the q branch.

Yesterday my handyman/neighbor Ken and I worked on a project in my piano room that is almost finished, and I’m so excited to share it with you guys.  I’m planning to have that room ready for next Wednesday’s room tour.

In the meantime, before I get to today’s room tour, I have to tell you all that we’re feeling pretty fortunate here at our house.  We had a ferocious (Mr. Q’s word) storm blow through here on Monday night and the maple tree in our front year came down.

I’m a bit bummed because this tree had finally gotten to the right size to block the street light from our bedroom window.  I also really enjoyed listening to birds singing in this tree in the early morning hours.  However it missed our front porch by about a foot, which is incredibly lucky.  It didn’t do any damage at all except to one little corner of my front garden.

As you can see, there are plenty of bigger trees around our house that would have done much more damage if they had come down.

Not only that, but when we got up in the morning there was a tree service company working a block over so I asked them if they’d look at my tree too.  While they were at it, I also asked them to take down the pear tree in my front yard.  It didn’t do well over last winter and was looking pretty sad (you can just see it to the left in the photo above).  I had been thinking about having that one cut down anyway.

They had both trees down, everything hauled away, and my entire yard cleaned up by 9 a.m.

So although our front yard feels a little barren now, and we feel a little more exposed,  we’re definitely going to have fewer leaves to rake this fall.  Overall we are counting our blessings because this certainly could have been much worse.

  OK, on with today’s normally scheduled programming.  We are heading inside to tour a branch of a different kind, the q branch.

This room is directly off the piano room and I have no idea what purpose it was originally meant to serve.  Possibly it was just small sitting room all along, or it could have been a very small main floor bedroom at one time.

We’ve tried a number of different looks for this room.  It once housed my dollhouse, which basically took up the entire space.  Then we turned it into a small dining room, which we never actually used.

Now it is the q branch, or my study, and it gets more use than it ever did before.  I last redecorated this room back in January 2015 (oh my gosh, can you believe that was over four years ago!).  Mr. Q is the one who thought it should be called the q branch.  If you’re not a James Bond fan, the q branch is the fictional research and development segment of the British Secret Service in the Bond movies.  Clearly it was the perfect name for the room where I write this blog.

The biggest change to this room since I originally finished it in 2015 was the addition of my giant English cupboard.  I purchased this via Craigslist back in August 2017.

When I brought it home the inside was completely empty, but handyman/neighbor Ken kitted it out with shelves for me and then I painted the inside.

I was on the fence about whether or not to paint the exterior at the time, but now I’m really glad I didn’t.  I love the patina of the bare wood.

I only recently moved my stack of vintage suitcases into this room (and clearly I need to move my paint brushes up a bit on the wall).

They used to be in the dining room.  I think they fit better here though.  Some of them house my vintage Christmas ornaments, and some of them are just empty.

The opposite side of the room contains my rooster cupboard.  It is painted in Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in a coat of Flow Blue over a coat of Artissimo then finished with her antiquing (dark) wax.

This cupboard is one of my favorite pieces.  I love the chippy paint and that fabulous rooster grain sack that I used to line the glass doors.

The room does feel a bit ‘cupboard heavy’ though, with two cupboards in a fairly small space.  They are really great for storage though.  Some of you ask how I can bear to part with some of my pieces, well, this is one that I just can’t seem to let go of.  I do wish I had a better spot for it though.

My giant ‘q’ still hangs on the wall above my desk.

My sister gave this to me for Christmas several years ago and I gave it a chippy paint job.  I think I’m going to re-do it soon though, I have another idea in mind for it.

I’m realizing now that I could have done a much better job staging this room for these photos.  A professional would have hidden all of those cords coming down behind the desk, and straightened out the lambs wool throw on the chair.  Maybe found a cuter mouse pad too.

But this is real life guys.  This is where I sit in the early morning hours writing my blog posts and editing my photos.  There are cords, and messes, and usually a cup of coffee next to that unattractive mouse pad.

I hope you enjoyed today’s tour.  Be sure to check back next Wednesday to see what Ken and I were up to in the piano room!

the traders market.

Happy Labor Day to those of you in the U.S. … or maybe other countries too, I don’t know.  Do you celebrate Labor Day (or some similar holiday) where you are?  This year it truly does feel like the long Labor Day weekend is signaling the end of summer.  We’ve had cool, somewhat cloudy weather all weekend.

But that ended up being perfect weather for the Traders’ Market in Elko, MN.

I had heard about this event over the years but had never actually gone to it.  My friend/picker Sue gave me a heads up that it was taking place this past weekend and it’s only about 30 minutes or so south of the Twin Cities, so my sister and I decided to check it out this past Saturday.

I would say that this event is a scaled down (more manageable?) version of Oronoco Gold Rush.   We were able to see the entire thing in about 3 hours.  There were your typical ‘antique’ dealers with piles of old stuff thrown on tables.  Plus a handful of artisans with things made out of metal or wood.

But there also was a smattering of booths that really appealed to me.

I’m afraid I didn’t get names to go with the vendors who had most of the booths.  I mentioned to my sister that it seemed odd that many booths seemed to be unmanned.  I’m sure the vendors were around somewhere, but they weren’t hovering.  I generally like to ask permission before taking photos, but I wasn’t able to for some of these.

There were a couple of stand out displays, like this one …

I love the way they used the colors of the book jackets to play off the colors on the toy trucks.

These next two photos are also from the same booth.

Gotta love the old books.

This next booth was my favorite of the day though …

Their display was gorgeous.  I loved the creamy white color scheme.

I debated purchasing these grain sack pumpkins, but I rarely decorate much for Fall.

Check out the stems on those pumpkins.  It’s hard to tell in my photo, but they are made out of old tools.  How fun is that?

They had a lot of vintage tarnished silver mixed in with the creamy white too.

This wreath made out of old silver trays reminded me of a similar one that was at the 2011 Bachman’s Holiday Idea house.  That was one of my favorite versions of the Idea House, if you’ve never heard of it or want to see more of it, check out Linda’s tour at Itsy Bits and Pieces here.

If you have a large dining room, this would be an incredible statement piece for the wall.

I did manage to pick up a card and chat with the vendors at this booth and it turned out they were from Urban Revival, a shop in Farmington, MN.  Their shop had been recommended to me by several people in the past but I’d never made a trip out there, so since it was just a little bit out of our way Debbie and I decided to stop off there on the way home.

Farmington was a bit of a ghost town when we got there.

Maybe because it was a holiday weekend and everyone was out of town.  And I suppose those that weren’t out of town were at the Traders’ Market at Elko!

The shop was adorable, I love the way they had everything displayed by color … much like their booth at Elko.

They had a few fun items made with some Funky Junk stencils.

By the way, they also carried both Dixie Belle paint and Miss Mustard Seed milk paint, so for any of you locals on the south side of the cities this is a great spot to pick up those products.

You might be wondering if I purchased anything on Saturday.  I have to confess, being an avid garage saler has pretty much ruined me for these events/shops.  I’m so used to finding things for a couple of dollars, so I cringe at real price tags.  I mainly go to these places to get ideas and to see what other people are doing.

However, I did pick up an adorable set of ‘days of the week’ dish towels at the market.

I had initially looked at a vintage set that was $45, but that was a bit steep for me.  Plus, I buy these towels to use them not to just display them somewhere.  Ultimately they get worn and stained and … well … used.  So I passed on the vintage set and later found this set for $35.  The lovely older woman (gosh, I hope she’s not a blog reader of mine, she was clearly in her 70’s at least, but nobody likes to be called ‘older’) who was selling these made them herself.  Kudos to her for her fine stitching skills!

Before we left the market, Debbie and I posed for a selfie with a new friend.

We had a great time exploring the Traders’ Market and Urban Revival.  The Traders’ Market is held three times a year on the summer holiday weekends; Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day.  We’d definitely go back again next year!

the midas touch.

I purchased this mid mod piece at a garage sale earlier this season.

It had been lingering out in the workshop all summer because it’s so huge.  I felt worn out just looking at it.  Plus the top is laminate, so I knew that would require some extra steps.  So I procrastinated a bit.

But much like painting my baby grand piano, I am now wondering what in the world I was waiting for.

In fact, this is the perfect sort of project for a working gal like me.  Each step only took about an hour or so and then needed dry time in between.  Perfect for fitting in after work each evening.  By Friday you suddenly realize that you’ve finished the piece and it didn’t take long at all.

I started by removing the drawer pulls and sanding everything a little more thoroughly than usual.  Then I cleaned the entire piece using TSP substitute.  I was extra diligent with these two steps because I wanted to make sure I would get good adhesion with my paint.  Next I added a coat of Fusion’s Ultra Grip to the laminate top of the piece.  The directions on the Ultra Grip say to let it dry for 12 hours for best results, and since I wanted the best result, that’s what I did.

While that was drying, I painted the drawer fronts and the base of the piece with Fusion’s Park Bench.

The next evening I added a 2nd coat of green on the bottom and the first coat of Park Bench to the top.  I then let that dry for 24 hours before adding a 2nd coat to the top the next evening.

Again, I wanted to allow for maximum durability of the paint over that laminate.  It’s always a good idea to do two light coats of paint rather than one heavy coat, and to make sure the first coat is totally dry before adding the 2nd.

Next I washed the drawer pulls using Dawn dishwashing soap.  Once they were dry I ‘golded’ them up a bit using Prima Marketing’s Decor Wax in Eternal.

To apply the wax to pieces like this I just put on some latex gloves and rub the wax on with my finger.  Somehow I just can’t seem to stop the theme to Goldfinger from running through my head while I’m doing this.  Goldfinger.  He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch.

I like to give the wax a couple of hours to harden and then I buff the pulls lightly with a soft cloth to bring out a little more shine.

The paint totally updates the look of this credenza.  I think it simplifies some of the detail that is going on with those raised panels on the drawer fronts and makes them look less ‘busy’.

You’ll remember the pair of quail I purchased at the Mac-Grove sales last weekend, here they are again with their new paint job.  They tie in nicely with the gold hardware.

I think they look a bit more fresh and updated now.  I used the same RustOleum spray paint in gold that I used on my living room lamp and the hardware on the cobalt blue dresser.  I seem to be getting a ton of use out of that one can of spray paint.

In the past these Park Bench green pieces have sold really well for me so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this trend continues.

Thank you to Prima Marketing for providing the Decor wax and to Fusion for providing the Ultra Grip.

If you’re wondering where to purchase the Decor Wax, check out Prima’s ‘where to buy’ page.

If you’re wondering where to buy the Fusion products, check out their ‘where to buy’ page.

And finally, if you happen to be local (Twin Cities, MN) and in need of a fabulous green credenza, check out my ‘available for local sale’ page to see if this one is still available.

the photo cottage.

Today I’m continuing the Wednesday tour of our home.  Today’s stop, the photo cottage.

This is a little building that’s out in our backyard.  I feel like it would be selling it a bit short to call it a shed, but it’s a little overkill to call it a summer house.  The people who owned the house before we did used it as a playhouse for their kids.

It has undergone several transformations since we’ve lived here.  It went from a storage area to a potting shed to a summer house, all of which were sadly underutilized.

Then in 2014 I decided to put it to use as a photo staging area.  I started by painting the interior walls and ceiling white, then painting a white & grey checkered pattern on the floor.

I have a cupboard out in the photo cottage that came with the house.  It’s a great spot for storing some of my photo props.

Although that chair stayed out there for a little while, I’m actually using it inside the house now.

I did quite a few furniture photo shoots in here originally.

But I really struggled with the lighting, and with getting the white balance right.  At certain times of the day the sun reflected off my red carriage house next door and turned everything pink.

Plus, the photo cottage isn’t really big enough to get shots from every angle.

Also, over time the painted floor started to really show its age.

I realized last summer that I needed to repaint it if I was going to continue to use it for photo shoots.  But time ran out and I never got it done.  Then I planned to paint it this summer.  And guess what?  It’s the end of summer and once again I still haven’t done it.  At this point, I’m giving up trying to accomplish it this year.  Also, I’m just not sure it’s worth the effort for a building that isn’t optimal for photo shoots anyway.

So the truth of the matter is that this little outbuilding has reverted back to its original purpose, as a storage area.  We’ll probably store our deck furniture out there this winter.  Maybe next Spring I can refresh this space once again.  Honestly, I give it a 50/50 chance of getting done.

I’m curious, what would you do with this little cottage if you had it in your backyard?




mac-grove 2019.

We had the most beautiful day for garage saling on Saturday.  It was sunny with low humidity and cooler temps in the 70’s.

I didn’t come home with tons of treasures, but I found a few good things.  You might be surprised by the item I’ve chosen as my ‘find of the day’, but you’ll have to read to the end to find out what it is.

Before I get to the ‘finds’ though, I have to tell you guys that the garage sales themselves are really only part of the reason why I love these neighborhood garage sales.  The other part is getting to drive around these gorgeous neighborhoods and snoop.

This particular neighborhood is in St. Paul and is bordered on one side by the Mississippi River.  The homes along Mississippi River Boulevard are especially fab.  Isn’t that row of hydrangeas spectacular?

I was totally envious of the hydrangea tree (on left) in front of this next house.

Who wouldn’t love to live in a pretty little cottage like this next one?

But let’s get back to the finds.

First up, Shelly suggested I show you my sister Debbie’s finds this time.  I aim to please, so here they are.

She spent less than $10 and came home with some Scandinavian style Christmas linens, a cookbook and a piece of blue carnival glass, which she non-collects 😉

I think it’s fair to say that Debbie comes along for the sight-seeing and the scintillating company more so than the actual garage saling (right Deb?).  But she usually finds a couple of things to buy.

I came home with a couple of things to add to my own non-collections.

Including just one solitary Christmas ornament and some bluebird china.

I also purchased a gorgeous vintage tablecloth.  The colors in it were just so vibrant.

You may remember that I pared down my non-collection of these earlier this year, so it was silly to buy another … but at $10, I just couldn’t pass it up.

Somehow I also can’t seem to resist sweet painted china like this plate …

There’s really no market for these pieces right now and as a result they tend to be dirt cheap.  I paid $1 for this one.  I was thinking it would be pretty hung on the wall in my guest room.

I also picked up another enamelware coffee pot.

These have been selling well for me with the Prima Marketing transfers added to them, so I added some on this one too.

I also nabbed this mid-century glassware …

I think I’m going to use them as a prop for the mid-mod credenza that I’ll be sharing later this week.

Speaking of things one can’t resist, who can resist heading to a garage sale that uses the poop emoji on their sign?

I didn’t end up buying much from these ladies, just a pair of quail.

I’ve already given them a fresh new look with a coat of spray paint.  You’ll also see them again as props on that mid-century credenza, but here they are with their new paint job …

I also bought a few bigger pieces at Mac-Grove.

The three kid-sized wooden chairs will get makeovers eventually.  I have some ideas for those swimming around in my head.  Of course the washstand will also get a paint job and probably some new hardware since one pull is missing.

The bucket on the right would make a fantastic large planter, don’t you think?  It is really quite heavy and the seller told me that it’s an old ash bucket.  It would also be a great container for firewood if you’re lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace.

Remember the secretary desk I shared last week with the Prima Marketing Parisian Letter transfer on it?  I mentioned that I couldn’t quite fit the entire transfer on the desk.  The remaining portion was perfect for this bucket.

It looks pretty awesome filled with Limelight hydrangeas, doesn’t it?

Now, you’re probably wondering, what about that ‘find of the day’?  Well, it’s actually not included in any of the photos so far but here it is …

Oh my gosh you guys, these cookies were so delicious that I just had to call them my find of the day.  The gal selling them is going to be opening a bakery in Northfield, MN.  She said that she uses a lot of old Swedish recipes for her baking.  These cookies might not look like much, but they had the most delicate crisp texture on the outside, with a chewy interior.  Plus they were the perfect almond flavor.  The gal also mentioned that she crushes the almonds by hand to make these.  If any of you are ever near Northfield, keep an eye out for this bakery.  You’ve got to try these cookies!

So, what’s your favorite among my finds this week?  Were you surprised that my ‘find of the day’ was a cookie?  Did you have your own fab finds last weekend?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

restyled tool box.

Earlier this summer I picked up an old wooden tool box at a garage sale.

Funny enough, I took that ‘before’ photo on my deck before Mr. Q cleaned it up, so there’s another good shot of where he started from on the deck.

Anyway, the tool box itself also got cleaned up and then I added a couple of coats of Dixie Belle paint in Midnight Sky.

Next I pulled out one of Prima Marketing’s Decor Moulds called Royalty.

I used their Modeling Material to make two of the crowns.  Next I used some wood glue to attach one to each end of the tool box.

I let them dry overnight and then painted them with the Midnight Sky as well.  Once the paint was dry, I rubbed on a little of Prima Marketing’s metallique wax in Bronze Age.

I also added one of my favorite stencils to the front of the box.  I’d love to share a source for this particular stencil, but I purchased it on Etsy from a vendor that no longer sells there.

I filled the toolbox with some ironstone, some old silverware and a beautiful monogrammed tablecloth.

I just love old white on white embroidered linens.

I actually completed and photographed this project quite some time ago.  In fact, it was way back when the peonies were in bloom.

I just never got around to sharing it with you until now.

Although I got two pieces of furniture finished this week, I never found time to photograph them.  So I needed a quick blog post to fill today’s spot, but I’ll be back next week with some more furniture transformations.

In the meantime, tomorrow is one of my favorite neighborhood garage sales, MacGrove.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I come across some fab finds there!  How about you?  Got any fun weekend plans?

going au natural.

Welcome to the third installment of my house tour.  I had originally planned to go in order with the rooms (because I tend to be a organized, linear sort of thinker) , which would have meant that the piano room was next.

But I have a big project planned for that room in the coming weeks, so instead today I’m going to share my ‘outside room’ otherwise known as the deck.

Do you have a wooden deck?  I’m not gonna lie, I think maintaining a wood deck is one of the most annoying chores.  Our deck is made out of cedar and we’ve tried several different sealer/weather-proofing products over the years and none of them have lived up to my expectations.

Now, granted, Minnesota weather can be pretty harsh.  And we enter our house via the deck, so it gets a lot of wear and tear year round.

But so far every product we have used has looked not so great within a year, and downright crappy within two.

So this year we decided to go back to basics.  Mr. Q put in hours and hours of stripping, power washing and using brighteners to un-do the damage caused by the various products we’d applied over the years.  Before you get all excited and think that I’m about to reveal a miracle deck product that you should all run out and buy, think again.  In fact, once he had finished all of that work, we decided to just try going au natural this time around.

We are accepting our own limitations, following the maxim ‘know thyself’, knowing full well that we won’t keep up with the regular maintenance required for a good looking finish on our deck.  Since our deck is made of cedar though, we are going to just let it weather naturally for a year and see how we feel about that look.  After all, if we end up hating it, we can always get out the pressure washer and do it all over again.

In addition to Mr. Q cleaning up the wood decking itself, I also freshened up the patio furniture this summer.

You’ve already seen the Adirondack chairs that our handyman/neighbor Ken made for us.  One is brand new, and one we’ve had for several years, but I gave both of them a fresh coat of RustOleum spray paint in a color called Eden.

Oh hey, speaking of the chairs, here’s a photo I shared after painting them back at the beginning of July and it shows the ‘before’ state of the decking.  That gives you an idea of where Mr. Q was starting.

Yeah, definitely not great, huh?

And here are the chairs on the newly stripped decking.

Definitely an improvement.

In addition to having a great eye when it comes to garage sale finds, my picker Sue can also sew.  So I asked her to sew up some simple drop cloth slipcovers for my cushions for the dining set on my deck this summer as well.  They are just simple pillow sham style covers that allow me to slip the cushions in and out which makes it easy to wash them if necessary.

Initially I was going to stencil them with some of my European grain sack style stencils.  However, the throw pillows that I already had for the chairs have French writing on them so it seemed like that would be a bit much.  Instead I simply stenciled them with just the grain sack stripes.

I used Dixie Belle paint in Gravel Road, a grain sack stripe stencil and a fabulously large stencil brush from the Prima Marketing line.

That brush with its big ball handle is easy to hold and the size made quick work of stenciling that wide stripe.

And I love how they turned out.

Now the chairs are much more ‘me’.

The throw pillows came from Restoration Hardware quite a few years back.  They had a bit of a story behind them too.  I purchased them online at a sale price without really paying attention to the measurements.  As it turned out they were far too wide for my chairs.  So once again Sue came to my rescue and modified them to fit.

They’ve held up pretty well over the years, all except this one.

I store these upstairs in the carriage house over the winter, and last spring when I pulled them out this one had this gaping hole.  I hate to say it, but I suspect mice chewed that hole.

So while I was working on the slip covers for the seats, I decided to create a patch for this hole.  I started by stenciling a scrap of the same drop cloth fabric used for the cushions.

Then I just sewed it in place behind the hole.

I’m quite sure that some of you are going to think I’m totally nuts, but now this is my favorite of the pillows.  I adore that little union jack patch job.  Unfortunately, it barely even shows when the pillow is in place on a chair.

Oh well.  I know it’s there, maybe that’s all that counts, right?

You may have noticed that I moved my rusty planters up to either side of the door.  It’s easier to see their fabulously rusty patina up on the deck.

I still have my house number plate hanging below the porch light.

I did this ages ago.  I used my Cricut machine to cut the ‘no. 6041’ out of adhesive vinyl and then stuck it to an ironstone platter.  I have to confess, I’m surprised it has held up as beautifully as it has.  I leave it there year round, take it down and wash it occasionally, and it still looks just like it did on day one.

Speaking of whether or not things hold up, remember the metal picnic basket that I added a Prima Marketing transfer to?  It’s also holding up quite well out in the elements despite not being sealed with anything at all.

I think how well the transfers hold up outdoors is entirely dependent upon what kind of surface you put them on.  This is a very smooth metal surface, although it is rusting in spots, the finish isn’t peeling or flaking underneath the transfer.  Plus I got a really good seal (ie. no air bubbles at all) with the transfer over the smooth surface of the metal.  I think a transfer on glass (or on a china plate) would also hold up really well outside.  However, you might get a different result with a transfer placed over a rougher surface like painted wood, unfinished barn wood or something like that.

That monster of a shrub beside the deck is a Limelight hydrangea.

Well, technically it’s two of them.  I planted them there to provide some extra privacy for our dining area and I never expected them to get so huge.    They provide a ‘wall’ on that end of the deck which makes it feel secluded and cozy.  As an added bonus it provides tons of dried hydrangeas to use in my window boxes for fall and winter.

You may have noticed that lump of something on one of the chairs in the photo above.

Lucy is once again up to her photo bombing ways.  She likes sleeping out here almost as much as the front porch.  She seems to be drawn like a magnet to anything that is freshly upholstered.

By the way, in case you are wondering why the Limelight hydrangea flowers look so green on the bush, while the ones in the ironstone pitcher on the table look creamier, that’s because the ones in the pitcher are Vanilla Strawberry hydrangeas.  I have one of those over by the carriage house.  The flowers start out fairly white but turn pinker over time.

Mr. Q and I have quite a few dinners out on our deck in the summer so it’s nice to finally have it all spruced up.

Now we can just focus on relaxing and enjoying it for the rest of the summer, while it lasts.

Next on our tour I’ll take you inside the photo cottage, so be sure to check back next Wednesday.