Friday, June 14, 2013

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Progress Edition

round button chicken
Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.  Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter.
One week and a day to go before the big party and so we're kicking it into high gear and trying to put the finishing touches on everything that needs to be touched so we (read: I) can move on to the cleaning and cooking part of the preparations.

But first, a breath and a pause to record some progress.

As you know, we've been hacking things all over the place.  We hacked curtains, curtains, and even more curtains (hey, you know that phenomenon that occurs when you say a word too many times in close succession, suddenly rendering the word meaningless?  Works with typing a word too many times as well), patio chair cushions, and cheapy-chic bathroom decor.  And we've been gardening a lot.

But that is not all, oh no, that is not all!

I know I told you about the clematis we got at 50% off at Lowe's (through the mighty power of guilt), but I haven't yet told you about this one.  Mom went back to Lowe's a few days ago (for something like peat moss or mulch or something) and saw this clematis that looked even more poorly than the first one we got!  Clearly, someone is not doing their job over at Lowe's or maybe they just have something against clematis.  Anyway, Mom scored this one for $5 which was 75% off!

And she planted it next to the lattice The Vicar erected to camouflage the rubbish bins.  Mom says she's never seen soil like ours.  Everything grows in it like gangbusters.  Of course the copious amounts of rain we've had helps...


I went out back this morning and was literally stopped in my tracks with jaw slacked when I spotted these flowers.  This is the pathetic, little, $5 clematis we planted less than a week ago!  Unbelievable!

Do you remember this, the improved front porch display?

Well, with a skosh of spraypaint...

It is now complete as a junked (or junqued as I like to say), upcycled trellis for our 50%-off rescued clematis which is doing nicely and filling with buds (though maybe not with the fervor or speed of its 75% off rescued cousin in the back yard).

Now, as soon as I figure out how to use those brick hooks, I can get our house number up and be done with this area!

This table is another small hack.  The table itself was donated to us.  And while I like it, I could not find a way to incorporate it into any room of the house.  I simply didn't have the room for it.  So we painted it and Mom donated a slab of marble she had trash picked years ago (and had used for this very purpose in her own back yard) for us to stick on the top.


I say, "we painted it," when I really mean Calvin did.  He had been a trifle more sassy than usual the day before this photo was taken and The Vicar decided it was because he was bored and idle.  So a bunch of extra tasks were sent his way.

The funny thing is, far from being sulky that he was being disciplined in small way, Calvin was a lot happier that day.  That's the thing with boys (and probably kids in general): they always need something to do or they get into trouble.

This is another thing that makes me happy: Mom's sewing machine.  As you've probably detected, it's quite old.  This was her grandmother's machine, the one she used to teach Mom to sew when she was a little girl.  She gave it to Mom when she stopped sewing and Mom has used it ever since.  A few years ago, it got caught in a small (but big enough) flood in our basement and its original case was ruined.  But unsinkable Mom somehow managed to fit it with a new, plastic base.  I have loved having it in my house and hearing its soothing, familiar whir in the background as Mom makes magic with it once again.


This is a hand-lettered sign that recently appeared on Calvin's closet door.  His room has a walk-in closet, the only one in the house, that I use for storage and he uses pretty much as a clubhouse.  He's got his beanbag chair, a small lamp, and all of his most treasured possessions squirreled away in there.  He originally wanted his bed in there but that was where we drew the line.  Anyway, a few days ago, I walked in there to deliver some laundry and saw this sign.

It says, "No Muggles!"


I can't tell you how encouraging and liberating this weekly event has been for me, particularly the "Real" aspect of it.  While it's true that sometimes I rein the realness in a bit before I share it, many, many times it feels good to just display it as it is and let it go.

This is what the dining room looked like when Mom finished sewing the other day.  This is actually how it still looked the morning after she had finished.  And...I'm pretty sure it still looks like this.  I haven't actually had much time to go in there and look around much less tidy it up.  We still have a few more things to finish so I've been furiously debating with myself whether I should tidy now or tidy later and tidy later has been winning.  I'm so dreadfully busy I only have time for meals and laundry!

And, finally, speaking of laundry: this is what happens when you get a notice home from the school saying there's been an outbreak of lice.  Greeeeeaaaaaaaat.   Just what I need right now.  Then again, when is a good time for a lice outbreak?  I was amusing myself during those countless trips back and forth to the washroom (most of which were required to re-balance the washer) by trying to imagine any situation in which any mother might sigh, throw down her dish towel, turn slowly, giving an appraising glance around the house and say, "You know, now would be a really good time for us to get lice."  I couldn't do it.  But it was amusing.

Those are all our pillows waiting in semi-quarantine to be disinfected.  And this is the very end of the massive mountain of linens that was clogging up our mudroom and washroom earlier this week!  It was horrifying!

One of the latter piles of linens waiting to be folded and returned to their rightful owners.  Again, this is probably about 1/4 of what passed through the production line.  I had to divide by Necessary For Sleeping Tonight, Not Necessary But Would Really Be Helpful, and Non-Essential Fluff.  I believe this was a pile of Not Necessary But Helpful.

The good news is, we were able to head the little buggers off at the pass.  No infestation here, whew!

Where have you found contentment this week?  Join in and share it with us!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Poverty is the Mother of Invention

Or...Hacking Can Give You Quite a Rush

We're on a hacking roll over here!  Work on the patio chair cushions is nearly finished (if it would just stop raining so we could get the chairs themselves stained) and we're almost ready to begin the next set of window treatments.  But in between, I took it upon myself to finish a project I began several years ago and always intended to finish.

Three or so years ago, I made and framed up a pair of silhouettes of the kids for my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift.  I had noticed she was partial to them, figured all grandmothers are thrilled to receive gifts that have their grandchildren as the theme, and, let's be honest, I knew it would be a relatively inexpensive gift.

I was right.  I was able to find an appropriate frame and some appropriate paper and mattes at very low cost.  And they looked wonderful and she loved them.

I was also smart.  I took the necessary preparations to make myself a set someday.

That day is today.  Or, rather, was yesterday.

I began (three years or so ago) by having the kids stand still and taking a profile shot of them.  Calvin wasn't having it and so he is sulking in his.  And, yeah, you can tell in the finished product.  I printed the photos (can't remember now if it was on our printer or at a place like Kinko's--probably Kinko's), then cut them out, like so.

I then traced the portrait onto thick, black paper (I don't know what kind; I'm not a "paper" person), then carefully cut it out.  And this is where I was brilliant: I traced and cut out two of each!  a-HA!  I used one set immediately for my mother-in-law's gift and squirreled the other set away for myself for later.

Fast forward to a week in June 2013.  I've been looking for something to put on the one bit of wall space I have in the upstairs bathroom that won't be holding shelves when all is said and done.  I know I need something black and white to cut the severity of the shocking green wall color.  And, whilst trolling through Pinterest, it hits me: BAM: silhouettes!  And then KABLAM: I have a pair already cut out!

Consequently, I found myself in a dollar store looking for frames.  I found the above.  I liked the matte and it was $1 and I thought I was home safe.  So I bought two.  And got them home only to discover that the matte and the "print" (to use the term loosely) are one piece and both are glued into the frame somehow.  There was no way to use just the matte and keep the frame intact, a fact I discovered when I accidentally tore the frames apart trying to get the matte out.

Ok, so $2 down the drain.  I realized I was going to have to kick things up a notch.

So I went to Walmart and spent twice as much and got two $2 frames.  I made sure they came apart easily before I bought them.  Sadder but wiser, that's me.

Now, some of you "paper" people would probably then go and get some really good quality, acid-free, organically pressed, moisture-proof, fancy paper on which to mount the silhouettes.

I am not that kind of person.

I cut the border that I liked from the "print" that I didn't from the dollar store artwork.  Then I flipped over the photo that came with the frame from Walmart and used that as my white background.  I know, the horrors.  It's a travesty.  Remember, I am not a crafty person!

From there, it was easy.  I buffed the glass clean (I think I used my shirt.  The one I was wearing) and positioned the silhouettes just so.  I didn't even use any adhesive.  I just stuck them in place and put the glass on.  I'm that kind of a maverick.  Oh, and I also used a black ball point pen to fill in some spots on the mattes where the blackness had worn off and the white layer underneath was showing.  You can't even tell.

Since I didn't feel like waiting around for The Vicar to find me a hammer and nails (and I didn't want to go rummaging around in the basement for them myself) I then used my mother's method of using straight pins and a high heeled shoe to mount the frames on the bathroom wall.  She told me that at one point in her life, everything on her walls was mounted using straight pins or sewing needles.  She says they leave smaller holes in the walls.

But looky!  Don't they look great?

Especially with the finished cafe' curtain and valance?  I tell you what, the hardest thing about this project was trying to get a photo!  With the light on, there was too much glare, with it off, it's too gloomy, and don't get me started on trying to position myself so I can capture the silhouettes, window, and a bit of the shower curtain all in the same frame!

There you go: my three-year but less than $10 decorating hack.  If I can do it, anyone can!

Friday, June 07, 2013

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Patio Chair Hack Edition

round button chicken
Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life.  Every Thursday at Like Mother, Like Daughter

We're in the thick of preparing for the graduation party over here so things are a bit hectic.  Hence, the reason I'm posting this an entire 24 hours late.

So, yeah, we've been busy but I still have a pretty cool hack to share with you.  At least I think it's cool.  Maybe it's lame...nah...I'll stand by it, it's cool.

But because of the busyness, I don't have time to categorize and label.  This week's Pretty, Happy, Funny, and Real are implied.

Ok, so maybe you're like me and have very little money.  Or maybe you have a comfortable  (or even luxurious) amount of money and simply like to live frugally.  Whatever, it doesn't matter.  For whatever reason, say you're living frugally and you have these chairs that your husband inherited from his family's country house and you're very glad to have them because 1) they're a piece of your husband's childhood and he has many happy memories surrounding them and you're a good wife who delights in her husband's happiness and 2) they were free.

But, say the cushions on those chairs need to be replaced and you have a graduation party coming up that you're planning on hosting in your back yard and you go and price new cushions and are shocked and dismayed to find that they cost more than a week's worth of groceries.  What do you do then?

Why, you start by going trash-picking, of course!

That's right.  Trash-picking, junking, dumpster diving, curbside rescues.  And if Providence is on your side, you happen to drive right past a sofa and two be-cushioned chairs out to the trash as you're formulating a plan and discussing the best way to go about trash-picking.  Which is exactly what happened to Mom and me.  We got in the car to drop Redheaded Snippet off somewhere and were all like, "Ok, so we need a good curbside haul.  Problem is, those are hard to plan.  They're usually just serendipitous--oh look!  There's a sofa!"  So we came home from our errand with a backseat full of sofa and chair cushions.

And this ottoman stuffed in the trunk which was a bonus.  We've been wanting one for a while now and this one, after a good scrubbing, a good spraying down with white vinegar, and two days baking in the hot sun, works mighty fine.  We'll probably reupholster it but it's fine for now.

Back to the cushions: once you get home, you zip or cut off the cushion covers and spray them good with whatever disinfectant you have.  And then you measure everything and if the cushions are a little too big, you just take a sharp knife and lop off a lump.

Then you go to the dollar store.

You could try Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Target, Walmart, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army.  But our first stop was the dollar store as it was closest.  Look at curtains, shower curtains, tablecloths, and sheets.  They're all good sources of inexpensive fabric.  And when you find curtains like these for $12 each and your seamstress checks the measurements of the fabric and determines that it will only take two packs to finish four cushions, buy them and be all excited that you're getting new patio chair cushions for only $24!

And THEN: get even more excited and grateful that Providence is still very much on your side when you discover at the cash register that the curtains are actually on sale for 50% off and you're getting new patio chair cushions for only $12!!

Once home, have a momentary deflating of your good mood bubble when you discover, though you really aren't surprised, that the fabric is really cheap and isn't going to last you more than a year.  But then bolster your spirits with the reasoning that, at $3 a cushion, you can probably afford to replace them next year and at least they'll make it through the graduation party.  And then let your brilliant seamstress get to cutting and sewing.

A couple of hours later, BOOM!  You'll have new patio chair cushions!  And you'll be happy and feel cleverly thrifty.

I don't have photos of the completely finished product because they're not quite finished yet.  The cushions we picked up for the seats turned out to be the wrong size altogether so we need another curbside haul.  And The Vicar has to paint the wood part of the chairs.  So the true "after" photos will have to wait for another time.  But it will be soon because this party is in TWO WEEKS!

Right.  I'm off.  I've got silhouettes to mount and lists to make and lanterns to price and rugs to pick out (amongst many, many other things)!