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Christmas~ Last Minute Handmade Gift!

From The Project File~

For the third time in the past five years we are celebrating Christmas in Southern California. Therefore I'm sending warm, sunny Christmas greetings from our motorhome~ our tiny home-on-wheels. We are parked at our friend's property~ 13 quiet acres planted abundantly with citrus and avocados. I refer to the estate as, Rancho Avocado. Thanks to the generosity of our good friends we have everything we could possibly want, including water, electric, and a craft cottage for me. 

We recently named our motorhome upon completion of a major interior makeover. It was a ceremonious rebranding of sorts; on the order of a boat christening (minus the champagne bottle). The interior, which is tastefully decorated in a subtle travel theme, is now known to all as Cozy Lodge. I fully intended to post for you a lengthy album of before and after photos, but the only thing we don't have right now is reliable internet; so I am therefore dependent on a local Starbuck's for that luxury. Blogging is cumbersome.

So here we are, near San Diego, rushing around to get everything perfect and perfectly festive before our family Christmas celebration with John on Monday morning.

Quickly I'm sharing a cool gift I crafted. Our only child is a serial traveler like his dad and similarly impossible to buy gifts for. I had this idea running around in my head and finally pulled it together with Larry's help.

I brought these hardwood lumber scraps with us, thinking I would use them for another idea. But when that project didn't materialize I made a quick run through Hobby Lobby and found just what I needed to make this frame. I created the image on PicMonkey and uploaded it to Target photo. I had two images printed actually. The second is for our hostess who seems to spend more time planning trips than anyone I've ever met, other than John.

So basically you need an image, and a piece of wood larger than your image. My boards were cut to 6x8 (from a 1x6 very hardwood board I scrounged). The clips and the knobs I bought, and today while walking I found some interesting acorns which I used just for texture.

The clips do not come with screws, so Larry bought them at a local hardware store. The wood is so hard that he drilled pilot holes and mounted the clips. Then we used an amazing 2 part glue to add the accents. The glue is "2P-10" from Fastcap. 

I grabbed a couple of inexpensive easels to hold the frame upright. The nice thing about this gift is that the image can easily be replaced with another photo; maybe from a future adventure.

In addition to enthusiastically embracing travel, John loves Christmas. He really, really likes to have a lot of gifts under the tree and we still do stockings! Therefore each year I scramble to come up with a many presents as possible. This frame is just a little something extra for him to unwrap.

You would be amazed if you saw the inventory of hand-held power tools Larry has stowed in the motorhome basement compartments. He thought of absolutely everything, really, except for a palm-sander which we both agree is essential.I have been busy painting signs as gifts, and many times I have wished I had the sander.

My friends and I have limited our gift-giving to handmade; a new tradition that we all value. Generally the rules are that gifts are optional, but if we want to give something in the spirit of friendship and love, it has to be handmade, baked, or second-hand.

Anyway, here is a sample of my signs~

I need to say goodbye now because Larry is ready to go. Thanks for being a part of my readership. I hope from the bottom of my heart that your Christmas is filled with love and the blessing of drawing near to those you love.



Let us bring him silver and gold!



Best Homemade Chalk Paint Recipe

Happy first day of the Christmas season! I highly value the tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday and resent the degree to which the retail industry seems to ignore Thanksgiving in an effort to zoom from Halloween mania to Christmas decor. Therefore at our house nothing distinctively Christmas is donned until the Friday following our day of thanksgiving; with one exception. I don't have a sizeable enough fall wreath to hang by the front door, so I jumped the gun and used something evergreen. But it's there I drew the line. 

I hope your Thanksgiving day was blessed, and the meal delicious.

In my last post I promised I would share my best homemade chalk paint recipe and chat with you about my technique for painting mason jars and other glass. So let's get started~

Perhaps the most time-intensive exercise in any project is assembling needed supplies.

You will want to find a variety of Mason jars or glass bottles. You probably have a random assortment already, but in case you need to buy something, I found that Hobby Lobby had the most choices and the best prices. Often times the jars are on sale for 50% off.

I have tried three of the four chalk paint recipes written about by bloggers. The common ingredient is good quality paint. This really matters, and I can't stress it enough. After a lot of experimenting, I've decided my personal favorite is Valspar's best quality flat paint. However, brand doesn't matter. Work with whatever you prefer, but choose the highest quality the brand offers.

In order to make the paint chalky, you will need to choose one additive from this list of choices~

1. Baking Soda
2. Plaster of Paris
3. Sanded Grout
4. Calcium Carbonate

Calcium Carbonate is far and away the proven winner for me, though admittedly I have not tried sanded grout.

I ordered NOW Calcium Carbonate from our local health food store about 5 years ago. At that time a 12-ounce bottle cost about $9. Unless DIY stores have started carrying it, you will have to order it in advance. Therefore, this is not a project you can just decide to do without some prior planning unless you want to use one of the additives you happen to have.


1 Cup Flat Paint
1/2 Cup Calcium Carbonate
1-1/4 Cup of Water

To begin with, pour one cup of paint into a suitable small container. Next, sift the CC (I used a fine mesh strainer) into a small bowl. Add the water and mix very well. Then add the CC paste to the paint and mix thoroughly. If you have an old hand mixer or an electric paint mixer, I strongly recommend using. Don't worry. Chalk paint cleans off anything very easily with just water.

The next step is to take a sea sponge (I like to cut the sponge in half) and begin dabbing paint onto your glass jars. Below you can see my jars with one coat of paint.

Simply rotate the jar around until you've covered them completely with paint. Let them dry completely in a warm spot. This will only take about an hour.

Follow up the first coat with another coat and let that dry. After two coats I noticed that there were still some thin spots, so I just dabbed here and there to fill in.

A note of caution. I wash my sponge completely in warm water between coats of paint. However, you must make sure you squeeze all of the water completely out of the sponge before using it again. Squeeze with your hand and then wrap the sponge in a towel and squeeze again. I created a mini-disaster when I tried to spot-paint my jars with a sponge that was too wet! I actually pulled paint of the jars with the wet sponge which made a clumpy mess.

When your jars are completely dry and you are satisfied with the appearance, take an emery board or a piece of sandpaper and shabby them up a bit. You accomplish this by sanding the high points on the jar, such as the writing or the little fruit embellishments.

Aren't these cool? I think they are.

The next important step is to spay your completed jars with a fast-drying polyurethane. This is necessary to ensure that your paint is impermeable to water, oil, fingermarks, and the likes. Larry sprayed mine in the house by setting them in a cardboard box turned on edge. Currently, it is much too damp to spay anything outside.

Lastly, if you want to really add some wow factor to your jars, add a cute knob.

Hobby Lobby again to the rescue~ knobs at a deeply discounted price.

I painted a few other things in addition to these quart sized, wide mouth jars~

You need to just start playing around with the paint and your technique as I did. After a while, you will figure out what works for you. An example is that I like to use the flat part of the sponge. That's why I cut it in half. I did not have any luck with a brush. I felt like a brush on glass leaves marks, even with 3 or more coats. This project is a lot of trial and error, but the results are worth the time you invest. 

The jars make great gifts; empty or filled with something special. I'm giving one friend a white jar filled with spa cloths that I've knitted this year. 

Perfect for a bathroom.

Alternately, you could paint the jars beige or brown and fill them with a baking mix or cocoa perhaps. I actually think the possibilities are limitless. If you have good quality flat paint left over from redos and updates, try it! I have some lovely French blue paint that I intend to work with after Christmas.

I hope you've enjoyed my tutorial and will give the painted jar project a try. I encourage questions so feel free to be in touch.


Dried Hydrangeas and Linen Napkins


Thanksgiving Tablescape.

This year's Thanksgiving table is inspired by our Northwest Washington coastal setting; both the colors and the textures. Our seascape is a blend of rugged coastlines, evergreen forests, and sparkling blue water. My goal for our table decor was to reflect the textural elements that surround our house and provide visual interest with high contrast.

Larry named the table, Pumpkin Soup~ very appropriate. 

This time of year the light is in constant flux, and photo shoots are interesting and challenging. The conditions change minute to minute. Sometimes the fleeting effects are fun to catch. Other times the grossly overexposed images are a disaster.

I made a set of four linen napkins and a table runner especially for our Thanksgiving meal. I used 100% linen in a very natural color. It has a rustic appearance, which I love, but is very soft to the touch. I am glad I made these napkins because I learned so much about working with linen. But this was one of those projects that was touted as easy but was in fact time consuming and somewhat stressful. Remember my discourse on "perfect enough"? These napkins are a case in point.

The runner is in the center of the table and the Give Thanks sign, which I painted about 3 years ago actually, is laying atop. Varying heights on a dining table is always a good idea, even just something as seemingly insignificant as the 1x6 board.

My dried hydrangeas provide a bold statement. The blooms on one of my bushes are dark pink all summer and then become gradually maroon and pale green. They are all but dry by the time I cut them, and only need a bit of coaxing in the house.

I also added an assortment of candles. The short mason jar candles were really fun to make and if you need an easy gift idea, this is it. Here is a link to the tutorial I followed~ Soy Mason Jar Candles.

I also embellished the Dollar Tree jar candles, which add even more texture.

And my tablescape is never complete without the vintage candlesticks that were a wedding gift to my parents. 

A final note~ glass bottles are easily transformed into small vases. Sometimes it is more effective to use 3 or more short vases than one large vase of flowers (which often blocks dinner table conversation). It is much more interesting, in my opinion, to scatter, in a sense, flowers about the table. Why be predictable? Variety is more appealing, which is why {for example} I combined woven placemats, wood chargers, Mason jars, and Waterford crystal.

In case you're interested,  I will show you how I paint bottles and jars with homemade chalk paint in my next post. I have been on a lengthy quest to find the perfect recipe and I promise to share.

Until next time, blessings!


Linking to other quality blogs~

Savvy Southern Style
Between Naps On The Porch
French Country Cottage


Autumn Musings.

Have you ever experienced a season of life in which you can no longer define normal? I feel as if I will have lived through five seasons by year's end, or at least an additional sub-season that eclipsed late-summer early fall. Every week seemed scripted for me by the force of outside circumstances. My mom was plagued by a variety of health-related issues that required my attention and energy. Larry was unexpectedly derailed by a condition known as sudden sensorial hearing loss, a condition that without warning robbed him of all auditory function in his right ear. Sensorial compromises are especially profound for those who have spent their lives in military service or careers such as commercial travel. And honestly, it was just plainly sad. Its onset was a tangible reminder that Larry is a few steps further into the autumn of his years than I, and I had an intense emotional reaction.

I've accompanied Larry to doctor visits for exams, injections and hearing tests, but there has been little significant improvement.

Here's an artsy interpretation of my beloved Scion

In my recent posts I didn't tell you that just before Labor Day I bundled my mom and our stuff into my car (affectionately referred to by Larry as, Red Happiness), and drove her 2,000 miles to Minneapolis. Although we had a lovely trek, the purpose of the trip was not pleasure-based. My brother wanted Mom under the care of his cardiologist and we had misgivings about allowing her to fly.

Generally, it was a happy excursion. I detoured from our Interstate 90 route so that Mom could experience Mt. Rushmore for the first time.

Visiting Mt. Rushmore together was intensely moving me, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to provide her this once in a lifetime opportunity.

And because we happened to be in the neighborhood, we also drove through Badlands National Park.

Anyway, an encapsulated rest of the story is that unbeknownst, Jolene had other potentially serious health issues brewing and the cardiologist strongly urged us to return home and seek medical care here. And so after only five days at my brother's, I drove the 2,000 miles home. Upon our return, tests and a major surgery ensued, along with the first-ever visit from my brother and sister in law. We all know the stress of house-perfect, right? There is no greater project impetus than visitors.

A few lovely moments shared with my brother.

Fast forward. Mom is home and mostly fine, I'm exhausted.

In the interest of returning to real life, my life, and inspired by the colors of fall, I have undertaken a few crafty endeavors. So, in addition to my verbal ramblings, I am actually sharing a project today.

I created a Mason jar canister set; an easy autumn project that is both decorative and useful. There are 5 jars of varying sizes in the set, though in this photo the most diminutive jar has taken a backseat. You can see just a narrow sliver on the right side.

I chose two different spray paints. A chocolate brown for the jars and a hammered gold for the lids. Alternately, chalk paint is a good choice for glass jars and can be brushed on. I am conceding defeat where it concerns spray paint. I am really, really not good at spraying and in the future will leave that task for Larry.

I think the most fun part of this project was choosing the door pulls for the tops. and all of these came from Hobby Lobby. I love the little globe especially. The pulls are the most defining element of the project and I chose a mix rather than a matched set. This, of course, is just a matter of personal style.

Larry drilled an appropriately sized hole in the lid and we just attached the knobs with the screws provided.

It was difficult to get a group photo because we have one tall guy in the mix.

I have the jars nestled together on this cute little tray I picked up at an estate sale for $2. The colors are just right for this time of year. I set the tray on the kitchen island.

A friend suggested I give a set as a Christmas gift. I am not sure I would make another set, but the thought did occur to me that perhaps one jar filled with something fun such as a hot chocolate mix would be a nice gift. A pretty jar, probably in a lighter color, with a cute knob would be a sweet accent even after the chocolate mix or (cookie mix maybe?) is gone. I just now had the notion that I could tie on a cute cookie cutter or a wooden spoon, a wire whisk, or something. Any clever ideas? Whatever, you can bet I won't be spray painting!

If you decide to undertake this project and would like any additional tips or information, please let me know. You all know I don't do well attempting to compose tutorials.

I wish for you a beautiful November day! Thanks as always for reading.



Link Parties:

From The Project File~

Walk Right In.

Today our front entry is making its debut, but before jumping to the much-anticipated photo unveil, I want to ask you a question. What do you call the area just inside your front door? When I was young Mom referred to it as the entry hall because the space was defined by doorways to the various living spaces~ the kitchen, the living room, and such. Alternately we simply said, entryway. We were taught very early to refer to the lobby of our grammar school auditorium as the foyer, pronounced,  foy-yay. I think I grew up thinking only school auditoriums had foyers.

Many years later, however, when married life led us to St. Louis, I discovered while house-hunting that locals referred to their home's entry as their foyer, which was pronounced foy-yer. At first, I was really put off because admittedly I'm a bit of a language snob. But ultimately I had to adapt to this awkward pronunciation or risk sounding pedantic, and that was a challenge. Perhaps it's just a regional thing; one of the many dialectical quirks peculiar to the Show Me state. In the 17 years we've lived in Northwest Washington, I've yet to encounter anyone interested in sharing news about their foy-yer; or their foy-yay for that matter.

I also learned that some folks had a mudroom. That was a new concept for me because I grew up in a suburban Los Angeles ranch-style home, and had never seen nor heard of a mudroom. We did have a service porch, although I'm not entirely sure how a service porch would be properly defined. As an aside, if you're not from California you might wonder why we natives say ranch house rather than rambler; but I'll save that conversation for another post.

Anyway, I generally say our entryway, although my mom calls it our mudroom. It is actually a separate room with an interior door to the living room, a tile floor, and a bench for shoes, so I think Mom is correct in so doing. It's appropriate. We certainly have no shortage of mud in Washington State.

And now the tour~

Both Larry and I have wanted a new front door for years and years. I mean like 16 years. The old door was faux wood grain, which I couldn't abide, so I painted it. I always painted the interior white but the exterior was first one color and then another; most recently sage green. It was installed incorrectly, such that the door stuck to the framing. Therefore no matter how carefully I painted and how long I let the paint dry, there were always obvious marks in the paint along one side, where the paint had pulled away. That just made us dislike the door even more.

This past summer we finally purchased a lovely solid wood door and Larry did a masterful job tearing out the old and correctly installing the new. It's as if the house got a facelift and I love it. 

Aristotle said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, right? Well, that is exactly how I feel about our entryway. This past week while Larry was away, I spent every day working in here. Just before Larry left we replaced the old baseboard with straightforward cottage style molding; something we're working at, one room at a time. I spackled, sanded painted both the molding and the paneling. I painted the ceiling and cleaned the blinds. In other words, I did a makeover. The room looks light, bright and pulled together. But it simply does not photograph well. It's fairly small and I just can't get far enough away with my camera to snap an accurate representation. So the best I can do is show you all of the parts and hope you can envision the whole. 

The window is directly opposite the door.

The view with the blind raised.

We have another window to the right of the door.

I made this on the occasion of our tenth wedding anniversary. ♡
We are coming up on 37.


Opposite the chalkboard, we mounted vintage doorknobs for hanging guest coats.

We made a reclaimed wood shelf and the display is subject to change.

Almost every room in the house has a water view and the entry is no exception. We are very blessed to have such beautiful panoramas, and no pun intended, I hope we never lose sight of this. It's a wonderful thing to step through the front door and be greeted by the view.

I am really bad about taking before photos, but while I was painting I remembered to take a quick iPhone shot of the old color. The entire house was at one time painted this shade of taupe. I wonder now why I ever chose it. Do you ever wonder about your own dated decor choices? But again room by room, I am repainting with a lighter, prettier shade, Valspar Coconut Milk.

Very ugly photo!

I'm not a minimalist, although sometimes I wish I were. Therefore the room is decorated with a
few meaningful accents, enough to cozy it up, but not clutter. 

For a variety of reasons, the entryway will forever remain my photography nemesis. I really do not love these pictures but I hope they help you get a sense of the room. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the room dimensions are  5.5' X 7.5'. Although it is by no means large, it functions well.

While working on it I had the thought that our Christmas tree would look perfect in the big window. And because the room has so many windows, the lights will sparkle merrily for passers-by. 

But maybe I'd better concentrate on fall decor first. 

As always, thanks so very much for visiting.