Lazy Post: pretty chippy paint

Today I did a lot but nothing that interesting for blogging.  It was very warm and sunny, so I finally put up a laundry line outside albeit a temporary set-up.  I’ve always air dried our sheets to preserve the linen but since moving have had to use the dryer for them.  Now, for the moment, I tied a line from the Japanese maple to a gutter bracket.  My husband will not be thrilled to see this.  What will please him is that I finally brought the screens down from the attic, washed them, and installed them.  He kept reminding me that we needed screens so that the bedroom windows could be opened and that it was too hot up there yesterday.  😉  Well, both the screens and the windows are clean now and fresh air has been breezing through all day.

There were other things that I needed to take care of online and on the phone, somebody came over on behalf of the moving company to photograph damaged furniture, and I changed a bunch of door knobs.  It was a pain to switch them out since every door required additional drilling and most frames some chiselling.  It took a while, and I put away the tools before noticing that I forgot to do one closet, but it is in the mess of a storage sewing room and doesn’t exactly matter yet.

Tomorrow my mother and grandparents will arrive for a visit and to help me do some repairs.  I’m not sure that I’ll be free to write while they are here, but I’ll make up for it after.  For now I figured I’d share some random things that I took photos of while shopping and thought interesting or wanted but couldn’t have.  :Le sigh:

detail of carved wall decor carved wall thing that I wanted

I think that this carving and the way it is painted/stained is absolutely gorgeous.  I’d almost give a kidney for it, haha.  Seriously though, I am still sad not to have it in my home, because it really “speaks” to me and the blue would match my nightstand.  😦  The crappy apart about my favourite shopping places (in this case Home Goods) is that such items are not available to just go back later the way they would be at someplace like Crate & Barrel.  I spotted this mirror another time at Home Goods which had already been claimed by someone:

mirror that I wanted

My husband wouldn’t have liked the green, but I think it is entirely perfect.  Apparently I really like chipped old layers of paint and worn things, because a couple of years ago I took these photos at a salvage yard in Albany:

chippy door salvage place chippy door at salvage place

radiator at salvage place shutter salvage place shutters at salvage place

Likewise I might have bought this Restoration Hardware coffee table if I had the money and place for it:

19th C Kerala coffee table

Anyway…  Here are linens drying on the temporary clothesline and some of the clean windows and screens:

temporary laundry line 

washed windows with screens

Guacamole Salsa & and Gardening

Mmmmm, guacamole!  My husband and I love it, so I make it fairly often (and in embarrassingly large quantities.)  Here is an example of what I use:

guacamole produce

I used to argue that guacamole should never have tomatoes in it or anything but hot peppers.  My SIL and I would tease each other constantly as we took turns making batches her way or my way.  Somewhere along the way I allowed a tomato into the mix or a sweet pepper, and… I went to the dark side.  I’m pretty sure it happened when the store didn’t have enough suitable avocados, and I used the unthinkable ingredients to stretch the batch.  Now I continue to add them since it does taste pretty good either way, and I am trying to reduce the calorie count of each guacamole binge.  😀

I’ll admit that my ingredient list varies.  It depends on what kind of peppers the store has, if I feel like brown onion, red, or white, or if I am in more of a salsa mood than avocado.  Sometimes I stick to the salsa portion and only add avocado for my husband.  Each time I play around with the order of things and try to see if there is an ideal time to include the spices or lime, but it seems to me that guacamole is pretty difficult to mess up, and each batch is delicious.

Roughly I use a ratio of peppers, tomatoes, lime, and avocado that stays about the same whether using four or six or more avocados.  If six avocados then two limes, one tomato, a couple of hot peppers (varies with type,) and either four little sweet peppers or one cubanelle.  It is always one onion and a fairly similar portion of a cilantro bunch, and plenty of salt, some cayenne and paprika, and both ground and crushed whole cumin.  I start by chopping the onion finely, then the sweet peppers, tomato, hot peppers, cilantro, and add the salt etc.  Sometimes the lime goes in then (especially if I want just salsa) but sometimes I squeeze the lime over it after the avocado is included.  I really don’t have a preference yet.

pretty peppers


salsa ready for avocadoes

I never seem to take photos of the finished batch!  I did look for a photo from another time, but I just updated Yosemite and found the new Photo application problematic.  So, no actual guacamole will be shown today.  😉  I trust you know what it should look like!  By the way, those pretty jalapeños were some that I grew on our windowsill in the flat.

Speaking of growing, I had some photos ready when I posted last week about having done more in the garden but didn’t use them.  Today it is sunny and warm, so I plan to do more yard work and gardening.  It is good enough reason to talk about what I did before…  I spaded and cultivated another quarter of the old garden bed:

garden 3:4

Then I planted three types of corn, onion seeds for use as scallions, chives, sunflowers, two types of watermelon, purple carrots, and black radishes.  Oh, and I planted a good number of garlic cloves from the store, because the earlier few were sprouting well, and I wanted to not waste two whole rows on wild garlic.  :Sigh:  There were little shoots of shallot, brown onion, and red onion too.  Here are some of the pretty “midnight snack” and Oaxacan green” corn seeds:

midnight snack black corn Oaxacan green corn

I finally moved the last of the berry canes into one patch:

berry patch

Now I just have to worry about the deer.  😦  Yesterday morning my husband finally saw them in the yard.  We had evidence that they visit, but we never actually spotted them until then.  They were munching on the day lilies in this stump garden:

stump garden

I fear for my plants!  The only thing they don’t care to eat is the stupid wild allium all over this town.  😀  I’m serious.  It is the only green thing untouched, and it is everywhere.  Last week I mowed the lawn with the reel mower, and I managed to cut down the allium pretty well although it took many passes.  The grass itself was barely tall enough to bother, but I needed to get a start on it.  I’m pleased with the reel mower, but it definitely took a lot out of me.  (I don’t think the gas powered one would be much better.)  I have been using the greens in my cooking by the way, but there is a ridiculous amount of it… far more than I can eat!  Almost none of this is grass:

wild garlic

I hope I don’t have to mow again too soon.

Homemade Chalk Paint: ugly thrift store armoire becomes shabby chic coat closet

Today I have another old project to write about, because I’ve been slacking on new things.  Therefore I might not have ideal photos, but I wanted to share about some of these past projects anyway.  Let me start with before and after shots side by side:

armoire before armoire done

When I moved into my husband’s flat I wasn’t too happy about the place.  Although it had some charming features there were quite a few drawbacks in its layout and location, and I did my best to improve what I could.  For example, I’d grown used to a conveniently placed coat closet in my old place, and not having one anywhere near the door in his our home was frustrating.  If you have read earlier posts you may have noticed that I like need things to be “away” and tidy.

Clutter makes me anxious and distracts me, and having coats, shoes, umbrellas and the like on a coat rack or arrayed at the door appear as clutter to my mind.  I wanted doors and drawers!  So, I began considering armoire options at Ikea although I don’t particularly like the style or quality of Ikea furniture.  Then I stopped by one of my favourite thrift stores, Unique, and spotted a great solution.  The armoire may have been extremely ugly, but it was solid pine, had a useful arrangement with drawers, and it was cheap.  (I believe it was 30$?)  Immediately I texted a photo to my husband for approval and assured him that I’d paint it.  He despises green, but he trusted me and said to go ahead and buy it if I really wanted to.

armoire at thrift store

The next problem was that I’d driven a sedan to the place, and DH’s car was even smaller and a two-door.  No worries…  I paid, took my trusty screwdriver out of my purse, and disassembled the thing before packing it into my car.  I’d checked out the construction beforehand and saw that it was possible.  😉

At home I put it back together and painted right away before anyone could freak out much about the lovely, almost fluorescent, semi-transparent green stain.  I had paint leftover from my flat in a greenish grey which I could use.  It had too much of a green cast for my husband to let me use it on the walls, but I figured he could deal with it on the armoire.  It was called “silver tinsel” and is a perfect colour for pretty much anything in my estimation.  Since there were some flaws and damage to the wood I decided to embrace the imperfections.  I’d been wanting to try chalk paint, and this seemed like a good time to.

Reading online gave me a “recipe” of paint, water, and plaster of paris.  There are other formulas too, but I wasn’t sure about using things like grout.  Plaster seemed brilliant, and I mixed up a batch then brushed on a base coat.  Next I mixed a batch that included a bit of white too, and I used it to sort of dry-brush over corners and panels in as artful a way as I could manage.  Meanwhile I added a little more white into the mix as I went, because I wanted to have a lot of depth and variation in the colour.

armoire brushing on the paint armoire brushing lighter mix of paint armoire while painting

When I was done painting, and it was dry, I sanded certain areas lightly with a fine sandpaper.  On the panels and corners I didn’t sand much; just enough to smooth things and show inner layers of the paint.  Only the handles were sanded enough to see bare wood, because DH warned me that he thinks distressed finishes are weird and uh… he doesn’t like it.  So, I just did a tiny bit to push the boundary slightly.  😀  (It has worked somewhat, and he now approves of certain imperfect looks if not when it comes to painted items.)

Here it is again, done, and some closeups:

armoire with coats armoire done

armoire done detail 2 armoire done detail

I seriously enjoyed painting with the DIY chalk paint and in this style.  Very fun.  Chalk paint won me over, and after this I used it quite a few times… whenever I had the chance.  So far I haven’t shelled out for Annie Sloan or even the types now available in craft and hardware stores.  I am curious to try some of the real stuff, but I have nothing to use it on right now.

I did not use wax afterwards, and I haven’t on any of the pieces that I painted with chalk paint.  I was really afraid to apply wax and worried it would change the colour.  In any case the coat closet looks just fine even after some three years of constant use, but I probably will do a few test pieces with wax eventually.  Everyone else out there waxes, and there must be a good reason for it, I’m sure.

Bad Paint

Sometimes when things don’t work out as expected the end result is even better with the changes made to the plan…

Yesterday I was very productive, yay!  Besides daily chores I finally painted the hallway, and I also worked on the garden.  Today I hope to carry on and paint the master bath walls too, but I may instead begin to set up the sewing workroom or something else. Anyway, I attempted to paint the hallway last month before we had guests over, but the paint was absolutely horrible to work with, and I gave up on it for a while.

I still don’t know what happened to that paint, but when I started yesterday I was sure to mix it well and thought everything would be fine.  It wasn’t.  The first strokes of edging were alright until I went over any with another brush-full, and then the paint became nasty, sticky, and badly textured.  Like this:

ugh what happened to this paint? nasty paint

Ugh, ugh, ugh!  As soon as this started to happen I decided to scrap the paint.  Weeks ago I had chosen a neutral similar to the current colour for the hallway.  I wasn’t entirely thrilled with taupe by now, but I needed to use something on hand if I wanted to work on it.  The dark grey of the living room would be far too dark, but the pale grey of the master bath was light, airy, and neutral too.  Plus I might just have enough of it for both rooms. (The name of the first colour was “stone harbour” from Glidden, and the one I ended up using was “polished limestone” and also by Glidden.)

After searching through my photos it appears that I never took any of the hall for a before.  Sorry!  Hallways aren’t that easy to photograph after all, and they aren’t very interesting either.  Although this one is kind of nifty having a curved wall it still doesn’t photograph well.  I did document it plenty as I painted:

while painting hall 2 while paint hall 1 colour while painitng hall

The new colour looks nearly white compared to the old, but I am glad it is so pale.  It made a bigger difference in brightening the space than I anticipated. We have chosen to keep three of the four doors off the hallway closed due to cats, and I’ve been unhappy at how dark it is.  Unfortunately the doors will remain closed, because I prefer not to have fur or other issues in the guest room to deal with, the other door leads to our master suite from which my husband banned felines, and the long-dreamt-of sewing room… to have a place with a door to hide the “mess” of projects rather than losing productivity picking things up constantly (and to prevent kitty damage too.)  Ideally I’ll replace the doors with some like this with frosted glass to let more light in, but it will not be anytime soon.  For now I just get to replace those ugly handles and paint.

The hallway has some odd trim/design features making it quite difficult to paint well.  Some of the moulding has a tiny space between it, so I had to use an artists’ brush to paint there.  Applying the trim colour is going to be time consuming interesting too.

detail brush to reach weird spot

Here are the best after photos I managed to take after it was dry last night:

hall after with light hall after hall from kitchen

…With the light on, light off, and from the other end to show how it goes with the living room’s dark grey and the kitchen’s red.  All that trim and bead-board is only primed white.  I’m not sure I’m looking forward to days of brushing on “coconut ice.”  😉

While I was painting it looked like a pale pastel blue for a bit, and I was not pleased.  My husband was home and commented that he didn’t like it, but it dried or the light changed, and it turned into an interesting grey.  I love it, actually!  I may use this “polished limestone” in a few other rooms.  It can look kind of taupe in one lighting or at some angle, but it is an awesome light stone colour in another, and it is really neat.  I’m very glad I ended up having to use it instead of the “stone harbour.”

ETA:  Here are a couple of daylight shots:

hall in daylight hall in daylight 2

Just a slight change in angle makes a big difference.

Creating a Costume of Skyrim’s “First Dragon Born”

It is never too early to think about Halloween.  I know it is only April, but I enjoy Halloween very much and love to create costumes.  Sometimes gathering the materials and building a costume can take a lot of time, and maybe this post will be helpful for someone planning ahead or going to some sort of event?  So, here I am posting in spring about the ensemble that I made for my husband in the fall of 2013.

first dragonborn side First Dragonborn first dragonborn back

He is an avid gamer, and for a while he was thinking of little besides the Skyrim video game.  Every year I’d dress up for Halloween, but he’d stick to his usual black t-shirt and cargo pants.  That fall I asked him if he could think of anything that he’d be comfortable dressing as, and he showed me images of The First Dragon Born from Skyrim.

inspirtation 1 skyrim first dragonborninspiration 2 skyrim

Challenge accepted!

He really didn’t seem to think that it was doable, but I had some ideas brewing.  I went to a few art supply stores in Manhattan, browsed for hours, and brought home bags full of materials that had potential.  While Blick and Utrecht had some very neat materials I also bought some kiddie type sculpting foam (Model Magic) from AC Moore and also some cheap props from Ricky’s.  Off the top of my head I had: black gesso; a wood carving knife; the Model Magic; Balsa Foam; sheets of black craft foam; strips of black leather; metallic paint made with stainless steelplaster of paris gauze strips; black, pewter, and silver glitter fabric paints; a thrift store belt; a plastic sword, a child’s sized craft foam shield, and a ghoul mask; coarse and fine black linen fabrics; brushes; leather work gloves; Gorilla and wood glues; and blue battery operated LED lights.  I already had certain supplies such as black grommets and aluminium foil.

paint and gesso skyrim supplies foam shield

I do want to advise against the Model Magic although it worked pretty well to start, because I found that it is far to fragile to be worn and also shrinks and cracks during long term storage.  😦  I’d use something like paper clay if I’d have known better.  This past Halloween he re-used the costume, and although it was stored safely I had to make many repairs to the mask, shoulder pieces, and sword.

I began with the mask.  It seemed best to use a very cheap plastic one as a base, so I chose the cheapest one with a good shape then cut all of the gauze off of it.  The First Dragon Born helmet is rather angular, so carving and gluing Balsa Foam would work out well to form the planes and angles, I thought.  I began by sketching out a rough outline of the mouth shape and began to carve.  Next I cut two side pieces into shape.

building mask

It is quite easy to carve the Balsa Foam, but it is brittle, so you must take care.  Gorilla glue held things together perfectly.  Once there was a foam frame to work on I began to sculpt with Model Magic and even aluminium foil.  Foil is cheaper than the other stuff, and it gave a neat, organic, bonelike look to the horns too.  The Model Magic happened to be white, but it was kind of fun working on it with the two-tone look.  It also wasn’t possible to smooth it as I wished, so I topped some areas with craft foam to give it a hard edged, smooth metal appearance.  Then I highlighted places to keep in mind while painting to create the illusion that they’d been sculpted.

building mask 2 sculpted mask

Meanwhile, I began sculpting Model Magic into scales of armour.  This was very simple and worked out well except that I’d use another medium next time due to a lack of durability.  They fared alright, but if starting from scratch why not use something better suited?  Anyway, they took only a few minutes.  I draped them over jars and cans to dry with a rounded shape suitable for wearing on arms.  Sculpting the shoulder pieces was far more difficult, (and I practically remade them with Paper Clay for last Halloween.)  Then I began the sword by crumpling up more foil and hot glueing it to the plastic prop from Ricky’s.  After that I wrapped it with plaster of paris gauze strips.  When that was dry I sculpted again with the Model Magic.  *Insert the same warning to use another material here.  😉  The child’s craft foam shield was embossed and perfect to cut up for a belt buckle.

sculpting armour scales

sword sculpting

At this point I painted the leather work gloves black and cut little holes into the palms.  The idea was to thread the LED lights through so that there would be a blue glow like in the inspiration image, but the wires broke easily.  I didn’t think it important enough a detail to try anything else.

wiring the glove lights

The next step once everything was dry was to gesso them.  Luckily they sell black gesso, so there weren’t extra steps.  The most fun part was carefully applying the metallic paint to make the pieces look like blackened metal.  I really loved this part!  It felt like the pieces were transforming and becoming real after planning them in my head.

painting the sculpted skyrim pieces gessoed mask

gesso sword and arm pieces belt sword

metallic paint skyrim

I don’t believe that I took photos of the sewing portion of the costume.  All I did was draft simple patterns for a simple wrap tunic and drawstring pants, cut them of the rougher linen, and sew them.  The neckline of the tunic was bound with a wide bias strip cut of the finer linen.  The hemlines were “finished” by attacking them with scissors and pinking shears to look artfully tattered.  That was nice since hemming is boring.  😀  Then I painted the bound edge with fabric paint in rough zigzags loosely calling to mind the inspiration images.

The arm pieces were simply two layers of foam, with the scales hot glued on, cut into rounded oblongs with holes to lace them up with leather strips.  The set on the upper arm were pointed to the tunic through grommets in the border there (which was inspired by 16th century European clothing.)  Actually, I was lazy and attached the sleeves that way too, I believe.  (Pointed simply means tied on, btw.)  The hood was a quick thing too.  I just folded a fairly narrow strip of the linen, tucked a corner to round it to fit over the back of a head, sewed that seam, folded over and hot glued the front to cover the edge of the mask, and tattered the bottom.  The front below the mask edges was bound and painted like the tunic.  It just gets pinned under the chin, and likewise the tunic pins closed before being belted.

pointed on shoulder armour closeup

Here it is again:

upper closeup first dragonborn First Dragonborn

Also, here are a couple of shots from this past fall when I repaired the damaged portions:

broken patching

I have to say that I am really proud of how this costume turned out.  My husband received a lot of attention and compliments while wearing it although only a handful of people knew who the character was.  (Most assumed it was a demon or devil but still thought it was done well.)  🙂

Burgers with Roasted Sweet Pepper, Portobello Slices, Bacon, and Slices of Tomato & Onion

Tuesday was my husband’s birthday, and I made him burgers on the grill for supper, because he loves burgers.  They turned out well, and he claimed his was the best burger he’d ever had.  😀  Meanwhile I’m not much of a burger lover, so I tried using toppings to make up for the beef on a bun thing.

I cut thin slices of a white onion and tomato slices leaving them raw, of course.  The sliced portobellos were grilled along with two big, sweet, long red peppers, a couple of thick cut bacon slices, a serrano pepper, and the burgers.  Now that I’ve had grilled bacon I resolve to never cook it inside again.  Not only was it tastier, but no mess or smell inside!  Woot.

burger toppings

Anyway, I assembled the burgers with bun, patty, mushrooms, [serrano on mine] peppers, bacon, then the onion, tomato, and top of the bun.  The patties were only sprinkled with pepper, salt, and MSG before grilling.  It was a quick and easy meal with not much to clean up, so I’ll surely make these again.

assembling burger

I apologise for not writing for so many days until now.  We were travelling a lot, and I haven’t felt so well either.  Driving, cooking, and cleaning are about all I’ve done before sleep, and I haven’t had anything to write about even if I’d had the energy.  Today I woke up finally feeling rested, so hopefully I’m back on track.  🙂

Today is to be the warmest and sunniest day yet of 2015.  We aren’t sure what we’ll do with it yet since friends are coming to visit, but you can bet we’ll be outside.  😉  I hope you readers are having some gorgeous weather to enjoy today too.

Making an Easy, pretty, and Budget Sewing Machine Table


A few years ago I bought a Pfaff industrial treadle sewing machine base/treadle off Craigslist.  I had acquired a vintage Necchi sewing machine, but when I used it in my Singer treadle base it ran obnoxiously slowly.  Industrial treadles have a larger flywheel which gives them more speed.  I searched and eventually found one, but the tabletop had been refitted to an odd model of machine with a longer oblong cutout.  😦  After bringing the treadle home I went to Home Depot to consider my options.  I ended up with a very cheap piece of ply-wood stuff and some embossed mini-trim.  The plywood was very soft and prone to damage, but it was cheap and the ideal size.

Checking out the positioning:

before doing anything

I measured and cut the trim with mitred edges and attached it with glue and nails.  Then I measured and drew cutting lines for the machine to sit in and sawed away:

glued on trim measuring and placing guidelines cutouts and drilled holes

Next I sanded and stained the tabletop.  Here are some detail shots of the trim:

trim detail corner detail

I set the hinges in place, screwed them in, and positioned the machine.  Done!



It sews nicely now.  This project happened three or four years ago, but the table held up better than I expected given the softness of the wood.  I dust it occasionally or wax it, and it still looks swell.