Decorating for fall and Mr. Jinx....

Since it is time to decorate for fall and Halloween I thought I would take a minute and formally introduce one of my “rescues.” Mr. Jinx…

All fall decors should include a black cat…right?

I shared pictures of him last year at Christmas…black cats are super tough to photograph. When I look at pictures of him I understand why black is a “slimming” color…he is WAAAAY bigger than this picture reveals. The kids say he is fat…I argue he is just big boned and really fluffy.

Half the time his little fangs are showing…he can’t help it…he has big fangs. Kinda scary looking but super cute when he is stretched out on his back asleep with his little fangs and tongue sticking out…

I have more than a few pictures of him on my Iphone!


Funny story about how I acquired this kitty. He hung around the apartments for months…I knew he wasn’t a feral kitty because he was super friendly. He would rub against your legs and then roll over for a tummy rub. He loves to have his tummy rubbed!

One day I was sitting in my car talking with my manager and mentioned that we should probably take him to the shelter since he was a super friendly and beautiful kitty and someone would certainly adopt him. About that time he jumped in my car and made himself at home on my shoulder.

What was I to do?

Naturally I couldn’t bring him straight home since I didn’t know what I would be exposing my other cats to…so I took him to my vet and had him tested for all kitty diseases. Clean. My vet thought he was about 2 years old and because of his size probably a Maine Coon.

I told the vet to neuter him and give him shots.

At that point I had a small fortune invested in this cat…so I couldn’t very well take him to the shelter.

What was I to do?

Brian was NOT happy that I brought home another cat…

So I told Brian we would foster him. I promptly named him Mr. Jinx…because, well, he’s black…and black cats are suppose to be jinxed right?

This was two weeks before Christmas so with the whole family and their dogs here and all the chaos that goes with the holidays, Mr. Jinx’s nerves kicked in.

Another visit to the vet, a few nights stay, a staggering vet bill…now I REALLY had a small fortune invested in this cat.

What was I to do?

I couldn’t very well just GIVE him away…right?

Brian was still not happy there was another cat in the house (seriously, I only have four…that isn’t TOO many, right?)

But after the holidays, calm was restored and Mr. Jinx settled in…and promptly fell as madly in love with me as I was with him.

Two years later we are still “fostering” him…truth be told, you would have to pry this cat out of my cold, dead hands.

EVERYONE loves Mr. Jinx…even the dogs. He is the coolest, most chill cat I have ever owned…and while Molly was a tough cat to top, he ranks right up there with one of the best cats EVER!

Even Brian has fallen in love with this kitty!

What was he to do…lol!

DECORATING FOR FALL!

It is really tough for me to break out the fall decor when it is still in the 90s every day. But it’s my rule…the week before we leave for our annual trip to Colorado, I decorate for fall.

HOPEFULLY, when we get home it will be a bit cooler. Rarely. Usually I have to put the jeans and Ugg boots back in the depths of the closet for a few more weeks. But the decorating is done and I can sit back and enjoy my favorite time of the year!

Not much changes from year to year…a few years ago I painted these little pumpkins and changed up the window decor…

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Refurbished pumpkins, deer antlers, fall picks…nothing fancy! Still like this little vignette so it won’t change this year!

A few weeks ago I changed out the dining room light fixture

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I love the new fixture and I love even more that I can still add the fall garland!

I’ve added a few new elements to the den mantel…a tall vase and new candle sticks….

…but the garland and Mr. Owl are still the focal points. The same but different!

The entry…usually void of much because I still haven’t “decorated” it after it’s little makeover…but it’s a great place to infuse a little fall decor…

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The seasonal box I featured here…still one of my favorite super simple projects!

I changed out a few pillows and throws….

Even grandmother’s chair got a little pop of fall…

Every year I find pieces of garland, wreaths and picks at the bottom of my storage tubs…I just scatter them here and there for little touches of fall!

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Again, little changes, but I love it all the same!

So many don’t decorate for fall because of the cost of buying “stuff.” As I have mentioned before, I usually hit the home decor stores at the end of the season (which seems to be before Halloween these days) and pick up a few things here and there for pennies on the dollar! You may not get to enjoy it for a long time this year, but you will get to enjoy it for years to come!

This is also one reason I strongly recommend sticking with “traditional” vs. “fad” seasonal decor. As much as you might love those teal pumpkin pillows and chevron throws, I promise you won’t love them in a few short years.

I actually bought teal pumpkin pillows this year…

….knowing that I will tire of them quickly. No biggy…they have good forms I know I can reuse in the future!

There is no harm in spending a little money on the latest “fads” but be selective and thrifty. Create small vignettes with the latest trends but don’t blow your entire seasonal budget on it! And check out the blogs and Pinterest…there are thousands of nifty ideas for inexpensive seasonal projects that take little time, effort or money!

Fall may not be “in the air” just yet, but it is certainly “in the house.” Maybe this year it will actually feel like fall outside when we get home!

Breaking the "rules"....

I don't know if it is an actual "rule" or if it is something I made up in my head.

But who made the "rule" that pots and pans have to be stored in a lower cabinet next to the stove?

For years my pots and pans were in a small lower corner cabinet next to the stove. Total nightmare to dig out a pot or pan....something I use EVERY day!

A few years ago, I installed this nifty pull out for my casserole dishes and mixing bowls and eventually moved the pots and pans to the space to the left...across from the stove. (The crock pots and extra casserole dishes went into the nightmare cabinet!)

Accessing them still required that I move this little stool...

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...and crawl around on the floor to get to them all.

(This is one advantage to having a small kitchen...you can put anything anywhere and still access it in just a few steps!)

When I was shuffling things around in my pantry thinking I MIGHT put a microwave in there I found that I had a bit more room than I thought! Again, I am not cooking for a family any more, so food storage is not as big a deal as it was years ago!

Truth be told, there are food items I rarely use (like my daughter-in-law's gluten free flour and boxes of dry goods) as opposed to the pots and pans I use every single day. So that got me to thinking...WHY do I store things I use daily in an inconvenient place? Is there some kind of "kitchen rule" I would be breaking and risk being fined by the kitchen police? Can I not move the things I use EVERY day to an easier space to access and store the stuff I only use occasionally in their place?

ABSOLUTELY! So I did....

I moved the pots and pans to the pantry...eye level and easy to access. I installed another slide out shelf and use it for boxed and dry goods I only need to access to occasionally.

And you know what...I LOVE it!

I guess if the kitchen police show up to inspect I will have to move it all back. In the meantime I will enjoy being just a tad rebellious.

Keep in mind I have "purged" down to the daily essentials...that is something you need to take into consideration when you feel cramped for space! Do you really use 4 identical casserole dishes...or 3 egg pans...or 2 full size crock pots on a regular basis. If you only need them during the holidays or for family gatherings, consider moving them out of the kitchen. I store my large three crock cooker in my laundry room because I only use it during Thanksgiving...no need for it to take up valuable kitchen real estate year round. 

Think about it...are rarely used items taking up valuable space...are you storing every day items in a space that is "proper" but just doesn't work for you? MOVE IT! 

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The "compact" microwave and new stove....

It is done...the new microwave, stove and tile are installed.

And I LOVE them!

It all started with my quest to get rid of the over-the-range microwave.

As I mentioned here, it really became an issue for me when I read that over-the-range microwaves are now considered a kitchen "faux pas." Truth be told, it has bugged me for years...I hated the big ole' hulking thing hanging over my head while I cooked. 

And of course there was the whole issue of the black stainless refrigerator and the fact that the range, microwave and dishwasher were black. We bought the black stainless refrigerator almost two years ago, planning to transition all the other appliance to black stainless. Unfortunately I can't bring myself to buy new appliances when the old work just fine.

The microwave worked just fine...but my "obsession" with getting rid of the big ole' hulking appliance drove me to the point of madness...so I bought this awesome little thing. I guess technically it is still an "over-the-range" microwave, but it is really not much bigger than a vent hood and doesn't bother my aesthetic senses at all!

I ordered the microwave in black stainless, knowing one day I would break down and buy the black stainless stove I had been drooling on for several year. Low and behold my oven went out a few days after I ordered the microwave....curses! Now I HAD to buy a new stove. (Honestly, it was just the ignitor....a relatively easy and inexpensive fix...but that is beside the point!)

The only real issue I had with replacing the much larger microwave with a smaller one was the tile back splash. Several years ago I replaced the original tile backsplash with travertine.

I tiled to the bottom of the microwave...but the compact microwave is about 7" shorter than the original, which means I was going to have to add tile. Fortunately, I am a hoarder of "scrap construction crap" and managed to piece together enough scrap travertine tile to fill the gap.

All I had left from the original install were scraps...so to make sure I would have enough (and not have to order a few pieces of this extremely expensive tile!) I made a little template the size of the space and began laying out the scraps. I numbered each piece on the back so I could install it in the proper order!

If you do not have any scrap of your backsplash (and can't buy it), think about adding a little "decorative" accent...Pinterest is full of inspiration! 

Another little issue was the fact that I had tiled over the original tile (not something I normally do!)...as a result there was a 3/8" difference in thickness. No biggy really, I just put a piece of 3/8" board (scrap sheetrock) to fill the space then tiled with the travertine! 

I picked up a few sticks of travertine pencil liner at Lowe's to create little borders on the sides and under the microwave. Not a perfect match but close enough!

I have one really serious problem now...the dishwasher doesn't match.

Since it was replaced 5 or 6 years ago, I don't see it going out any time soon! Dang it! I'm trying to convince myself that I can live with this unsightly thing....trying! 

I have also ordered a new quartz top for the bar...

I have tired of the black and want something "light and bright." Again, I am always looking for a way to lighten the kitchen without painting the cabinets. The granite counter tops now seem a little "busy and dark" but that has to wait. I desperately want to make some serious changes to master bath and that has to be my next big project!

I haven't used either appliance enough to give a proper review but I can say I LOVE the look of both. The microwave is plenty large enough to do what I do...warm leftovers and melt butter. (Whirlpool is the only company that currently makes a "compact" microwave and their "black stainless" blends well with the Samsung black stainless stove and refrigerator.)

I love the new stove top but I have one minor beef...no drip pans. Not a huge problem...I ordered silicone "cut to fit" drip mats from Amazon. Not sure how happy I will be with this solution but I guess I will find out. It has a "wok grate" but I don't have a wok so whatever! The middle griddle is a neat feature but I'm not sure I will use it much...again, we'll see! The oven has both a "traditional bake" as well as convection...and it will automatically calculate the conversion...which is nice for someone who has been cooking with a regular ole' stove for 40 years! 

I want to share Matt's entry...he is having his kitchen cabinet painted so he wants me to wait to take pictures until he has his kitchen finished...so MAYBE next week!

Until then...

Modifying a cabinet...

When I first remodeled my master bathroom, I loved it...honestly, I still do! But someday soon I want to make some major changes just for practical purposes. Specifically, I want to remove the whirlpool tub (seriously, I think I have used it 3 times in the last 20 years!) and add a walk in shower.

As much as I love the existing tile, I know that will mean picking new tile for the shower....which means I will want to go ahead and replace the floor tiles...you know, while there is already a mess! But picking a tile that will carry me through another 20 years is tough for me...I know people say this or that is "timeless" but I can assure you NO home decor is timeless.

This will all happen as soon as I can find the perfect tile person to construct the shower. I do not want to hire someone who isn't VERY experienced because one of the worst things that can happen would be a shower that leaks! 

There is one other tiny detail that kinda bugged me...the "medicine cabinet."

While I love the look, it just wasn't practical. Why? Because everything in the back half of the cabinet goes there to die! Seriously, I found a bunch of products and pills that had expired years ago.

I cut down my kitchen pantry several years ago and have never regretted losing that extra 12" of space. I like how the smaller cabinet opens up the kitchen a bit! And again, everything in the back of the cabinet had a tendency to expire before I got to it. (No, I don't have a picture of the pantry before I cut it down...that was "preblog!")

So I knew cutting down the depth of the cabinet in the bathroom was doable! 

The first thing I did was take EVERYTHING out of the cabinet and took inventory. Major purgefest! I made sure that what was needed or wanted would fit comfortably if I only had 6" of depth. Yep, all but the basket of old prescription medication and most of it had expired. 

Once I knew that cutting down the cabinet wouldn't pose a logistical problem, I removed the cabinets from the wall, cut them down, rebuilt the back and reinstalled them. (Did I take pictures of this process...of course not...who knew I would share something so mundane!)

Sounds easy...honestly, it wasn't. There was an electrical outlet to deal with and the trim detail and then of course there was the exposed sheetrock boo-boos from the old marble backsplash...curses. I always think a project will be easier than it is!

But again, it was doable, and after a day of cutting and cussing I had a smaller cabinet.

The sheetrock boo-boo was an easy fix...mud, sand and retexture. Since I am good about keeping old paint for touchups...no biggy. Except it had been so long since I painted the bathroom, the paint had hardened. So I got to repaint the entire bathroom! Yippee!

Fortunately I had a couple of left over gallons of paint from when I painted my living areas...

Now I am eyeballing my kitchen again. I am a sucker for the "power of suggestion" so when I read that big ole' hulking over-the-range microwaves are now a kitchen "faux pas" I decided I want to remove the microwave above the stove...which means I have to find a place for a smaller microwave. The counter is not an option since I have a small kitchen and limited counter space. Hum...the pantry...maybe I can put it in the pantry. Well, I could if it weren't so stinking shallow...remember I cut it down so now no microwave more than 13" deep will fit. Thank goodness for the internet...I spent days researching microwaves. Fortunately, I found a few that would work so that's one hurdle! Small little things but honestly the only thing I use a microwave for is to boil water, warm coffee and melt butter.

Hurdle #2...can I afford to loose shelf space in the pantry? Again, I pulled everything out and start measuring cans of beans and moving shelves around. 

Doable! Keep in mind we are now a family of two and I don't need the food storage space I use to!

Hurdle #3...when I take down the over-the-range microwave...what then?

Honestly, I didn't know.

And then I found a solution that changed my whole plan...

A compact over the range microwave by Whirlpool!

I would post a picture but the site won't let me steal the pictures so just go look at it!

How cool is THIS! It's only about 10" tall so I won't feel like I have a big ole' hulking appliance hanging above my head while I am cooking.

I ordered the black stainless even though my stove is black.

I hate to buy new appliances when they work perfectly fine so I thought I would live with my old black stove for the time being.

(Fortunately for me the ignitor went out on the oven this week. Yippeee! Perfect excuse to order the new black stainless stove I drool on every time I go to Lowe's! God forbid I fix it with the $30 part!)

Now I don't have to give up pantry space or counter space. I guess it is still technically a "kitchen faux pas" since it is an "over the range microwave." But you know what...I'm okay with it. I'm probably one of the few who hasn't painted my kitchen cabinets, I have no shiplap in my house and while I would love to retile my entire kitchen and dining area with beautiful, light travertine tile, it's not happening...so I'm okay with bucking the decor trends!

The only problem I have is the space that will have to be tiled after the big ole' hulking microwave is removed. Fortunately, I am a pack rat and kept all my scraps from when I retiled the kitchen backsplash! Yea me! Thank goodness because that stuff was E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E!

So when I get the new microwave and stove are installed and the tile work done I'll share...can't wait!

 

Pumpkin cutting board tutorial....

I still haven't ventured to the storage building to retrieve my fall decor. I'm just not ready to go all out on the fall decorating.

But as I mentioned here, it is never too early to start a few little "fall projects!" 

Over the years, I have shared several little cutting board makeovers....here, here and here! I never use wood cutting boards for food prep, but I like the warmth and whimsey they add to the kitchen!

Super simple little makeovers for old boards that have seen their better days! 

I've kept my eye out for one shaped like a pumpkin but so far no luck...so I decided to make one.

I wanted to make one with walnut or mahogany but I didn't have any scrap pieces big enough. I had an old pine fence picket floating around my garage...I thought I might make a little sign with it but I decided it would be perfect for this project.

The board would be replacing the pineapple shaped board for the season, so I measured that board to determine the size of the pumpkin.

I cut it into three pieces a smidge longer than the height of the finished pumpkin...around 12".

I glued the edges, clamped the three pieces together and let them dry overnight.

I made a paper template of the pumpkin and traced it onto the board....

I used my jig saw to cut out the shape. Unfortunately the glued edges didn't hold and I ended up having to reglue the edges and then glue and staple little "cleats" across the back!

Since I don't intend to use this as a REAL cutting board, no biggy!

After REassembling the boards, I sanded the top and edges with my little palm sander.

As I have shared before, I always use Watco butcher block oil on my cutting boards. Again, I don't intend to actually use this board, but if you do, this product is food safe! Truth is, I just like the way this oil brings out the color and grain of the wood! 

And it did not disappoint! A nice little "surprise" was the "orangish" patina of the wood when I applied the oil...perfect for the season!

This would be a simple little project to do in any scale...maybe a larger wood pumpkin or even a scarecrow cutout for your porch. 

Last year I used an old board to make this little welcome sign...

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It's amazing the things you can do with old scrap wood! 

NOW I'm kinda in the mood to start decorating for fall. 

Birthday traditions and a cheesecake extraordinaire!

As evident by my "Cooking 101" page, this is not a food blog. I usually share recipes that are easy or ones I have put my simple "twist" on.

But today I am going to share one that may seem a tad intimating but honestly, super easy. And because it APPEARS to be difficult, it not only tastes great, it will impresses everyone.

One of the great traditions in this home has developed as the kids got too old for traditional birthday parties. For your birthday dinner, you get to pick the meal and the birthday dessert.

I can usually guess the favorite desserts...but occasionally one of the kids will surprise me.

Last month Brandon requested a "Reese's peanut butter chocolate cake." Hum...that was a new one. No biggy...I baked a two layer chocolate fudge box cake, spread peanut butter buttercream icing and chopped peanut butter cups between the layers, topped with chocolate butter cream icingused my little frosting tip to make some little peanut butter frosting edging and them mounded the middle with chopped peanut butter cups. OH. MY. GOSH! Not only did it taste amazing, but it was the star of the dinner! 

My opinion....if you want to impress people with your box cakes (and save some money) ALWAYS make a buttercream icing! 

My oldest daughter's birthday is not until next month, but since she was here this past weekend I decided we would have her birthday dinner. No surprise that her dinner consisted of my famous Alfredo sauce...one I shamelessly "borrowed" from the Olive Garden (plus 2 tablespoons of cream cheese for thickness!) Usually over a pasta with shrimp or chicken. 

This year her dessert request threw me for a loop...her usual is my grandmother's lemon cake...definitely one you need to try! But she requested TURTLE CHEESECAKE!

Seriously? I have no idea where that came from, and honestly, I have never made one! Sam's use to carry frozen turtle cheesecakes that were awesome, but they no longer have them...after 20 years, go figure!

So I did what I always do when I have to make something I am not familiar with...I went to the internet.

For the first few decades of my adult life, I had to do what everyone did when needing a recipe...dig out the cookbooks. Not complaining...the absolute best (and simplest) brownies you will ever eat are from the Betty Crocker cookbook. The most luscious peanut butter cookies you will ever eat came from an old church cookbook my mother received as wedding gift. And there is no better recipe for plain ole' chocolate chip cookies than on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag. 

But the internet has changed a lot of things, so I googled "Turtle Cheesecake" and found a recipe that looked like one I could manage. The only change I made was using caramel ice cream topping rather than going through the tedious process of unwrapping a 14 oz bag of little caramels. I'm a lazy baker...lol! 

The cheesecake turned out amazing.

One of the little tips I want  to share is how I "drizzle" criss cross patterns on cakes and other baked goodies without a fancy piping bag. I also use this method for layering ricotta cheese in lasagna and anything else that needs to be layered or drizzled.  

First, take a plain ole' ziplock bag and put it in a cup with the tip of one corner pointing down....

Fill the bag with your "stuff"...in this case, melted chocolate.

Lift the bag out of the cup and gently "squeeze" all the goody into the tip of the bag by twisting the top of the bag. Then nip the corner of the bag with scissors....

There you go...a simple "pipping" bag!

I actually have a REAL pipping bag, but this is much easier...I can toss the bag when I am done...told you I was a lazy baker...lol! 

Baking is a lot like DIYing...we are so intimidated by the THOUGHT of the process, we don't even attempt it! 

Think of all the awesome refurbished furniture and cheesecake we miss out on when we don't even try! 

Practicality beats heirloom...

It certainly doesn't happen often. If you have been around awhile you know I will take heirloom over just about anything.

This stool was my great grandfather's drafting stool and I featured it here.

It is oak and it really isn't "my style." (whatever that might be!) But because it was an heirloom piece I carefully refinished it and recovered the seat.

But when it came right down to it, the little guy just wasn't very practical. First, it was kind of heavy and difficult to move around...truth is, if you lift up the seat it comes right off. Second, there is a good chance the thing was going to kill me! Since popping my cabinets up, I often need a little boost to reach the upper cabinets. The top of this stool spins and more than once I found myself dang near snapping a limb just to get to a spare can of coffee when I tried to use it as a "step stool!"

It was my great grandfathers and I seriously love it...but it just wasn't functional for the kitchen! 

I have been on the lookout for an old "cosco" type step stool. I found several, but all were too tall...so every time I would need to open a drawer I would have to move the stool...again, not practical! 

I FINALLY found the perfect stool...and naturally it was a mess!

Covered in paint, ripped vinyl seat, and minor rust spots on the legs. 

NO BIGGY!!! Fortunately the paint was latex so I was able to scrub MOST of that off with a little detergent and elbow grease. I have found that 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits will take rust spots right off of metal...then I just wipe it down with vinegar to neutralize any lurking rust. I recovered the little seat with some fabric I had on hand, and.....

Not sure I am a huge fan of the olive green step, but the fabric has a little olive green in it so for now it will do! 

But the awesomest thing about this stool is it's size...perfect fit for the corner of my kitchen and perfect height for a little boost when I need it!

I'm a little bummed that I had to give up my heirloom piece in the kitchen, but I will no doubt find a functional use for it somewhere, sometime!

Easy bottle cleaners!

Sometimes I don't take "before" pictures because I am not sure what I am doing will work!

But this little trick DID work so I will just share what I did.

I keep a baby bottle brush on hand to clean out small bottles and glassware and it always seems to do the trick! But this week I picked up two large glass jars with small "mouths" that were pretty cruddy. I soaked them for a good while to try to remove all the gunk inside and used mineral spirits to get the label gunk off the outside, but I just couldn't get the insides clean. 

My baby bottle brush was too short for these large jars so I had to figure out a way to scrub out the inside. And I didn't dare stuff a cloth or sponge down inside least it wouldn't come out!

Hum....

This is one of those "think outside the box" times. I cut down a scrubby sponge, pierced it with a long wood skewer and PRESTO...

Instant bottle scrubber. I was able to reach all the gunk inside and clean them right up!!!

I think a coat hanger would work as well because you can bend it to fit the curves of the bottle...but I didn't need to do that. The skewer worked just fine!

And there you have it...a simple way to scrub out a large glass jar! You're welcome!

This week, between painting and repairing apartments, I have been working on recovering the club chair and ottoman in the living room.

After DAYS of stripping and ripping and sewing, I told Brian if I EVER mentioned reupholstering anything to immediately take me shopping...seriously, if you ever wonder why it costs so much to have something reupholstered, just try it!!!! Right now I am laying in bed counting the hours until my chiropractor opens and kicking myself for getting rid of that hot wax hand dip gadget. It's a good thing I really LOVE this chair! HOPEFULLY, I will have it done next week and can share!

An old table made new!!!

A few months ago I received an email from a reader asking for a few more details on my refinishing technique. And I think she may have been looking for just a little "push!" Sometimes all a person needs is a little encouragement...and of course a good tutorial!

This tutorial for stripping old finishes is by far my favorite post and there have been many who have benefited from the information and encouragement! 

If you are like Chantelle, you may be looking at your table (or dresser or desk or heirloom cabinet) and wanting desperately to make a change. You see the potential...you just aren't sure how to get there.

Her biggest beef was the "heavy" orange finish.

The table is amazing but I agreed...the "orange" finish was pretty bad and as she noted, it really didn't go with their "new" kitchen.

But a cruddy old finish should never be a deal breaker for a solid piece of furniture with good bones....it is not a difficult thing to change with a little know-how and encouragement.

Sometimes all we need is someone to tell us YOU CAN DO IT!!!

She emailed me this week with pictures of her finished table...."The first picture shows the table how it was originally, the second picture shows how it was once I had completely stripped it and then sanded it down (you were right, it hardly needed any sanding) and the final picture shows how the table is now, after I applied my finish!"

Absolutely stunning!!!

I asked her what finish she used...

"It's called Osmo Top Oil. Really good stuff, someone left a ring mark on the worktop from a hot cup, and it just wiped straight off. Really impressive. "

Impressed I am...so I immediately started doing a little research on the product. Definitely something I will try in the future.

I am always open to new products. Just recently another reader posted a comment on this same tutorial about the use of oxalic acid to remove dark stains on raw wood. 

"....after the table was stripped, some ugly black spots remained on the top. Google told me that it was probably water damage, if water penetrates through the finishing, some woods with high tannin content (oak) can develop such spots due to a chemical reaction between the tannin and the traces of iron in the water. They can be removed with oxalic acid, and some sources advise to use distilled water to dissolve it. The guy from the specialized wood finishing shop, where I bought the acid laughed at the idea and ensured me that tap water would do. Instead of dissolving, I just sprinkled the acid (it is crystals, looks like sugar) on the spots, and then added several drops of water just to turn the crystals to paste. I wasn't sure how long it was going to take, so checked from time to time and could see how the spots were getting lighter and then completely vanished after maybe half an hour. Sorry for the long description but maybe it would be useful for some of your readers. I myself was unsure and a little bit scared that it could damage the table but it was very straightforward."

I have used numerous processes to remove dark stains on raw wood, with little success. So I immediately ordered the acid from Amazon and will give it a shot when I run across this problem again. 

I think the best advertisement for any product is the success stories of others! The processes and products I use may not necessarily be the best process or product for you, which is why I always encourage others to do their own research and use what works for YOU! 

I'll make sure I report in on my experiences with both products. Until then, if anyone else has had any experiences with these products, I sure would like your take on them. I emailed my blog-friend Cristina at Remodelandolacasa and she had not used the acid but is anxious as well to hear the results since she just recently ran into the "stain" problem on a table she refinished!

Until then.....

Organizing one tiny step at a time!

This time of the year the blogs are filled with organizing tips. They are all great but man, can they be overwhelming! 

They feed into our desire to get our lives and homes in order. So I thought I would share a few TINY things I have done in each room of the house that have, in one way or another, made my life a tad simpler. Nothing major or earth shattering...just little things you can do that don't require a pickup load of storage boxes or a week of total madness in your quest to "get it right."

So I walked around my house with my camera and asked myself...what in THIS room makes my life a little easier.

First...my bedroom. Getting my bedroom the way I love it was a looooong process that I revealed here. But there is one tiny element that makes my life a little simpler....

This tiny little change to the outlet next to my bed was super simple to install (here I share how to install one!) and has made my bedtime ritual so much easier. I can still have my clock and lamp plugged in while charging my phone and Ipad.....zero hassle! 

My office...I have a ton of organizing tips for home office spaces, but my absolute favorite is simple...binders!

These are just a few I keep at my finger tips...on a shelf in my closet I also have binders for home and car insurance documents, tax returns, legal papers, etc. Since I have a business, all my receipts and invoices get tossed in a paper box each month and at the end of the year stored in the attic...just in case the IRS comes knocking! Super simple "filing" system! But the documents I need on a regular basis are kept in binders at my finger tips!

The toilet paper holder. Okay, this may seem silly but if you have ever had a puppy, kitten or toddler, you know the struggle....the daily ritual of cleaning up the toilet paper that has been "unrolled!" I discovered this little trick with my last kitten...

Install an "open ended" toilet paper holder vertically rather than horizontally. Not only does it take away the entertainment value of "unrolling" the paper it makes it super simple to replace the roll!

See, I told you these were simple little changes...

On to the laundry room. I have said time and again, I like pretty but it has to have function. One of my favorite little things to collect are the old Lane cedar boxes. Some believe they are old "sample" boxes used by Lane salesmen for their cedar chest line. Not so! They were actually little cedar boxes Lane gave away to girls when they graduated from high school to entice them to buy a large Lane cedar chest. I find them all the time at auctions and in flea markets. A quick strip with my acetone/lacquer thinner mixture and a few coats of tung oil and they are as good as new...and super pretty!

I use one to hold dryer sheets in my laundry room and I also have one on my dresser for reading glasses and such and one in my den to hold the remotes. Pretty with a purpose!

Which brings me to my kitchen. So many neat little ways I have made this space much more functional and organized, but I chose to share one of my few loves that really serve little purpose...my cutting boards....

Here and here I share how super simple it is to revive old cutting boards! Except for the one I use as a recipe holder, they really serve no purpose because I don't use wood cutting boards. But I love the warmth and whimsy they add to kitchen!

In the den a few more of my favorites "with a purpose!" When I started seeing all the "old work benches" being repurposed in the blogosphere I remembered I had my dad's old tool bench stuck back in a storage shed. I pulled it out and gave it a little makeover! It is one of the few "primitive" pieces I feature in my home. Because it was actually built and used by my dad, I LOVE it!!!

It is relatively small and doesn't take up a lot of space and serves as a perfect little side table next to the lounge chair in the den! 

Coffins...again, morbid sounding, I know. But they aren't REALLY coffins, that is just what they are called! I have several and I use them for storing fire wood, photo albums and books!

Another super simple "makeover" project that yields "pretty with a purpose!"

I did manage one major "purge" this year...partially out of necessity. When I redid my entry this year I created a dust bowl that forced me to remove a 30 year collection of hardback books for cleaning and I decided it was time to finally let go! Over 150 books found a new home and my bookcases finally found room to breath! 

I kept the collections of two of my favorite authors but the rest were boxed up and given to a friend.

Truthfully, I haven't missed them and now I think twice before spending money on another hardback. I still read, I just don't "buy to have"...I buy paperbacks I can leave for others or I download them on my Kindle. 

I will say that getting rid of clutter, a real heart wrenching purge and declutter, is ESSENTIAL to making your house a home. Maybe one or all of these tips will make that process a little easier!