it always sneaks up on me.

Somehow gardening season always seems to sneak up on me.  And when I say gardening season, I don’t exactly mean that it’s time to get out in the garden, more that it’s time to get some garden themed merchandise ready to bring into the shop where I sell on consignment, and that happens a tad earlier than actual gardening season.

This year it really feels like it has snuck up on me with temps in the 70’s over the weekend.  That’s not exactly typical for the first weekend of April in Minnesota.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is only early April, there is still plenty of spring left.  We really don’t even plant out our annuals here for six more weeks (unless you’re one of those risk takers who plants early and hopes there isn’t a frost).

Anyway, I took full advantage of the warm weather and I painted outside on Saturday!  It’s amazing how much more I can accomplish in a day when I can spread out multiple projects to work on.  I just don’t have the space for that inside the house.

Some of you may remember that I purchased this pair of old chairs last year …

pair of planter chairs

This was one of those cases where I totally overpaid for something.  I paid $10 each, and these chairs should have been on someone’s burn pile (ie. free).  There are several missing pieces, including the cane seats on both.  Plus by the time I got them home, one of the legs had even broken off!  But I wanted to turn them into planter chairs, so they don’t have to be sturdy enough to sit in, just sturdy enough to hold a plant.  And I loved that empty canvas of space on the chair backs.  So I splurged (OK, it’s maybe a little silly to consider $10 a splurge) on them.

By the way, if you are new to my blog and don’t know what I mean by ‘planter chair’, here is one I painted up last year.

Chairs without seats can usually be found dirt cheap, and they are perfect for holding a large hanging basket of flowering annuals.  Although usually I choose chairs that are in better shape than this pair!

Step one was finding just the right stencil to use on those nice, big backs.  I went through my stash and was once again reminded that a good garden themed stencil is hard to find.  I had nothing.  So I went on Etsy and did some searching.  I ended up ordering two stencils from The Stencil Market on Etsy.  I paid just under $22 total for both of them (including shipping), and the seller shipped them super fast which was awesome because I had them by the weekend and was able to finish up my chairs.

The prep was a little bit more work than usual on these chairs.  First of all, they went over to my handyman Ken’s workshop for some regluing and repair of that broken leg.  Then I sanded them quite a bit more than usual because they had a very dried out, flaking finish on them.  Then I cleaned them using Dixie Belle’s White Lightning Cleaner.  This cleaner is a trisodium phosphate (TSP) product.  TSP is toxic and should be handled with care.  If you want to get some legit info on TSP, you can see what Bob Vila has to say about the pros and cons of using TSP here.  This is why I usually use a TSP substitute cleaner rather than the real thing.  But these chairs were so gross that I thought they warranted breaking out the White Lightning.  If you ever use it, be sure to follow all of the safety precautions on the label.

I went with two different sorts of looks on these chairs.  Let’s start with the neutral, farmhouse-y look.  I painted this one in Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky and then added the Fresh Flowers stencil using Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

I couldn’t fit the entire stencil on the back, but I felt like it didn’t need the words “fresh cut” for this purpose anyway.

I like to use Dixie Belle’s Gator Hide as a finish on my planter chairs to give them a little more protection from the elements.  It definitely has a shinier finish than my usual top coats.

I’ve seen quite a few comments from people that have had some difficulty with it looking streaky over black, so here’s today’s q-tip.  The solution to that is to mix a little bit of your paint color in with the Gator Hide. I did that here and it worked perfectly.  I wasn’t sure if that mix would look streaky over the white lettering though, so I did that area first with clear Gator Hide.

For the second chair I once again decided to go with a brilliant pop of color.

First, a little background.  Remember the dresser I recently painted in Flamingo?  I didn’t mention in that post that I made an attempt to do some color mixing for that piece.  I wanted the color to be a deeper coral.  The Dixie Belle website suggests mixing Flamingo and Peony to create ‘coral’, so I just jumped in with both feet (I should have tested it in a small quantity first) and mixed up about a cup of this color.  The resulting color was quite a bit more pink than I wanted (I suggest adding their Barn Red to Flamingo to make a deeper coral color).  Here’s a quick comparison of the Flamingo straight up (on left) and the Flamingo mixed with Peony (on right).

color comparison

Yep, that’s a lot more pink I think.

Anyway, I ended up just using Flamingo on its own for that dresser, but rather than toss that cup of mixed paint I used it on chair number two.

Yep, that’s definitely a pop of color!

Wouldn’t it be gorgeous with a huge basket of brightly color annuals though?  Or, you could add a basket of white geraniums for a slightly more subtle look.

I used Dixie Belle’s Fluff for the stenciling on this one because I wanted more of a true white as opposed to the creamy white of Drop Cloth.

Isn’t that stencil sweet?  It was perfect for a planter chair.

This chair also got a top coat of clear Gator Hide.

Let’s just chat a minute about durability.  Although I gave these chairs their best shot with that Gator Hide, they were originally manufactured for indoor use.  They will hold up for a couple of seasons, more if you store them inside over the winter and add a fresh coat of clear sealer each spring (you could even just use a spray poly for that) and also more if you use them on a semi-protected porch.  But that being said, they won’t last forever outside.  The glued joints won’t hold up.  But who cares?  They were ready for the scrap heap anyway, so just use them for a couple of years and then toss them when they start falling apart.  That’s what I do anyway 😉

It’s a bit early for baskets of annuals here in Minnesota, so you’re just going to have to use your imagination to envision these chairs with big pots of flowers in them.  But can’t you just see it?

pair of planter chairs

So which one is your favorite?  Are you loving that pop of color?  Or would you prefer the more dignified classic black and white?  My neighbor nnK thinks the pink one will sell more quickly than the black one, but I think it will be the other way around.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

These are both available for sale locally, so if any of you locals could use a planter chair this year check out the details on my available for local sale page.

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing their products used for this project.

simple scrapbooking.

Before I move on with today’s post, I want to say congrats to Libby.  I drew her name as the random winner of the pair of Dixie Belle brushes I’m giving away and Mr. Q is heading to the post office today to get that shipped out along with the desert themed giveaway that Debbie Dee won two weeks ago (I’m so sorry Debbie, I’m terrible about getting things in the mail promptly!)

Last Friday I wrote about losing my mojo with furniture painting, and today I thought I’d post about another creative outlet that I lost my mojo for.  I used to be an avid scrapbooker.  I feel like I must have inherited the gene for it from my grandmother, based on the scrapbook she made of their 1953 road trip.

I have almost completely given up scrapbooking, although I do still occasionally create scrapbook alternatives like the recipe box scrapbook of our Adriatic cruise.

inside

I still haven’t finished that project.  I meant to get to it over the winter, but somehow the winter has slipped away from me and here it is spring already!

While I was out visiting my mom last month, she sent another scrapbook home with me (my mom is at that age where she wants to get rid of things).  This is a small scrapbook that I made for her as a memento from a Viking river cruise that we (Mr. Q, my sister, my mom and me) took on the Danube back in 2014.

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As I looked through it I was reminded that I kept it fairly simple and uncluttered, so overall it came together pretty quickly.  Plus the 8″ x 8″ size of the pages in this book are easier to fill than those in a larger book.

So I thought that I’d share some tips today on creating a simple scrapbook just in case any of you might be inspired to get out your old scrapbooking supplies this weekend.

My first tip has to do with the photos themselves.  I print my own photos on a relatively inexpensive color printer and I use matte photo paper.  You know me, I’m not a fan of shine, even in my photos.  Printing the photos myself as I go allows me to size them to fit the layout on my page.

By the way, that guy in the photo at the top of the page is making something called kürtöskalács or chimney cake and it was delicious!

I also edit my photos using the same program I use for my blog photos, PicMonkey.  You can make all kinds of adjustments to your photo for color, exposure, etc and you can play around with fun effects (check out what I did with their “miniature” effect in this post), but my favorite thing to do is to add titles right to the photo.

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There are lots of fonts to choose from, and you can adjust the color and transparency of the title as well.

Personally I find PicMonkey fairly easy to work with compared to some of the more complicated photo editing software packages like Photo Shop.

I tried to keep the focus on the photos in this book and I chose plain but colorful background paper to bring out the various details.

I didn’t add too much embellishment to most of the pages, but when I did I just layered a few elements.

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I know you all are probably noticing that I didn’t do any journaling other than those titles on the photos.  Here’s my thoughts on journaling; it’s more important for scrapbooks that might be handed down to future generations than it is for your own keepsake.  When I look back at these pages I am transported back to the places we visited on this trip.  I remember quite well how rainy it was in Vienna, and the pretty pastel colors on the buildings in Regensburg.

And I definitely don’t need any more journaling to remember how freezing cold it was sailing through the Wachau Valley, even for a hardy Minnesotan like me.  I had on about five layers of clothing, plus two blankets and I was still freezing!

We spent a couple of days in Budapest before our cruise sailed and we hired a private guide for a walking tour which turned out to be amazing.

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I have to admit that quote sticker I chose to place beside the photo is a bit tongue in cheek.  We walked, and walked, and walked for a full five hours (it was supposed to be 4, but we just kept on going) on that tour and definitely did not sit down a lot of the time.  My poor mom was totally wiped out.  At one point we offered to send her back to the hotel in a taxi, but she was a real trooper and she hung in until the end.

By the way, if you are ever going to be in Budapest I can’t recommend Orsolya enough.  Our tour was amazing.  You can check out her website here.  At $150 for the entire group for a 4 hour walking tour, I’d say she is still a bargain!

This scrapbook definitely serves it purpose as a memento of a wonderful trip.

Here’s hoping that we’ll all be able to travel like this again soon.  I’d love to take another river cruise in Europe one of these days!  I have to admit, I’m starting to despair that Europe will never open back up for U.S. travelers, but I’m trying to embrace optimism.  Therefore, I predict that one year from now I’ll be writing a blog post all about the trip to Europe that we are planning for Fall of 2022.  Fingers crossed!

If you’d like to see more of my scrapbooking efforts, I did post about the full size book I made about this trip for myself here, and if you’d like more details on our walking tour with Orsolya, you can find a post about that here.

in a sea of white.

Last Friday I posted about my struggles finding pieces to work on these days and based on the comments I received, many of you are feeling the same.  As I mentioned though, I was ultimately able to find this dresser on Facebook Marketplace …

This one was listed at $100, which seemed high to me based on the condition of the mirror frame.  But, it was close to home (and I always take those mirrors off anyway) plus I haven’t been finding much else, so I decided to bite the bullet and set up a time to take a look.

The seller had mentioned in her ad that this piece belonged to her grandmother and she was reluctant to part with it, but it had to go.  So many of us fall victim to ‘family heirloom syndrome‘.  We think we have to keep something, even though it’s not at all our style and we have nowhere to put it.  And I often find that sellers base the price of these items on the sentimental value it has for them rather than the actual condition and/or value of the piece.

After taking a look at the dresser and testing out all of the drawers, I realized that I really couldn’t justify paying $100 for it.  The drawers are a bit on the flimsy side and the bottoms of them had been replaced with old paneling.  The top of the dresser is warped (which you’ll see in a side shot soon) and the original wooden casters were totally worn down …

Those won’t be going back on.

I was fully prepared to just walk away from this purchase, so I said “I’m sorry but I just can’t pay $100 for this dresser.”  The seller then asked “Well, what would you pay?”  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to charge top dollar for it no matter how pretty it might look in the end, the quality just wasn’t there.  So I came in low at $60.  But the seller accepted that, so the dresser came home with me after all.

I really had been thinking I’d play it safe and paint it either white (and add a transfer) or black (and add a stencil).  But for some crazy reason, I ended up deciding that it needed a pop of color to brighten it up so I pulled out Dixie Belle’s Flamingo.

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I know, right?  It’s not for the faint of heart.

When I read the comment from Sherry on last Friday’s post, “I get so unnerved bringing a piece into the store and being the only teal or red piece in a sea of white furniture (with a loud “what were you thinking?!resounding in my head)!” I had to laugh because that was exactly how I was feeling about this color choice.

Seriously, what was I thinking?  This piece is definitely going to stand out in a sea of white.

Well, let’s review the nuts and bolts of this makeover.

Of course I removed the damaged mirror harp and tossed it.  I’ll save the mirror and refurbish it separately in some fashion or other.  I also had to remove those worn out wooden casters.  Then I also removed the wood knobs and added them to my stash (as you know, I like using the wooden knobs on signs).  I felt like this color required some pretty glass knobs, sort of like adding jewelry to a party outfit.

knobs

Those are the 1 1/2″ antique clear glass knobs from D. Lawless Hardware, in case any of you are wondering.

After prepping the piece with some light sanding and cleaning, I started painting with the Flamingo.  After coat number one I was wondering if I had lost my mind choosing this color.  After coat number two I was reminding myself that this particular color does not cover well at all, I knew that from using it before.  By coat number three I was seriously considering getting out the white paint and starting over.

I decided to sleep on it instead.  The next morning I got up and realized that it was just the sides of the dresser that really needed a 4th coat.  So I added that, and then started sanding the drawer fronts to distress the edges a bit.

I know there are many furniture painters out there that don’t distress their pieces, and probably just as many who don’t like the look of distressing, but I feel like it adds tons of character to an older piece of furniture.

Finally, I added a coat of clear wax and decided that maybe Flamingo wasn’t such a bad choice after all.

full coral dresser

I still had to deal with those drawers with paneling bottoms.  I was hoping I’d have some sort of decorative paper on hand to cover that up.  It feels as though fate much have stepped in because I went through my paper stash and found this …

It was perfect!  I’d forgotten I even had this paper, and luckily I had enough of it for all three drawers.

Not only did I happen to have just the right paper, I also happened to have enough old wooden casters to replace those worn out versions.

Here is that side view showing the warp to the top of the dresser.

side view

It’s not massively warped, but there is a bit of a gap in the middle where the top doesn’t meet the side.  It wasn’t bad enough that it warranted taking the whole top off and trying to flatten it out and reattach it though.

I’ve staged this piece as a buffet.

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But this sort of dresser can be so versatile.  You could use it in a nursery as a changing table, you could use it in your home office to hold your office supplies with a printer on top of it, you could use it in a bedroom to holding clothing … or, you could use it as a buffet in your dining room!

Now, about that color.  I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  But I’m hoping that someone out there is searching for just that perfect pop of coral to brighten up their home.  In the end, it’s just paint after all.  I can always re-paint it down the road if it doesn’t sell.  That will just remain to be seen.

collage

It certainly has a totally new look, don’t you think?

As always, thank you to Dixie Belle for providing the paint used on this dresser.  If any of you locals need to add a pop of coral to your home be sure to check out my available for local sale page for more details.

 

losing my mojo.

Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to say that I really wish I could give some wax brushes to each one of you who left a comment on Monday’s post!  I never suspected that so many of you don’t even have one wax brush, let alone a bunch of them.  I have to say, once you’ve used a brush to apply wax you’ll never go back to using old t-shirts.  It’s just so much easier with a brush (although I do still buff it afterwards with those old t-shirts).  If you haven’t yet left a comment on that post, you have until midnight (U.S. central time) tonight to leave a comment and be in the running to win the pair of Dixie Belle brushes that I am giving away.

OK, moving on.  I have a confession to make.  Lately I feel as though I have really lost my mojo when it comes to painting furniture.

I just haven’t been having any luck at finding pieces to work on.  First of all, it seems like the prices people are asking for their cast off furniture have gone up (have any of you noticed that?) and it doesn’t seem as though the prices I can charge for my pieces have gone up commensurately.  I haven’t been able to find much of anything for less than $100, and that is typically the most I will spend.

Secondly, I’ve been striking out with the online purchases I do set up.  I’d arranged to meet someone at their storage facility to buy a dresser a couple of weeks back and the person never showed.  We waited in the parking lot for 45 minutes, I messaged repeatedly, and nothing.  I finally heard from her three hours later when she messaged to say that she got held up at work.  Really?  And she couldn’t bother sending me a message to let me know?  As you can tell, I’m still bitter about that one.

I found another piece on Craigslist recently and arranged to go pick it up on a Thursday evening, and once again I was ‘ghosted’ by the seller.  Although we’d agreed on Thursday evening, and I’d set that time aside, the seller never got back to me with her address.  I finally heard back from her on Sunday evening, ooops, she’d forgotten about me.

Not quite as annoying, but still somewhat frustrating, in many cases I send an inquiry about a piece of furniture and just never get a reply of any kind.  I assume the items are sold, but I still see the ads listed.

Really though, all of those things just feel like excuses.  The truth of the matter is that I don’t know what direction to take these days.  I know I could paint up some mid-mod pieces and they would likely sell quite quickly.

But the competition for snatching up these pieces has gotten quite fierce, and now the sellers seem to know that they can get more than $50 for them too.  Plus, I’m just not feeling inspired by the mid-mod pieces of late.

I sometimes wonder if I should just play it safe with some more traditional sort of pieces painted in neutral colors, like the sofa table I painted a while back.  It sold quite quickly, so I think this style is a safe bet.

But I’ve never really been drawn to this style, and it doesn’t satisfy my need to feel creative to paint these pieces.

I really love pieces that have that sort of shabby chic vibe.

I’d certainly work on more of these if I could find them.

bed full

What I really love most of all though are the primitive, farmhouse, rustic sort of pieces.

This is the style that I have in my own home, and the look that really speaks to me personally.

But, these pieces generally require more repair work and it’s difficult for my handyman Ken to work on larger pieces in the winter.  It gets so much easier when he can just pop over to my carriage house workshop and let himself in to work on something.  Then I just come home from the day job to find pieces magically repaired.

Hopefully I’ll find more of these primitive sort of pieces this summer.

For those of you who also paint furniture, I’m curious to know, what kind of pieces are you working on these days?  What styles are selling best for you?  Are you still finding good bargains on Craiglist?  Do you choose pieces that inspire you creatively, or do you stick with pieces that you know will sell easily (or maybe you are lucky enough that those two things are one and the same)?  Inquiring minds want to know, leave me a comment!

In the meantime, I did manage to bring home a dresser that I found on Facebook Marketplace last week.

dresser before

I’ll be finishing this one up over the weekend and sharing its makeover with you next week (and I think you might be surprised by my choices on this one!), so be sure to stay tuned.

an embarrassment of riches.

Recently Dixie Belle sent me a few of the new brushes they have come out with. In fact, they sent me three sets of two of them. The first set were prototypes of a sort and they just wanted some feedback on the quality. Then they sent a 2nd set of them … honestly, I’m not quite sure why … maybe they just mistakenly sent them? The third set was the final version of the product, and they have the name of the brush engraved on the side of the handle which is a nice touch.

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I’ve worked with both of these brushes now and I found that the Best Dang Brush works beautifully for stenciling.

It’s nice and big, so you can make quick work of it.

I also think the Best Dang Brush would work well for waxing, although I haven’t tried it.  I did try the La Petite brush for waxing, and it worked quite well.

That pointy end is perfect for working the wax into corners.

Both of these new brushes are now available on the Dixie Belle website in case you are in need of a fantastic stenciling or waxing brush.

Receiving these new brushes made me realize that my brush storage system was already at full capacity and I needed a new solution. So I headed off to Hobby Lobby and I came home with these galvanized containers.

They are divided into three sections each (although you can’t see that in the ‘before’ photo) which will help keep my brushes standing upright.

They aren’t terribly exciting to look at, but I liked the size of them and the price was right. They were originally $12.99, but 50% off the day I found them, so I got them for around $6.50 each.

Of course I had to dress them up a bit first, so I added some sections of the IOD Label Ephemera transfer to the front of each one.

Someone recently mentioned in a comment that this transfer has been retired.  Such a bummer!  It was so perfect for using on small projects like this.  I guess you should stock up while they last (but leave some for me please)!

I decided to put all of my paint brushes into one container, and my wax brushes in another.

I know some of you must be looking at all of those brushes and thinking ‘jeesh, that’s an embarrassing quantity of brushes!’ and I don’t disagree.

When it comes to paint brushes, I really can use lots of them though.  In the summer when I’m able to paint out in my carriage house workshop I often have multiple projects in different colors going at one time.  I’ll often have half a dozen or more brushes in use simultaneously.  I also like having different brushes for different things.  Sometimes I want an angled brush (to get a clean edge), sometimes a brush with a short handle (to paint the insides of cupboard), sometimes a smaller brush, sometimes an inexpensive chip brush because I know I’m going to wreck it (using it for applying mod podge, I can never get that brush perfectly clean again) and so on.

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So yes, I really can use this many paint brushes.

On the other hand, I definitely have too many wax brushes.

Don’t get me wrong, I always apply my wax with a brush and it’s very convenient to have enough wax brushes that I can use each one exclusively for a particular color of wax.  At a minimum it’s good to have one brush for dark wax, one for white wax, and one for clear.

But as you can see, I have far more than that.

Quite honestly, having this many extra wax brushes has led to total laziness on my part.  Rather than wash my wax brushes, I just pull out a new one when I’m ready to wax.  How wasteful is that?  So as soon as I’m done writing this post, I’m going to wash all of my wax brushes so that they are ready to go for my next painting project.  I find the Fusion Brush Soap is perfect for cleaning wax brushes (check out this post for more on keeping your brushes clean).

I always end up feeling a bit guilty when I have ‘too much’ of something.  Excess makes me uncomfortable.

So I’ve decided to give away the extra set of these brushes that I received from Dixie Belle.  I suspect that some of you don’t have a bunch of wax brushes, or possibly don’t have any at all.  For the first couple of years that I was painting furniture I applied my wax with an old t-shirt because I didn’t want to splurge on a good quality wax brush (and FYI, it’s much easier to apply wax with a brush).  I’m hoping this pair of brushes can go to someone who will put them to good use.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on today’s blog post to have your name thrown in the hat to win.

Your comment must be left on this blog post, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Friday, March 26, 2021 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $50, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, April 2, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the items I am giving away.  Good luck!

the great american road trip.

First up, congrats to Debbie Dee!  I drew her name at random to win my giveaway from last Friday and I’ll be getting her prize shipped out just as soon as I get it boxed up and send Mr. Q to the post office 😉

In the meantime, in my post about my mom’s patio makeover, I mentioned that she downsized her home at the end of 2020.  As a result, she was clearing out and getting rid of things.

She phoned me one day while she was in the midst of that process and happened to mention that she had thrown away the scrapbook that her mother made of a family road trip they took out west in 1953.  I believe my response was “You did what?!!”

Of all the things she could have thrown out, she chose that scrapbook because ‘it was falling apart.’

Seriously, does my mother not know me at all?  Have I ever been know to shy away from something simply because it was falling apart?  Do I not have a huge stash of the old black and white family photos that no one else wanted, even though we aren’t even sure who the people are in them?

Fortunately, she had literally just thrown it out, so I asked her to please go back out to the garage, dig it back out of the trash can, and save it for me.

In my mind, this scrapbook chronicles not only an amazing piece of family history but also a classic story of the great American road trip.

My mom was a surprise baby that came along a bit late in life for my grandparents.  My grandmother was 42 and my grandpa was 48 when my mom was born.  She had two older siblings but by 1953 they were married and out of the house and she was effectively an only child.

That summer my grandparents loaded up the car and the three of them headed to South Dakota to pick up my grandmother’s brother and his wife, Uncle Knute and Aunt Alma, and then the five of them headed off for adventure at 5 a.m. the next day.

My grandmother documented the entire trip in this scrapbook starting with a map of their route.

There wasn’t an explanation for the two different routes shown, but it was noted that they followed the one shown in purple crayon.  The red crayon route must have been rejected for some reason, or perhaps it was plan B.

It seems that their goal was to not only see America, but also dip into both Canada and Mexico.  It must have been the trip of a lifetime for the adults (I can’t say the same for my mom, she went on to travel the world!).  They drove 7,000 miles and it took 22 days.  They saw snow deeper than their car in the Beartooth Mountains and temperatures of 105 degrees in the Mojave Desert.

But my mom still says that one of the things she remembers the most about this trip was having to sit in the back seat of the car in between Knute and Alma for all of those 7,000 miles.

I was surprised to learn that that between them my grandparents and my great aunt & uncle had relatives spread across the country all the way to California.  Out of 22 nights on the road, they spent 10 of them at the homes of various family members including a night at Aunt Nettie’s house in Long Beach, CA.

I once posted here about Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner.  I’d found a photo of her and her daughter in another old scrapbook and the photo was labeled “Great Aunt Nettie Fleaner and her daughter Flossie”.  It took me a second, but then I realized that made the daughter’s full name Flossie Fleaner.  You can’t help but laugh out loud at that one.

I also had to chuckle over my grandma’s caption for this next rather blurry photo.

Apparently several of her relatives lived in ‘modern homes’.  I suppose in 1953 that house was the height of modernity!

They seem to have hit all of the classic stops for a road trip out west including the Badlands, Yellowstone, Mount Hood, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Redwoods, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Tijuana, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and even Las Vegas …

I believe I may have inherited my feelings about Vegas from my grandmother with her comment that it was ‘mostly gambling places & motels’.  She doesn’t sound impressed, does she?

My mom said that Aunt Alma put $3 in a slot machine and my grandma was absolutely scandalized and called it sinful.  Hmmm.  In this case, the apple fell very far from the tree indeed.  I wonder what grandma would think of the fact that her daughter now lives near Vegas and I suspect she puts a little more than $3 into those machines.

For some reason I find it fascinating to think about how different Vegas must have looked in 1953.  Here’s a photo that I found online.

While searching around for that photo, I also learned that the U.S. government was testing atomic bombs in Nevada in 1953.  In some cases the mushrooms clouds could be seen from the strip.  And apparently it became a tourist attraction (check out this quick YouTube video if you don’t believe me).  Can you imagine?

I asked my mom about that and she didn’t remember seeing any mushroom clouds on their trip.

My grandmother kept track of the entire cost of the trip, which added up to a whopping $278.63, which I imagine was a fair amount of money in 1953.

I also thought it was interesting to note that my grandpa had to take an extra week of vacation without pay.  I assume he only got two weeks of vacation per year, and they were gone for three weeks.  I wish they’d noted how much a week’s pay was for him.  My grandpa worked in a bakery, so I don’t think that they were wealthy by any means.  According to the US Census Bureau the average family income in 1953 was around $80 per week.  So if you consider that, this trip, including the lost week of wages, cost about the equivalent of a month’s pay.

I wish I knew more about what inspired my grandparents to make this road trip.  I did a little online research and discovered that the popularity of road trips really took off in the 1950’s due to the rapid growth of ownership of automobiles by American families.  That made me wonder if the car they drove was their first family car, so I asked my mom about that.  Unfortunately she wasn’t really sure, but she does remember her dad taking the bus to work when she was younger so it is possible that they didn’t have a car prior to this time.

I also wonder if this trip is what inspired my mom’s love of travel.  She took us kids on roads trips nearly ever summer when we were young.  We drove to Florida once, and to California multiple times.  Of course, that is what inspired my own love of travel as well.  Speaking of, we just learned that the European cruise we had booked for September has been officially canceled.  This is cancellation number two, we were originally supposed to go in September 2020.  We’ve rebooked once again, now for September 2022.  Let’s hope that the third time will be the charm.  By the time it rolls around it will have been 4 years since our last trip to Europe and that just seems plain old crazy.

So tell me, do any of you have good stories to share about taking the great American road trip?  Or maybe you’ve taken road trips in other parts of the world?  I’d love to hear about your favorite places to visit, or trips taken, in the comments!

a tiny dresser.

When I returned to the office at my day job after my recent trip, I found this waiting for me on my desk.  My picker/co-worker Sue had picked it up for me at an estate sale while I was gone.

Nothing special to look at ‘as is’ really, it was definitely in need of a makeover.

I didn’t get a photo of the insides of the drawers, but they were lined with green felt.  So, I removed the green felt and then immediately painted the outside in Dixie Belle’s Drop Cloth.

Then I picked out some pretty scrapbook paper to use for lining the drawers.

Once I’d chosen the paper, I also chose another Dixie Belle paint color to paint the insides of the drawers, Vintage Duck Egg.  I thought it worked beautifully with that blue ribbon on the paper.

Once everything was painted, I sanded to distress the edges and then I pulled out some transfer scraps to add some personality to the outside too.

I used a combination of bits from the IOD Label Ephemera transfer and from the Tim Holtz Specimen rub-on’s (the butterflies and the numbers on the knobs).

Once I had the transfers on, I added a top coat of clear wax.

I used my tiny camera and an old family photo displayed in a vintage flower frog to stage my photos.

In case the scale of this piece isn’t coming across at all, this little dresser is only 7″ tall and 6″ wide.

Using this little piece as a jewelry box is the most obvious choice.

But I think it would also work well to store smaller craft supplies, like your washi tape.

Or maybe your metallic waxes …

It might also work well on your desk holding all of those pesky office supplies like post it note pads and paper clips.

It would make a unique container no matter what you choose to store inside of it.

This tiny dresser is for sale, in case any of you locals are interested (check out my available for local sale page for details).

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co for supplying the paint used on today’s project.

red rock canyon.

I am not your typical Vegas tourist.  If my mom didn’t live nearby, I’m sure I would never go there.

That being said, there are things you can do in the Las Vegas area that don’t involve gambling, drinking or bright lights.

One of my favorites is hiking in Red Rock Canyon, which is only about 25 miles from the Vegas Strip.

Red Rock offers something for every fitness level.  You could do some serious rock climbing, you could bring a bike (there are mountain bike trails, or you could just ride on the road), you can hike a 14 mile trail, you can hike a 1/2 mile trail, or you could just enjoy the scenic 13 mile loop through the park from the comfort of your vehicle.

My sister and I were looking forward to doing some longer hikes, however I managed to trip over a step on my mom’s patio the day before and injure my foot.  That sort of put a damper on the hiking.  We still managed to do several short hikes though, and we still enjoyed the beautiful desert scenery.

It was interesting to see the sandstone quarry where huge chunks of sandstone were cut out of the Calico Hills from 1905 to 1912.

The cost to transport the huge blocks of sandstone ended up being too costly to make a profit so after 7 years they gave it up.

We also checked out the petroglyphs.

They estimate that these petroglyphs are around 800 years old.  I have no idea what kind of message they were trying to convey, but it is fascinating to see them.

Our final stop was the Red Spring Boardwalk.

The purpose of the boardwalk is to keep people from walking directly on the grasses that grow near the spring and damaging that delicate ecosystem.

It was easy to see how different this area looked compared to the more dry areas of Red Rock Canyon.

And sure enough, there was even some water trickling down from the spring.

And even a little bit of green!

The next time you’re in Vegas, I totally recommend getting away from the glittering lights on the strip and checking out some nature instead.

Now, if you’ve followed me for long, you know that I always like to pick up a little something on my travels to give away here on the blog.  I know, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to travel, so you’ve probably all forgotten that I like to do this!

All I managed to pick up this time around was a magazine at the airport, but I’ve added a few other things to the prize that have a sunny desert sort of feel to them.

So in addition to the magazine, I’m including some Dixie Belle paint in Putty (a good desert hue), Haint Blue (not quite the color of that desert sky, but a pretty pale blue none the less), some Mud, a jar of the new Silk paint in Sun Kissed, some Easy Peasy spray wax, some Howdy-Do hemp seed oil and finally one of the new Dixie Belle La Petite brushes.  This brush works really beautifully for getting into some tight corners.  I’m not sure I would use it to paint, but it’s fantastic for waxing.

The rules:  Simply leave a comment on today’s blog post to have your name thrown in the hat to win.

Your comment must be left on this blog post, not on Facebook or Instagram.  You are not required to follow my blog, although it would be awesome if you did!

I will randomly draw the name of a winner for today’s prize from all of the comments left on this post by Sunday, March 14, 2021 at the stroke of midnight (U.S. Central time).

The fine print: no purchase necessary, you must be 18 years of age or older to win, void where prohibited by law, the number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning, approximate retail value of prize is $150, if the prize is not claimed by Friday, March 19, 2021 another name will be drawn at random to win, blah, blah, blah.

As always, thanks to Dixie Belle for providing the items I am giving away.  Good luck!

mom’s patio makeover.

You may or may not have noticed that I took a while to respond to comments on my blog last week.  That’s because I was out west visiting my mom.  If you’ve followed me for long, then you may know that my mom lives out near Las Vegas (she’s in the suburb of Henderson).

My mom turned 80 last year.  I had always thought we’d do something amazing for her 80th.  After all, we took her on a cruise for her 70th, so we had to top that.

But then there was COVID.

I didn’t even think going out there to see her would be a good idea, let alone going on some kind of trip together.  So her 80th birthday came and went with nothing more than a phone call between us.

Some of you also know that my mom was a travel agent who specialized in cruises.  She was still working at 79.  Not full time, but she had her regular clients and she would still go in to the office and set up trips for them (myself included).  But again, then there was COVID.  Obviously, the travel industry was hit hard, and one of the segments hit the hardest was cruising (for obvious reasons).  So after helping all of her clients with canceled cruises and making sure they got refunds (myself included), she decided to officially retire late last year.

At the end of 2020, my mom also sold her big house (it was 4 bedrooms, 3 baths) and moved into a much smaller townhome.  The house was too much for her to handle, and although my brother is there to help her, it made sense to move into something a bit more reasonable.  Again, I really wanted to go out there and help her with the move, but then there were all of those COVID surges right after the holidays.

More recently, my mom has had some health issues and I realized that I could no longer let COVID stop me from flying out to spend some time with her.  My sister was planning to go with or without me, so last week I masked up, hopped on a plane and few out to Vegas.

Because my mom has been feeling so poorly, she hasn’t really done much with her new place.  Her townhome is accessed through a small courtyard …

and quite honestly, it was looking a bit sad when we got there.

There were some tired old patio chairs, a cast off kitchen chair and some empty planters.  It definitely needed some help.

So we piled my mom into the car and headed off to her local Lowes, which was literally just around the corner.  We picked out a fun bistro set and had my mom pick out some plants to fill the empty pots.  We also grabbed some solar lights on our way out.

Mom has always been a big fan of bougainvillea, so that was an obvious choice.  I don’t know much about gardening in the desert climate of her area, so I hope we made some good choices with the other plants as well.

In the end, it was really lucky that the Lowes was just around the corner.  The box that the bistro set came in was so huge that we had to put the back seat down to fit it in Mom’s SUV.  That meant we had to leave someone behind, go home and unload the box, then turn around and go back for them.  Fortunately, this was in the same shopping center …

I was more than happy to spend a little time checking out their local Goodwill while my mom and sister unloaded the car.

I have to say, it’s kind of amazing how a Goodwill looks pretty much the same no matter where you go.  Sadly I didn’t find a single thing that I just had to make room in my suitcase for.

Anyway, once we returned back to the house again, my sister tackled assembling the bistro set and I set to work filling up the pots.

That variegated cactus looking thing went in a pot that is out front beside her gate.

Honestly, I don’t know what that plant is, but it looks like something that can survive the occasional lack of watering.  Since this planter is outside the gate (and my mom will access the courtyard through her garage instead), I suspect that my mom may forget to water it on a regular basis, so I wanted something that would have a better chance of surviving a few droughts.

For the remaining planters, I emptied out the old, worn out dirt and refilled them with some Miracle Grow potting soil.  This way Mom won’t have to worry about feeding them for about six months.  Then I planted them up with the rest of the plants.

The tall skinny planters got some bright pink geraniums and some sedum that I hope will spill over the sides.

The larger pot was planted with the bougainvillea, some bright yellow ornamental grass and some more sedum.  This is the same sedum that I grew in my window box last summer and it did really well for me.  Hopefully it will do as well in my mom’s pots.

I sure was wishing I had some of my Dixie Belle products on hand!  This pot would have been the perfect candidate for some rusty patina.

By the time I had everything planted, my sister was working on the final touches to the bistro set.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike assembling things that come in a box?  Yeah, it’s not my cup of tea.  But my sister is good at it.

Fortunately, the chairs came fully assembled.

And aren’t they fab?  They totally look straight out of a Parisian bistro.

My sister just had to put the legs on the table, and that was touch and go.

If I’d had access to my full compliment of painting supplies and a little more time, I would have totally preferred to make over a vintage set of some kind.  After working with this set (which cost $248, check it out here), I was reminded of what I love about refurbishing vintage pieces rather than buying new.  This new stuff is super flimsy, way over priced, and a huge pain to assemble.

The solar lights went alongside the sidewalk leading from the gate up to the courtyard.

As a final touch, we found a cute lantern at Target for $10 and added a faux candle with a timer and placed that on the table.

Now this is the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, maybe even one drunk out of my mom’s wedding china.

To be quite honest, I don’t think my mom will actually spend much time sitting in her courtyard (and she doesn’t actually drink coffee).  She and I could not be any more different in that regard.  I would eat every meal out there, and spend a little bit of time every evening sitting there with a glass of wine (she doesn’t drink that either) and listening to the birds in the huge tree that is nearby.  But my mom isn’t really a ‘sitting outside’ sort of person.

But I couldn’t stand thinking of her being greeted by that sad old kitchen chair every time she returned home from somewhere.  Now she has a cheery spot with bright flowers and a little European flair to greet her instead.

Hopefully every time she passes through here on her way into her home she will not only be reminded of her many travels to Europe, but also of my sister and me even though we can’t be there with her on a regular basis.

a mirror makeover.

I find mirrors so challenging to photograph.  I re-do my share of mirrors, but I rarely share them here on the blog simply because I can’t seem to figure out how to take a good picture of one.

But I thought I’d give it a go today.  Please don’t judge my photos too harshly, starting with this ‘before’ picture.

Of course this is simply a mirror that I removed from a dresser.  As you probably know by now, I like to do that.  Dressers just seem to sell more quickly without their mirrors, in my opinion.

But I don’t just trash the mirrors, I generally revamp them.  Sometimes I remove the mirror and switch it out for a chalkboard (like these).  Sometimes I paint the frames and add hangers to the back so that they can be hung on the wall instead of mounted on a dresser (like these).

In the case of this particular mirror, neither of those two options seemed like exactly the right choice.  The silvering was not in great shape so leaving it a mirror wasn’t going to be the best choice.  The frame wasn’t terribly interesting, so turning it into a chalkboard wasn’t going to be a great option either.

This was the best I could do trying to capture the look of that silvering on film.  All of those black spots and markings are in the silvering behind the glass of the mirror.  In other words, they could not be cleaned off.

So ultimately I decided to let those flaws add to my piece rather than detracting from it by adding a transfer over the front of the mirror.

But first I painted out the wood frame in Miss Mustard Seed milk paint in Typewriter (a.k.a. black).

Here’s a quick q tip for you; I never tape off mirrors or windows when painting them.  I find that it’s quite easy to remove excess paint from the glass using a razor blade.  Just be sure to use a sharp blade.  No need to waste your tape!

It’s interesting how milk paint reverts back to powder when you do this, while chalk paint comes off in curls or strips.  I wonder if you could sort of reconstitute that milk paint powder by adding water to turn it back into paint again.  Hmmmm.  That would be an interesting experiment.  Maybe one for another day.

I was hoping to get some good chipping on the frame, so the only prep work I did was to clean it with some TSP substitute.  I didn’t do any sanding.  Sure enough, I got some amazing chippy-ness.

Next up was applying the transfer.

I must warn you that applying a transfer to glass or mirror can be a little tricky.  The transfer will be attracted to your glass surface like a magnet.  Seriously.  Get too close and it will reach out and grab that glass and not let go.

So when working with glass, my advice is to dry fit your transfer with the backing paper still in place.  When you have it exactly where you want it to go, tape it down along one side.

Next, carefully, keeping that taped edge down, fold the transfer towards you along that taped edge and then remove the backing paper.

Then very carefully flip it back over and apply as usual.

Goodness.  Trying to get my camera to focus on that was an exercise in futility.

By the way, that is a section from the Parisian Letter transfer from re.design with prima.

For my photos I’ve hung the mirror over a desk.  It would work really well in any spot where you want to reflect some light, or maybe get a quick glimpse of your hair before you head out of the house.  It certainly won’t let you examine yourself in any kind of detail though.  At my age, that seems like a bonus rather than a flaw.

I probably would have had better luck with my photos if I’d waited for an overcast day.  Instead it was bright and sunny and we had lots of snow to reflect the light as well, so my piano room was flooded with bright light.

But hopefully my photos do some justice to the end result.  I think it looks pretty fabulous and if I had a spot for it, I’d keep it.  But I don’t, so this mirror will be for sale.  If you’re local and you need a mirror to bounce some light around be sure to check out my ‘available for local sale‘ page for more details.