an unassuming old suitcase.

You all know of my love for vintage suitcases, right?

I put them into two categories.  First there are those that are charming ‘as is’ and should not be altered.

Like these …

And then there is the 2nd category, those unassuming old suitcases that just don’t quite have enough personality on their own, like this one …

It’s rather beat up and just not terribly attractive (in my opinion).

I have used milk paint, chalk paint and Fusion acrylic paint on suitcases in the past.  I find that Fusion doesn’t always adhere well to vinyl.  Milk paint works perfectly well, but you don’t get the chippy quality that makes milk paint shine, so I feel like it’s rather wasted here.  So these days my go-to paint for a suitcase like this is chalk style paint.

Before I started painting, I cleaned the suitcase with Krud Kutter Kitchen Degreaser.  I then rinsed it down with a damp cloth.  Then I gave it two coats of Dixie Belle’s Caviar.

Once that was dry I added a French Laundry stencil using a warm white craft paint.

Somehow it seemed appropriate to put a laundry advertisement on a suitcase.

I used parts of the stencil on top of the suitcase too.

You’ll notice that I painted every bit of this suitcase including the handle and the clasps.  I don’t always do that, but this time I’ll admit I was feeling a bit too lazy to cut around those things.  Plus, I rather like this look.

Once painted I went over the surface ever so lightly with some 220 grit sandpaper just to smooth it out a bit.  I followed that up with some of Fusion’s Clear Wax.

Boy, I wasn’t planning on keeping it, but it sure does look great paired up with Collette and Lula.

I never planned to keep Collette either (the one on the left), but after I finished giving her a makeover I couldn’t part with her.

So now I have two dress forms in my bedroom.

And even though the suitcase looks fabulous with them, I don’t really need another suitcase at my house!

In fact, I already brought it in to Reclaiming Beautiful to be sold.

Plus I still have a couple more suitcases in this style waiting in the wings to be painted, so if I change my mind I can always paint up another one to keep for myself.

it’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas.

I know, I know.  It’s only Halloween.

But when you blog about fun craft projects for the holidays, today is far too late to blog about Halloween.  And almost even too late for autumn decorating ideas.

And then there’s the fact that I’m leaving for a cruise on the Adriatic in less than two weeks and I won’t be back home again until after Thanksgiving.

Yep, it snuck (hmmm, that’s not a real word, who knew?) up on me too.

I suddenly realized last week that I had to get all of my Christmas projects (at least the ones I want to sell at Reclaiming Beautiful) finished this past weekend.  Yikes!

So I got out my favorite stencils and some paint and I got busy.

I started with a pair of vintage sleds that I purchased at a garage sale over the summer.

Once again I totally neglected to get ‘before’ photos.  Drat.

But both of these started out with red metal runners and plain wood.  I painted just the wood parts on the first one using Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth (that same fabulous cream color I used on Monday’s washstand).  Then I added the stencil using craft paints.  I sanded vigorously to distress and then added a topcoat of Fusion’s Clear Wax.

The second sled got painted in Dixie Belle’s Caviar.  I painted the metal runners as well as most of the wood except for that cross piece at the top.

I stenciled this one in a french stencil that says something like ‘friends and family gather here’ which seems like a good sentiment for the holidays.

It’s a little less traditionally Christmas and could be displayed all fall and winter.

I also painted a couple of drawer front signs.  These drawer fronts came from the dresser that I turned into the farmer’s market kitchen island back in July.  If you remember back, I removed the lower two drawers from that piece because one of them wasn’t in great shape.  So I saved the drawer fronts and discarded the rest knowing they would make awesome ‘signs’ using my farm fresh Christmas trees stencil.

These are also painted in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth and stenciled with craft paint.  One has plain wooden knobs, but the other has knobs with Prima Marketing knob transfers added.

While I had the stencil out I also added it to a cute little wooden box that my picker found for me.

And speaking of my picker, she also came through on the vintage Shiny Brites.  Remember I mentioned that I just wasn’t finding many vintage ornaments at garage sales this year?  Well Sue found a whole slew of them for me!

Last but not least, I did another painted suitcase.  I started by painting the suitcase black and white using Dixie Belle’s Caviar and Drop Cloth, and then added the stencil.

To make it more versatile I added a more summery stencil to the other side, so now it’s reversible.

I did one of these last year at Christmas too and it was a big hit.

I also pulled out some of my other vintage Christmas goodies to take into the shop today like this festive Tom & Jerry set.

So, it may be Halloween at your house, but it’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas at mine!

it’s officially fall.

I tend to not do a whole lot of seasonal decorating.  How about you?  I find as I get older that time goes by so ridiculously fast that it doesn’t feel worth it to get out the Halloween decor because in five minutes it’s going to be time to get out the Christmas stuff.  Do any of you feel that way?

Plus, nature does such an amazing job of decorating for fall that it feels silly to have to add anything more!

Apparently nature is trying to reinforce my opinion on that because the tiny pumpkins I added to my fairy garden last week have already been stolen.

I suspect that squirrels are to blame rather than klepto fairies though.  The white pumpkin disappeared first, and the orange gourd followed a couple of days later.  So much for that plan.

I have done a few fall craft projects in the last couple of years though, so I thought I’d recap them for you today in case any of you want to do some fall decorating yourselves.

I’ll start with my ‘hello fall’ book page banner.

Last year I shared a quick tutorial on how to make one using old book pages and your printer.

You’ve also already seen my french pumpkins.

The one above was made using a cardboard pumpkin, paint and some Fusion transfer gel.  Get all of those details here.

My second french pumpkin looked like this …

It’s an old wooden pumpkin transformed with some paint and a Prima Marketing transfer (details here).

Then there were the ‘hello fall’ toolbox planters.  The one on the bottom is painted in Fusion’s Mustard.  The one on the top is in its original red.

I used my Cricut machine to cut the words out of adhesive vinyl.  These are perfect for just popping in some mums and calling it good.

While I had the Cricut out that year, I also made some ‘hello fall.’ plates …

They are fun to add to planters full of mums, kale and hydrangea flowers.

I did whip up one more quick fall decoration this year.  I had a fake plastic pumpkin in my stash so I painted it white using Fusion’s Limestone.  Then I pulled out some Prima Marketing supplies; decor wax in a color called Eternal and a transfer called Simplicity.

Rather than try to apply the transfer as one whole sheet, I just cut out sections of the design to place randomly on my pumpkin.

It was a little tricky to place the flat designs onto a curvy pumpkin, but I’m OK with a little imperfection.

I used the Eternal wax to give the pumpkin a gold stem.  This was the first time I tried the Eternal, but it definitely won’t be the last.  It’s the perfect gold, and it was so easy to apply using a q-tip.

My new toile pumpkin pairs nicely with my french pumpkin, don’t you think?  OK, maybe not the most traditional looking fall decorations but they suit my style for sure.

too sexy for my shirt.

Back in May I picked up this manikin at the Roseville city-wide garage sales.

She’s probably a shop manikin, not to be confused with a dress form that can be adjusted for size.  She didn’t have a stand, and she’s just a Styrofoam type material underneath a stretchy knit fabric cover, but I still figured I could do something with her.

After all, I’d worked with something similar when I came up with Lulu.

If you look closely you can see that Lulu is also Styrofoam and she has a doorknob for a head (poor thing).  I’ve turned her Styrofoam-ness into an asset by using her as a pin board for old photos.

I painted her with black chalkboard paint and used the base to one of those table/lamp combinations to create a stand.

I can’t remember precisely how long ago I cobbled Lulu together, but it was before I had a blog which makes her at least 5 years old or more.  She’s held up remarkably well for being made out of painted Styrofoam.

Anyway, I felt sure I could do something similar with the manikin from Roseville.

First I had to come up with a stand of some kind.  I’d been waiting all summer to magically find another table/lamp but no such luck.  But then I remembered that I had an antique metal floor lamp thingie tucked away out in the carriage house.

Please pardon the terrible photo.  It was raining when I took it, but I just wanted to grab a quick photo to show you what it looked like.

Initially I thought I was going to have to have my handyman Ken cut it down to the right height, or at a minimum cut that top decorative piece off.  However, as it turned out the top piece screwed right off and then when I added the manikin torso (which has a hollow metal pole up the center) it ended up being the perfect height already.

Next I removed that hideous stretchy knit fabric from the manikin.

This was about when that song “I’m too sexy for my shirt” popped into my head (who else remembers that song?).

This torso is just way more, well, sexy than Lulu.  It almost feels a bit wrong to leave her unclothed.  She seems to have a lot more curves to her.

But, I pressed on.

I first gave her a coat of Rustoleum black chalkboard paint.  Since it had worked so well on Lulu, I thought it would make a good base coat for this manikin too.  But ultimately I knew I wanted to add a Prima Marketing transfer to her like I did with Collette, the dress form that I refurbished earlier this summer …

I had some Homestead House milk paint on hand in a color called Algonquin, which I thought would be perfect for this look.  If the milk paint got chippy, I didn’t want to see the yellowish color of the Styrofoam underneath hence the black base coat.

So once the black paint was dry I mixed up the milk paint and added a coat.  So far, so good.  Once that was dry, I added a 2nd coat and then left the manikin to dry overnight.

The next day I was so excited to get home from work and get the transfer added.  But, that was not how it went at all.  Instead I went into my workshop only to find that the milk paint had chipped like mad.  Except instead of revealing the black chalkboard paint, it was taking it along for the chippy ride and chipping all the way down to the Styrofoam underneath.

This was that moment that you dread in any project.  The moment when you realize that you have to start over.  Well, actually, even worse.  First you have to remove all of the chipping paint, and then start over.  Ugh.

Lesson learned:  Styrofoam, chalkboard paint and milk paint don’t mix.

Well, it was an experiment.  And now we know.

After chipping away all of the loose paint, I gave the manikin a light sanding just to be sure she was ready for another go.  Luckily I had some Fusion paint in Algonquin on hand.  Yes, same color as the milk paint, but this time in an acrylic paint.

Ahhh, much better.  One coat of Algonquin later and things were looking up.

As you can see, I ended up with a lot of texture (some might call it damage, I prefer to call it texture), but that just gives it more character.

Next I applied the transfer.

I knew it would be somewhat challenging applying it to a curvy surface rather than a flat one.  To make that easier, I cut the transfer into smaller sections which helped quite a lot.

In the end it went surprisingly well.  If you try something similar, just be sure to go slowly and make sure each letter is adhered before moving on to the next.

I still wasn’t done though.  Next I added a coat of Miss Mustard Seed Clear Wax followed by a coat of Fusion’s Expresso Wax.  It’s always wise to use a base coat of clear wax before adding a dark wax to make it easier to blend your dark wax.

I also painted the wooden topper on her neck in Algonquin and then added a Tim Holtz number rub-on.  I finished that off by adding some of the Prima Marketing metallique wax in Bronze Age to the screw that holds it in place.

When she was all done I decided to call her Coco.

She almost looks a bit like she’s made out of stone or plaster.

I ended up bringing her in to Reclaiming Beautiful (the shop where I sell on consignment) on Wednesday evening and even though I still wonder if she’s just a bit too sexy for her shirt, someone snatched her up right away Thursday morning!


I went to sh*t, and the hogs ate me.

My mom was in town last week.  She was officially here for her 60th class reunion, but when she comes out she always tries to make time to go visit her cousins in South Dakota.  So for the first half of last week my sister, mom, niece and I drove out for a visit.

My mom’s mother, Carrie, was born on the family farm in Arlington, South Dakota in 1898.  If you’re trying to make some sense of dates and ages, Carrie was 42 years old when my mother was born in 1940.  My mom is now 78, thus the 60th class reunion.

Anyway, Carrie was born on the Moe farm and that farm is still in the family.  It’s now run by my cousin Travis.

The farm was passed down from Carrie’s parents to her brothers Gerhard and Knute Moe, and from there to Knute’s daughter Elaine and from there to her son Travis.  Travis has six really adorable children so I hope that at least one of them will be willing to continue on with the farm one day, thus keeping it in the family.

These days Travis just has goats, and a couple of llamas.

And currently quite a few adorable kittens who would not hold still for photos.  The beautiful grey one was my favorite.

I’m always tempted to take one home with me, but I’m pretty sure my cat Lucy would not approve of an interloper.

Although my mom grew up as a city kid in Minneapolis, she would spend several weeks every summer out at the farm so she developed some very close relationships with her cousins.  So whenever it was possible, my mom sent us out to stay in Arlington when we were kids too.  That was where I learned that potatoes grew in the ground, not on bushes or trees.  I definitely was a city kid.

These days we still love going out to visit the cousins.  They are the nicest people and we always have so much fun with them.  We tend to do a lot of laughing when we’re there.

While we were out there this time we were playing cards with a bunch of the cousins and at one point one of them looked at his hand and said ‘Well, I went to shit, and the hogs ate me.’  I burst out laughing, wondering what in the world that meant.

Apparently that translates to something along the lines of ‘things went from bad to worse.’  A trip to the outhouse being bad, being eaten by hogs even worse.

After I quit laughing I said ‘that would make an awesome blog post title, if only I could remember it’, so my niece whipped out her phone and texted it to me.  So now I have a record of it for posterity, or at least as long as I have my current phone.

Speaking of which, I took all of the photos for today’s post with my new phone.  I hadn’t really played around with that yet, and now I’m realizing I might want to change the picture size setting … at least the ratio.  But these long skinny photos were fun for today’s post.  They certainly do a good job of emphasizing the wide open spaces of the mid-west’s farmland.

Maybe I will just leave it on this setting after all.

And the next time I have a colossal fail while painting a piece of furniture, I’m going to try to remember to use that blog post title again!

faking it with a little bit of faux.

While my sister and I were driving around the Mac-Grove neighborhood looking for garage sales the other day, my sister admired the window boxes at one house that were full of blooms.  I looked over to see what she was looking at and immediately knew they were fake.  Mainly because I know that you can’t have wisteria flowers coming right out of the dirt in a window box, and you also can’t have them in late August.

Aside from that, they looked pretty good from a distance.  Obviously good enough that my sister thought they were real.

I’ve always been a bit of a plant/flower snob.  Having fake ones just feels like cheating to me.

But for the past several months I’ve been trying to decide what to do with this amazing old toolbox that I display in my dining room window.

I found this at a garage sale several years ago, and I added the stencil to the side.

Last year around this time I filled it up with flowers from my Limelight hydrangea.  They were fresh when I took that photo, but they dried in place and looked really pretty for the most of the winter.  But when summer came, I felt like they were starting to look pretty dusty and drab and I needed to come up with another plan.

I thought about putting a row of three small topiaries in the box.  That probably would have looked amazing, but I have a history of killing off topiaries.  And those thing aren’t cheap.

Then I saw some lavender plants at my local Bachman’s (plant nursery) and thought they would look gorgeous in the toolbox.

But I knew that I would never be able to keep these blooming over the winter, even in a south facing window.  In fact, I’ve even tried growing these outside over the summer and haven’t been able to keep them blooming.  After all, lavender likes hot, sunny, dry weather.  We don’t have much of that here in Minnesota, especially in the winter.

So initially I nixed the idea of lavender.  But then I mentioned this conundrum at work and my co-worker Jodie suggested I add a couple of fake flower stems to the real plants.


It had never occurred to me that you could supplement real plants with a few fake flowers.  As long as I can keep the plants themselves alive, I’ll be good to go.

So I waited for the fake flowers to go on sale at Hobby Lobby and then I picked some up for around $2 each.  Then I went back to Bachman’s and purchased three lavender plants for $12.99 each.

I brought them home and popped them into the toolbox.

Perfect fit.

Then I cut the faux flowers down a bit …

and simply added them to the real plants.

One benefit to using real plants is that they smell amazing.

I think the fake flowers look pretty good, although of course anyone who knows plants is going to realize they can’t possibly be real.  Especially in the middle of January.

It also remains to be seen whether or not I can at least keep the plant itself looking good through winter, but I have read up on it and I should be able to grow lavender indoors in a sunny south facing window, even in Minnesota.

If I can pull it off, I think it’s going to be nice to have something ‘blooming’ in my window all winter long.


going someplace.

For those of you who aren’t from around here, today is a holiday here in the U.S.  It’s Labor Day.  Most of us have no idea why we have this holiday, and there really aren’t any traditions associated with it that are practiced across the board (like a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, fireworks on the 4th of July, or visiting the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day).

Usually it’s just a good excuse for squeezing in one more barbecue before summer is over.

I did a little research and apparently Labor Day was initially brought about by workers organizing and fighting for shorter work weeks.  Now that’s an idea I can get behind!  In fact, I’m honoring the spirit of Labor Day by taking this entire week off work.  Well, to be honest, mainly that’s really because my mom is in town for her 60th class reunion.  She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1958.  My sister, mom, niece and I will also be driving out to South Dakota for a few days to visit our cousins while Mr. Q stays home to man the fort.  So if I’m not responding to comments with my usual speed, it’s because I’m busy admiring the cattle on the old family farm.

Even though I’m taking a break from my labors, I have a quick project to share today that I finished up a couple of weeks ago.

Have you been wondering what I did with the mirror that came with the dresser that I shared last Monday (and by the way, that dresser sold in less than two days and I attribute that entirely to the gorgeous transfer from Prima Marketing)?

 Obviously I didn’t put the mirror back on the dresser.

That’s because I love turning mirror harps like this into chalkboards that can be hung on the wall.

I started by removing the inner framed mirror from the harp.  Comically enough, the mirror was the only thing holding that harp together.  As soon as I took it out the entire thing fell apart.  Believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing.  My handyman Ken prefers it that way because it gives him the opportunity to completely re-glue all of the joints.

So he glued it all back together and then cut a piece of hardboard to fit the opening so I could turn it into a chalkboard.  He sent it back like this.

I opted to paint the frame in a pale grey using Homestead House milk paint in Bedford.  I took a calculated risk and did very little prep work.  I wiped it down with a damp rag and that was about it.  If you do this, keep in mind that you are taking a chance that your paint won’t adhere.  With milk paint it’s even possible that all of the paint will flake right back off, especially if there is furniture polish or something similar on the surface of your piece.

But I was willing to risk it since it was just a frame, not an entire piece of furniture.  Worst case scenario I would have to sand it down entirely and re-paint.  Plus I wanted to get some chipping.

As it turned out, it was a good call.  I got the perfect amount of chippy-ness.

As you can see, I chose black for the chalkboard.  I was planning to paint it using black milk paint (you can find my tutorial for using milk paint for chalkboards here).  I thought I had plenty of it on hand, but as it turned out I couldn’t find it.  So I went with Rustoleum’s black chalkboard paint.

To give the piece a little extra something, I used a couple of sections from Prima Marketing’s smaller Seeds transfer at the top …

and bottom of the frame.

I used one of my favorite techniques for adding a chalked design to the chalkboard.  I print the design out on paper, rub chalk all over the back of it, and then trace it onto the chalkboard (you can read the full tutorial on that here).

I’m sure that many of you could do this free-hand, but I’m never happy with my free-hand work so this is how I fake it.

I often have my handyman Ken add a shelf across the bottom of the mirror frames that I turn into chalkboards, but this frame came with its own little shelves already.  They make the perfect spot to display a vintage camera …

or a charming old photo.

I’ll likely take this piece in to Reclaiming Beautiful to sell, unless any of my local readers want to snatch it up first.  See my ‘available for local sale’ page for more details.