Monday, November 21, 2011

Faux Mantel Over a Half Wall

Since we live in a bi-level house, we have a half wall that divides our living room from our entrance.  I love the open concept home but I wanted to have a wall behind my fireplace to create a mantel. I was not about to frame out a wall so I lived with a fireplace and no wall for a number of years.  This past summer a friend of mine gave me a wooden frame that may have been intended to be a glass fronted cabinet door.  However, it did not contain any glass but neither did it contain any holes for hinges or knobs either.  She said that I would come up with something to do with it and she was right. 

After a while, I realized this would be the solution to creating a faux mantel!  I do actually have a photo of the frame in the "before" state but it is on an SD card that has mysteriously disappeared!  ** Edited to add that I found the card so here is the before! **

I ordered some mirror to be cut to the correct size then got to work painting the frame.  Ever since I heard about Rustoleum's Heirloom White spray paint, I knew I had to try it somewhere and this was the perfect project.  I gave that frame a nice coat of paint and, once it was dry, sanded down the edges slightly to give it more of an antiqued look.  After a layer of clear coat, it was ready for the hardware. 

I followed the same technique I used to create my trapeze frames, using eye hooks and cable wiring and crimps.  After the eye hooks were installed, I inserted the mirror using glazier points stuck in the back.  What a neat and tidy way to hold that mirror in place.  When it came time to find the rafters that the mirror was to hang from, we ran into a little snag.  We knew that the rafters ran in a certain direction over our entrance.  What we were not aware of, however, was that right over the fireplace, the rafters ran in a different direction to accommodate the roofline, making it impossible to hang the mirror where I wanted it.  Well, difficult, not impossible. 

My dearly loved and super wonderful hunk-of-love husband crawled into the attic for me and held 2x4s in place in the exact location I wanted to hang the mirror, creating studs!  (This is not a finished attic, this is a hop-from-rafter-to-rafter-and-dig-through-the-insulation kind of attic!)  Once I installed the eye hooks in the newly formed studs, the mirror was ready to hang!  I love the new look!  I love the abundant decorating possibilities!  I love the new "wall" it creates! I now have a fireplace mantel complete with mirror!  Let the decorating begin!

As for decorating, well, I used to have 2 of those apothecary jars flanking the candles.  However, my sons thought playing frisbee was an indoor sport and the one jar was the casuality of such foolishness!  Grr.  For now, this will have to do until the Christmas decor comes out!

As usual, linking up to Sandra's Party! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas Aprons

Someone suggested to me I should sew some Christmas aprons - so I did!  I am not into the cutesy Christmas fabric choosing, instead, the beautiful classics that remain timeless.  I found some gorgeous fabric and was able to create a couple of really elegant aprons.  These are not your traditional quickly-sewn looking-a-bit-boring Christmas aprons.  These are filled with details typically seen on skirts, with the darts and pleats, but they are worthy of the beauty of the fabric and I am thrilled with the results.

This first one is a new style for me.  I call this the "Ali Apron".  I remember sketching this out many months ago and I finally made it into reality.

The box pleats at the bottom of the apron were quick to make, thanks to a little pleat tool I found at the thrift store about a year ago.  I found it again recently (my "sewing room" is a disaster!) and it makes quick work of making any type of pleats - no measuring required.

I knew I wanted to accent the apron with a large fabric flower so I did - it adds such a charming flair!

With all these details, this is most certainly not your get-down-and-dirty-in-the-kitchen kind of apron but a I-am-the-hostess-of-a-great-Christmas-party-and-I-want-to-look-great-while-keeping-clean kind of apron.

The second one I made was made in the Anne Apron style, with the pleated skirt.  This is probably my favorite type of apron to make (at least it was - with each additional apron I make, that opinion is possibly changing).  I love the elegance of it and how it actually looks more like a skirt than an apron. 

Once again, the classic Christmas colors of red, white, green and gold are so beautiful and this style of apron really showcases it.  The bolder fabric stands out while the more muted red and gold is a nice surprise under the pleats.

With the extra long tie, this apron can be tied in the front or the back.

I am going to be selling my aprons at a craft show here this weekend so we will see how it goes.  Regardless, I think I may have to buy some more Christmas fabric but I just might wait until it goes on sale in a little while!  Do you have a Christmas apron?  What kind of Christmas fabric appeals most to you?

** The very best part about sewing these aprons was that I could do the whole thing on my new-to-me 1954 Elna Supermatic sewing machine, gifted to me by my grandmother.  My new Brother sewing machine grumbles incessantly when sewing through anything thicker than 2 layers of cotton.  This machine, while sewing through 5 layers of fabric to attach the box pleats, didn't so much as hesitate.  It was a wondrous sewing experience!  I am smitten with my new machine! **

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Sunday, November 13, 2011


Only one week left to go before collection week (Nov. 21-27) here in Canada for the shoe boxes collected by Operation Christmas Child!  What a lot of fun it has been to shop and pack those boxes.  Generally, we make one box per child but this year the grandparents in our church were challenged to make one for each of their grandchildren so I am making 10 this year, 5 of our own and 5 at the request of the grandparents.  At the very end of October, we took the kids out for a night of shopping - SO MUCH FUN!  We hit up the dollar store and Walmart and then went out for supper to cap it off!

I thought I would share with you what we put into our boxes and a bit on my philosophy behind why we choose what we do and where we buy our things. 

First of all, I like to buy plastic shoe boxes but not from the dollar store.  I buy ones from Walmart or London Drugs - something that is a bit less likely to break super easy.  I own the dollar store ones for my shoes and so long as you don't use them much, they work fine.  The lids also don't tend to close well but for shoes that is just fine.  I also own the ones we bought this year for shoe boxes and I love them.  No, they are not indestructible but I find them to seal better and handle use better.  My theory is that a plastic shoebox will last much longer than the cardboard ones and can be used by the mom as a food storage container or something of the sort.  We may have Tupperware here in spades but you can guarantee that the recipients of these boxes don't.

Besides your commonly bought things like toothbrushes and soap (in a plastic bag) and washcloths, combs, hair accessories, and school supplies like markers, crayons (in a plastic bag), pencils, sharpeners, erasers, notepads, coloring book, etc., I also like to put in some clothing.  We always check out the clearance racks in Walmart or Superstore and you can find really cute shirts for about $3; less if you are watching really carefully.  I would never put a shirt in the box that I wouldn't put on my own child so I check out the style or color or message of the shirt carefully.  I don't do, "Oh, that is good enough!"  I want to honor them with great choices, not just good enough!

I love to make little bandana skirts for the girls.  Super simple to make and a new article of clothing for them.  You just take two bandanas (dollar store ones are fine), one for the front and one for the back, sew them together at the sides, make a casing for elastic, insert the elastic and you are done!  No hemming or finishing of the seams is required since you are working with bandanas that are finished on all edges.  These are fairly thin skirts but perfect for the warm weather where the recipients live.

Sunglasses are a must and the dollar store is perfect for these!

I made sure to include purses in each of the girl's boxes.  If I can't find purses, I put in cosmetic bags.  Every little girl likes to have a purse, right?  The dollar store is fine once again - I personally have a cosmetic bag from the dollar store and it has served its purpose well.  In the purses we put all the hair accessories or jewelry (the girls made beaded bracelets for them).

Some things the boys like to include in their boxes (if we can find them) are slingshots, harmonicas, marbles, hats, toy cars, a game of some sort like jacks, magnifying glass, etc.  We don't usually include socks since they are likely to wear sandals instead of shoes and socks would get really dirty if they are used at all.

This year I included some fun band aids in each box - cannot go wrong with that!  I was also able to find a really cute pair of flip flops for $1.  In the future, I will be shopping year round and watching out for sales so I can include shoes in each box.  I have already picked up extra school supplies for next year from a bargain store that was going out of business.

We also put in a little bit of hard candy for the kids.  I bought individually wrapped Jolly Ranchers and some candy necklaces and put some in each box, in a plastic bag, of course.

I do not include any Barbie-like dolls.  I find them to be expensive and I don't buy them for my own girls to play with.  I think there are better dolls out there or better alternatives like Strawberry Shortcake or My Little Pony.  That is just a personal opinion.  I do think every little boy should have a stuffed animal and every little girl needs a teddy or some sort of doll.  I will be making a couple of rag dolls this week so that my 5-9 year old girl's boxes each have a doll.

We have just about finished shopping and packing the boxes though a couple things remain like pencil sharpeners.  These I refuse to buy at the dollar store since I always find they either don't work or break easily.  I need to make a trip to an office supply store and buy a multi-pack - those seem to last longer.

Later on this week, once I have everything we need, I will be sure to show you some of the boxes and talk a bit about the letters we write and how we pray for the kids getting these boxes.

Are you participating in Operation Christmas Child this year?  What special sorts of gifts are you sure to include in the boxes to make it special?  I invite you to join in - you have one week left to do some shopping so if you haven't started, better get a move on! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Latest Crochet Project - Puff Stitch Toque with Ear Flaps

Baby girl Ari needed a new toque for winter so I did a bit of shopping on Etsy and found a pattern that didn't use the traditional single or double crochet stitch.  I liked that it looked different.  Though it does require more time and more yarn than most other hats I have made, I love how it turned out.  It is sooo thick that her little head will never get cold, the puff stitch is lovely to look at and with the sizing, it should fit her for about 3 more years!

If you crochet and are interested in your own, you can buy the pattern at this etsy shop!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lamp Redo - The Base

A bit over a month ago I found the perfect lamp for the nursery makeover I am working on - it was a $5 thrift store find.  It was a beautiful lamp - well, it had potential.  I could imagine a different color base and a different color shade and I knew it was the one. 

And like all things around here, it takes a bit of time before I am either:
A.  Able to start a project
B.  Able to finish a project
C.  All of the above, all of the time!

So, sometime between then and now I spray painted the base silver.  I was hoping for a chrome color - you know, a nice shiny silver.  I wasn't finding the spray paint I wanted so I went with this one from Valspar.

I love the way it turned out.  A very soft, dull silver but with much potential.  Today I finished the base while the kids were doing chores.  I took some charcoal craft paint and a sponge brush and dabbed some paint on the brush then proceeded to dab most of it off so it is almost a dry-brushing technique.  I then rubbed the brush in each of the recessed areas on the lamp.

I would paint three stripes at a time so the paint wouldn't dry too much before I was able to wipe it off.

Then using a paper towel (or in my case, a paper napkin), I wiped most of the paint off, until I liked what it looked like.  I wanted it dark in the depth of the recessed area and lighter on the outsides, if that makes sense.  Since this is a very heavy lamp base most likely made of resin, it is not a smooth surface, so the black paint gets into all the little nooks and crannies of the lamp, which I love.  Gives it an antiqued look.  Very different than the chrome look I originally wanted but I like this even better!  So, I continued to rub black paint over most of the lamp and then wiping it off, making sure there were no definite lines anywhere.  It needed to blend but if some areas were darker than others, that was fine by me. 

I love how it turned out!  It gives so much definition to the details of the lamp and gives it a beautifully antiqued look.  So much better than the brown clay look of before.  I sealed it with a satin spray sealant and now the base is complete.  Next step - the shade (which I stripped down to the wire so that will be interesting to redo!)!  I cannot promise it will happen anytime soon but I do promise to show you the process and the end result!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why A Shoebox?

Every year around this time we start talking about boxes.  Shoe boxes, to be exact.  And rather than talking about which shoes we wish were in those boxes, we talk about how we can fill them with toys and pencils and washcloths and soap.  This is that time of year that Operation Christmas Child is in full swing encouraging us to pack a shoe box full of toys for some deserving child in another part of the world. This has been an annual event for our family for a number of years and I thought I would share why we find this so important to us. 

We believe that what Jesus teaches us in the Bible is the way we should live our lives.  One thing very clearly stated in the Bible is the need to care for the orphan.  Another is to be a cheerful giver.  As parents these are not only things we aspire to, these are mandates we try to teach to our children.  We have so very much here in our house.  We have everything we could possibly need and a whole bunch of the wants, too.  However, if we follow the teachings of Jesus, we need to look outside of our home to see how we can minister to those around.  And we do that as frequently as we can here in our neighbourhood.  But if we want to make a difference outside of this town, we need to think a bit differently.  We cannot invite an orphan from Haiti to our house for supper.  But we can give them school supplies and some basic toiletries and maybe a shirt and socks and the opportunity to hear about the wonderful news that Jesus is head-over-heels in love with them and died to prove it!  A shoebox is not only a box filled with possibly the first and only gift a child may receive, it is the chance to hear about the greatest gift ever given, that of Jesus Christ.  And we believe everyone should have the chance to hear that.  So, each year, we take the time to make up some boxes to send to some children in another part of the world who don't get the things they want and probably lack much of the things they need.  It is such a small thing on our part to make up some boxes of crayons and pencils and candy but the rewards for those children may be eternal. 

It is such a fun event to take our family of 5 kids and let each of them pick out the treasures they want to send to another child.  Admittedly for the younger ones, they think they are picking out their own presents and often tears fall when we tell them it is not for them.  However, as we have done this for a number of years, the desire to give grows in the kid's hearts until it comes out and overwhelms you with their generosity.  This past week my eldest son, 8 years old, bugged me for a number of days to bake cookies with him.  His plan was to sell the cookies at the end of the driveway to raise money for Operation Christmas Child and the shoe boxes his Sunday School class will make (not only do we have the opportunity to make the boxes here at our house, the Sunday School at our church uses the kid's morning offerings to make shoe boxes - rather than mom and dad paying for the boxes as happens here at home, all the money they bring to Sunday School comes directly from the kids' "Give" jar!).  You must remember that it is the last week of October here in the prairies of Manitoba and the weather is nippy.  I wasn't so sure anyone would be stopping by or that he would sit out there longer than 15 minutes before deciding it was too cold.  But he wouldn't relent.  So, this past Thursday we baked Peanut Butter cookies together, he and I.  His brother made up some iced tea.  He set up a table, wrote up a sign and sat out at the end of the driveway for 2 hours, first in shorts then in pants (eventually all the kids joined him so who could resist 5 cute kids selling cookies)!  And God proved faithful to his giving heart - he raised $15 by selling 30 cookies at $0.25 each (and a couple glasses of iced tea).  He was so excited and cannot wait to bring that money to Sunday School tomorrow.  And in the next week or two, we will take the kids on a shopping date and pick out some great gifts we know will bless some wonderful little kids in another country, kids that God has already chosen to receive the boxes we will make.  I will be sure to tell you how the shopping goes!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ideas For Church Nursery Mini-MakeOver

Our church has two lovely rooms being used as nurseries - one is for the toddlers to play in and one is for the nursing moms and sleeping babies.  Both received a new paint job a few years back (the reason I am not painting now) and the nursing room received a few new rockers and cribs as well.  However, the layout of the nursing room leaves a bit to be desired, as does the decor.  I have decided to do a few things to *hopefully* add a bit of functionality and style to the room.  Here is what I have planned:

This wall has a large unnecessary shelf on it.  Really, it is just taking up space. It doesn't contribute much of anything.  I will take this shelf down and, instead, put the new change table I made on this wall.

Above the change table, I will put a large silver-framed mirror.  I don't know about you but when I am nursing a baby, it is bound to spit on me, my breasts are bound to leak and my breast pad is bound to be askew.  I would like the opportunity to look in a mirror before entering the general public to make sure I am presentable.  A mirror in the room affords that opportunity.  Plus, it will look much nicer than the random baby decorations you see around the room!  Beside this change table, tucked between it and the wall, will be the "diaper genie".  Right now it is in the center of the room and really doesn't need to be seen!  The doors and drawers on the change table can hold the diapers and wipes plus all those other things sitting on that shelf.

This is the current change table set-up.  Notice there is no space on the change table to put your wipes, diaper creme, baby powder, etc?  Not very helpful.  Those boxes under the change table hold diapers in various sizes and extra wipes and will get moved to the new change table and hidden in the doors/drawers.  The white change pad will go on the new change table and this old table will get moved out.  I anticipate using it as a shelf in the young kids Sunday School class.  See the"diaper genie" out there for all to see?  Yeah, it will get moved and be much less conspicuous.  Notice also how the two rockers don't match.  On the other side of the room, there is another blue rocker.  I will bring both blue rockers to this side and put a side table between them.  On the table will be a table lamp and maybe some b&w photos of babies.  We will see how big the table is since I have to find one yet.  I notice that when bottle-feeding a baby, there is no place to put the bottle except on the floor or on the "diaper genie".  A side table will take care of that.  Oh, and see that giraffe wall-hanging in the corner?  It is covering up a large panel box.  Right below it on the ground is a large painted canvas.  It is the right size to fit over the panel box.  Maybe I can repaint the canvas and put some sort of saying or verse or something there?  I am not sure.

This side of the room has too many pieces of furniture!  Hopefully I can eliminate some but we will see what happens.  Above each of the cribs I will place 4-16"X20" fabric-covered canvases covered with this fabric:

I am thinking the brown and blue in the fabric will go well with the brown and blue rocking chairs.  It will also work well with the wall color, I believe.  I am not sure how it will work with the striped curtains but they are not on the same wall so we will have to see once it is all done.  I will be taking down that shelf and picture and contemplating options for that corner.  I will also move the two matching cribs to the same wall and bring the odd crib to this wall.  The window also needs a treatment to go over top of this one.  See, with sleeping babies, you want the room dark.  This curtain has the ability to do just that but it certainly looks - well, it doesn't look that pretty.  If I can get a nice thick double-rod, I would hang this curtain behind a nicer looking decorative one.  We will see what happens.

Finally, we have this wall with two cribs.  Like I said, the two matching cribs will go on this wall and the odd crib on the other wall.  I want to see what they will look like without being square up against the wall.  Maybe that will eliminate the boxy feeling of the room.  The brown rocker will come between these two cribs.  The fabric canvases will go above these two cribs as well.  Above the rocker I will hang a tall narrow shadow box that I have made.  In it will sit a vase and in the vase will go various different decorating pieces, depending on the season.  I wanted something to go a bit more vertical in this spot.  I will also remove the halogen lamp.

I also have these really beautiful rose hooks that match the red color in the fabric.  I just have to figure out where they might fit.  They would be a great place to hang diaper bags or purses.

Ideally, if I had tonnes of money (since I am doing this all out-of-my-pocket), would make matching sheets and blankets and dust ruffles for the cribs.  But, this will have to do for now.  I hope to implement these changes this week and show you the difference next week.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for me, I am all ears.  Remember, this is not in my home and I need really economical solutions!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Plain to Pretty Pine Buffet

** AFTER **
I was given this pine buffet numerous years ago by a dear friend of mine (you can still purchase it here).  She was moving across the country and she knew I always liked it so she gave it to me.  I loved the bun feet and the doors/drawers placement, even though I did find it a tad plain.  I used it for a number of years as a change table.  Then when we needed more drawer space, it went into storage and has sat there for a year or two.  Well, this week I pulled it out and did a number on her.  Hard to believe it is the same thing, huh?
** BEFORE **
 First, I needed to reinforce the drawers.  It is not a super well built cabinet but it was repairable.  The dowel joints were loose so I pried apart the ones I could and reglued them.  To add some excitement to the front of the cabinet, I added shelf trim to each of the doors and drawers.  Those were glued and nailed to the front.  The moulding certainly adds a bit of interest. 

Once the mouldings were done, I sanded the buffet down and painted it white - "Powdered Snow" by Behr, to be exact, in Satin finish.  I love the warmth and creaminess of the color - not cold and stark at all.  It took 3 coats before I was happy with the coverage.  Since I used the Behr Premium Plus Ultra, the primer was in the paint so technically it was one coat primer, 2 coats paint.

Since this buffet will once again be used as a change table (not for me, in case you were wondering!), I needed to add another piece of wood to the top.  The width of the buffet top is only 13" - quite narrow for a change table.  I bought a pine laminated project panel - 3/4" x 16" x 48" - and, after sanding it smooth, stained it with MinWax Ebony stain.  Once attached, this will make the top wide enough to accommodate a change pad.

Once the buffet and top were dry, I attached the top to the buffet with gorilla glue, a few clamps, and screwed from the inside.  That top will not budge.

Since the moulding I added covered up the holes for the knobs on the doors, I drilled new holes in the center of the doors.  Sparkly new knobs were added as the final touch to this furniture makeover (though I still need to add the poly to the paint/stain - I will leave that for next week).  Since the screws for the new knobs were too long for the drawers/doors, I had two options.  Either I could cut the screws shorter or I could make blocking to go on the inside of the drawer/door.  I chose to make the blocking since I thought it was the easier way to go.

Over all, I am thoroughly pleased with the transformation.  I had intended to distress the buffet but I wasn't confident in my ability to do that.  I am glad I left it as it is.  I had also planned to paint more on the inside of the buffet but decided to leave it plain pine.  I know this isn't a building project like my bathroom cabinet or my porch swing or my Adirondack chairs but I did use a few tools so I think it qualifies as a building and painting project.

Just one more look at the difference:


** AFTER **

 Tools used:
compound mitre saw - cut the mouldings, cut blocking for knobs
air nailer - attach the mouldings
glue and clamps - repair the drawers, attach the mouldings, attach the top to the buffet
cordless drill - drill new holes for knobs, drill holes in blocking, attach top to buffet
palm sander - sand down buffet prior to painting/staining

I am linking to these parties:

The DIY Show Off

Domestically Speaking

(On October 11)

PS:  Please excuse the poor picture quality on most of the photos - my hubby took my SLR and left me with my sons tiny little digital.  I will replace the photos with better ones when he returns! 

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