another breakfast meeting.

First things first, the winner of my foreign decor magazine giveaway is Andrea J (I sent you an email Andrea, so be sure to look for it)!  Congrats to Andrea!  She mentioned in her comment that she needs inspiration for a garden shed, so I’m hoping she finds it in the Jeanne d’ Arc magazine.  Now, on with today’s post.

Every June my co-worker/Carriage House Sale partner Sue and I get called away from the office for a very important breakfast meeting.

Last Friday was another of our ‘meetings’ and this time our friend Cathy joined us too.

Not only do Sue, Cathy and I work together at our day jobs and bring you the Carriage House Sale, we also live within about a mile of each other.  And each year around now there is a woman who lives between all of us and our workplace who has a garage sale. We know exactly what her sign looks like and we try to watch for it every June.  She’s a former antiques dealer, so she always has the best stuff.  So good in fact that we can’t wait until our lunch break, we have to head out immediately for a ‘breakfast meeting’.

Here’s my haul from last Friday’s breakfast meeting.

The little green lunchbox is so fab!  I’ve never seen one shaped quite like this.

It would be adorable filled with some geraniums.

Those ornaments with the lunch box are just a handful from the box of them that I bought.  There are some very nice additions to my collection in the box.

Isn’t the petite watering can fun?  Sue actually picked it up first, but was kind enough to let me have it!

I grabbed this vintage wooden toy just because I liked the colors on it, and the chippy paint.

It might be fun to use as a prop in furniture photo shoots.

Hmmm, made by ‘Hustler Toy Corporation’ … that seems like an unfortunate choice of name for a toy manufacturer …

 I liked the subtle blue stripe on the galvanized bucket.  I filled it up with peonies for a photo.

It seems that peony season has come and gone in the blink of an eye this year.  Most of mine opened up just in time for the hot spell we had on Saturday, and if that didn’t do them in then the hail storm we had on Sunday did.

I’m glad I got some photos of them while they lasted.

 The peonies were not the only things to suffer from Sunday’s hail storm.  My gardens were really looking pretty fantastic last week, so I took a bunch of photos including this picture of one of my favorite hostas.

Which now looks like this …

Yep, hail is a serious bummer for the garden, especially the hostas.

A little research online resulted in advice ranging from cut them back entirely, just remove the damaged leaves (which in this case is pretty much the same thing), leave them alone and new growth will eventually replace the damaged leaves, or most pessimistic, they aren’t going to recover until next year.

Since it’s early in the season, I’m going to try removing some of the most damages leaves and hope that I get new growth this season.  Wish me luck on that one!

a pretty french provincial dresser.

I was recently contacted via Facebook by the daughter of one of my regular blog readers (thanks again for that Wanda!) who had a couple of dressers she wanted to sell.  She was conveniently located in Stillwater and the price was right, so I sent Mr. Q to pick them up on his way home from work.

The first one is a pretty french provincial dresser.

I decided to ease back into furniture painting slowly after my trip, and for me that means using Fusion paint.  Compared to milk paint, or even chalk paint, Fusion is just so darn easy to use.  It requires minimal prep, two quick coats of paint, and bam!  You’re done.  No need for a top coat.

Fusion recently shared a really great chart for determining how much prep your furniture needs before painting (be sure to pin this for future reference) …

My piece had a fairly glossy varnish on it to begin with so I followed that darker green route.  I scuff sanded with 220 grit sandpaper and cleaned it well with TSP substitute.  Then I just got out my brush and started painting.

I went with a two tone look starting with Fusion’s Little Speckled Frog, which is a pale minty green, on the body of the dresser and finishing up with Fusion’s Limestone, a warm creamy white, on the drawer fronts.

 Fusion sent me a free sample of the Little Speckled Frog when they came out with their Tones for Tots line.  It would be the perfect pale green for a nursery, but I think it works equally well on a piece for a ‘grown up’ don’t you?  I wanted to go with a ‘pretty’ color on this piece and these two were the perfect combo!

Once the paint was dry, I hit the high spots with some sandpaper to distress the finish.  Always remember to do this shortly after Fusion paint dries, if you wait too long the paint will cure and be more difficult to sand off.

I used my Little Billy Goat goat stick in Gold Leaf to brighten up the existing hardware (you can read more about goat sticks and how to use them here).

I didn’t add a solid coat of the gold, but rather just highlighted a bit here and there.

See what I mean about pretty?  This is just such a pretty feminine piece with all of those curves.

This was a super easy makeover for a slightly dated piece of furniture.  Now that I’ve got my painting mojo back, maybe I’ll tackle another milk paint project next!

This dresser is for sale locally.  Please check out my ‘available for local sale’ tab for more info.

cool original people experience nice hygge-ing a ‘gen.

Our recent Holland America cruise sailed out of Copenhagen, Denmark and the last time Mr. Q and I were there we absolutely loved it, so we decided to fly to Copenhagen a few days before our ship sailed and spend some extra time in this gorgeous city that is known for its hygge.

Hygge?  I thought this was just the popular blogging buzz word of the moment.  But oh no!


Pronunciation /ˈhʊɡə//ˈh(j)uːɡə/


  • A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

    Comfortable conviviality indeed!  Copenhagen positively embraces its hygge!

Upon our arrival Mr. Q and I checked into The Strand Hotel.  We chose this hotel on a whim, after all our last name is Strand.  How could we resist?  It also happened to be in a pretty great location.  It was kind of amusing to see our name above the door, on all of the floor mats, in the elevator … and even engraved in marble above the ‘throne’!

What can I say?  We are easily amused.

I was hoping we’d get some sort of perk, like a really great room or some kind of freebies, but nope.  The fact that we shared our name with the name of the hotel didn’t even raise an eyebrow.  The very friendly and helpful clerk who checked us in didn’t even mention it!

After dropping our bags in our room, despite being overcome with exhaustion after having been up for well over 36 hours (I just can’t manage to sleep on a plane), Mr. Q and I headed out for Nyhavn, the 17th century waterfront district in Copenhagen.

It was only a block away, so it seemed like the best choice considering our condition.  We immediately hopped on one of the tourist boats that regularly depart Nyhavn for a scenic cruise around the canals of Copenhagen.

Despite being super touristy, these boats are still a fun way to get your bearings and see some of the sights without too much effort.  It’s a great way to get acclimated on your first evening without having to worry about whether or not your brain cells are functioning properly.

We had originally been planning to head outside the city to visit some castles the next morning, but when we finally managed to drag ourselves out of bed we realized that plan was maybe a little too ambitious for our current state of mind.  Instead we fortified ourselves with some Danish coffee and pastries …

and then did our own little walking tour along the waterfront passing Amalienborg Palace and the beautiful Frederikskirke or Marble Church …

and ending up at the Kastellet (the citadel), a star shaped fortress built in the mid-1600’s.

For lunch Mr. Q insisted that we walk across the ‘kissing bridge’ from Nyhavn to the street food market on Papirøen (Paper Island).  I resisted because my feet were starting to complain, it was starting to drizzle a bit and it looked like it was a long way away.  But distances can be misleading and it turned out that the walk was not far at all.  In the end, I was so glad he insisted.

This place was full of stalls featuring street food from all around the world.

  We wandered around looking at all of our options.  Many of the stalls offered free samples so you could test-taste their food.  I loved the old vintage campers they used for some of the food booths.

The drizzle had ended by the time we finished lunch, so we decided to head over to Christiania since it was nearby.  If you’ve never heard about Christiana, follow this link to read more about it, but basically it’s a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood that was established in the 70’s as a sort of hippie commune of free-spirited people.

I was thinking of it an unconstrained liberal place with no rules, only to discover that I was breaking the number 1 rule, which is ‘no photos’!  Leave it to me, a pretty dedicated rule follower, to manage to break the one rule in a place known for not having rules.  I took quite a few photos before someone finally yelled at me when I tried to take one a little too close to the area where marijuana was being sold quite openly.

It was an interesting little detour outside my normal comfort zone, but we didn’t stay long.  And in case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t buy any ‘souvenirs’ in Christiania!

That evening was probably the highlight of our time in Copenhagen.  Several years ago Mr. Q was contacted by a woman from Denmark, Susan, who was working with a Danish writer with a brain injury.  Since Mr. Q has a brain injury and has published several books himself, she was given his name as a potential contact.  They shared some emails and became Facebook friends, but had never actually met.  As it happened she was going to be in the city when we were there and we arranged to meet up with her.

She is a lovely person, so welcoming and so generous with her time.  She took us on the Metro out into the less touristy parts of Copenhagen, and then we had a long dinner in a charming, cozy (or should I say hygge?) restaurant where we quizzed her endlessly about what it’s like to live in Denmark.  It’s always so much more interesting to hear about a place from a real local rather than a tour guide.

Just one of the many topics we discussed was the Danish practice of leaving your sleeping baby outside on the sidewalk in a pram while mom and dad shop or enjoy dinner in a restaurant.  This is a very common practice in Denmark and something parents there have always done.  Even in cold weather.  First of all, you have to realize that the prams are totally kitted out for the weather, and the baby is bundled up appropriately.  But also, as Susan explained to us, people don’t steal babies in Denmark.  So parents just don’t worry about leaving their babies outside unattended. And she’s right about that.  If you google it you’ll find that there has only been one single incident involving the kidnapping of a child in Denmark and it was over 30 years ago.  Susan said people still talk about that today because it was such a rare and shocking occurrence.

After polishing off a bottle of wine, we took a couple of buses followed by a really lovely walk through the rain washed streets of the city to our hotel.  One of the many things I love about Copenhagen is that you feel perfectly safe walking the streets at 11 pm.

The next day we had a few hours to kill before boarding our ship so we walked over to Rosenborg Castle.  Rosenborg was built in 1606 as a ‘country summerhouse’.  Ha, if only we all had simple little summerhouses like this!

We didn’t take the time to see the inside of the castle, instead we explored the Kongens Have (or the King’s Gardens) surrounding it.  It was such a lovely morning that we wanted to stay outside.

Check out these amazing pruned trees …

I’d never seen anything quite like them before.

You may have noticed that there is one word I’ve used a lot in this post (aside from hygge) and that is ‘walked’.  Copenhagen is a very walk-able city.  If you ever go there, be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes.   Although they have fantastic public transportation and it’s very easy to use, I always feel like you see so much more when you just walk around.

Sadly it was time to leave Copenhagen behind after our visit to Rosenborg.  We checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to the port to board our cruise ship, the Zuiderdam.  Be sure to stay tuned for more posts about our amazing trip over the course of the summer.  Coming up next week: our first port of call, Oslo!

But not to worry, I still paint furniture too.  It felt great to finally be back out in my carriage house workshop this week and I have a pretty french provincial piece to share with you on Friday, so stay tuned!


forget about you? never.

I bet you guys thought I forgot all about you while I was off on my trip to Norway and Scotland.

sailing away from Bergen, Norway

And really, who could blame me with scenery like that to distract me?

I didn’t bring a laptop or anything like that with me on my trip, just my phone.  And my cell service was spotty at best.  For some reason I couldn’t get my email to load on my phone after the first couple of days either (remember, I’ve said it before, I’m not very good at the techie stuff).  I had been planning on at least attempting to respond to some blog comments while I was away, but that didn’t happen.

None the less, I was still thinking about you guys!

I wanted to bring back a fun giveaway and I remembered that I brought some German decorating magazines home after my Danube River cruise and they were a big hit.  So while I was hanging out in the Copenhagen airport I checked out the magazine stand and found some great stuff.

Now, I’m not entirely positive, but I think this first one is a Norwegian publication (can any of you confirm that by reading the cover?).

You may be thinking ‘why would I want a magazine that I can’t even read?’, I will counter that with ‘come on, do you really read the articles or do you mostly just look at the pictures?’

But I also grabbed a copy of the British edition of Country Living just in case you really do want to read the articles.

The tiny french garden chair in this article has me drooling all over the page (see it below in the lower right corner?).

But the really exciting find was this!

Jeanne d’ Arc Living magazine, right off the newsstand!  I got so excited about it because getting your hands on a Jeanne d’ Arc Living magazine in the U.S. is a bit more complicated than just heading to your local newsstand (although you can easily order them online from my friend Michelle, and they will be in English).

Of course it’s silly of me to be surprised.  This is a Danish magazine after all, so why wouldn’t it be right there on the airport newsstand in Copenhagen?!

I bought a copy for myself and a copy to give away.  The clerk at the cash register asked me if I realized I had two of the same magazine.  ‘Yep!’, I said.  And then I explained how excited I was to find them and she mentioned that she envied the quantity and variety of magazines that we have in the U.S.  The grass is always greener, right?

Anyway, this is the Danish version of the magazine, so not in English.  But still, again, the pictures …

Don’t need any translation to appreciate the pictures!

There is a great article about a garden house made from old doors.

How funny is it that the only thing I can read on this page is ‘Linda’ and ‘handy woman’?!  Seems as though this magazine was meant to wind up in my hands, and possible yours as well!

So now for the fun part, I’m giving all three of these magazines away to one lucky reader.  Would you like to have them?  All you have to do to be eligible to win is leave a comment on this blog post by Friday, June 9.  I will draw a name at random from among those who comment and ship off the magazines to the lucky winner.  Maybe I’ll throw in some milk paint too.  How about it?  Should I also add some milk paint?

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be eligible to win!

ewwww, what’s that smell?

As a furniture makeover artist, one issue that I have to deal with regularly is furniture with bad odors.  Nobody wants a piece of furniture that stinks, right?  In fact, I’d say “does it smell OK?” is the most frequent question I am asked by potential buyers.

Bad smells can run the gamut from cigarette smoke, to mouse pee, to just plain old age.  The fact is, furniture that is over 75 years old (which is mostly what I work with) is going to have some smells.

Eliminating bad odors is especially important in pieces that are going to be used to store clothing.  You don’t want your clean clothes coming out of the drawers smelling like someone’s old cigarette smoke.

There are all kinds of tips out there on how to get rid of bad smells, so when I brought home a dresser that previously belonged to a heavy smoker a while back I decided to do some serious experimentation and figure out what really works and what doesn’t.

Baking soda:  I placed open bowls of baking soda inside the drawers for about 10 days.  Initially I used an older box of baking soda, so when that didn’t work I went out and bought fresh baking soda, just in case that was the issue.  Nope, after another 10 days the drawers still smelled smoky to me.  Cross this one off your list.

Fresh Wave:  This is a product that claims to remove odors with all natural ingredients.  I’ve tried the spray as well as the odor removing packs in the past and not had much luck with either.  With this smoky dresser I tried spraying the drawers both inside and out with the Fresh Wave, as well as the interior of the dresser while the drawers were removed.  I sprayed heavily directly onto the wood.  It made no difference at all, don’t waste your money.

AtmosKlear:  Another product that claims to eliminate odors rather than just masking them, and another product that did not work on cigarette smoke.

Water and Vinegar:  This is something I’ve been using recently for cleaning furniture before I paint it.  However, I recently read that vinegar is not a good de-greaser, so I’m going to go back to my TSP substitute again.  And the vinegar/water mixture was powerless against the smoky dresser.  I even tried the vinegar/sunny day combo by wiping each drawer inside and out with a mixture of vinegar and water (about 1/2 cup vinegar to a gallon of water).  Then I spread the drawers out on the lawn on a sunny day and left them out for about 8 hours.  Like I said, powerless against the smoky smell.

Dryer sheets:  I like using dryer sheets to add a pleasant scent to a drawer that just has that sort of ‘old’ smell.  But dryer sheets are really just masking a smell and are not helpful for something like cigarette smoke or the dreaded mouse pee.  I’ve also had some potential furniture purchasers say that they hate the smell of dryer sheets, so they can definitely backfire on you.

Vodka:  Although I didn’t try vodka on this smoky dresser, I did try it a couple of years ago on another smelly piece.  I’d read somewhere that Martha Stewart recommended it, but I’m beginning to think that might be an urban myth.  I basically wiped the drawers down inside and out with straight up vodka.  I didn’t even dilute it with water (or cranberry juice, ha!).  It did nothing except waste some really good vodka.  I suppose you could just drink the vodka, and then you won’t really care whether or not the dresser still stinks.  That’s one way to solve the problem.

Newspaper:  After trying numerous solutions that really didn’t work for my smoky dresser I was starting to despair and think that I was going to have to go to my last resort solution (more on what that is in a minute).  But my friend Terri suggested I try newspaper.  And guess what?  It did a pretty good job!  Here’s the trick, you have to give it time, and you have to keep changing out the paper as it absorbs the smells.  This is not a quick fix, but it is a cheap fix.  Just crumple up sheets of newspaper and place them in each drawer.  Then change them out every couple of days until the smell is gone.

But if you don’t have several weeks set aside for the newspaper method, I’ve found that the one technique that eliminates bad smells every single time is … drum roll please …

Paint:  Paint works every. single. time.

Do you remember the fabulous cupboard I bought last year?

It wasn’t until I was unloading it from the truck at home that I noticed it had a bad smell.  I don’t know what to attribute the smell to, other than just old age, although it may have been stored in a barn for too long.  I cleaned it thoroughly and sprayed it heavily with Fresh Wave inside and out.  I brought the piece up to my bedroom and put all of my clothing in it, along with a few dryer sheets for good measure.  A few days later I pulled out a t-shirt and put it on.  As the t-shirt started to warm up with my body heat I noticed that it had taken on the smell of the cupboard.  Do you know that feeling?  You think ‘ewwww, what’s that smell?’ and then you realize it’s you (or your t-shirt anyway)!  The Fresh Wave definitely had not worked, and the combination of old barn smell mixed with dryer sheet was positively nauseating.  I immediately had to take the shirt off.  I re-washed all of the stuff I’d put in the cupboard, and then I spent the next six months piling my clothes on top of the cupboard instead of inside it (I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth)!

Clearly I had to come up with a better solution.

So I decided to just go with what I know works for this one.  Paint.

I emptied everything out, and then I painted all of the surfaces inside the cupboard with Fusion’s Inglenook.  And when I say all of the surfaces, I mean all of them including the undersides of the shelves and the back sides of the doors.  This is the secret to successfully blocking the odors.  If you’re working with drawers you have to paint them inside and out as well.

This might sound like a drastic measure, but it really didn’t take that long.  Maybe 20 minutes or so per coat (and I did two coats).  The nice thing about using Fusion paint for this is that I didn’t also have to add a topcoat, plus once the paint is cured it will be fully washable.  Once painted, I left the doors open for about a week so that the paint could cure a bit before I put anything back in.  Then I gave it the sniff test.  Ahhhh.  The stink was gone!

My clothes have been back inside the cupboard for over a month now and they still smell fresh and clean when I pull them out to wear.

By the way, I really like using a cupboard like this for my clothes rather than a dresser with drawers.  I can open those doors and grab everything at once.  I use locker baskets to hold scarves, underwear and socks.  It works great.

And now it smells great too!

So the next time you have a serious odor problem consider reaching for either the newspaper or the paint.

there’s no place like home.

Whenever I take a trip, I always feel like I’m back home in the blink of an eye.  How is it that they always go by so quickly?  Next thing you know you are waking up in your own bed at 4:30 a.m. totally unable to go back to sleep.  So here I am with my cup of coffee waiting for the 1,500+ photos that I took to load on my computer.

That’s Nyhavn in Copenhagen, taken the first day of our trip.

Unfortunately, unlike Dorothy I didn’t just click my heels together three times and wish myself back home.  Instead Mr. Q and I suffered through a very long, long day full of frantic moments of rushing mixed in with hours of waiting in long lines and enduring uncomfortable airplane seats.  Oh how I envied those lucky souls in first class with their down filled pillows and duvets.  I always love how the airline makes you walk through that area to get to your tiny cramped seat in the back of the plane as if to say ‘just look at what you are missing!’

So I added it up, Mr. Q and I waited in no less than 15 really long lines yesterday.  The worst line was either the 2 hour line to check our bags in Copenhagen, or possibly the 10 minute wait to use the bathroom at JFK in New York (I really had to go).  It’s a toss up.  We left our cruise ship at 8 a.m. Copenhagen time (the equivalent of 1 a.m. Minneapolis time) and we got home around 10 p.m.  So 21 hours.  Ugh!  I might have to burn the clothes I wore.

A funny little tidbit about the 2 hour Copenhagen line.  They seemed to be trying out a new form of security questioning.  In addition to the typical “did anyone ask you to carry an item on board the plane?” and “what is your final destination?” they also asked things like “what was your favorite thing from your trip?” and “do you have any hobbies?”  No lie folks.  They were lovely, friendly people and they made their way down the line chatting with each person in this fashion while they looked over your passport and I assume tried to guess whether or not you were a terrorist.  By eavesdropping I discovered that the people behind us were retired firefighters from Minneapolis whose hobbies were fishing and hunting.  Perhaps they are thinking that potential terrorists will be put on the spot by these unexpected questions!

We had an amazing time on our trip, so in the long run it was worth it to put up with those long hours of travel.  I have so many fun things to share with your guys.  My plan is to write a post a week about each of the places we visited.  I think it will take most of the summer to get through them all.  But don’t worry, they will be mixed in with more posts about furniture makeovers, gardening, garage sale finds, Debbie’s new house and whatever else strikes my fancy.  So I hope you’ll continue to stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’m really happy to be back home again in my own space.  There truly is no place like home.  Hang in there while I recover from jet lag, get caught up on blog comments (by the way, a big thanks for all of the congratulatory comments sent my sister’s way, she loved getting them and she is over the moon about her new house), and then I’ll see if I can remember how to paint furniture!

sometimes the chippy sneaks up on you (alternatively titled ‘hold on to your hat Betty’).

I’m arriving home from my trip to Norway and Scotland this evening, but it may take me a few days to recover from the jet lag and get back into the furniture painting groove.

But in the meantime, I’m sharing this pretty little dressing table that I painted just before I left.

Isn’t it sweet?

I debated keeping the painted flowers on the drawer, but in the end I just didn’t want to work with that color scheme of greens and oranges.  Instead, the Homestead House milk paint color I chose for this piece is called Stone Fence.  It’s a lovely pale greige.  If you hold it up next to a warmer color it looks quite grey, but if you compare it to a cooler grey it looks quite beige.  It’s one of those great colors that blends well with anything.

I followed my normal procedure with this piece.  I sanded it lightly, cleaned it with TSP Substitute and then painted it with two coats of Stone Fence.  I followed up with two coats of Homestead House Limestone on the details (much like I did with the Gatineau table).  I did notice some areas starting to chip before I added the Limestone, but not anything excessive.  However as I added the Limestone once again I could see that more of that color was going to chip off.

I decided to keep an open mind and just keep going.   So I sanded to distress and knock off any flaking paint, then I went over the whole piece with my shop vac.  At that point I had quite a bit of chipped paint on the Limestone details, but still only mild chipping of the Stone Fence.

That’s where I probably made a wrong turn.  I decided to add a coat of General Finishes Flat out Flat.  I thought it would seal the piece to prevent further chipping.  I’ve used it over milk paint before and had good results.

But this time I couldn’t have been more wrong.  As the Flat Out Flat dried, it lifted even more paint including the Stone Fence!  In addition, for some reason the top of the dressing table got very streaky looking.  I don’t have an explanation for this, but am just sharing my experience.  I’d say use caution if you ever decide to add Flat Out Flat over milk paint.

So hold on to your hat Betty, this one got really super chippy!

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Betty is one of my readers who isn’t terribly fond of my chippy pieces.  I once accused her of being my mother using an alias because my mom also can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would want a chippy piece of furniture.  I am very slowly trying to win Betty over to my side, but I’m betting she’s not going to like this one!

As you can see in this next photo, the sides and legs of the dressing table didn’t chip nearly as much as the front.

I know that there are fans of the chippy look out there that will love it, even though this look isn’t for everyone.

Although technically this piece is a dressing table, or perhaps could be considered a small desk, it’s really quite petite.  I think it would make a perfect bedside table instead.  It would have plenty of room for your alarm clock, some bedtime reading material and possible a reading lamp.

So what do you think?  Is super chippy for you?