Monday, August 11, 2014

Playing With Wood: Christmas in July

Yes, I know Christmas is in December, but I worked on these in July.  Happens every year--I finish a holiday project or two. In July.  Go figure. 

When it's hot outside, it's nice to have some small, easy, stress-free projects to work on.  And all three of these came under the "playing with wood" category.

First I painted a teensy frame red for this cross-stitched Santa that my SIL sent as our Christmas card for 2013.  I didn't realize that Santa's bag was purple before.  Who knew?!

Then I happened to be cleaning my workroom of clutter at the same time that I was browsing my Pinterest boards.  The result was these penguins created from the three little unpainted wooden flower pots that had just been sitting around awaiting inspiration.

  Love'em.  Wouldn't they be even cuter wearing little scarves?  I'll get on that.

Next.   I bought an unpainted laser-cut tree at Joann's last October.

Inspired by Jeri Lander's scherenschnitte (of which I proudly own a framed piece), I painted a tree of Life.  Not that I'm anywhere in Jeri's league, but her art makes me happy and so does this little piece.

Am I the only one who mixes up December and July?

The comments section turned up other Christmas-minded blogging friends.  Including a party at Journey Back!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Playing With Wood: The Coffee Table

My original plan for my little square table was simple--sand the scarred top and rub on some tung oil and then bring it back inside to hold remotes and prop up our feet as we watch Netflix. That plan didn't last long--little did I know that I was embarking on one of those (cue scary music) Refinishing Projects That Go Bad. 

I should have known right from the git-go when the finish gummed up the sandpaper so quickly that I knew I was gonna be stuck using a chemical stripper. I don't like using strippers--they stink and sting and are messy. But a girl's gotta do whatever's necessary to get ahead. And actually the stripping process went very smoothly. The maple top looked soooo nice after I fine-sanded it.

I wanted to add a bit of color though and reached into my stash of stains. Early American was way too light and didn't add anything. I tried Puritan Pine stain which looks great on my bath tray  but it still wasn't right. So I reached for English Chestnut, the stain I absolutely love on my mid-century black-and-wood desk..

Big mistake. Huge.

The darker color highlighted the fact that the maple top was made of twelve different boards and each took the stain differently. You can't believe how quickly I grabbed the paint thinner hoping to remove as much stain as possible. No luck. So I stripped it again and discovered my stripper was great at taking off the finish but didn't do one single thing to remove stain color.

I figured I had two choices at that point: I could sand it down again. Or I could paint it.  Or a third choice would have been to ignore it, but I'm reserving that for The Desk.

Ordinarily, paint is not going near turned legs (let's just say I had an unfortunate experience involving removing latex paint from our dining table and chairs that I don't ever plan to repeat). And I resist painting pretty hardwoods because I dearly love the look and warmth of wood.

But the truth is that I fished this little table out of my neighbors' garbage pile when they left for North Dakota in the middle of a late November blizzard. Solid maple weighs a ton if you try carrying it on your head--even if it just three houses away--and it's too awkward to carry with your arms.  If I'd paid good money for it I would have sanded it.  But it was free.  FREE, people!

So I took the easy route and grabbed my favorite white paint.

I gotta regrets that I painted it!  I love the way the paint brings out the cute lines of this piece.  And I'm officially educated about a multi-board top vs. a single board.

This coffee table wasn't intended to be a blog post about projects gone wrong or even a roadkill rescue story.  Hence the lack of "before" shots.  It was just another way not to finish that monster of a mid-century modern office desk.  Do you ever have a project that you want to finish but you just can't make yourself dive in?

As long as I'm thinking about said desk, I guess I'll see what I can do to move it forward, even is just a bit.  Because summer vacation is just about over and the classroom is looming.

Progress is good!


Friday, August 08, 2014

Playing With Wood: The White Picket (Chicken) Fence and Gate

My chickens' have a new gate!

It not only looks much better than the predecessor which we hurriedly knocked together before a summer vacation four years ago...

But the gate is now fully functional.  As in, it opens and shuts easily without binding--something the previous gate didn't do.  Simple pleasures!

I transformed those dog-eared cedar fenceboards into white pickets using my jigsaw and leftover trim paint.  I found the classic gothic-style pickets via Pinterest.  I couldn't resist the scalloped tops so I incorporated that too. 

I spray-painted the gate handle turquoise--the jury's still out on that one.  It's not quite right.  It needs something else and I'm still waiting for inspiration to strike.

It's only five feet corraling the hens in our side yard, but our cottage now boasts a white picket fence.  I'm lovin' it!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Playing with Wood: Desk Number One

So...this desk is the ongoing project that might...possibly...hopefully be close to finished and ready to sell in the very near future. 

The backstory: My sweetie's office closed several years ago (a geologist's life is a series of changes) and we grabbed some of the furniture, including four desks. Yep, I said four desks. All of which have been occupying one-third of our three-car garage since.

Why would we do such a crazy thing, you ask? Well, we'd rescued a desk previously and our younger son transformed it from a clunky blackish-stained monstrosity to a gorgeous natural wood desk with sleek pulls that he's used as his computer desk since. So there were two more of these diamonds in the rough available, but somehow as we started stripping and sanding, we forgot how much time and effort was needed for metamorphosis.  So our garage has been home to one almost-completely-sanded and one unstarted oak office desk for eons.

Oddly enough, this is the one that we didn't begin on that's almost ready to sell.  I went two-tone which meant that I only had to sand the top--love the contrast between the rich wood and dark finish.  I kept the original drawer pulls but I spray painted them in brushed nickel. 

Now I "just" have to reassemble the innards so that locking mechanism works again. And then work on Desk Number Two.  Will it never end...sigh.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Playing with Wood: The Bath Tray

Summer, I love you, let me count the ways. I love your warm days and long sunshine-y hours and morning walks and fresh veggies and beautiful flowers and endless amounts of time in which I can do whatever I want without a school bell interrupting my life.

Sadly, our school district has a new "balanced" calendar which stole three! whole! weeks! from my summer.  So I'm making hay while the sun shines.  Yep, lemonade from lemons.  Looking for that oft-touted silver lining aka no procrastination with a deadline in the near future..

Who am I trying to fool?  It's not a's more like Godzilla looming menacingly over my summer.  I'm in full-out panic mode knowing that there are a hundred million projects and less time than usual.

I started the summer with three desks in various stages of incompleteness, one girl's vanity-to-be, a coffee tabletop to refinish, thoughts about trimming out a window or two, an ugly entrance to the chicken run, and miscellaneous Pinterest ideas to attack..

I'm almost done with two desks (hurray, hurray!) because I've decided that paint is faster than stripping wood.  I love the way my two-tone desks look.  And I'm really praying that someone on craigslist is willing to pay good money for these suckers because they're taking up some valuable real estate in our garage.  I just need to screw the pulls back on the reassemble the locking mechanism and they'll be ready to list.  Desks gone, cash in my pocket.

So naturally I decided to make myself a wooden tray for the bath instead.  Because, gee, it's been in the triple digits and I just can't wait to take a hot bath instead of a cooling shower!

Truth is...I have a new toy called a Kreg Jr. jig and like any kid I had to play with it NOW.

A pile of leftover oak flooring, some cherry trim that's been hanging around forevah and days too hot to spend in an house without air conditioning.  Add a cool dark garage, sandpaper and sander, plus my wonderful laser miter saw, some tung oil and mix well with my Kreg Jr.

The result:  totally and completely worth the time and effort.

 I love the contrast of the woods and know it'll be awesome for long soaks next winter.

It's not perfect but it's not bad for a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants design.

Next up:  addressing the ugliness of the chicken coop fence and gate.

Where I party: My Romantic Home (of course) and a certain French Country Cottage
plus Miss Mustard Seed

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Ruffians--When Cute Chicks Go Punk

My sweet little day-old peeps are growing up fast.   We went from fluffy oreos...

 to these scruffy rapidly-growing pullets in three short weeks.  Sigh. 

At three weeks old, they are half fluff, half feather--they've definitely got a punk vibe going. Happily, a sweet chorus of peeps still serenades us from their powder room homestead.

They're skittish babies one moment and fearless ruffians the next--as schizoid as spring weather.

Their chick brooder aka former rabbit cage seems to be rapidly shrinking in size so I'm looking forward to fully-feathered damsels that can graduate to outdoor living in another three to five weeks. It's time to plan what changes will be needed for this new flock

I need to lower the coop for easy access (for the pullets not for me!) and plan to update the run. I'm especially looking forward to constructing a cottage-style white picket fence and gate this time around. The current rickety structure was thrown together quickly before we went on a trip and isn't exactly something you'd Pin or see featured on Backyard Chickens.

I was thinking a spiffy white, but don't you love this blue gate that Manuela has in her garden? I could picture an aqua one--very tempting.

 Especially since it would nicely match the inside of the coop. 

And we all know girls appreciate those thoughtful decorating touches.  Happy chicks are my aim.  That...and fresh eggs in four months.

And since it's supposed to be eighty-seven degrees tomorrow, guess who's gonna get their first outing into the Great Outdoors?!  Photos to come...

Sharing at My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday, of course!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Le Potager in Mid-May

Our early spring has benefited the vegetable garden.  Le potager is almost a whole month ahead of where we usually are plantwise.

I planted our seed potatoes on St. Paddy's Day, a tradition that makes it easy to remember when I planted.  This year we'll be trying Cal White and Kennebec taters. I wanted to plant last year's winner--the Peter Wilcox--and although I couldn't find them as seed potatoes I had a few marble-sized Wilcoxians left from last year's harvest that I planted.

Pretty much all our veggies go in raised beds in our climate because of our year-round cold nights, but the potatoes go the raised route for ease of harvest.  I'm trying a straw mulch system this year...once the seed potatoes sprouted and reached the top of the bottom boards, I piled on compost and raised the bed with a second set of boards.  Within a week they were well above the six inch boards so I added yet another set of boards and more compost/cherry blossom drop/straw.  As you can see, they've flourished and I think I'll add one more layer and then leave them alone.  Theoretically we should be able to (easily) harvest a (bumper) crop of potatoes from the organic layers I added on top of the soil.  I wasn't diligent last year about adding layers but I did notice that I did get a decent crop from what I did layer and I didn't have to dig much to harvest them.

We usually have good luck with our Sugar Snap peas but this year they were dug up within a few days by the Golden Retriever who seems to enjoy digging more than I'd like. At least I could tell they were germinating. I just tucked them back in, watered them and crossed my fingers. Because I do love those pods in our salads well into summer! Most of them made it and I had enough extra seed to replant the little corner that didn't.  With three (completely accidental) planting dates, we'll have an extended season for peas this year.

It's not like the peas need the added protection from the row cover since they like our cool springtimes, but I had the time to sew a custom cover to fit the PVC frame so I did.  Protection from the marauding Golden was a bonus.

I wanted to get some sweet onions again since our crop last year was my most successful try at onions yet. I settled for Stuttgartner which sound delicious. At least they look happy in their new home. Although it looks a bit like a jail with the hardware cloth protecting it from chickens and Golden retrievers.

I planted a package of Black Seeded Simpson lettuce back in late March. It's not fancy, but I didn't get the germination from my Farmers Market blend that I wanted due to a dry winter, so I went with what I could easily get and knew would do well. Sometimes it's better to just go for the sure thing. However the fates seemed to be against any lettuce harvest since Miss Golden Retriever (who else) dug a very deep hole in the lettuce plot as well. Lettuce needs light to germinate and who know how many seeds were left anywhere near the surface. Watering and hoping didn't do any good.

As it turns out, the dog paws left just enough plants that we've actually already harvest three good salads with no end in sight.  There's nothing quite as tenderly delicious as home-grown lettuce!

Without a full bed of lettuce I had room for an experiment.  I'm gambling (I live in Nevada, after all) and planted a first crop of Blue Lake Bush beans in the blank spaces.  It's waaay too early but I have the row cover and if the weather stays as warm as it has, we'll be harvesting quicker than usual.  I'll be planting French filet green beans and some pole beans too as the season rolls along.

This year I wanted to grow Sunsugar or Sungold tomatoes, or Santas, all of which get good reviews for flavor.  But do you think I could find the seeds anywhere in this town? I'm not into mail order...but maybe next year. Anyway, the Romas (beloved of my son) are in as well as a giant Red Cherry tomato and we're seeing true leaves so they're ready to transplant.

I did find a packet of Black Cherry tomatoes (at the feed store--go figure) which are described as having intense flavor so I'm hoping they germinate as nicely and live up to their advance advertising!

I can hardly wait to start some zucchini and more beans. And see if the pumpkin seeds I saved from the minis last fall will germinate and give me a fall decorating bonus.

Tuesday Garden Party time!
Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home too.