Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reclaiming My Husband's Childhood Rocker for our Grandson

You know how you have stuff that's "around" your house? You do, right? You have yucky furniture or an old lamp that needs to be rewired but it got tucked away years ago and fell out of your brain. Are you with me? Then something happens or you see a Pinterest photo and you remember.

Good. I knew you were my people. 

When our grandson was born my husband dug his childhood rocker out of the attic and sat it in the studio. It had some fabric his mom had safety pinned on to cover the original rush seat which had rotted through. And it was really dirty from being in the attic for 50+ years.


Oh, and I'm  pretty sure it was painted with lead paint. 

It needed some love. I wondered if red was the original color or if it had been painted.

Then my husband found a box of old 8 mm film from the early 60s and he spent a couple of weeks going through them. Guess what he found on one of them.

Yep. Film of him wearing a cowboy hat and sitting in the red rocker! Confirmation on the original color!

Also in the box were films of another family and through the magic of the internet he tracked down those sisters who were little girls in the film and shipped the film of their parents' vacations, visits to Graceland, and Easter dresses to them. I don't care what else is happening you can't tell me this is not a great time to be alive. 

Okay, back to the rocker. I chose Miss Mustard Seed Tricycle for the color and decided to wet sand it with hemp oil for a smooth finish and a safe product to come in contact with my grandson's skin.

This is where my kids like to point out that I did things when they were little like put them to sleep face down in our waterbed. Blah. Blah. Blah. You're alive aren't you? 

If you are concerned about the toxins in paints you are using Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint is a great choice for you. Milk paint has been used for thousands of years and only has 5 ingredients.

You can use Miss Mustard Seed's Beeswax for a finish but I chose hemp oil because I wanted to try wet sanding for a smooth finish.

I was looking for someone to recane the seat when my boss and friend Me & Mrs. Jones suggested strips of fabric.

Ack! Why didn't I think of that? I even had THE PERFECT fabric leftover from the Scandinavian inspired elf dolls I made last year for Christmas.

I love all things Scandinavian, read about my obsession here.

This just involved cutting strips of fabric and tying them on the rails across then doing the same thing the opposite direction weaving the strips like you did when you made that potholder in elementary school.

Easy peasy.

Here's what it looks like all finished!

Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Create a Sign With Faux Hand Chalk Lettering

 A few weeks ago I lucked upon a piece of wood that looked to have been cut out for a sign but was never used. I picked it up for a dollar at a yard sale. It's been sitting around in my studio waiting for the right project.

Recently I ran across some pictures I had pinned months ago. They were farm scenes/signs that looked like they were done in chalk. BAM! There was my inspiration for my next project.

But first--what kind of finish for the sign?  In a recent workshop on Annie Sloan Chalk Paint we'd used two colors of paint to create an effect that looked very much like zinc. I had been dying to use it on something. This sign would be perfect!

I used two layers of Annie Sloan's Graphite. And let me clear something up, chalk paint is NOT the same thing as chalkboard paint. Though this particular project is creating no end of confusion, I'm sure. You're welcome. 

After that was dry I washed on Louis Blue thinned with water and wiped it back off.

It was a simple process and the next step would be to wax it but I couldn't apply wax until after the lettering was finished. Printing out the words allows you to experiment with how to lay out your sign.

First I added some chalk marks where I knew I wanted the center and edges to be, then played around with spacing.  For the free hand parts I used a white chalk pencil like you use for sewing. For some of the lettering I printed out the text in the size I wanted and then used carbon paper, tracing around each letter with a pencil.

Want to have fun with Millenials? Go into an office supply store and ask for carbon paper. It's like describing pistachio ice cream to The Thing From Outer Space. 

I kept referring to the original pictures for some of the details but had to find a vintage bee skep image to free hand for the main part. Once it was all laid out I was ready to paint.

You could use chalk for this project or a chalk pen but I wanted something permanent and I thought Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint would be ideal for this project. Grain Sack seemed like the best choice. It looks, well...chalklike. 

If you are doing a project like this then it's all fun and games until now. Now it's time to add the paint. Chalk is one swipe away from correction (or ruin) but once the paint is applied there's really no going back.


Because I've had a busy few days this project took me about a week. It was a lot of detail. Working from top to bottom to avoid smearing the work below I painted on MMSGS with the two smallest brushes I had. I loved this process!

This is where you put on some series you run across but maybe aren't all that committed to. I ended up watching One Mississippi on Amazon Prime. Darkly funny. Lots of dialogue. Not a lot of action. Perfect for a project. You can't watch anything too thrilling or you end up standing around with a dried out paint brush in your hand and an unfinished project.

This project took me about 5 thirty-minute episodes. This is how you calculate time too, right? 

When all your lines are painted over you can stand back and take a look. I added some extra foliage around the skeps.

It was all a little stark and there were some heavy brush strokes in places so I did a little light sanding.

Give it a quick dusting with a damp cloth to remove any chalk or mess from the sanding and it's time to wax. I applied the wax with a brush and wiped it back. If you want more of a shine wait a while and buff it to the amount of gloss you want to see.

This looks like a coat of White Wax will perk it up a bit, so I'll do that and let you know how that last step turns out over on my Facebook page later in the week.

Want to give a similar project a try? Here's a materials list: 

piece of wood or a board
Annie Sloan Graphite
Annie Sloan Louis Blue
Chalk, chalk pencil
Carbon paper
text to be traced
Miss Mustard Seed Grain Sack, mixed
Clear wax
rags or paper towels

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Updating an Antique High Chair with an Old Fashioned Finish

Now that the bees are taken care of for the next few months, and I've put the garden to bed, I can turn my attention to the inside of my house just in time for the holidays.

Project 1: Antique High Chair

Once again in my zeal to start a project I neglected the "before" photo. 

I have had this high chair for about 30 years. When my mother gave it to me she said my grandfather used it as a baby and it was old even before that. It's put together with pegs. Over the years it had been spray painted numerous times and then about 20 years ago my father-in-law helped me strip it.

Something about it being natural wood made it invisible in my house.

Last week I decided Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint would be an appropriate finish for the time period as well as add a bit of cheeriness to it. Chances are if this chair had been painted when it was made, milk paint would have been used. It was looking pretty somber for a high chair.

Because yellow can be a difficult color to get good coverage in any type of paint, I started with a coat of Miss Mustard Seed's Grain Sack to help the yellow pop.

I have another project with this color coming up soon that you are going to love!

Milk Paint comes as a powder and you mix it with water to create your paint. There is something unbelievably fun about that. Stir it up really well. For larger amounts you can use a whisk.

This paint dries super quick so it is wonderful for a project that you want to knock out without hours of drying time between coats. It's perfect for pieces that you want to look authentically aged.

After Grain Sack was dry I was ready to mix and brush on my layer of MMS Yellow.

I added a second coat for more complete coverage.

The last step was to take a dish sponge with a scrubby side and while the paint was still damp, distress the chair in areas where it would have received wear and tear over the years, the edge of the seat, arm rails, and the front of the legs.

 Last I distressed the seat a bit to complete the time worn look. You can also wait until the paint is dry and use fine grit sandpaper.

Seriously, who wants new and shiny when you can have old and beat up?

To finish this off I added a light coat of wax and rubbed it off, then did a bit of buffing the next day. Those pictures in the background are my grandmother's class photos for a couple of years.

If you have a family heirloom that doesn't fit with your decor or your personality it's okay to update it unless the finish is one you love.  But for most of us, the ugly table and chairs or hideous dark dresser can be given a fresh start with a new finish.

That way you can technically tell Grandma that you are using it and it looks fabulous in your house. 

I don't see the painted furniture trend ending any time soon. Who wants to go back to houses full of dull brown furniture? 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Do Honeybees Hibernate?

Beekeepers often get asked if honeybees hibernate when the weather turns cold. And if not, you might wonder what do they do this time of year? 

And yes, this is me shamelessly sneaking in a darling picture of my grandson. 

We'll talk about winter in a minute, but first, we need to back up to fall. In the late days of summer, when the days start to shorten the bees do a rather harsh thing. The worker bees, which are all female, throw out the drones, which are all males. A drone's one purpose in life is to mate with a virgin queen should the need arise (an act which will end in his immediate death). As the bees begin to sense autumn coming on they will turn out the drones. Since honeybees are only able to survive as part of a colony the homeless bees soon die.

Going into fall and winter there are only workers and the queen left inside the hive. The goal at this point is to survive until spring. To do this the bees bunch together in a tight ball called the winter cluster. At the center of this cluster is the queen, the mother of every bee in the hive, kept warm and safe amid her own offspring.  The bees rotate from the inside cluster to the outside so that no bees ever get too cold. The colder the weather is the tighter the bees cluster. The bees shiver to generate heat. 

The cluster moves around the hive a bit to be next to honey they'll consume for survival. Beekeepers never take honey from this part of the hive called the hive body, brood boxes, or nesting boxes. If the beekeeper feels that the bees have not stored up a sufficient amount of honey for a long winter they feed the bees to help them remain strong until spring.

Occasionally bees do leave the hive in winter. On days where the temperatures are high enough (about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit) the bees will fly out of the hive for cleansing flights to eliminate waste. Bees are meticulous about the inside of the hive and never eliminate waste there. When it does happen it is the sign of a serious problem. Even during January there are still places to gather pollen if the weather is warm enough for the girls to go out. If you have camellias then you may have seen bees very busy on sunny winter days.  

While honeybees do not hibernate other types of bees such as carpenter bees and bumblebees who are solitary do hibernate. For those species, it is only the mated queen who survives until spring.

You can help many kinds of bees survive winter by leaving things in your garden like plants that have hollow stems. Tiny species of bees overwinter there. 

Now you can stop lying awake at night wondering about this. I mean, you were doing that, right?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The 10 Minute Fresh Boxwood Wreath

Okay, y'all. Now that the honey has been harvested and jarred and the bees are doing their off season thing this beekeeper has time to get to some of those projects inside that I've been noticing need to be done. So look for some upcoming posts about furniture projects! But today I'm using an old lampshade part to make a simple little boxwood wreath. 

I love square wreaths!

I had two square pieces of wire leftover from a lampshade deconstruction I did a couple of years back. 

I can't remember why I took this lampshade apart because how awesome would the whole thing have looked covered in boxwood! Looking around right now for unused lampshades to make that happen. 

Look for a boxwood preservation post coming up soon. 

For this little project I used fresh boxwood cuttings, bottom of lampshade frame, and wire. There's not step by step because I literally just wired the boxwood to the frame. I really like the square look as a change from round. I'll beef it up for the holidays with lots more greenery and maybe a bow, but I really love it just like this! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How we Stumbled Upon an Attic Time Capsule This Week

If you are a long time reader you'll remember last year when I gave my house a birthday party. You can read about it here. While lots of houses are way older than ours it isn't all that common these days for a single family to occupy a house that long, especially in the suburbs. My husband moved in to our home with his parents when he was eleven. Our kids were raised here.

Literally the entire 26 years we've lived here I have complained about how much stuff was/is here. I've sorted, donated, yard saled (is that a word?) until I'm on the verge of Minimalism.

Also if you have been reading a while you know I keep saying that (lying about it) while showing you some great vintage thing I just found. 

You can read about my struggle here. 

Let's just say the Minimalist spirit is willing but the vintage appreciator flesh is weak. 

Y'all, I am not even kidding. Read more about it. I know. Like you don't have fascinating problems of your own.

Monday I had planned a whole day of gardening and house cleaning when my husband said "Hey let's get in the attic over the tool shed today and see if we can use any of those screens." Words cannot express how much I didn't want to do this. It's like being asked if you want to clean that gross spot behind the toilet with your last clean dish towel. Over the years I had checked a couple of times to see if any of those screens fit our windows and knew they didn't. But the main reason I didn't want to participate was that I knew that space is a favorite haunt of the occasional rat. It's why I never removed the screens in all the previous shed clean outs and organizations.

Even the Great Tool Shed Clean Out of 2017!

We waited until the end of the day when all our other chores were done and we could take showers immediately after. We wore masks and gloves. Frankly I felt that hazmat suits were in order. He handed me one nasty screen after another. Finally they were all laying in the grass and none of them fit any windows in our entire house. But at least they were finally going to the trash can.

Next, he pulled down about 50 paperbacks from the late seventies that were so mildewy they went straight to the trash, but not before we had a good laugh at some of the titles and blurbs. 

Then he said "Hey, there's a box up here."

"What is it?"

"I don't know but it's really heavy."

I stepped into the shed and he carefully slid it off the ledge onto his ladder, then handed it down to me. I gingerly rested it on the workbench. It was enormously heavy and a little surge of excitement went through me as I got a look at it. It was from a cousin-in-law and it was shipped from San Francisco to an address my husband's family hadn't lived in for 51 years.

It had never been opened. 

My mind exploded with the possibilities. Gold bricks? Priceless artifacts? A collection of art? I felt giddy. This could be it. The mother lode.

Together we carried it out and placed it on the grass. I grabbed a crowbar. Anything packed in a wooden crate is mysterious. Nailed together. Definitely gold bricks. Was our long lost cousin a rare coin dealer? A cat burgler? Smuggler?

What? These are all plausible scenarios!

My husband pried open the lid. Excelsior! I took this to be a good sign. No one would pack junk in excelsior. My heart raced.

He bent in front of me blocking my view to push back the packing material.


I imagined beautiful china since I had previously discovered complete 12 piece settings in two different patterns.

He held up a cup.

"Milk glass." I said.

I'll admit to being a little disappointed. It's not my favorite. Why is there never a collection of Blue Willow? Yes, I know --gift horse --blah, blah, blah...

As I unwrapped and counted the plates, compotes, cups, and goblets, he said, "I'm going to get that other box."

Much smaller. Empty.

"Oh I just found something you are going to LOVE."

He handed this to me.

A legit hand made vintage sign! I squealed. Again my imagination ran away and conjured up Spencer Tracy in a hat with a cigar nailing this up at a construction site or gas station.

There was a dilapidated phonograph beyond repair, a string of vintage Christmas lights, and a box of mid-century C9 bulbs. The ones in colors they don't make now. Probably because they have some deadly toxin in the color.

"Hey I remember this..." I heard him say and his voice trailed off down a nostalgic side street. "You are going to be so happy."

He handed me a very large...

Candle! A Christmas Candle for a front porch! Oh my gosh I hope the neighbors didn't hear me screaming with delight.

With the attic empty my husband got off the ladder and grabbed an extension cord to plug in the ginormous candle.

 It worked. Things used to do that. Work for a long time. Like 50 years. We both stared in wonder and said "They don't make 'em like that anymore."

Because that's what you do.

Because they don't.

I headed indoors to Google milk glass.

Because that's what you do.

Because you can.

All of which has me wondering...

 Why was this in the attic over a tool shed? Why did these dishes get shipped and never opened? Why are 3 cups and one goblet missing? Are those pieces what were in the smaller empty box? If not then what was in there? Who made the sign? What was it for?And finally...

What's in the attic of our actual house?  

 Having your own struggle with STUFF?  Then you might want to read about more treasures I discovered earlier this year and how happy empty drawers can make me here: Finding Home Under All This Stuff