using a silkscreen stencil before, so I decided to do a little playing around with one this past weekend to see how I liked it.

I pulled out a little wooden bench that my picker found for me and gave it a coat of Dixie Belle’s French Linen, followed by taping off some grain sack style stripes and painting them in Drop Cloth.  Once all of that was dry, I sanded it down with some 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the ridges left by the taped off lines and distress the edges.

Then I pulled out the Fresh Eggs stencil from the Farmhouse set and saw that it was going to fit on my bench perfectly.

Silkscreen stencils are a little different from typical reusable stencils.  First up, they are slightly sticky (on the sticky scale, I’d say they are sort of like a post it note) on the back and they come stuck to a backer sheet.  You’re going to need that backer sheet to store your stencil, so don’t toss it away when you peel it off for the first time.  They are also not rigid like a typical stencil and can be curved around an edge which could be a handy feature.

I peeled the stencil off its backer sheet and applied it to my bench.

A couple of things at this point.  First, you’ll see that I have yellow tape on the edges.  That’s not because I need it to hold the stencil in place, the stickiness has it firmly in place.  I added the tape because I used a large stencil brush and I didn’t want to get any stray paint over the edges of the stencil.

Second, I do kind of wish these weren’t made out of that darkish purple material.  It’s a little difficult to get your placement right because you can’t see through it terribly well.  I wonder if we can convince Dixie Belle to make them in a more transparent color.

Next up I grabbed my Dixie Belle paint in Gravel Road and applied the paint using my stencil brush.  I have to admit, I did that “wrong”.  It wasn’t until after I was done that I realized the little plastic thingie in the package was for applying the paint.

You can simply scrape the paint over the stencil using that bit of plastic (you know, as in ‘silk screening’).  Ooops!  Well, no worries, because my method worked beautifully too.  Clearly these silkscreen stencils are much more forgiving than traditional stencils.

The really great thing about using a silkscreen stencil is that you get a nice crisp result with very little effort.  No need to worry about getting too much paint on your brush and getting a sloppy, splotchy looking result.

So for those of you who struggle to get a crisp, clean edge with traditional stencils, a silkscreen stencil might be just the ticket.

Once the paint was dry, I sanded over the stencil to give it a more blended, faded appearance and then I coated the entire bench with some clear wax.

It seriously couldn’t have been any easier.  Recently someone asked me if the sticky stencil would pull off fresh paint, but I didn’t have any issues with that at all.  I don’t think it’s sticky enough to be a problem.

Now, here’s the kicker.  These silk screen stencils can only be re-used about 8 to 10 times, and then only if you wash the paint out of it after each use.  In other words, you have to keep it clean people.  I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to find that tricky.  I always intend to keep my stencils clean, and I always start out that way.  But two or three uses in I usually slack off.  We’ll see how many uses I can get out of this one before throwing in the towel.

So let’s recap the pros and cons of silkscreen stencils.

Cons:  You have to clean them, and even with dedicated cleaning they are only good for about 8 to 10 uses.  It’s difficult to see through the dark purple stencil material when placing the stencil.

Pros:  It’s much easier to get a crisp, clean result.  They can have a much higher level of detail than traditional stencils.  They don’t need to have those bridges in letters that you have to fill in later.  They are more flexible, so you could stencil around a corner.

I thought it might be fun to give away a couple silkscreen stencils so one of you can give them a try.

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 a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Wednesday, June 30, 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, July 2, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the paint I used on this little bench as well as their silkscreen stencils.

the easy way to paint furniture.

I picked up this chest on chest dresser at a garage sale a little over a week ago.

I’m a big fan of this style.  I’ve done a few others (here, here, here, here, and here).

This one needed just a little bit of work before I got started painting.  Ken had to reglue a foot at the back, and then re-attach the top section to the bottom section.  The seller had taken them apart, but they weren’t meant to come apart.  Once the two sections were put back together, Ken also had to re-attach the trim that went around the spot where the two came together.

Next I removed the knobs and scuff sanded the entire thing.  It was quite scratched up, so I wanted to even out the surface a bit plus promote good adherance of the paint (Dixie Belle recommends scuff sanding to prep for their Silk paint).

Looking at that dark reddish stain color, I decided to make life easier for myself and paint this one a dark color.  Plus, it’s a fairly masculine looking piece, so a dark charcoal grey seemed an appropriate choice.  So I pulled out some of Dixie Belle’s new Silk paint in a color called Black Sands.

I’m going to share a huge q tip with you here.  Don’t be confused into thinking that Black Sands is the black Silk paint.  It’s actually a very dark charcoal grey.  I made the mistake of ordering the Black Sands thinking it was black.  Turns out that the color called Anchor is actually the black.  Hopefully this tip saves a few of you from ordering the wrong color!Besides making painting this one easier with a dark color, I also chose the Silk paint because it doesn’t require a topcoat so it saves the effort of waxing or adding a clear topcoat.  Plus, it has a built in stain blocker, just in case that reddish stain decided to bleed through a bit.  That isn’t usually a problem if you use a dark color, but sometimes that bleed thru can create a shadow through dark paint.

I ended up needing only one coat, plus a few touch ups here and there (spots I missed because I have terrible lighting in my workshop) to cover this dresser.  I also did two coats on the top of the dresser for added durability.

I was able to paint the first coat one evening after work.  The next day I added the 2nd coat to the top and then added the stencil (using Dixie Belle’s Sawmill Gravy) …

This stencil is from Maison de Stencils, although I’ve seen almost an exact match for it available from Wallcutz as well.  With Wallcutz you can order different sizes which is a nice feature, at Maison de Stencils it is available in this one size only.  I filled in the bridges in the letters using a small brush to give it less of a ‘stenciled’ look and more of hand painted look.  If you’re confused about what that means, here’s a little bench I painted where I didn’t fill in the bridges.

See the difference?

Next I sanded the edges to distress a little and added just a quick swipe of clear wax over those sanded edges.  I like to do that so that the freshly sanded edges don’t look quite so raw.

I kept the original wooden knobs because I kinda love the oversized look of them.  They also got a coat of paint, some distressing, a quick swipe of wax and then I popped them back on.

And that was it.  All that was left was taking the photos.  It may have actually taken me longer to take the photos and create this blog post than it took to paint the dresser!

I staged it with some laundry themed items including some pretty monogrammed linens and the enamelware box of vintage clothespins that my friend Sue gave me for my birthday.

The moral to today’s story; if you’re looking for the easiest way to paint a piece of furniture then give the Silk paint a try.

And if you’re local and looking for a new dresser, this one is available.  Check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.

Thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for supplying the Silk paint used for this project.

the crackled box.

Remember the wooden box I found while garage saling a few weeks back?  You can see it here behind the Land O’Lakes recipe box …

The seller said he thought it was part of an old record player or radio cabinet, although he really wasn’t sure.

I thought it would be fun to paint it up so someone could use it to store their treasures, whatever they might be.

I also thought this old box was a great candidate for milk paint.  I haven’t been using as much milk paint these days simply because it can be so unpredictable.  And as you’re about to see, once again it surprised me.

I wanted to do some color layering on this one too.  So I started with painting the entire thing with a base coat of Dixie Belle’s Kudzu inside and out.  Next I mixed up some of Sweet Pickens milk paint in Window Pane and added it to the outside of the box.  When I went back out to my workshop the next day the milk paint was thoroughly crackled.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened.  I mixed the milk paint on the thicker side, so that might be part of it.  I also don’t know what kind of finish was on this box originally.  Sometimes milk paint will crackle when applied over shellac, although I had painted this one with that coat of Kudzu so that shouldn’t have mattered.  Otherwise it usually takes some heat to get this kind of crackling, and it certainly wasn’t hot here when I painted this (it was before the massive heat wave we had last week).  However, if you ever want to end up with a crackle finish using milk paint you can dry it using the high heat on your blow dryer to get this effect on purpose.  Putting your piece out in the hot sun to dry will sometimes cause crackling as well.

Anyway, like I said, milk paint can be unpredictable.  Sometimes it crackles and you’re not sure why.  If you’re using milk paint you will save your sanity if you are prepared to go with the flow.

And the crackling looks pretty cool on this old box, not to mention authentic.

To give the box even more character, I added some sections from the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the front …

and to the top …

Use caution when adding a transfer over chippy, crackled milk paint.  If there is any loose paint, the sticky transfer will pick up the paint rather than the transfer sticking to your piece.  To prevent that you can either sand well, being sure to vacuum away any dust or chips, which is what I did here.  Or you can topcoat the paint with a clear water based sealer like Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat, before applying the transfer.

As you can see in my photos, not much of my undercoat of the Kudzu green shows through.  Instead the milk paint took the Kudzu with it and chipped right down to the wood.  However, I did keep the Kudzu on the interior.

And then I lined it with some October Afternoon scrapbook paper.

So, like I said, milk paint can be unpredictable.  But as long as you are OK with rolling the dice a bit, it’s a fun medium to work with.  If you love the chippy look, it can’t be beat.

How about you?  Are you a fan of the crackled or chippy look?  Or would you rather just stick with chalk paint for a more predictable, smooth finish?

I took this box in to Reclaiming Beautiful, the shop in Stillwater where I sell on consignment, this week.  So if any of you locals are in need of a cool treasure box it might be time for a shopping trip!


a garden rocker.

Do you guys remember the little rocking chair that I picked up at the Goodwill last January?

At the time I said I was going to hang onto it until I could give it a bath with the hose out in the yard because it was filthy.  Well, that day has finally arrived!  Or at least it arrived last weekend.  I scrubbed the chair down using some Dawn dishwashing soap.  I let it dry thoroughly and then re-evaluated the situation.  And you know what?  That chippy original paint was just too good to cover up.

I mean seriously, how hard do we work to create a fake version of this chippy look?

Plus the green color was pretty good.  Especially for a garden chair.

So, in keeping with that theme, I added a garden themed transfer from with prima’s Classic Vintage Labels to the back.

Then I topped the whole thing off with a couple of coats of Dixie Belle’s Flat Clear Coat to seal that chippy paint.

How cute is this rocker just tucked into the garden?  It won’t last forever outside in the elements, but you could probably get a couple of summers out of it.

Or of course you could always choose to keep it on a covered porch or in some other protected location if you wanted it to last longer.

I’m not planning to keep this one, but then again, if no one snatches it up I just might.  It looks awfully sweet there in my garden.

If any of you locals have just the right spot for it, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details!

a sweet, petite desk.

On Saturday my sister and I headed out to a city wide sale that was new to us, Columbia Heights.  It didn’t exactly meet my normal requirements, it wasn’t a neighborhood filled with gorgeous vintage homes and although technically it was a Saturday-only sale, the ad I saw said that many of them would be open starting on Thursday.  Quite a lot of the signs we saw said ‘Thurs – Sat’ as well.

But beggars can’t be choosers, as they say, so we gave it a shot.

Things started out real slow.  After about an hour of struggling to get our bearings on the map (only the major streets had names on the map), I’d made only one purchase so far, a blue Oxford Stoneware pitcher.

You may remember that I had a couple of these blue Oxford Stoneware pitchers last year.

After deciding ‘blue’ wasn’t my thing (I go through these phases), I ended up taking them into the shop and they all sold.

Then last week I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw a lovely floral arrangment in one of these pitchers and immediately regretted not keeping one of them to use as a vase.  So how serendipitous that I just happened to come across one?

And it’s perfect for the last of peonies.  The heat wave we had last week was the very worst timing for the peonies.  They opened, wilted and dried up all within the space of a week.  My pink roses aren’t looking so great either.  I should have watered them, many of the buds just dried up and turned brown.  I had to supplement my arrangement with some verbena and scabiosa.  I do still have my peony buds in the fridge, I’ll probably take them out in the next week or two to see how that experiment fared.

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning and we didn’t have anywhere else that we needed to be, so we hung in there in Columbia Heights and we ended up filling the vehicle (mainly because I purchased a large dresser, but still, it was full).  Here’s my complete haul.

The planter (on left) is a real concrete urn and super heavy.  Those are a rare find so I grabbed it.  At some point in its life someone painted it white and the paint is now peeling.  I’m going to have to see what I can do with that one.  Can I use a paint stripper on concrete?  Do any of you know?

I couldn’t pass up the dresser.

I love chest over chest style dressers, they look great painted.  This one even came apart so that we could easily load it into our still mostly empty SUV.  It’s going to need a little repair work from Ken before I get to painting it though.

I’m going to call the wooden toy truck my find of the day.

Mainly because my sister gave me the great idea of saving it for the holiday season and then putting a Christmas stencil on the side.  That truck bed is open on the top, so one could add an arrangment of greens, or fill it with small wrapped presents.  It’s totally going to be adorable!  So it’s being added to my growing pile of stuff I’m saving to paint up for the Christmas season.

I passed on another pile of old metal toolboxes that were too rich for my blood.  They weren’t quite as expensive as the ones I saw the week before, but still too high for me at $15 and $20 …

And that leaves the little desk.

Isn’t that sweet?  It looked as though someone had thought about re-painting it themselves because the top was already sanded down.  It felt quite sturdy despite its beat-up appearance, so I grabbed it.

And I’ve already given it a new look.

I continued the sanding job that someone had already started, gave it a good clean, and then painted it in one of my old favorites, Homestead House milk paint in Laurentien.  If you’re familiar with the Fusion paint color with the same name, yes, this milk paint is made by the same company and is the same color.  I thought this piece would look amazing in some chippy milk paint, and luck was on my side because it chipped just perfectly.  I even got a little crackle to the finish in some spots, like on the drawer front.

I used Dixie Belle’s Flat Clear Coat to seal this.  It’s a bit more durable than my usual wax, plus the clear coat does a better job of containing any further chipping down the road.

I added one of the Classic Vintage Labels transfers to the back …

And I added a section from the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the drawer front.

I also switched out the wooden knob for a pretty little glass knob.

I don’t always line the drawers of my pieces, but when the drawer is 12″ or less square I like to add a piece of scrapbook paper as liner (the scrapbook paper is 12″ x 12″, so as long as I stay under that measurement it works).

This paper from October Afternoon was perfect with the Laurentien.

This is such an adorable little desk, and it is quite petite at only 21.25″ tall.  As sweet as it is, I don’t have a spot for it.  If any of you locals do, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale page‘ for more details.

sticker shock.

As I’ve mentioned (possibly too many times), the whole COVID thing, followed by the social unrest thing, has totally messed with the neighborhood garage sale scene in the Twin Cities.  In 2020 most of my favorite neighborhood sales were canceled.  I say most, but not all, because the Lowry Hill & East Isles sale was held in September and I picked up a few things there.

I was really hoping that some of my other favorite Minneapolis neighborhood sales would be back this spring, but was disappointed to find that many of them were canceled once again in 2021.

So I was super excited when my picker, Sue, shared some info with me regarding a combined neighborhood sale.  Usually these neighborhoods have their own sales, but this year Nokomis, Standish-Ericsson, Longfellow & Corcoran banded together to have one giant neighborhood sale this past Saturday.

It wasn’t until I was able to download the map at precisely 7 a.m. on Saturday morning (they withhold the map until then, I assume to prevent people from showing up the day before looking to score all of the good stuff) that I saw just how many sales there were … 139 to be precise.  Eureka!

My sister picked me up bright and early and we headed out, armed with the map and lots of bottled water.  You see, even though the prior weekend I had to bring my potted plants inside because we had temps in the 30’s at night, this past Saturday we had a high of 97.

What the what?

Can you say ‘not acclimated yet!’?  I thought 75 was a little on the warm side earlier in the week.  I certainly wasn’t ready for 97.  Well, let’s be honest, I’m never ready for 97.  And some of those Minneapolis alleys just bake in that hot sun.

All of this to say that my sister and I did not hold up well against the heat.  We only managed to last until about 11 a.m.  We made it to a mere fraction of the sales, and this is my slightly pathetic little haul.

Hmmm.  Not exactly noteworthy is it?

Let’s mention the ‘toolbox’ first.

I put that in quotes because it’s actually a tackle box, not a toolbox.

And for that reason I almost walked away from it because I wasn’t sure I wanted to tackle it (sorry, couldn’t resist that terrible pun).  But it was only $3.  How could I pass it by?

Especially since we’d just come from a sale with this toolbox …

Your eyes do not deceive you, that is a $40 price tag!  WTH?  To be fair, I did not open it up to see if it was filled with gold ingots.  There was a second toolbox right next to this one that was priced at $60!!  Perhaps they both were filled with high quality vintage tools of some kind?  I really don’t know.  I was so stunned by the sticker shock that I was afraid to even touch them.

After the shock of those price tags, the $3 on the tackle box at a different sale seemed like a no-brainer, so I grabbed it.

I also picked up this chicken feeder at a fairly decent price.

I’m planning to turn it into a flower planter that can be hung on the wall.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.

I hemmed and hawed about purchasing this pair of chairs.

I thought they might be fun to paint up for Christmas, like the smaller kid sized chairs I’ve done …

I’m totally not sure if they will sell as well as the smaller ones, but it’s worth a shot.  If this idea is a bust, I’m only out $20.

I also picked up a few smaller items …

The scale isn’t in the greatest shape, but I remembered my friend Jackie’s scale in her garden and thought this one could be used in a similar way …

The galvanized containers have already gotten some transfers added to them.

Those are IOD transfers from their Classic Pots set.  Just a quick heads up on these.  These are the new IOD version of these transfers and they are black.  You can still find some of the old versions of these that were marketed by Prima Marketing (called French Pots 3 and 4) and although they are the same design, those old ones are a dark grey color and don’t show up nearly as well on galvanized metal, FYI.

As you can see, the black ones looks great on galvanized metal.  In addition, they were actually quite easy to apply over that ribbed surface as well.  I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but it was no problem at all.

These would be quite fabulous with some small standards planted in them, or maybe even just a small lemon cypress.

I couldn’t resist the little mustard jars.  They make sweet little vases.

Now, not to worry, even though I didn’t have an amazing haul on Saturday, I did come in to work on Monday to find a few goodies waiting for me that my picker had found (we also work together at the day job, fyi).  I didn’t photograph them all, but here’s a cute little kid sized chair that I’ll also probably hang onto until it gets a Christmas makeover.

One of the items in Sue’s box was this massive vintage screw driver.

This thing is about a foot long.  And it has such a gorgeous patina.  Sue has an eye for patina, and an eye for a bargain.  It was only 25 cents.  She’s thinking I can do something with it.  I’m thinking it would make an amazing handle for a cabinet of some kind.  I wonder if Ken could figure that out?  Do you have any ideas for it?

I also stopped at a couple of sales on my lunch hour yesterday, which totally proves that I am a glutton for punishment since it was once again in the upper 90’s and even more humid than last Saturday.  But I did find a few more goodies including a sled that will also go in the ‘stuff to paint for Christmas’ pile.

I also nabbed another toolbox.

In keeping with my ‘sticker shock’ theme though, at the very same sale they had another vintage toolbox that I saw first and it was priced at $25.  Far too high for me.  But then I walked into the garage a bit further and found this one for $2.  Isn’t that odd?  Two vintage toolboxes at the same sale, one is $2 and the other $25.  What gives?  I even went back and checked again, yep, that first tag definitely said $25.  So then I opened up that toolbox to look for the gold ingots, but nope, it was empty.  Go figure.

Finally, I also made a bit of an impulse buy at the lunchtime sale.

It would be totally fair if you’re thinking ‘uh, what in world is that, and why in the world did you buy it?’

Well, because I’ve been watching so much of Monty Don on Gardener’s World lately, I’m fairly sure that this is a seed tray tamper.  Here’s the only picture I could find of Monty  with his seed tray tamper …

See it there to his right?  Basically it’s just a flat bit of wood with a handle that you use to tamp down the soil after you put it into your seed tray.

I plan to give it the quandie treatment, and then who knows?  I may keep it as potting bench décor, or I may just try to sell it on.  I’ll never actually use it.  Minnesota’s growing season is just way too short to grown things from seed.

So, I’m curious, do any of you own a seed tray tamper?  Or do you think this object is something else?  Leave me a comment and let me know.


fresh cut flowers stool.

A little while back one of my readers offered me a step stool (thanks again Brigitte!).  It was one of those projects that she thought she’d get around to, but she never quite finished it.

It needed some repairs before paint, so I initially sent it over to Ken’s workshop.  Unfortunately, once again I neglected to get a proper ‘before’ photo, drat.  But basically the wooden rung that held the steps in place was broken.  Ken made a replacement using a dowel rod.  He makes these things appear so simple, he just whisks something off to his workshop and returns it a few days later completely fixed.

This step stool had been stripped of its original paint (maybe Brigitte did that?), I could still see remnants of light green paint here and there.  I felt a tiny bit bad painting it again after someone (Brigitte?) had gone to all of that work to strip it.  But I suspect this piece was always intended to be painted because the wood isn’t especially pretty.

I started out thinking I would use Dixie Belle’s new Silk paint for this project thus saving myself the trouble of adding a top coat of some kind.  So I pulled out the three shades of white I had, Salt Water, Whitecap and Oyster.  I decided to try the Salt Water since that one is described as an off white.  After one coat of the Salt Water I quickly realized that it was still far too ‘white’ for my taste.  But not to worry, I had another project that was perfect for the Salt Water that I’ll be sharing soon.

In the meantime, sometimes you just gotta stick with what you know.  In this case, I know that I love the combination of DB’s Drop Cloth and Midnight Sky.  So I painted over the Salt Water with Drop Cloth on the base and then I painted the steps and seat in Midnight Sky.

So just in case you were wondering, yes, you absolutely can paint over the Silk paint with the chalk style paint.

I followed that up with a stencil on the seat, also painted used Drop Cloth.

The Fresh Cut Flowers stencil from Wallcutz was the perfect fit.

I used clear wax as a topcoat over the chalk paint.

This stool is one where the steps can be folded in.

And then it can be used simply as a stool.

I have to point out that the steps aren’t super sturdy.  I’m not sure I would trust them with a full grown adult’s weight on them.

Instead I think this step stool would make the perfect plant stand.

It would also work really well as a side table.

If any of you locals are in need of a fun side table or plant stand, be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.

Thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for supplying their products used in today’s makeover.


extending peony season.

I feel like there should be some sort of formal recognition when the peonies are in bloom, like maybe an official holiday or something.  Let’s call it Peony Day.  That’s not terribly creative though, is it?  Give that some thought readers and let me know what you would call it.

Peonies have such a short season though, so I feel like I need to make the most of it each year.

I was heading out to visit my bff yesterday so I thought it would be nice to bring her some of my earliest blooming peonies.  They just started to open up here a few days ago.  I dug through my cupboards looking for a suitable container and I came across this old silver flower bowl.  My friend Jackie had gifted me with a big box of vintage silver last year and this was one of the items in the box.

You might be wondering why I thought it was specifically for flowers, well that’s because it came with a perfectly fitted plastic flower frog …

I thought about getting all fancy with my flower arranging and adding some other flowers, and maybe some greens, but in the end I thought it looked amazing with just the peonies.

It smells amazing too!

One way to extend the short peony season is to plant early, mid and late-season blooming varieties.

My old fashioned pink peonies bloom earliest, but my dark pink peonies are still tight buds.  The dark bud in my arrangement below center was the only one that was even partly open.  I also have a white peony that blooms quite late (along with the one I used in my arrangement that opens earlier).

My neighbor nnK recently told me that she read about another option for extending peony season.  You can refrigerate the buds and bring them out in a few weeks time to open in a vase.  I did some googling and found several websites with more info on this technique so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Step one is to cut the stems when the flower is at the ‘soft bud’ stage.

According to Hollingsworth Peonies, this is how to tell if your buds are at the right stage …

“Hold the stem between two fingers under the bud and press with thumb on top. If the center of the bud feels about like a fresh marshmallow, it is at soft bud. For the many-petalled, full double flowers, part of the petals will be unfurled.”

So I chose a few buds that I thought were about right and brought them in the house.  The next step is to remove most of the leaves.

This helps reduce water loss.

I found several different suggestions for how to best wrap the peonies before placing them in the fridge including wrapping them in wet newspaper or wrapping them with plastic wrap.  But Hollingsworth suggested simply using a large Ziploc bag.

That seemed like by far the easiest solution to me, so I went with it.

Be sure to place your peonies in the fridge horizontally, or laid flat.

Now, we wait 3 to 4 weeks.  By then the peonies in the garden will be pretty much done.  It will be interesting to pull these out and see if this technique worked, assuming Mr. Q hasn’t tried to eat them in a salad or something before then.  I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on the results.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the peonies both in the garden and in cut arrangements in the house while they last.

So tell me, have you thought of any good names for my new peony season holiday?



and now for the fun part.

I mentioned a week or two ago that I was working on a pair of custom painted toolboxes.  I held off on posting them until today because one (or both?) of them was intended as a birthday present to be gifted to its recipient yesterday and I didn’t want to give away the surprise.

I have to confess, I don’t exactly enjoy the prep phase of toolbox painting.  The toolboxes are often super grungy and need to be cleaned, sanded and sealed before I can even get to the painting part.  But that is a necessary evil and you can’t skip those steps.  Fortunately, these two toolboxes weren’t terribly dirty so the prep wasn’t too difficult.

I do enjoy the painting phase.  Picking out pretty colors for the insides is fun, and it’s not as though it’s hard labor doing the actual painting.  It’s just a bit time consuming with painting the full insides and outsides, and having to wait for different bits to dry before moving on to other bits.

In this case I painted one toolbox in solid Dixie Belle Drop Cloth, and the other is Drop Cloth with a French Linen stripe down the middle (I’ll share the inside colors in a minute).

Once painted, I sanded to distress and then added a coat of Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat.

And now for the fun part!  Each of them is like a blank canvas just waiting for me to dress them up however I like.  Although this particular customer requested ‘words’, so that’s what I went with … at least on the outside.

I came up with a fun plan to make one of the toolboxes ‘British’ and the other ‘French’.  I used a variety of transfer scraps from IOD’s Label Ephemera and with prima’s Lovely Ledger furniture transfer and Parisienne knob transfers.

I started with the smaller one.

Obviously this is the ‘British’ version complete with crown.

Or should I say crowns …

since the little bees on the front have crowns too.

This one is painted in Dixie Belle’s Peony inside giving it a lovely pop of bright pink.

I lined it with with prima’s Celeste decoupage décor tissue paper.

The larger toolbox is the ‘French’ version, which seemed appropriate since it had that stripe of French Linen down the middle.

I just love the look of French text even though I have very little idea what it says.  Something about herbs, and amateurs, and maybe the king?

I used one of my favorite Classic Vintage Labels from with prima on the top.

I brought Dixie Belle’s Blueberry paint back out for the interior of this one.

I loved it so much from the last toolbox that I used again here, and I ordered more of it!

And this time I did something new.  I kept the tray that came with the toolbox and painted it up as well.

I lined it with with prima’s Fancy Essence decoupage decor tissue paper, which worked beautifully with the Blueberry paint color.  This time I used Dixie Belle’s flat clear coat as a decoupage medium and it worked beautifully.  So if you like a flat finish, even over your decoupage, give it a try.

I don’t typically keep the trays, but in this case the customer requested it.  I worry that taking the tray in and out is likely to scratch up the interior paint.  Those trays typically have some pretty sharp corners.  No matter how durable the paint finish, those sharp corners are going to scratch it.

But heck, a little wear and tear never hurt anyone, right?

So, tell me, which is your favorite?

French or English?

Thank you to Dixie Belle for providing the paint and flat clear coat that I used on these toolboxes.

the grass is always greener.

I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that we just simply don’t have any really spectacular gardens within driving distance of the Twin Cities.  And by driving distance, I mean like within an hour or so.  Obviously one could drive all the way to Butchart Gardens in Canada given enough time (that would take about 29 hours, FYI).

I’ve probably been watching too much Gardeners World, followed by too much of the British version of Antiques Roadshow because now I’m convinced that amazing formal gardens are just around every corner in England.

Or maybe that really is true?  If any of my readers live in England, give us the scoop.  Are gorgeous gardens like this a dime a dozen where you live?  Or is this just one of those ‘the grass is always greener’ sort of things?

Regardless, rather than continue to feel sorry for myself, I decided to do a little research and make sure that I wasn’t just missing something.  So I googled ‘gardens to tour in the Twin Cities’ to see what would come up.

Most of those listed were gardens I’d been to, and sure, some of them are pretty nice.  I love going to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and Como Park.  But I also found Lyndale Park Gardens on the list. I’d been there years ago, but hadn’t been recently.  So last weekend my sister and I decided to head over to Minneapolis and check them out.

I feel like these gardens are sort of the Minnesotan version of those English gardens.

Slightly manicured but with a little bit more of a wild, north woodsy feel hovering in the background.

My favorite part of the gardens were the perennial mixed borders.

Probably because this most closely matches my own gardening style … or at least what I would like my gardening style to be.

Some of my favorite flowers were blooming, like the irises.

And the Allium.

My sister was really taken with the lungwort (Pulmonaria), and I think you can see why …

Aren’t those gorgeous?

She ended up purchasing one of each of these colors for her own garden after seeing them here.

The peonies and the roses weren’t quite blooming yet, so I think we’re going to have to go back in a couple of weeks to see those.

Of course, we couldn’t leave Lyndale Park without walking down the street to take a look at Lake Harriet.

It was the perfect day for a sail and quite a few people were taking advantage of it.

Before heading home, we stopped off at a local nursery, Tangletown Gardens.

I’m not going to lie though, every time I visit this place I come away with total sticker shock.  The Japanese maple trees were $450.  I saw a clematis priced at $59 and a peony at $129.  Yikes!

That being said, their plants are gorgeous.

And they have some unique selections.

Along with some fun statuary.

I didn’t leave empty handed, I purchased a couple of things to top off my fairy garden including the sweet little succulent that I planted at the base of the arbor.  I love the dark pink stems with the pale green leaves.

I hope it fills out.  I’ll have to check back and show it to you in a couple of months.

In the meantime, how about you?  Have you got any spectacular gardens to tour in your area?  Or maybe you can recommend some gardens to tour near me.  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.