Crochet Treasures for Little Ones

Friday, January 29, 2016

I've written a bit before about my twin nephews who are four now, and if you follow me on facebook or instagram you've seen tons of pictures of them too. Because they are THE CUTEST.
I crocheted those bow ties for them for Christmas 2014, and at the time I tried to get some photos of them so I could blog about it but Wes wouldn't let me take a picture of him and I only got some snaps of Drew by holding his arm and not letting him run away. I could not, however, get him to actually look at the camera. See for yourself.
So back then I gave up the dream of blogging about bow ties and jumped on the trampoline with them instead.

But now their Mommy is pregnant! And even though I know that if it's a boy it will be absolutely perfect, right now I'm just starving for a girly girl pink and twirly, soft and fluffy sparkly cotton candy BABY GIRL! And in anticipation of my angel niece I started perusing Etsy just to get some ideas for baby blankets I might like to make for her...just, you know, to get that girly mojo out there into the atmosphere...when I found the shop Deborah O'Leary Patterns.

Be still my heart, her baby blankets are the sweetest things ever!
Do you think that if I get busy making blankets right now then Becca's little baby will simply have to be a girl?

Well, I didn't go that far, but I did buy one of her patterns for baby headbands and got busy making those. Surly a few little flowery headbands might just push the universe a bit towards the X chromosomes :-)

The instructions were simple to follow, I'm definitely in the beginning to intermediate skill set. Here is a link to the pattern. Now we just need a baby girl to wrap these on! 

Let's See If I Get In Trouble For Writing About My Older Children?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sometimes it annoys me that since my kids are older I don't get to write about our days the same way I did when they were small. But I'm feeling like I want to do a little update on our family and to heck with their privacy and stuff. Documentation is important. And so what if my main form of family record keeping happens on the world wide web where nothing is secret; they have all embarrassed me in public plenty over the years! 

Today I'm starting with Jonathan and Katie. Next time I'll fill you in on Maddie and Ellie. Katie is not interested in me sharing her life on the internets so her update will be very short. Probably. I mean, she is so cute, but I should probably respect her specific request not to write about her on my blog. Mostly. I will mostly respect her request by not talking too much even though I believe she is the person who introduced me to the phrase, "caring is sharing."

But Jonathan! He has made no specific requests and also if he tries to I am not taking requests right now. Yesterday was his first day of college at our local city college. He home schooled for part of high school and then at the end of his sophomore year he passed the California high school proficiency exam which is the equivalent of a high school diploma. Up until now I've kind of avoided thinking about him starting college by imagining it as a continuation of high school for him-he just isn't old enough for actual college so in my head that's not what is happening. It's like magic! Only it doesn't work.

So yesterday was his first day and when we were in the school bookstore buying his text books it totally hit me that This Is Happening. Thank goodness he is still living at home or I would have to cry/die.

I drove him the first day because his parking pass hasn't arrived yet and while we were in the car I asked if I could take a quick picture of him on his first day and this is what he did. (we were at a stop light) 
"Act NORMAL!" I demanded. And I got this.
Finally, before I left him on campus, he let me take this one.
I love that kid SO much! Total mom crush right here. And I'm so impressed by his courage in tackling a non traditional educational path. 

Now for the Doots. Here she is at Christmas with her partner.

And with her doggie.
Because of her non-disclosure policy I won't talk about school or jobs or travel or relationships or her paintings. I will just say that she is a great daughter and I love her.

Let's hope I don't get in trouble for this

The Perfect Gift for an Animal Lover - A Betta Fish Bowl

Monday, January 25, 2016

Figuring out what to give my mom for Christmas isn't too hard, we pretty much like the same things, but this year I wanted to give her something she would really love. And the thing my mom really loves (after her family) is animals...are animals...what is grammatically correct here? Anyway, she is a friend to the animals. 

Lots of people say they love animals, myself included, but my mom loves them more than us. For reals, once she saw some baby ducks trapped in a storm drain at a strip mall and she rescued them by calling animal control and waiting until the ducklings were safely removed. And that was when I was a little girl, before we had cell phones to call for help and whatnot.

In her old neighborhood there were a bunch of feral kitties so she took to trapping them, paying to get them spayed or neutered, and then releasing them back into the neighborhood. But she felt bad for them so she put food out for them all and ended up adopting a couple to go with the ones she had rescued from the shelter. My dad loved that, fierce feral kitties hiding in the guest room! Even though she doesn't have any cats right now, just two dogs, we all know there's a crazy cat lady waiting inside her to get out.

What else? Oh, she leaves baskets nestled between the eves of her house and the pergola over the patio for doves to nest in. When she sees a gopher in her garden she is equal parts irritated and delighted (which is crazy). She has an eagle eye and spots every animal we pass on the road, deer, foxes, wild turkeys, coyotes, you name it, she sees it! And she gets so excited. Every single time.
Plus, her dream vacation is to cruise to Alaska and watch for whales.

With all this in mind, I decided the perfect Christmas gift for her would be a betta fish. A betta fish in the cutest little live biosphere ever! It came out so so adorable that I wanted to share it so you might gift one to the animal lover in your life, or maybe even make one for yourself. 
decorative betta fish centerpiece

It's actually very easy and I was able to get all the supplies at Petco. Here's what you'll need.
1. Betta food. They only need a couple pellets a day and it only costs a couple bucks.
2. Water conditioner. A few drops makes normal tap water safe for your betta fish by neutralizing the chlorine in the water.
3. Live aquatic fresh water plants. I had room for two in my vase.
4. A little net for catching your fishy.
5. The prettiest betta at your pet store.
6. A large glass vase or apothecary jar.
7. A bag of small aquarium rocks. I chose ones a little bigger than gravel, because it looks nicer, but smaller than the ones labeled "river rocks" because the plant roots aren't secure in the larger river rocks.
8. Betta buddies! I am in love with these adorable live moss balls. Their real name is Marimo Moss but they were called Betta Buddies at my Petco. There was only room for one in my vase.
9. A vase. I actually bought one at Petco, but I'm sure I could have got a better deal at Hobby Lobby or TJ Maxx. It wasn't labeled, but the one I chose looks like it holds a little less than a gallon of water.
how to make a betta fish bowl with live plants
Here's how you put the whole thing together.

1. Wash the vase with warm, soapy water and rinse well.
2. Put the rocks in a colander and rinse with just water. Put a couple of paper towels over the sink drain to catch any rocks small enough to sneak through the colander holes. You don't want those going down the drain!
3. Put the rocks in the vase about an inch or so deep.
4. Follow the instructions on your live aquatic plants. Mine were packed in a bit of gel medium that had to be rinsed off of the roots. Make a small "well" in your rocks and gently place the plant inside it and push the rocks back over the roots to secure it. The plant will be a little floppy until you add water but that's okay.
5. Carefully add tap water to the vase to the level you want it.
6. Float your cute little betta buddy in there. Call it squishy and it will be your squishy!
7. Add water conditioner according to the directions on the bottle. You won't hurt your fish by adding too much, so if you are unsure of the amount err on the side of more rather than less.
8. Here is the hard part. You need to let your vase sit for several hours while the water comes to room temperature. I set my little fish in his little plastic cup from the pet store next to my vase full of water overnight so that they would be the same temperature in the morning.
9. Carefully pour your betta into its fabulous new home! It will be the happiest betta ever!
betta fish with betta buddies
My mom seemed awfully excited about this gift. After all, she is the lady who spent one summer rescuing baby bunnies every time they hopped into our backyard and our Great Dane caught them. 

The Best Sweet and Tangy Chili You've Ever Tasted

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hi friends. Sorry I haven't blogged in so long. I like to keep at it until I gain a bit of momentum, my page views are going up, and then I just, suddenly, stop blogging altogether and go dark...for fun? Actually, I'm pretty frustrated with myself, but onward and upward as they say. Let's just get after it shall we? We shall!

I'm throwing myself an easy pitch and sharing my award winning recipe for the best chili you've ever tasted, as opposed to say, sharing my thoughts on disciplining teenagers or something (you'd like that though, wouldn't you?). It is sweet and tangy and meaty and I could seriously eat three bowls in row. Still, how can I claim this is the best tasting chili ever? Because my sister-in-law said so. It must be so! Also, I did win at my church's fall chili cook off a couple years ago with this baby and I've got the gold painted ladle to prove it. Somewhere.

Here is what you will need:
  • 2lbs sweet Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 1chopped sweet onion
  • 3cloves of pressed garlic
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 finely diced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of chili beans
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of maple cured bacon baked beans
  • 1(14 1/2 ounce) can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 12teaspoons chili powder
  • 1teaspoon cumin
  • 1teaspoon thyme
  • 12teaspoon salt
  • 12teaspoon cinnamon
  • 12cup of honey
And here is how you are going to put it together:

Start with browning the sausage, chopped onion, garlic and bell pepper in a large sauce pan over medium heat.
 Sometimes you can get the sausage simply packaged as ground meat without the casing, if not, just slice the casing with a sharp knife and slide out the sausage. 

My eyes are freakishly sensitive to onions and peppers so I wear a pair of onion goggles while I cook. It's very chic, all the sexy chefs are doing it. I tried to take a selfie in them so you could see how fabulous they look on me, but, it just, no. 
 I need a new manicure. Please ignore my ugly fingers.
My Safeway recently started carrying these peeled garlic cloves and they are my favorite thing ever! I am too lazy to mince garlic so
I always use a press. 
And this is a chopped bell pepper. Nice. Now cook that all up until the meat is cooked through, about 8 minutes. I didn't really time it, I'm just guessing about the eight minutes; cook it until there is no pink left.

Now add the beans and tomatoes. If you have a fancy pampered chef can opener you should totally use that. I had one but now it's disappeared and I have to use a regular one from CVS or somewhere. I have a suspicion that my good one went on a Scout camping trip and never came home, but I don't have proof.
 Add your spices
Now let all that chili goodness simmer uncovered on low for about 30 minutes. It will smell SO good.
After 30 or so minutes add the honey and cinnamon. I think of these two as the secret ingredients, once they're cooked in people can't put their finger on what makes it taste so special, but you will know. Mwahaha! The best honey is from your own bees, but if the bees are not participating, go for local honey. So yummy!

chili with honey
 The last thing to do is enjoy watching your family slurp it up! I don't know why, but seeing my family eat makes me super happy. I'm a feeder. This recipe is perfect for that. I hope you like it.
sweet and tangy chili
This week I was motivated to get back in the blogging saddle by my friend, Monica, who just started her own Suh-weet blog where she wrote about doing things we want to do but are scared of at the same time. I often feel that way about putting my writing and weirdo photos out there and her essay was just the nudge/shove I needed. I hope you'll check her out here

Painting A Duncan Phyfe Dining Room Table

Monday, September 28, 2015

Last week I shared some inspiration photos for how I might paint my Duncan Phyfe style dining room table that a friend gave me. And this week I painted it. It's like a Christmas miracle.

Probably around 18 years ago Marc and I were antiquing in Arlington, Virginia and we came across this ah-mazing French country table and chair set. The table was a humongous, rustic wood farmhouse table and the chairs were these beautiful fancy white chairs with an upholstered hoop back, like this:

The set also came with a super fancy humongous price tag, something like twenty thousand dollars-because it was antiques and all (and maybe had gold bullions in the seat cushions or something) -so clearly, we did not purchase it. But it stole my heart, and I have been trying to figure a way to get that juxtaposition of rustic and elegant going in my dining room ever since.

When my friend gave me this table I initially thought I'd paint it and sell it; but the more I looked at it, the more I fell in love with those legs.

  Nice stems, right? I had to give it a try in my own dining room. What do you think? Of course, none of my chairs are in the photos because I am busy making a massive mess trying to reupholster them. Which begs the question, why when I decide to try and teach myself to reupholster do I choose eight fancy chairs as my first project? I think it's like a sickness...the same one that makes me decide to make slipcovers for an entire sectional sofa as my first slipcover project.

I need to read up on designing tablescapes; it's harder than it looks.

Here is a quick rundown on my process for painting this table. Its' original finish was a dark cherry. Here it is taken apart in my garage/studio:
I started by wiping it down with simple green to get any grease off, then I lightly sanded the top with a sanding sponge. I didn't sand the legs.

I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in "Old Ocher," because it has a little more of an aged look than old white to me. It's like there's a touch of brown in it. Here's the first coat.

I sanded lightly, wiped off the sanding dust, and put a second coat on everything. The legs looked great after that but I decided to do a third coat on the table top for durability. At that point I wasn't planing to distress the piece, but the details on the legs weren't standing out the way I wanted them to so I decided to try distressing them and I liked it better.

 It looked good so I did the table top to match. 
The final step was to wax. I thought about using poly since it is a table top, but these days I'm really liking the look and feel of wax, and after it fully cures it's supposed to be pretty durable. Also, we mostly eat at our kitchen table (or on the couch) so this table won't get a ton of wear and tear. Bottom line, I decided to risk it.

Even though I used Annie Sloan paint, my favorite wax is the Sweet Pickins soft wax. I love the way it rubs into the paint, the soft sheen it gives, and the way it feels when you run your hand over the furniture. I didn't really like waxing furniture until I used this product but now I am a fan. As usual, I have no affiliate links or anything, I just like the product.
You can kind of see the slight sheen it creates in this photo, and the way it adds depth to the paint color. Love.

We have family coming this week, but I am determined to get those darn chairs finished up soon. I'll share as soon as I do. Happy projects to you!

Dining Table Paint Inspiration

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A thing that happens when you like painting furniture is that your friends start giving you things they don't want. I am always excited when someone says, "I have this table/desk/dresser you might want..." My friend Erin inherited a dining table she couldn't really use so when she asked if I wanted it I said "Yes, please!" because I hoard furniture but also because I really like the style.

It's a Duncan Phyfe reproduction (I assume I didn't land a $2000 original) and it's in great condition, except that I don't really like the very cherry finish. I've been looking at different options for painting and refinishing.

Here's my favorite option so far.

But I like these ones too.
I want to use it in my own dining room because the table I have now only sits six, but this one has two leaves and can sit eight to ten. Bring on the dinner parties.

I also have eight of these Thomasville French chairs that I scored on craigslist for super cheap.
I'm super excited to try my hand at reupholstering them. I even have a mid century modern buffet in my garage waiting to be painted. I'll have a whole new dining room if I can just make up my mind and get started~hopefully tomorrow.

Weathered and Beachy Entertainment Cabinet

Monday, September 7, 2015

distressed and weathered paint
My friend/client used to live in Hawaii and so when she asked me to help her turn her family room into a home gym for her personal training business I suggested she go with a beachy vibe for the colors and decorations. There's not much furniture in the room, since it's for working out, but she did want to keep her tv and entertainment cabinet in there so I updated it with this weathered paint job.

Here is the cabinet before.
Here is the inspiration photo that Holly sent me of a console table her mom has.
And here is what we ended up with.
The cabinet has hardwood doors, and veneer sides and top. I used chalk paint because it sticks well to wood veneer, although it doesn't distress like the actual wood parts do.

To create this look you want to use a dry brush. I used a cheap brush with stiff bristles instead of my usual Purdy brushes so it would leave brush marks in the paint. I sanded lightly and then began with a messy coat of white paint, leaving a lot of the wood showing through.
After the white dried I did the same with a pale green, and after it dried, a pale blue. I kept the brush very dry by only lightly dipping the ends in the paint and then tapping off most of the paint on a paper plate. 

I used my palm sander to remove some of the paint and distress the edges and then I did a coat of clear wax.

At that point I decided to add some dark wax. I only used a little, and focused on putting it in the grooves to bring out those details. 
The map on the wall came out of a 1954 National Geographic that I found in an antique store in Petaluma. Even though they're not rare, like at all, I felt like I won the lottery.
Are you just crazy for old things? I sure am.
If you'd like to see other furniture I've painted, here is one of my favorite pieces, in a totally different style.

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