Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vintage Christmas Ornaments

Here a some photos of the vintage ornaments/decorations my sister and I found when we were cleaning out my father's basement. I remember all of these treasures from my youth. There was a time I wondered why my mother kept all those 'old' things...now I'm thrilled that she did.I love these little elves and the gnome. Some have faded a little but they still bring a smile to my face. I guess I'll share them with my sisters!

These paper mache houses date back to the 1950. I remember them as a child. Notice the PINK bottle brush tree. That's my favorite!
The houses are still in very good condition, considering their age. A few of the bottle brush trees did not 'age' well.

I love these vintage Christmas ornaments. Rather than hang them on my tree and fear that they will be 'touched', I'm going to hang them over my kitchen sink on fishing line at different lengths. (Stay tuned for photos of that in a few weeks.)
We also have a 1960's silver Christmas tree with the color wheel. We were the first on the block to have one and I thought our family was 'so cool'. It was a lot of work to assemble as each branch had to be placed in the 'trunk' individually, and then taken out and put back in the box when Christmas was over.

Veterans Day 2008

My father's condition made it impossible for him to live alone, so earlier this year he went to live at a local veteran's home. The facility is lovely and the care he is given is excellent. I went to spend some time with him today, and as I drove up the road to the Soldier's Home, I couldn't help but notice the road was lined with American Flags. Today is Veteran's Day.
My Dad served in the US navy. This photo was taken in 1944 when Dad was 19. I am fortunate to have his Navy uniform. (My dad was a small-built man, and the waistline on the wool bell bottom pants is about 24".) The Soldier's Home had a very moving ceremony today, as I knew it would. After the usual singing of Star Spangled Banner and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, the names of all the Veteran's who passed away at the "Home" since May 2008 were read and the families in attendace stood and were presented with a red rose. When this ceremony and various speeches were over taps was played; that music always brings tears to my eyes and today was no different.

I brought some balloons to decorate Dad's wheelchair. This is a terrible picture of me, but not too bad of Dad. So I decided to let him have the 'good picture' day today to honor his service. It was a very moving experience to be in a room with Veteran's from 96 years of age and down.
We owe these men so much...so very much.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Painting Formica counter top

My kitchen counters are almost 21 years old. I really wanted to see what would happen if I painted them. Two or three years ago I painted the center island and was amazed at how well it turned out and how durable it turned out to be. So...I decided to tackle the rest of the kitchen (and repaint the center island too).

The supplies I used are: Kilz primer, and various colors of acrylic/latex paint, roller and brushes, sandpaper, blue tape, a sea sponge, toothbrush or nail brush, assorted plastic plates, rubber gloves, an apron and a little patience!

The first thing I did was clean the counter top very well and dry it. I then taped the back splash (which by the way, is also 'faux tile'! see info below) and the stove top near the counter as well as the edges of the sink. Next, I sanded the entire counter with a medium grade sandpaper and cleaned it again.

Finally, it was time to paint. I used a brush to paint on the "Kilz", however, I should have used a roller as I ended up streaks from the paint brush. I waited the appropriate drying time and gave it a second coat.

Now it was time to start the fun part! I rolled on the base coat of "toasted wheat" (a Behr color) One coat covered well, so I opted to not give it a second coat.
Acrylic paint dries quickly, but being the impatient person I am, I brought in a fan and turned it on "high" to speed up the drying process. I started the project at about 5:30 PM and wanted to get it all painted and have the first coat of polyurethane before I went to bed. Okay...now it's time to start the REAL fun!!

I put on my rubber gloves for this part of the process. Wet and wring out a sea sponge. Pour a little white paint onto a plastic/paper plate. Dip the sponge lightly into the paint, and dab off the excess onto paper and begin to 'pounce' onto the painted countertop.

You must rotate your hand each time you 'pounce' so you don't end up with a pattern, you just want to evenly sponge white paint onto the entire area. If you have too much in one area, you can always go back and sponge some base coat onto the area that has too much white paint.

Here's how the first coat with white sponge paint looks. Once again, I put the fan on and found that the white paint dried within a few minutes.

Next, I sponged on a color called "nutmeg". I used the same sea sponge, but washed it well, and squeezed all the water out. I followed the same directions and dipped the sponge into the nutmeg color and pounced off the extra onto a piece of newspaper before sponging the counter top. Once again, I rotated my hand often so as not to develop any kind of pattern. There was an area behind the faucet that was difficult to get to. I used a very small sea sponge for that, and also used a paint brush to 'sponge' paint in the areas where the bigger sponge wouldn't work. It was a little tricky, but with patience it worked out well.

Now, it's time for the messier part of the process. I have a nail brush that my husband uses after working on his car. (Ooops, don't tell him, I borrowed it! shhhh....) I put some acrylic paint on a plastic plate and added water to make it very thin. I dipped the nail brush into it and shook off the excess.
I used the end of a plastic knife to rub against the bristles of the brush produing a 'splattering' effect. If it 'globbed', I simply took a paper towel and blotted off the areas that splattered too much. You can't really make a mistake, because you can always sponge on base coat over the areas that have too much splattering. After splattering black paint, I splattered a little barn red paint to give it a little more color and dimension.

Now...the process is almost done. I grabbed that fan again and waited about 30 minutes to make sure everything was completely dry.

It was now about 10:30 PM...and I was determined to get the first coat of polyurethane on before turning in for the night. I had a can of high gloss poly, so I used that and decided to roll it on with a small sponge roller. I had to use a paint brush to get to the area behind the faucet where the roller wouldn't work.

I learned a trick a few years ago...so that I didn't have to clean my roller and small brush, I wrapped them tightly in aluminum foil and put them in the refrigerator. When I got up the next morning at 6 AM, I sanded the entire counter very lightly and wiped off the counter very well. I rolled and brushed on the second coat of polyurethane. Only 2 more coats to go and I'm done!!!

Ta da!! Here it is ...all finished. I ended up putting down 4 coats of polyurethane.

Okay...here are a few lessons I learned during this process. Make sure to roll on the Kilz/sealer and base coat.. Any ripple or brush marks from the primer or base coat will show through all the layers of sponging. Don't leave your blue tape on too long. I had a difficult time getting it off the sink and wall. I'm not sure why that is.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Halloween 2008

I looked around the yard and found 'stuff' to use in my cemetery. I made these tombstones last year from big pieces of foam. After Halloween last year, I scored an awesome 6' rubber skeleton from iParty! I reinforced her spine and sat her on my original Columbia bicycle that my parents bought me in July 1961. I made a new basket for my bike to hold seasonal flowers, gave her a festive scarf and planted her in front of the cemetery.

What cemetery would be complete without a wheelbarrow full of bones!!

This night photo was taken last year. I put out my fog machine on Halloween night to give the cemetery a creepier look!!

Halloween 2008

Halloween is quickly becoming my 3rd favorite decorating holiday (after Christmas and 4th of July!). I bought these neat crows at the local Dollar Tree. Last week while walking the dog, I came across this dead branch and made my husband carry it home. It was only 1/2 mile...he's a good guy!! I also found a "Bates Motel" sign...it doesn't light up as well as I hoped...but it's still fun!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My other hobby...

About 4 years ago, I signed up for a basket class at Hill Institute in Northampton, MA. Our teacher, Karen Sullivan is such an inspiration. She is meticulous and is a wealth of information. Her class is the best. I look forward to each session with great anticipation.

This wall basket hangs in my bathroom and holds seasonal flowers.

I needed a basket to hold winter hats and mittens, so I made this rectangular basket with cut out handles made of copper pipe. I have another similar that I use as a magazine basket. I always have a use in mind before I begin a basket. I tend to gravitate toward larger, utilitarian baskets.

This 'shopping basket' is by far the most labor intensive basket. I spent over 8 hours weaving it. It's great for day trips, carrying extra clothing, blankets for picnics, or towels for the beach. I've made 4 and gave away 2 as gifts. I don't expect to make any more...too much work!!

I made a beautiful doll using a pattern by Sherry of Annie's Cupboards. She needed a special home...so I made a round basket that I intended to hang on the wall so my dolly would have a special place to sit.

Trompe L'oeil

About 4 years ago, I purchased a glass top stove. The backsplash was crying out for something dramatic. Being the impatient person I am, I wanted something, and I wanted it NOW!! I didn't have the time, patience, or knowledge to add tile. So, I opted to paint "tile".

The most time consuming part was the planning and measuring. I decided on 4 inch "tile", but found that it would not center evenly under the range hood. Therefore, I opted to add vertical tile to either side to make up for the imbalance. I used the existing beige paint as the "grout" by using 1/4 inch quilting tape as my "grout line". The "tile" was painted using regular craft acrylic paint. Fortunately, it dries quickly...another plus for impatient people like me. I added shadowing using glaze mixed with dark brown paint then added some dry brushed white paint for highlights.

Three coats of polyurethane were added when all the paint had dried sufficiently. I've washed it many times, and it has held up very well. My goal to fool family and friends worked...everyone thought I had tiled the backsplash.

A treasured find

My mother was a talented seamstress and she saved everything! When my sister and I were recently cleaning out our family home, we found a stash of old patterns. Not only was I lucky enough to find patterns, but I also found a photo of me wearing the sunsuit that Mom had made. When I looked inside the pattern envelope, I almost fell over when I found a piece of the actual fabric that Mom had used.

The photo was taken in the summer of 1958...when I was 4 1/2! The cute blonde on the left is my cousin Diane. I'm the 'adorable' brunette on the right with the super short bangs! Do you think Mom could have cut the bangs any shorter???

I remember those cute plastic 'purses'. I thought I was pretty hot stuff that summer!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

In Grandmaman's eyes

Growing up, I didn't look like anyone in my family. I have 3 sibilings, but I'm the only one with gray eyes, freckles, and dimples. My uncles often joked that I must have been adopted. One day when I was about 8, my uncle repeated the 'joke' again...this time, my petite Grandmother became angry. She stood up and pointed her somewhat arthritic finger in his face and told him sternly to never say that again! She reached out and gave me a big hug. I knew I wasn't adopted, but her reassuring gesture was very welcomed.

A few months ago, I was looking at old photos and came across one of my Grandmother (whom we referred to as Grandmaman, as she was French-Canadian and spoke no English). I tried to find the familiar face that I knew long after this photo had been taken. I covered the chin and starred at her eyes and nose and soon realized I was looking at a familiar face...MINE! I had finally found some family resemblance and was comforted to know that it was the Grandmaman that I had loved.

She was widowed after only 15 years of marriage, at age 39 with 9 children, and 8 months pregnant with her 10th child. She raised these 10 children, with help from her siblings, through the depression. There were many difficult years, but she perservered. She never remarried and lived to be 93 1/2.

I would be proud to have her beautiful, even if wrinkled, face when I'm 94.

Looking for a lost cousin

In 1942, my French-Canadian uncle, Georges Thibault, was serving in the military and stationed in England when he married an English woman, Helen Holmes. They married in Aldershot, England in 1942.

Sometime between 1943 and 1944, they had a daughter, Marilyn. Georges died in France in August 1944 when he stepped on a landmine, a hero of WWII. His distraught wife died within a short period of time after him...according to the family...she died of a 'broken heart'.

Marilyn was subsequently raised by her English maternal Grandmother. My French-Canadian Grandmother and her children were in contact with Marilyn while she was growing up. One uncle and aunt even visited her in England some years later.

When Marilyn was 18/19, she married Richard/Ricky Strange and came to Canada to meet her entire French-Canadian family. It was such a thrill to meet the cousin we had always heard about. I was about 8 years old when I met her and was in awe of her accent and never forgot meeting her.

At that time, my Grandmaman proudly gave her military medals that Georges had earned...medals that my Grandmaman had proudly framed and hung in her home for many years. Grandmaman thought Marilyn deserved them..afterall, they belonged to the father she never knew.

A few years later, Marilyn divorced her first husband and married a man I believe was named Phillips (possibly Marc/Mark). They had a daughter, Victoria/Vicki sometime in the early/mid 1970's.

I wish I had other information, but somehow the relatives that had been in touch with her over the years, passed away and her whereabouts hasn't been known for many years. I have since researched our family tree and would be proud to give her information on her French-Canadian family. I'm hoping to find her...it's become my mission for 2008. She is now about 65 years old and might have grandchildren. I want them to know about their 'other family'.

If anyone has any idea of how I could gather information about her, I would love to hear your suggestions.

The photo above is Georges Thibault (left) and his 3 brothers who all served in WWII at the same time. They are all my uncles and at the time were (l to r) 24, 22, 20, and 19 years of age.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My July 4th holiday!

I had a dream come true on July 4, 2008. My husband, our 2 daughters and I went to see James Taylor in concert in Tanglewood (Lenox, MA). I have always loved his music and have wanted to go for many years to see him. So this was the year!

He was exceptional as expected and near the end of the performance John Travolta appeared on the stage. No one was expecting that! He announced that James had recently celebrated his 60th birthday and we were all going to celebrate that evening.

The world reknowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma came onto the stage. He and James performed "Sweet Baby James" together. It was a treat...only to be followed by the introduction of Carol King. WOW!! talk about another surprise. I must admit that her voice is not what it used to be, but it was still a thrill to hear her perform too.

Tanglewood is a neat place. It was my first visit. We had lawn seats and brought our chairs, blankets, citronella candles to keep the bugs away and enough food to feed a small country. I was prepared for any kind of weather and had rain gear...just in case! But the weather and bugs cooperated...the day/evening was perfect!


"If you live to be 100, I hope to live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you"

Winnie the Pooh