Sep 25, 2011

Thrift Store Finds

My local Goodwill has "50% off" day every Friday. 
That's the only day I'll go there now.
Yes it's true, I'm so cheap that I won't even pay full price at Goodwill.

The last time I was there I was looking for some old books to use in a project.
It didn't matter what the book was about as long as it looked old.
And slightly intellectual wouldn't hurt. :-)

I came across these two beauties.

My aunt owns a used bookstore and I have a feeling
she’s scandalized at the thought of me cutting up old books.

Doesn't the top one look homemade?

I googled the title and it is a book that was first published in 1933.
 I'm not sure how this one ended up with this cover. 

The book is full of handwritten notes and newspaper clippings
 from Canadian papers dated 1934 and 1935. 

It leads me to believe that this is one of the original printings.

The second is a more common book. 
I was focusing on the aging though. 
I was planning on tea-staining pages for my project, but just look at these

Aren't they gorgeous?

The first is definitely not going to be changed.
I don't believe it's valuable but it's so interesting that I just have to keep it.

Buuuut, I’ve now decided to try something different
with the aforementioned project, so I’ll just have to come up with
something else for this guy.

Sep 21, 2011

Wash & Wax (Dresser Refinishing) - Part Two

Back for more dresser refinishing fun? 
Did you miss out on the journey to find a dresser and prep it for staining/painting?

So on to choosing a stain colour. 
I had envisioned a grey-brown, sort of a Restoration Hardware look found here.

But - surprise! - I couldn't find grey-brown stain (or even just grey stain) in any store.  One wonderful guy at Rona tinted 3 different cans before I realized we weren't going to find it. And the ladies at the Benjamin Moore store were fantastic about trying out a few different methods to achieve grey-brown (none were what I was looking for though) and gave me a quick lesson on layering colours. 

So I was on my own.  No problem, this was an experiment anyway.  First I stained the wood a medium brown - Minwax Early American. I wiped the stain on with a clean cloth and then wiped it off almost immediately because I only wanted a hint of brown, not quite as dark as the photo above.  I find that I use much less stain and am able to control the colour depth better using a cloth to apply it rather than a brush.  Now, I was working on a pretty small area; a brush would be easier on larger projects. 

I was happy to see that this stain had more of a brown tone than the orange of the original finish. 

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

I also discovered that the different wood surfaces needed different amounts of stain to get a uniform look.  I would add thin layers of stain on each one until I reached the depth of colour I was aiming for.  I felt like one of those circus performers balancing spinning plates on poles - I was jumping back and forth between pieces - some needed 5 seconds of stain, some needed a minute, some could go even longer.  ather than sanding between coats, I just wiped them well with a cloth.  Kind of a buff more than a sand I guess.

I had planned to water down some white paint to make a wash (milk paint?), hoping that would give me the grey tone I was after.  But the paint nearest to hand was a pale mossy green that I had purchased for $2 as a mis-tint. Why not?  The room the dresser was going into was green with brown accents so it should fit right in. I gradually added the paint to a dish of water until it was the thickness needed.  The instructions I've found online say to aim for the consistency of skim milk.  Okay, skim milk it is.

I used a foam brush to apply the paint.  Because it was watered down, a little paint covered a large area and it spread easily. You could see the paint adhere more to the flat spots than to the grain. Is there a technical term for the flat spots? I gave it a minute or two to soak in then wiped it off with a cloth. (Thank goodness for the bulk package of painters' cloths from Costco.)

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

After one coat I was loving it already. 
The wood had a grey-green tone while you could still see brown peeking through.

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

Much like the stain, each part of the dresser needed a different amount of paint to get that uniform look.  In fact, in some spots I needed to apply the paint and not wipe it off.  For example, I hadn't sanded the sides perfectly (remember I did them by hand and was getting sick of sanding by then) and some of the original lacquer was still there so the paint didn't adhere very well.  I was worried that it would look completely different than the rest of the dresser, but after two coats it dried just fine.

Then it was back to the store for a clear topcoat.  I wanted the piece to glow but not to shine.  Does that make sense?  I don't like the look of heavily lacquered wood.  I looked at all of the finishes available and wasn't happy with any of them.  Everything was too shiny.  Goldilocks syndrome again. 

I decided on Minwax paste finishing wax. 

I'd never used it before but I was confident (more confident than the employee at the store was) that it would give me that warm glowy look.  Using another clean cloth (yep, it's an unending supply) I applied the wax, gave it a few minutes and then buffed it smooth.  I think I applied two coats of wax to the entire dresser. 

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

And the wood did glow.  Can you see that subtle shine along the top front edge? The whole thing turned out just as I'd pictured.  I was so happy that I kept petting the top (I may have even hugged it a few times). 

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

Here is a before and after shot.

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

Huge difference, right?

We gave it a couple of days to dry completely and then moved it up to the bedroom. 
With a few decorations added it fits right in. 

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

Yes, that turtle is a dog toy. 
No, the dogs are not allowed to play with it.

 I haven't decided yet whether or not I want to add drawer pulls.  It doesn't need them as there are cutouts at the top of each drawer, but I wonder if it looks a bit unfinished.

What do you think? Maybe knotted rope pulls?

The bed has the same general lines so I'm now thinking of refinishing the frame in the same style. 
If I had my way every stick of wood in the house would be finished like this. 


Sep 20, 2011

Wash & Wax (Dresser Refinishing) - Part One

Our current house is smaller than our last one.  According to the specs we have 400 extra square feet, but trust me, it's smaller.  Don't you hate that they don't include the basement area in that calculation?  Our last basement was h-u-u-u-u-ge.  With so many closets and storage cubby holes.  The builder (and original owner) had even built a pull-out shelving unit for under the stairs.  It was two-sided and held all of our nails & screws & miscellaneous spare parts like light bulbs, and still had room for all of my paint & stain cans, brushes, rollers, and all the other painting paraphernalia.  I've searched but I can't find a picture of it.

So our new (we've been here 2.5 years but it still feels new) house is seriously lacking in storage space.  Even the bedrooms seem smaller.  The guest room has just enough space for a queen-sized bed and a dresser.  The dresser had been in my family as long as I can remember - a 6-drawer oak behemoth that took up a lot of space.  It was originally a part of a set - highboy, bed frame, and dresser with mirror - but the pieces have all be split up and who knows where the others are now.

We didn't need such a large dresser in there.  It was just an invitation to hoard.  I would use the drawers to store shorts, tank tops, sweaters, jeans I might wear again some day, little fiddly-bobs I couldn't figure out where else to store - you get the picture. 

I had something else in mind - 4 drawers, low profile, raised up off of the floor, made of wood that could be painted or stained. 

Something like this:

Or this:

This one is perfect:

But unfortunately I couldn't find a used one on craigslist or kijiji, and can you believe the prices for new? Anywhere up to $1500!  Do you know the things I could buy with $1500?  That's two tickets to Hawaii.  Or a week at an AI in the Caribbean. Or 500 bags of stale Cheetos.  Mmmm, stale Cheetos.

My sister can attest to how hard I searched for a dresser.  I think I dragged her through every used furniture store in the area.  And I'm sure she got tired of me turning my nose up at everything we found.  Too tall.  Too wide.  Too fancy. Wrong material.  Just call me Goldilocks.  I had to keep looking until it was just right. 

We ended up at Goodwill late in the day and I was getting tired.  We found this one - not exactly what I was looking for but she convinced me it would work.  It did have the profile I was looking for.  It was a little taller than what I wanted but it definitely took up less floor space. Did I mention I was tired?

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

 Don't you love the stickers?  

And the fabulous orange/yellow hue?

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

But I had faith I could turn it into something I'd love. 

So we dragged it home and I got to work.

Poor Tom.  I took over his garage for weeks.  First I had to pick and scrape all of those stickers off.  Then I had to remove the finish.  First I started with the belt sander and 80 grit paper.  Not too much as I have trouble controlling that thing.  Then I palm sanded with 100 and 150 grits. I sanded and sanded and sanded.  

I found out that the entire dresser was made up of different kinds of wood.  Maybe all pine, but some of it smelled like cedar.  One of the drawer fronts even had a completely different wood-grain pattern. 

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

 Thank you Ikea for using up your leftover scraps to make my dresser! 

 But I was really pleased with the look so far. 
Something about unfinished wood makes me giddy.

Paint Wash Dresser Refinishing

A thin layer of putty on any dents and a quick re-sanding, and we were ready for the next step...

Sep 16, 2011

Birthday Girl

Guess who turned SIX years old yesterday?  Well, Miss Chloepants of course. In our house we like to make a big deal of the dogs' birthdays because they get so excited and wound up and they have no idea why. 

Here is the guest of honour waiting for the festivities to begin. So excited, right?

Our number one rule? 

Birthdays have to have cake. Presents? Doesn't matter.  Party? Doesn't matter. Singing? Doesn't matter. There just better be cake. 

For Sasha's birthday last year Tom called me at work and told me Sasha wanted a "meat cake". What the heck is a meat cake? I wandered around the grocery store looking for inspiration. Until I arrived in the canned meat aisle. Flakes of Ham. Perfect meat cake. 

And now it's become a tradition. One can of flakes of ham (unflaked) with a candle stuck in it. Served on a plate, ready for sharing. 

Yes it looks disgusting.  But to a dog it looks like heaven. Unfortunately I don't have any stills of Chloe with her meat cake. I wanted to make sure we got some video this year. As I was filming her first impression... she ate the whole thing in one bite. Two (non-opposable) thumbs up from Chloe!

Sasha looked so confused. She had been waiting ever so patiently for her turn. But payback's a b*tch, Sasha-baby, because you did the exact same thing to Chloe last year. Honestly, you'd think we'd learn not to hold it so low. 

So I had to rebuild the cake with what we had - cheese slices & Breath Buster dog biscuits. Just so I could have pictures. The first time, so overcome with the smell of processed meat products, Chloe shoved her nose right into the candle flame (it was funny, in a don't-call-the-SPCA-on-me way), but she was a little more hesitant when it was only cookies and fake cheese. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get her to come in for some close-ups. I love the disgusted look she gives the sulphur fumes when the candle was blown out.

Sasha was sure she was getting some this time. Look at the well-behaved puppy. As if it's no big deal and she acts this way all the time.

And then, just for fun, we tossed the cookies (heh-heh, tossed the cookies) and cheese to Chloe one piece at a time. 

The girl has mad skillz. When cheese is involved anyway. Anything else and she's more likely to let it bounce off her face. Just in case. 

She calls it a discerning palate. I call it being a food snob.

Sep 14, 2011


There is an event held near our town every year around (Canadian) Thanksgiving called Soupfest.  Local farmers, restaurants, and cooking schools get together to show off their soup-making skills using locally grown produce.

For $5 ($10 if you buy a mug) you can sample all of the soup you want. All The Soup You Want.  Think about that for a minute. On a crisp fall day soup is exactly what you want. I figure there were about 40 different vendors last year.  And some have several different soups to try. 

Besides the soup tasting there is a farmers market (OMG the baked goods!), handicrafts, and live entertainment. Last year there were also wagon rides and barge rides on the river.  This coming year it's being held at a winery so I'm guessing that wine will factor in somehow. Wine & soup?  Dunno.

So, as I was wandering around their website on the weekend I found some terrific recipes from last year's "fest". I decided to try the beef vegetable soup, cream of carrot, and corn chowder.  I started out taking pictures of everything but after awhile I was making all three soups at the same time and only got pictures of the beef vegetable soup.

Ingredients?  Pretty typical. Hamburger. Vegetables. Beef stock.

First I browned the hamburger with some minced garlic.  You'll want to brown the meat before you add it to the stock because if you allow the meat to cook in the liquid only it will turn grey.  And grey meat is nobody's friend.

In a separate pan I sauteed the onions, celery, and peppers.  Don't you love my "mise en place"?  Use what ya got.

I also added mushrooms and carrots but pictures. You've seen a mushroom and a carrot before, right? I did a mixture of minced and coarsely chopped vegetables to provide different textures.

Once the hamburger is fully cooked, drain the excess grease and add the meat to the vegetables. I drained a can of diced tomatoes and added that with enough beef stock to make it look like soup.  As opposed to looking like a stirfry.  Which might have been good too, but wasn't what I was going for.

Don't you love how exact my measurements are?  Just throw some in and hope for the best.  I'm the same way with seasonings.  I think I added sweet Thai sauce, salt, pepper, soya sauce, and sugar.  Sugar cuts the acidic tomato taste and that hint of sweetness is perfect.

Here is my masterpiece finished and waiting to be worshipped.

Just look at those big chunks of vegetables and beef.

tom was out moutain biking, but when he got home he served it up with some sliced turkey and havarti on egg bread. Excuse the soup drips in the picture.

Doesn't that just make you want to snuggle up under a blanket in front of the fire?

For the cream of carrot soup, the carrots were roasted in the oven with maple syrup drizzled over them before they are added to the pot.  I cooked all of the vegetables together and then blended them thoroughly with an immersion blender.  I added milk to the mixture to thin it out and also some nutmeg at the end.

The corn chowder has a potato base.  I cooked the potatoes, drained the water, and added milk.  I then blended it until it was creamy and added the celery, onion and garlic (all minced).  I tried to add some corn at this point and blend it into the base, but those little suckers don't like to be smushed.  I kept adding milk until it was the consistency I wanted.  I blended one more time before adding the rest of the corn and spices and thoroughly heating it all. 

I can't believe I didn't take pictures of the finished product.  They are all packaged up now in two-serving containers and tucked away in the freezer.  It just takes a few minutes of reheating and we'll have a beautiful, hearty meal.

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Sep 5, 2011

Fold-up Garage Worktable

Tom is still working on his garage. Still. It's coming along pretty nicely, but I don't think he'll ever truly be done.  He really is a putter-er.  It's a word. I'll post pictures of what he's done soon.

I went to visit him last night because, well, mainly because he's working on something for ME. If I didn't get my own spot out there I'd be some upset. Yes, I do need my own craft room in the house and space in the garage, why do you ask

DIY fold-up worktable

A few months ago I saw a post on another decorating blog featuring a fold-up (fold-down?) workbench and knew I had to have one.  If I can find the link I'll add it.  Here are some pics of my inspiration:

Isn't that a great idea?  Extra (always cleared) workspace that can be folded up out of the way when we need to park the car inside.  So it's been a part of the reno plan from day one. Then...... a couple of days ago I changed my mind and decided I'd really rather just have a table in the middle of the floor. I figured I probably wouldn't use it if it was off in the corner.  But the materials were already purchased so I was getting a workbench, dammit! 

Tom reworked the original and I really like what he's done.  I thought the long edge would be against the wall making just the front useful, but he built it so it folds out (like an ironing board) and now I can work all the way around it. 

Fold-up Garage Work Table

And it has legs for extra support. 

Fold-up Garage Work Table

 Don't you just love how it folds up? 

Fold-up Garage Work Table

And the cute little hook to keep it in place? 

Fold-up Garage Work Table

Now could he just get the rest of the garage finished so I can start making a mess?


Update: People have asked for some detailed pictures of how it mounts to the wall and how the legs attach, so I've added more here.

There is a piano hinge attaching the table to the support board on the wall. Excuse the dust and dirt.

DIY fold-up worktable

DIY fold-up worktable

Then there are "tee hinges" attaching each leg to the underside of the tabletop. The tabletop is 3/4 plywood that is screwed down to the frame along all four sides.

DIY fold-up worktable

DIY fold-up worktable

And you can see here that the angle between the legs and the tabletop is slightly more than 90 degrees to give it extra stability. If they were straight up and down they might slide under while you’re working and the table would drop. You could add locking braces between the legs and the tabletop if you wanted additional security against someone/something pushing them in while you're working.

DIY fold-up worktable

Since the original post we’ve also added an electrical switch to make it easier to use power tools. You plug your tool into the yellow end, plug the black end into the wall outlet (or an extension cord), and flip the switch. Power without having to run cords all over the place, and an easy shut off.

DIY fold-up worktable

DIY fold-up worktable

I hope these extra pictures help! If you end up building a fold down table of your own, please send me a link or a picture - I’d love to see it.


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