Monthly Archives: November 2016

City Tree, Country Tree

I wanted to give special gifts to two different people, separated by miles and styles. My “city” friend lived in a small apartment and my “country” friend would be bringing his gift home on a plane. Their gifts had to be small and portable.

It felt like one of Aesop’s fables…

country-mouse-city-mouse-scott-g-detailDetail, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse by Scott Gustafson

For my human friends, I started with $20 flat-packed wooden trees from Crate & Barrel.

bare-1 bare-2

This project required very little paint, and I used the paint I already had.

For my country friend, I painted the branches with Annie Sloan Amsterdam Green.


I brightened it by painting the little leaves with Antibes Green and the star with Emperor’s Silk. (I forgot to take a picture with the red star).


I loved the look on my husband’s face when I asked him to pick up a bottle of white nail polish. Time to polish my nails? Nope. Time to make some snow.


Nail polish on the branches was fun because it created raised, shiny snow on this country tree’s branches.

For my city friend, it was modern all the way. First, Pure White, then a repeat of Emperor’s Silk on the star, and sprayed all over with silver glitter.



I cut some beads from of a red garland (it’s shown in a couple of the previous pictures) and stuck them to the branches with tacky glue.


It was quite a balancing act to keep those beads in position while the glue dried. I had to play go fetch more than a few times when those red balls rolled out of reach. Much much better to use a hot glue gun.

Aesop’s fables always ended with a moral. The moral of this story is that style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.


Which one would you choose?

What I learned:

  • For small projects, try to use the paint you already have.
  • It’s fun to paint with nail polish.
  • Style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

A Cup of Joe to Go

No one is sure how a “cup of Joe” came to mean a “cup of coffee” but the source of a different nickname for the popular brew is clear. When coffee became popular in the 19th century, the primary source of those magical beans was in Indonesia, on the island of Java.

coffee-3   map-of-indonesia

You’ll never confuse a can of Java Gel Stain with a cup of coffee. I had anticipated something like dark jelly, but it was more like sludge.


But hey, I’d had three babies. There were worse things than sludge. It was time to sludge a table.


The materials and construction of the table I had were Ikea-like, but it looked like it had been assembled before Ikea had been born. It was sturdy little thing and had the advantage of a smoked glass top that was in pretty good condition. I had to be extra careful with that glass because if I broke it, the table wouldn’t be worth saving.

This was a total, off the cuff experiment. I mixed the primary colors, Napoleonic Blue, Emperor’s Silk (red) and English Yellow. I thought this combination of colors would make brown. Good theory. Yucky color. I wasn’t going to waste the paint I mixed so I used the yuck as a base.


[This was before Annie Sloan’s brown,  Honfleur, was available AND before I found an Annie Sloan video where the basecoat of her faux wood table was an eggplant color created by mixing  blue and burgundy.]

Continuing on in ignorance, out came the Java gel stain. What a mess! I wiped it on with one rag wiped it off with a clean one. I didn’t seem to have much control as far as how much came off. I had to keep reapplying stain to the bare spots.


I was in serious need of a cup of Joe, but didn’t dare approach the spoon, the coffee, the pot or the cup.


In retrospect, I should have applied less stain and used lighter touch as I removed it. Proof that I had applied too much was the frustrating fact that the stain took two days to dry.

The table didn’t looked stained but it looked better in brown. The particle board couldn’t have been concealed more thoroughly. No waxing or sealing, just a whole lot of mineral spirits to clean my hands.


Quite a nice coffee table, I think. Care for some Java?

What I learned:

  • Wear gloves.
  • The color of the basecoat matters.
  • Apply the stain with a disposable brush
  • Use light strokes when wiping off the stain with a rag.
  • Java is an island, a word for coffee, and the name of a color.

An Ode to My Favorite Veteran

My father-in-law wasn’t just my father-in-law, he was my dad. I miss him terribly and there are certain days when he’s on my mind more than most. One of them is Veteran’s Day. He served his country during World War II and his closest friends called him “Sergeant Sammy.”

Dad was an organized guy and he must have opened and closed the drawers of this little caddy at least a thousand times. I knew I could never part with it and thought if I used it for my own storage, some of Dad’s organizational skills would rub off on me.


I pulled out my power sander. I love power tools. They make me feel, well, powerful. Sanding the top and drawer front revealed a very nice solid wood.


I had the perfect drawer pulls already, somewhere, and by a stroke of luck, I found them. The caddy didn’t need pulls but the advantage to these was that they held labels.

Before I finished sanding the drawers, I measured the pulls and did a test run with the positioning. It’s a good thing I did because one of them was way off. I was able to spackle the hole I made by mistake.

caddy-02 caddy-02-oops-arrow

I sanded the rest of the drawer fronts and applied two coats of a combo walnut stain and polyurethane to all the bare surfaces.


Next step was the base. I chose Graphite.


caddy-08  caddy-07

I touched up the curves in the drawers with calligraphy brush. If you hold it on an angle and use a steady hand it makes a nice even line.

caddy-09  caddy-10

As it happens, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, not sealed or waxed, acts as a chalk board. I could write notes and reminders on the sides! Here’s the chalkboard technique I learned from the helpful staff at my favorite stockist, Suite Pieces.

  1. One coat paint
  2. Light sand
  3. Second coat paint
  4. Light sand
  5. Third coat paint
  6. Prep by rubbing chalk across the area and wiping off

Drum roll please!


This little piece will inspire me to stay organized.


Thank you Sergeant Sammy, for your love for your family and your service to our country.

What I learned:

  • Drill holes before you stain or paint.
  • Use a calligraphy brush for touch-ups and smooth lines.
  • Chalk paint, when prepared properly, can be used as a chalk board.
  • Appreciate our veterans.

Wake Up Little Dresser!

Someone left this at my house after a Man Who Came to Dinner  kind of situation. Long story. Let’s stick to the little dresser or side table or whatever it is.


This was a sturdy little piece that seamed hand-hewn. I didn’t need it and didn’t want it… an absolutely ideal situation to experiment with chalk paint, and a great excuse to buy a quart of Annie Sloan Cream. None of my three rules (Use what I have, Keep what I need, and Have Fun) would be broken because I had someone in mind who would love it. Onward!

shabby but not chic

The knobs were weird, similar to paper fasteners.

img_3469 dsc02331

Off came the weird knobs and on went the paint, followed by clear wax. Fairly easy stuff.


I sanded the edges for more of the shabby chic look. I sanded the inside edges of the drawers to help them slide more easily.


Headed in the direction of shabby chic, I had the bright idea to apply waterslide decals and bought some pretty ones on Ebay.


You cut them out, soak them in water until the image slides off the backing and then smooth them on the surface you’re decorating.

First problem: waterslide decals don’t stick to a waxed surface. I removed the wax on the top with mineral spirits and applied a new decal. It stuck! I waxed the top.

Second problem: you can’t wax over a waterslide decal. It will slide right off. I gave myself a day to breath, used the back as a test space, and found the solution. Apply the waterslide decal to a bare chalk-painted surface. Let dry. Apply rub-on varnish. Let dry. Done.

Then I found the cutest knobs on Ebay. It’s difficult for me to stay away from Ebay.


I had the hardest time pushing the new screws into the holes for the knobs. I gave myself an imaginary smack in the head. The holes were smaller because they were made for those weird paper fastener pulls. Duh! I drilled holes big enough for the new knobs.

I already had the contact paper to line the drawers.


Isn’t she bright and pretty?


What I learned:

  • You can apply waterslide decals to chalk paint, but not over or under waxed surfaces.
  • If the knob holes aren’t big enough, use a drill to make them bigger.
  • Beware of house guests who show up with furniture.