Cedar Reindeer Rescue

The At the end of August I drove past a number of items that had been placed curbside.

I saw potential in several pieces, including the two cedar reindeer.

They are similar but not an exact match. Even the wood is different colours. And those fuzzy pink noses! A cross between Rudolph and Pinocchio.

I used nail polish remover to remove the pink noses and the plastic neck ribbons. I also removed the plastic eyes which had been glued on crudely, and one of which was missing.

Then I watered down some white latex paint and gave them a quick whitewash. The cedar was untreated, so it absorbed almost all of the wash in some spots, which added to the rustic, country look.

The whitewash made them look a tad more like a matching pair.


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.








Autumn Teacup Wreath

I just couldn’t stand to see these antique Royal Albert Crown China (Devonshire Lace pattern – 1930s) teacups thrown away – even though they had cracks on their insides.



They were a Craigslist freebie – the ad said if no one replied by that evening they were going in the trash. I couldn’t bear the thought.

Among other considerations, these types of dishes cannot go in our recycling bins. They go to landfill.  No way!


So I gathered some autumn rust coloured hydrangeas (yes – I cheated and added a couple of Dahlias for filler because I temporarily ran out of hydrangeas and have to wait for more to start to dry – too hard to handle when they are fresh fresh) from the garden and made a teacup wreath.

But you get the idea.  Not including the harvest and drying of hydrangeas, this project took a whopping 15 minutes to make and cost nothing (I used a grapevine wreath that I had on hand. I bought 3 for 75 cents at a yard sale a year and a half ago but I have used them several times already).


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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.



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Rustic Engagement Sign

This wonderfully bashed-up trumpet is not new to this blog. And the door from a 200 year old Quebec cupboard is not new by any measure.

But they are new together, like my 58/63 year old friends who just got engaged.

They wanted to keep it quiet – it’s not the first time for either of them.

But I convinced them to have a little soiree to share their happy news and made this for the occasion.

And it all comes apart very easily (no chalk paint here – just regular latex that will scrub off fairly easily within a few days), so the pieces can live on to trumpet other occasions.


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DIY Junk Thanksgiving Cards

My American cousins have an extra month to get ready, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner for us Canadians (2nd Sunday in October for all of you who are planning to share with me YOUR handmade Thanksgiving cards.

But most importantly, make them to share with your family and real life friends. I promise you, homemade cards are transformative.  You’ll be (pleasantly) embarrassed by the fuss you will receive.

Especially if you do what I do and make each card especially for the person you are giving it to.

Here are some examples:

The card above is for Mrs. Choi. Until she retired, she ran a coffee shop where my Uncle (often) and I (occasionally) had breakfast.

Currently, a couple of times a month, she hangs on my Uncle’s apartment door a grocery bag containing a home cooked meal. I am very thankful for her many acts of kindness and caring.

These dried berries were picked from the bush in front of her former restaurant.

The blue and white checked fabric is from a tea towel she gave me in her restaurant to wrap my hand. My dog had just died and I was distracted and cut myself. She gave me the towel (told me to keep it) and held me while I cried.  I’m embarrassed it has taken me so long to return this scrap of gratitude.

A month or so ago a local antique picker and dear friend sold my Uncle a couple of antique apothecary bottles.  My Uncle is almost 80 and should have retired some time ago, but he can’t give up the people. He’s not making much money as an auctioneer, and John gives him great deals.

One of the apothecary bottles was cracked (which was reflected in the price, of course) and as we were unpacking the van, my Uncle started to tell me to throw it out… then, to just take it (watch for it – it’s going to be a Christmas project). He’s also the friend who gave me some antique tins. But I took the label off and saved it for this card, to let John know how much I appreciate his sweetness.

I don’t buy corn husks unless hell freezes over – or I forgot to dry my own.  This patch is from fabulous Chilliwack Corn (Jubilee!) consumed 2 weeks ago.

This card is for my baby brother (who keeps telling me “52 is not a baby”). We lost touch for too many years and I take every opportunity to tell him how grateful I am to have him back in my life.

There is nothing about the makings of the card related to him – except me. And the fact that we grew up in what was a rural village.

The centre is (blush) candy wrappers. My embarrassment stems not only from how  bad the sugar is for me, but the wrappers are not recyclable in the area where I live. Pure landfill fill… so I’m on a mission to find things to do that keep them from the dump and hopefully burn off a couple of calories. Also the bottom ruffle on John’s card.

MANY more cards to come — because I have so much to be grateful for.

Although I’ll never top last year’s Thanksgiving post – my most popular post to date


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Candlesticks from Repurposed Lamp Parts

I have one board on Pinterest for ideas for items created from lamp parts. It has hundreds!

One of my personal favorites is candlesticks (maybe “candlestands” because I don’t limit myself to posts or “sticks”)


For example, this pair of Art Deco-style light shades make great candle holders and would look fabulous on a dinner table dressed to create a certain sleek look like a New Year’s Eve Buffet

This rustic-looking candlestick came from a lamp I bought at a Thrift Store for the shade. The stand was a hideous (IMHO) colour so I grabbed a cloth I had used to wipe up a paint spill and invented a new (to me, at least) paint technique – the swipe.

I got distracted when I went to get a clean paint brush and when I got back it had dried like this. A kind of self-distressed thing. I liked it.

And since I’ve started this candlestick pairing thing (whole new line of interior décor), I would use this when serving hearty Irish Stew and rustic, whole grain loaf.


The oldest  and my favorite of these candlesticks is this gorgeous metal pillar. I bought the lamp for $8 at a thrift store with this result in mind. It was the first time I single-handedly dismantled anything electric and it took a long time.

But you learn with experience – and in addition to still having parts available to use on other projects, I have used this candlestick on indoor and outdoor tables and in the garden (and it doubles beautifully as support for a fruit basket or cutting board with cloche). But most of the time it lives on my bedroom nightstand.


And, of course, to really appreciate a candlestand, the candles should be lit, right?




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.



Wedding Card Mailbox

WeddingCardsMailboxThis is a remake of a plastic mailbox I painted last fall for Christmas porch decoration Christmas Mail.

A friend’s backyard wedding this summer has me seeing wedding décor everywhere I look.

The other side of the mailbox had a big chip in the front. I covered it by making a few quick and simple fabric flowers and hotglued them to the mailbox.

The wording was printed off on the computer and applied using the packing tape method. A string of very inexpensive imitation pearls was hot glued for a little elegance.