Thursday, November 27, 2008

Are you in? annual Christmas card photo is officially over, hurried along by the early snowfall that I desperately wanted to take advantage of for its photographic possibilities. It is not an event I particularly look forward to, however, I so enjoy the end result. I have tortured myself this way for as many years as I can remember, and love looking back on the photos of Christmases past. Many have been taken as the children sat under our Christmas tree, and others in front of the mantel, whenever we had one. For some reason, I have upped the pressure on myself to be creative and photograph them in a different way each year. Perhaps it is the ever-honest voice of my husband's brother that I hear as he proclaims that "...last year's was better" or " can never beat the one of the boys on the front step" (when they were five and three years old),

but regardless I plan that photo with the same intensity that the "old man" in A Christmas Story bargained for a deal on a Christmas tree. Who doesn't need a little more holiday pressure??!!

The common theme (besides well wishes to friends and family) has been to show off my children...and I make no apologies for that. They represent our family best; and their father and I have yet to join them in a Christmas card photo - partly because of the logistics behind it, and partly because I want to look at the photo with sheer contentment, instead of picking apart my flaws and second guessing what to wear. I think I am like many women, who shy away from the camera, wrong or right. I also think we are misguided, and may regret our opting out of these pictorial keepsakes.

I have, on one occasion, posed for professional photos with my boys, albeit completely unintentionally. The following photos were taken when my boys were two and one yrs old. Despite our best efforts, my baby would not let me put him down, nor would he relinquish the train the photographer had given him, to coax him from my arms. Try as we did, there was no way he would pose for her, thus she suggested that I be in the photos. Despite my protests (I was not dressed for a photo session), and my shyness in front of the camera, I knew it was a losing battle: either pose, or go home empty-handed (photo-wise, of course...).

Apprehension aside, I laughed my way through the shoot as both boys "kept it real" and alternately toddled away, pulled hair (see below), acted silly or squirmed in my arms. Either way, I ended up with photos that are priceless to me, and instead of scrutinizing myself, I simply saw an adoring mother of two hopelessly cute boys. On this occasion, I was in...!!

Are you?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Checklist

(Don't Laugh! My family prefers this over homemade)
Plenty of Dishes for the Feast?Check!
Canned Cheese for the Celery?
(Considered a delicacy in our home)Check!
Homemade Pies Ready to Bake?Check!
Cute Festive Dessert Plates?Check!

I'm almost ready for the big day.
But there's one important thing left to do. . .
I want to wish you all
a wonderful Thanksgiving!

for being
a very important part of my life.

I'll see you again next week.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Please Santa...and a winner!

photo source: Country Home magazine, styled by Matthew Mead

How many of you fine adults still pounce on the Sears Wish book and flip to the toy section? Well, I do, even though I show enough restraint to allow my kids first dibs. I remember being a young girl and finally getting my hands on it and stealing away to a quiet corner to look at all the loveliness. I'd greedily put a star beside each gift I coveted, especially if it involved Barbie or Sindy. I certainly didn't get everything I asked for, but that was hardly the point. By laying claim to a particular toy, it opened up the possibility that it might find its way under our tree. Between Mum and Santa, such magic could surely unfold?

photo source:

After my daughter had a good look through this year's edition, I curiously looked at what she had "starred". Instead of writing her name next to the toys or drawing a check mark or star, she had simply written the words: Please Santa?


How can I resist such a sweet request? I jotted down the numbers of a couple of the toys that I knew she was really hoping for and from Santa they will be! My boys have moved on from such wish lists, and instead I have to pull teeth to get them to reveal a few things I can pick up for them. Santa is over for them now, at least in the truest sense. Me? I'm a believer. Like one little friend of my son's said a few years ago: "How could there be no Santa? My parents certainly couldn't afford all that stuff!!" Indeed...


Now on to the winner of the Fairy Door: courtesy of the random number generator, PippaJo of Cottage at Wit's End is the lucky winner! Thanks to all who entered!!

Words of Advice

My son needs a chair for the desk I'll be painting.
I found this one.
I like it because it's very sturdy and
will hold up to the things that boys do to chairs.
(My boys like to do a balancing act
on only the back legs.)

I spray painted it black, of course,
but I couldn't stop there.
One of the great things about blogging
is that it challenges me to add
one more step to my projects.
I pulled out my silver paint pen
and outlined the chairs details.
I sanded it to give it a head start on the distressing
that it will naturally occur in my son's room.
It still didn't look finished.
That little flat bracing challenged me to do a little more.
Keeping in mind that my son is now twelve
and whatever I do, it will have to last from "tween" years
through, possibly, young adulthood.
I chose to write some words of advice.
Then I softened the writing by sanding it
with a fine grit paper.
I'm pretty pleased with the final look.
I hope my son will like it too!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Took My Breath Away

There's damage here.And a little here.It's missing one of these.But even with it's flaws,
how could I resist it's charming character?When I saw it, it took my breath away.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Snowball Effect...

You know how one thing leads to another? Well, so it was today. We awoke to a glorious pile of snow, and the holiday feel just snowballed from there (I know, I know...). Like I've said before, there are certain things that just have to happen to jump-start the holidays. Like when our great Canadian coffee franchise comes out with their holiday cup (a large black, one sugar please):

Speaking of hot drinks, Sophie ordered up her favourite: hot chocolate with a candy cane. Note, my snowflake mug that I brought up from one of the many bins I rifled through on Friday as I prepare myself to decorate next week. This week was all about cleaning...

Speaking of cleaning, today was good for a little more pre-holiday-decorating this case, it was Sophie's Barbie house that was in question. Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: she suggested that we give Barbie a Christmas Tree! You know I was all over that!!

Speaking of Sophie, we decorated her bedroom and tree last evening. She had a great time, but still loads the tree three ornaments to a branch! She keeps me real...

And speaking of tree ornaments, I re-sized my silhouettes to fit in these ornament frames from Walmart. I made them as gifts for my mother-in-law for Christmas. I am making a set for myself, but I will glitter the frames to snazz them up!

And speaking of gifts, I gave the gift of my time and energy today: while dropping off my eldest son so he could watch a basketball game, I was blocked in by a man whose car wheels were spinning in the messy snow of the parking lot. I stopped, and he got out of his car and asked me if I "wanted a push?" Of course, I heard "Do you wanna push?" Admittedly a teensy bit taken aback, I shrugged sure... He walked closer to my car (to push) as I got out and leaned into the job of pushing his car! Puzzled, he asked, "Are you sure...?" and I told him I'd give it a try. He graciously offered to have me steer the car as he pushed, but when I realized it was a standard, I deferred. My last effort at driving a manual transmission involved repeatedly stalling and my eldest brother yelling at, no thanks! Back in my position of power, I suggested (to this rather good-looking man), "Maybe we should try getting the car rockin'" Oyyy...and we just met!! To make a long story less long, I succeeded in getting the car unstuck! Who knew I had it in me? As the car wheels spun to freedom, the man unceremoniously yelled out the door, "Thanks!" and he was off. I may have been a hero, but I don't mind saying I didn't feel all that feminine doing it. I know, I know, girl power...let's just say I got back in touch with my femininity with a little therapeutic shopping!!

So that's it, in a nutshell. It started with some snow, and ended with it, too. I arrived home from my rescue mission to this:

There's nothing like a big, fat snowman to make things Christmasy!


Don't forget to enter my Fairy Door give-away (see post below)!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Silhouette Tutorial and a Fairy Door...from me to you!!

photo source: Ladies Home Journal

I think of all the projects I have undertaken, my fairy door and silhouettes have been the most popular. Like me, many of you see the charm in whimsy, and enjoy keeping decorating light-hearted and fun, and not stressful and expensive. I have been very remiss to not respond to the call to explain how I made my silhouettes. I have seen many great step-by-step tutorials on how to create them, and again, I will not measure up to their attention to detail. I am a one day project girl. If it takes more than a day, I am less likely to do it. Basically, I bore easily and thus focus more on projects that I can complete in a flash. My silhouettes were no different...

So, here is the nuts and bolts of how to make your own silhouettes. For those needing more complex and/or detailed instruction, go here. For those who are more lazy and/or have an attention span akin to mine, sit back and take (a few) notes:

First, round up all of your subjects. If you have to bribe or threaten them to sit still, so be it. That's part of the tutorial, in my world. Have them sit on a chair, with a blank wall (I skipped this step), and stare straight ahead. I photographed my people on their right sides. This is important if you want the finished product to show left facing. Tell them no smiles are allowed - maybe they are, but mine simple sat closed mouthed (thoughts unspoken) and stared irritably into space. I photographed them from a distance of approx. 3ft away. I forget if I used the zoom feature or not, but this is an example of the shot I ended up with:

or this:

(See, they don't need to dress up!)

You may have to take a few shots to ensure all of the pictures are roughly the same "size" (i.e. look the same when you see them on your computer screen. After you are satisfied that you have your "shots", upload them to your computer, then use your printer to print them off (in colour) in the size you wish the finished project to be. My frames are 8x10 oval, so I sized them accordingly (convenient way to say I forget if I printed them off in a 5x7 size or 8x10...sorry). Do note, if your subject has curly hair, as my Sophie does, a pony-tail will be much easier to cut around and look more real.

After you have them all printed off, glue the pictures (using a scrap booking/acid free glue stick) onto acid free black card stock. Then, using small sharp scissors, cut carefully around the features of your subject's face. Now is a great time to cut away any double chins, super-sized moles... basically give your subject free plastic surgery! Of course, if the subject is a child, simply cut away...they are already perfect! Once you have your subject in silhouette form, do some doctoring to the shoulder area to make their shoulders look more authentically silhouette (see after photos below): To finish, carefully peel away the pasted on colour photo and flip over to the perfect side, which will be your completed silhouette, facing left. I adhered mine to white card stock (cut to mimic the oval paper that came with the frame), using a piece of acid-free double sided tape, then put the frame all back together and hung it on my wall. Easy peasy... I am not kidding!!

Now, for the fun part!
I am giving away a fairy door to one of you! It is red and glittery, and very sweet, and you can simply adhere it to the inside (or outside) of your home using heavy duty, double-sided tape. Note: it is the door only; it does not have the surrounding moulding that mine has, but it is very cute anyway!! (It also measures roughly 5"tall by 2" wide).
If you would like to win, simply leave me a comment (if you don't have a blog, also leave your email address) by Tuesday morning, Nov.25th (at which time I will close comments). If you'd like to be entered twice, simly mention this give-away on your own blog (with a link back to this post) and let me know you did.

It's Time for Recess!

Am I the only adult who loooongs for a recess break?!? I can tell it's time for my recess when, what is usually fun becomes tedious. I love to design and create and paint, but when that seems to feel more like a "have to" than a "want to", I know it's time to change the routine. And that only means one thing to me---thrift and dollar store shopping time. Oh Yeah!!!

I found these tall metal houses at the thrift store
for a dollar a piece.
These sparkly cone trees are from the dollar store.Put them all together and what do you have?A simple little Christmas village
and a happy, rested little me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Painting Novel

Cleaned, Sanded, Wiped Down, & Starting to Prime

Ahhh yes, another piece of furniture for my son's room. This was originally a tv stand, but it will be used for storing bins of toys. It's sturdy and made from oak.

Lately I've had several questions about spray painting furniture. I did a little tutorial a while back, but I thought I'd go more in depth here.

**If you're a painting pro,
you can skip all of this and scroll down
to the photo of the finished project**

The prep work is VERY important to a good paint job. If the piece already has a paint or stain finish you will need to give it a good cleaning. A solution with a degreaser works best, but you can use a good dish soap too. This will take off any build up of stuff like food, hand prints, everyday grime, etc. Be careful not to soak the wood! If the piece needs to have any repairs like gluing or filling in holes or cracks, this is the time to do it.
Next you need to sand the piece. I prefer using a medium grit. You don't need to sand the project until it's bare. You only need to make the existing surface a little rough so that the paint will adhere. Sanding the original finish makes the new paint able to bond to the old. You can use a liquid sander if there's a lot of detail to your pieces. When I use the liquid, I will often go over the piece again with a light sanding in the areas where it will get the most wear.Be sure to wipe everything down with a tack cloth or a dry, clean rag to get off ALL of the dust. If your project has areas that don't need to be painted (like the insides of drawers) you should mask off those areas with newspaper and painter's tape.
If I'm sure that the original finish was a latex or spray paint, I don't use a primer. However, if I've sanded off the finish, or if the finish was a factory finish, then it's important to prime your project. Primer helps the paint adhere well. It also helps avoid any strange reactions that can occur when different paint chemicals mix. Use a quality high adhesive primer, unless you want to distress your piece after it's painted---sanding it to make it look worn. If you prime then sand, you'll uncover the primer instead of the wood and it may not be the look you're after. But if you choose not to prime, then the paint may continue get distressed/chipped with use.

Use light colored primer for light paint colors
and dark primer for dark paint colors.

Now it's time to paint. Shake the can well. Hold the can about ten inches from your project and spray in a steady back and forth motion, slightly overlapping each stroke. I like to think of my hand as an automated arm, holding the spray the same distance across the piece. I also start spraying about an inch to the side of the piece and stop an inch after it. I DO NOT push on the spray continually. You get a much more even spray if you start and stop with each stroke, keeping the can in motion as you spray. Shake the can occasionally between spray strokes.
It's important to spray a LIGHT coat of paint! Don't try to saturate the piece with paint on the first coat because the paint will run. If this occurs, wait for the paint to dry and then lightly sand the run marks. Give the piece a light sanding between each coat to remove imperfections, then wipe off the dust. I give each piece at least two coats of paint, and usually several coats on the areas that will receive the most wear.

I like to use these name brand paints.
They cover well, are durable and they come in a satin finish.

HERE'S MY TIP: Do Not be tempted to use every ounce left in the can on your final coat. I have found that the very bottom of the paint can does not go on as smoothly. It may spritz out or look a little powdery. When dry, the finish can appear blotchy, shiny in some spots and dull in others. You can always finish off the can by using it as a first coat on another project. The last coat should be the smoothest. Sometimes I will use a new can for the final coat---which explains why I buy so many cans of paint. And if you're wondering, I usually use at least two cans on a project but, I've used as many as five cans depending on the original finish and the size of the project. Using several cans is costly, but spray paint is convenient, quick, and it cures faster and to a harder finish than brushing on paint.
Spray paint doesn't add a lot of thickness or moisture to the wood the way brush on paint does, so you don't have to worry about swelling joints or sticking drawers. It's also easy to touch up. If chips occur, just give it a quick, even stroke of spray paint to cover the damage.
I prefer a satin finish on all of my projects. I like the warmth of the sheen better than a flat finish and satin is a little more forgiving than a gloss finish. If you want extra protection for your project, you can spray on a polyurethane or use a wax made for painted surfaces. Both products can be found in the paint aisle.
Finished and waiting for the bedroom to be painted

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Christmastime's a Comin'

Yes, Christmas is coming, but there are a few things that have to happen before I bring out the decorations. First is my birthday (today), where I am going to enjoy being spoiled rotten by my husband and family. I am not really a presents girl, although I have already received some beauties from some friends (a glittered tree and brown, floral rubber boots), and of course, the recessed panelling that my sweet husband installed for me as my birthday present. I finished painting the front entry panelling yesterday, and I am a happy girl. For some reason, my husband has been very agreeable to my building projects lately, so to return the favour I cooked up his favourite meal yesterday: my famous meatloaf with all the trimmings! I know how to keep him happy, too, and it really does make him putty in my hands! Being the birthday girl and all, I also get my favourite meal tonight - Chinese take-out. Can a birthday get any better?
yep, they're all ours...
This weekend also calls for the annual Christmas parade in my town, and it is the official kick-off to Christmas for me. I will bring out the candy canes that I have stowed away, and on Monday I will begin the decorating process. I will then take the kids to the mall to select names from the Salvation Army tree, and they will help me pick out the gifts, one for each of their ages. I am also looking forward to Sophie's Christmas concert, as the boys have moved on to Junior High, where such a thing is no longer done...not cool, I guess.

By the way, thanks for all of your fashion advice! Heaven knows I need it sometimes, and looking at my pasty, white legs, I don't know if there is enough self-tanner on earth to darken up my gams!!
I just had to share this picture of my "baby" sleeping last night as I went in to check on her...

I will now share more Christmas inspiration to help get you into the mood for the holidays:
photo: Pottery

above two photos: Room Service Home