Wednesday, September 23, 2015

9 of 10: Orange bench

Michaels sells a couple brands of chalk paint, so I decided to give them a try to see how they stack up against the Annie Sloan stuff. I took a little unfinished wooden bench that we've had forever and gave it one red coat followed by two burnt orange coats.
The paint went on easily and dried quickly. I can't report much difference between brands. I did use my Annie Sloan soft wax to seal it, and wow, what a difference that makes to the richness of the color.
I'm starting to wonder if you can get good results with any paint at all, as long as you seal it with the magic wax.

The detail shot above makes it look much more yellow, but in real life, it's orange. The Texas Longhorns fans that live with me are impressed. Theo is too young to know team colors, but he thinks it's a good place for stuffed animals to sit.

Monday, September 21, 2015

8 of 10: Chair makeover with chalk paint

My birthday month project has gone a few months beyond schedule. It's never too late to finish, right? Here's number 8, and I hope to crank out numbers 9 and 10 this week as well.

Surprise! More blue chalk paint!
My lovely assistant Matt cut a new drop-in seat bottom from plywood, and I covered it with one of the most delicious fabrics ever made.
The chair was black when I bought it at a thrift shop, and I painted a layer of lime green first, then blue. I wasn't planning on distressing all the way down to the black layer, but that's what happened, and it works for me.

 Here's the before and after:
I'd like to do the second chair another color, but I'm not ready to spring for another can of the good paint. Any chalk painters out there want to do a trade?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I dye

I finally admitted that mustard yellow is one color that should never be near my face, so I gave a makeover to a sweater that was cute in shape but wrong in shade. Sadly, I forgot to take a "before" picture of it, but it used to look very much like this. Here's the simmering vat of kelly green dye water.
 I also threw in a white t-shirt.
Here's the result. I don't know if I didn't use enough dye, but the t-shirt came out lighter than I had hoped. However, I love how the cardigan turned out.
 I stepped outside to get a truer picture of the color. Man, I'm terrible at taking selfies. I'm just like, "Am I supposed to smile at myself? Look aloof? I feel stupid..."
Fresh off my green sweater success, I turned to another couple of items whose design I like but color I don't. Pale, peachy pink and bright tangerine are both great, but not with my skin.
 Here's what they looked like after a dunk in wine colored dye:
(It's missing the middle button. I'm working on that.) These last two photos were taken by a child standing on a wobbly chair. But at least we avoided my selfie face.

If you are thinking of playing with Rit dye, I recommend starting with something that's not precious to you, preferably purchased for two dollars at your favorite thrift shop. My limited experience says that the best results come from starting with a light colored fabric and adding a dye in a related but darker color.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Summer motto

Remember this?
I was ready for a change, so I let the big boys paint over it with black.
I've wanted to turn this song lyric into a piece of wall art for a long time. To get the spacing right, I sketched the words on paper and laid them in place. Then I removed one at a time and painted each word on the canvas.
In order to get a slightly different font than my regular handwriting, I painted the letters in the opposite direction that I usually would. For example, I wrote the letter S starting at the bottom rather than the top. You could also turn the whole thing upside down and write your letters that way. (I think that's a forger's trick.)
Don't you hate when you see a sign where the letters don't all fit on the line? Like GARAGE SAle, with the last couple letters scrunched up on the right? I tried to avoid that by writing the middle letter first, and then building the rest of the word around it. It didn't quite work with "friend", but I'm going to let it go.
I hung it in a conspicuous spot, so that naughty boys will see it each time they are sent to their rooms due to fussing and fighting.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Here's what I've been reading:
 Such a great cover, such a depressing peek into the mind of a single dude. Nate, you stink.
I liked the blog when I first discovered it, but the finished products included here were often not stellar enough to justify an actual book.
I'm in the middle of this and loving it. This is what a feminist looks like.

Last night I went with some friends to see Shakespeare in the park.
Unfortunately, it turns out that there's no room for feminism in The Taming of the Shrew, as long as you are using the original text. The show was well done, but the story...blech. I love Shakespeare, but I'll stick with 10 Things I Hate About You when it comes to this one.
Last weekend we showed our kids the Hobbit cartoon.
It was a fun flashback to my childhood, and no Gollum nightmares (so far). Hooray!

However, in other nightmare-inducing news, last week I found a scorpion on my son's backpack and ran over a four foot snake as it crossed the road just a few houses down from ours. According to the neighbor who found it, unharmed, and GATHERED IT INTO A YARD WASTE BAG before re-homing it somewhere wilder, it was a harmless rat snake. Ok, then.
I am thankful for all of the rain we have been getting recently. It is desperately needed, and I wish we could somehow share it with California. But I don't appreciate the side effect of snakes seeking dry ground in the same place where my toddler toddles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

7 of 10: Chalk painted mini drawers

Let's cut straight to the before and after, because I think it's pretty awesome:
 (Purchased at Target many years ago from one of their dorm room collections.)
I've never used chalk paint, but my sister Rachel raves about it. There are tutorials for making your own, but for my first attempt, I bought the brand name stuff.  I found it at a shop called Kalology on South Congress, and though the store is charming and the lady was very helpful, it was still tough to hand over the $70 it cost for a small pot of blue paint and even smaller pot of wax sealer. As my dad would say, Annie Sloan sure is proud of her stuff.
(Everyone swears that it goes a long, long way, so once I've covered everything I own in blue, I might be ready to buy another color.)
I've got some chairs I'd like to paint, but I decided to start small and get the feel for it. I did a coat of purplish craft paint first, then two coats of the blue chalk paint, sanded a bit to let the purple show through, and then waxed it.
For a minute I thought, "This stuff is beautiful! Let's paint all the kitchen cabinets with it!" But then I got to the "wax on, wax off" step and changed my mind. I hardly had enough elbow grease to finish my approximately 2 square feet in one sitting.
I used scrapbook paper and Mod Podge to cover the front of the drawers, and voila! A beautiful hiding place for about a hundred electronics chargers and other miscellany.
I'm sure my counter will stay exactly that neat and tidy from now on.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 and 6 of 10: Necklace and painted frame

I've had this necklace 80% finished for about a year. Now it's done!
I love the idea of an off-center necklace, but in practice, it is difficult to get the weight to balance correctly. I'm going to have to road test this one to see if that leaf stays put or twists around and falls to the bottom.
Next up is a frame that I've had for years and always disliked the colors. I know that the shabby chic aesthetic had its moment in the sun, but was barn red and minty toothpaste green ever a good pairing? I say no.
I used cheap craft paints and covered up my least favorite shades with blues, greens, and gold. Now I love it.
This frame holds a bunch of pictures from our European backpacking adventure of so many years ago. Here's Matt pretending to dance with me in front of the "you are sixteen, going on seventeen" gazebo in Austria. Yep, we took the Sound of Music tour. It was cheesy and fabulous.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

3 and 4 of 10: Cards and written snapshots

Can you say derailed? Easter weekend got in the way of my ten projects, but that's ok, because it was a lovely weekend. Now it's time to catch up. 

I made a set of cards with some Basic Grey paper, plus something silly for my sister. The bird illustration is cut from a vintage children's book that I picked up at a thrift store, and the text refers to our endless card games when Jill visited last fall.
I'm also working on writing a few paragraphs in my journal about each of my boys at this moment in time. I think of them as written snapshots. I've done this a time or two before, and I always love going back and reading the descriptions of their characteristics, quirks, habits, and favorite things.

Friday, April 3, 2015

2 of 10: Skateboard swing

Yesterday I decided that I would tackle a pile of clothes in need of repair. I patched some jeans and hand sewed a couple of snagged sweaters.
And then I almost died from boring myself to death. Mending, while useful and necessary and even satisfying, does not count as one of my ten inspirational, motivational, awesome birthday month projects. What birthday is this anyway, my 70th?

So I'm taking credit for a cooler project, even though Matt did a bunch of the work on it: a skateboard swing!
We found an ugly old skateboard at Goodwill and loosely followed these directions.
 It's low to the ground, so you can pretend it's a hoverboard.

Total cost was about 15 bucks: 4 for the skateboard and 11 for the rope. By the way, why does a little package of rope cost eleven dollars? And that boy could use a hair cut--
Oh, sorry, guys. My inner geezer got out again. I've sent her off to do some more mending.

(In case you wondered how I fixed the holes in my sweaters, I tried this method, and it worked out well. Don't throw out your favorite sweater just because it has a snag!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

1 of 10: Garden path

It's my birthday month, and I'm feeling vaguely unsatisfied, like I haven't accomplished as much as I would have liked to in the last year. Sure, I've kept three little boys alive, which is no small feat, but I'd like a few more tangible items checked off the to-do list.

The goal is ten projects in ten days. Here's number one:
It's a path out to the garden, made of rough stones and cedar mulch, and I just finished it this afternoon. It represents lots of work, spread out over a couple weeks worth of toddler nap times. I am sort of in love with mulch right now, by the way. I love the look and the smell of it.

Check back tomorrow for project number two! (I honestly don't even know what it is yet. I just had the "10 things" idea a couple hours ago when I finished the path.)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Easy crier

Did you see the clip of Jennifer Garner crying during a Today show interview? She was talking about her family, and she got overwhelmed with emotion. Here it is, if you want to check it out. I like her a lot, and I think it's very sweet that she obviously has so much love for her mom and siblings. But it gave me a sinking feeling of dread at the same time. Imagine you are giving an interview on national TV, and you can't stop crying. Imagine losing control of a fluid leaking out of your body, and since it's on your face, everyone can see it.

I'm an easy crier, so I know the feeling all too well.
Just yesterday, we went for a hike, and another family let me pet their beautiful dog, who had reddish brown fur just like my sweet Izzie. I petted that dog a couple times and had to practically bound away, calling out a choked "Thanks!" over my shoulder as I did. That's a sad cry, related to a specific sad thing that I'm dealing with. My Izzie just died two months ago, so maybe that's a pretty normal reaction.* But I cry in a variety of other situations, and sometimes it's highly inconvenient.

Once I was having a performance review at a job, and my boss reprimanded me for something I had been doing wrong. He was kind, but matter-of-fact, and I should have said, "You're right. I apologize. I'll change it." But I was embarrassed, so I started crying. I honestly wasn't trying to minimize my responsibility, and if I could have chosen not to cry at that moment, believe me, I would have. The whole situation made me feel like a child getting in trouble, rather than a young adult with an actual adult job.

I also cry sometimes when I'm angry. Do you know how frustrating it is to unintentionally cry when you are angry? It's the worst. You want to convey, "You did something wrong, and I'm mad about it" NOT "You hurt my feelings, and I'm sad about it."

Beautiful performances can move me to tears. And not even serious, emotional scenes meant to show the beauty of the universe. In fact, it's often fun stuff. Once Matt and I went to see 42nd Street at UT's Bass Concert Hall. When the curtain slowly rose on a stage full of tap dancers, clicking away in unison, I smiled wide and started crying. I cried at a bunch of legs!

This clip makes me cry happy tears almost every time I watch it. I think it's a combination of my love of dance, the joy and fun you can feel from the participants and spectators, and nostalgia for a movie that my mom taught me to love.

And finally, it's quite common for me to laugh so hard that I cry. The worst was on the day I had tried out liquid eyeliner for the first time. My sister and I started to laugh about something, and at one point, she looked over at me and cackled, "You look like Gene Simmons!" I looked like an absolute crazy person, and I had to excuse myself from a big group of friends to go clean up my face.

I don't know if Jennifer Garner is an easy crier like I am. She mentioned that her mom is sick, so maybe it was just bad timing. But man, I felt for her in that moment. I imagine she was like, "Dang it, eyeballs, I'm trying to work here. Knock it off!"

*To make matters worse, on the drive to and from yesterday's hike, Mason was listening to a story about a boy who enters a dog sled race in order to earn enough money to save his sick grandfather's farm. His faithful dog does his best and is about to win the race, when his heart explodes and he dies. The book actually used the word "exploded". The heartbroken boy then carries his dead dog over the finish line to win the prize money and save the farm. I cried, well...a the end of that story.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My lucky day

It's spring break, and the forecast for the rest of the week is literally 90-100% chance of rain. Hooray for rain! We spent all day outside yesterday, first wandering at the Natural Gardener (one of my favorite places in the world), then putting our new plants into the garden.

 I think this beautifully blooming tree was labeled a "peachcot".
The photo above looks so sweet, like the boys are enjoying a swing together. But it was really an increasingly violent shove fest for butt room. "I was on it first!" etc.
Sorry to be gross, but this goat pooped, and none of us had seen that happen before. It was like black beans just fell right out of him; we were all pretty fascinated. The boys were jealous that he doesn't even need to wipe.

The bluebonnets are just about to pop. I can't wait.

 Labyrinth, giant teepee, mulch guitar...this place is so great.

We got our tomatoes, swiss chard, and strawberries into the ground just in time for an overnight rain. How likely is it that my boys will eat swiss chard? Not very, but I'll give it a try.

Here's a wider shot so that you understand what a job it was to get that corner planted. I'm feeling accomplished! Lots more work, though, to reclaim the other 3/4 of the garden plot.
Our lovely, green St. Patrick's Day ended with a rainbow right out the front door. The boys were pretty convinced that we could find the end of it.