Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quick Tip Tuesday: Easy/Cheap Chalk Paint Fix

For a while now I've been a little tired of my decor. I went through a period where I painted everything black. And for several years I've loved the look of the black against all the other rich colors that I've added to our home. But suddenly it all seemed a bit heavy to me.  After getting rid of a few pieces that I just didn't love anymore, I decided to do some rearranging and updating.

I bought this great dresser a few years back at my local Thrift for $35. I loved all the drawers and how it had kind of a Pottery Barn feel to it. It was a little rough when I got it, but after some sanding and a few nice coats of beautiful black, it became a focal piece in our living room. 

Thanks to Pinterest, I've suddenly become taken with that warm, mustardy tone of yellow. I started out just painting my doors in the happy shade. But when I looked at my black dresser one morning, I decided that my left over door paint was the perfect color for a makeover.

I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a lazy painter. I love the look of the finished product, but any shortcut I can take to get there and I'm all over it. Enter chalk paint. It's been the hot thing in the blog world for a while now. And it's expensive. And, though all the reviews I've read tell me that the name brand redi-mix chalk paint is amazing, there was just no way I could justify spending that amount on a small quart of paint. But, again thanks to Pinterest, I found the formula to make my own magic mix. The best part is that you can use any latex paint you have (or check out the mis-match paint at your local paint store for another cheap alternative) a small amount of Plaster of Paris and some water. That's it. Three ingredients.

The Magic Formula:

1/2 cup Plaster of Paris
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups latex paint

In a small container, mix the water and the Plaster of Paris powder until well blended. Add the paint and mix well again. I keep my paint in an old coffee can with a tight fitting lid so that I can cover it between coats. What's so amazing about this paint? Virtually no prep work. Oh yeah. Right up my alley. The only thing I do on most pieces is to give it a quick wipe down to get rid of any dust. Early Sunday morning I hefted the dresser out in the yard, mixed my bucket of paint and started slopping it on. That's another great thing about this mix. You don't have to be too careful about how you apply it.

The first coat generally looks awful and I always wonder if I've made a mistake and shouldn't have started. By the second coat, I'm generally in love with how things are looking. This dresser took three coats to cover but that was only because I was using a much lighter color to cover black. But by the time the third coat dried I was doing a happy dance and totally in love with the velvety yellow color.

When the paint was good and dry, I went over it all lightly with a fine grade sandpaper, wiped it down with a dry cloth and then applied three coats of good old Johnson's Floor Wax. I like the velvety feel of the wax finish. 

The picture just doesn't do it justice. Tried as I might I couldn't get the light right in the photo. But the color is warm and so perfect for fall. And it was so easy to do. So go find a beat up piece of furniture and give this easy fix a try. Before you know it you'll be walking around looking at your things and thinking "wow, that would look awesome with a coat of chalk paint!"

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Bittersweet Trip

My Uncle George passed away last week. George was my fathers brother and the little boy that you see in the photo at the top of my blog sitting on my grandmothers lap.  He was quite a character, my Uncle. All of the Smith men are. He loved to tease, tell a good story and drink a good cold beer. 

Several years ago, my Uncle and his family moved to Idaho. From the very beginning, Uncle George would tell us how Challis was God's Country. I knew it was beautiful, but this trip I saw it through George's eyes...

The Salmon River
The Sawtooth Mountains
...breath taking beauty.

My Mom and I left Oregon for the 7 hour drive early Friday morning. One of the perks of traveling with my Mom is that we get to catch up on all our visiting. Though we talk daily, our trips are a time to talk about old memories and family history. And I love to take her to beautiful areas that she's never seen before. The road to my Uncle's home went through country that I hadn't seen for years and the memory of family adventures in that area warmed my heart as we traveled through.

We arrived in Challis late afternoon and then gathered with family that evening. It was a time to catch up with cousins that I hadn't seen for years and to get to meet all the new family that had come along since we had last been together. I forgot how much time had passed until I saw Jeff and Laura's children all grown with children of their own. 13 grandchildren in all with one on the way. I looked around and saw Jeff's son Josh, just a little boy last time I saw him, with his beautiful wife and daughter and another daughter on the way. My cousin Sheila came with her family and I was happy to finally get to meet her husband Wayne and see her sons Billy and Nathan again. It had really just been way too long.

We gathered at my Aunt's house on Saturday before the service and I was happy to get to connect with my brother Steve and his sweet daughter Lily and sister Michelle and spend some time with my Dad and Charol.

My Uncle was a very proud Marine and the American Legion conducted the military part of the service...

Photo by Melody Smith
There is just something about the 21 gun salute, the flag ceremony and the playing of taps that touches me on a soul level. My stepmother Charol mentioned that when you knew the words, it was even more heart wrenching. I hate to admit that, at 51 years of age, I had no idea that there were words to taps and not just the tune. Charol was right. When I think of all of the men and women who have served our country and been laid to rest with this haunting melody played, the sorrow is almost unbearable...

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

That evening we gathered at the home that my Aunt and Uncle had shared for so many years. As we sat on the porch in the warm September evening, you couldn't help but feel that Uncle George was there in spirit enjoying all the teasing and story telling and a few good beers. It reminded me of similar gatherings on my grandmother's porch in John Day. If there is one thing that we Smiths do and do well, it's porch-sitting and visiting. I think we get so busy that we forget how comforting something so simple can be. I was sorry that I was there to say goodbye to an Uncle I loved, but on the other hand I felt so blessed that I was able to spend time with a side of my family that I'm seldom able to see.

They scattered George's ashes on the hill over looking the area that he loved so much...

Photo by Melody Smith
In my mind's eye I could see him restored and in the prime of his life looking over his shoulder with that smile of his, his heart filled with love for the family that mourned his loss. And then I saw him turn and head over the hill with eager anticipation of being reunited with all our loved ones that have gone before.

I can't begin to imagine how hard it will be for my Aunt Sharon, facing life without her love of over 50 years. She's blessed to have two children that love her deeply and several wonderful grandchildren to comfort her as she goes into this next chapter of her life. One thing I know without a doubt; somewhere out there is a group of Smiths, sitting on a beautiful porch welcoming home the grandson/son/father/grandfather that they had missed for so long. And there is comfort in that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Quick Tip Tuesday ~ Clean it FAST

I admit it. I love a nice clean house, but I hate cleaning. I guess hate is a strong word, but when it comes time to cleaning house I bet I could find a million other things that I would rather do. I'll start out strong and determined, run a sink of soapy water to scrub down the kitchen and then look out the window and see something that I need to do "really quick". Two hours later when I come back in the house, the kitchen is still a mess and the sink of water is cold. Or I'll go in to scrub the bathroom first thing in the morning, grab the windex to spray the mirror, see my refection and think "oh, I should try that hairstyle I pinned the other day". Then before you know it, Ken is home from work and I've been lost all day in a marathon Pinterest frenzy. I'm telling you, it's bad...

I can't even remember where I read this (I would love to give that Blogger credit) but someone suggested that you use the kitchen timer to stay on track. Thinking that it was worth a try, I started in the kitchen and set my timer for 15 minutes. Every time I started to leave the kitchen I would remind myself that I needed to stay on track until the timer went off. I would clean as fast as I could for my 15 minutes (you'll be amazed how much you can do in that short time) and then, when the timer went off, decide if I wanted to clean for another 15 minutes or take a 15 minute break to check mail or see what was going on with Facebook. There are days when I'm so not into cleaning that every other 15 minute increment is spent taking a break and doing something fun. By timing both my breaks and my work time, I don't get sucked into the internet for hours and any overwhelming cleaning job is easier to deal with since I'm only stuck doing it for 15 minutes before I can take a break. As bad as my monkey brain is, even I can do 15 minutes.

Another helpful tip I wanted to share is....oh, sorry! There's my timer. Have to close now. I have a 15 minute date with my kitchen!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quick Tip Tuesday ~ Kitchen Spices

Happy Tuesday! The idea behind this weekly series was to do a short blog post on some little quick and easy tip. No fuss, no muss. A few words, a few pictures and we're done till next Tuesday.

Well today is a bonus Quick Tip day. Today you're getting an entire bonanza of tips. I know, I'm awesome. 

So the first tip is.... Don't wait till Tuesday morning to remember that it's Tuesday and you promised a Tip! Sheesh. Here I was, all geared up to get some things done, when it hit me. It's Tuesday and I haven't posted my tip. Not only have I not posted, but I generally write it a day or two before so I can publish bright and early Tuesday morning and I hadn't even written it yet. See? That's what happens when you get so into working in your yard and your studio that everything else ceases to exist.

Second tip? When you drive a diesel car, never, and I mean never, let your guard down and not watch to make sure that they use the green diesel hose and not the black gas hose. I made it 16 miles to the foot of my hill before Louie the Love Bug coughed and died. A few days of dealing with that was enough to teach me a good lesson in being present and not checking my phone while I got fuel.

So now on to the real tip. At the risk of showing my total ignorance, did you know that kitchen spices don't last forever and that they actually have an expiration date? It's true. I had no idea. I really didn't. I come from a family that seldom tosses anything out that might be of use and the thought of dumping a bunch of spices that only have a bit out of them because I only use them once a year for Holiday baking seems insane to me. But now I have a great way to get rid of those older spices that doesn't involve the trash can.

When fall comes around and I'm longing for the comforting scent of home baking but don't have the time to do it, I pull out a small sauce pan, fill it with water and a sliced apple or orange and then open my spice cupboard and start dumping a little of this and a little of that. A few cloves, some cinnamon, allspice and some nutmeg. I've even thrown in a bit of ginger and pumpkin pie spice. I keep a bottle of cheap vanilla from the Dollar Tree so that I can splash a bit of that in too. Put on a low simmer on your stove and prepare to be awed. It really does smell incredible. I let mine simmer all day on the stove top and just add a bit of water now and then but if you have one of those smaller crockpots, you can put your water and spices in that and leave it on low with the lid off. Easiest home scent ever and a great way to use up stale spices. (A word of caution here: there is a chance that your family will walk in the door, break into a huge smile because they think you have something yummy baking and then be crestfallen when they find out there's not...)

apples and spices

Make sure to check back next Tuesday for our "How to stay on track and get your house clean when you have the attention span of a gnat" post. Personal experience here...

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