Thursday, May 21, 2015

Peonies and a New Project

It's rainy here in Northern Virginia today, but yesterday I cut these peonies from my garden yesterday.  I don't normally like to cut them because I prefer to enjoy them in the garden for the short time they bloom but these are in a corner where they can't be seen.  Transplanting them is on my to-do list.  

You can also see the French desk they're sitting on that I still haven't worked on.  

The plan was to fix the top somehow.  I believe it was likely a long gone leather top, but replacing the top would cost more than the desk so I've ordered a wood veneer to hopefully match the top to the drawers.  If that doesn't work out my back-up plan is paint.  I think it would be equally gorgeous in white.  To be continued ...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer ... and a New(ish) Wreath

Years ago, I put together this wreath to hang on my door.  It had seen better days since then so I decided to spruce it up a bit.  

I removed the burlap which had become pretty dingy, fixed up some of the shells and added more starfish.  I really like how it turned out and I think it will be less appealing to the birds that were trying to nest in the previous wreath.

I also removed some of the Spring and added more summer to other places in my house.

In my living room ...  

Dining room accents.

I changed out the heavy comforter on my bed for the lighter coverlet and added one of the Octopuses from my shop.  I just couldn't resist having one for myself!

It's only Wednesday, but I'm so looking forward to the holiday weekend.  

My garden, in particular is waiting for me ...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kitchen Table - Shabby to Chic!

Years ago, we purchased a table for a space in our kitchen.  It has served us well and over the years the chairs went from white, to blue, to green.  

Over time, both the table and chairs took a pretty good beating.  The kids carved into the paint on the chairs and the table chipped badly ... and it wasn't a good kind of chipping.  Whatever paint was used by the manufacturer was very brittle and came off in chips like this.  An ugly mess.

Refinishing it was on my list for years, but I only now got around to doing it and really even deciding HOW I wanted to refinish it.  I considered doing it the same way I did my dining room table, but in the end I decided on a more distressed, sort of weather worn finish.  

Step 1:  Sanding.  Lots of sanding on the table.  I love my Rigid orbital sander for this, but even then, it was a tough messy job getting through that thick layer of paint.  

Here it is fully sanded except for the pedestal which was in pretty good shape.

Step 2:  Whitewashing.  I used about 2:1 paint/water mixture and applied it with a brush.

Then, I wiped it off with a sponge.  

Step 3:  Distressing.  Next I sanded the table all over to get even more depth with the finish.  This is where I started to feel like all the work had been worth it.  SO much better than the chipped mess from before.

Step 4:  3 Coats of Polyurethane.  I used oil poly because I think the finish is more durable, but water based is fine too.  Table complete.

Step 5:  Next came the chairs.  I went back and forth trying to decided what to do with the chairs.  I thought maybe I would just paint them from this spring green to a solid white and I even started to do it but I wasn't happy with how it was looking.

 I opted to strip the chairs since my dad told me how EASY it would be to strip the multiple layers of paint compared to sanding.   

This was a messy job.  No matter how careful I was, I seemed to manage to get the stripper on me, but I did the best I could.  Here are the chairs after they were all coated with the paint bubbling up.

After only a couple of hours, I could scrape the paint from the seat past 3-4 layers of paint and down to bare wood on the seat, but the rest was a pretty good mess that didn't come off well at all.  Even where it did work well, there was still all this goo to contend with.  

Eventually, I moved back to the sander once the majority of the stripper was off and the chairs were dry.  In the corners I did the best I could sanding by hand.  This was a long, hard job and it took several days - much longer than the table.  After the chairs were stripped, I applied the whitewash, but did not remove it with the sponge as I had the table.  I wasn't getting the same effect.  Instead, I just sanded the chairs after the whitewash was dry which was pretty much as soon as I had finished applying it.  It dried fast.

I could have stopped there, but while these were outside, we were using our dining room chairs and noticed that the finish of those chairs, which I'd distressed with stain, looked great with finished table so I decided to go a little further and use the walnut stain as I had previously.  

I just applied it and quickly removed it with a rag.  You have to move fast though because the stain doesn't give you a lot of time to work with it.  After this, I did a little more sanding to get the look exactly how I wanted it.

For the chairs I used a spray polyurethane just for convenience sake and to avoid all the potential drips.  After a couple of coats, I was finally done.  

I could not be happier with the final product.  

It blends great with our kitchen island and it's so nice to sit at a beautifully finished table without all those dings in the top.

I'm not sure about the dark cushions, but with kids, they're good for now.  I'm hoping to find a nice cream or pale pattern eventually.

My advice if you want to tackle a project like this - 
1.  Get a sander and lots of 80 grit sanding disks.
2.  Take your time.
3.  Enjoy the results!

Linking to the Home Sweet Home Party.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

First Craft Festival for The Old White Cottage Creations

I once had an online shop and really enjoyed making and selling things for a while.  Well, then life happened and I decided to take a short (um, 4 year) break from the shop and also from this blog for the most part.  I was busy raising girls, performing and running races and really didn't have the time anymore, but I always felt like I couldn't just let it go.  So, I never closed the shop and maybe once a year, I would blog always hoping to come back.

Then, this past winter, I found myself retired from dance, done with marathons and home with girls who were now a little more independent during lots of snow days.  What to do?  I pulled out all the things I had from my former life and remembered how much I loved it.  I opened the online shop but also remembered how I hoped to one day do a craft festival.  I made item after item and finally, just went for it and signed up for a festival - one that was low-key and not in an area as busy as where I live just to make it low-stress.  

The weekend was crazy!  I drove in rush hour several hours with my girls the night before and was up early to set up only to discover that I'd made the mistake I'd dreaded the most and forgotten the most important thing - the TENT.  I had a moment of panic and then made decisions - I called my husband who had planned to drive over later and told him he had to come NOW.  He was hours way but I prayed he would make it.  In the meantime, I set everything else up and along with my dad, we planned to somehow get the tent up and pick it up over everything.  Would you believe it worked??

Here is the final result of all the snow days and the late nights that followed.  

I'm so very happy with how everything turned out.  It all came together exactly how I saw it in my head and it's all very "me".

The vanity tray in the middle was given to me by my grandmother and it made me happy to be able to use it.  I also did not do this alone.  My father and husband helped me build the shelves and displays and helped with set-up.  My mom was there for advice.  We call her the "supervisor" but her input was helpful when I needed opinions (and when I didn't).  I'm so grateful for all their support.

It was not a terribly successful day for sales since it was probably not my target market and while the festival was super busy, the only thing people seemed to be buying was food.  Still, I enjoyed it and was glad for the experience.  

I'm already looking into a couple more festivals that might be a better fit and looking forward to the new adventure ahead.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Garden Slugs

I have a very shady yard and lots of hostas.  They're wonderful low-maintenence plants that come in a ton of varieties and do well in dry shade which is one of the hardest places to get things to grow.  

The only problem I've had with them are slugs.  Slugs have been a problem for me in the past since it seems like they can't resist the tasty hosta leaves.  It was such a disappointment to come out and find giant holes in the large leaves of my Sum and Substance plants in particular.  The leaves do not grow back until the following year so once they're chewed up, you're stuck with the sorry state of the plant for the season.  

I have seen a few recommendations for slug solutions - beer and just today cornmeal.  The slugs are attracted to these things and either drown or die from ingesting them.  It sounds like they work as intended, but I would rather not have containers of beer in my garden and I'd prefer not to have to handle a container full of dead slugs.  Yuck!

So, what do I do?  Easy.  Eggshells.

This is actually the perfect time of year to collect them since many of us do the Easter egg dying thing and have lots of egg shells.  We were out of town Easter weekend so we missed out on egg dying, but we eat plenty of eggs.  Also, the hostas are just starting to spring forth with their spikes from the ground and haven't come in fully, so the timing is perfect.  

I just take the egg shells and grind them up as much as I can and sprinkle them around the base of the plants. 

Once the leaves grow in, the shells aren't even visible.  How does it work?  The slugs have soft bodies and don't want to crawl over the sharp eggshells.  I believe diatomacious earth also works the same way, but eggshells are free.  

The eggshells are also good for the soil.  They do disappear so it has to be repeated each year but it's pretty easy to remember with the Easter egg reminder.  This has become my post-Easter springtime routine and with the addition of eggshells, the hostas above should look like this again - no holes!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Breaking

I've been hoping to blog more, but these days all my free time has involved preparing for the Bug and Bud Festival next month where I'll have a tent.  I'm not sure how many home projects I'll get done before that, but one thing I have my eye on is getting my kitchen table, which has endured some pretty good abuse from the kids, refinished.  This is how it looked when it had seen better days.

For a while, I thought about painting it or maybe doing a different color, but I thought that refinishing the same way I did my dining room table would tie things together between the two rooms and the kitchen island.  So, that's what's priority on the list.  

It's Friday and gloomy around here but we're getting ready to head to Philadelphia this weekend.  Despite growing up in New York and being up and down the east coast, somehow, I've never been there so I'm looking forward to seeing the Liberty Bell.  Like a lot of the trips I take, I'm also doing a race on Sunday.  Next week, we head to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, one of our favorite places.

Now, time to pack!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New York, New York

I was just cleaning and my thoughts drifted to 16 years ago when I was fresh out of college and excitedly headed to new city, a new career, and a new home in Washington D.C.  I had grown up on Long Island but I was looking for change, something new.  I loved my new life and never expected to return to where I grew up.  I went to graduate school, found a wonderful husband, and had 2 daughters all while at that great job I still have today.  I made a life for myself and I was happy.  

Last year, I turned 40 and decided to do something big - run a marathon in Paris.  In April, I made my second trip there and it was the experience of a lifetime.  My brother bought me a small Eiffel Tower on his visit there years ago, but it now holds a special significance to me. 

Two weeks before flying to Paris, I learned that I had gained entry to my dream race - the NYC Marathon.  There was a 12% chance and I got very lucky.  I could not believe it.  I remember all the years living in New York when I would watch people out there in the freezing cold and wonder what the heck they were thinking and the years that I would go to visit my parents and have to race out of New York across the Verrazano bridge before they closed it early in the morning for the start of the race.  Never in my life did I think I would become a runner and be one of those people on the bridge, but there I was last November.  It was surreal.

The race conditions were not perfect that day but I was determined to enjoy every second and I crossed the finish line filled with absolute joy.  Such an amazing experience.  

Since then, I've been homesick and I wish I could go back.  I think of the typical things New Yorkers miss like the bagels, pizza and buttered rolls that are so easy to find.   I miss the excitement of the city and it's gritty imperfection.  I also miss the people - their accents and attitudes.  I miss how I could wake up and be at the beach in fifteen minutes reading a book.  I miss the familiarity of it all.

I brought my daughters for the first time last month and it was then that I got the Empire State Building to go with my Eiffel Tower.  I have likely retired from marathons, but I have continued to run and in two weeks I will return to New York for the NYC Half-marathon.  I cannot wait!  I also really hope to make more visits this year.  

Paris was wonderful, but New York ... it will always be home.
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