a winter garden.

Like much of the northern part of the continent, here in the Twin Cities we got slammed with snow in the month of February.  In fact, we got a record breaking 39” of snow during the month.  It was the snowiest February on record, and the 4th snowiest month EVER (well, since they’ve been keeping track anyway).

The record for the snowiest month ever is still held by November 1991, the year of the Great Halloween blizzard.  We got 46.9” that month.  I clearly remember that blizzard (how about the rest of you locals?).  The snow started falling on October 31 and didn’t stop until November 3.  Nothing like having your carved pumpkins buried under more than 2’ of snow.

The snow didn’t end in February this year, we’ve now gotten another 10+” of snow so far in March including 6″ last weekend.  Spring just might be in sight though, we’ve had temps in the 40’s and lots of melting this week.

Most people I know like to take a tropical vacation to escape the winter weather if they can swing it.  But Mr. Q and I took our Adriatic cruise in November, which now feels like a very long time ago.  So I decided to treat myself to an indoor winter garden.  It helped that my local plant nursery, Gerten’s, had a house plant sale.  Buy one, get one half off.  It seemed like it was meant to be.

So the other day my sister, niece and I popped in to see what they had.

I was surprised to find that they had a whole bunch of blooming potted plants available.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I guess I never would have thought of a begonia as a ‘house plant’.  Technically speaking though, I guess pretty much anything that is alive and growing has to be a house plant this time of year.

They also had a huge selection of gorgeous cyclamens.

So I had to get two of them.  This smaller size was only $5.99.

Some of the plants will head to my office at the day job, but others will stay at the house.

I can brighten up both places!

Having all of these flowers made for a great opportunity to share the 3rd project I did using the Iron Orchid Designs Le Petite Rosier transfer.  I purchased two of the smaller sized versions of the transfer.  I used one on the tiny cupboard and then used the bottom section of that and of the 2nd one on my ceiling fan.

And now I’ve added the top portion of the 2nd one to an old watering can.

I gotta say, I pretty much love it.  I didn’t seal it with anything, so it wouldn’t hold up to outdoor display.  But that’s OK, I’ll keep it inside in my ‘winter garden’ for now.  If I decide to put it outside in the summer I’ll add a couple of coats sealer.

How about you?  Are you coping with a winter that seems to be dragging on and on?  Didn’t get the chance for a winter getaway?  Maybe you should consider a winter garden to tide you over until spring actually gets here.

P.S.  Remember my experiment with the lavender from last fall?

Well, in case you are wondering, no, those plants did not survive the entire winter.  I finally tossed them a couple of weeks ago.  I suspect that my window ledge was just too cold for them.  But they were pretty while they lasted, which was a lot longer than cut flowers.

time flies.

I can’t believe it was over two years ago that I shared this newel post …

It seriously boggles my mind to realize it wasn’t just a few months ago, but when I went in search of that original post about the post I found it in January 2017!

That’s not at all the point of today’s blog post, but I just had to say that out loud.  Time really does fly.

So, apparently I painted this post two years ago.  It ended up with a fabulously chippy patina.  I just had it leaning in the corner of a room as a sort of architectural salvage decor piece.  Sometimes it was in the piano room, and sometimes the living room.

While I was stenciling the piano last weekend I saw it and thought it could use a stencil or two as well.

I started with this ‘antiques’ stencil at the bottom.

Then I used the same stencil that I used on the little Mariner’s chair that I painted a couple of weeks ago to do two more sides of the base.

Finally, I added a portion of another stencil to the top.

I think the post has just a little more character now and it looks great just hanging out next to the cupboard that holds the ‘good junk’.

What do you think?

ebony and ivory.

I finally got around to painting my baby grand piano this past weekend and all I can say is, ‘what was I so worried about’?

Somehow I had built this up to be a HUGE project in my mind.  Obviously I should have known better.  I mean, come on, I’ve painted a few larger pieces of furniture in my day.  The Welsh cupboard in my dining room for example.

By comparison, the piano was so. easy.

As a reminder, here is how the piano looked originally.

Not super awful, but definitely not great.  And up close the finish on this thing was totally shot …

The arrows are pointing towards areas where the veneer has chipped away.

Before we move on, I have to explain something.  I don’t actually play the piano.  Well, I did take some lessons when I was a kid and I can now play ‘chopsticks’ fairly well.  But many years ago a former co-worker of mine was moving and needed to find a new home for her baby grand piano.  I had the brilliant idea that I would find the time to take lessons one day.  Ha.  Yeah, that never happened.

However, as it turns out, this is one incredibly handy piece of furniture.  It’s got a nice large work surface at exactly the right height for me while standing.  It’s perfect for folding laundry, wrapping presents, scrapbooking, painting small items and it also makes a great buffet/bar during parties.

I honestly can’t think of any other piece of furniture that I could put in this same spot that would be as functional for me while still looking appropriate in the room.  But it was starting to look a bit rough, so as part of my magic wand decorating plan, it was scheduled for a makeover.

I started by sanding it down which took about 10 minutes.  The finish was so dry on this thing that it didn’t take much work to rough it up.  I mostly wanted to make sure to sand down the paint drips that were on it because those can come back to haunt you if you just paint over them.  Next I vacuumed away the dust with my shop vac and then wiped it all down with a damp rag.

Next I pulled out some Dixie Belle paint in Midnight Sky.  You guys know how much I love their other black, Caviar, well this one is just a tad lighter.  That probably sounds odd to call a black color ‘lighter’, but it is just not quite as deep and rich as the Caviar.  It’s also a bit warmer with less of a blue undertone.

I watered down the paint just a tad.  I find that the Dixie Belle paint is pretty thick.  You can use it straight out of the jar if you want a more textured look, but if you want a smoother finish you can water it down which has the added benefit of making it go further.  I only used about 2/3 of the 16 oz jar to paint this piano.  That’s also partially because for the most part I got away with just one coat of paint.  There were only a couple of spots that needed a touch up with a second coat.

A couple of you suggested a strategy for moving forward on this project.  Start with painting the outside of the piano first, then tackle the inside bits at another time.  So I mostly did that, except that I opened the cover that goes over the keys and painted inside there.  I figure that’s the most likely spot to get opened up on occasion.

So I taped off the keys and painted that area.  I also took this opportunity to re-glue some of the ivories that had come unglued.

Just out of curiosity I did some google research on ivory piano keys.  Prior to 1930 almost all pianos had ivory keys, and mine are indeed ivory (check out this article to learn more about that).

Anyway, I used my E6000 glue to re-attach all of the loose ivories.  Then I added a stencil to the top of the piano.

I had so many ideas swirling around in my head about what to do with this piano.  I thought about painting it white and adding a transfer, but then it would compete with the Specimens Cupboard which is in the same room.

I also thought about wrapping some sort of stencil all the way around the sides of the piano.  But stenciling those curves would have been challenging, plus I felt like it wouldn’t be all that noticeable since you really can only see one side of the piano unless you happen to be squishing yourself between the piano and the wall or window.  So not a lot of bang for my buck.

Ultimately I tend to prefer a ‘less is more’ kind of style so I went with this simple ‘European grain sack’ stencil from Maison de Stencils.

Once the stencil paint was dry, I sanded the entire piece lightly with 220 grit paper to smooth out the paint.  I gave the edges a little extra pressure to add a distressed look.

After vacuuming away the dust, I then finished the piano with Fusion’s clear wax.  You might be wondering why I chose to wax such a large piece, and especially one that is probably going to see a lot of abuse.  There are definitely more durable top coats that I could have chosen.  But in my experience wax and/or hemp oil are the easiest finishes to ‘fix’ down the road.  If I get a ring from a sweaty glass, a scratch, or a drip of random paint here and there, all I have to do is sand it down lightly to smooth it out and then add a little wax to just that spot.  So in the long run I think I’ll be better off with wax.

One last thing, I had originally planned on keeping the chair I have ‘as is’.

I don’t want to go all ‘matchy-matchy’ with it and paint it black, but I’m not totally loving it with the piano.  I’ll probably keep an eye out for another option down the road.

By the way, I have to say I found it rather challenging to photograph a black piano in a room flooded with light reflecting off our latest snow fall.

Here’s the view out those windows.

Yep, lots of white to reflect the light.

OK, so if you are keeping track of the magic wand decorating project, here’s where I’m at …

    1.  repaint the insides of the bookshelves in the living room – check!
    2.  repaint the living room walls – check!
    3.  replace the living room furniture – check!
    4.  paint the baby grand piano – check!
    5.  replace the ceiling fan over the piano – check!
    6. repaint the piano room walls

That last item on the list, repaint the piano room walls is the last item on my original to-do list.  But I’m having so much success I’ve decided to go just a bit further with that last item plus add one more.  I’m adding ‘repaint the piano room built shelves beneath the windows’ because they really need it.  As for the walls, I have a plan and I have my handyman Ken’s commitment to help me with it, so you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we do.

In the meantime, if you have been thinking about painting a piano or some other larger piece but haven’t had the nerve to make the leap, I say go for it!  It’s definitely not as hard as it looks.

the index card art project.

I am betting that many of you also follow Marian at Miss Mustard Seed.  If so, you may have seen her recent post about an index card art project that she is doing.

In her case she has 31 index cards and she’ll be painting one per day for the month of March.

As soon as I read her post the idea of changing it up and scrapbooking on the cards instead of painting on them popped into my head.  What a great way to do just a quick bit of scrapbooking every day, and in the end have a fun keepsake.

And I just happened to have a great set of vintage index cards in my stash.

Fun fact, these old cards were from Smead Manufacturing.  I’m sure many of you are familiar with Smead office supplies.  They began manufacturing in 1906 in St. Paul and then moved to Hastings, Minnesota in 1908.  It’s kind of interesting to read their history.  Funny to note that according to them, in 1906 only 2% of the population had telephones.  Can you imagine?

Anyway, back to my index cards.  I don’t quite have the complete alphabet, but oh well.  I also don’t have 31, but that’s OK, I’m getting a late start anyway.  Also, keep in mind that I have a day job so it may not be feasible for me to work on a card every single day, but I’m going to try and keep up.  I’ll also admit that I am working ahead on some days.  So far I’ve completed 8 cards.

The photos from our Adriatic cruise are the perfect subject matter for this project, so it made sense to start with ‘A’.

‘A’ is for Adriatic.  ‘A’ is also for Atlas.  The map I used on this card is from a very old Atlas, from back when Yugoslavia was still a country that included what are now Croatia and Montenegro.

The photo I used on this card is of the Saint Domnius cathedral in Split, Croatia.

I shared my ‘A’ card on Instagram last Sunday and have been sharing a card a day since.

I made two cards for the first port of call on our trip, Genoa.  I used a couple of my favorite October Afternoon papers on this first one.  The orange totally related to the color of the building in the photo, and the background color of their map paper matches my vintage index cards perfectly.

October Afternoon has always been my favorite brand of scrapbook supplies.  They were also a local company here in the Twin Cities, but I think they have gone out of business (does anyone know?).  They haven’t posted on their Facebook page since 2016, so I’m assuming they are defunct.  Luckily I stocked up at a couple of their warehouse sales and now have a lifetime supply of their stuff.  I love that all of their papers and ephemera can be mixed and matched and they always work well together.  My favorite product line was called Travel Girl; it couldn’t have been more perfect for me.

Initially this next photo of Genoa wouldn’t have made the cut for this project.  It really wasn’t my favorite shot from that port of call.  But then I tried printing it in black & white.  Suddenly I loved it.  It now has a gritty, mysterious look which is totally appropriate for Genoa.

Next up was Eze.  If you’ll remember, we visited Eze in the morning of the day we were docked in Monaco.

Hey, guess what?  I painted those cardboard letters with Fusion paint in Inglenook.  Not only is Fusion a great paint for furniture, it’s also perfect for crafting.  Once the paint was dry I stamped over it using a rubber stamp and some grey ink.

The card I made for Monaco has a simple message.

The “Cherish each Moment” is a rub-on applied to a French book page.  I purchased this particular set of rub-on’s at Hobby Lobby but I’m not sure if they still have them.

I used one of the ticket stubs from the Museo Archeologico for the Naples card.  I’m planning to include a few more tickets stubs and other small items on future cards too.

For the Herculaneum card I simply used a rubber stamp right on the index card and then added a couple of photos.  This one was super simple and quick, but sometimes simple and quick creates the best look.  It definitely allows the photos to be the stars of the show.

I loved the look of that stamp on the card so much that I used it again for this one.

But this time I left a bit more of it showing.  The black and white photo worked perfectly with the grey ink.  You can find a less cropped, color version of that photo in my post about our Godfather Tour in Sicily.

By the way, I’m fairly sure I purchased that rubber stamp at a garage sale for around a dollar.

Working on this project has reminded me how much I miss scrapbooking.  But I’m hoping that spending a spare hour here and there to throw together a couple of index cards is going to work well for me and I’ll be able to keep it up.  At least long enough to finish this project.

  Once I finish with this set of index cards, I may go back and insert a few more cards for each port of call on our trip.  We’ll see if I stick with that plan or not.  And naturally I will be on the lookout for a recipe box to revamp to hold the cards one they are completed.  Maybe something along the lines of this one that I made for my friend Terri …

I’ll be sure to share with you when the entire project is completed, but in the meantime if you want to follow along with each card as I complete it you’ll have to follow me on Instagram!  Or if you want to follow everyone who is creating art on index cards, be sure to check out #indexcardartproject.

Are any of you guys scrapbookers?  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say ex-scrapbookers since I haven’t work on a scrapbook for at least two years.  Maybe you should look for some index cards and try this approach too!

la serenissima.

Today I’m sharing the final port of call on the Adriatic cruise that Mr. Q and I took last November, Venice.

Back in December I jumped ahead and shared part of our day in Venice, the tour of the velvet workshop, because it inspired my handmade Christmas wrapping paper.

But today I’ll share a few more photos from our visit to the Most Serene Republic of Venice, or La Serenissima.

I suspect that many people who visit Venice don’t find it serene at all.  Especially if they only go to St. Mark’s Square and the surrounding sights.  However, should you be lucky enough to sail into Venice on a cruise ship in the early hours of morning you might be able to capture the serenity.

This was the second time Mr. Q and I have arrived in Venice by cruise ship and it really is the most amazing thing.  You sail right down the Guidecca Canal passing beautiful Venetian buildings that look like they could sink below the waterline at any moment.

Back in 2017 Venice came up with a plan to divert large cruise ships from this route, but that won’t take effect until 2021.  I totally understand why they want to do this, while at the same time I consider myself really fortunate to have had this experience before it becomes obsolete.  So, FYI, if you’ve always wanted to do this you’d better book that cruise soon.

As I wrote in my earlier post, we hired a private guide in Venice.  Her name is Luisella Romeo and she was absolutely amazing.  So if you are booking that cruise soon, I’d recommend booking Luisella for a tour while you’re at it.

After spending time touring the velvet workshop, we headed across the Guidecca Canal by Vaporetto (water bus) to the Fortuny workshop with Luisella.  Once again she had arranged a totally private tour for just us.

Fortuny makes beautiful dyed fabrics.  However, they are extremely protective of their proprietary process.  So, unlike the Bevilaqua velvet workshop where we saw every step of the process, at Fortuny we only saw the showroom.

But that’s OK, it wasn’t really the fabric I was interested in, it was the garden that is tucked away behind the building.

I have to admit, November probably wasn’t the most impressive time to be visiting this garden.

Nonetheless, I totally enjoyed its serene, early winter beauty.

Even on this rainy day it was really lovely.

Unfortunately our time with Luisella was done after the Fortuny visit.  Had we realized how amazing she was going to be we definitely would have booked her for the entire day.  But we hadn’t, and she had another group scheduled for the afternoon.

So we parted ways, but not before she gave us some ideas of where to go next, drew the route on our map for us and made sure we knew which Vaporetto to get on and which stop to get off at.  She suggested we walk past the gondola workshop, or squero.  The Squero San Trovaso first opened in the 17th century.

You can’t actually tour the place, but it was still interesting to see it from across the canal and watch the craftsman at work.

Although Luisella had given us a couple of other suggestions for where to go from here, we ended up deciding to just wander around the quieter areas of Venice away from the rest of the tourists.

We knew we couldn’t get too lost, it is an island after all.

We just took our time and enjoyed the scenery.  Not everyone is enamored by the graceful decay of Venice, but I definitely think it’s beautiful.

Comically enough, we had just started to realize how hungry and tired we were when we looked up and realized we could see our ship from where we were.  It was easy enough to make our way back to the People Mover and then back to our ship.

I’ve really enjoyed sharing this trip with you guys.  I get to relive it myself while putting these Wednesday blog posts together.  I’m a little bummed to see it end (although I do have some semi-related posts coming up still).  I think Mr. Q and I are going to have to get busy planning our next trip so that I have more travel stories to share!

How about you, have you ever been to Venice?  And if so, were you able to find some serene spaces away from the tourist hordes?

a winter wonderland.

Good news!  The q is for quandie IT department (ie. Mr. Q) came through with flying colors.  When I got home from the day job on Friday he had a new computer all set up and ready to go for me.

I’m up and running with no need for a stiff drink.  I took a quick hour or two on Saturday morning to give all of my functions a test drive.  Since we basically woke up to a winter wonderland here in the Twin Cities with another 5″ or so of fresh snow, it was a great opportunity to take some photos and then run through my entire blogging process from start to finish (when it doesn’t involve actually painting a piece of furniture) to make sure everything was running smoothly.

As I said to Mr. Q , it was nice that it was only 4 degrees on Saturday morning because that meant the snow was really light and fluffy (which makes it easy to shovel).

And the sun just coming up lent the perfect light for taking a few photos.

Poor Cossetta, she is thigh-deep in snow these days.

I hope her feet aren’t too cold.

Looks like we won’t be grilling steaks any time soon.

I really wish I had a piece of furniture finished because it would be so fun to do an outside photo shoot in these conditions.

Remember this one?

Of course, that was a ‘before’ instead of an ‘after’.

But alas, my furniture painting has been on hold lately while I work on revamping my living room and piano room.  I’m itching to get something painted though, so I may take a break from the revamp and paint a dresser this coming weekend.  I still haven’t worked up the nerve to tackle my piano.

In the meantime, I’m just going to go get a fresh cup of coffee and enjoy this gorgeous snow.

Check back on Wednesday to hear about the final port of call on our Adriatic Cruise, Venice (ie. one of my favorite cities, but then I say that about most of the cities I’ve been to).

a french farmhouse fan.

Are you a fan of the french farmhouse look?  I know I am.  But today I’m talking about an entirely different kind of french farmhouse fan!  It’s a french farmhouse ceiling fan.

I know, I know.  Ceiling fans are no longer ‘in’.

If you are lucky enough to live in a house with central air conditioning, you really don’t have much need for a ceiling fan.  However, we live in a 1904 farmhouse with hot water heat.  In other words, we have radiators and we do not have duct work.  And we have a boiler rather than a furnace.  Putting in central a/c is a bit more complicated if you don’t have existing ducts to deliver the cool air throughout your house.

So, we don’t have central a/c and ceiling fans can make all the difference on hot summer days at our house.  Especially in the room that I call the piano room.  This room is right in the center of our lower level.  It’s also the room where we install a window a/c unit in the summer, so we need to move that cool air around and a ceiling fan is the best way to do it.

Our old ceiling fan still worked quite well, but it was dated.

I can’t really remember how long ago we put this particular one in here, but I suspect it was at least 15 years ago or more.  I thought it was fabulous at the time.  I thought my tomato red walls were pretty amazing too, but they didn’t last nearly as long as the fan.

Anyway, not only was the fan dated looking but those wicker fan blades were difficult to clean.

I began my search for a new fan online and found some gorgeous options that were priced in the $400 and up range, like this one …

But I didn’t want to spend that much.

When my sister and I were out shopping for furniture a couple of weekends ago, we stopped off at our local Menards store on the way home and I found this fan.

It was on sale for $149.99, so I nabbed it.

I liked the fact that the globes sort of look like canning jars giving it a bit of a farmhouse feel.

It wasn’t until we had the fixture installed and I was washing up the globes before putting them on that it occurred to me that it would be pretty easy to add a little more personality to them with some rub on transfers.  Plus, I just happened to have a couple of remnants from my IOD Le Petit Rosier transfer that would perfectly fit the three globes.

This was definitely a bit of an experiment.  I wasn’t sure if the transfers would look good on the glass.  So I started with just one.  I figured if I hated it, it would be easier to scrape a transfer off just one globe rather than three.

But I loved it.  Of course I did.

The transfers added just a little bit of extra personality to an ‘out of the box’ plain ceiling fan.

Now, I have no idea how well the transfers will hold up over time or whether or not the heat given off by the bulb will cause them to deteriorate in some way.  But worst case scenario we have to swap out the globes down the road.  That’s fairly easy and cheap.

I will also admit that this little detail isn’t earth shattering and I suspect a fair number of the people who visit our home won’t even notice it.

But I get a kick out of it every time I walk through the room.

And it was a super simple and inexpensive way to add a little french-ness to this farmhouse fan.

By the way, if you look really closely at that picture above you can see how high the snow bank is on the side of our driveway.  It’s almost all the way to the top of our privacy fence.  Can you see it (look just above the plants on the ledge)?  Ha!  This stuff is going to take forever to melt if it ever does warm up.

Anyway, if you’re keeping track, that’s the 4th item on my magic wand decorating list checked off.  I still have to paint that piano and the walls in this room.

I’m not gonna lie, I really keep procrastinating when it comes to painting the piano.  That’s going to be a big job, and will probably be last on the list.  But like the little engine that could, ‘I think I can, I think I can’.

In other news, eeeeekkkkkk!!  My computer died.  Since techie stuff like replacing a computer drives me to drink, I’m not sure how quickly we’ll get a new one up and running.  I’m sure I will be spending a good chunk of the weekend on that (the computer, not the drinking … well, maybe both).  So don’t panic if I don’t have a post on Monday.  Or Tuesday.  Or all of next week.  Hopefully I’ll be back up and running soon though.  Wish me luck!