LETTING GO....of FURNITURE, HOMES AND PETS YOU LOVE

This has been a week of "letting go." Of special pieces of furniture, a home I love and a beloved pet. What an emotional roller coaster!

Easiest first....I constantly harp on keeping your home free of clutter. But I am notorious for hanging onto things that were my kids.

It doesn't bother me too terribly much because they each still have their "own" room in my house where their walls are adorned with framed jerseys, flight maps, pictures and diplomas...and their closets are packed with shoes and clothes I know they will never wear again. I have an entire attic full of carefully boxed and labeled childhood "momentos." Specifically every trophy, jersey, letter jacket, report card, certificate, award, newspaper clippings...anything and everything that represents their childhoods is stored in my attic.

One thing I could NOT get in the attic is this little "house shelf" I built and painted for Katie when she was a baby. 

I built this cabinet and a little table and "tuffets" for her first Christmas. The table and tuffets are long gone but this little shelf was in her room until she was old enough to put her foot down and demand I remove it. I think it was after the "teal, purple and blue" phase and before the  "fail whale/chalk wall." 

Since I had no place to put it, it has languished in the garage for years. Brian has begged me to sell it to free up space, but I just could not bring myself to part with it. I wanted it to go to another little girl and I NEVER want it sold in a garage sale for $25.

Wednesday a beautiful little girl came to claim it. She immediately did what Katie did when she was little...curled right up in the cabinet and shut the door. I found Katie sleeping in there on more than one occasion.

Almost made me cry.

So next week the precious little "house shelf" will go to another little girl's room. I told her parents I never wanted it sold...when their daughter is old enough to put her foot down and demand it be taken away, I wanted it given to another little girl or returned to me.

Then...I made an offer on a house and (after weeks of back and forth...its a repo...what a nightmare!) it was accepted. I will go into much more detail in the future, but suffice it to say, I have a MAJOR project on my hands AND I have to get my house ready to sell. Wow...I honestly never thought I would say that about this house!

Don't judge just yet...I know, the colors are all wrong, the landscaping is all wrong, the "lack of architectural style" is all wrong...and don't even get me started on the inside. But I think it has "good bones" and a lot of potential.

Give me time, and all the equity in this house, and I know it will eventually be a great house.

Again, I will share more details later! There are some tremendous upsides to this house...or at least it's "potential." There will be LOTS of projects to share and I am sure the buying and selling process will give me a lot to talk about in the next few months. 

Lastly, (and the most heart wrenching).... I had to make the decision to have my precious Molly kitty put to sleep. 

She was a week older than Katie...and we have had her since Katie was a newborn. Seventeen plus years. It ripped my heart out to let her go. She was a beautiful, loving, precious kitty!

If you have never had to have a precious pet put to sleep, you are so fortunate. It is a gut-wrenching experience and one I now dread even more since I have a house full of much loved critters that I know I will have to part with someday.

I won't go into gory details, but I dropped her off at Dr. Mark Davis' office Thursday morning. When he called me later that morning (a wonderful, kind friend who happens to be our vet!) he told me what was going on and what our options were. The decision on how to proceed was too much so I asked him what HE would do if she were HIS cat. Considering her age and other health issues, the prognosis was not good...but it ultimately was still my decision. It is a decision one should NEVER have to make. If we dare to even think about it, we all hope our precious pets will just die peacefully in their little beds after a long and happy life. We are not always so fortunate.

I went back up to his office, wrapped her in a towel and spent time holding and petting her. And crying. She knew something was wrong...she always does....if I was ever sick or upset, she knew. She took her little paw and started stroking my face. That made it even worse. There was a moment when I thought I would just walk out the door with her and take her home. But I knew that would not be best for her. 

Sometimes letting go means putting aside your own pain and fear and thinking of what is best for someone else. 

We have three other cats. And two dogs. 

But I don't think I will every have another kitty as special as Molly. 

Naturally, I am crying just relating this story. When I am sad I try to think of something funny or happy to keep from "going there."

Years ago my mother had to have her siamese cat put to sleep. I had to explain the process to the boys (then 5 and 4). The "doctor" had to put Amy "to sleep" because she was sick and that meant she had died and we would no longer get to see her. A few weeks later Mitchell developed a rash and my mother looked at it and said I should probably take him to the doctor. He began crying hysterically and refusing to go to the doctor. When I was finally able to get him to calm down enough to understand him, he said through gasps and hysterical tears "I DON'T WANT TO BE PUT TO SLEEP!"

Tough week...letting go can seem unimaginable...whether it is a person, pet, house or a silly piece of furniture! But in the end you have to focus on the positive and keep moving forward! Think of all the wonderful things you miss when you are consumed by and mired down in sadness and grief. 

Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened! 



Ugly laminate dresser before and after...

Like old maple furniture, they are a dime a dozen...old "laminate" furniture. The pieces aren't constructed near as sturdy as the old maple furniture (Here, here and here are a few maple pieces I have featured) but if you have a "boring" old laminate dresser sitting around or if you stumble across one at a thrift store or garage sale for next to nothing, it takes little time and effort to bring them back to life! 

Like most of these pieces, the top and sides (basically the "box") were all laminate. The drawer fronts were wood veneer.

What is the difference you ask? Basically, laminate is a "plastic" type material over particle board...then a "grain" is printed on to give it a "wood look." Veneer is generally constructed of a real wood top layer glued onto a wood base. It is pretty easy to tell the difference...if it looks and feels like "plastic" it is probably a laminate...if it looks and feels like real wood (but it is not a solid piece of wood) it is probably a veneer.

The biggest difference for me when redoing one of these pieces is I always prime and paint the laminate...usually spray paint. I use a chalk paint treatment on the veneer because I can "distress" it and the "real" wood grain will peek through. 

On this little dresser, both the laminate and veneer were in pretty good shape. Sometimes you will see "chipping" on either the veneer or the laminate. Both are relatively easy to repair. First, scrape away any loose pieces. Apply wood filler with a putty knife and then sand it smooth after it dries. 

Since we are in the heart of "Razorback country" I decided to give it a black and red treatment. I thought it would look cute in a boy's room or maybe in someone's "man cave" as a tv console. 

Again, super simple transformation. I removed all the drawers and then removed the hardware. Replacing hardware can get real expensive, real fast so I decided to give these little pulls a makeover as well. After I removed the pulls from the drawers, I put the screws back in them and stuck them in some old styrofoam (here is a picture example). I primed them with a metal primer and then I sprayed them with the same spray paint I used on the box. 

I sprayed the "box" with Kilz, sanded, tacked and then gave it two coats of red spray paint. I painted the drawers with homemade black chalk paint (two coats) and then distressed them a bit. I sealed all the pieces, including the hardware, with clear spray on poly. 

If you have an old dresser like this and need inspiration for color or styling, check out Pinterest. There are sooo many inspiration pieces. Some even remove a few of the drawers and add a shelf in the space so it can be used as an entertainment center for a tv and video equipment. I have done that with an old maple dresser and it turned out super cute and perfect for a living room.

I had the chest that matched this dresser...I painted the "box" off-white and the drawer fronts a pretty tealy blue. I redid it months ago and it is long gone! This poor little guy has languished in my garage for months and was one of the many projects I managed to get completed this week during our little warm spell...along with cleaning out the pond (AGAIN!) and washing exterior windows!

Good thing I got a lot done the last few days because today it feels more like winter again. 

School desk makeovers...

The temps FINALLY warmed a bit and I was able to get out in the garage and get a few projects done! It is impossible to paint outside, or even in the garage, when it is bitter cold! Yes, I need a heated shop, but since I don't have one I am at the mercy of Mother Nature!

One "project in the waiting" were 5 old school desks I bought at an auction several months ago. I have "repurposed" several old school desks over the years (these oak desks and this cute little metal desk) and it is always one of my favorite projects. Every time I fix up one of these little desks I wish I had done them for my own kids but they are still fun projects because I know some special kid, somewhere, is going to get an awesome little desk!

When I bought these desks I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them...paint the metal legs bright colors and chalkboard paint on the tops! 

The first thing I did was give them a good scrubbing. They had been used as plant stands so they were pretty dirty. I scraped off all the gunk and sanded the most glaring scratches and rust.

Rust on metal is common on older metal pieces and it is important to get as much of it off as you can and then use a good metal primer before painting. I usually scrub the pieces with vinegar water (1/2 and 1/2) and steel wool, then prime with a metal primer specifically for rust. ..I use Rust-oleum automotive primer!

I used this process on these outdoor chairs and this old metal typewriter table and both have held up beautifully!

I primed the laminate tops with Kilz. After all the metal primer and Kilz dried well, I sanded them with 0000 steel wool and then wiped them down with a tack cloth to get rid of all the dust!

I sprayed the legs and underside of each desk with spray paint. I usually use Valspar "paint and primer" spray paint...it seems to hold up well and comes in wonderful "designer colors." Keep in mind, even though it SAYS it is a "paint and primer in one" I always prime the pieces first...call me "old school" but I just think it is best to prime first before you paint! Besides, the primary coat will highlight anything that needs to be sanded or patched before the final coat of paint!

I applied chalkboard paint to the tops of each desk with a 4" sponge roller...three coats! 

TIP! The trick to a flawless paint finish (other than chalk paint!) is first and foremost the prep! Paint WILL NOT cover up scratches and rough spots. So make sure you sand, tack and prime well before you apply paint.

The trick to spray paint is to apply light coats and allow it to dry well between coats. Spray paint dries fairly quickly so I usually apply additional coats after about 1 hour...too hot or too cold and you will see your "spray lines!"

The trick to getting a good finish when applying paint with a sponge roller on flat surfaces is to apply your paint with the roller, then run the roller in the same direction on the final pass. Think of it like running your hand on velvet...if you run it in different directions, the nap of the fabric will look different...same with paint!

If I am brushing or rolling on latex paint I add Floetrol...oil based paint Penetrol. The additives allow the paints to "level" while drying and will eliminate MOST paint and roller lines. I don't add an additive to chalkboard paint so it is important to run the roller in the same direction on the final pass!

And PRESTO...super precious little makeover! 

These little desk are super simple to makeover and since spray paint comes in a multitude of designer colors, you are sure to find a color that will coordinate with any decor! 

Why I prefer oil finishes to polyurethane!

I am often asked...why do you prefer oil finishes over polyurethane?

Well, because it is super easy to apply and there is no better finish for durability and touchups!

The ONLY time I use poly is to seal paint finishes...usually Minwax Polyurethane or Valspar clear spray to seal "chalk paint" or spray paint finishes. It's no secret that I am not a big wax fan. I never use poly on stained pieces.

Here I discuss the importance of using a "food safe" oil on butcher block or wood cutting boards. I usually use Watco's butcher block oil finish, even if I am only going to use the cutting board as a decorative item (which is always because I am just "weird" about using wood for cutting food!).

Here I discuss the difference, or rather the lack of difference, between different oil finishes. In a nutshell, the biggest difference is on the label. For me, I prefer Formby's Tung Oil finish...but I have tried Watco danish oil, teak oil finish and several other oil finishes. It is honestly a "personal preference."

And keep in mind, I am talking about oil FINISHES...not REAL tung oil. Real tung oil is a great wood finish, but not exactly something a DIYer really wants (or needs) to experiment with!

Here is why I prefer oil finishes on natural or stained wood...

1) Ease of application. Seriously, it is "idiot" proof! Once you have stripped all the old finish off (doesn't matter if you are stripping a small cutting board or a large table...see a tutorial here!) and applied a stain, the oil finish is super easy to apply! Rub the entire piece lightly with 0000 steel wool, TACK CLOTH THE ENTIRE PIECE (seriously, I can not stress how important it is to use tack cloth whether you are painting or oiling!), and then wipe the oil finish on with a "sponge applicator." (Here I show you how to make super cheap applicators!). I always apply 3-4 coats of oil finish...however many I need to get a nice even finish...rubbing with steel wool and tack cloth between coats!

Oil is a "penetrating" finish so you really want the wood to soak up those first few coats. I usually use a circular motion to apply...kind of like "waxing." Then I just wipe "with the grain." 

If you notice a "drip" after a coat has dried, it is super easy to buff it out with steel wool...no biggy! 

Seriously, this stuff is super easy to apply!

2) Durability. Oil finishes are super durable...in my opinion, just as durable as poly. To me, poly finishes look "plastic" and tend to mask the texture and depth of a beautiful wood grain!

3) Touch up. This is the real kicker. Oil finishes are super easy to touch up or "bring back to life." I usually re-oil my tables whenever they get scratches or begin to look a little dull. 

The first thing I do is rub down the top with steel wool....

Then I wipe the entire piece down with tack cloth. Tack cloth picks up EVERYTHING and is honestly the trick to getting a smooth finish! (I did not stain this table...that is the "natural" color of white oak and walnut with an oil finish)

After that I just wipe on a fresh coat of tung oil finish with my homemade sponge applicator...and the piece looks like new!!

Here you can see the scratches caused by kitty nails....

After a little steel wool, tack cloth and a fresh coat of oil...gone!

Today I re-oiled the top of my Drexel coffee table. After a year of use it had a few scratches and was beginning to look a little dull! Now...just like "new." 

This is not something you can do with polyurethane!

I usually let the oil dry overnight before I apply another coat or before use!

To clean or dust, I just wipe down with a damp rag...then follow with a dry one. 

Poly has its place in your DIY arsenal...but for me, oil finishes are best on any natural or stained wood piece especially if they will need touch up from time to time!

Whether you apply a stain or leave the wood natural, there is no durable finish that allows the beauty of a wood grain to show through as well as oil!!!

Antique mirror makeover...

I know I have been MIA for the last few weeks, but I have SO many exciting new things going on...hopefully I can share in the next week! 

I am chomping at the bit to share all the wonderful things going on around me...in due time. I have a post written but I am waiting on a few things to fall into place before sharing!

Because of the holidays and this crazy cold weather, I haven't really been able to project much. And because of the (fingers crossed) exciting new things going on, I have been frantically trying to get a few things done around my house...hardly worth pictures and a post!

So I dug through some of my old project pictures to find a simple project I have not shared to date. Something that can easily been done inside during these cold, dreary months!

One of the first things I stumbled on was this antique mirror. Naturally there is no "before" picture, but trust me, the frame was very worn, bland and generally unappealing...which is why it sat in my booth for MONTHS and did not sell. I finally brought it home, gave it a simple little chalk paint and distress treatment and BAM...it didn't last a week...

One of the reasons I wanted to share this project is because it is SO simple and it shows how such a simple "update" to an otherwise "outdated" piece can make a huge difference. I used the same treatment on the "old" pictures in my dining room and the change was simple but stunning!

I make my own "chalk paint." The recipe that works best for me is 2 1/2 tablespoons of Plaster of Paris, 1 1/2 tablespoons of warm water...mix well...than add 1 cup of latex paint. I like this recipe because it is super cheap, I can mix it up with ANY color of paint I have laying around and I can even mix two or three different colors of paint to get a "custom" shade.

I usually apply two coats of the chalk paint to a piece. Really no need to sand or prep. It dries super fast...within an hour. Then I distress a bit with 220 grit sand paper and then seal with a spray on poly. I know a lot of people like to wax their pieces...and that is okay if you want to get a certain "look." But I like the ease and durability of poly...to each his own! 

New frames can be expensive but a simple little "makeover" on a dated frame or one that is just the wrong color can make a huge difference! 

The most AMAZING steak EVER!

This is the perfect time of the year to cook the most AMAZING steak ever! A little too cold to grill, but after years of doing it "wrong" I have found the RIGHT way to cook the perfect steak...

Head over to my "Cooking 101" page and check out this recipe

Trust me, you will never fire up your grill for steaks again!

I've been featured on Remodelaholic!

What an honor. This week my tutorial for refinishing my dining room table will be featured on Remodelaholic

I was featured on Remodelaholic

Here is a direct link to the tutorial. It will go live Saturday, December 27th at 6:00 p.m.

As I have said before, I grew up in construction and I was "remodeling," "refinishing" and "repurposing" long before it became vogue...and loooong before there were internet tutorials and cable tv shows dedicated to DIY! 

Now I have a few favorite blogs that share the ins and outs of DIYing and I love cruising the blogesphere searching for tutorials, project plans and inspiration! Remodelaholic is a wonderful website for just that and is one of my absolute favorites.

So it is a great honor to be asked to share one of my favorite projects...stripping and refinishing beautiful antique furniture! 

If you are visiting from Remodelaholic, WELCOME and thank you so much for stopping in! I hope you will take time to look around and use the search feature on the left to look for more tutorials and inspiration for your own DIY project!

I paint, refinish, build, repair, sew, cook and so much more... so feel free to subscribe to see it ALL or stop in from time to time. No telling what I will have going on!

And I LOVE sharing!

Merry Christmas...

...from my family to you and yours!

I hope you had a wonderful day!!!

Cleo was decked for the holidays!

Ginger isn't well enough this year to join in the festivities. Fortunately Ms. Kitty is willing to cuddle up and keep her company!

When Ms. Kitty took a break, Cleo took over....

...animals are amazing!

Simple piano bench makeover.....

This will be my last post until after the New Year. Just too many things going on between now and then...Christmas with the family and all the craziness that entails...falling asleep before midnight on the New Year's Eve...and of course the cold weather that makes it a little difficult to do too much outside!

My family will be arriving Christmas eve. Sarah and her family...the boys driving in from Phoenix! Before then, I have several days of baking and house cleaning to do! Lots of fun and excitement. I also have a few new "things" happening after the New Year that I will share in due time. 

So many wonderful changes going on around here!

So...the last project of 2014 is a simple little project that anyone over the age of 40 will appreciate! 

In the warmer months I pretty much live in flip-flops! This is the time of the year when I wear my boots almost every day and the older I get the harder it is to get those suckers on. I use to be able to steadily stand on one foot while I put on my shoes or boots...these days I tend to tip over. Not sure if it is the age or the weight...lol! And naturally there is the potential to be bowled over by a spastic dog or terrorized cat!

 I have the little ottoman by the chair in that room, but it is a tad low....

...God forbid I move the ottoman and sit in the chair!

When I found this little piano bench at an auction, I immediately knew it was the perfect size to set next to the closet so I would have a place to sit and put on my shoes.

I have reupholstered and refinished several little benches over the last year...naturally when I went looking for pictures I found I had a lot of "before" pictures and a few "after" pictures but never both of one bench...seriously, what is up with that!

This bench was in obvious need of a little "makeover." The top was in pretty rough shape but it was walnut veneer and the legs were pretty much mint after a little cleaning. Structurally it was sound and solid. 

I decided to strip and oil the top and paint the legs! 

First, I removed the top. I used the acetone/lacquer thinner mixture to quickly strip all the old varnish off the top. Took all of about 15 minutes. Then I applied 4 coats of tung oil, rubbing with steel wool and wiping with a tack cloth between each coat! 

I sprayed the legs with Kilz and after it dried I gave it a quick sanding and wiped it down with a tack cloth. Then I sprayed it with 2 coats of my favorite off-white spray paint.

Cute as a bugs ear!

It is the perfect height for sitting to put your shoes on and since it is a piano bench, the top lifts up for storage...perfect for boot brushes and cleaners! (Like I ever do that...that is what my OCD son is for) I didn't refinish or paint the inside...why bother! 

I have run across several old piano and sewing benches over the years. Sometimes I paint the tops or add upholstered cushions. The larger benches are perfect for the foot of the bed. Simple and perfect for storage for an extra blanket or shoe cleaning supplies.

Next time you run across an old beat up bench, use your imagination! This little makeover took less than one hour of actual "work." Trust me...when you hit forty, you will be glad you have someplace to sit while you put on your shoes!

I hope you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and may the New Year bring you happiness, health and wisdom! Trust me, if you have that, you have all the wealth you will ever need!

Goodbye 2014...thank you for the great times and the lessons I learned during the hard times.

Christmas home tour....

I noticed many bloggers featured their Holiday Home Tours earlier this month. I've been a bit slow getting around to it for a number of reasons.

First, the dog ate my card reader. Seriously. She ate it. And I read somewhere that you should never hook your digital camera directly to your computer because it could get "infected" with any bugs or viruses that might be lurking in your computer. So I always use a card reader to get my pictures. 

Second, I have been "playing" with the camera. I am notorious for taking "not so hot" photographs. Primarily because I was afraid to use anything but the "auto" setting which makes it difficult to get decent interior photos. Last week I decided to step outside my comfort zone (reasons explained here) and start playing with the camera settings in the manual mode. SHOCK! I was able to take some half way decent interior shots without blowing out the room and subjects with a flash! In the past I had to wait until the light was "just right" in a room or move pieces around or live with cruddy "flash" photos. 

I still honestly have no idea what I am doing "setting wise." But I feel better about turning dials and experimenting. At some point I will take a photography class and actually learn how to use a DSLR camera! Funny thing...I am not a newbie. I have had a digital camera for ten years...I just never used the manual settings and I was terribly limited in the quality of photos I could take.

So today I am going to share a few holiday shots of my house. I still have to be careful about when I take the pictures because I have a lot of windows and the sun can cast some pretty harsh shadows during the day! And they still aren't the best photos...but they are a tad better....

Welcome....

I always try to do a little something during the season around the front. I stick a little lighted Christmas tree in one of the flower pots and then a few wreaths and garland here and there. It is tough to see my Santa and pine forest in the arch window but he is well lit at night!

The living room...

...the BIG feature of course is always the tree! 

I made several Christmas pillows this year...you can see the post here!

Decorating can be as simple as sticking a few sprigs of berries or floral in vases or urns!

I absolutely LOVE the look of garland and ribbon down a bannister, but several years ago I decided I had to make holiday decorating a little easier on myself so I made 6 identical wreaths and tie them to the bannister! Simple but pretty!

For both Thanksgiving and Christmas I buy the little "candle wreaths" and tie festive ribbon on them and hang them on the doors throughout the downstairs. It is an inexpensive way to dress up the doors and I don't feel guilty about buying "fad" colors or styles because they are pretty cheap.

I have a thing for skinny Santas...I don't think it is intentional, but it just seems that all my Santas are a bit on the thin side...

This year I took the gold shades off the dining room chandelier...I like the "brightness" of the lights.The fixture really is simple to decorate. I just wrap a little plain garland around the fixture then stick a few sprigs of red and white berries here and there...a few crystal doo-dads from last years clearance...pretty! 

When my oldest daughter was a baby, my grandmother made her this Raggedy Andy and Ann. With my girls "grown" I really had no way to display them so a few years ago I made little pilgrim outfits for Thanksgiving and Santa outfits for Christmas. Now they get to hang out during the entire Holiday season!

The den during the day...

...and at night! Very cozy especially when it is cold enough for a fire!

Several years ago I decided to dress up the windows in the den...again, wreaths and festive ribbon! Simple.

Another skinny Santa by the fireplace...

I keep the holiday decorating in the kitchen to a minimum. Mainly because I have limited counter space and I don't want to clutter up what space I have. In the last few years I started adding little simple elements to the top of the cabinets...like Lord/Sir ? (Still no name!) 

Just a few little touches here and there can make a difference. I found a Christmasy apron at Hancock's Fabric this year. Holiday salt and pepper shakers, a penguin soap dispenser (you can't see it!), leftover ornaments in glass bowls and serving pieces, wreaths, my Southern Living cookbooks, and again, a few sprigs of holiday floral stuck here and there! Just a few things I think are pretty and festive.

Not much changes from year to year. As I have said before, I stick with the traditional and add just a few little elements here and there every year. But honestly, little changes. My basic rule is if I haven't displayed it or used it in the last two years, it gets donated...and I try not to spend too much time and money on the "fads." One thing about holiday decorating...if you stick with traditional, you probably won't go wrong. "Fads" are good in moderation as long as you don't bust your decorating budget. 

I don't mind hanging a few inexpensive peacock blue and neon green wreaths, but let's be honest...when it comes to Christmas, Santas and snowmen, green garland and pine trees and red, gold or silver colors, will probably never go out of "style!"

Have a VERY merry Christmas!