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!

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