the art of the thank you.

This year my birthday fell on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Taking the day off at my day job would have made for a very nice five day weekend.  It seems like a bit of a no-brainer, right?

But I didn’t do it.  Why?

Because my co-workers always make my birthday feel special.  This year they made Eggs Benedict for me, my favorite!

Not only that, but I got some awesome birthday presents from them.  Really, who doesn’t want to show up at work if there will be presents?

Since they went all out I wanted to do something special in return for the thank you notes, not just send store bought cards.  Now, before you start thinking that I am super clever and just came up with this idea out of the blue, I have to give credit to my friend Annie.  She did something similar for her wedding thank you notes many years ago.  Those thanks you’s were so fun and clever and the idea has always stuck with me, so I borrowed it for my birthday thank you’s this year.

Step no. 1:  take photos of the gifts.  Remember to leave some white space in your photo to have room for the wording.

Step no. 2:  add ‘thank you’ using Picmonkey or some other photo editing software.

Step no. 3:  print your photos on matte photo paper and cut them out.

It couldn’t be easier, and now you have customized thank you notes for your friends and family.

It really didn’t take very long, maybe a couple of hours from start to end.

Well, unless you count this next one because it did take me a little bit longer to drink that whole bottle of wine.

My co-workers tend to know me and my non-collections pretty well, I received not just one but two vintage cameras this year.

With Christmas coming up, maybe you’ll need to make some customized thank you notes of your own!

What do you think?

traditional red & green.

So far I’ve shared a pretty in pink Christmas including some pretty pink ice skates  and Christmas in black & white.

But maybe you are more of a traditionalist and you prefer the classic red & green!

I’m not much of a traditionalist myself, but I have a handful of red and green holiday decorations that I just can’t seem to part with.

Plus, I whipped up a couple of Christmas decorations in red and green to sell at Reclaiming Beautiful this year.

For starters, I found this oil can at a garage sale last summer and loved the patina of the red paint.

I washed it up with some Dawn dish-washing liquid (to cut the grease), I added a couple of Tim Holtz rub-ons, and then I clipped on a Dec 25 card.

It definitely makes for a unique Christmas decoration, despite its classic red color.

Next I purchased a green kid-size shovel from my friend Sue a few weeks ago.  She always has the best garage sale finds.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a ‘before’ photo of it.  But I added a “Merry Christmas” in adhesive backed white vinyl that I cut on my Cricut machine.

I already had another similar shovel that I stenciled last year …

The shovels would be perfect hung on a door.

Last year I used the older one in the planter on my deck.

And finally, I painted this Christmas Tree sign for my sister using traditional red and green yesterday.

She stopped by to pick it up, and already has it hanging on the wall above her Christmas tree.

How about you?  Are you a traditionalist who loves red and green for Christmas?

P.S.  congrats to Melissa from New York who won my blogiversary giveaway!

cut and carry.

Last summer I was at an estate sale and found a whole pile of old hand saws for sale.

Apparently I am just drawn to anything with a chippy painted finish, including old hand tools, because that red handled saw just jumped out at me.

My initial thought was “I bet that I could paint the other handles to look just as old as that red one using milk paint,”  sort of setting a little challenge for myself.  In my humble opinion, the greatest quality of milk paint is its ability to create an authentically aged looking finish.

Plus the price was right, so I bought them.

Next I dug out some Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Boxwood (green), Tricycle (red) and Typewriter (black).  I mixed up just about a tablespoon of each color and I painted each handle a different color.  The Typewriter covered in one coat, but I needed two coats of the other colors.

Once dry, I sanded to distress them and then added a little bit of hemp oil as a top coat.

Now, you be the judge.  Here is the original finish on the red handled saw …

And here is the Boxwood milk paint finish …

Well, what do you think?  Does it look legit?

So now I’ve proven what you can do with milk paint, so what in the world am I going to do with old saws with Christmas colored handles?  Add stencils of course!

I used a stencil that I purchased from Etsy.  The entire stencil didn’t fit perfectly on each saw blade so I just used bits and pieces and fit them where they looked good.

I added some 3M Command Strips to the back of each saw so that they could be hung on the wall …

or perhaps attached to an outdoor window box?

The black handled saw ended up being my favorite, and it would have looked great in my black & white Christmas display.  But I ended up deciding to take them all in to Reclaiming Beautiful so see if anyone else wanted a Cut & Carry saw!

Christmas in black and white.

First things first, I want to say a huge thank you for all of the kind and really supportive comments many of you left on my blogiversary post yesterday!  You guys are the real reason why I keep doing this blog!  If you didn’t see that post yet, be sure to check it out and leave a comment by Thursday to be included in the giveaway drawing.

Now, on with today’s post!

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that not many of you immediately think of black & white when it comes to Christmas decorations.  But I’m about to prove that it can be a festive combination (I hope so anyway).

A couple of years ago my sister gave me this funky barn wood Christmas tree.

She was definitely on the right track with a gift for me.  It’s distressed and rustic, which I love, but the traditional red and green just weren’t working for me.  Especially with the black ‘trunk’.

So I decided to give it a q-style makeover.

I started by painting the horizontal boards with Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Linen.

Next I added an IOD transfer.

This is the small (11″ x 14″) Memoir transfer.  I cut it apart in sections to fit perfectly on my tree.

One caution I have for you is that sometimes the transfer backing will lift off chippy milk paint rather than leaving the transfer on your surface.  You can see where that happened on the right portion of the scroll-y design around the word “memoires”.  That’s just something to keep in mind if you are pairing a chippy milk painted piece with a transfer.

Personally I’m OK with this look, I just think it adds to the overall distressed style I’m going for.  But it could be frustrating if you don’t expect it.  You can prevent this by adding a sealing top coat (Miss Mustard Seed Tough Coat Sealer, or the Dead Flat I used later) over your milk paint first, then adding the transfer, then adding another layer of top coat.

I added my transfer directly over chippy milk paint though.  Once applied, I sanded lightly all over and then added my top coat of The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat finishing cream.  I really love how easy this stuff is to use.  No worries about drip marks, no smells, flat sheen, soap and water clean up, and a little goes a long way.  The Dead Flat will help prevent any further chipping.

And now it looks like this …

I loved it so much that I decided to hang it next to my specimens cupboard and decorate the whole area with black & white Christmas decor.

My painted black & white sled is leaning on the wall under the ‘tree’.

I draped a faux evergreen garland with cotton bolls, that I picked up on sale last year, over the cupboard.

My friend Sue gave me the calendar for my birthday.  Although she bought it at a garage sale (she seriously always finds the most amazing things at garage sales), there is a sticker on the back from Decor Steals.

She had it set to my birthday when she gave it to me, and I thought that was so clever, so why not set it to Christmas Day to instantly turn it into a Christmas decoration?

Normally I have a photo of my grandmother on the little metal wheel that hangs on the knob of my cabinet, but I switched it out for the holiday too.

I have no idea who The Binke’s are, but I love their black & white holiday post card!

So what do you think?  Is a black & white Christmas for you?

Or do you prefer more color for Christmas?

jingle all the way.

Back in April, Mary over at orphans with makeup (if you’ve never visited Mary’s blog, you should, she does beautiful work) posted about working with Homestead House to style and photograph all of their milk paint colors.

Her photo of the color Upper Canada Green (above) got me thinking about an oval gold frame that I’ve had hanging around for ages.

I used this frame in my dining room for a long time.  I never put anything in it.  I used it flat on the table as part of a centerpiece for a while, and I also layered it in front of a larger gold framed mirror hanging on the wall.  But as much as I loved it ‘as is’, when I decided to change up the dining room a couple of years ago it was time to sell it and move on.  As it turned out, no one else loved it as much as I did because it didn’t sell.  Maybe no one could figure out what to do with an empty frame?  Or maybe no one else loves the gold?

When I saw Mary’s photo it got me thinking about using some milk paint to give the frame a new look.  So a while back when I had some milk paint left over after painting my green alligator farmhouse table, I used it to paint this frame.

Green Alligator is a custom mix of equal parts Miss Mustard Seed’s Kitchen Scale, Homestead House’s Upper Canada Green and Loyalist.

As you can see in that photo, I didn’t try to get paint into every crack and crevice.  I almost dry brushed it on, trying to leave bits of gold showing on the high points.

I then used 220 grit sandpaper to remove even a little more paint, and finally I waxed the frame with Miss Mustard Seed antiquing wax to give it some age.

The dark wax dulls the color a bit and adds more definition to the details.

Ken cut a piece of hard board to fit the frame so that I could turn it into a chalkboard.

I added the ‘jingle all the way’ using my tracing method (shared here), and then I free-handed the holly and sprigs of evergreen.

So now that I’ve solved both of my problems; it’s no longer gold and it now has a designated purpose as a chalkboard, hopefully it will sell quickly at Reclaiming Beautiful.

What do you think?



skating away.

Who remembers the old show Ally McBeal?  Am I seriously dating myself with that one?   It was on back in the olden days when you actually had to watch a TV show when it was scheduled to be on.  Ah, the memories.

Well anyway, I was a fan of that show and at the time I purchased their Christmas CD which is mainly Vonda Shepard, but also a couple of numbers by the actors from the show including I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus sung by Jane Krakowski and the song River sung by Robert Downey Jr.

Who knew that Iron Man could sing?

Well, that song is one of my favorites from the CD.  It’s a bit melancholy, but it’s so beautiful.  Normally I give myself permission to start listening to Christmas music on Thanksgiving, but I’m starting a little early this year.

I don’t actually wish I had a river that I could skate away on, but somehow that song always pops into my head when I see ice skates!

When I dug that pair of ski’s out of the back of the carriage house that I posted last week, I also grabbed this pair of skates.  These are another item that was left over from my occasional sale last year.  They weren’t quite so grungy at the time of the sale, but a year in the carriage house lean-to did them no favors.

So I decided to paint them.  Because … duh … that’s what I do!

I started by removing the laces and putting them in a bucket of water with some OxyClean to soak.  Then I washed the dirt off the skates with some Dawn dish washing soap and water and let them dry.

Then I painted them with Fusion’s English Rose.  After all, I did decide to have a pretty in pink Christmas this year, remember?

It only took one coat to get this beautiful coverage by the way. Once the paint was dry I added a couple of rub-on’s from my scrap-booking stash.  Unfortunately, I’ve had the leafy rub-on that is on the side of the skate so long that I doubt you could find it to purchase anymore.  If you want to search, it’s from the Sabrina line from Making Memories.

Didn’t those laces brighten up nicely from their soak in the OxyClean?

I also added a few random number rub-on’s from Tim Holtz.  Some on the heels …

and some on the toes …

By the way, if you know anything about ice skates you might have noticed that these are training skates.  You can’t really tell in the photos, but they are little bitty … only about 8″ long, meant for a little girl who is new to ice skating.

But I really think of them as a home decor item rather than for actual skating.  They are perfect for draping over a vintage sled, don’t you think?



a pretty in pink Christmas.

When the issue of Vintage Holiday magazine that featured my non-collection of vintage Christmas ornaments arrived in my mail box a while back I sort of fell in love with the pink Christmas scene on the front cover.

Isn’t that pink chippy mantle to die for?

Following closely on the heels of the magazine’s arrival, the people at Fusion offered to send me some of their newest shade of paint, a gorgeous pink called English Rose.

It seemed as though the universe was trying to tell me something, that I should plan a pretty in pink Christmas!

So I started with making some gift boxes using the same technique I’ve used in the past for faux french hat boxes.

I purchased several plain cardboard gift boxes at Hobby Lobby.  You can get these for just a few dollars each if you wait until they are on sale for 50% off (which seems to happen every 4 – 6 weeks or so).

Next I simply painted some of them in the new Fusion pink, English Rose and one in Fusion’s paler pink, Little Piggy, for contrast.  I painted each with two coats of paint.

I wanted to use a Christmas themed graphic on them, and when I found these 12 Days of Christmas graphics on Etsy I knew they would be perfect.  I purchased six of them from Project Printable for $1.50 each, so an investment of $9.  The seller conveniently provided a mirror image jpeg along with the regular jpeg so I didn’t have to worry about figuring out how to print a mirror image, which is what you need for a transfer.  Slick, right?

Yes, I know you can find free graphics online and I like to find those when I can as well, but sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little money for the convenience of finding exactly what I wanted.

Next I used Fusion’s transfer gel to transfer the graphics to the painted boxes.

  You can print a copy of the detailed instructions here:  making a faux hatbox with transfer gel.

And voila, I have pretty Christmas gift boxes that can be re-used over and over.

Keep in mind that you aren’t likely to achieve perfection with this method of transferring a graphic.  Some bits of your design will likely rub off.

But perfection is seriously over-rated.  I prefer to embrace a distressed, imperfect look.

These packages are going to look so pretty under my tree full of vintage ornaments … just as soon as I get that set up …

If any of you locals want to make your own pretty in pink gift boxes, Reclaiming Beautiful in Stillwater has some of the English Rose paint in stock while it lasts.  Plus their holiday open house is this afternoon from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Stop by, have a glass of wine and do a little shopping.

If your aren’t local, click here to find a Fusion retailer near you!