Highchair Tray to Shabby Chic Sign

While scouting around taking photos of abused farmland a couple of months ago I found this plastic highchair tray next to a truck highway.


Tire marks all over it… and normally I don’t like working with plastic, but I did love the shape and thought it had sign potential. I just had to figure out a way to disguise the plastic aspect.

So I applied two coats of thick homemade chalk paint, which gave it a nice plaster kind of feeling.

hazel-sign-2 Then I tore up a scrap  of wallpaper I rescued from behind a paint and wallpaper store. I applied it with a generous coat Modge Podge (although not so generous around the edges).

Several of the strips were bent over the edge of the surface with the aim of creating the effect that the entire piece had once been covered.


The sign is going to be for a little girl’s bedroom. I used my home computer to choose the font and size I want and printed it off. Then used artist’s tracing paper (carbon paper or graphite paper) to trace the lettering onto the sign.

Because some parts of the lettering are very narrow and I have rapidly aging eyes, I used a fine point Sharpie to fill in the letters.


Then it was time to sand to further the aged & distressed look. Mostly I used a sanding block, but on the edges of the sign I used the dull edge of a butter knife – and selectively.

The sanding block was old and kinda grubby – which gave the paper edges a more convincing aged look.  Notice in some places I left the edges of the paper curled – again, to look more convincingly aged.

The lettering didn’t sand effectively- an important different between ink and  paint, I guess. Note to self.


Nature’s Spider Repellants: Horse Chestnuts

It’s autumn and with the crisp, fresh air and trick-or-treaters comes the annual invasion of spiders into our homes.

The link between indoor insecticides and blood cancers in children reported by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2015  should be of concern to us all.  of

I understand that spiders are an extremely beneficial insect, but if I’m footing the bills I want to have some say over roommates. And since infancy I’ve had a major aversion to spiders.

Now, there is always the catch-and-release approach, or the tissue-to-toilet disposal method, but there is a way to vastly diminish the number of spiders in our homes without either chemicals or confrontation.

Simply place a few Horse Chestnuts at the foot of door jams on doors leading outside and on windowsills and you should see far fewer, if any spiders. Be sure to replace them each autumn.

The good news is that if you know someone who has a Horse Chestnut tree, they’ll likely welcome you to take all you want. They present challenges.

The outer shell usually opens and releases the chestnut shortly after it falls to the ground and then quickly breaks down. But until then they are spiky and a bit dangerous for children and pets galloping around the yard..

The chestnuts themselves are very slippery – especially when wet – and present their own potential hazards on a busy lawn or walkway.

Don’t get me wrong. The trees are worth it. They are spectacular to look at and the spikes of scented blossoms in May are dizzyingly lovely.

A friend’s sixth grader has to come up with something he can make and sell each year at his school’s Christmas craft fair. In an effort to get him to consider selling Horse Chestnuts I picked a sack full.

Then I scrounged around the house for materials to create this display.








Fresh Bread Delivery

Did you know bread stays fresher in a breadbox than it does in the refrigerator? Wikipedia says so

This mailbox was rescued from the side of a formerly rural road where a huge condo development was getting started.

As explained in a previous post, under the previous government Canada Post was replacing individual mailboxes in rural areas with group boxes that area residents have to walk or drive to in order to get their mail.


I had been thinking for a while about using old mailboxes for kitchen storage, and in particular that they would make adorable bread boxes, but the ones I found were usually in such a state that there would be health concerns using them for food.

But this one was nice and clean inside – just needed a good wash and dry. (I would still only used for wrapped baked goods, but that is true of kitchen cupboards, as well).


I scrubbed it down, sanded off as much of the rust as I could, then mixed up a batch of  homemade chalk paint.

I wanted this project to be a gift of appreciation to a local organic bakery I have a lot of respect for (and several waistline inches!). I picked this blue paint that is very close to one of A Bread Affair’s corporate colours.

In between coats of paint (I rarely need more than 2, but this took 3), I played with signage.


As much as possible I like to create a unique look, so I blended lettering styles including the very traditional 2″ stationery store stencils and an oversized stylized “B” to give it a one-of-a-kind look.

For whatever reason, my traditional technique of using artist tracing paper to transfer the outline to the mailbox didn’t work so I retraced it onto a plastic sheet and created my own stencil.

  (I don’t know what I would do without Sharpies!)

I was so excited by the end result I started taking photos before the paint was dry.



vintage charm button 2




10 Junk Altered Autumn Cards

Old lace, fabric scraps (including the seams that are of no use as dust cloths!), old buttons, belt buckles, bottle caps, corn husks, candy wrappers, old keys and broken jewelery pieces…

When most people do a cleaning purge such items go the trash.  With me they go on cards.

I recently took the opportunity to get a jump on my holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) cards.   Boy I  had fun!

I’m getting a lot more confident in my multi-material play at the same time.

And since the cards frequently include something more, I pulled out to include with my cousin’s card this antique autograph book that belonged to our  Grandma.



I enjoy the benefits of the internet as much as the next guy. But I swoon over hand-written cards  and letters.

I don’t receive a lot these days, but here’s a sample of what my family and friends can look for in their mailboxes over the next few weeks.













vintage charm button 2


Mailbox to Shop Sign

Remember the mailbox I added to the garden in 2015?

When a lovely woman opened a new antique store near here I planned a gift of the mailbox planter.

Just removed as much of the numbers as possible and applied (roughly – so it would fit the rest of the box) some homemade housepaint.

Printed off some wording, copied it onto the mailbox, used marking pens to fill in the lettering and added a fence picket as a directional arrow. Voila!


vintage charm button 2


Altered Card Tutorial

When I posted my Adventures in Altered Cards and Books I was asked to provide some “how to”.  So here we go.

You know those drug commercials on tv that say “people with addictions may be at risk for abusing this drug”?

I think it is only responsible of me to offer a similar warning: if you have ever looked around your studio (which tends to become your entire home) and thought you were one pallet shy of being a full-fledged hoarder approach the making of altered cards and journals with caution.

They are wildly addictive. They are soooo fun to make, and because there is no template they provide a great opportunity to explore the depth of your creativity.

The best part is the reaction you will get from loved ones. In these days of email, texting and facebook messaging, receiving a card in the mail is special. Receiving a handmade work of art blows people away.

These cards don’t get thrown away once they’ve served their purpose. And that is a good place to start.

I use old cards – of every shape and size. Because I do a lot of these, I need a lot of cards so I ask close friends and family members to give me their cards that would otherwise get chucked. I’ll explain in a minute how to deal with the written messages in used cards.

I keep an old cookie tin on top of my filing cabinet and throw old cards in there until I’m ready to use them. It’s ideal to have a variety of sizes (you may have a piece of fabric or scrapbook paper that you know a particular friend would love and it’s great if you have a card that will fit it. But of course you can also use any cardstock or lightweight cardboard like cereal boxes to make a base card.

I begin by gathering together a bundle of materials I plan to use. Fabric, ribbon, buttons, vintage paper, bits of jewellery & other embellishments.

The last card I made included a fabulous piece of rust that I had been saving for months. Inspiration for a card can come from anywhere. Answer that knocking.


I lay the card out on its back (several cards in a row for large-scale card-giving occasions like Christmas and Valentines).

Then I paint the interior with homemade white or cream chalk paint (2/3 paint, 1/3 plaster of paris). It covers any writing and gives a sumptuous texture to the interior. Allow it to dry completely.

Next I apply a generous coat of modge podge (fabric glue works great, too) to the entire outside of the card, being sure to apply right to the edges and corners.



While the modge podge is still wet lay it onto the fabric you want to use as base. You can see here how I worked with 2 cards – if you have a lot of cards to make, it is most efficient to do them in small batches.

NOTE: lay the card on the backside (i.e. lighter) of the fabric so the best side will be the visible base of your card)

almacardtutorial5  Let it dry thoroughly.

Then I use scissors (the sharper the better) and cut to the edge of each card.


I feel like a hypocrite saying that: I own about 10 pairs of scissors and not one of them is sharp. Inexcusable. I live 2  blocks from a professional blade sharpener.  I tell myself I love the ragged edge, but you can see the result of using dull scissors.


Then the real fun begins. I start playing with layers.


I’ve made lovely cards with only 2 layers and those with as many as 9 or 10 layers.

Again, I use a range of adhesives: hot glue, modge podge (commercial and homemade) and fabric glue.  They all work pretty much equally on fabric, but you may need something stronger (like E6000) for heavier embellishments.



On this card I have 8 levels including the dried roses (real – from my garden – not silk)


I hope my cousin Alma likes it.

A final caution: if you find you love making altered cards like I do, try to resist the urge to prolong greeting hugs so you can rub your friend’s shirt fabric between your fingers.  And most of all, try to resist checking out buttons on your friends’ clothing.  You may have to explain if a person you are talking to crosses their arms and gives you a dirty look.



Repurposed Computer Keys

computerkeyvases1A few years ago I worked in an office that was changing all of its computer keyboards. Old ones were stuffed into the cardboard boxes that the new ones had just vacated. I asked what was going to happen to the old keyboards and was told that the large boxes holding numerous small boxes containing keyboards and cords would be deposited in the garbage dumpster behind the building.

That would have been a violation of regional and municipal waste management bylaws.  I asked if I could have the keys… I knew they had to be good for something.

While the technicians did their thing I worked as fast as I could to remove the keys. I’ve had them in a plastic bag in my home office ever since.

Today, while thinking about a little gift I could give someone starting a new job in IT, I remembered the keys.


The USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in 2015 61,400 tonnes of keyboards and mice were “trashed”.

Electronic waste has become a global crisis. My country, Canada, is said to produce 65+ million metric tonnes annually. http://globalnews.ca/news/2194391/electronic-waste-is-piling-up-heres-why-you-should-care/

Here’s a decorating idea for an office party…




Altered Card Canada’s Parliament Building


I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use this gold maple leaf lapel pin that I got at an estate sale.

An old friend I lost touch with – crazily because it is someone who was precious to me – just got a major career promotion within the Canadian government.

As AiJ readers may know, I love making altered cards. But I’m nervous about sending this one. Not everyone shares the same artistic taste.

My favorite feature is the piece of rust I used as a harvest moon behind the corrugated cardboard hand torn silhouette of the center block of Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

Would you feel really special if someone sent you a hunk of rust and fabric fragments?

Fingers crossed!


For the first time I also altered the envelope. The base of the card was fabric from a pillow sham that came with a Movie blanket (one I bought specifically for the sofa) and never had use for the pillow sham. I cut a piece of the edging and attached it to the envelope with a vintage button.

It can’t go in the mail like this: Canada Post sorting machines rip embellished envelopes. But I will be sending this expedited mail, so Canada Post will put it into one of their expedited mail cardboard envelopes.

Repurposed Mantle Clock

Don’t you love receiving a framed photo of a special moment or person?  Me too!

No number of digital photos can compare to the enjoyment of  nicely framed specially chosen photos of family, friends and shared moments around my home and office.

I also give them as gifts and am always on the hunt for special, one-of-a-kind frames.  I have a drawer full of empty frames I like or ones I bought at estate sales and painted or embellished.

Packing up purchases from an antique auction I attended, I saw potential in a non-working mantle clock with no key to wind it (in short, it will take a few bucks  to get it working).

But I thought the casing would make a photo really stand out.

For privacy reasons I can’t show the clock with the photo of my friend I intend to put in it, but I put in a couple of cut-outs to convey the concept.

It is going to look amazing with the graduation photo I am gifting to the graduate’s proud parents … but it would make a retirement or birth photo look very special

Any photo you want to give as elegant a setting as possible.

And in this case at least the clock workings don’t have to be removed or damaged… so the integrity of the original clock is not sacrificed.

Every antique and estate auction and lots of garage and estates sales are full of antique and vintage clocks – and often empty clock cases.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.



Flower Tins

Confession: when I go with my uncle to take consignments for the auction I have to leave my wallet at home.  I have an addiction. I’m a junk junky. o

Sometimes, even without my wallet I frequently come home to my bursting apartment (I’m not quite being scouted for the tv show “Hoarders” but it gets close sometimes).  Occasionally I use the Wimpy (the Popeye cartoon character) approach “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”.  If it’s a really special item – and I’ll share a hilarious story in an upcoming post – my darling uncle buys it for me.

In this case, our friend John, who buys and sells out of a commercial storage locker, as well as an antique mall booth and a portion of a new antique store, gave me a handful of leftover tins. I wouldn’t have bought them all – there are some American tins and I only collect Canadian and Irish-theme tins.

This blog is as much about landfill reduction as demonstrating value (historic or commercial) in items that some people would throw away, so John’s gift was a challenge.

This random collection of antique and vintage tins contains a couple of Canadian tins that will join my collection and the rest I’m going to use for gift-giving.

Mid-summer gardens are flower-filled and blogland is full of posts of unconventional items to use as vases.  Second nature to this junkaholic.

with flowers 2

A “welcome to the neighbourhood” gift for a new neighbor who has a potted garden, a few thank yous for dinners and drinks and garden plants, and in no time I’ve checked off a number of names on that perpetual gift list I keep in my head.

I’ll be honest. A couple I’m going to de-plant and send off to friends and contacts who might enjoy additions to their own collections.  Thoughtfulness, ingenuity or collect-it-forward sooo  outrank a price tag when it comes to gift-giving.