Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Let There Be Peace On Earth

May your holidays be joyous!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Part Ebenezer Scrooge and Part Buddy The Elf

News Flash:  Christmas happens on December twenty-fifth!  Every year apparently.

So why is it that my journal looks something like this year after year?

December 22nd:  I mailed packages to my out-of-state family.  Three whole days before Christmas.  Chances of presents getting to them by Thursday?  Pretty much the same chance Olaf has of surviving summer.

I decided I'm no longer worrying about when people get their presents.  In fact, I think I took a blood oath that I was NEVER EVER EVER sending packages to anyone out-of-town again.  Yeah, pretty Bah Humbug (although I just realized that I was channeling Taylor Swift too).

When I came home from the post office, I put five holiday albums on the stereo and strung my eighty-two Shiny Brites and other vintage glass ornaments into a holiday wreath while Singing Loud for All to Hear.  So maybe I'm not totally Buddy the Elf but I'm not a cotton-headed ninnymuggins either.

December 23rd:  Today I finally got myself to the music store to get a guitar tuner for my co-worker, but walked out after being ignored for twenty frustrating minutes by salespeople who helped other people who were there long after I showed up. 

I think I must have had my invisibility cloak on. It's a pain being a super-hero sometimes.  

Please notice I said I walked out rather than stalked angrily. I chalked the whole episode up to musical artistic temperament complicated by pre-holiday retail overload.  Plus they were very nice and helpful when I bought my ukelele from them this summer so they get the benefit of the doubt.

Since I'm no longer worrying about the date of gift giving (see paragraph 4, above),  I can order the Snark online instead and the recipient will get it as a New Year's present instead.

I also braved Whole Foods, TJ Max, Trader Joe's, Hobby Lobby, Walmart and Healthy Tails.  I waited patiently in lines, engaged in cheerful conversation with clerks, smiled at everyone and generally tried to spread Christmas cheer.  I even drove in the heavy traffic around the mall and didn't once utter a nasty word.

Truth is, I used up my monthly allotment of nasty words last Thursday when I was getting ready for Pajama Day at school.  I'm really not a Pajama Day kind of person.  It just feels wrong to wear underwear under jammies.  Plus you get some strange glances when you shop in your jammies after work. 

I was feeling relaxed about the whole Christmas scene until I realized about three o'clock that I'd forgotten to open the coop. I think I owe Pet a special treat for her Christmas dinner.

After losing a week to sickness, complicated by the way work interferes with the important things in life (like finding the perfect gifts for the people you love), I can finally take a breath, slow down and truly enjoy the Season.

Anyone else out there feeling a bit frazzled and promising themselves that next year it will be different?

Be (INSPIRE)d--not overwhelmed,

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Guideposts -- 103

Let the thankful heart
 sweep through the day and, 
as the magnet finds the iron, 
so it will find, in every hour, 
some heavenly blessings! 

~Henry Ward Beecher


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More Than a Convenient Holiday

Veterans Day seems to be one holiday that really brings out our grateful, heartfelt thanks.

Maybe because it isn't a three-day weekend? (It's always on November 11th because the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marked the armistice that ended WWI.)

Maybe because we get to thank all our veterans, both living and deceased, for everything they sacrificed during their service?

Maybe because it has more to do with parades than shopping?


Whatever the reason or reasons, I always feel a great sense of reverence on this day.

To all those sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and friends who have served or are serving, thank you for our freedom and our liberty.  You inspire us by your example and we do not take for granted our right to vote, to freely speak, or to peaceably assemble.  You remind us of the power of One to make a difference.

And although we focus on our menfolk, I haven't forgotten that there are many ladies who've also contributed to defending our freedom.  We know how much strength we women have and how determined we can be.  For all you mothers who are separated from your children while you serve, you deserve a special place in our hearts. 

We are (INSPIIRE)d,

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

My Fall Garden--Making Leaves Disappear

We all know why we call this season Fall...could it be leaves falling everywhere?

 I revel in scuffing noisily through them like the kid-at-heart I totally am. I enjoy racing swirling leaves blown by our Nevada zephyrs as I ride my bike to and from work. I rejoice in colorful leaves backlit against the intense blue of a high desert sky. 

I even like the physicality of raking leaves into piles.  At least for the first time. 

Not so much the second and third times.

Or the fourth, fifth and sixth times. 

So I started letting the chickens have all the leaves from the cherry tree by their run so they can scratch and rustle to their little hen-ly hearts content.  As a bonus, I had a nice cushionly soft carpet of leaves to tread upon when I collected eggs from autumn through winter to early spring.  Alas, springtime was also when I faced shoveling out the run--the leaves didn't decompose like I'd hoped, they just organized themselves into layered heavy pancakes for me to scrape and haul.

All the maple, peach and apple leaves were tossed into the compost bin for the winter.  That worked, sort of.  Yeah, the slimy layered mash again.

Last autumn I raked leaves into large piles.

Used the lawn mower to mulch them into small bits. 

 Wonder of wonders, they composted perfectly, both in the bin and in the chicken run.  Happy dance!
 I'm doing the same thing this autumn and trying hard not to be smug as I watch my neighbors haul out bag after bag of leaves for trash day.

The landfills are happy, my compost bin is happy, the hens are happy.  

My hayfever isn't thrilled but that's what allergy pills are for.  


Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Guideposts--102

Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. 

~Roald Dahl 
  • You won't find that perfect puppy unless you believe she's out there waiting for you.  
  • Love at first sight only happens if your eyes are open.   
  • Attitude is everything.  Every. Thing.
Let's all have a magical, positive, uplifting week.  I could use one.  You?


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Winding Up Halloween

We have three adorable little boys under the age of four living across the street and three ex-kindergarten students and two current ones living in our neighborhood, so I went family-friendly this year.

It's hard to get friendlier than Woody!
 The kids loved him. And they thought getting to pick their own candy from my bowl was awesome.

The woodland owl was my spookiest jack o'lantern.

One dad told us that the Golden Retriever jack o'lantern was the clear Best Pumpkin winner. I've gotta agree especially knowing how much time it took my son to carve it.  Plus this one doesn't shed hair all over black pants like our real-life version does.

I enjoy my witchy Dollar Store blackbirds, but this little fluffy owlet was in impulse buy that I'm glad I indulged.  She's so cute!

Now it's time to Thanksgiving-ify the front door by adding pheasant feathers to the autumn wreath.

And put the prowling arachnids away for another year.

Farewell, monsters, large and small, until next October...

Welcome, pilgrims and scarecrows, squirrels and acorns, velvet pumpkins and fall leaves of every hue! 

Monday, September 01, 2014

Fun With Fabric: Custom Color Shoelaces.

These tennies were an impulse buy at Target.  
  • The polka dots were sweetly crooning my name. 
  • They were "lowest price of the season" ($12). 
  • And buying myself shoes while birthday shopping for my son must surely count as multi-tasking.

I knew with a pop of color they'd be awesome.  I mean, why settle for ordinary when you can amp up the style quotient make them colorful and fun,  Hmm, black with white polka dots...what about turquoise shoe laces?

I thought I'd have to look for some colored laces, then I realized these tennies came with white cotton shoelaces and I have a huge stash of acrylic craft paints.  Free is good.

A bit of fabric medium mixed with Navy Blue and Jade plus Pool Blue provided the intense turquoise I was mentally visualizing.  I thinned the paint still more with water in my fabric-dying container provided by StarKist and soaked the shoelaces for a couple hours after smooshing them well into the paint using a plastic bag to protect my fingers.  Then I draped them over a branch of our apple tree to dry. 

The key to using acrylic craft paints on fabric is to heat set the final product. I can't stress this enough.  I set my iron on "cotton", protected my ironing board with a brown paper grocery bag and protected my iron with a paper towel over the laces. Good thing I did too because you can see lots of paint ironed off!  So protection is good if you like your iron and your ironing board cover the way they are.
I ironed slowly along the length of the laces, then turned them over and ironed the other side.  A fair amount of color bled--even though I ironed slowly on both sides.  More than I expected, but still well within reason.

I checked for color-fastness by holding them under running water in the sink.  The water stayed clear but just as I began congratulating myself and thought about lacing up my new shoes, I began to see first a hint of color, then a flood of turquoise pigment even though I knew I'd heat-set the paint pretty well.  I think the color was from the interior of the shoelace weave because the visible part of the laces stayed the same vibrant turquoise.

I dried them again on the branch (thank heavens for temps in the nineties--quick drying suits my impatient nature) and then re-ironed them and checked for color-fastness.  Again.  I maybe impatient but I'm not stupid enough to want turquoise paint bleeding onto those white polka dots. 

The colorful result is casual, happy, and carefree.  And totally unique. 

It's nice to know that I can custom color my shoelaces.  What would I do different?  One thing:  I'd thin the paint even more than I did--watery would be better than soupy.  And the finished shoelaces wouldn't be quite as stiff from the acrylic paint. 

Now that I know that...I'm thinking those polka dots would look cute with cherry red laces too.  Or hot pink.  Or rainbow tie-dye.  Or goldenrod for autumn.


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!